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The idea of “being closer to your customer” is one of the most appealing aspects of the direct-to-consumer (D2C) model. By eliminating the middlemen, brand manufacturers forge a direct connection with their end-user, which can help their teams accumulate more data about customer wants and needs, quickly test new products, campaigns, and more.
But what is the most valuable aspect of a D2C program? According to ecommerce experts, it’s the ability to drive loyalty through more emotive experiences.
Scott Sommers, VP of insights and innovation at ShurTech Brands — home of the famous Duck Tape brand — and Josh Walsh, CEO of The Refinery, a strategic consulting firm for enterprise brand manufacturers, shared why the most recent Digital Shelf Virtual Summit.
Sommers and Walsh explain how the Duck Tape brand was able to cultivate a sense of community among new demographics of customers to grow its margins and develop long-term relationships with shoppers.
Sommers and Walsh agree that relying solely on online marketplaces like Amazon or Walmart is a particularly ineffective way to drive customer loyalty. Walsh calls these platforms “transaction machines” that are actively working to dissuade customers from being loyal to one product or brand.
Consumers are greeted with competitive alternatives that may cost less, have better reviews, or offer faster delivery. Additionally, as the proprietor of customer data on their site, these platforms have little incentive to share that data back with brand manufacturers when they can use it to manufacture competing products themselves.
As Walsh puts it, “Amazon doesn’t want brand loyalty.” For those brands that are looking to develop customer communities and a brand experience that adds value to the end consumer, he recommends looking elsewhere.
Sommers and Walsh have instead found ways to control as much of the customer experience as possible for the Duck Tape brand. The more you can control, the “more you can create that community and sense of belonging” among your customers, notes Sommers.
The annual Duck Tape prom contest is a perfect example of developing an emotive connection with consumers, ultimately leading to new customer acquisition. Every year, Duck Tape hosts a contest where high school prom-goers are encouraged to ditch traditional prom attire for outfits made entirely out of duct tape. Duck Tape’s customers vote for the winners, who are then provided scholarship money.
The campaign was conceived in the late 2000s after Sommers and the Duck Tape team noticed that teens had been asking for different colored duct tape on Facebook. ShurTech then got to work on building out a wide array of colors outside.
While the campaign was initially developed as a PR campaign, it has since become an incredibly cost-effective way to capture customers that are traditionally considered younger than the average duct tape buyer. Sommers also notes the massive amount of free advertising they are now receiving on other social platforms that teens use to share pictures.
Sommers also used social listening to develop a second line of Duck Tape for a younger demographic. His team had noticed that teenagers were looking for Hello Kitty-branded items, which led ShurTech to broker a licensing deal with Hello Kitty to print their iconic brand logo on a new line of Duck Tape.
This launch allowed Duck Tape to further gain entrance into a younger consumer set, and it also allowed them to expand from the purely DIY improvement — where duct tape is most well-known — into the arts and crafts category.
Walsh also suggests tactical improvements that brand manufacturers can make to capture customer loyalty through emotive experiences. Brands should ensure that their websites aren't just loaded with product images, but must also include lifestyle images that clearly convey the end result of purchasing the product.
These lifestyle images must also be paired with other valuable content that allows shoppers to make the most of their purchases, such as instructions on new DIY projects where Duck Tape would be helpful.
Neither Walsh nor Sommers would recommend eschewing the world of online marketplaces entirely, however. While they certainly offer incredible revenue stream opportunities, they also allow brand manufacturers to garner a higher volume of data on which products, content, and messaging are capturing consumer interest.
Additionally, Walsh notes that brands should consider viewing Amazon or Walmart as demand generation channels, where consumers may make an initial purchase on Amazon, but then make future additional purchases on the brand’s D2C sites.
There are now many online platforms available for brand manufacturers to study their target consumers and build customer communities. Brands that can effectively tap into the emotive power of what their products represent — and allow their customers to convey that excitement easily — will be well-positioned to continue to grow their ecommerce margins.
Watch the full session, “The Power of Emotion to Grow Your Margins in D2C,” to gain additional insights and best practices for connecting with your customers to drive D2C growth.
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