Direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands have existed for a long time, but it’s only recently that their presence has registered in the minds of modern-day Indian consumers. If trends are to be believed, many D2C brands are giving stiff competition to established retail brands. Factors such as agility and better understanding and connection with the audience are considered as reasons for their competitive edge.
The question to ask here is, how is it that they have decoded the way to create their recall in such a short time and over brands that have existed for a longer time? The answer is through research and effective communication.
The D2C players at the top right now have got the pulse of what their target audience is looking for. With thorough research on their consumption pattern, preferences, and touchpoints, D2C startups have developed competence as well as innovation in aspects that matter to the audience of today. Through creating valuable, relevant, and engaging content focused on building customer relationships and driving loyalty, they have been able to create a niche for themselves. An effective public relations strategy with an integrated communication approach proved to be a boon. Here’s what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t in this approach.
Approaches that work
- Building strong stakeholder ties: If businesses want to increase their prospects of commercial success, they must work to establish credibility and trust with their key stakeholders. Strategic PR initiatives based on tact and sincerity can help business owners build stronger stakeholder connections, which are necessary for developing a sustainable business ecosystem. For D2C players specifically, their partnership with a supply chain or logistics partner that can help take care of their last-mile challenges proved to be a boon. Attracting talent is a constant task as well. It is important to take a multi-stakeholder approach and address what each of them needs.
- Present the brand’s narrative to the appropriate audience: A brand must tell the tale of its creation, journey, and philosophy to connect with the right audience. This can be achieved through a focused communication approach targeted towards being seen and heard at the places and platforms most accessed by their audience. Small business owners over the last year have grown their businesses through social media and therefore a digital-first approach to communication made sense for the industry. The pandemic made it even more of an imperative.
- Staying clear of the one-size-fits-all approach: While some strategies may have worked for a particular brand, they may not prove to be vital for another. Timely situation analysis and course correction are pivotal to ensure relevance and trust remain intact. While this may be true for any industry, it holds more prevalence for D2C business owners as they get very few shots to get it right, given the tough competition with established businesses as well as new players like them.
- Building advocates: Attracting followers and engaging with them helped the business increase its demand and sales numbers. Particularly for small business owners, word-of-mouth and positive review strategy worked wonders to help establish their credibility in an already cluttered market. A strong influencer marketing strategy makes a big difference, but there’s also a lot to be said for building brand advocates who speak about you purely for the love of the brand.
Things that don’t work
- Applying a linear approach to communications: It is impossible to tell the story of a brand in a single press release or article when communicating with multiple stakeholders. D2C PR should be strategic and methodical, with a central narrative adapted to target 2-3 stakeholders at a time. Anything more can be difficult or confusing to the reader. However, it also serves another function. While the goal of public relations is not to generate direct sales, this can influence the purchasing decisions of your target audience, if done correctly.
- Targeting excessively broad audiences: Good public relations strategies avoid targeting broad swathes of generic audiences. Instead, true value is realized by focusing on granular market segments with messaging that addresses their most pressing needs and interests.
- Lack of monitoring or measurement: Monitoring and measurement provide brands with the data they need, to intelligently modify their communications approach. Taking stock of the output, outcome and impact of communications lets businesses understand the gaps and course-correct along the way to maximize reach and impact.
Currently, D2C brands, especially in the metro cities, have the most engaging communications approaches. They do face immense challenges, given that they are usually startups with limited resources. But that also leads them to be more creative and agile. And a communications approach that matches that can help them take the next big leap.