It’s never too late to go direct: How FMCG can win in a direct-to-consumer market

Have you been blown away by the number of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands that have been dominating the consumer’s attention lately? Have you noticed that many of these brands, especially the ones that seemingly come out of nowhere and then are everywhere (think Harry’s, Native, and Glossier to name a few) are taking a direct-to-consumer (DTC) approach?

You aren’t alone. In Part One of my blog series, It’s never too late to go direct: Why FMCG have the right to win in a direct-to-consumer market, I explore why FMCGs have an incredible opportunity to win in today’s consumer market with a DTC marketing approach. The advantages of a DTC approach are plentiful for today’s FMCGs: creating competitive speed to market, providing real-time insights, and even fostering a more beneficial relationship with retail.

And it’s not just the benefits and opportunities a DTC approach opens for your brand. In today’s consumer world, it’s imperative to consider a DTC approach not just to stay competitive, but to stay afloat.

Convinced that DTC is a smart choice for your brand? Good. Now let’s figure out how your brand can deliver by going direct-to-consumer.

Determine the role of DTC in your business model

Your brand is unique, and the same should be said for how DTC can and should fit into your business model. One of the beauties of a DTC approach is that it inherently allows for testing and learning. Forget the idea of being perfect; rather, embrace the concept of agile marketing and optimize as needed as you test and learn in real time.

Gone are the days where formal focus groups and other costly behind-the-scenes, pre-launch tactics are required. The product launch should be reconsidered, not as the moment you draw open the red curtain for all to see in grand glory, but instead as a “test and learn” mentality. Take advantage of the incredibly valuable first-party data and real-time insights you will glean by launching online, ideally with several different versions to compare, allowing you to tweak and iterate in real time.

This will enable you to gather insights into the consumer experience, thus providing the truest understanding of what the consumer expects and wants. Oh, and it will also drive sales in the process.

Build a dedicated, focused team

Putting the right people together has always been important and the team you choose to lead this transformation is critical to its success. That’s because building a DTC approach is fundamentally different than past forms of marketing.

We’re seeing success with companies who are truly embracing this and building teams with a few key qualities:

  1. They are inherently brand experts who understand the equities needed to build a scaled brand experience in a digital landscape and can ebb and flow them as needed while always driving brand at the foundation.
  2. They lead with the consumer and continue to learn about their consumer experience and how to deliver meaningful online experiences.
  3. They are an agile workforce who collaborates quickly and efficiently.
  4. They embrace all things e-commerce and m-commerce and continue to build their expertise as the technology constantly evolves.

These qualities add up to teams who are change agents and can navigate through obstacles while staying true to a brand, especially in larger organizations.

Translate your consumer experience from brick and mortar to online

Just as the physical retail experience is critical to your brand’s success, so is the online user experience. The great news? This is something you can entirely control. There is no store manager or buyer vying for influence over how your brand will appear at shelf. Of course, in order to create a holistic brand experience, your digital experience needs to seamlessly complement the brick-and-mortar one. The convergence of the two ecosystems is your new opportunity to delight the consumer.

More and more, consumers want convenience and ease at every stage of shopping and brand engagement, which means brands need to work harder than ever to create consumer-centric solutions. Need inspiration? Consider Sephora. In order to create an omnichannel marketing strategy, Sephora stopped thinking of online and retail stores as separate departments and instead integrated them into one holistic team. The omnichannel team proved their dedication to finding synergies by rethinking their in-store customer makeovers. Sephora makeup artists will now digitally log every product used in a makeup tutorial on an app and send the list to the customer’s profile to be shopped later, either online or in stores. This builds greater brand awareness and brings new users to the platform, both of which are valuable and tangible results of a design strategy that is consumer-experience-first.

Sephora Beauty Shopping Mobile App 2018

Let brand propel the omnichannel experience to delight consumers at every turn. Start by cultivating relationships with customers that transcend retail channels. With the continued focus on authenticity in brands, a strong social media presence can go a long way to building a community. There, brands can control the conversation and manage their narrative by speaking with an authentic voice, the way Warby Parker has done successfully. Additionally, partnering with influencers on social media can turn shoppers into brand advocates to build loyalty and drive sales.

There are many strategies for how to create your omnichannel experience that allow consumers to engage seamlessly both online and off. Brands need to ensure they are creating approaches that authentically connect with their consumers and then continuously assess and evolve to hone what successfully drives your business objectives.

Determine and stay committed to your KPIs and ensure you are assessing and optimizing for long-term growth

So, we’ve established that a successful DTC strategy involves an upfront commitment to testing and learning, a dedicated and agile team committed to testing and iterating, and a strong consumer engagement strategy. But, you’re not fully extracting all the value of your direct-to-consumer efforts if you don’t pay close attention to setting and measuring your efforts against KPIs.

What are your KPIs? To attract more consumers to your brand? Increase loyalty? Increase purchase frequency? Your KPIs should fall directly out of your business objectives and serve as your lighthouse, guiding your brand along its direct-to-consumer journey.

How do you continue to deliver against your KPIs once defined? With data. E-commerce data-analytics tools measure and track everything including impressions and CTRs by channel, time spent on site, behavior flow, and demographic metrics. Whether your goal is an uptick in sales and revenue, an increase in average order value, or growth in consumer engagement, connecting digital platforms with the appropriate marketing tools to provide measurable data will be key to knowing what’s working.

It’s never been more important to have the right tools to measure the success of each digital interface so that you can set yourself up to meet and exceed the goals set forth in your KPIs.

Direct-to-consumer is here to stay, so a successful DTC strategy is a long-term strategy. You aren’t working to build a quick and fast bubble that can pop, but a valuable and sustainable experience for your consumers to enjoy and engage with, and to share your brand where, when, and with whom they want, directly.