Dollar Shave Club. Warby Parker. Casper. These and other upstart direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are a disruptive force. In eliminating the middle person, they offer consumers an appealing alternative to established brands in terms of price and experience.
DTC brands have a major advantage over competitors: They convert on their website, so it’s much easier for them to know which media channels are working. That’s why these brands are rewriting the marketing playbook. For such brands, it’s not about choosing digital media or traditional media. It’s about making their own traditions. In the past few years, we have seen DTC brands tinkering with channel mix and ad formats. Many of these brands initially leaned heavily on Facebook and podcasts and are now expanding into traditional media. HelloFresh, for instance, attributes an 88 percent year-over-year increase in site and app visits to its TV ad campaign.
Here are four approaches we’ve recommended to DTC brands to rev up their advertising performance. Any brand can adapt these steps to supercharge their ad plans.
- Audit current challenges and objectives. The purpose of the audit is to understand if a brand has the right digital structure in place to optimize conversion potential. For example, when a site isn’t tagged properly or has weak SEO, it limits the likelihood that consumers will find it and reduces the possibility of conversion. Including an ad-tech audit helps to ensure that a brand has the right technology and data assets in place to measure campaign performance and site performance. An audit should look at the technology the brand currently has and what is still needed to achieve its goals. And, it should examine measurements such as how much data is available, what types, where it comes from and whether it is GDPR compliant.
- Optimize the tech stack. Once a brand uncovers the technology it needs through the audit, it must not only select the right tools but also measure the stack’s performance on an ongoing basis. This requires a dashboard that offers a complete, real-time view of a brand’s interactions with consumers. This allows the brand to optimize for attribution, harness cross-device analytics and conduct lifetime value analyzes to determine ROI. Brands should be able to use their tech stack to target consumers across all of their devices and then see which messages are resonating and from which media.
- Test and learn. It’s nearly impossible to predict exactly which mix of media and which messages will work best for a brand. So, it is essential to run experiments and review results. Variables for experimentation include types of media (social, podcasts, TV); device targeting; and messaging. In many cases, DTC brands already have a tech-savvy in-house media team executing buys using proper analytics tools. Often, regularly testing new approaches and sharing learnings on which media and messaging perform best gets overlooked in the rush to serve each day’s campaigns.
- Maintain and scale up. Experimentation enables marketers to find out which of their advertising plans and approaches are most effective. Once that’s clear, the next step is to maintain what’s working while scaling up. Modifying the channel mix and creative can help to build awareness among new audiences. At the same time, focusing on first-party data helps find loyalists who convert others and reinforce the brand ethos.
Marketing-savvy DTC companies are blazing a new path in consumer-facing industries. Any brand willing to invest in optimizing and refining its marketing could double down on this success and in doing so create a bastion that competitors can’t penetrate.
The tools are out there, but the sheer number of variables is overwhelming. That’s where the value of partner agencies comes in. DTC companies should find agency partners that can guide them through these four steps, providing them with the fuel they need to supercharge their advertising plans today and over the long term.