Direct-To-Consumer (DTC or D2C) brands, are revolutionizing the customer experience — especially in the retail industry. By cutting out the middleman and serving customers the shopping experiences, personalized purchase journeys and, most importantly, the products that are tailored to their individual needs, a successful DTC retail brand functions as both a company and a partner to its customers.
DTC brands thrive off of two essential qualities: attention and transparency. Their business models aim to disrupt the status quo by streamlining and exposing traditional retail supply chains, essentially owning every part of the buyer’s journey to speak directly to their customers at every point along the path to purchase. Some brands are even taking a “radical transparency” approach, revealing exactly what it costs them to produce the items they sell. And this type of transparency goes hand in hand with the authenticity today’s consumers seek from the brands they choose to shop.
A recent study we conducted revealed that 90 percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support, and 60 percent of people believe user-generated content (UGC) is the most authentic form of content. In fact, it’s been proven to inspire, build trust and significantly impact purchasing decisions. For these reasons, user-generated content has become the secret weapon that takes a brands’ omnichannel marketing strategies from interesting to influential.
Here are a few best practices — and brands exemplifying them — that display the power of UGC for DTC retailers across all marketing touchpoints.
Your omnichannel marketing strategy should speak your customers’ language
Transitioning from a multi-channel strategy to an omnichannel strategy is an essential first step in a DTC retail brand’s success. Multi-channel retail strategies are an important start; they offer consumers a choice in where, when and how they can purchase from a given brand. But, the problem with multi-channel strategies is that too often each customer experience begins and ends on one specific channel. There’s no inherent overlap, so personalization efforts and differentiators tend to become siloed from channel to channel.
Instead, an omnichannel marketing strategy seamlessly provides a full, personalized customer experience that connects across each channel and touchpoint. For retail brands, that means moving a customer from a point of inspiration (like social media) to a point of consideration (like a product page), simply and quickly. With an omnichannel strategy, if a shopper takes an action, like adding a product to a cart without purchasing, it would automatically trigger an email from that DTC brand prompting that person to purchase the items left in their virtual cart; and if that doesn’t inspire action, retargeting ads might be launched for that visitor, featuring images of the products they had abandoned — multiple different touchpoints functioning in unison.
DTC retail brands have cracked the code to successful omnichannel strategies. Transcending the boundaries of each channel, and instead, delivering a consistent, personalized experience for shoppers across all devices, from desktop to mobile, online to offline — and all other touchpoints in between — ensures the DTC retail brand provides a complete, customer-first shopping experience.
Once a brand has committed and transitioned to this strategy, it’s essential to serve the content that’s most influential. With authentic user-generated content at the heart of a DTC omnichannel strategy, retail brands rise to the top — and stay there.
For DTC footwear brand Allbirds, an omnichannel marketing strategy means consistent, clear messaging and a streamlined visual aesthetic across all touchpoints. Allbirds began with a simple mission: create a comfortable, sustainable sneaker that was free from logos or branding. Allbirds wanted to be clean, both in style and carbon footprint. The brand’s marketing strategy reflects its mission nicely — and customers have taken notice; Allbirds now has a valuation of over $1.4 billion.
The omnichannel branding includes consistent imagery across the homepage as well as organic and paid social. Allbirds strategically places content created by on-brand micro-influencers on product pages, seamlessly featuring visual social proof alongside the ‘Buy Now’ button.
With this content appearing both on the product page, and again across social media channels, Allbirds provides a consistent visual experience for customers across touchpoints.
Since social media is a top channel prompting consumers to make a purchase from a DTC brand, it’s essential that brands leverage that social media across multiple touchpoints, and the content the brand chooses to serve must be impactful. User-generated content, like Allbirds’ accessible micro-influencer photos above, drives more purchases across their strategy.
Implementing user-generated content across a product page has proven effective for DTC brands time and time again.
Take LUSH Cosmetics, a customer-centric skincare and beauty brand that not only leverages user-generated content across the homepage and product pages, but also ensures that content is actionable by adding ShopSpots. In fact, on product pages, when compared to their standard ‘Suggested Item Feed’, the Stackla-powered #WeTheBathers UGC feed received 450 percent more clicks through to a purchase page. That’s a seamless journey, from inspiration to checkout, that sets the DTC brand apart.
A successful omnichannel marketing strategy extends to include the same visual and personalized content to email marketing efforts as well. With the right content delivered at the right time, transactional and promotional emails reduce shopping cart abandonment and increase conversion rates.
Beauty & skincare brand and DTC darling Glossier employs a seamless email strategy that looks to keep consumers engaged (without barraging them with unnecessary content).
In order to improve click-through rates after a shopper has browsed a product page, Glossier will send an email around the time the consumer typically online shops, with a subject line such as, “Looking for something?” The email will contain simple content with an image that’s authentic and real; it’s a gentle reminder that the product you’re interested in is still available, all day, all night, ready to be delivered directly to your door — and then you can take a picture just like the one pictured on the right.
To combat shopping cart abandonment, Glossier sends an email to shoppers reminding them of items they almost purchased but left behind without buying. In another email with a subject line like “It’s not over”, Glossier encourages a purchase with a promotion; this time, it’s a 20 percent discount on any product — including “that thing you love.”
Email campaigns like these, that are personalized to individual buying habits, nurture brand loyalty without being creepy. Instead of sending an email with off-putting personal details about the shopper’s browsing patterns, Glossier instead optimizes brand loyalty with expert timing, well-designed promotions and general purchase incentivization.
And, Glossier doesn’t stop at purchase; instead, the brand follows up with an email requesting feedback with a subject line: “Would you recommend us?”
When a brand inherently relies on its customers to give feedback on the product, it allows the product to become a solution, project and investment opportunity all at once. Customers want to see the product improve because they’ve contributed both money and ideas to it; they’re more loyal to seeing it grow and evolve, and they’re more likely to buy the next iteration of products as the brand scales.
Glossier’s dedication to seeking customer feedback and incorporating it into their product is one reason why their Net Promoter Score (NPS) is estimated to be 83 — most other retailers hover around 55.
Provide value in every step of the customer experience
For retail DTC brands especially, each step of the purchase journey must provide value for the customer. One of the best ways a retail DTC brand can ensure value while customers are in the consideration stage is to create an active shopping experience via a visual catalog or inspiration gallery.
Wanted Shoes, a premier Australian footwear brand, leverages a visual gallery on their site called The Scene, where visitors are invited to “Instashop.” The gallery is a feed directly from Wanted Shoes’ Instagram account, but once that social content is in The Scene, the content becomes shoppable, driving action — and revenue — directly from a seamless feed.
With the ‘Shop Now’ button on posts in a dedicated social gallery, visitors can have the same experiences they have on social channels, this time, housed on the brand’s site for easy navigation to product pages — boosting online sales by 30 percent. Now, Wanted Shoes has ensured that buying new shoes is a social experience.
These sites of inspiration aren’t just limited to digital assets. Physical catalogs, like Casper’s Woolly magazine, are becoming more and more prominent among DTC brands as a whole.
Woolly, a magazine Casper brands as “a curious exploration of comfort, wellness and modern life,” is sold as an accessory to Casper’s ultimate comfort mattress. It was first included in mattress purchases, and now, shoppers can purchase the magazine separately as a bedside table accessory. Made in part with McSweeney’s, the publication is a compilation of work — content — created by contributors to create an authentic, diverse piece.
In its announcement of Woolly, Casper wrote, “A mattress company launching a print magazine isn’t the weirdest thing that’s happened in 2017, but it may be the most comfortable.” When a brand keeps its messaging consistent across every touchpoint, every experience with the brand provides value. A magazine that features content almost entirely about sleep, rather than a catalog dedicated to self-promotional product placement, evokes authenticity from the brand — it shows customers that Casper cares more about the quality of your sleep than the number of mattresses they sell. And that customer focus is what sets DTC brands apart.
Brand experiences don’t stop at the consideration stage. Once a product has been ordered and shipped, an omnichannel marketing strategy includes the most important part: the unboxing.
Nowadays, customers look forward to unboxing the products they’ve purchased as much as the products themselves. The word ‘unboxing’ has even made it into our cultural zeitgeist; now, there’s an official definition in the Oxford Dictionary: “An act or an instance of removing a newly purchased product from its packaging and examining its features, typically when filmed and shared on a social media site.”
DTC brands have taken notice of the popularity of unboxing, so they’re designing packaging that makes for the most fulfilling unboxing experiences. Corrugated boxes, once the realm of stockrooms and UPS trucks, are now branding tools. Now, brands (like Lumi) design packaging made to delight and inspire customers at the moment they receive their products, and retail DTC brands like Rothy’s capitalize on this moment.
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When customers constantly find value in each step of the buying journey, they remain loyal to the brands they purchase from. Plus, when customers are inspired by the unboxing process, they’re more likely to create user-generated content about the experience.
Successful DTC brands continue to nurture customer loyalty after a buying journey is complete and a product has been unboxed. Brands like MVMT, a luxury DTC watch retailer, invites customers to contribute their own user-generated content.
By posting pictures of themselves to Instagram wearing their new watch with a hashtag #jointhemvmt, customers enter a contest for a chance to win $500 in store credit — incentivizing and creating value in both brand loyalty and brand advocacy while building community in one fell swoop.
When customers decide they do want an in-store experience, the DTC brand’s value extends to the physical.
Brands like Everlane create a seamless shopping experience that bridges the digital and physical. In the NYC location, an integrated I.D. system enables shoppers to return in store, shop walletless and apply any existing online credits to a purchase.
In their San Francisco location, shoppers can browse the entire Everlane collection online at a “Search Bar” while in the store. And, the physical aesthetic matches up with the digital look and feel, inviting shoppers to create content that falls in line with the brand’s look.
From extended, creative products and unboxing enablement to time spent in-store, providing value in experiences is essential to retail DTC brands.
Evolve, innovate, rinse, repeat
Through each of these steps, the defining quality of the successful DTC brand is the culture of collaboration; the voice of the customer should inform every step of the buyer’s journey and every evolution in the future of the product.
Retail DTC brands that weave user-generated content into their marketing strategies take direct-to-consumer to a new, literal level. By leveraging the content your customers care most about — their own — and pushing it across all of the channels they interact with, brands partner with their customers to create a customer experience like no other. Here at Stackla, we’re ready to help your brand get there.