DTC (Direct to Consumer) is more than a business model. It's a growing trend that even established companies like Nike are starting to take part in. These larger brands are recognizing the power of selling directly to consumers with no middleman. With the rise of online marketplaces like Instagram's shop tab, it’s become easier than ever for customers to discover products, enabling DTC brands to scale and find success quickly.
What makes DTC marketing unique? When you’re not relying on retailers to sell your product, you have to work harder to build a strong brand and get it in front of customers.
DTC brands are particularly popular among Millennials and Gen Z because these brands meet them where they are — online. Not to mention that over half of consumers prefer buying direct.
By looking at real-world examples of successful DTC brands Chewy, Dollar Shave Club, and Allbirds, we’ll uncover what they do to stand out online.
“People don’t share mediocre experiences.”
DTC brands can't rely on customers stumbling across their product in a retail store. You need to build a strong brand so that when you meet customers where they are (online), they already trust you.
Ensure your brand puts your customers first—and trust will follow.
Chewy’s outstanding customer service makes a huge impact on social media. Chewy has a reputation for providing unparalleled customer service, including heartwarming stories like sending flowers to people who have recently lost their dogs (see image below).
I contacted @Chewy last week to see if I could return an unopened bag of my dog's food after he died. They 1) gave me a full refund, 2) told me to donate the food to the shelter, and 3) had flowers delivered today with the gift note signed by the person I talked to?? 😭— Anna Brose, MSc (@alcesanna) June 15, 2022
This not only increases brand awareness through word of mouth on social media but provides Chewy with positive free PR that would otherwise have cost Chewy tens of thousands through a paid campaign.
By setting up a quality customer service system in the background, Chewy lets its loyal customers do the talking on social media and advocate for the brand. Chewy is known for its compassion and stellar customer service, without having to promote it themselves.
If we take a look at the Chewy audience’s purchase influencing factors, friends and family rank highly. This word-of-mouth positive storytelling speaks to their audience.
Chewy understands that its audience is sentimental. This deep understanding informs how they handle customer service interactions. They are ready to respond to customers knowing they may be experiencing emotional or difficult times. They know connecting through their pet is the way to their heart.
We can see this in action by analyzing the words they use to describe themselves on social media compared to the average person. Chewy’s audience identifies as animal lovers.
Now that you know how you tap into the hearts of a compassionate audience, let’s dive into how brands appeal to “no-nonsense” customers.
Something that makes DTC brands unique is their positioning to challenge the status quo.
Many of these brands are founded to solve a problem in their respective industries. This helps form the brand’s values and lets customers relate to them, whether it's Warby Parker challenging how people buy eyeglasses or Dollar Shave Club changing the way we think about purchasing razors.
These companies are built on the value of solving a problem in the market that no one had solved before.
Since Dollar Shave Club’s viral ad in 2012, they’ve made sure their no-nonsense personality was at the forefront online.
Humor engaged people and prompted them to share the ad many times over. Dollar Shave Club’s values are simple: all quality, no fluff. Dollar Shave Club took this ad and translated it into 10 years of marketing success by keeping its fun, no-nonsense brand positioning.
By analyzing Dollar Shave Club’s audience online, you can see the majority of them are male and they have an over-index of fathers (compared to the global baseline).
Dollar Shave Club decided to speak directly to these fathers in their 2019 Dad Bod Ad.
These viral ads do more than just drive people to buy the product. They build upon their brand identity, values, and relatability.
Understanding its audience is what informs Dollar Shave Club’s brand voice and messaging. The Dollar Shave Club marketing team knows their audience’s purchasing is influenced by not just brand name but a product's utility too.
Dollar Shave Club kills two birds with one stone by creating a strong brand around products that work. Their humorous advertising makes their brand stand out, while their products gain a reputation for working well.
In the world of DTC, the value you bring is what makes you different in the market, whether you’re bringing subscriptions to the world of pet supplies (Chewy) or personal grooming (Dollar Shave Club), or disrupting an entire industry (Warby Parker with glasses). Or maybe you’re creating a simple sustainable sneaker brand to combat sneakerhead culture.
Allbirds has built its brand off doing the opposite of what every other sneaker brand was doing. While other brands went over the top with their sneaker designs, Allbirds honed in on simple and sustainable sneakers.
Rather than using athletes as spokespeople, Allbirds prides itself on being different. That’s why its “Naturally Unexpected” campaign with Lindsay Lohan created quite a buzz online.
This was a hit with Millenials, as it hit all the right nostalgia marketing points. This led people to comment and point out all the easter eggs from the many movies Lohan was in during the mid-2000s.
Allbird’s audience skews more toward millennials than the baseline, meaning Lindsay Lohan was a perfect choice for their spokesperson.
In common DTC fashion, Allbirds makes it easy to buy their products through social media by utilizing tools such as Instagram's shopping feature.
This lets customers who are scrolling through their feeds buy something directly from a post without having to leave the app.
By looking at Allbirds’s audience, we can see that they care about bringing positive change and they challenge authority.
Allbirds understands its audience and makes sure to align its values with them by tapping into a growing market of consumers who want more eco-friendly sustainable products. For these buyers, sustainability is a lifestyle and they are more inclined to buy a product they feel good about.
Allbirds tapped into this with their hit ad in 2018 “Meet Your Shoes,” which had 5.7 million views on YouTube.
These DTC brands use audience data to inform their marketing strategies, allowing them to thrive on social media.
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