Coupled with this increase there has also been a rise in new and existing brands vying for the attention of online shoppers. The challenge for DTC brands as we move into 2022 is to continue to understand, connect with and retain customers, while also cutting through the noise in crowded markets.
At Engine Digital we help brands with digital solutions that address the opportunities and challenges they face. Below are some of the customer-centric strategies we recommend brands focus on, as we continue to move through a changing e-commerce landscape.
Make an emotional connection
In 2022 customers are more emotionally invested than ever, caring about a brand’s values and story often as much as the appeal of its products. Building an emotional connection with consumers is key to loyalty and retention. E-commerce brands need to know what they stand for and tell a compelling story around that.
Simply paying lip service to those values won’t cut it. Consumers in 2022 expect to see a brand's values reflected in its actions. Sustainability is one area that has seen a significant rise in importance to consumers. Brands who double-down on sustainable practices and materials, will stand out from their competitors.
Clean fashion brand Mate tells a compelling brand story, backed by action. They are radically transparent about their fabrics, manufacturing processes, labour practices, certifications and goals. They offer customers the ability to donate 1% of their purchase (at no extra cost) to their choice of the non-profit organizations that Mate partners with. Customers can also see which project their donation will go towards and the funding progress of that project.
Mate’s loyal following is a result of quality products, a strong purpose and the ability for shoppers to make a purchase that aligns with their values and makes an impact.
Think beyond the transactional
Building an emotional connection with consumers requires brands to deliver relevant and engaging content that reflects the customer’s values. Giving people a reason to spend extra time with a brand, even if they’re not making a purchase. Topics like sustainability, social justice, diversity and inclusion are now front of mind for many consumers. Successful e-commerce brands are communicating their values and driving brand loyalty through carefully cultivated communities.
Brands looking to build a community need to be very clear on their values, mission and personality as a first step. Content should be high-quality and within the scope of the brand’s mission. Brands also need to decide whether to leverage social channels for their community or build a dedicated space to house content, such as a blog or editorial experience.
Probiotic supplement Seed have centered their community on their brand pillars of science, education and high standards of information. For their social community they deliver fascinating and factual content on a range of topics related to probiotics and gut health, with sources cited. For their affiliates and ambassadors they have created Seed University. This educational program gives their partners the knowledge to spread the word for Seed, without spreading misinformation. Ensuring Seed delivers accurate, high-quality content and stays true to its values.
Building an authentic and effective community takes hard work and research. However, the pay-off is invaluable customer feedback, product ideas, user-generated content and deeper brand loyalty.
Personalize the experience and re-evaluate loyalty programs
DTC brands are in the unique position of being able to leverage the direct connection they have with their customers. Smart brands in 2022 will use zero-party and first-party data to personalize the online shopping experience.
Heightened privacy regulations such as GDPR, together with major browsers looking to phase out third-party cookies, make zero-party data increasingly important for brands. When a customer trusts a brand enough to willingly provide information and validate their intent, the brand doesn’t have to guess at their needs and can provide a highly personalized experience.
Using personalization to tailor the customer’s experience reaps many rewards. From making it easier and faster to make a purchase, to deepening their emotional investment in the brand. It also results in lower return rates, positive reviews and stronger word of mouth referrals.
Loyalty programs offer an excellent place for brands to gather zero-party data for personalization strategies. Brands can and should reward customers for the information they share, and should be creative in finding new and meaningful ways to do this. Brands in 2022 should move beyond traditional programs that simply offer discounts and coupons, to include features like allowing customers to contribute to causes they are passionate about.
Create a first-class social commerce experience
Social commerce is predicted to grow three times faster than traditional e-commerce by 2025. Shoppers are increasingly likely to research products and brands, get inspiration from and purchase through social channels.
The close of 2021 saw TikTok releasing a suite of solutions including storefronts, tagged products and live shopping events. Instagram also released the pilot of an in-app affiliate program. Allowing influencers to curate a shop on their profile using product listings of participating brands. Properly used, social commerce is a powerful tool for brands when it comes to meeting audiences where they are and delivering valuable user-generated content.
DTC brands in 2022 should be quick to leverage new social commerce features and make in-app shopping even easier for consumers. Creating seamless experiences that allow customers to checkout without leaving the app or opening new screens. Brands should build trust by adding reviews into their social shops and tap into word of mouth referrals via user-generated content.
Ready to elevate how you engage e-commerce customers across digital channels? Looking for a partner to help guide you through a shift to direct-to-consumer?
We’ve helped brands like Kit and Ace, Race Face, Loloi Rugs, and Adidas improve how they engage customers at each point in the journey.
Reach out to see how we can help.