5 DTC Trends Marketers See On The Horizon

March 18, 2020 · 4 minute read

If there’s one thing about DTC marketing that remains consistently true, it’s that you have to be agile in the digital DTC marketplace. This is an ever-shifting landscape and one that changes often. Brands that are willing to pivot and make adjustments to their marketing strategies are going to be far more successful than those who stick to strategies they consider tried-and-true—even if they’re not necessarily the best path forward at the moment. We checked in with three of our marketing gurus to learn more about what trends they see impacting DTC marketing strategies in the near future. 

1. Valuing Function Over Form

One new trend that we couldn’t be more about: DTC brands that are more about the inherent value of the product than they are the packaging. “The first wave of DTC brands took advantage of their early understanding of how to use Facebook ads,” says marketing guru Nik Sharma, who consults with brands like Lemon Perfect and Vox Media. “And then in the last couple years, a lot of brands sold white label products, many of which were probably from the same manufacturer, and paid an agency half a million dollars to put labels on them… and then they built their brands around the concept of community, support their consumers’ values and ethos, etc.”

But these products weren’t remarkable in themselves—they were just being sold in a way that felt new and unusual at the time. But now, we’re starting to see products that are either inherently more functional or have an edge on the supply chain side, which makes them in turn more functional for the consumer, Sharma says.

“So a brand like Judy is a great example. You don’t need to have a community to realize that you need to prepare for an emergency,” Sharma says. “With a brand like Caraway, for example, they have a supply chain that allows them to iterate super fast, and come out with really great products that become super functional for the consumer in their design.” 

2. Saying Goodbye to Influencers

“If brands want to target consumers directly and continually eliminate the middlemen who dominate this space, influencers are also going to have a hard time unless they can prove their worth,” says Nick Shackleford, the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Structured Social, who invests in brands, partners for growth, and consults internal media buying teams. “Having 5 million followers is almost suspect now, so expect any brand that is thinking about using an influencer to ask for data on a legit increase in sales directly tied to influencer engagement. Otherwise, say adios to the IG stars of 2019.”

3. Opting For Ads That Feel Native To The Platform

Rather than offering super-produced ads that feel very professional, we’ve seen a pivot towards ads that feel like they’re truly part of the space they’re in. “It’s all about disrupting feed,” says Savannah Sanchez, who consults with brands like Outer and Stuart and Lau on ad creative and manages paid social ad buys. “People don’t want to see ads, but they might stop if it’s something that’s interesting and it looks like their friend is posting it, and it doesn’t seem like an ad. The brands that are really succeeding in DTC have really nailed that. Especially with Instagram stories, consumers want it to feel as though their friend is talking about a product, so it doesn’t interrupt their experience of watching their friends’ stories, and it feels like another piece of content that’s adding value.”

4. Using User Reviews

“Users trust users,” says Shackleford. “That’s been the biggest lesson of 2019 as user reviews of products and services continue to hold more sway with consumers. Expect to see the use of user reviews of products used early and often in social media advertising, website ads and more.” 

5. Pivoting Towards Snapchat

Snapchat for DTC has really taken off in the last few months,” Sanchez says. “It’s cheaper, and if you’re marketing towards a 13-25-year-old age group, you can see more success on Snapchat. You have to have the right creative for it—you can’t just force your Instagram or Facebook ad on there—but it’s much cheaper ad placement than Insta and Facebook—we’re talking pennies on the dollar. The CPM is 50 cents as opposed to $13, which is what it is on Insta and Facebook.”

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