From brand fans to direct customers: What makes a DTC website successful?
When consumer brands decide to adopt a DTC strategy, they enter a realm of new competition: their retail partners become their competitors and they must build direct relationships with customers who were previously at arms length. Their ecommerce site will be a key touchpoint, and so they must build understanding of what makes a DTC website successful.
By offering unique online shopping experiences that resonate with consumers and align with their brand ethos, brands can set themselves apart from their competition and provide customers with a compelling reason to shop with them directly.
A recent study by Inviqa examined 100 DTC websites and provides key insights into how this can be achieved. Below we examine the key conclusions from this research.
In pursuing a DTC strategy, consumer brands have one goal: to convert brand enthusiasts into immediate and loyal customers. However, their expectations are high and not easily met. Amazon, renowned for its seamless and convenient ordering experience, has set incredibly high standards for the rest of the ecommerce industry. Premium and luxury brands continue to raise consumer expectations by providing value-adding, service-intensive online experiences, setting a standard that mass-market brands can often struggle to match.
Consumer brands also face significant competition from their retail partners who sell their products on various platforms and online marketplaces. The obvious strategy may seem to be offering a lower price point than competitors, however this risks initiating a downward spiral that could damage brand image in the long run. To stand out in this competitive landscape, consumer brands must curate a unique customer experience that meets consumer demands while ensuring profitability.
To understand the key factors contributing to a stellar online customer experience, Inviqa conducted an in-depth analysis of 100 brand’s DTC websites across 10 product categories, assessing them against 36 different criteria. Many of the brands included in the research are leaders within their respective industries, such as Charlotte Tilbury, Villeroy & Boch, Pandora and Nike. The results of this study have shed light on the factors pivotal to the success of DTC websites.
Seamless buyer journeys: The foundation of a successful DTC website strategy
The brands that excelled in our report demonstrated a clear understanding of the concerns driving customers to their website. They anticipated the information that customers would be looking for while ensuring it could be found quickly and easily. This seamless customer journey is excellent at building trust between the buyer and the brand, leading to higher conversion rates and forming the basis of a successful DTC strategy. Meeting these high standards is crucial for brands wanting to remain competitive and expand their DTC distribution channels.
Delivering a unique experience: Providing exclusive benefits for direct purchases
One of the most effective ways for consumer brands to compete is by offering customers online advantages for direct shopping that they cannot find with their retail partners. These advantages may include exclusive products, extended warranties, product personalisation, gift services, free delivery, or loyalty programmes. However, it is crucial that consumers are made aware of any benefits on offer. Brands should carefully plan customer journeys and clearly highlight or integrate these features on their websites, for example in the site navigation or on the product pages themselves.
Expert guidance: Mapping personal expertise in the online world with PIM solutions
Brand fans have grown accustomed to unique product experiences and high-quality guidance from knowledgeable staff in brick-and-mortar stores. With a Product Information Management (PIM) solution, brands can replicate added value services online. PIM simplifies the delivery of relevant, additional information to consumers at the right moment, enabling personalised advice and enhancing the DTC website's functionality through targeted search features.
Simplified purchasing: Elevating live chat with generative AI
Live chat is designed to eliminate barriers to purchase. However, during our research we found that automated live chats often handle only straightforward questions that had already been addressed in the FAQ section. When visitors can't find a solution to their problem at this stage, there's a risk they won't make a purchase or even return to the website in the future. Brands should therefore consider how they can utilise live chat to offer their customers added value that goes beyond the FAQs.
We expect generative AI to quickly improve live chat; so timely, helpful responses become the norm in the next few years. You can read more on that topic in our gen AI in ecommerce blog.
Purposeful content: Providing answers throughout the customer journey
The availability and design of content along the customer journey is an essential building block for the development of fulfilling web experiences. Well-crafted content can guide consumers in discovering the brand, making purchase decisions, and getting the most out of the website.
Content at every stage of the customer journey should have a clear purpose, anticipating the questions customers might have. Ideally, consumers will be greeted with the relevant information just as the questions are coming to mind to make a DTC website successful.
Sustainability as a selling point: Low-CO2 online shopping for an ethical appeal
An ethical approach, sustainable production, and environmental measures are increasingly influencing customers' purchase decisions. Our research indicated that it has already become standard practice for brands to provide in-depth information on their websites regarding their steps towards greater sustainability.
However, this can be taken one step further; some brands are even optimising the CO2 emissions of their DTC websites, emphasising their commitment to sustainability, and providing customers with a compelling reason to shop directly through them with a sense of environmental responsibility.
Web design without hurdles: Ensuring digital accessibility for all visitors
Prioritising digital accessibility enhances the usability of a website for everyone, therefore maximising the website's target audience. Accessible web design should be a central consideration when developing a DTC website. Adhering to the highest digital accessibility standards not only prepares for evolving legal requirements but also supports a high conversion rate.
Embrace innovation: Evolving the website experience to meet growing demands
Technological innovations are continuously presenting new application possibilities, raising consumer expectations for website experiences even further. The challenge for brands is to consistently evolve their DTC website in alignment with new technologies, in accordance with consumer habits and their brand ethos. To achieve this, brands should look further than just focusing on their immediate industry competition, but for example drawing inspiration from retail websites that are frequently visited by their customers.
Adhering to these principles can empower brands to transform their fans into satisfied direct customers. For a comprehensive breakdown of what makes a DTC website successful - with insights and further inspiration - the Inviqa DTC report can be downloaded for free via this link: https://inviqa.com/insights/dtc-ecommerce-report-2023