2020 is here, and a new decade means new trends for direct-to-consumer brands. “DTC” no longer describes solely a means of distribution, but rather, the increasingly holistic value that this type of brand provides to consumers. It’s not just about connecting with consumers through the ease of a direct and online transaction, but connecting with consumers by engaging them and establishing a sense of community.
So what does this shift mean for brand strategy in 2020?
ACTIVATING THE BRAND COMMUNITY
As value to consumers expands beyond means of distribution, the way that investors value these DTC brands shifts as well. 2019 brought an influx of new DTC brands, unicorns, mergers, and acquisitions that have led investors to look for companies with proven and reliable market potential.
There is incredible value to be built through establishing and activating your brand community. A strong community is an indicator of organic growth and helps you build and maintain relationships with consumers. Ambassador programs help you promote brand loyalty and incentivize repeat buyers while maintaining a human touch between your brand and your biggest advocates.
Outdoor Voices, one of the fastest growing DTC athleisure brands, activated their brand community by launching city and college ambassadors and has seen tremendous growth as a result. They invited their community of advocates to share digitally how they live in their brand in the real world, #DoingThings, and established relationships with their most avid consumers, which helped fueled the rise of the OV brand.
Ambassadors are a cost effective strategy to build relationships with real people that advocate for your brand and exhibit the kind of organic growth that investors are looking for this year.
EXPERIENCE AND ENGAGEMENT
As DTC companies evolve and begin to use more immersive marketing strategies like word of mouth, we will see them engaging the communities they’ve activated through more engaging and educational efforts. This becomes especially important as we see more DTC lifestyle, wellness, and health brands emerge. Those same brands are shifting their missions toward sustainability, which helps connect to consumers to a greater collective cause.
DTC intimates brand, Thinx, has made “period-proof” a lifestyle through their mission of sustainability and breaking the taboo around periods. Thinx’s commitment to their mission has allowed them to connect with consumers and cultivate stronger relationships with them, not just as a brand but as a driving force of change within a larger community. Thinx tapped into their ambassador community on college campuses to start a conversation with new consumers, educating them not only on their brand and product, but on how using their product invites them into a larger community of change.
People want to connect with a brand personally and feel that they are doing good by using a sustainable, ethical product. Engaging consumers in a personal way, like Thinx engaging women to break the taboos around their bodies, and educating them to better understand the value of both your product and mission strengthens consumers’ personal connection to your brand. In 2020, it’s connection that causes conversions.
AN OMNI CHANNEL APPROACH
Physical and digital will become one unified experience for consumers in 2020. In this new decade, we’ll start to see more DTC brands taking a hyper local approach as they shift away from sole eCommerce strategies to include brick and mortar retail avenues.
Brand communities that have been activated and engaged are able to take a hyperlocal approach as they have now cultivated a community of advocates that want to talk about their products in the real world and digitally. A hyperlocal, boots-on-the-ground approach is an integral component of this type of shift in strategy.
“Micromobility” brand, Lime, is taking a hyperlocal approach with real, local ambassadors who are active and enthusiastic users of their electric bikes and scooters to create content and social impact within their communities. As DTC brands begin to live in the real world, they need to be engaging their communities not just online, but through these grassroots efforts as well.
2020 will see more DTC brands activating and engaging their brand communities to cultivate personal and lasting connections with consumers as they shift into an omni channel approach.