These Are the Top 5 Takeaways from Our Direct-to-Consumer Summit

The Direct-to-Consumer approach has changed the way we discover, shop and buy. To take stock of this monumental shift, Kustomer hosted some of the most influential and innovative DTC brands to discuss their approach to loyalty, relationship-building, and experience.

A common thread is that this shift in the consumer ecosystem has put a greater emphasis on the relationship brands have with their customers. Every brand, not just DTC companies and startups, have to value customer experience, loyalty, and lifetime value above all in order to reach modern consumers.

1) Personalization with Purpose

Your customers expect more than a one-size-fits-all experience. They’re all different, and they know that their data should be put to use to make their experience better.

If there’s one brand that knows one size doesn’t fit all, it’s custom shirt manufacturer Proper Cloth. “We have smart sizes—we ask the customer ten questions around height, weight, fit, tuck-in preference, and from that we predict what set of custom size dimensions would be most optimal,” said Founder Seph Skerritt. “This was a big data problem, but as we grew we had a rich data set to build a bigger advantage upon. We used that to improve the customer experience and streamline the onboarding experience.”

Jewelry and watch marketplace TrueFacet makes sure that they’re using a granular segmentation process to send the right messages to the right customers, as CEO Tirath Kamdar describes: “Our customer segmentation is behavior-driven—and then we use demographic information on top of that. We’ve created curated programs to help with our customer segmentation. We target each of our consumers in different ways to build loyalty.”

Personalization isn’t limited to product features, it’s also valuable to personalize content, marketing messages, and other touchpoints. As Alison Lichtenstein, Director of Customer Experience Design at Dow Jones summarized: “Personalization is important—knowing the exact content each person is reading, focusing on serving up the next best article, section, newsletter—we want to anticipate what the customer needs and putting that in front of the person, to make sure they continue to be engaged.”

The push to personalize is even built into Dow Jones’ strategy at the highest level. “We’re evangelists of customer service, we’re constantly thinking about how we can resolve customer issues. But we also focus on the agent experience, helping them help the customers. It’s a huge piece in helping us differentiate. We want to be able to help personalize.”

2) Communication is Crucial

New DTC brands are doing more to connect with customers. Digital channels create more opportunities for conversations, as chat and social multiply the amount of places customers can ask questions and engage.

“When things go wrong, you need to be constantly talking to your customer service team to find patterns, identify the issue, and then make the fix.” Said Britta Fleck, President and Managing Director of Glossybox North America, “Constant communication with your customers provides a better end experience.”

For DTC sofa startup Burrow, they’ve also found that more communication is better. “In the past we’ve tried two approaches. The approach of constantly updating the customer and keeping them in the loop was more successful than giving them a code—communicating with your customers is very important.” Says Co-Founder Kabeer Chopra.

To keep the conversations going, loyalty programs are a natural fit. They ensure that customers stay engaged and reward them for their enthusiasm. Glossybox is pursuing this strategy in earnest, “We’re doing a lot around loyalty, we like to reward our customers. We’re looking into pausing subscriptions over vacations etc, but we don’t want to make it difficult for users to unsubscribe. Either.” More communication can lead to a better experience, but that experience still has to take precedence. “We can only personalize our offering to a certain extent, but what really increases lifetime value for us is listening. And it’s easier sometimes than answering.”

3) Brands, Not Channels

While communicating over every channel that your customers use is important, this communication has to be held together by a strong strategy for the brand. As Mike Vroom, Customer Service Manager at UNTUCKit put it: “Customers interact with brands, not channels.”

Glossier has a similar view, as their Director of CX Erin Miller described, treating every interaction with customers as it’s own channel—they’re not thinking about where they’re interacting with you, but about how they’re going to solve their issue or get the information they want.

This also means that your brand has to communicate with customers in a way that feels warm, natural, and human. Mark Chou, VP of Growth Marketing and E-Commerce at Away, is changing up the way his brand communicates by switching from a reactive to a proactive service model. “When you make mistakes, you don’t hide them from your friends. The same should true for your customers. You can turn a screw-up to a shining moment for your team—being proactive as a customer service team can turn a mistake into a moment for your company that you are proud of.

4) Create Connections with Culture

Above all else, your customer experience should strive to create stronger connections. Interacting with customers one-on-one is highly personal, and doing so in a genuine, meaningful way can have a lasting impact. To do this more effectively, you need to know what your company stands. Daryl Unger, VP of Customer Experience at meal delivery brand Plated, has a strong perspective on the importance of building relationships for his brand. “Food is extremely personal, we aren’t in the business of fixing issues and solving problems, we are in the business of building strong emotional relationships with our customers.” Building relationships based on emotion has some key benefits as a strategy as well. “We remember emotions much longer than transactions. We spend a lot of time studying customer behavior and patterns, which helps us learn when we should proactively reach out—which is very important in a subscription ecommerce business.”

Similarly, Rent the Runway has built their company culture into their customer experience, which helps them build strong relationships with millennial shoppers. “Culture is in the fabric of our brand,” said Tyler Nicoll, Product Manager at RTR, “We have to be woman-first, and we’re changing the landscape by doing something that’s not common in tech companies.” RTR has a full female finance team as well, and are an inclusive company that invests heavily in sustainability initiatives. “Millennials choose brands based on social consciousness,” concluded Nicoll, which is why creating a strong brand built on solid principles makes it easier to form relationships with them. To make it easier for their agents to connect with renters, Rent the Runway’s Integration with Kustomer allows them to automate certain workflows that used to be manual, so they can spend more time working with customers and less time inputting data.

BarkShop and BarkBox understand dogs and dog owners. By getting a rich picture of their customers and their pets by using data analysis—and by using their insight as pet owners themselves—they’re able to deliver exactly what their customers need. “We’re understanding what the needs of our customers are, and figuring out what they need to meet them.” Said Melissa Seligmann, BarkShop’s General Manager.

As the conversations at our event have shown, the Direct-to-Consumer revolution is shaking the foundation of how we do business. As digital advancements make it even easier to cut out middlemen and deliver totally new kinds of experiences, customers will come to demand the same kind of convenient experiences they get from DTC brands from traditional ones. Those that can innovate, adapt, and bring a higher caliber of experience and smarter ways to buy will be the ones that succeed.

For more insights on the DTC approach, download our whitepaper: 4 Secrets to the DTC Experience Every Brand Can Master.

Burrow Delivers More Than a Couch

Are you sitting down?

If you’re on your couch, take a second to think about that piece of furniture you’re so firmly planted on.

Where did you buy it from? What was the experience like? Was it a pain to finally get it into your living room? If your memories are less than rosy, there’s good news: Burrow is working hard to make buying a sofa as convenient as ordering lunch. In fact, founders Stephen Kuhl and Kabeer Chopra were complaining about Ikea assembly times and West Elm delivery fees when they were inspired to create a startup that solves the problems facing big-name furniture sellers.

Burrow delivers a luxury sofa made with the highest quality materials that is easy to ship, fully modular, and stain resistant. That means it’s made to last, so you can take it from apartment to apartment to your first home, and easily add on new seats and sections to fit your lifestyle. Its flat pack design also makes shipping way less expensive than traditional retailers, and it’s made entirely in the US with sustainable materials.

We spoke with Steve Finnern, Burrow’s Chief Operating Officer, to find out how they manage to deliver an amazing customer experience alongside an amazing sofa.

Kustomer: What is your approach to CX at Burrow, and how does that tie into your business at large?

Steve: As an ecommerce company, we want to build an amazing brand that people connect to and love. These are the four principles we believe are key to doing just that.

  1. Creating a product that meets our value propositions and lives up the promise we have committed to our customers.
  2. Creating a brand that customers engage with, connect to, and relate to.
  3. Creating ways of improving and enhancing the shopping experience.
  4. Delivering amazing customer service.

For us, Customer Experience and Service is key to our brand, to our success, and it’s something we’re absolutely committed to and passionate about.

Kustomer: What does this commitment to delivering a great customer experience look like?

Steve: Communication is crucial to our experience. Our customers can reach over live chat, email, the phone, or Facebook Messenger. We make sure we’re notifying our customers of every change or update that will affect their delivery date. We’re constantly trying to put ourselves in the customer’s’ shoes, and help our team understand what they’re going through.

We have to keep in mind that our customers have just bought a high-ticket item, so we make sure we’re constantly reassuring them throughout the experience.

We use Kustomer to manage the entire process, for example generating emails to help customers understand what happens after they’ve placed their order. Letting them know: “Your order is on the way, now we’re building your couch, here are the materials we’re using.”

We’re always reiterating that there’s a lot of thought, care, and detail going into what they’ve just purchased, and we want them to feel confident about the choice they just made. On the day of delivery, we send them a text or email letting them know it’s Burrow Day—we really try to make our customers excited about the experience.

Kustomer: How do you keep communicating with customers after their couch is delivered?

Steve: First off, we’re building a customer feedback system. We examine the delivery process, the quality, the assembly, and the comfort of the couch. We want to understand what the experience was like, collect the ideas people have had, and try to improve.

We also look at how they rate the experience or product against those three or four pillars. If they respond and don’t rank some of those as high as they could be, we’ll respond and follow up over Kustomer to understand what we could do better.

We’re also implementing a content program that lets us show off our different kinds of customers and their lifestyles so that we stay top of mind.

While people probably won’t buy another couch right away, there are other products like an ottoman or a chaise they might want to purchase later on, or they may want to get a matching one-seater—so we can build lifetime value by remaining in touch.

Kustomer: What do you feel is different about Burrow’s customer experience from your competitors’?

Steve: If you start with the product, one of the reasons this is such an amazing brand is because we’re solving actual problems with our design.

We’re solving the problem of moving, making it easy to pack up and take with you.

We’re solving the adaptability problem—if you’re starting off with a 2-seater but move in with a significant other, you can easily add another seat.

And we’re solving the issue of shipping: our flat pack model cuts out a lot of the cost of shipping that comes from traditional furniture retailers.

All of these things allow our product to be more attainable for a larger audience. I think people connect to that and want that higher level of quality without all the extra costs.

What we have to do is make sure people understand the story and what they’re getting, why we’re innovating, and why that matters. As long as we’re doing a good job of communicating this story, people absolutely connect to it.

Kustomer: How are you using Kustomer to help meet your goals for a better customer experience?


One thing we’re looking at are the responsibilities on our team.

We have a number of parts to our support, including escalation levels, swatch fulfillment, refunds—so we’re using Kustomer to create inboxes to assign roles and responsibilities to make sure that outstanding tasks aren’t getting lost, and better-allocating resources for the specific task or function that needs to take place.


Our next big focus in on building a custom issue-tracking and feedback system. It will allow us to report issues or delays directly to the manufacturer. This allows a lot more efficiency than spreadsheets or emails. We can keep all of our discussions and workflows centralized, then automate an email to the customer once the issue is closed and their coach has shipped.

This will have the added benefit of helping us follow trends in certain issues to see why there’s a spike—is it a breakdown in our quality control process, with our shipping provider, or somewhere else? We’re really excited to have this total view so we can deliver an even better experience.

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