Direct-to-consumer advertising: 5 tips from the experts

Marketing strategies that work for a traditional retail brand may fizzle when applied to direct-to-consumer (D2C) advertising. When it comes to making actual sales, traditional business-to-consumer (B2C) brands rely on retailers. So instead of creating sales-driven ads, B2C companies tend to focus on awareness and brand identity.  

With a D2C approach, the brand is responsible for everything, including sales. These brands must segment their advertising strategies differently, placing a greater focus on getting leads to become buyers. In exchange for this larger portfolio of responsibilities, D2C brands get more control over the customer experience. 

That’s a powerful trade-off, says Brian Cairns, CEO of ProStrategix Consulting. “[Retailers have] a separate agenda from the brand,” Cairns says. “They want to drive category growth (both you and your competitors), not your growth. Sometimes these agendas align. Mostly, they do not.” 

Direct-to-consumer brands have the chance to be the sole voice speaking to their customers, and that creates a lot of opportunities. Here are a few ways to use direct-to-consumer advertising effectively, according to marketers who’ve made it happen. 

1. Pay-per-click advertising is an indispensable channel for D2C marketers 

“Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on Quora, Facebook Ads, TikTok, and Google Adwords has worked well for us,” says Akram Tariq Khan, CMO of D2C brand YourLibaas. Most D2C marketers will say the same thing; after all, the growth of D2C sales depends heavily on the rise of e-commerce platforms that integrate well into PPC campaigns. 

Besides, digital channels provide more customized targeting than legacy platforms. “Unlike TV or print, where the ads have to capture the attention of interested parties, PPC audiences are pre-qualified,” says Daniel Lofaso, president and founder of agency Digital Elevator

“Social PPC ads also work particularly well, because advertisers are able to serve ads to audiences they know exhibit a particular interest.” 

2. While digital may be best, don’t neglect an old classic

Digital channels indeed rule today’s D2C advertising landscape. But the glory days of infomercials aren’t behind us. 

Cairns says that direct response television — TV ads that point viewers to direct-purchase call centers or websites — remains a valuable channel for D2C ads, as evidenced by Dollar Shave Club’s continued investment in the medium. 

Lofaso agrees. “Mature D2C brands still invest heavily in TV as they need to scale their efforts,” he says. 

Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise. At heart, both PPC and direct response TV have the same advantage for a D2C advertiser. They both “short-circuit the path to purchase,” Cairns says. “You see the ad. Call or click. Place an order. There’s no middle-man interference.” 

3. Create a user-friendly path from ad to purchase 

Direct-to-consumer brands control their conversion funnels much more than B2C sellers. That gives them innumerable chances to collect valuable data on their customers; they can ask for any number of data points between the ad click and the cart. Fight that temptation, says Megan Conahan of agency DirectAgents

“Even if you forsake some nice-to-have customer data, ask yourself, ‘Is this the easiest path to conversion for the customer?’ ” Conahan says. “It’s about them, not you.” 

Lofaso echoes this sentiment with advice to link ads to clean, dedicated landing pages, customized to fulfill the promise of the ad copy. On ad landing pages, avoid distractions like menus and social buttons and stick to a singular call to action, Lofaso says. 

4. Use D2C’s data advantage to study customer preferences closely 

When you sell on Amazon, Amazon decides what customer data to share. When you sell at a brick-and-mortar, a lot of that data goes uncollected. Direct-to-consumer brands control more information about their customers than B2C sellers, even without intrusive questions. 

For instance, D2C brands know what their customers buy and when, and they get that information without creating an onerous extra step for buyers. This sort of data is powerful but only if you use it wisely.  

“Leverage your existing customer base to understand their preferences,” says Khan. “Create similar audiences in your advertising platforms. For instance, you could export your customers to Facebook to create a custom audience, and subsequently, create a lookalike audience.” 

5. Remember the basic criteria of a good ad   

With all the data manipulation, machine learning, and other bells and whistles available on today’s digital ad platforms, it’s easy to forget the basics. Successful consumer-focused ads have a pretty straightforward formula. They focus on a “simple, clear benefit that meets a clear emotional need,” says Cairns. 

Whatever else you do, remember that when writing ad copy. That’s one bit of advice that holds true for B2C marketing and direct-to-consumer advertising alike. To learn more about the D2C industry, see our comprehensive guide to the subject. 

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