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Feb 26

The boom of direct-to-consumer & its digital marketing strategies

The boom of direct-to-consumer brands over the past few years marks a shift in the way products are sold. This shift is not only disrupting established industries and causing a fundamental change in the relationship between brands and consumers but also how marketing teams are reaching those consumers. .

Born in the online-first world, direct-to-consumer brands are changing the way consumers buy everything from beauty products and mattresses to vitamins and contact lenses. They have reinvigorated established industries, like mattresses,  with data-lead marketing strategies and tactics that are delivering engaging experiences that drive results. According to a recent study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau  (IAB),  the rise of the brand economy in the 21st century and the future of retail will be painted by direct-to-consumer relationships. The biggest problem is that many companies don’t know how to get started with direct-to-consumer marketing.


Direct-to-consumer strategies: data onboarding

Today’s consumers want to find a company that can deliver an excellent and unique experience that sets them apart from other brands. Marketers are turning to first-party data and data onboarding as a way to maximize the consumer experience and focus on high-value consumers. Building a robust first-party data collection process is vital for direct-to-consumer brands so marketers can focus on delivering messages to the right consumers to maximize their investment in marketing. In the simplest terms, data onboarding is the process of taking offline data to an online environment and integrating it with a demand-side platform for digital advertising campaigns.

What is data onboarding?

Data onboarding is mainly used to connect customer records with online users by matching Personally Identifiable Information (PII)  gathered from offline datasets to find the same customers online. Marketers are leveraging LiveRamp’s IdentityLink to power people-based marketing that focuses on personalization through the use of data onboarding.  

The basic principles of data onboarding are:

  • Brands upload their first-party data of emails, phone numbers, or addresses to an onboarding provider, like newsletter subscribers, lapsed customers, or high-value brand advocates.
  • Then, through an anonymization process (e.g., hashing, encryption, or generalization), the onboarding partner, like LiveRamp,  transforms the data to remove any PII, such as the customer’s email, name, address, and date of birth.
  • This data is then matched with the online data with the help of identifiers. For example, if a company has collected a customer’s email both offline and online, the onboarding platform would match the two sources of data via the common email address.
  • The identifiers are matched to user IDs and cookie IDs, which can then be used for targeting within digital advertising campaigns.

As a result, marketers are provided targetable audiences on which to take action. More personalized, contextually relevant advertising efforts are essential in a world where consumers are bombarded with ads and channels to purchase products from.  Maximizing this strategy is setting direct-to-consumer brands apart from their traditional counterparts.


Digital strategy: native ads

A new report released by The Association of Online Publishers (AOP) states the power of native advertising by concluding that nearly two-thirds (59 percent) of consumers find native advertising interesting and informative and a third are more likely to trust it over traditional advertising.

The trust and engagement is one reason why direct-to-consumer brands are including this creative option for their digital advertising campaigns.

What, exactly, are native ads?

In-stream ads, branded content, and paid search can be considered variations of native ads, however, the term is more closely associated with brand-funded content, which is advertised by third-party publishers. BuzzFeed and Huffington Post are both good examples of websites showcasing native ads efficiently. Their posts look identical to the native ads they are publishing, minus a small note indicating that it is sponsored by the brand and not endorsed by BuzzFeed or Huffington Post.


Tying it all together with cross-device targeting

Direct-to-consumer brands are taking their campaigns to the next level by enabling a cross-device strategy. These brands understand that today’s consumers are using multiple devices, therefore, they are using strategies that match consumers to all other devices they use.

How to leverage cross-device targeting tactics

Consumers want to have smooth, seamless interactions with the brands they interact with, no matter the channel or device.  Marketers are leveraging cross-device targeting to serve targeted advertising to consumers across multiple platforms or devices at a specific time in the buying process. Usually, it entails sending messaging and advertising to a specific audience across platforms, so marketers reach their audience when and where they are ready to engage with their brand.

By leveraging LiveRamp’s IdentityLink, marketers are able to tie data, devices, and cookies back to real people—across every channel and platform. This means marketers can create a more realistic and effective story for their users, adapting and evolving the campaign throughout multiple touch points. And the benefits speak for themselves for direct-to-consumer brands. By using cross-device views, consumers will convert at a rate of up to 1.4 times that of a single-device view.

Cross-device targeting relies on multiple channels, that create a leveled or tiered system for analytics to tell the story of all marketing and brand efforts.  Marketers are moving toward cross-device use cases with 92 percent of media planners in North America increasing their cross-device advertising buys this year.

Direct-to-consumer brands stand out in today’s competitive landscape. Their unique approach to digital marketing has made companies like Warby Parker, Casper, HomeChef, Glossier, and so many more become recognizable and memorable with consumers.  Instead of casting a wide net, direct-to-consumer brands are looking to build a deeper, stronger rapport with a specific audience subset, and it’s paying off.

About The Author

Megan Sullivan-Jenks is director of marketing & communications at Choozle – Easy Digital Advertising®. A self-proclaimed tinkerer, Megan's a problem solver for marketing and advertising strategies and execution. From nonprofits to consumer goods and software, she's an expert at creating online and offline marketing & communications strategies that are engaging and results-driven. Outside of the office, Megan rolls up her sleeves to enjoy all things DIY like sewing and woodworking.