We had a blast sitting down with FUSE Create‘s Lanny Geffen for a conversation all about the importance of customer experience, an update on the current direct-to-consumer (DTC) landscape, and tons of tangible examples of the DTC brands leading the pack. We’ve collected a few of our top takeaways from the conversation, but feel free to watch the recorded session for the full experience.
Key Elements of Successful DTC Brands
Not all DTC brands are created equal, and Lanny pulled out some common characteristics of the cream of the crop. Brands that are killing it in the DTC space often:
Are active on channels favored by their customers. From Instagram to TikTok to good mobile and desktop websites, meeting your customers where they are can help reduce friction in the buyer journey while also teaching you more about your customers’ desires and interests.
Build relationships with customers. Top DTC brands take the time to personalize the experience for customers by valuing their individuality thanks to lots of research and experimentation.
Appeal to consumers’ conscious selves. Social good, environmentalism, and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords anymore, and top DTC brands will put their money where their mouths are in supporting and promoting causes that resonate with customers.
Constantly innovate. Novelty and innovation are key tools in the toolkit for any DTC brand trying to cut through the noise.
Above all, are fantastic storytellers. Lanny highlighted storytelling as the most important characteristic of his top picks for successful DTC brands. Powerful storytelling can range from transparency about your supply chain to profiling the impact your brand is having on your chosen cause and beyond.
Seven Critical Steps to Starting a DTC Brand
Whether you’re hungry to start your own DTC brand or looking to fine-tune a brand that’s already up and running, Lanny broke it down step-by-step.
- Step 1: Identify the purpose of your brand. Are you looking to revolutionize razor blades like Harry’s? Want to find a way to fund free socks for all like Bombass? Picking a compelling mission and cause is the first step for any DTC brand.
- Step 2: Consider about your product lineup. Some brands succeed by making one thing really well, and others will benefit most from a diverse set of products. Bonus points if you can come up with a compelling sales gimmick, like TOMS’ “buy a shoe, give away a shoe” giveaway.
- Step 3: Understand the operations. E-commerce, operations, warehouses, shipping and returns are all vital before your product goes viral on TikTok and you have no way of fulfilling all your orders.
- Step 4: Research and listen to your customers. Get to know your customers on their preferred channels, and don’t assume they’re just like you. Be sure to optimize your customer experience and purchase path for the channels that your customers are on, like Instagram and TikTok.
- Step 5: Come up with fun things you can do to increase sales and set your brand apart. Lanny cited Harry’s $5 mystery item that makes the unboxing experience fun and memorable for customers.
- Step 6: Think immediately about how you can incentivize the next purchase. Lanny loved when a brand he bought from sent him an email that said, “We’re putting $5 in your account today to thank you for being a customer, but we’re going to take $1 away from it each month you don’t spend it.” Extending customers a credit or reminding them about items that have been abandoned in their carts create additional touchpoints to remind them of your products and the stellar experience they had during their first purchase.
- Step 7: It’s all about advertising. As Lanny optimistically/depressingly put it, “Advertising is the new rent.” Targeted, creative, and fresh ads help pull customers back in, and are especially important without brick-and-mortar footprints that many DTC brands lack.
Some of our favorite DTC brands
These DTC brands are killing it on the sales floor and on social, and should definitely be viewed as competition.
Threadless: This online community for artists to print and sell their work on phone cases, t-shirts, art prints, and more is alive and well after more than two decades.
Warby Parker: This eyeglasses brand figured out how to bring shopping for glasses out of the optometrist’s and into your house with its innovative “try five pairs free” model.
TOMS: One of the OG DTC brands with a compelling “buy a shoe, give a shoe” model.
Nike: Shocker, we know. According to Lanny, Nike has more than half of its revenue coming from DTC now, which is a great example of a big brand with plenty of brick-and-mortar presence seamlessly making the most of DTC.
Jeni’s Ice Cream: The experience for mail-order vs. in-store is so consistent, and it makes people who aren’t near a Jeni’s location fans for life as well.
Wrapping it up
Thanks again to Lanny for his time on our latest Data-Driven Marketer webinar. If you have questions about DTC or customer experience for us or Lanny, feel free to drop us a note on Twitter.