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Building a brand without offline distribution requires an innovative approach

How can Direct To Consumer (D2C) brands build brand equity?

We recently attended DTC London, an exciting conference that provided a platform for D2C businesses to share knowledge on their journey so far. The speakers included founders, marketing and product leads from 180 D2C brands including BirchBox, Eve Sleep, Seedlip, Ola and MORI. The content covered their experience and musings on everything from marketing and customer acquisition to distribution, data, and funding. D2C brands proffer an advantage over traditional brands as they amass great amounts of data about their consumer. This allows them to refine their product based on consumer feedback and tailor pricing and promotion strategies in real time. Cutting out the distributor also allows them to save costs which can be passed onto the consumer or reinvested in the business and product. Forgoing traditional marketing techniques and relying instead on subscriptions, growth hacking and network marketing has allowed them to usurp legacy players and build new categories. However, without offline distribution and the subsequent foot traffic they lose the ‘owned media’ element of shelf space or high street branding and need to market in a more innovative way to achieve brand awareness at scale. So how can D2C brands build brand equity and awareness, outside of the traditional offline support structure? At DTC London, brands shared the marketing lessons they have learnt so far:

  1. The main marketing focus should be on building the brand and making people aware of its USP as this will fill the top of the funnel and drive down the cost of both Google and Facebook CPA Activity at the bottom.
  2. PR can be very effective if the brand has a strong story. Consider the brand’s heritage and values and how this resonates with current consumer and societal trends.
  3. Test as many customer attribution channels as possible. The most unexpected avenues can turn out to be the most effective.
  4. Referrals are a powerful method for building subscription-based businesses. How can a brand incentivise its existing users to pass the word on?
  5. Don’t be assumptive about the consumer. Analyse the data they’ve provided and tailor the product, marketing and distribution accordingly.
  6. For a subscription business, customer retention is key. Understand how marketing strategy should be balanced to compliment the acquisition of new customers with the servicing of existing subscribers.
  7. Understand whether the business profit margin requires scale or niche consumer targeting in order to build the most successful marketing plan.
  8. Consider the type of business that is being built. A business built for acquisition will require a very different marketing strategy to that of a ‘family’ business. Legacy business models have been disrupted forever, driven by changing consumer demands and the tools that technology has provided. Businesses with no physical assets are valued at billions of dollars and the world’s biggest brands are looking to start ups for inspiration across product, marketing and culture. There is a focus on sustainable goods delivered through hyper local services, on artisan craftsmanship rather than mass produced pieces. Despite this, a business can market its product to the entire world, from a device in the founder’s palm. When considering their marketing activity, D2C brands need to ensure they are balancing immediate sales drivers with building brand equity.
    In a highly competitive marketplace, it is brand that differentiates between products and commands both consumer attention and long-term loyalty.

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