September 3, 2021
Top Marketing Strategies for DTC Brands in 2021
This blog post was originally published by Deliverr, which is now Flexport. The content has been adjusted to fit the Flexport brand voice and tone, but all other information remains unchanged. With the merging of Deliverr’s services (DTC fulfillment, B2B distribution, and Last Mile delivery) into Flexport’s existing international freight and technology services, we’re now able to provide merchants with true end-to-end logistics solutions spanning from the factory floor to the customer’s door.
One of the most point-blank ways to connect eCommerce brands with customers is direct-to-consumer marketing. Utilizing social media, brands can reach out directly to consumers.
The market today sees over 20,000 D2C brands, which have unparalleled access to their customers. The right marketing techniques will allow you to put your brand in front of nearly any audience (depending on budget, of course).
So, what makes a great D2C marketing campaign? In almost every case, it comprises strong branding, social media presence, and the ability to get products in front of consumers. In this article, we’ll cover some of the marketing techniques D2C brands have used to conquer their market and win out over big brands.
Storytelling and Building a Brand
Your brand is the foremost element of any marketing strategy. A product alone isn’t enough to draw people in; you need a promise, a goal, and a personality. That often entails building a style guide, setting a tone of voice, choosing a color palette, and the like. Most importantly, it means choosing a message, a purpose, and a brand ethos to champion.
Amazon is so popular because shoppers know that if they buy a product and it doesn’t meet their expectations, they can get their money back. The marketplace has established credibility through countless positive transactions, which has permeated into their brand.
Craft your brand narrative around your solutions and personality to establish consistency and build trust. That entails building a style guide, setting a tone of voice, choosing a color palette, etc. But, most importantly, it means choosing a message, a purpose, and a brand ethos to champion.
Know Your Buyers
Who needs this product or service? What is it good for? How does it fit into the existing market? You’ve likely already done this kind of market research, so leverage it for your brand.
Dig into the specifics of consumers so you know what aspects of your brand to emphasize: Who is buying or using that product? What do they like? Where do they communicate, and how? What content do they share?
Deeper research into your target audience will go a long way toward helping you set the right tone and style for your brand.
Build a Personality
Take a while to decide how you want your brand to be thought of by your audience. Are you more professional, or informal?
Specificity is important because what appeals to one audience will often alienate another. Take Squatty Potty, a brand that invested Shark Tank funds to turn a simple idea (a step stool for a toilet) into a $175 million venture. Squatty Potty branded itself for viral marketing, and its launch video generated over 39 million views (and $1 million in sales the first day).
Obviously, this type of branding could be off-putting to many people. However, to the segment Squatty Potty specifically targeted, it was a marketing home run.
Truff, a luxury hot sauce brand, takes a different approach. They rely on luxury branding for their $17 hot sauce with minimalistic copy you’d expect to see in high-end electronics marketing. Using upscale viral marketing and social media to connect with consumers, Truff pushes an estimated $25 million in hot sauce sales every year.
Break Into a Niche
One of the most successful D2C brands on the market, Anker started out selling power cables. It’s since expanded into nearly all electronics and has its own brand of smart home appliances called eufy. That success is thanks in large part to consumer trust in the brand. Anker first marketed itself as a better alternative to OEM cables, established trust, and then capitalized on that to build ongoing customer relationships.
Differentiate Your Solution
Titan Power+ has clear brand positioning, stating “Your current solution isn’t working. Here’s why we’re better.”
This is a vital tactic for many D2C brands. If you have major competition, you need to differentiate yourself from the larger players in the space.
Establish Your Presence
Once you have a brand to push, it’s crucial to create a presence. That means choosing a set of platforms to be visible on and actively being seen. It doesn’t matter how much pay-per-click marketing you use if you don’t have established sales channels to push people to.
For most D2C brands, that should include your own website, social media, marketplaces, and maybe even a few retail stores.
Having your own website allows you to drive viral marketing to a space you own, without splitting revenue with Amazon or another marketplace. You also can direct return customers to your store for the same reasons. Every brand mentioned above sells on Amazon, but they also drive millions in revenue through their own stores.
- Create a quality shopping experience with professional photos, videos, and web copy.
- Ensure your checkout process is as simple as Amazon’s.
- Use software to sync inventory across all channels you sell on to ensure you don’t sell out. Maintaining brand trust means avoiding backorders.
- Include vital information like product details and descriptions, your return policies, and other common FAQs.
- Start a blog to start driving some organic acquisition through search optimization.
Although social media is a key element of D2C brand marketing, you don’t need a presence on every channel. Pick a few where your target audience hangs out the most, and post consistently to build up your presence.
TIkTok is rapidly becoming a favorite D2C marketing channel. Brands like Daily Harvest excel on Pinterest and Instagram. Others, like Bombas, the social good clothing company, rely on Facebook and podcasts.
Evaluate each social media platform on a standalone basis. Maybe they’re all a good fit, or maybe none of them are. Compare the audiences, content type, and options for targeting your audience, specific demographic, and content fit. For example, if you can’t take pretty photos of your products, you don’t want to be on Instagram or Pinterest.
Aim to create genuine engagement with your consumers. You can try establishing hashtags, holding giveaways or challenges, or run a branding campaign on your social media sites. It’s important to be responsive and stay on top of your engagement to truly establish a credible presence on social.
Some brands choose not to be on Amazon. However, it’s reliable and can help you overcome consumer barriers to buying a new product (like being unsure if they can trust your brand).
Most D2C companies benefit from a split approach, using Amazon to drive awareness and customer trust while working to shift return purchasers to their own webstore.
Plus, Amazon sellers enjoy opportunities like Amazon Launchpad as an alternative to a more traditional accelerator. Your presence on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Walmart, or another marketplace impacts your marketing by helping consumers find and buy your product.
- Set up campaigns around driving customers to eCommerce platforms. Just be careful to follow the rules and regulations of those marketplaces.
- Make sure your brand is visible on your actual product so consumers know what to search for. You could also consider adding your website directly on your items, like within your logo or on a clothing tag.
- Add in-box branding and social media information (where allowed by platform TOS).
- Challenge or ask customers to take part in social media campaigns or competitions to move them away from marketplaces and to your brand’s owned channels.
Create a physical presence
Occasionally, having a physical presence can go a long way towards building trust for eCommerce brands. Such tactics include pop-up shops and event sponsorships. Even a brief physical presence allows you to learn how and why people shop for products in person, which can help you tailor marketing and shopping experiences online.
For example, Rockets of Awesome, a children’s clothing brand, used its pop-up store to understand how parents shop with their children. Others, like ThirdLove, a lingerie brand, use pop-up shops to drive awareness for its brand, which, in turn, drives online sales.
Once you have content, branding, and platforms in place, your next step is to drive traffic to them. For most D2C companies, that means investing in paid ads, partnering with influencers, and establishing thought leadership in the space.
Search Engine Optimization helps potential customers find your brand and products when they do online research. This is foundational; it should be in place before you attempt to use any other type of marketing.
If you create a viral video, but users can’t find your brand by searching for general terms related to it, you’ll lose conversions. Effective SEO takes time, research, and focus on your brand’s customers and their needs.
It sometimes entails long campaigns geared toward customer needs (e.g., what problems does your product solve), using the product, etc.
For example, Daily Harvest, a D2C brand generating an estimated $125 million a year in vegetable-based frozen foods, takes that approach to heart. It builds massive campaigns around improving your diet, increasing organic fruit and vegetables in your meals, and saving time on meal prep while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Targeted campaigns backed by strong SEO result in top-of-funnel traffic (people who are potential customers, but don’t know it yet).
Whatever platform you invest in, paid content marketing is an advantageous lever you can pull when you want fast results.
To earn the most ROI, assess which channels are most meaningful for your brand. That depends on your audience, target group, and product type.
Social media marketing is intended to drive awareness only and should be approached as such. For example, if you have a high research product (say, a $2,000 coffee machine), it’s unlikely you’ll influence many impulse purchases. But, if you have smaller products that are largely impulse buys (like a smoothie subscription box with a free trial), social media channels like Instagram and TikTok will be your best friend.
Search engine marketing, on the other hand, has a wider applicable range. Consumers take to Google to research problems, solutions, and companies all the time. Being front and center in search results around a problem your product can solve can inject your brand directly into a shopper’s consideration process.
Spend time researching where your brand will benefit, align this with your social media presence, and invest in paid ads.
Influencers are sources of trust for many people, making them powerful partners. Their popularity gives them a wide reach that allows you to increase your brand’s credibility.
Brands like AloYoga established themselves as a staple in big influencer social media feeds. The brand contacts influencers like Kerri Verna and Kina MacGregor (each of whom has over a million followers on Instagram) to offer free apparel and sponsor challenges. These tactics extend from Instagram to Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. To further spread their brand influence, Alo Yoga has also created on-demand classes to create a growing community around their brand.
When employing the influencer strategy, make sure your programs and partners are relevant to your audience and aligned with your brand personality.
Wrapping up: Marketing your DTC brand
Effectively marketing a D2C company involves masterful storytelling and brand building, wise selection of sales channels, and strategic acquisition. Put simply, you start with a quality product, understand the consumers who will benefit most from it, and make it easy for them to find and purchase from you.
The contents of this blog are made available for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any legal, business, or financial decisions. We do not guarantee, represent, or warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the contents of this blog because they are based on Flexport’s current beliefs, expectations, and assumptions, about which there can be no assurance due to various anticipated and unanticipated events that may occur. This blog has been prepared to the best of Flexport’s knowledge and research; however, the information presented in this blog herein may not reflect the most current regulatory or industry developments. Neither Flexport nor its advisors or affiliates shall be liable for any losses that arise in any way due to the reliance on the contents contained in this blog.