Effective marketing strategies can help direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands stand out from their peers in a market that is becoming saturated with competitors. This post covers how direct-to-consumer brands can grow sales with affiliate marketing strategies.
Rakuten Marketing clients in the direct-to-consumer space have leveraged effective affiliate marketing strategies to drive double digit sales growth through the first six months of 2019.
D2C brands also present a potential growth opportunity in a market that has an appetite for them. According to Diffusion’s 2018 Direct-to-Consumer Purchase Intent Index, 1/3 of Americans expect to make 40% of their purchases from D2C brands by 2023, and more than a quarter find buying directly from a brand to be a more convenient experience than buying elsewhere.
Consumers are seeking out direct-to-consumer brands for several reasons. Direct-to-consumer brands:
- Offer products they might not be able to find anywhere else
- Allow them to learn more about how products are manufactured
- Build stronger relationships with the companies that make their favorite products
Meanwhile, brands that sell direct to consumer have several distinct advantages over those that sell on online marketplaces or through traditional retailers.
By selling direct to consumer, a brand can have full control over:
- The entire customer experience, from first impression to unboxing
- Pre- and post-purchase messaging
- Any and all customer data including browsing history, email open rates, and purchase history
The affiliate channel is an essential tool in any emerging direct-to-consumer brand’s digital toolbox when it comes to helping your brand stand out.
“Direct-to-consumer brands have had great success getting in front of new customers on our network because people are actively seeking those brands out,” says Julie Van Ullen, General Manager of Rakuten Marketing for the U.S. “Leveraging the affiliate channel gives D2C brands an opportunity to tell their story to a bigger audience in a shorter period of time through partnering with a variety of publishers ranging from content creators, influencers, loyalty and offers sites.”
Rakuten Marketing asked some of our experts for their advice on how direct-to-consumer brands can get the most out of the affiliate marketing channel. Here are a few helpful tips:
Figure out what sets you apart and use your publisher partners to amplify this message
With more and larger brands selling direct to consumer online, competition for a consumer’s attention and walletshare is only going to continue to increase. Before launching an affiliate marketing campaign, a brand must first figure out how to communicate their value proposition in a clear and concise manner through publishers in an affiliate network.
Be specific about what a product’s most unique attributes are to catch a person’s eye. For instance, if a piece of clothing has an interesting origin story, communicate that using language that tells why it’s different than anything else that someone could buy online. Or, if a customer is able to fully customize a product, tailor your messaging around the thoughtfulness of giving a personalized gift.
Rakuten Marketing experts say a similar strategy can be effective when it comes to the affiliate channel by leveraging publishers to communicate your message.
“Since D2C brands don’t have the benefit of having a storefront, they have to be creative when it comes to leveraging content to hook a potential customer and publishers can help them to extend their message,” Van Ullen says. “Leveraging high quality images can help draw a consumer’s eye to a brand. Using publishers and influencers to help communicate your product’s differentiation and uniqueness can increase the likelihood that a person will click on an affiliate link and potentially convert into a customer.”
Use what you know about your current customer base to help you stand out
Direct-to-consumer brands have the advantage of dealing directly with their customers rather than having their customers buy their products through a retailer.
This, in turn, gives D2C brands the competitive advantage of having data that shows who their ideal buyer is and what that buyer likes and doesn’t like.
D2C brands can leverage this data by incentivizing publishers to target certain audience segments that are more likely to convert or spend more. Knowing how a buyer browses and what messages lead to more conversions can help a D2C brand work directly with affiliates in their network to create unique offers that will have higher click through and conversion rates.
Don’t feel the need to discount too deeply
Rakuten Marketing Account Specialist Tamisa Covington says some of the brands she’s spoken with view the affiliate channel as purely a discounting channel, yet coupons and promotional offers are just one component to a robust affiliate strategy. Good content, she says, can go just as far as a percentage discount towards winning over a new customer. Analyze your affiliate network and select publishers that align with your brand’s values. This, in turn, will get you in front of shoppers who are more likely to click through to your site and convert. Don’t forget that a good affiliate strategy touches multiple points of the consumer journey, from discovery to lower funnel.
Diversify your publisher partnership portfolio
Once you decide to incorporate affiliate marketing into your digital marketing strategy and subsequently increase your spend in the channel, it’s important to diversify your publisher mix and leverage different types of publishers at different stages of the sales funnel.
For instance, when entering a new market, work with influencers to help you introduce your brand to a curated audience of customers who align with your overall brand value proposition. To win over consumers later in the sales funnel, work with loyalty and cash back publishers to offer incentives to entice shoppers.
Working with your account managers to continually fine tune the mix of publishers that you work with can go a long way towards helping you get the results that you’re looking for and maximize your financial and time investment in the channel.
Ready to learn more about how affiliate marketing can help your digitally native brand unleash its potential and get you in front of more customers? Let’s chat today.