In the wake of Covid-19's impact on retail business, brands and retailers have been exploring and implementing a shift in sales operations, focusing more or all efforts on the direct-to-consumer (DTC) model. Online consumer activity is increasing, and companies are looking for ways to connect and interact. Pandemic or not, adding DTC channels to your sales mix offers a host of benefits. Here's how to make this model work for you.

Put Your Newly Owned Consumer Data to Action

Selling through third-party merchants has advantages, but they come with one major drawback: You don't own your customer data. A premier advantage of the DTC model, customer data presents brands with behavioral analytics, purchasing trends, and more, often in real or near-real time, allowing you to make evaluations and strategic adjustments at a moment's notice and uncover trends that tell a detailed story about your customers.

By tracking the right metrics, you can pinpoint factors that contribute to improving the overall customer experience while gaining a better understanding of operational efficiencies and shortcomings, both of which can be utilized to generate increased revenue.

Own Your Brand Experience

Over 20 years of helping e-commerce brands optimize customer experiences, I've seen many struggle with losing control over how their brand is portrayed by merchant partners, from how it's presented on the website to the physical presentation of items ordered online. 

When Nike pulled its products from Amazon last year, the company credited the move as "... part of Nike's focus on elevating consumer experiences through more direct, personal relationships." Amazon offers its sellers benefits, but they are short-term, which is not conducive to building a brand. With your own channels, you directly manage your customer data, your brand experience, and your profit margins.

Deliver a Personalized Experience

Various studies report consumers today are more responsive to a customized brand experience. According to Accenture's Personalization Pulse Check, 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations. SmarterHQ's Privacy & Personalization Report found that 72 percent of consumers will only engage with personalized messaging, and that 80 percent of frequent shoppers only buy from brands who personalize their experience.

Leveraging behavioral analytics helps brands engage at this level by identifying what customers will value and respond to. Monetate's Personalization Development Study of more than 600 senior marketers showed efforts like these work; 93 percent of businesses with advanced personalization strategies reported an increase in revenue.

Use Product Marketing Strategies Responsibly

Upselling and cross-selling are tried-and-true tactics for increasing consumer spending, but neither should be utilized for that purpose alone. Rather, they should be considered as part of a strategy to further engage a customer with product solutions. Both tactics work well when offering a product that's truly intended to add value to a customer's life, but executed poorly, they can be damaging to your brand.

Bundling slower-moving items with more popular ones is also a great way to boost sales for both; customers benefit from a nice discount, while sellers realize improved cash flow. Consider complementing this approach by specifying a required minimum order amount to qualify for free shipping, as shoppers initially looking to purchase a single item may be motivated to capitalize on the bundle in order to meet the free shipping threshold.

Procure a Specialized 3PL Partner to Ensure Smooth Distribution 

My company's 2019 e-commerce study found that 83 percent of consumers said delayed shipment of an order would influence their decision to purchase from a brand again, and 93 percent expect online orders to be delivered within one-to-four days. This means that you can have great marketing and the best products, but if your fulfillment operations aren't airtight, you're not satisfying consumer expectations.

Technology used by top third-party logistics providers (3PLs) enables real-time data for better visibility into all aspects of fulfillment and distribution, allowing brands to, among other things, improve delivery operations. With careful monitoring and optimization, together with your 3PL, you can identify patterns to mitigate ordering mistakes and returns, thereby bolstering strategic planning, improving customer satisfaction, and controlling operating costs. 

Your customers are your lifeblood. Keeping them satisfied and coming back for more requires understanding who they are, how they act, and what they want when it comes to your brand. The only way to access that information is through direct interaction.