How To Take Your Wholesale Fashion Brand Direct-to-Consumer
19 Jul 2021
Transitioning from selling business-to-business (B2B) to direct-to-consumer (DTC) isn’t an easy decision for wholesale businesses, and fashion brands make no exception. A DTC strategy can be challenging, as you may not be used to dealing directly with consumers or you may be worried about damaging your relationships with distributors.
However, as experts predict record numbers of brick-and-mortar stores will continue to close, the time has never been better to make the leap to selling DTC online — especially in Europe where DTC adoption is even higher than in the US with successful DTC brands like Happy Socks and Glossier.
But what exactly does implementing a DTC strategy mean for your business?
What Are the Advantages of Investing in a DTC Website?
Beyond simply creating an additional revenue stream — which is a huge plus in itself — with a DTC website, you have the opportunity to reach even more potential customers that are ready to buy your products. So instead of potentially losing the sale because the customer can’t buy from you online, with a DTC ecommerce store, you can allow the customer to buy right away.
Selling DTC also gives you control over the entire customer journey, from the moment someone lands on your website until the product is delivered — and beyond. You can create customer-centric experiences on your website, such as recommending products based on recently viewed items. You can also send post-purchase emails to gather customer feedback or send educational tips on how to best use your products.
The majority of data manufacturers receive is filtered through retailers and is mostly related to transactions. However, when you sell directly to consumers, you can collect a wide range of first-party data on consumer behaviours.
By combining the transactional data from fashion retailers with the data from your own website, you’ll have a better understanding of your customers, which you can leverage to make strategic business decisions on everything from product development to pricing.
4 Tips to Plan and Execute an Outstanding DTC Ecommerce Strategy
1. Reduce Channel Conflict with Retailers
As a fashion manufacturer, the last thing you want to do is create conflicts with your retail partners. By focusing on channel effectiveness (versus channel conflict), you can align the entire value chain around the customer and share first- and third-party real-time data to enrich the consumer experience.
- Offer Different Products on Your Ecommerce Site
Not every product you manufacture ends up on your retail partners’ shelves. Maybe it’s not as popular with their customers, or they don’t have available space. Whatever the reason, you can use this to inform your product strategy for your DTC website. For instance, you can rebrand an existing product and sell it exclusively on your site, or bundle diverse items into a custom package that only you offer.
Either way, make sure the products you sell on your website add value for your customers. This will help differentiate your online store from your retail partners and entice customers to shop directly with you.
- Promote Your Retailers’ Brick-and-Mortar Stores
By doing this, you get the sale, and you keep your partners happy because they get increased visibility on your website, while continuing to support the distributors that are so valuable to your business.
2. Integrate Consumer-Friendly Technology
For your DTC website, you’ll need a technology that facilitates selling to consumers, and you'll need to integrate these new systems with your existing technology stack.
- Select an Ecommerce Platform for Both B2B and DTC
If you conduct your B2B business offline, you’ll need an ecommerce platform to start selling to consumers. However, if you’re already selling B2B online, consider managing your B2B and DTC channels on one unified platform such as BigCommerce. Having a single platform to manage all of your inventory and operations will make day-to-day business easier. Equally, the broad choice of APIs and partner solutions — such as payment and shipping options — will still allow you to personalise your website for all your different audiences.
- Set Up Multiple, Convenient Payment Options
Similar to your B2B customers, your DTC customers will expect that you offer multiple payment options. However, traditional B2B payment methods, such as invoices and checks, aren’t preferred by DTC customers.
For your DTC website, select a payment service provider (PSP) that accepts credit and debit cards, as well as alternative payment methods, such as Apple Pay. Additionally, buy-now, pay later solutions, like Klarna and Laybuy, are growing increasingly popular with consumers and can dramatically increase conversion rates on your website.
- Work with an Experienced Agency Partner for Integrations
Knowing where to start can be daunting. That’s why it’s important to find an experienced digital partner with a track record of success. Max Kissick-Jones, VP Partnerships and Commercial at BORN Group, mentions that when you are making your plan you should “make sure you have an iPaaS solution to allow you to connect disparate 3data sources as well as your key systems.” This will save you time and resources when deploying a new ecommerce platform.
3. Create a Marketing Strategy for Your Online Store
Traditionally, manufacturers aren’t responsible for generating interest in their products. That’s one of the biggest benefits of working with retailers and distributors — they handle most of your marketing activities. The following are a few ideas and trends that can help attract customers to your online store.
- Tell Your Unique Brand Story
Every brand has a story. When building your DTC website, it’s important to tell yours to create a connection with your buyers — especially if you’re not as established in the market as your competitors. Weaving together your unique story and your company values creates a compelling brand promise that can entice consumers to shop directly from your online store.
- Create Relatable Content that Educates Customers
As you create your DTC content marketing plan, make sure to incorporate different types of content to educate your customers on your products. Do not hesitate to diversify your content with videos, blogs or social postings that showcase your products and help your customers to relate and identify a need in their own lives.
- Advertise on Social Media Channels
Content is only one piece of the puzzle. And combined with a robust SEO strategy, it’s an excellent long-term solution to market your DTC channel. However, to get visitors to your website right away, you’ll need to harness the power of social media.
Another growing trend is to work with influencers. They act as a trusted resource, sharing genuine opinions and information on various topics, products and services with their social media following.
4. Manage Customer Expectations for Order Fulfillment
To get your DTC initiative off the ground, you can’t forget to plan for what happens after the sale.
- Outsource Fulfillment and Customer Service
Thanks mostly to Amazon raising expectations over the years, customers want their orders fulfilled and shipped fast. However, manufacturers typically don’t have the infrastructure in place to meet these expectations.
If you don’t have the resources or space available to handle fulfilment in house, you can outsource to a third-party logistics vendor. Those 3PLs will handle all the back-end logistics, including for instance; receiving your inventory, picking, packing, shipping and processing returns.
However, fulfillment isn’t the only area where customer expectations are high. HubSpot researchers found that 72% of buyers surveyed expect a response within 30 minutes when they’re looking for customer support.
Fortunately, you can also outsource customer support. For example, contact centers can help with phone or live chat support, which is especially useful if you have a large volume of orders. Another option could be to add a chatbot to your ecommerce site.
- Prioritise Fast and Flexible Shipping
If you do decide to manage orders in-house, make sure you prioritise shipping which — as shown in a recent study by ShipStation below — highly impacts the customer decision to shop.
To make this work, you need to offer multiple shipping options, but without adding an unmanageable workload to your employees. For instance, with shipping software like ShipStation, you can consolidate orders from multiple selling channels, automate manual processes, batch print shipping labels or print packing slips and generate pick lists to expedite the picking process.
Take your Fashion Brand DTC, Time to Take the Leap?
Whatever the reason you're considering taking your fashion brand DTC, it's certainly a good time to do so with the recent growth in Western Europe. According to a survey by The Direct Selling Association UK in late 2020, its member companies had seen 45.5% growth in sales, on average, through the direct channel for the year to date.
To learn more about how a strong DTC strategy can help grow your business and build your brand, download the complete guide: How to Take Your B2B Brand Direct-to-Consumer.
Get in touch by visiting www.bigcommerce.co.uk