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Branded manufacturers ready for next-gen direct to consumer eCommerce sites

Brenna Johnson
Senior Product Strategist

The last
couple of years brought a crop of first-generation websites from manufacturers
going direct to consumer. After some initial hesitancy, big names in apparel,
electronics, footwear, and cosmetics launched branded sites that were fairly basic
compared to their retail predecessors (and anxious channel partners). During their
short online evolution, these brands have narrowed in on how their eCommerce site
fits in to their overall company strategy – and are seeing great results.

In recent
conversations with brand manufacturers, there are consistent themes across
verticals when it comes to direct-to-consumer eCommerce:

  • The vast majority of brands with transactional
    sites have met or exceeded revenue targets.
  • While it can still be touchy, many
    have discovered ways to alleviate channel conflict with omnichannel
    capabilities.
  • To most brands, it simply doesn’t
    matter how consumers choose to buy their products (although nothing beats
    direct to consumer margins).
    Many are in the process of
    aligning their organizations to measure overall revenue, rather than dissecting
    who gets sales credit.

Brands
are looking back with some relief that direct to consumer eCommerce is paying
off across channels, and are energized to figure out how the next rev of their
site can drive more results company-wide. Even luxury brands (the last eCommerce
holdouts) are realizing the opportunity, with Chanel, Tom Ford and Fendi
announcing that they are going transactional this year.

So where
should brands focus their next-generation eCommerce sites?

1. Remember the role of the site in the overall
business

The site
should serve as the brand’s authentic voice, with the goal to get consumers to
fall in love with the brand experience and it’s products. Brands selling online
are realizing the nuances of research, shopping, and ongoing engagement. Those
having the most success understand that the site must cater to various goals, and
that shoppers may choose to purchase their products anywhere.

2. Unite storytelling and selling

Creating
a destination site where visitors can research, buy, or engage with the brand
is all about unifying content and commerce to support sales in all channels.

The site
must be optimized for the most common task: consuming content. The ability to
purchase products should be woven in to editorial content. Investing in product
content will inspire shoppers to make informed purchases in any channel. Cultivating
amazing product content like glossy images, videos, downloads, and optimizing
site content for scannability
should be a core focus of the site.

One of
the greatest benefits of a branded site is the direct relationship the
manufacturer gets with end users. Brands must include social elements to
engage consumers in active dialogue, allowing shoppers to serve as an advocate loving
their products. Burberry does
this incredibly well. Email and social marketing are other major areas of
investment, channeling users to the website as the hub of activity. Mining the data
social and marketing brings will improve experiences on-site and company-wide.

3. Elements of exclusivity.

Why would
a consumer come to a branded website versus shopping with a retailer? There needs
to be a draw – whether that’s amazing content, exclusive products, or
interactivity.

Where’s
the only place you can design your own custom Jordans? Nike has figured out how to create
an online experience that attracts loyal brand advocates with unique
experiences and exclusive products.

Personally,
I go to branded sites to see the full range of product, whether it’s jeans or
car seats. A manufacturer’s eCommerce site is usually the only place to
research and purchase from the entire product line (versus a subset of SKUs in
retail).

Selling
products on a branded site that are not sold in retail helps to alleviate
channel competition, and also serves as a platform to test new products, sell
limited edition goods, and reduce inventory with special sales.

4. Simplify buying anywhere

No matter
when and how they want to buy, invest in features that make it seamless for
shoppers.

  • Mobile: Many
    retailers prioritize mobile and tablet experiences over desktop, and for
    manufacturers, this is an absolute must. These site visitors are deep in to product
    research, want inspiration, or want to purchase an item easily. Make sure the
    site is Responsive, search is optimized, and checkout is streamlined.
  • Omnichannel: Allow shoppers to transact however they please and fulfill in a
    variety of ways. Let them buy online, buy online and pick up in store, and
    provide a Store Locator to use retailers as a fulfillment channel (making them
    happy).
    Brands can also automatically redirect to retailer sites
    if their merchandise is out of stock.
    Make it easy for shoppers with orchestration between
    order, fulfillment, and inventory systems.
  • Market expansion: Expansion in to new markets is a big growth area for brands in the
    next year. Making eCommerce storefronts available in regions without retail
    stores is an opportunity to quickly
    experiment with
    new products, markets, and pricing.

Direct to
consumer eCommerce will continue to be a disruptive force. Consumers
increasingly want to know who’s behind the products they’re buying. Meanwhile,
brands need to band together with their channel partners to create stellar
customer experiences that drive positive company-wide results. Brands who come
out on top will make it incredibly easy (and enjoyable) for consumers to get to
know them and buy their products. 

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