Practical Operation: Some Experiences of Independent Stations as DTC Brands

实操:独立站做 DTC 品牌的一些经验

Articles include:

  • How to Plan a Standalone Station
  • Build a connection between the brand and the user
  • Various user-oriented marketing activities to enhance brand favorability
  • How to implement user portraits

E-commerce has been one of the fastest growing industries in recent times with a steady growth trajectory and is expected to be the second largest market in the world by 2034. For the most part, the direct-to-consumer (DTC) market has been showing double-digit growth rates over the past few years. COVID-19 has hit a number of verticals, but it has also accelerated growth by bringing about a sudden shift in consumer behavior and forcing brands to rethink their business strategies to better serve customers. According to the forecast, the market is expected to grow by 19.2% by 2021

Overseas markets can be said to be a battleground for major brands. How to build a brand from 0 to 1 overseas and stand out is a huge challenge for enterprises. We believe in thinking from two levels:

  • Thinking about brand positioning:

Brands want to break away from the low-end market where price wars are fought, which means that they must build a brand, occupy the minds of consumers in the category, and continuously strengthen their cognition in the hearts of consumers. Identifying the brand positioning is the key. For example, Li Ning can be regarded as a comeback against the wind.

  • Brand trader thinking:

The establishment of its own brand, simply put, is as big as redefining the brand and products, without relying on the blessing of the original third-party channels, as small as the logo, the extraction of the brand color for a comprehensive and independent operation, that is, DTC (direct-to-consumer). Sales) model, which always revolves around consumer users' activities such as sales, sales and dissemination.

Insist on an independent official website

With the rapid development of website building tools, technical barriers are gradually reduced. Most DTC brands in Europe and the United States are still mainly sold on the official website. The official website of the independent website is the first choice for many start-up brands. The official website is an important product window, brand window, and user relationship window. DTC official websites are often beautifully designed, which can highlight the characteristics of the brand. and culture. (The main modes of independent stations are: distribution, dropshopping, and vertical category independent brands. Here we mainly talk about the third independent station brand station)

The most intuitive is that if the website is too ordinary in page design and product display, and cannot highlight the characteristics and brand culture of the product, the look and feel is really bad.

More and more brands choose to build their own brand station, so how is a good official website?

The independent brand website is not just a template, but the presentation of the overall content, from the entire brand positioning, to UI/UX design, to brand content to composition and presentation, to Customer Journey to design, to user self-help, mutual assistance and official services provided.

After facing a large number of customers, we found a very interesting phenomenon. We always receive business needs of different scenarios and different target users, and need the support of different styles of design solutions, but no matter what style of design, users will have a common appeal— - "Sense of Quality".

You must know that the sense of quality is jointly determined by multiple dimensions, including the structure, graphics, color, dynamics, etc. of the interface. How to disassemble and implement these elements is the core.

Some websites like to fill the website with enough text content and visuals, and they want to show each point as comprehensively as possible to customers, which leads to users being unable to distinguish the key points when browsing. You know, when everything is important, it means that everything is unimportant.

Let's share some perspectives from the user's perspective.

The structure of a website is the "skeleton" of the design, and clear navigation is a more important goal of website design. Navigation guides users step-by-step through content divisions and connection patterns. The following points should be paid attention to when designing:

  • The layout should not be complicated
  • Reduce dropdown menu options
  • use user language
  • Avoid too many clicks

Looking at the winning works of the 2021 Shopify Business Awards, the navigation part of the website has a characteristic. The brand LOGO is placed in the middle of the navigation bar, and the text navigation on the left is distinguished from the icons and buttons on the right, which achieves the distinction of information levels. effect, even without a drop-down menu, what's the benefit of doing this? Interference with user decisions is reduced.

How to present the visual expression of functions and how to take into account the aesthetics is inseparable from the character of the brand. Different brands have their own positioning. Usually, when choosing a color scheme, more light and bright background colors are used. This is related to our reading habits. Using black text on a white background is the best for readability.

Many 3C categories prefer dark backgrounds to present an attractive dramatic effect. However, when using a dark background, it is easy to produce visual fatigue, and it is necessary to pay attention to the readability and contrast of text. Readability involves not only text, but also logos, symbols, numbers, patterns, etc. Contrast is an important factor in ensuring legibility and clarity. How to get better results when designing with a dark background:

  • Reasonable use of white space is more conducive to highlighting characteristic elements
  • Coordinate the spacing between text to improve readability
  • The color matching should not be too saturated, so that the page is simple and bright

( Image source: official website of a game mobile phone)

On the other hand, many brands use a carousel on the homepage to display as much content as possible, so that users will notice the site as soon as they see it. However, according to our past service data, the first image of the carousel only accounts for less than 1%, and the others are second. For users, the switching frequency of carousel images is too fast, which is easy for users to ignore and cannot get effective information. In addition, when the images are rotated, the navigation icons are not conspicuous enough, and users have no "control" when browsing, resulting in the rotation of the carousel. The effectiveness of broadcasting is greatly reduced.

Therefore, a clearly visible tabbed navigation is required on the carousel. In the design of the tabs, it is necessary to consider:

  • Can stimulate users to click
  • Location visibility
  • descriptive

Fastlane recommends:

Before building a website, think about your own brand positioning, and then implement the specific content, and reflect the level of information in the comparison. Through the distinction of primary and secondary, priority, and number of layers, users can get important content faster.

Build the connection between the brand and the user

Take a certain game hardware we have served as an example, let's see what the independent station has done to increase the trust with users . First of all, provide a player-based problem-solving entrance, and have a dedicated service to answer all customer questions about product hardware, software, logistics, and after-sales to ensure a better buying experience for users. A good service experience will make users intuitively feel how many cornerstones the brand has. Therefore, we must attach great importance to user feedback and strive to provide services that exceed expectations. This is the key factor for the success of the DTC brand.

Fastlane suggests that early-stage brands can enhance user trust in two ways:

1. Pay attention to user communication, and the dedicated call center spends a lot of time every day replying to various messages from users

Customer service includes customer service response speed and customer service language. If you want to be a brand, you must face this problem sooner or later. Listen to the feedback and voice of users. What is a brand? What we understand is the company's words and deeds, which includes customer service's external speech and brand image. This is often a key point that people often overlook when building brands overseas.

2. Logistics and payment are one of the problems that brands tend to ignore in the early stage. A complete logistics and refund system is an unexpected consumer experience. If your customer experience is not good, the result is that consumers go crazy on social media Make complaints.

You must have your own return policy, and express it clearly and display it in the appropriate place on the website instead of hiding it. Excellent Returns can be one of the success factors of an e-commerce website, such as : DTC brand Casper It also provides 100 days of free returns and exchanges, which is very helpful for the website to increase sales, and can also allow more visitors to become long-term and stable old customers, or even lifelong customers. In other words, this free The return policy makes these great e-commerce companies.

(Image source: the official website of a mobile phone, you can see that the information on the official website is increasing the trust of users)

Secondly, for some precipitation brands, after a user purchases a product, loyalty will not be formed, and there is no effective interaction and connection between the two parties. While many Chinese brands are good at emphasizing the functional benefits of their products, few are good at creating an "emotional connection" with customers, which is important for sales. In addition to understanding consumers in a timely manner, brands also hope to create a world of scenarios that are close to their consumers, not just selling a product.

The picture shows oneplus overseas official website forum

Brand private space-forum: Let fans discuss in the community, the brand can perceive the interaction between the product and consumers at the first time, so as to ensure a rapid linkage between consumer demand and brand research and development. On the one hand, the improved products of the brand can be closer to consumers, and the brand can immediately understand the feedback of consumers and quickly update and iterate on the software. On the other hand, it can allow users to form word-of-mouth communication. At the same time, this is also to increase the content of the website to improve the optimization of seo. Remember that the brand should treat the negativity of some users with an open mind, especially the users in Europe and America. He can accept the defects of the product, but he cannot accept the opacity of the information. This scale It needs to be grasped by the brand and practically practiced.

But "emotionally connected" is a misleading shorthand; trust in a brand isn't psychological, it's social. Trust also needs to be built through the use of social networks and social media.

Taking the social media of game mobile phones as an example, our thinking should be:

  1. Facebook will do brand content: including pictures and videos to introduce product KSP (core key selling point)
  2. Use the experience of KOLs to endorse the brand, attract more target user communities, gather gamers with the same hobbies, and trigger product discussions
  3. Quickly solve logistics tracking, the entrance of product problem feedback
  4. Brands interact with users frequently on social media, and collect user feedback through social platforms. Once users produce unsatisfactory feedback, brands need to contact them in time to correct the problem.

Marketing activities to improve favorability

First of all, a good Campaign Launch UI does not need to be complicated, concise and clear. We not only hope to obtain the user's registration information, but also hope that Email can be used as an identifier to track referrals. Secondly, the mechanism is simple, and activities are easy to share on social platforms . Whether it is users or KOLs, their sharing is very important to us, and these data can be used for subsequent user growth. Finally, what is the purpose of the activity?

Take a case of Fastlane practice:

Background: A certain hardware product launch event has a strong reputation in China, but the popularity of the terminal product overseas is relatively lacking. The first batch is limited in quantity

Goal: How to attract the public's attention, collect potential user information, and effectively disseminate the core selling points of the product before the launch of the new product

Strategy: How to make users interested in the product and at the same time give a reasonable explanation for the out-of-stock delivery is the top priority of our communication. Our strategy is to use the Invitation Code method, allowing users to enter and fill out the questionnaire through the Landing Page to obtain the invitation code, so as to qualify for the first batch of purchases.

Through purposeful and strategic trading, 7000+ subscribers have been accumulated in the early stage of listing, which lays the foundation for the follow-up action re-marketing, and gives Review rewards to users who have purchased, so that the independent station has completed the cold start. .

Events landing page

How to implement user portraits

The core of an independent station is to be a user. The topic that cannot be avoided by being a user is portraits. Understanding consumer portraits is a compulsory course for all brands.

The end of commercial activities is the satisfaction of consumer needs. As long as we truly understand and gain insight into the needs of users, we can clearly know what value we can bring to users? And that's where all the products, services, brands, experiences, marketing stand. User needs are actually simple to say, but the deployment is still complex, and there are barriers to good user insight.

Data empowerment can better position the brand, find the path to target consumers, reach consumers in a targeted manner, and listen to the voices of consumers to further improve products. Is there anything more valuable than understanding your consumers?

User portraits can not only enhance the awareness of users, but also empower businesses through landing. Of course, user portrait is a very refined and huge system, which contains many dimensions. How to gain insight into users?

  • Categorize and describe users

- What are the typical types of users?

- What kind of people are they? (demographics, lifestyle, interests, etc.)

- What kind of users do you want to expand in the future?

  • Analyze user groups

- What are the needs of the analysis users? What are the current pain points/unmet needs? What are the functional and emotional needs?

- What general beliefs or perceptions do they have?

- What are their motivations for buying? What are the buying criteria?

- Will the demand change as the behavior of the user base changes in the future?

  • Summarize actions on user insights

- Based on user classification and analysis, predict future product/market trends, where are the new opportunities?

- How do we (R&D, UX, brand communication) act?

When the brand cannot spend a large budget to find a professional research institution in the early stage, it can try to conduct user data research and collection on the official website (with existing data) , establish a certain reward mechanism, set up questions, and invite users to participate through multiple channels. How to design the questionnaire? The reference dimensions are as follows

More than 30% of users learn about brands through Facebook, so some interactive ideas can be accurately conveyed to users through Facebook.

Everything we do is based on our belief that the most effective way to introduce a brand is through reliable recommendations from real users.

For sales, time-to-market can be adjusted, for example, users can make correct judgments when they are ready to switch phones.

In terms of products, users are more concerned about parameters and prices, and can adjust the distribution points of products. At the same time, brands can clearly know the direction of product strengthening and guide pricing. This is the charm of the DTC strategy.

last words

To sum it up, 5 points are particularly important:

1. Brand positioning: For example, in the face of segmented groups, we need to make it clear who I am

2. If DTC is possible, DTC does not depend on channels and reduces costs

3. Emphasize brand concept and user emotional experience

4. Emphasize user sharing, word-of-mouth communication, and drive growth

5. Adhere to the product experience. The essence of the product is to meet the needs of users. In the long run, users tend to choose and repurchase products that meet their needs.

be tough

So often colleagues have questions, can Shopify make a website like XXX? If it's a question about appearance and interaction, our answer is: yes ! Even if all of our Hard Coding is HTML, it can be rendered, and Shopify's Theme Coding is open.

However, for functional issues, such as Wishlist, Reviews, Cross-sell, User engagement, Shopify's Admin API and Storefront API, the flexibility provided by Shopify's Admin API and Storefront API is more than 95%. Implemented with third-party apps or self-developed apps, it is also much friendlier than full Self-host and Self-development services (based on Magento / WooCommerce / pure self-developed)

Fastlane also develops independent custom services and public cloud services for merchants:

  • For operators, such as Customer Loyalty Program;

  • Camp promotions, such as Referral;

  • Background operations, such as WMS/ERP docking;

We welcome you to come and cooperate with us for the needs of full case planning and sales delivery with brands.