9 Ways Subscription Marketers Can Reduce Churn

Source: https://postfunnel.com/9-ways-subscription-marketers-can-reduce-churn/

In our modern marketing landscape, customer retention is vital.

The latest research confirms that acquiring new customers is far more expensive than selling to those you’ve already converted. For marketers cultivating subscription-based product offers, subscriber retention is no exception. Whether you offer monthly product deliveries like Harry’s or Barkbox, or an entire suite of Software as a Service (SaaS), your success is based on selling and retaining subscriptions over the long term.

That’s why subscription churn — the rate at which customers stop paying for subscriptions — is a key metric to monitor alongside retention and acquisition. It tells you how many new subscribers are required to maintain revenue, indicates long-term profitability, and is a contingent metric when launching an IPO. Subscription churn rates can vary by industry, but one Cobloom meta-analysis suggests it should be around 5% on average. But how can eCommerce professionals lower their churn rate and boost retention? Here are a few of the most successful approaches:

More from PostFunnel on subscriptions: 
How to Build a Successful Subscription Model
Retention Lessons From Subscription Box Services
Analyzing Retention Rate for Subscription-Based Businesses

1. Improve Onboarding

Most people don’t like to learn new things — just look at the moaning when a social media site changes its interface — and that’s going to increase churn. Marketers have determined that significant percentages of lapsed subscribers leave because they don’t see value in the service or understand how to use it. Professionals must ensure that the onboarding experience is as smooth and direct as possible, and that help is immediately available if necessary. The quicker someone learns to use the product, the easier they’ll discover why they can’t live without it.

2. Offer Longer Subscription Terms

Offering discounted longer subscription options to customers locks them in for longer time periods. This technique increases subscription revenue upfront and yields a higher average revenue per user. In the long run, lengthier subscriptions allow marketers to more readily deliver the user experience that keeps subscribers coming back.

This plays out in the math, too: companies with a higher percentage of annual contracts have significantly lower churn. An independent study by subscription growth platform ProfitWell found that companies with no annual contracts have an average 9% churn rate, whereas those with 75% annual contracts have an average churn of 3%. Another study found that those with even longer contract rates had even lower churn.

This tactic also doubles as a clever onboarding method — a customer committed for a longer period is more likely to put in the work to understand how to best use a service.

3. Stay in Touch

Customers generally want to be contacted by brands they’ve already spent money with. Reminding subscribers that customer service tools exist — especially when a plan is about to expire — is an effective nudge to renew a subscription. This is the art of reducing churn by knowing when it’s coming.

These reminders needn’t just be about the subscription’s present offerings. Netflix and subscription box services have taught merchants a valuable lesson here: keep customers apprised of what’s new and upcoming with the service. Knowing what’s arriving next month can entice subscribers with anticipation.

This technique goes beyond streaming media and physical sales. Software updates can introduce new features and provide fixes to existing platforms. Keeping a service’s image alive and dynamic will keep subscribers engaged even if the benefits it offers become routine.

Retail Pulse

4. Improve Offerings

Letting customers know about service improvements and upcoming offers may retain subscribers, but marketers still need improvements and features to advertise. Telecoms are familiar with this—intensely so, because they have a reputation as the worst of the worst when it comes to customer service. But that just means they’ve got some great ideas when it comes to cutting down churn. A Hong Kong telco shrank its churn to 1.5% by investing in monitoring tech after they figured out that customers left primarily due to network downtime.

5. Learn Why Customers Stay

Marketers are starting to realize that power users and alpha customers know exactly what’s best about a given service. Polling your subscribers who are most satisfied rather than those least and correlating the results with usage statistics has helped marketers identify where their service is strongest and most utilized. That information can then be used to direct subscribers with similar customer profiles toward those features — it’s simply showing off the best they have to offer.

Today, it’s relatively easy to obtain this usage data. 61% of millennials are happy to provide more personal information if it leads to a better customer experience.

6. Prioritize Customer Satisfaction

67% of churn is preventable and much of that is attributed to bad service and poor satisfaction. Improving overall customer satisfaction takes time and is more complex than addressing churn itself. But it can have huge effects on the revenue earned from any given customer.

For subscription services, satisfaction is everything — it’s quite literally the only thing keeping customers around. Marketers trying to reduce churn should find ways to enhance their long-term value. Tying loyalty incentives and free perks to long-term subscription plans is a strategy that has worked well for subscription box marketers.

7. Give Customers Pause and Downgrade Options

Churn may be inevitable, but it doesn’t always occur because subscribers dislike the service. Perhaps they only want to discontinue the subscription for a few months or are no longer interested in premium account features. By offering alternative service options from the account interface, you can reduce churn when customers attempt to cancel their subscriptions.

If a customer doesn’t need a service all the time, letting them pause and renew a subscription over a fixed interval can retain them in the long term. Marketers have also had success in retaining customers by offering reduced subscription tiers that are easier on their wallets. While this option may reduce revenue, it’s a far better alternative to permanently losing a loyal subscriber.

8. Minimize Involuntary Failure

Sometimes payments fail involuntarily. If a subscription lapses and the customer hasn’t noticed, that’s still churn, even if unintentional. Some experts have found that 40% or more of a company’s subscription lapses were attributed to these involuntary failures.

There are a host of tools available to prevent this, such as email reminders, card update requests, or other attempts to contact subscribers before an expiration date. Whatever your approach, addressing failed payments before the membership ends is a relatively easy method of preventing churn.

9. Run Quick, Simple Exit Surveys

Try as marketers might, they can’t retain every customer. Finding out where the subscription went wrong is key to improving your service in the future. And who better to ask than a customer leaving your platform?

The key to getting this information is to provide exit surveys that are simple, direct, and quickly filled out. Exit surveys won’t usually generate highly-detailed results, but over time, they can pinpoint where a given platform is bleeding users. Even knowing which subscribers didn’t enjoy your service can help you market to best-fit customers — a key stage in reducing overall churn.

For more on reducing churn, check out these detailed strategies that focus on short-term and mid-term churn reduction. Or, join us for the PostFunnel Summit

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5 Examples of Thriving Online Brand Communities (And How to Build Yours)

Source: https://postfunnel.com/5-examples-of-thriving-online-brand-communities-and-how-to-build-yours/

Almost half of Americans feel alone and isolated, and brands are responding by building online communities to connect with consumers. Though online communities can help develop loyalty and trust, creating such groups requires much more than merely gathering people together in the same place. Here are some strategies to guide you on how to build a vibrant and sustainable online community.

More from PostFunnel on customer engagement:
These Modern Brands Prioritizing Customer Service Above All Else
Brands Raising the Bar: 4 Examples of Outstanding Customer Experience
How Stitch Fix Uses Data to Increase Sales and Engage Customers

Have A Community Concept

To avoid a ‘dead upon arrival’ online community, it’s important to have a concept. This framework will help you build a solid foundation and ensure sustainability. Here are a few things to keep in mind when building your community concept.

Define Your Community: Decide what your community is all about, the qualities it’ll represent, and the event topics you’ll discuss. Whatever the MO, you must build  a community on a strong and narrow interest. When you’ve gotten this down, test it out with a pilot and see how it goes.

Have A Clear Purpose: To build a large and sustainable community, focus on fulfilling a need. Multinational retailer Woolworths’ members-only community is dedicated to celebrating their love for food.

Source

Carry out a survey to identify consumers’ values and build a community around those ideals. Move forward once you have a clear purpose and then weave it into your marketing materials to unite your audience and drive activity.

Value Proposition: Create a mutually beneficial and clear value proposition for consumers and your brand. Woolworths Bunch community members, for instance, can experience a new range of products in exchange for comprehensive feedback on the brand’s performance.

While your value should benefit both you and your customers, don’t rush to sell; let the integration happen organically. Invite a few people to join your community with the goal of gaining a better idea of what they value from the program.

Don’t Neglect Community Management

Trolls, provocative opinions, and aggressive behavior can cause chaos and prevent your community from thriving. You have a duty to ensure that members are safe and that harmful content or behavior is properly dealt with as quickly as possible. Here are a few ways to foster a safe space:

Guidelines: Establish guidelines on how you’ll govern your group. Keep the rules simple and brief, and offer examples of positive behaviors. Post your guidelines in your forums and share them in your welcome email so new members can learn how they should engage with one another.

Moderation: Show members that your moderators are interested in the community by allowing them to contribute to discussions. While a little controversy is alright, keep the conversations on topic and make sure members aren’t attacking one another. Allow consumers to report offensive behavior and know when to step in.

Community Manager: Your community manager plays a key role in your venture’s success. Ensure you hire someone personable who understands your brand’s voice and general community etiquette. Empower your community manager with social listening tools to gauge sentiment around the brand and monitor engagement and feedback.

Multi Channel Marketing E-book

Create A Sense of Belonging

Entice customers to invest in your project by helping them find their tribe. Brands that help consumers find a sense of belonging can grow their revenue up to 12% per year. Here are some ways to help customers find a home in your community:

Create Space for Real Conversations: Feature subgroups and forums where members can discuss issues that matter to them. While Sephora is committed to beauty, the brand’s Insider Community features a moms group where members talk about motherhood.

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Allow members to interact with each other on a personal level via private messages and don’t censor discussions. Just remain vigilant for discriminatory, hurtful posts or foul language.

Connect With Them: To help develop a human connection, communicate in a personalized manner so customers can think of you as a friend rather than a product. Encourage members to share their stories and feature them (with permission) on your website or publications. Members of Harley Owners Group, for example, get featured on h-d.com or in H.O.G.® Magazine.

Source 

Encourage In-Person Interactions: 79% of consumers agree that brands are well-positioned to connect people of varying backgrounds and beliefs. Bring people together by organizing offline events such as in-store events and meetups. Curated dog brand BarkBox opened BarkPark, an outdoor clubhouse for dogs and their people.

Allow members to create profiles where they can display their personal interests to easily connect with other members. To help members find meetups, include an event finder on your website with location-based message boards, so members can turn virtual conversations into in-person bonding experiences.

Build Strong Relationships With Top Members

Maintaining a strong relationship with top community members can help build authority and credibility. Here’s how you can build a good two-way relationship with VIPs:

Recognize Them: Celebrate top members and motivate them to further engage with your community by acknowledging them in your marketing materials, at events, or by giving them some form of online expert status symbol. Based on interaction levels, members of Sephora’s space get Rookie, Go-Getter, Rising-Star, and Boss badges.

Share Power: Provide top experts with moderation rights to increase their involvement. Pay special attention to their permissions, and only give privileges to those who understand your brand and can be trusted to edit content appropriately.

Give Exclusive Access: Deepen your relationship with members by giving them access to exclusive events or perks. Apple gives ‘Level 6’ members of its online community access to The Lounge, a private club for active members. To provide the right perks, find out what motivates top members of your community.

Drive Engagement

To get the most business value out of your online community, you’ll need to keep members engaged. Engaged members create a loyal customer base and are a good source of data-driven insights. A few elements you can include in your engagement strategy:

Co-creation: Involve consumers in your product development process by allowing them to drop product ideas or review your products. ALDI’s Testers Club allows customers to review items online and let ALDI know what they love, and what needs improving.

Ask community members questions through quantitative surveys when quick feedback on specific products is needed. If you hit upon a promising product, consider commercializing it in a finished product.

Publish Valuable Content: Center your content around the needs, wants, and pain points of your community. Procter & Gamble’s online community is a perfect example of creating value-add marketing content for their target audience. The content is focused on women-centric lifestyle, relationships, and culture.

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Publish educational, aspirational, or funny content either from your brand or from relevant experts. Include members in the content creation process by allowing them to suggest topics or featuring them in your content. This will help encourage connections between members.

Give Rewards: Gamification techniques such as rewards can help you increase engagement. Create rewards exclusive to community members and acknowledge the right behavior. Give intrinsic rewards to make members feel seen, heard, and understood. Use extrinsic rewards as enforcement of social identity. ‘Full Life’ members of Harley Owners Group get a special life member patch and pin.

Build A Buzzing Community

While online communities are a great way to keep consumers engaged, don’t forget to calculate your ROI.  Set up your forums so they’re easy to navigate, make posting simple, and quickly respond to questions. Lastly, put your community before your brand, and insist on integrity, a fun atmosphere, and developing meaningful conversations and connections.

Learn more about the importance of connecting with consumers at the PostFunnel Summit

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NEWS // New Representation: Tea & Water Pictures

Source: http://focus52.blogspot.com/2018/06/news-new-representation-tea-water.html

I’m pleased to announce that I am now represented by Tea & Water Pictures in New York, London and Beijing. They are an exciting agency that have a some great production experience and a team with really diverse but complimentary backgrounds, so I’m excited to see what we can achieve together over the next few years!

They’ve also done a little interview with me which, if you’re interested, you can read here 

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Head Back To School With These Brands: A 2018 Campaign Report

Source: https://postfunnel.com/head-back-to-school-with-these-brands-a-2018-campaign-report/

As the new school year rolls around, brands eagerly strive for a spot at the top of the marketing class–and for good reason.

Back-to-school spending hit an all-time high in 2018. Although the per-family spending is expected to set a new record this year — $696.70 for grade school and $976.78 for college — overall retail spending dropped due to lower enrollment percentages.

To put those numbers into perspective, the per-person spending for back to school is greater than the spending for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day combined. The National Retail Federation predicted that back-to-school spending will reach $80.7 billion in 2019 in categories such as school supplies, clothing/accessories, shoes, and electronics.

More from PostFunnel on email marketing:
5 First-Rate Email Tips to Deepen The Relationship With Your Customers
How to Make Customers Look Forward to Your Email
Creating the Most Appealing Images for Your Email and Content Marketing

To capitalize on this spending trend, companies created back-to-school email campaigns to drive engagement and revenue. Unlike the holiday season (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, day after Christmas, etc.), this shopping period isn’t spread out for several weeks or months; the majority of customers make all of their purchases within a week or two. So, how many emails are companies sending, and what type of metrics are they seeing in return? We’ve broken down four top brands and their school-themed campaigns.

Staples

Sales campaigns score high marks for brands and consumers. The NRF found that more than half of back-to-school shoppers held out for sale events: 59% shopped Prime Day deals on Amazon, 26% shopped other online retailers on Prime Day, 23% shopped in-store deals that day and 25% said none of the above. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that brands are highlighting their deals and sales to catch consumers’ attention during the online event.

Though Staples started their 2018 back-to-school campaign on June 28th,  the office and school supplies brand sent a notable email on July 15th, a day before last year’s Prime Day. Its subject line read, “How low can these back to school prices go?” Staples who shares a 52% audience overlap with Amazon, sent out their campaign to 7.9 million customers and earned a read rate of 12%. According to eDataSource, Staples sent 119 back-to-school campaigns last year.

Best Buy

Best Buy was one of the first to send back-to-school emails last year, just after Amazon and eBay. Their first campaign went out June 3rd. Although getting an early start on the ‘season,’  Best Buy sent out just 21 themed campaigns during this duration.

Of all of the brands eDataSource analyzed for 2018, Best Buy’s email metrics were the most impressive: all of their campaign emails had greater than 90% deliverability and 52% of them had a read rate of 20% or higher. One email with the subject line, “New school year? New DEALS!” went out to 178,000 subscribers and had a 29% read rate.

Amazon

Amazon had the next highest-performing back-to-school emails just behind Best Buy. Amazon sent 95 campaign emails during the school-shopping timeframe: 92% of their emails had 90% deliverability and 49% had a read rate above 20%. They sent six fewer school-related emails in 2018 compared to 2017.

Last year, Amazon ran their school campaign alongide their annual Prime Day event to tie the two sales together: 67% of online shoppers surveyed by Berkeley Research Group said they waited to shop until they could take advantage of Prime Day sales. With the majority of consumers completing their back-to-school shopping in July and August, Amazon’ll likely capitalize on these ‘seasonal’ shoppers.

The e-commerce brand also released digital and TV spots for its back-to-school campaign, teasing the videos during Prime Day. One 30-second clip features a countdown with a variety of children and products, both from their own lines and outside brands.

Walmart

Competitors Walmart and Target sent about the same number of back-to-school themed emails (104 and 105, respectively). Walmart, however, had one of the lowest read rates, with only 1% of its campaigns reaching 20% or higher (Target had 9%). Its deliverability rate was more respectable, with 82% hitting 90% or above.

According to BRG, Walmart will benefit from the fact that 80% of shoppers say they will visit a physical store location for their school apparel and supplies. And with many waiting until the last minute to grab items, in-store purchase rates aren’t suffering so heavily just yet.

Keep acing the test

Back-to-school and back-to-college spending continue to hit new records each year; we’ll likely see more themed email campaigns that capitalize on getting back to school, supplies in hand. Your brand won’t be the only one trying to catch consumers’ attention during this shopping frenzy, so it’s even more important to set your campaign up for success with engaging content, images, CTAs, and deals.

Retail Pulse

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Direct Mail, Web Comedy, and Other Unusual Marketing Trends

Source: https://postfunnel.com/direct-mail-web-comedy-and-other-unusual-marketing-trends/

Marketers pride themselves on following the latest trends and keeping up with the most effective retention techniques, but even in 2019, marketing campaigns can still surprise us. Perhaps an out-of-date strategy will make a comeback, or an unusually quirky ad will become a viral hit. Here are some recent examples of unexpected market trends unfolding around us.

More from PostFunnel on marketing trends:
Humanizing the Trends Reshaping eCommerce: Three Ways Tech Can Make You More Human
Asking the Experts: Martech Trends to Keep an Eye On in 2019
4 Retention Marketing Trends You Need to Address in 2019

Direct Mail is Making a Comeback

As more companies embrace digital transformations, brands are increasingly marketing to customers through digital advertising channels. But that doesn’t mean we should phase out traditional marketing techniques just yet — especially direct mail. While modern email campaigns tend to see roughly 0.7% response rates, a well-optimized direct mail campaign can easily achieve 5%.

Direct mail’s resurgence relies on data collection, micro-targeting, and segmentation techniques to optimize modern digital campaigns. While the actual messaging delivery process is slower due to mail transit times (hence the unflattering ‘snail mail’ nickname), marketers can use targeting techniques to ensure the right person gets the right message.

But targeting alone isn’t the only driver behind direct mail’s resurgence. Receiving personalized messages by mail is a tactile experience with psychological benefits that are difficult to match on computers or smartphones. People simply love the sensation of getting something in the mail, be it birthday messages or personalized gifts. When marketers leverage these feelings, it can cultivate a stronger sense of customer engagement than any email or mobile advertisement.

Many eCommerce Brands Are Successfully Expanding into Retail

Online storefronts like Amazon established themselves as successful digital alternatives to conventional retail brands. But how does an eCommerce platform expand once it’s cornered all available digital markets? For many companies, the surprising answer is to launch brick-and-mortar retail chains.

In the past few years, we’ve seen quite a few successful eCommerce companies open physical storefronts to support their brand. These businesses range from major players to relatively new startups — online eyeglasses brand Warby Parker, second-hand eCommerce platform thredUP, and Amazon have all dabbled in the trend.

From a marketing perspective, brick-and-mortar retail strategies are a good fit for eCommerce platforms. Each new franchise leverages brand recognition that attracts existing and new online customers. The prior online success stories of these brands can also help them secure storefront leases while lacking explicit retail experience.

While not every business tries to mimic a traditional retail experience — most notably Amazon, which optimizes retail inefficiencies using automated systems — these branded chains suggest the line between online and in-person shopping might blur in the near future.

In-Person Events Are Highly Effective Marketing Channels

Marketers can engage with customers through a variety of remote channels, such as email campaigns or SMS messages. But even in 2019, in-person strategies still work best. This was the overriding message in a survey of 800 marketers, which revealed that local and in-person events represent the most effective marketing strategies.

In-person events can take many forms. Local events, for example, include everything from large-scale public fairs to industry-exclusive trade shows. Hosted events, meanwhile, include training seminars or classes on unique topics. The common factor uniting them all is that people actively engage with the event instead of viewing recordings after the fact. The in-person engagement factor is more likely to convert customers and offers a level of personalization that online platforms struggle to replicate.

That’s not to say in-person events are always practical. Event-based marketing is one of the most challenging strategies for brands to manage and can be quite expensive in many cases. Without careful attention, it’s easy for budgets to balloon out of control without gaining the corresponding ROI conversions. Yet despite these risks, a successful in-person event can attract your most engaged customers and secure ties with local communities. For these reasons, it can be worth checking out local event opportunities in your region.

Quirky Ads with Genuine Humor Can Develop Your Brand

It’s fairly common for marketers to take the most successful advertising techniques and find ways to apply them to their own brands. However, there’s certainly something to be said for going off-book and experimenting — especially when it comes to humor.

Applying humor to advertising creative works on several levels. First, when deployed effectively, it helps your campaign stand out from the competition. Second, emotional responses to advertising go a long way toward engaging users and making your brand feel relatable. Finally, a well-constructed joke will surprise customers, turning an otherwise standard ad into a memorable experience. When combined correctly, each of these points draws attention to your brand while encouraging shares on social media.

More importantly, humor in advertising does have measurable benefits. Take this video from the Dollar Shave Club, which by itself is basically online sketch comedy. As part of a larger marketing initiative, however, it attracted attention which created a strong return of investment. Dollar Shave Club’s initial budget for this video was $4,500 — but it generated 24 million YouTube views, 23,000 Twitter followers, and 76,000 Facebook fans. That’s an impressive number of conversions for a single advertisement that ultimately opened the door to new potential customers.

Dollar Shave Club is not alone on this front. The Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim brand has gained a reputation for turning absurdist content into viral marketing hits, such as the unusual sketch. Old Spice is still remembered for its engaging “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign. The restaurant chain Denny’s is recognized for comedic Tumblr images, while Wendy’s has a hilarious social media presence. Sometimes a comedic voice goes a long way in helping your brand stand out — and earns you new customers in the process.

At the end of the day, marketing is as much art as science. You can learn a great deal about your customers by leveraging data or measuring trends, but there are many unique and undiscovered ways to engage with your audience. By staying open to approaches like direct mail, in-person events, or even comedy, you can reach customers beyond the reach of the latest marketing trends.

Looking to learn more about marketing trends? Join us for the PostFunnel Summit

Customer marketing challenges and opportunities

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Using Video Marketing To Explode Lead Generation And New Customer Revenue

Source: https://www.square2marketing.com/blog/using-video-marketing-to-explode-lead-generation-and-new-customer-revenue

Video Must Be A Core Component To Your Content Marketing Strategy In 2020

In case you missed it, video is exploding, and it’s now a requirement for any revenue generation program.

If you’re not producing and publishing at least one video a month, you’re not executing a complete content marketing strategy. Video is what people want, and you have to include it in your plans.

There are some keys to having an active video marketing strategy. You have to know what to talk about, how to produce the videos in-house and how to use the videos to capture new leads as well as nurture leads through your sales process and your prospects’ buyer journeys.

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5 Tips for Getting in on the Direct-to-Consumer eCommerce Revolution

Source: https://postfunnel.com/5-tips-for-getting-in-on-the-direct-to-consumer-ecommerce-revolution/

Take a quick scroll through your social media newsfeeds, or let a few YouTube pre-roll ads run without hitting the “Skip” button, and you might start wondering about the many brands you never see in stores that’re after your discretionary income.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s latest Direct Brands to Watch report includes some 250 indexed companies that are currently “disrupting their categories and shaping the future of business.” Over one-third of them are 2019 newcomers.

Image source: https://www2.iab.com/iab250-2019/

More from PostFunnel on eCommerce:
The Elephant in Every eCommerce Room: Three Approaches to Dealing with Amazon
Weed Tech: How Legal Marijuana Is Embracing eCommerce
4 KPIs You Should Track to Measure Ecommerce Retention

They’re becoming beloved by consumers, media, and investors alike; one report found that the top 15 D2C brands have received almost $2.2 million in investments to date. And it’s not a passing fad. IAB has reported brands as ubiquitous as Nike and Unilever investing heavily in their D2C efforts to keep hold on the market share under threat.

While much of D2C eCommerce is from large brands like Nike adapting to what consumers currently want, a much larger portion of the industry is made of newer and smaller enterprises. These include business models like digitally-native, vertical brands (DNVBs), that not only sell direct to consumers but also own the entire process.

What are these companies all about, and why are they springing up in such high volume all of a sudden?

From the entrepreneur’s perspective, the advantages of going direct are clear, such as owning the customer relationship and experience, as well as brand loyalty and having access to all the customer data you can collect. When your initial business strategy focuses on direct-to-consumer sales over going through retailers, you’re setting yourself up for more long-term sustainability as well as short-term growth by focusing on the more challenging but impactful option first. Third-party partnerships can come later.

The best practices playbook for D2C eCommerce is still being written, but don’t wait too long to enter the game. Here are some guidelines you’ll want to follow.

Begin Branding on Day One

Selling products directly to your customers means you don’t have that introduction from a trusted friend – third-party retailers. You can’t piggyback off the established relationship and customer base that a retailer provides.

That means that building a strong brand needs to be a priority from day one. As soon as a stranger encounters your media presences and products, it’s all the more important that you strike up a connection, make an impression, and play to emotions.

“Storytelling is a central part of our marketing,” Steph Korey, the co-founder of D2C suitcase brand Away recently told Inc. “We thought, if people who travel heard about us from an in-the-know friend, we could make their travel more enjoyable. How do we put our story out in the universe in a way that people will repeat it?”

Image source: https://www.awaytravel.com/

While the biggest D2C success stories often have sleek-looking visual brands, it’s not about that. You just need to be thinking about stories – the story that your brand tells, and the stories that you want people to tell about your brand. Start cultivating your brand story, values, voice, and vibe as soon as possible.

In a piece on top B2C brands, Bloomberg technology analyst Janine Wolf wrote, “Gone are the days when the only goal of a company was to persuade you to buy its product. Now, making you feel kinship with a brand – even love – takes precedence.”

Branding elements like emotional intelligence and friendliness are more important as millennials and Gen Z become bigger segments of the market. This is, of course, the case with all brand marketing, but it’s all the more important in D2C.

For example, Care/Of is a subscription box for personalized daily vitamin packs, and they don’t use the stale-feeling multivitamins at the grocery store as the standard to beat. From conversational copy to pack designs featuring fun facts and quotes, their approachability and kindness rivals even the most whimsical brand.

Image source: https://takecareof.com/

Strong branding and the experience surrounding it is what sets your product apart from all the other sellers on Amazon and third-party retailers who don’t build that personalized experience and story for their customers.

And when you’re able to channel all of your focus into branding and positioning one product, you can succeed – thereby finding your ideal customers – sooner.

Start Simple and Focused

Simplicity is another best practice of the top direct-to-consumer brands, and not just when it comes to their millennial-friendly branding. Most of the largest empires, online and off, started with a surprisingly basic business strategy.

Bring this simplicity to every aspect of your own D2C business, from your product offerings to your positioning to your marketing strategy. Look at some of the biggest success stories, like Harry’s, Casper and Bonobos.

Image source: https://sleeknote.com/blog/harrys-marketing

They all started by focusing on selling one product to one audience through one channel.

For its first year and first several million dollars in revenue, Casper Sleep only sold one product. They were able to channel their efforts into finding customers for that one product. It was only once they had a large customer base and proven reputation that they diversified into other accompanying products like sheets and additional mattress models.

Image source: https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/casper-dog-mattress/

Now their connection with their customers is so established and their relationships are so strong that they can launch something like a luxury dog bed for over $100, and their customers will rush to buy them.

Choose Your Technology Wisely

Another thing the best direct-to-consumer brands have in common? They think like Silicon Valley. As noted by McKinsey consultants, “the most successful D2C players to date – such as Dollar Shave Club and NatureBox – operate more like technology companies than traditional CPG manufacturers.”

That means always thinking of scaling, especially when choosing your technology stack. Technology is to your eCommerce efforts what a strong structural foundation is to a brick-and-mortar store.

Image source: https://www.iab.com/insights/the-rise-of-the-21st-century-brand-economy/

A new physical store owner might not lease the biggest storefront on the block, but he or she would still be wise to keep in mind the potential needs to accommodate growing inventory. When it comes to eCommerce technology, choose tools and platforms that are beginner-friendly but easy to scale with

For example, don’t try to custom-build a store interface to compete with Amazon’s before you’ve even launched anything. Don’t spend months creating custom solutions for everything before you’ve seen success and made money to reinvest back into your brand.

Your best option is likely a platform that knows the best practices but lets you customize to your own brand. That way, when you’re just getting started, you can get up and running easily. But as you grow and have a customer base to keep satisfied, you can customize your experience for them accordingly.

Build Partner Relationships Early

Another smart tactic to build into your D2C strategy from the beginning is building relationships with other companies in your industry, as well as influencers. This is especially important if you’re serving a narrow niche, in which case trust in your brand will be even more scarce.

Partnerships can be one of your most powerful growth strategies.

Influencer campaigns can be great for tapping into a large audience without the strings a third-party retailer feels. Working with influencers has been a huge part of how mattress brand Leesa, for example, became a household name for its audience.

Image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bi2RK1cBCEY/

Beyond influencers, you’ve got partnerships with complementary companies and products.

These allow you to borrow each other’s audiences, which likely overlap, without competing with each other. For example, if you sell fitness clothing, you could partner with a sleepwear company for a promotion highlighting the overlap in your audiences.

Plan Offline Connections

Finally, a smart strategy for D2C eCommerce brands to consider is taking the relationship with customers offline. While customers are shopping online more and more, connections are still formed more quickly and memorably offline.

Developing strong relationships with them will be key to customer retention, too.

You have dozens of options to choose from, depending on your goals and audience. From community meetups and events to experiential campaigns and pop-up stores, you can generate buzz and word-of-mouth, form stronger connections with your customers, increase trust, and generate sales.

Warby Parker operated for three years before opening its first Instagram-friendly showroom. Today the company operates dozens of physical locations across North America.

Image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BuSFa7hAa4k/

For their part, Casper Sleep has managed to build an offline presence without going the same routes traditional mattress companies take with bed stores. While they have explored regular retail partnerships, they’ve also innovated on that with branded pop-up experiences that feature home-like settings to emulate the product experience.

And they’ve opened a “nap lounge” in New York City that allows a real test drive of the products while defining a new type of wellness activity.

Your Business Comes First

When you choose to go direct-to-consumer with your eCommerce business, the most important thing to keep in mind is that your brand, customers, and business come first, before partners or retailers or platforms.

Instead of playing to the rules of an empire like Target or Amazon, look at those as supplemental options to support your own store. This is what will keep your brand steady and sustainable. Popular retailers and shopping platforms might come and go, but if you can build and master your own audience, you can skip the middlemen and come out ahead.

Retail Pulse

The post 5 Tips for Getting in on the Direct-to-Consumer eCommerce Revolution appeared first on Post Funnel.

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