If a customer loves a brand they can buy anywhere, why would they want to buy directly from a direct-to-consumer (DTC) website instead of Amazon with their Prime 2-day free shipping? The answer is…marrying brand affinity and shopper loyalty.
Building a successful brand takes focus, strategy, and an excellent product. Building an affinity in the market for your product means business longevity and lifetime value (LTV) but moving that line of business to a direct channel means a big boost in EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization).
Brands with fervent customers do not have to win on price in a DTC channel if they provide a deepened connection. As buyers come to love a brand for important attributes like quality, reliability, social cache, and sustainability, the cost of bringing them back to the brand lowers.
For brand manufacturers this presents both a win and a challenge. The first, and most important, hurdle of providing a product consumers love and care about has been met, but how do you encourage those customers to spend directly with you?
There are two main areas to focus on: service & community.
Customer Service must be paramount. Be clear with your consumers about shipping times, return policies, and fees — and then follow through. Brand loyalists will care far less about your charging for shipping than they will if there is a perception of being untruthful. Transparent communication sets good expectations and shows consumers the product they love is made by a company they can trust. All the more to encourage the customer to buy directly.
But good customer service is available through wholesale partners, too. It is through community that a great brand can encourage DTC business growth. By respecting your customer’s emotional connection to your brand and elevating it by allowing them to feel a part of the company, it will invest them in purchasing and supporting the brand on your ecommerce site.
This can be achieved in several ways — social media, reviews, Q&As, and, best of all, loyalty programs. Leveraging a loyalty program where there are perks that are only available to those DTC consumers has the power to drive a casual fan into a brand evangelist.
The footwear vertical has stepped into this space with both feet. Great shoe brands are available at countless specialty and department stores — and, of course, Amazon — but their loyalty programs cater to their customer needs. For example, sneakerheads need first access to new drops and to know when and where they need to be to get the latest kicks. Runners need a program that supports their habit — run trackers, subscription models, points for miles run.
Developing products consumers love is hard enough. Don’t miss the chance to deliver on the total experience by ignoring the power of loyalty programs within DTC channels.
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Chelsea Mueller is a Senior Consultant in OSF Digital´s Strategy group. She has two decades of experience in ecommerce transformation and growth. She has extensive knowledge in ecommerce leadership, crafting loyalty strategy, building teams, constructing ideal tech stacks, expanding omnichannel offerings, and boosting customer confidence and conversion rates through payment enhancements including Buy Now Pay Later, alternative payment methods, and fraud mitigation.
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