In the past few years, direct-to-consumer has been the domain of startups, entrepreneurs, and influencers. Now, thanks to a pandemic, increasingly powerful e-commerce tools, and changing customer habits, many large brands are rethinking direct-to-consumer strategies. From Caspar, Glossier, and Warby Parker to Kylie Jenner, Charlie D’Amelio, and Emily Weiss—what can big brands learn from these innovators?

Last week BDB hosted a webinar moderated by our creative director and very own granola king, Tom Bannister, along with Facebook, SK-II, renowned influencers Preston Konrad and Isaac Hindin-Miller – here’s what we uncovered.

Optimize first, monetize later

Engineers design products with a specific purpose, but as a company, you only really win if you allow consumers to go on their own journey with the product. Facebook learnt to embrace and adopt consumers’ behaviours, which was initially DMs and comments asking about a product. The birth of swipe-ups, branded content ads, paid partnerships and most recently, direct links on Instagram stories, were created to feed the idea of expanding the direct-to-consumer distribution channels.

The linear process of consumption used to be discovery, consideration, education, and purchase. However, that has been cut short from simply discovery straight to purchase. Consumers are viewing and purchasing all in the same session. Thanks to social media we can now learn about the product as we use it and document our experience. No one has to go through their consumer journey alone.

Bring the audience along for the ride

Companies spend thousands to make sure products are perfect before they reach the consumer. However, they often forget that consumers are, firstly, human and secondly, aware that perfection is subjective.

This is why tech platforms choose a completely different route. Platforms often release a product, allow it to sit with their consumer, and then use their feedback to keep improving it. The idea behind old-school focus groups? Getting feedback from your consumer before releasing the product. Consumers want to be a part of the building process, especially if it’s for a product that is being created for them. Whether you’re a tech company or not, the direct-to-consumer space allows you to create your product with your audience.

Influencers are consumers, and today’s consumers are tomorrow’s influencers

With the rise of micro-influencers, the focus for representing a brand has shifted to a smaller group of people with fewer followers but a far higher engagement rate. Compared to the traditional influencer with 1.3 million followers but only a 0.3% engagement rate. The moral of the theory? Be the first brand to turn your consumers into true influencers, because whether you like it or not, today’s consumer who buys your Pitera essence as a genuine customer will be the person you hire in ten years to talk about their skincare journey.

From Customer is King, to Audience is King

Instead of focusing on this overdone idea of faux “authenticity,” highlight the human behind the brand, and use that to connect with your audience. There is real merit behind this strategy of building a community, prior to launching a business. In other words, what we now like to call, The Isaac Effect. The people who buy into a brand’s philosophy, values, and way of life are not only going to be brand fans but also the people who are directly connected to the brand enough to be able to say “Hey, I Like You, and I want this shirt but in green!” In one swipe, we’ve gone from customer is king to audience is king.

It’s a two-way street

As a brand, no one knows the market and brand value better than you. However, as an influencer, no one knows your platform better than you. Having a balance means the creator introduces a unique perspective to an existing product in the hopes of revealing an untapped consumer base. 

Facebook studies have demonstrated that when you have a combination of brand assets and influencer assets in the same campaign, 98% of them outperform at the mid-level metrics stage (consideration and education) and outperform at the trial and purchase stage. As a brand, it’s vital to be true to what you know, however, be sure that you give your creators the very same liberty.

They say social media is forgiving, so be the anti-gatekeeper and ensure your audience experiences the difference between buying from a person versus buying from a company.

For more D-to-C insights, watch or listen to the full replay of the webinar below:

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