As direct-to-consumer (DTC or D2C) companies continue to transform the world of marketing, using cutting-edge tactics to connect with today’s tuned-in consumers, large legacy brands are under increasing pressure to keep up.
Many of these brands have begun looking to DTC companies for inspiration, seeking to replicate the success seen by the forward-thinking businesses bringing marketing into the future.
Traditional companies have a lot of tactics to choose from, but not all of them are suitable for every business. Blindly chasing trends can waste time and money and lead to copycat marketing. Focus on finding the right tactics for your business—ones that complement your brand voice and values and will ring true to your customers.
Below, we break down three of the most valuable DTC-inspired marketing trends so you can determine how they may work in your own campaigns.
Are DTC Marketing Tactics Right for Your Business?
Determine how the following three direct-to-consumer marketing strategies and tactics can be used to power your own campaigns.
Knowing Where to Be 1
By focusing on creative direct mail campaigns, zeroing in on niche organic search categories and tapping into various types of influencers, DTC brands are meeting customers where they are.
Consider your target audience carefully when deciding how and where to reach them. Are they digital natives? Do they read print newspapers and magazines or do they get most of their information online? What social media channels do they use?
For a DTC brand with a young consumer base, humorous or edgy short-form social media videos may resonate well. But for a traditional business with older customers, they may fall flat, wasting your money while confusing—or even putting off—your target customers.
Think granularly, considering where people are at the moment and where they will be in the future.
Right now, for example, the smartest, most nimble DTC brands are aware that a lot of people are staying indoors. Customers who typically travel for business or pleasure, commute to work and spend free time at social gatherings are now staying in.
As a result, some DTC brands may increase their focus on direct mail, reaching customers where they are—at home—while providing them with something tangible. In today’s increasingly digital world, a physical mailpiece has become somewhat of a novelty.
In fact, one study shows that physical ads are more effective than digital ads in leaving a lasting impression. To make your direct mail campaigns even more memorable and actionable, try incorporating digital innovations into your mailpieces.
For instance, to entice customers to use your app to shop from the comfort of their homes, you could send out a digitally enhanced postcard with a QR Code® that they can scan to access an exclusive, app-only discount.
Building Trust 2
DTC brands place an emphasis on building credibility and confidence with their customers, creating a sense of assurance that keeps them coming back.
To do so, these brands rely on direct mail as a trustworthy medium, create a sympathetic and sincere brand tone, and use social media strategically to tell their company stories.
For instance, many DTC brands use social media to create compelling brand narratives, telling the stories that set their business apart and tapping into consumers’ sense of social responsibility and desire for authenticity. Companies may highlight the causes they support or the qualities that make them unique.
This can help create dedicated groups of followers who feel emotionally invested in the brand. Think about how this tactic can inspire your campaigns.
What segments of your audience deserve more attention? Try seeking out their opinions through email- or social-based surveys. Consumers like to feel heard, so find out what they like, what they want more or less of, and why they shop with your brand.
With more and more consumers now working remotely, their needs, values and desires may be shifting. Consider asking them about this directly—what their daily habits are, for example, or what products they rely on to make their routines more efficient or enjoyable.
Figure out where your customers “hang out,” and use those channels—whether email, social, app, direct mail or a combination of these—to distribute the surveys.
Survey incentives, such as free products or a free trial subscription, can help build even more trust, making these customers feel helpful, special and empowered. The feedback may influence the way you connect with customers, the kind of products you promote or the segments you target.
However, be careful not to merely copy DTC brands; consumers can tell when a company isn’t being sincere. And if you already have an established brand reputation, you may simply confuse your customers, leaving people wondering what exactly you stand for and why.
Using Paid Tactics for Acquisition and Discovery 3
Most direct-to-consumer brands dedicate a large portion of their paid search efforts to customer acquisition and discovery.
By limiting paid search results, allocating paid media for acquisition, knowing when to push customers to transaction, and using direct mail as a conversion tool, these businesses are able to garner new customers at various stages of the purchasing journey, using a range of different media.
While many DTC brands leverage various media channels—including new ones such as podcasts—to encourage customers to make a purchase, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right for you.
Think strategically about where your customers discover brands and products. Do they listen to podcasts? Or do they prefer traditional live radio or TV?
Don’t jump into investing in a podcast sponsorship or similar DTC-inspired tactics without first doing some serious research on your target audience to determine which investments make the most sense. Pay attention to the data and analyze how it has shifted over time in order to stay ahead of the trends.
For example, in 2011, only 25% of U.S. baby boomers owned a mobile device. But as of 2019, 68% of them did. Are your ads and content optimized for mobile? Can you coordinate this digital content with unique direct mail campaigns to help keep your company top of mind?
If you’re releasing paid ads to highlight a new product line, you could use retargeted direct mail to follow up with anyone who clicked the ads to view the line but didn’t end up taking further action. Including an exclusive discount within the mailpiece can help push customers to transaction.
As direct-to-consumer brands continue to shake up the marketing world, many legacy companies have begun drawing inspiration from various DTC tactics.
By focusing on meeting customers where they are, building trust and employing paid tactics for discovery and acquisition, DTC and legacy brands alike can form more personal, meaningful connections with their target audiences.
While it may be tempting to jump on the latest DTC-inspired trend, it’s important to assess which tactics make sense for your brand—and how your customers are likely to respond.
Consider your budget, reputation, current brand voice and target audience before making any big decisions, and remember that consumers appreciate authenticity and dependability above all, not copycat branding.
- “Advertising Effectiveness and Age,” USPS Office of Inspector General, February 2019.
- QR Code is a registered trademark for Denso Wave Inc.
- Emily A. Vogels, “Millennials stand out for their technology use, but older generations also embrace digital life.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (Sept. 9, 2019) Pew Research on US Generations Technology Use.