Jean Shin, Director Strategy and Content, tyntec offers some advice on progressing your DTC strategy
The Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) approach has been in existence in a form or another for over 15 years when the first one-to-one customer relationships and sales techniques started developing.
Back then, the strategy was simple – focus on minimal products, prioritize brand esthetics, and scale via paid media. But the mass adoption of smartphones changed the rules of the game, allowing branded applications for direct selling services that enabled the DTC approach. The early playbook could no longer apply, as businesses skipped the middleman and conversed with customers directly.
The DTC selling approach benefited both parties more -brands were more in control over sales, marketing, and their image, whereas consumers could interact directly with the brand throughout their purchase journey.
The DTC market reaches saturation
This approach was pioneered and supported by a new type of startup retailers such as Casper (mattresses), The Honest Company (baby and beauty products), Away (luggage), and Quill (office supplies), to name a few. Their view on selling was backed by venture capital, and according to Harvard Business Review, “was defined by borrowed supply chains, web-only retail, direct distribution, social media marketing, and a specific visual brand identity (the now ubiquitous “blanding”) that favored sans-serif type, pastel color palettes, and scalable logos that were easily adapted to a variety of digital media.”
In the last ten years, the market landscape has completely changed – there is a lot more competition in the DTC space, and everyone is leveraging social media.
Moving beyond DTC
Recent years have shown the rapid adoption of messaging platforms as the primary communication channel, as these have 20% more active users than social media platforms (Source: Business Insider).
Messaging platforms are the new avenues for DTC businesses in 2021 – they promise a shorter funnel, instant in-app purchases, and reap the rewards of creating a humanized experience for the buyer.
Intimacy with customers won’t be accomplished via social media, but via mobile screens as direct messages (DMs) between individuals and businesses total 20 billion every month via Facebook Messenger alone (Source: Hootsuite)
This is because customers go back to what they feel most comfortable with – messaging. Direct Messaging – a private communication channel between social media users that’s only visible to the sender and the recipient(s) keeps customers engaged while generating trust and intimacy. As the average person spends about four hours a day on their phone (Source: Inc), it’s only natural that brands tap into the DTC experience enabled by messaging platforms.
These DM channels (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, and WeChat) enable customer engagement worldwide. The monthly use of messaging applications is increasing exponentially, with WhatsApp reaching 2 billion monthly users in 2020 (Source: Statista).
Coupled with adding physical stores to their online-only experiences, DTC brands are adding messaging platforms into their customer journey for customer convenience and intimacy using APIs like WhatsApp for Business.
Direct Messaging takes DTC brands directly to consumers
Next-gen DTC brands are now leveraging social media’s private channels. They are not relying just on their native apps to leverage the global reach, rich media, and user trust in all other business areas like product development, customer experience, and marketing.
DTC still has the chance to break through the clutter as they did a couple of decades ago against traditional brands. They need to get even more serious about the “Direct” part of their differences. By leveraging newly available direct messaging channels (such as WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, or WeChat) loved by consumers around the world, they can redefine what ‘direct’ means to their customers.
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