When you sell direct-to-consumer (D2C), you take control of the entire shopping experience, which means you can create accounts and collect valuable customer data–but you also take on a lot of responsibilities you don’t have when you work with a retailer. As a result, your success or failure in D2C sales depends on how well your business is suited to take on these additional responsibilities.
Here are 8 factors your organization must have to succeed in D2C.
In D2C sales, every aspect of the shopping experience reflects on your brand, including product education, checkout, shipping, returns, and customer service. Your organization needs to be aligned on:
- The kind of experience you want to deliver
- How each component of the experience supports or inhibits your goals
- Who is responsible for ensuring each part of the experience reflects your brand’s standards
This isn’t a responsibility that can fall on one person or one team’s shoulders, either. If you’re going to invest in and prioritize D2C sales, your organization’s structure and your departments’ areas of responsibility need to help you put your products in your customers’ hands.
2. Value proposition
Consumers need a compelling reason to buy directly from you. Especially if they can buy your product from their preferred retailer. Retailers have heavily invested in perks, and over time, many of these have solidified into consumer expectations, like free shipping, free returns, wish lists, membership programs, and click-and-collect. You need to not only match consumer expectations as much as possible, but offer something your customers can’t get at a retailer, such as access to additional product configurations (colors, sizes, fragrances, flavors, etc.), better pricing, or more valuable education.
3. Shift in mindset
Taking retailers out of the shopping experience means your business needs to start thinking like a retailer. You’re the one facilitating transactions and fulfilling orders now, so you need to consider how to deliver the best possible experience and streamline every stage of the customer journey.
Your product pages have to not only educate consumers and showcase your products, but drive purchases and set expectations for the transaction. As customers view product pages and make purchases, your website should use that data to provide personalized recommendations that steer people toward the products that are most relevant to them.
Retailers know what it takes to promote, sell, and ship massive quantities of products and build a brand around a quality shopping experience. If you can’t think like the competition, you won’t be able to compete.
Adding ecommerce to your website isn’t like flipping a switch. Brands that want to sell their products online need to invest in tools to:
- Process payments
- Manage customer relationships
- Send transactional emails
- Handle shipping
- Analyze customer data
- Facilitate live chat or support
- Direct customer calls to appropriate channels
- And more
Depending on the scale of your D2C operations, you may also need additional warehouses and other facilities, and you’ll certainly need more staff to handle your additional responsibilities and the increased volume of customer interactions.
Even just meeting basic consumer expectations will require a significant investment. Brands that are doing well in D2C don’t just think like retailers. They buy the tools retailers use and invest in the infrastructure retailers use to serve their customers.
If you navigate D2C through trial and error, you’re probably going to make a lot of expensive errors before you start having success. Selling D2C will likely require you to form new departments for fulfillment, development, customer acquisition and retention, content creation, and other parts of the customer experience you haven’t been responsible for until now. You can’t afford to simply add these crucial areas to someone’s existing tasks and priorities.
Make sure your company has the expertise you need to actually use and implement the new tools and processes D2C adds to your business. And ideally, before you start restructuring your organization and investing in infrastructure, you should have someone (or a team of people) create a comprehensive profit and loss statement as well as map out how D2C sales will impact your business in comparison to selling through retailers.
Creating a complete ecommerce experience is kind of like building a house of cards. When every component does its job, the whole structure is impressive. But if a single card is out of place, it can all collapse. Mishandle transactions, shipping, returns, or any other part of the experience for a few weeks, and the negative reviews will come pouring in–on your site and elsewhere–and regardless of how good your product is, your customers will think twice about doing business with you again.
So being a successful D2C business requires you to have a strategy for every touchpoint customers have with your brand. You need a broad and deep understanding of what your customers want, expect, and need every step of the way, from research to purchase and everything that comes after.
When you face challenges in D2C sales, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to overcome them. Whatever problem you’re facing, agencies, tools, and platforms have already arisen to solve it. For example, if you’re selling D2C and eRetail, then the best way to serve your customers (and maximize sales) is to streamline the path to purchase and let them self-select their preferred storefront. You also probably don’t want to manually scroll through the internet to monitor pricing on your SKUs, and there are automated tools for that, too.
Partnering with other companies can vastly improve your ability to compete with retailers and facilitate the kind of experience that brings customers back again and again. (You should check out our conversion optimization tools.)
Without goals and the ability to measure them, success is impossible. You should be constantly working to optimize the shopping experience, testing how various changes impact conversions, costs, and customer satisfaction. Are you expecting 100 percent of sales to come from D2C, or is it just reducing your dependence on retailers? What percentage of sales need to come from D2C for it to justify your ongoing investment in tools, infrastructure, and expertise?
Should your brand sell D2C?
D2C can be an extremely lucrative sales model for some brands. But for some, investing in D2C sales is like sailing right into an iceberg. Whether or not it’s right for your brand ultimately depends on your business’s unique circumstances.In our free ebook, Should Your Brand Sell D2C? The Hype-Free Guide to Choosing a Sales Model, we’ll help you explore the potential pros and cons of D2C, as well as the factors that will help you determine the wisest choice for your organization.
Get your free copy.