Digital Marketing, Management
Ecommerce brought choice, price and convenience to the masses in its infancy. During a meteoric rise, the use of customer analytics, influencer marketing and personalisation cemented online retail as a truly dominant force. And over the last 12 months, ecommerce became the essential method of acquiring goods, right down to the basic necessities, as we were all locked in and the physical world closed for business. However, as 2021 shows signs of hope and we carefully return to the outside world, the overwhelming consensus is that we have some physical, tangible, real world catching up to do.
The question is where does this leave those brands who have sprung up online over the last few years, selling direct-to-consumer, purely on their own web stores. They have cultivated huge followings on social media, particularly Instagram, and have all the ads, analytics and conversion tactics in place to be a truly successful online merchant. But these are brands without, at least in the short to medium term, any plans for bricks and mortar stores. What may be missing, therefore, is any form of real connection to the physical world and the customers that inhabit it. Is there enough to build a brand on without in some way forming meaningful, human and emotional connections with those people buying?
Here, our partners at Peoplevox share 3 tactics that D2C brands can use to make an impact outside of their digital world…
The Couture Club is a fashion brand established in 2015, with designs created out of its city, Manchester UK. In case it needs spelling out: “Deciding on the name because every piece is individual and unique; ‘Couture’ and ‘Club’ because we wanted to build a community that in effect, not only join us by buying into our product and style but also into our culture and what we stand for.”
So much more than just another label, this business is built from the ground up as a membership community. By joining the club, you become entitled to exclusive gifts, VIP early access, priority tickets to special, one-off events, and other extras like birthday vouchers, gift cards, loyalty points. The clothes bring it all together – like-minded people sharing ideas and styles. Going a step further, rather than relying on the typical ‘influencer’ model for social media marketing, The Couture Club has invested in partnerships with people at the core of pervasive cultural moments: Deontay Wilder, Lethal Bizzle, Jesse Lingard. Pioneering sportsmen and musicians with whom the community has more deep-rooted connections than ‘just another Instagram account’.
Its club has values and stands for something. It is something you can be a part of, and get genuine value from. In this way, the brand was a living, breathing thing in the real world a long time before they eventually opened their flagship store.
The pride of the Shopify pack, Gymshark is the master of ‘URL to IRL’ (the brand’s words). From its early days blowing up fitness trade shows with vast crowds, one-off local events, activations for key product launches, collaborations with athletes and culminating most recently with its first retail-focussed, month-long pop-up. The brand has developed a reputation for bringing energy to fitness everywhere it goes, inspiring growing audiences.
It’s through these events that the values of the brand become clear, and that community they work so hard to engage online becomes an experience offline. Their secret, perhaps, is the names they have aligned with the brand. Athletes, models and content creators, who have massive followings in their own right first and foremost, seem to create some kind of magnetic pull at these events, drawing fans from far and wide to meet face to face those they idolise and follow online. Even if it’s just for a picture for the brand’s socials! The net result is translating followers into footfall, first-time buyers into long-term customers, and product sceptics into brand believers.
Our last play is a clean winner down the line. Federer-esque. Not only is it about brands turning something that looks good online into something that feels brilliant when it lands on the doorstep, this is full-cycle, brand-building user-generated marketability.
Pretty early on into the direct-to-consumer movement, brands like Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s and M.M. LaFleur took on the challenge of turning cardboard and tape into an on-brand, value-add experience. And it’s smart – the packaging is your first physical impression of a previously online only concept. So, whether it’s the quality and finish of the box itself, the layout and design without the box, a personal touch or handwritten note, or some extra freebies as a cherry on top, the things brands do to package the items ordered are the things that will live long in the memory. And because we live in the social age, by memory we mean that customer’s Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat or YouTube channel.
It’s also the golden change to reinforce with your new customer what your brand is all about. Ethical company with a sustainable outlook? This is the time to find creative ways to reduce waste and use eco-friendly materials. For high-end fashion boutiques that are all about luxury and sophistication, high-quality materials and elegant branding make a lot of sense. A minimalist basics brand isn’t really adhering to their own vibe if the box their clothes get delivered in has 10 sheets of paper and 4 compartments for foam peanuts…
It’s clear huge corporations are going to extreme lengths to track, measure and learn from both the offline and online activity of customers. Nike asks you what shoes you are wearing on its running app to inform regionalised merchandising strategies for their stores. Google tracks whether ads shown on a phone relate to physical visits using location tracking. Fast-growth brands on Shopify can’t compete with this, but they don’t have to. Instead, they need to continue pursuing these more human ways of bringing their brand to life. Social has allowed them to expand their audience at an awareness level, but it’s only when they can be translated into a real-world experience that they inspire loyalty, togetherness, that feeling a part of something that leads to brand ambassadors and customers for life.
Peoplevox, a part of The Descartes Systems Group, is a warehouse management system designed to address the challenges e-commerce warehouses face. It’s built with all the features needed to take you from scale-up to enterprise, ensuring you deliver remarkable customer experience with every order.