Okay folks, we don’t need another reminder that this year’s happenings have changed everything, right?
Well, if something is certain, it’s how Joe Megibow, CEO of Purple, put it during Outbrain’s panel at this year’s FounderMade D2C Executive Summit: “Everything is going to be different than it was. You just have to adjust.”
Which, as it turns out, is the D2C mantra of 2020. Already seen as disruptors in the digital space — where their streamlined shopping experiences made lasting direct relationships with customers online actually feasible — it’s clear that if there’s one brand type best equipped to adapt to the COVID-age consumer-first mindset, it’s them.
But if you couldn’t catch their tips during the summit, it’s not a problem. Check out 5 of the key takeaways from the virtual event — and check out one of the hottest panel discussions of the day (if we do say so ourselves!).
5 Learnings From 2020s D2C Executive Summit
1. It’s a New Consumer Journey
Plain and simple, just as Heidi Zak, Founder and CEO of Thirdlove, says about the consumer psyche nowadays: “You just have to meet them where they’re at.”
And where they’re at, is pretty much everywhere online. And yet, what ultimately made D2Cs stand out in the first place — a robust, often digital-first, online presence — has quickly become the status quo for most brands as COVID takes its toll on brick and mortar.
So, back to basics. If there’s one recurring theme of the day it’s introducing the “digital” element into your evergreen buyer personas. Because as the COVID-era consumer becomes increasingly omnichannel in their shopping, understanding what drives the attribution behind the online journey might just be exactly what sets your brand’s story apart from the new crowd.
2. Why Automation Doesn’t Have to Be Impersonal
Let’s face it — if there’s a buzzword on the lips of almost every D2C brand these days it’s “automation.”
I mean, can you blame them? As brands grow and their offers expand, operational (and often customer-facing!) automation is becoming a must-have tool in allocating needed resources. And yet, oftentimes the real cost is the consumer experience. Audiences become lost in a sea of faceless chatbots and templatized messaging.
Not that it has to be that way — as D2Cs will be the first to tell you. Take a cue from a customer service brand like Gorgias, who leverages fully automated processes for tasks like order tracking, while freeing up internal human teams for more complex transactions — like personalized product questions.
At the end of the day though, it all comes back to the customer. The brand that knows which tasks to automate and which to individualize ultimately thrives in the new digital ecosystem.
3. Where D2C Meets D&I
In a year where equitable rights and inclusivity have been at the forefront of our digital discourse (think #BLM and #StopHateForProfit), brands don’t just feel they need to speak out — many actually want to.
And increasingly, it’s D2Cs who are helping lead that conversation — from brands such as ThirdLove launching initiatives like the TL Effect aimed at boosting small businesses owned by women of color, to the programs of hims & hers designed to bring telemedicine to low income communities across the U.S.
But it can be a hard line to tow, right? As our own panel discussed, separating the brand’s voice from that of the Founder is a tricky balance to strike, especially if audiences feel alienated along the way.
Maybe VP and Co-Founder Hillary Coles of hims & hers sums it up best: “Customers want to feel included. They want to feel seen and understood.” Not a bad place to start.
4. Shifting the Real Conversations Online
Would have to say that Mariah Chase, CEO of Eloquii, said it best: “You’re running ads, but are you actually having a conversation?”
Err, okay maybe not. Add to that the challenges D2Cs face when it comes to the parsing down of brick and mortar locations amid COVID and the struggle for meaningful interaction really becomes apparent.
The key, as skincare company TULA would tell you, is finding small ways to bring the conversation online. Not sure what facial cleanser works best in the humid climate you live in? Take their personalized on-site skin quiz. Or, hop over to their community blog and take the latest poll on trending products.
Besides, there’s another, even bigger, upside to getting personal online — aggregated data once lost in-store can now be repurposed in future campaign tactics, like retargeting tactics.
5. Did You Forget About Retention?
Look, it’s easy to do! Sometimes when we’re on the hunt for new customers, we forget about arguably the most important: the ones that already exist.
And while cultivating brand loyalty isn’t a new topic, especially for LTV-driven D2Cs, it’s priority can fall by the wayside next to the hunger for fresh acquisition. But as tech brands like Yext remind us, a good digital retention plan can be a game-changer — especially one built upon relationships.
Think: when was the last time you actually talked to your customer? Whether it’s tools like NPS surveys, on-site experience, or turning loyal customers into social-proof brand advocates, one thing is for sure: a strong retention strategy could end up being the spark for acquisition after all.
Complacency Isn’t the D2C Way
So, it goes without saying, COVID has changed the D2C landscape forever. But as we’ve seen time and time again — complacency isn’t the D2C way. And so if you’re looking for a temperature check at how brands are seamlessly adapting to this new age, you might not have to look too far beyond your own digital shopping cart.
Not that you’d have to look too far past your own Outbrain dashboard, either — if you already have one. 😉
Because with new native products — like automated, CPA-optimized bidding strategies — taking the guesswork out of your brand’s performance journey, the “new digital normal” might be more easily attainable than you think.