What is Direct-to-Consumer Marketing?

January 8, 2019 Vibes Marketing

Happy New Year! To kick off 2019, we’re starting a blog series, beginning with the post you’re reading. In this series, we’re going to dive into direct-to-consumer marketing to help you understand how to bridge the gap from digital to physical sales, and how mobile connects the two. We’ll also go into advanced analytics and performance marketing, so there’s lots to get into in the coming months!

Let’s Start with a Definition

So, what IS direct-to-consumer marketing? Rather than selling products through third-party channels (like Wal-Mart or Amazon), a brand sells directly to consumers, either through its own store or ecommerce website.

So while Nike sells its shoes in Kohls and on Amazon, it also has its own standalone brick-and-mortar stores as well as a website where shoppers can buy shoes.

Why would a brand consider direct-to-consumer? Well, first of all, there’s more profit margin in selling directly to customers. Because third party brands want low wholesale pricing, brands often give up significant profit for the privilege of having someone else sell their products for them.

And from a consumer perspective, buying direct from the maker has many benefits. With so many imposters in the apparel and technology categories, shoppers can be assured that they’re getting the real deal when they buy direct. And it’s often easier to deal with returns and exchanges when working directly with the brand.

How Brands are Using D2C to Join Physical & Digital Experiences

Brands that succeed with a direct-to-consumer strategy know one key thing: physical stores are not competing with online retailers; they’re enhancing the experience and providing more opportunity to create brand loyalty.

Some people will always prefer to buy products in stores where they can touch and try on products. But the fact that consumers go directly to a retail brand’s website only 15% of the time means that there are other opportunities that are created by working with third-party retailers like Amazon and Google.

Brands recognize that they’re losing online market share to these mass ecommerce retailers, and so rather than considering them the enemy, they’re working with them. As in the above example with Nike, with so many avenues for sales, at the end of the day, Nike makes money.

The key to this working is consistent marketing across both digital and physical channels. Delivering a cohesive message and branding helps build a loyal following. It won’t matter where your customers buy your products...as long as they’re buying them.

How Mobile Helps D2C

Buying eyeglasses has, until recently, been an in-person experience. You go to a store and try on frames. But Warby Parker has led the way for direct-to-consumer sales of eyeglasses...and mobile has been a big part of that success.

Not only can mobile users order pairs of glasses to try out, but they can also use the brand’s app to get more accurate recommendations for glasses styles and shapes using more than 30,000 measurement points on their faces. Interestingly, the brand started out online and now also has around 100 stores nationwide.

Again, success comes from consistency. Brands that bridge the gap from digital to physical using mobile have marketing campaigns that are synonymous across all marketing platforms. They also may use social media as a way to create user-generated content (Warby Parker encourages customers to post photos to social media using the hashtag #warbyhometryon. As a thank-you for doing so, the brand pairs the customers with an online personal stylist).

While having an app can enhance a direct-to-consumer retailer’s opportunity to sell more products, it’s not the only way a brand can build a relationship with customers. Optimizing for mobile search (ensuring mobile users can easily find a nearby location that sells a brand’s products), leveraging mobile wallet for loyalty members, and using text message marketing can ensure that mobile users stay engaged and eager to buy from a brand, no matter the location.

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