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.

Can You Deliver a Truly Personal Experience Online?

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Can buying something online feel as personal as shopping in person? As a growing number of brands are selling to the majority of their customers online, this question becomes more pressing. You might think there are insurmountable limitations to the online experience—you can’t touch, feel, and try on anything at your laptop. However, innovative digital-first brands are finding ways to bridge this gap—and finding real success in the process.

One of those brands is TrueFacet, the leading luxury online marketplace for acquiring and consigning fine jewelry and timepieces. We had the opportunity to sit down with Kenneth Tucci, VP of Operations / Concierge and Nick Osborn, Director of Growth at TrueFacet to discuss their high-touch, omnichannel customer experience on our latest webinar.

TrueFacet is the modern alternative to buying and selling jewelry and watches. Both buyers and sellers get a valuable online experience, with every item authenticated, appraised, and priced accordingly before it’s listed. TrueFacet sets themselves apart by delivering a brand experience that adheres to three strong pillars: selection, authenticity, and price.

Their focus on authenticity is a major differentiator for the space. All vendors are thoroughly vetted to make sure they uphold the highest level of integrity and to ensure product availability. This is especially crucial in TrueFacet’s space—In 2014 alone, the total value of seized counterfeit watches and jewelry by the U.S. government was $375.4 million. Ensuring authenticity means building trust with your customers, and by drawing on a diverse team of experts that hail from some of the most coveted jewelers in the industry to provide multi-point inspections, TrueFacet can assure customers that every item that leaves their facility is authentic and as advertised.

However, no matter how much you can guarantee the authenticity of your products, there are still elements that are going to be missing from an online experience versus a brick and mortar one. You can’t feel the difference in weight between a platinum, gold, and steel watch, or see the minute details of its inner workings with your own eyes. You can’t try on a piece of jewelry with an outfit and experience that “have to have it” moment when they match perfectly. TrueFacet goes to great lengths to substitute elements of their experience that make up for this. They use high-quality photos and videos, size-fit guides, and a generous return policy to make buying intuitive. However, it’s really the Concierge team that serves as the X-factor in their experience. Their work raises it from comparable to shopping at a boutique, to an experience that’s a cut above.

“Our Concierge team is there to educate our customer, provide guidance, and help them find what they want,” says Tucci, “ If customers can’t find something on our site, then our team will go to any lengths to track it down. This really helps us win customers for life.” Their agents are highly knowledgeable, but also bring more to the table: Passion. Their passion for TrueFacet’s products really shines through, allowing them to connect with customers who are equally as excited and knowledgeable. Beyond just being knowledgeable about the industry, the Concierge team knows everything about their customer’s purchase history and past interactions, meaning they have more contextual information than even an associate at a local boutique and their regular customer.

TrueFacet delivers the same high-quality experience no matter what their customers are buying. However, customers who regularly buy a large amount of product are treated to a VIP experience, where a TrueFacet Concierge forms a 1:1 relationship with them, offering additional communication options such as SMS messaging. This helps create an even stronger bond, creating customers for life.

This level of service is possible in part because Concierges can move from channel to channel just as easily as their customers, following them from phone to email, chat, and text with ease—and Kustomer helps empower agents to do just that. To deliver an experience that’s as high-touch as shopping in person, there can’t be any gaps in communication.

TrueFacet presents an exciting example of the future of customer experience—not just for a luxury market, but for everyone. True omnichannel understanding paired with passionate and informed agents and a robust digital experience can do more than make up for physical retail space.

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