The best experience consumers have anywhere becomes the experience they expect everywhere. And selling products or services directly to your consumer is one of the best ways to give your consumers a great experience.


While consumer expectations continue to rise, so do their options to purchase. Today, brands are not only competing with their traditional competitors but with online marketplaces like Amazon, fast-growing online startups, and digital subscription services.


To cut through the noise, organizations need a brand experience that allows them to connect with consumers directly. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it — so there are several questions organizations should ask themselves before entering the direct-to-consumer e-commerce market.


1. Why do you want to go direct-to-consumer?


The most common objectives for organizations going direct-to-consumer are to grow revenue or build awareness for their brand. The first step is generally to launch an e-commerce site for a specific line or previously untapped geography.


No matter the goal or the method, there is one success factor that remains the same: the need for clear objectives and complete organizational agreement from top to bottom.


2. Are you ready for an organizational change?


After defining direct-to-consumer goals, an organizational shift will be required. Business-to-business (B2B) brands are set up to enable retailer success, which is important, but different from functions needed to go direct-to-consumer. This means new — or a shift in — resources dedicated to new marketing, social, and e-commerce programs.


Organizations will also need to make a change to production and distribution operations. It’s not uncommon for organizations to decide to launch a direct-to-consumer channel only to discover they have no way to ship individual products vs. an entire pallet of products.


3. Are you ready to engage directly with the end consumer?


B2B organizations rely on their distribution channels to get their goods in the hands of the end consumer. That consumer is building a relationship with the retailer — not the brand. By going direct-to-consumer, organizations can control the entire consumer journey while developing better insights and relationships with their consumers.


With this exciting new relationship comes new expectations from consumers and new areas of focus for the organization. With a direct-to-consumer e-commerce channel, organizations need to consider how they will use consumer data for segmentation purposes, creating personalized promotions, and marketing campaigns. Consumers previously reached out to a retailer for customer services concerns, and now they will be looking to you. Strengthening customer service functions is key to delivering a complete and differentiated brand experience.


4. Are you ready to manage channel conflict?


One common concern brands have when going direct-to-consumer is how they manage their retail and distribution channels. The goal of creating a direct-to-consumer channel is to generate more awareness and new revenue without cannibalizing sales from existing distribution and retail channels, the main source of revenue for many organizations. It’s important to keep them happy and not be viewed as a competitor.


Based on our experience helping brands go direct-to-consumer for the first time, here are some common practices that can minimize channel conflict:

  • Use MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) and allow retailers the exclusive ability to discount items.

  • Vary the mix of product offerings across channels. This gives consumers a reason to visit your brand site and purchase through retailers.

  • Develop a level of trust by being brand-first with your direct-to-consumer commerce site. Deliver new and engaging content to create branded experiences that bring consumers closer to your brand.


5. Do you have a plan to support content development?


From a B2B perspective, developing content is all about enabling retailers to advertise on your behalf. Oftentimes, campaigns are extended because of the number of parties involved for activation. When going direct-to-consumer, content needs will significantly increase. You’ll need content of all shapes and sizes just for your online channels, such as digital lifestyle images, digital product images, how-to videos, and snackable social media videos.


It’s not just the amount of content that will change. With a direct-to-consumer channel, you need a shorter, more direct process for delivering content. The benefit is that it allows you to experiment, test, measure, and apply learnings to each new iteration on your direct-to-consumer channels.


As consumer expectations and retail competition continue to grow, direct-to-consumer online channels are a way to build brand awareness, generate revenue, and develop closer consumer relationships. And the more prepared your organization, the better your results.


Want more? Watch our direct-to-consumer trends impacting healthcare webinar.