As a child, I watched my mother’s generation attempt direct-to-consumer business in a, shall we say, clunky fashion. They held Tupperware parties and loaded up the car with Avon deliveries. Before I knew what direct-to-consumer was, I wasn’t interested. However, technology has changed virtually every aspect of business in this day and age—and revolutionized the direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model as we know it.
With blogging and social media offering easy ways to build awareness, and online shopping giving customers the ability to purchase a product or service virtually, reaching consumers and making sales is now scalable and seamless.
A recent study by eMarketer found that there are over 400 true D2C brands. When I launched Cali Raw two years ago, I knew I wanted it to be a D2C company. I had worked in many aspects of B2B businesses, and I wanted to challenge myself and try something new.
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Direct-to-consumer offered the following benefits for my business:
Benefits of direct-to-consumer e-commerce
One of the biggest advantages for entrepreneurs in the D2C space is the ability to control all aspects of the customer experience.
If I were to sell our raw dog food through a big-box pet store, I’d lose control of how the product is stored and how educated salespeople are to answer customer questions. Selling direct allows me to employ very well trained, knowledgeable staff, control the supply chain and ensure that customers have a personalized experience.
Challenges of direct-to-consumer e-commerce
If you don’t have prior experience in D2C, expect a steep learning curve. One of the biggest challenges novice entrepreneurs face is building and managing a company while executing day-to-day at the same time. For me, it felt like going to grad school while holding down a full-time job.
Based on my own experiences in the D2C space, these are the things I believe are four key areas where anyone looking to launch a D2C business needs to focus:
As a D2C business, your website is your lifeline. I originally spent a lot of money outsourcing our website optimization until I realized that no one knew our customer avatar and keywords better than I did. Trying to teach someone proved problematic, so I delved into learning everything I could about SEO. You may find you’ll save money and have better results if you keep website optimization in-house.
I’m a big fan of automated email marketing throughout all points of the sales funnel. I also use it for surveys to help me continually evolve our customer profile and make sure the business is giving our customers exactly what they need. The key advantage to automating this process is that it allows you (the business owner) to focus on what you do best—running the business!
Otherwise, communicating with customers, prospects and other important audiences would constantly be pushed aside for more pressing day-to-day business issues.
UX (user experience) design is critical to the D2C process, and is an area everyone in the space should invest in.
All brands hope to elicit customer satisfaction and loyalty, and D2C companies must design easy-to-use interaction through their online storefront. A UX design expert will know how to build functionality for your site, as well as how to educate and inspire customers while building an emotional connection, as well.
Your digital storefront is everything, and it must be user friendly. Getting outside help from a UX expert is one of the smartest investments I made.
Content is king
This is a phrase most of us have heard, but we should all know that our web content can take several different forms:
- Providing education to your customers
- Sharing case studies and client testimonials
- Highlighting media coverage
- Offering FAQs, bios of key employees, company history, etc.
And, all of the above forms of content must feature an attractive layout, photos, and an easy to read font.
Providing several angles through which to see your business, its values, and third-party validation helps enhance customer loyalty, and also assists prospective customers, media members and potential partners to be more confident in your brand.
Providing information to the world, combined with links to other reputable websites, builds that relationship and also helps your SEO. It’s a win-win situation.
Thanks to innovations in technology, creating a direct-to-consumer brand is allowing more and more aspiring business owners the chance to make the dream of entrepreneurship a reality by lowering many traditional barriers to entry for startup brands.