Last year brought the firm establishment of disruptor-style DTC brands, and their success in retail has forced more well-seasoned peers to recognize that traditional ways of retail and marketing no longer work. Success in the online space has evolved from simply selling products to creating meaningful connections with consumers. Brick-and-mortar companies are still accounting for a large portion of the pie, dominating online sales by more than 20 trillion, showing there is room for established brands to be successful in the DTC space if they can adapt. Brands who understand the need to evolve have been re-evaluating their approach, studying the patterns and strategies forged in the marketplace by these relative newcomers. The brands that are winning do so with authenticity and agility, evoking “human” traits like listening. Perhaps most importantly, their advantage comes from focusing on delivering meaningful experiences across their customer journey alongside their product. Here, we’ve identified the seven key traits that brands looking to compete within the evolving online space should look to adopt.
  1. Identity: More than ever, brands must have a firm grip on their identity, voice, point of view, and what differentiates them. Maturing and growing does not need to mean loss of identity and personality for a brand. Establishing a firm sense of self will create empowerment and mission both internally and externally to evolve and enhance your brand footprint.
  2. Finding Your Niche: While casting a wide net might bring in a variety of potential customers, identifying a niche audience that resonates with your brand identity will create strength and loyalty. Niche audiences don’t always represent your entire potential customer base, but it will help strengthen and humanize your brand; these traits have become increasingly important, especially to the growing and coveted millennial consumer.
  3. Learn and Enhance: When something works, brands often keep repeating patterns and ignore opportunities that lie behind unopened doors. Testing and risk, for which established brands have the most room to fail, yield learning and opportunity.  Look at the successes of others to find areas for growth and lean in to learning opportunities, but always enhance with authentic and brand-specific twists.
  4. Balance Personalization & Sales: To gain traction with today’s digitally driven audience, it’s important to deliver a unique, intimate, personalized experience...millions of times over. Look to leverage tech partners who can help integrate personalization into marketing and site experience, and find those niche audiences to tap into when personalizing brand voice.
  5. Listen More Closely: Overwhelmingly, successful digitally-native brands have reinforced the importance of listening to their consumers and using their voices as directive to propel the business in the right direction. Today, focus-groups live at our digital fingertips; leverage the vast information available to cultivate relationships instead of trends, and consider incorporating feedback and requests from existing customers directly into solutions and new products. Do this well, and you will have empowered an army of brand-loyalists.
  6. Omni-channel Impact: Consumers crave meaningful experiences from a brand. “Brand purpose” should fit effortlessly with “brand identity” and “brand messaging.” Across the customer journey, consumers should be rewarded. Value messaging has been elevated beyond price to include rewards that are emotional, lasting, entertaining, and philanthropic.
  7. Evolve: Your brand can evolve, as all humans do; past success is no guarantee for future growth and in order to adapt, we all must evolve. In 2018, brands who evolved with empathy gained the respect and support of their consumers. Knowing consumer needs, pain points and points of interest is an ever-changing process, but consumers will trust brands who consistently listen and deliver to their ever-changing needs.

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