The Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) revolution is shaking the foundation of retail business. As digital advancements make it even easier to cut out middlemen and deliver totally new kinds of experiences, customers have come to demand DTC brands provide them with the same kind of convenient, personalized and memorable experiences they get from traditional stores. Those that can innovate, adapt, and bring a higher caliber of experience and smarter ways to buy using the vast amount of consumer and product data available will be the ones that succeed. Those that don’t will lag, unable to bring a truly modern experience to their customers.
The time has come to reconnect with your customers and focus on a lifetime of experiences, rather than on optimizing a single, specific journey. Here’s how your brand can communicate and sell directly to your audience today:
Curate collections of essential products for customers
Focus on a few good items done right at a fair price point. This approach is key to tapping into modern shopping trends, encouraging brand loyalty and repeat business by making products that become an essential part of customers’ lives. Huge selections and hundreds of locations are no longer likely to breed success.
Pioneer new models like subscription and shared ownership
Harness the power of digital tech to connect everyone and everything, putting surplus or unused goods to use, and creating experiences that effortlessly sync with our everyday lives. As customers, especially millennials, are willing to buy used or share ownership if it means great savings, consider using tech to implement shared ownership models in your brand practices.
Make delivery and returns easier
As more customers buy online, delivery and returns are becoming even more crucial to the customer experience. Focus on fast delivery and low-friction returns to make up for any hesitation customers might have about buying online. All the more so for large, traditionally hard to ship items.
Deliver personalized, 1-1 service
Adjust every aspect of the online shopping experience to meet customers’ needs, using the latest CRM, machine learning, audience segmentation, and personalization technology to create an immersive digital journey.
By integrating orders, shipments, and conversations, with internal and external customer data, Kustomer helps brands get a comprehensive and actionable view of all customers, driving informed service decisions.
It’s good to have a conversation with your customers, but talking alone isn’t enough. Encouraging customers to contact you over their preferred channels means you need to be ready to respond just as fast as their closest friends. Often, conversations can go in different directions. Sometimes customers may be trying to make a return when what they really need is an exchange. Or they may decide to buy a new product in the middle of asking about a different one. That means that conversational commerce and conversational service are two sides of the same coin. If you want to engage your customers on a 1-1 basis and in real time, then your entire customer experience needs to be part of the conversation. A truly conversational experience is hard to find, but we’ve shared some examples from Brad Birnbaum’s latest piece in Forbes to give you a better idea:
Example 1: IoT
Problem: Your customer’s smart speakers aren’t connecting to WiFi.
Your proprietary app brings up an FAQ article when it detects that your customer is not connecting to WiFi.
Your automated customer service platform sends an email with an instructional video and support desk information if it detects that your customer has reset their device three times or more.
You assign customers who have had multiple problems with high-priority when they call your customer service number so they connect to an agent quickly.
Your agent knows that they’ve already received the FAQ and video because your platform gives them a single view of the customer. With that, they can skip ahead to advanced troubleshooting so the customer doesn’t have to repeat the same steps.
Example 2: Meal Delivery Subscription
Problem: Your customer needs to change their subscription and delivery dates.
If the customer has to change their delivery location or date, a chatbot or automated solution should instantly handle these simple tasks.
If the request is more logistically complicated, like pausing for a week then delivering to a different location, the request should be elevated to an agent.
If the request is more complex than that, like changing dietary requirements, agents should get on the phone and consult with them 1-1 to deliver the best possible experience.
Example 3: Clothing Subscription
Problem: Your customer needs a more consultative experience.
If customers are asking for a simple request like changing the date of the delivery, agents should ask questions and get more information.
If there is a bigger reason, like they’re getting a new job, then an agent should be empowered to step up and act like a stylist to pick more formal options.
This more hands-on experience encourages customers to upgrade to a higher subscription tier in the future.
It’s not easy being a new brand in an industry with a lot of established players. However, if you can use your incumbent status to take a fresh look at the marketplace, you can end up turning the entire category on its head.
LOLA has done just that. The forward-thinking feminine care brand has overturned the status quo with their totally new approach. By highlighting what actually goes into their products, providing a convenient subscription experience, and openly talking about women’s health issues that were previously taboo, they’ve created the first lifelong brand for a woman’s body.
While they started with tampons, the brand has quickly expanded their range, now offering pads, wipes, condoms, and other reproductive wellness products. Despite their rapid growth, they’ve kept their focus firmly on delivering great, personal experiences to every customer.
On our latest webinar (hosted by Glossy), LOLA’s Senior Manager of Customer Strategy and Operations Caroline Dell spoke with Kustomer’s Senior Manager of Marketing Programs Stacey Dolchin about their strategy and approach to delivering a highly personal DTC experience. For more information on delivering a great DTC experience, check out our whitepaper.
Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman founded LOLA in 2015 with a simple idea—women shouldn’t have to compromise when it comes to their reproductive health. It all started when the two women realized that the tampon brands they had been loyal to for over a decade weren’t don’t disclose what they’re made out of. What was actually in those tampons? This desire for straightforward transparency and frank discussion about a topic that we’ve traditionally shied away from has animated the brand ever since.
This unique perspective, coupled with high-quality products and a smart business model, has helped them shaped the broader conversation around women’s health since launch. By empowering women with information, they’re helping their customers have more control over what they put in their bodies. By focusing on questions asked by real women, they’re dismantling the stigma that surrounds female reproductive wellness by creating a two-way dialogue with an engaged community. Every communication channels is an opportunity for a conversation—-website, social media, email newsletters, and their blog, The Broadcast.
By answering questions that their competitors aren’t with a relatable and no-nonsense brand voice, LOLA has both become a resource for their customers and started a national conversation about reproductive health.
LOLA’s goal is to create relationships that last a lifetime. They receive 1000+ emails per week from customers about personal topics, often asking questions to LOLA’s agents before consulting with a doctor. To return the trust their customers have in them, LOLA’s team goes above and beyond to make sure their products are rushed to women wherever they need them. From sending tampons to a customer’s hotel via Uber, to overnighting condoms so that they arrive in time for a honeymoon, LOLA works overtime to create a memorable experience.
For many younger customers and their parents, their ongoing relationship with the brand starts with LOLA’s First Period Kit. After posting a video where LOLA founders told their first period stories, they were inundated with moms reaching out to ask if they offered products for teen—a great example of their ongoing dialogue with customers driving product development.
For their most recent launch of Sex by LOLA, they sent 100 loyal customers mailers of their new products. It was an easy way to get feedback while rewarding loyalty, and one customer even emailed to say that she loved the products and, as a single mom, they inspired her to start dating again.
A Single View in a Single Platform
All of this wouldn’t be possible without a platform to manage their relationships and provide incredible experiences. Their previous platform wasn’t linked to their back-end system, so they had little context on the customer’s order history or subscription details. The same was true for incoming messages on social. With Kustomer, it’s now easy for their agents to switch between social and support channels, helping their customers on their preferred channel at a moment’s notice.
Context Cards with buttons enable the team to take direct action such as modifying, cancelling, or scheduling a subscription, and checking on shipping status for an order. Clicking on the “Modify” button, for example, takes them directly to the customer’s subscription, where they can edit the frequency, products, etc. This makes it easier for the team to spot orders that have been placed but may need modifications. LOLA has a search for customers who have emailed AND placed an order in the past day, so that agents can make modifications to the order before it actually ships.
Features like Workflows and Bulk Messaging have helped LOLA handle larger issues proactively. When their subscription management page experienced a brief outage, LOLA created a workflow based on keywords that automatically identified and then proactively bulk messaged thousands of impacted customers to notify them of the issue. As a result, LOLA was able to handle over 5x their normal volume at a highly-sensitive time.
Since combining all their order, subscription, and customer data into the Kustomer platform, LOLA’s reply time has decreased by 15%, while their agent efficiency has increased by 15%. Watch the webinar recording.
A Brand for Life
LOLA’s mission is one-of-a-kind, and with Kustomer, they’re able to scale while living up to the values that inspired them in the first place. For a brand that empowers and informs women, LOLA’s team needs to be just as empowered and informed to deliver great service. Building meaningful, ongoing relationships is a major part of what LOLA stands for. With Kustomer, their agents are able to get a holistic view of every subscriber and see their entire history with the brand. With more streamlined support, they can focus on what matters—a groundbreaking, personal experience. Delivering service with a purpose requires a robust and flexible platform, and with Kustomer, LOLA is building relationships that will last a lifetime.
For more information about building a great DTC experience, check out our whitepaper.
Subscription businesses are posed with a unique challenge. Because their customers don’t actively interact with the brand on a regular basis unless there’s an issue, they need to work extra hard to stay connected and grow their loyalty and Lifetime Value. Customers should become more invested and engaged as the length of their subscription grows. This requires agents to be well-versed on the product and offerings so they can take on a more active, consultative approach to build deeper connections. They need to be proactive, instead of reactive, anticipating need and reaching out before a problem arises—as customers are more likely to cancel than put up with a bad subscription experience. While the same is true for any business, it’s the most pressing for subscription companies. Let’s look at some ways agents can go the extra mile to improve the subscription, or any, experience:
1) Collect Information
The more you know about your customers, the better you can make your experience. If a customer’s profile isn’t completely filled out, agents should be prompted to get those answers during a routine interaction. Or, they could reach out with an example of how they could better customize the customer’s experience if their profile was completed. All of this data is the first step to helping agents become more active and engaged consultants.
2) Use Foresight
If the weather in the forecast is set to cause a delay for customers in a particular area, you should be able to proactively reach out to those affected and give them the option for an earlier delivery. Customers will appreciate your foresight, and giving them say over when their items arrive is far preferable to waiting for an angry call asking when their order is going to be delivered.
3) Ask Questions
If a customer’s behavior changes, such as pausing their delivery, then that’s a great chance for agents to engage with them and learn more about their habits. Maybe they’re going on vacation? If that’s the case, you can offer to ship it to this different location for no extra cost. This both teaches the customer about a feature they might not have known about while showing that you care about their individual experience and keeping their subscription top-of-mind.
4) Respond Faster
In the event of your customer downgrading their subscription tier or asking to cancel, it’s important that your agents are able to get all the information they need ASAP. If you can automate your chat to send a conversational form asking what’s the reason and how can you help, then customers who might still be on the fence can provide more information and help your agents convince them to stay subscribed.
5) Reward Loyalty
Brands like Bespoke Post and Boxycharm reward loyal customers by occasionally giving them more valuable items in their boxes. The longer they stay subscribed, the more frequent these surprises are. This incentives customers to keep subscribing, and adds real value to their experience.
But even if you’re not a subscription brand, increasing customer Lifetime Value is a crucial part of the experience strategy. This is why more and more brands are adding a subscription model every day. For example, the clothing marketplace Material World has streamlined their business model, going from a place where customers can find second-hand luxury items, to adding a subscription box stream to connect with customers who want a continual, unique, and low effort experience. Customers can exchange their old clothing and other items for a new outfit made up of pre-owned items from luxury brands each month using this new service. It’s not just new brands experimenting with adding subscription—even strongly established brands like Sephora and Glossier are cutting into Birchbox’s market share by offering recurring subscriptions of their products. Now, even Starbucks has a subscription vertical.
Understanding your customers and increasing their loyalty with a great customer experience is a worthwhile endeavor for every kind of brand, whether that’s with a subscription model or with next-level CX. As old and new brands catch on to the benefits of a subscription model, the ranks of delivery boxes will only grow, but the ones that will truly last will be those that understand their customers and use great service and customer experience to ensure their loyalty.
Subscription’s rising popularity isn’t a fluke. There are a lot of real benefits for customers and businesses alike that you don’t get from traditional retail. Customers receive just what they want delivered to their door—even things they didn’t know they wanted—with no extra effort required.
However, their biggest benefit is also a huge drawback. Because customers don’t need to think about their subscriptions all the time, it’s easy for them to cut them loose once they stop adding value to their lives. This is why brands with subscription models are plagued by churn. Customers might jump on with ease, but if they don’t find lasting value, the novelty wears off.
Subscription-based companies must reward loyalty. They should be incentivizing customers to stay with them for the long haul, delighting them with new surprises and offers based on the length of time they’ve been subscribed. Every delivery must be used as an occasion to build a deeper connection. Agents need to be well-trained to deliver a complimentary experience, consulting with customers on their options and learning more about them to better target offerings.
There are more than 2,000 subscription box services on the market right now, but only a small percentage will still be doing business this time next year. To succeed, subscription businesses need to deliver a valuable customer experience. What does this level of customer experience look like on a practical level?
Bespoke Post and Boxycharm reward the customers that have been subscribed the longest with more hand-picked, high-value options in their boxes. The upfront cost pays for itself, as customers keep subscribing in anticipation of future surprises.
Every change in behavior is a chance to build a deeper connection. For a brand like Material World that delivers personalized outfits, if a customer puts their delivery on hold, it’s only in their interest to find out why. If the customer is going to be traveling somewhere warm, they could even send their box to where they’re going to be staying—with some tropical inspired options inside.
Don’t hesitate—if a customer is asking about upgrading their subscription tier for a brand like SprezzaBox, reach out and follow up with a personalized offer. After trying out a free trial of a premium box for three months, they’re more likely to be convinced to bump up their subscription permanently!
Digging for more data
For classic subscription brands like Birchbox, agents should take every opportunity to learn more about their customers. They should be reaching out to customers to fill out their profiles, sending surveys to get a better understanding—and their organization should be empowering their agents with the data they already have.
If bad weather is about to roll in to a particular region, rather than being reactive and waiting for customers to respond with questions about a shipment, a brand like LOLA with a time-dependent delivery can reach out to them as early as possible and present them with new shipping options to avoid a delay.
As both brand new and legacy brands catch on to the benefits of subscription model, the delivery box options will only grow. However, the subscription companies that understand their customers and use great service and customer experience to ensure their loyalty are the ones that will last.
Want to see how Kustomer can help your company? Find out how we enable ecommerce business here.
Want to learn more?
5 CX Tips
Get 5 actionable tips to proactively support and delight your customers.