What is the number one thing that makes you buy from a DTC brand repeatedly? Maybe they sent you a personalized letter with your order, got in touch with regular order updates, or followed up with a call after delivery to request your feedback.
All these things count towards excellent customer service and experience - a crucial pillar for DTC success in 2022. In fact, 86% of customers say customer service is a key factor in their purchase decisions, and 68% of consumers say they’re always ready to pay more for products from a company with a strong record of good customer service.
In the face of constantly changing buying trends and consumer behavior, you should provide the best experience, so they become loyal to your brand and come back for repeated purchases. And in this article, we’ll tell you exactly why and how to build a stellar customer experience for your DTC customers.
What is DTC within eCommerce?
Direct to Consumer (DTC) is a business model where a company sets up a sales channel directly with the consumers, cutting out the retailer or any other middleman altogether. Unlike marketplaces or retail eCommerce, DTC brands directly interact, sell and manage the consumers. Think Dollar Shave Club, Glossier, Lollipop, and Jones Road Beauty.
The DTC market is growing at a 15% YoY growth, with sales approximately being $20B in 2021 alone and forecasted to grow by multifold in 2022. By adopting a DTC model, brands cut down on acquisition costs, form strong brand-consumer relationships, and get better control over their supply chain.
But how exactly does customer experience come into the DTC mix? Let's explore.
Why does Customer Experience (CX) matter within DTC?
The rise of DTC can be majorly attributed to the pandemic. As brick-and-mortar shopping closed down and brands could no longer enjoy traditional retail experiences, DTC shopping got a much-needed facelift.
As everything migrated online, DTC brands had to make extra effort to retain customers and encourage them to buy again. Here, customer experience emerged as a must-have and not just a nice-to-have for brands to offer customer delight and become customers' go-to DTC brand for specific products. Here are some more reasons why DTC customer experience matters so much...
1. Going beyond a transactional relationship
With retail shopping, you have no real relationship with the customer more than a mere bill on their email. But providing an exceptional DTC customer experience allows you to build trust with your audience by asking for feedback, personalizing their shopping experience, or simply checking in from time to time to really help them solve a problem.
2. Catering to individual consumer preferences
67% of consumers expect brands to know them and personalize how they interact. But this isn’t possible when you’re not even involved in the selling process, where DTC acts as a breath of fresh air.
This level of detail allows you to understand your customer’s pain points, personally cater to their needs, take feedback and iterate on it on the go and address their concerns and suggestions promptly.
3. Building customer retention and loyalty
There's no better way to keep your customers from going to your competitors than providing them excellent customer service by speaking their language and showing them you care at every step of the sales funnel.
Being a DTC brand, it’s easier to build retention and loyalty by simply focusing more on how you interact with customers, what language you use, how you identify their pain points and so on. This bit can make or break all your efforts.
How to provide great customer service within DTC
Now that you know how important customer experience and service is to achieve the numbers you desire with your DTC business, let’s explore three significant ways in which you can enhance this experience further...
1. Make decisions based on customer data
As a DTC brand, you’re directly connected to the customers, so you have access to first-party data from the website and all your selling channels. These are not just numbers but crucial value points that should guide your plan of action and each decision you take once a customer enters your funnel. This data helps you understand customers deeper, anticipate their behavior and tweak your strategy based on their intent.
For example, if you get to know that a consumer has visited a particular product on your website multiple times but didn’t go through the purchase even after personalized emails - you can identify friction points, remove them and address their needs with better offers and channels to convert them.
You can repeat this process to assess why customers aren’t purchasing again or why they aren’t renewing their subscription, so you can make informed decisions and give them the best experience.
If you don’t want to live the cookie-cutter life, you can proactively collect customer data through exit-intent surveys, feedback forms and follow-up calls to further encourage communication and gather more data.
Overall, each aspect of a wholesome customer experience you provide should be backed with data and assumptions so you’re only spending your time, money and efforts on things that can generate results, impact your bottom line and be the best customer service your customers have ever enjoyed.
2. Diversify your selling channels
Realistically, you can’t expect your customers to be present where you are. It needs to be the other way around, you need to be visible and constantly marketing yourself in a place they hang out the most—social media channels, SMS, email, and Google are some of the top ones.
Expanding your sales channels allows you to build resilience, capture a broader audience, be flexible with how much or what you want to offer, and increase your chances of conversion. But most of all, it makes it easier for customers to find you and buy from you—and the less friction and touchpoints between you and the customers, the more likely they are to purchase.
“When you're fighting the algorithms on social media and low open rates on email, it's essential to diversify your communications channels and reach customers in new ways. I recommend SMS as one of the best sales channels. It’s an amazing acquisition, sales and loyalty tool for brands. It's simple, everyone knows how to use it (and they use it, a lot). As an added bonus, it's incredibly effective, with open rates 2-4x higher than emails, and response rates of 3 minutes or less.”
-Hillary Black, Head of Marketing and Conversation Design at Mav
To start the diversification process, you need to identify channels where your target market is most active and present, understand how you can best reach that audience and make a plan to convert them into customers. But the most important point of all is streamlining your customer’s omnichannel experience.
Often brands adopt multiple sales channels, but challenge managing multiple platforms, which leads to a loss in sales, stained brand image and poor customer experience. We don’t want that, so invest in an omnichannel selling software to keep track of all your channels from one dashboard and use the data to guide your action plan forward. Remember, data > assumptions and biases, always.
3. Use SMS to build retention and loyalty
If there’s one platform you can use to leverage the one-on-one connection with your audience, it’s SMS. It allows back-and-forth and real-time conversations with the customer, so you can keep them engaged, gather feedback quickly, resolve their problems and act like you’re on their beck and call to solve whatever problem they face with your product.
SMS gets an open rate of as high as 98%, gives you personalization and automation features and lets you connect with customers through a medium they check almost every day.
You can use SMS to:
- Send personalized offers with discounts and incentives.
- Gather feedback and work on it quickly, reducing the response time.
- Engage customers with polls and quizzes.
- Do product launches, announcements and giveaways to encourage purchases.
- Upsell to existing customers.
We spoke to Joanne Coffey, who handles retention at Jones Road Beauty, a cruelty-free beauty brand by Bobbi Brown, about using SMS for providing excellent customer service. She said:
“We use SMS to retain our current customers in different ways. My favorite being this example. After someone purchases our mascara, we send them a text, thanking them for purchasing. We ask them if they would like a reminder text in 6 months when it's time to replace their mascara. If they respond with the keyword YES, we follow up in 6 months with a reminder text with a link to shop. This builds loyalty right off the bat.”
DTC brands need to be at the forefront of digital experiences, and the business model gives them a chance to do exactly that, but with personalized recommendations, customer service and 1:1 support.
Today, we have more technology and automation tools than ever to put heavy tasks on auto-pilot and focus your time on more revenue-generating activities. However, with customer experience, you need to be involved and ensure your customers are getting answers from a person who cares, not a bot who will just give pre-recorded responses to genuine questions.
Use this article to build your customer experience strategy and ride the DTC wave by making your customer the hero and not the product. If customers are happy, they’ll buy more products which ultimately helps your bottom line and enhance revenue.
Blueprint is the SMS & WhatsApp platform powering CX and retention for eCommerce brands. To find out how you can improve your customer service and experience through SMS, book a demo today.