Today, we’re seeing many companies switch to a direct to consumer (DTC) model to remain competitive, leaving traditional ways of doing business in the rearview. Where does the competitive advantage lie when implementing a direct to consumer strategy? Among other benefits, the ability to connect with your consumer throughout their journey is paramount. A consumer-first strategy solves various business problems that companies tend to lose sleep over: How to increase brand awareness? Who are my consumers? What are my consumers looking for? How can I help them accomplish their goal? How do we properly represent our brand and tell stories around our products to influence purchase? How do we measure performance and success? How to generate brand loyalty and repeat customers? One important consideration when answering these questions is understanding the consumer engagement tools available and leveraging them to the fullest potential.
Solutions to Address Common Direct to Consumer Questions
Proper implementation of these 7 consumer engagement tools are crucial to achieving your DTC goals.
- Digital marketing
- Web platform
- Customer service
- Digital analytics
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Review tools
In order to effectively engage with your consumer, a robust digital marketing strategy with corresponding platforms must be established to initiate your consumer’s journey and tailor their experience with your brand. Once interest has been sparked with a consumer, the proper web platforms must be in place to accurately represent your brand and its products in a way that influences consumers to transact. Customer service remains vital in both traditional and digital direct to consumer models. Enabling a seamless, interactive method to service consumers digitally will go a long way in satisfying a consumer and minimize drop-off along their journey with your brand. As consumers continue to interact with your brand, it is crucial that an analytics strategy and tools are in place to capture consumer data and connect all the touchpoints along their digital experience. CRM platforms house the necessary consumer data that enables personalization, transitioning formerly unknown guests into recognized consumers. Implementing subscription models, incentivizing consumers to take a deeper stake in your brand community and reviews to give a voice to consumers spurs the introduction of brand advocates and loyalists. These 7 consumer engagement tools, when implemented and managed correctly, separates industry leading direct to consumer brands from the rest of the pack.
The Direct to Consumer Engagement Tools
The digital marketing landscape is constantly evolving with nuanced capabilities to more effectively communicate with consumers. Embracing an agile approach to building and innovating upon your digital marketing strategy and technology stack is critical to direct-to-consumer businesses. Digital marketing plays an essential role throughout the consumer engagement journey, from initial awareness messaging to drive website traffic, to the personalized communications influencing transactions and brand buy-in.
For direct to consumer companies, a diverse portfolio of digital marketing channels such as social media, content marketing, influencer outreach, search, SEO, display and email marketing are table stakes. Integrating industry-leading digital marketing platforms creates consumer connection points throughout their digital experience, ensuring the ability to message consumers virtually anywhere, at any time. Establishing a comprehensive and iterative digital marketing strategy sets the foundation for consumer engagement. Conducting marketing technology assessments to select and routinely audit digital platforms for alignment with DTC objectives and goals builds the pillars of sustained digital success.
Maintaining a cohesive website that accurately represents your brand’s story, values, and products may seem to be an evident requirement, however; many companies fail to pass the first impression test. Consumers have short attention spans and decide whether they would like to engage with your brand in a matter of seconds upon landing on your website. Website content should clearly and concisely portray a brand’s purpose and values in order to gain a consumer’s attention. – The Wantedness study conducted by Wunderman found that 89% of shoppers remain loyal to brands that share the same values as they do. Therefore, incorporating compelling storytelling around services or products to retain the consumer’s attention is vital. Digital shopping restricts consumers from being able to physically analyze products, emphasizing the need for web platforms with enhanced product page capabilities that replicates the traditional shopping experience. Equally, if not more important than the content on a brand’s website, is the format in which the content is viewed. Ensuring a mobile-friendly website is vital to mitigate drop-off rates as over 50% of web traffic in 2019 came from mobile devices.
Once your brand has been able to successfully drive consumers to your website via digital marketing and extend the consumer journey through compelling storytelling, what do you do next? You maintain the consumer-first mentality and ensure that tools and resources are in place to further assist the consumer in achieving their goal through excellent customer service. According to a study by Microsoft, 96% of survey respondents say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand. Creating a detailed “Contact us” page and process is a minimum requirement for servicing a consumer. Incorporating chat tools to walk consumers through their shopping experience adds an additional layer of support and trust for consumers. With the various connection points available, consumers now expect customer services to plug into social media platforms for answers to their questions. According to Marketing Tech, 60% of customers consider not getting a response on social channels to be a bad experience.
After delivering a rich experience and guiding your consumer through the conversion funnel, it’s time to utilize on your digital analytics to optimize and grow your direct to consumer business. Digital analytics includes the digital marketing data gathered to help understand who your consumer is and what acquisition strategies work well. Similarly, website analytics are used to understand consumer behavior, what they’re interested in, how their experience with your brand was, and what ultimately led to a conversion. When the proper analytics tools are in place, direct to consumer companies can extract insights from data across all connection points within a consumer journey to optimize both the brand’s strategy and the consumer’s experience. Analytics enable the ability to segment audiences for personalized targeting, building CRM profiles and developing predictive audiences.
Customer Relationship Management platforms are tools that manage your company’s interactions with current and potential customers. CRM glues consumer engagement together by housing all the information gathered along a consumer’s journey in one platform. The purpose of the tool is to improve customer relationships. With all the various methods of interactions with consumers, from email marketing to social media engagement, it’s difficult to track connections and tie them back to specific consumers to assess the value of each relationship. CRM platforms have direct-to-consumer revenue implications with the ability to discover new customers and more importantly increase retention rates.
Deploying a subscription model within your direct to consumer strategy is an incentivizing way to retain customers. When consumers subscribe to a brand, they enter an exclusive community where their voices are heard and their experiences are personalized, invoking a feeling of loyalty. It’s important to develop a comprehensive subscription strategy and research the various subscription tools to determine which best fits your business before launching.
Engaged subscribers are valuable stakeholders for direct-to-consumer brands as they stimulate interaction within the brand by encouraging reviews, awareness and advocacy. Empowering stakeholders to advocate for your brand is the grand prize of consumer engagement, resulting in free advertising and promotion of your brand. Implementing and managing native review tools and encouraging reviews on 3rd party sites is essential to building brand trust and amplifying the voice of advocates.
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Contributions by Aley Morris.