Part two of our D2C series: Software tools bring your D2C strategy to life. Learn which ones are key to consider in this overview.
In last week’s article, I argued that one of the key elements for any successful D2C brand is the use of technology. In this second part I look at some of the key systems elements that need to fall into place for brands to be successful in today’s D2C environment. I will not make a further distinction on whether D2C for you is more focused on your brand’s own (physical) stores or mainly digital channels. Lines between channels are blurring anyway, and I’m quite fond of the buzzword ‘no-line commerce’. Consumers don’t want channels; they want a perfectly crafted brand experience, wherever they choose to buy.
If you’ve already been doing D2C all along, then this probably isn’t for you. But if you are just beginning, or considering to do so, read on for a rough categorisation of things to consider and tools to investigate.
Software to Support Consumer-focussed Processes
D2C is all about owning the functions that a middleman, aka retailer, would traditionally have provided. From a brand perspective, customer acquisition and customer retention are probably the two key ones. While this is not new, particularly not to those who run online shops, the sheer number of tools involved in D2C is somewhat new. The ubiquity of social media is the main driver, and with it come a plethora of communication channels, tools to collect/disseminate brand communication and influencers.
On the most strategic level, there are three critical components of any D2C strategy that require the right systems support. In a continuous cycle you need to:
- Listen to your consumers,
- Improve your offer based on feedback, and
- Talk to your consumers again to show them your improved offer
The (Tech) Basics
Before we dive into the specific aspects of a D2C model, let’s quickly address the basics. As with all business models, there are some fundamental ingredients that need to be in place to make it work. For a D2C business model they are:
- An ERP- and shop system including content management systems (CMS) and product information management (PIM).
- A state of the art CRM system
- A data warehouse
- A strong business intelligence team (for all things analysis and reporting)
Since these have been widely discussed for years, I will not go any deeper here into them here.
D2C Tools: Listening to Your Consumers
Listening is about analysing and combining all available information you can get, be it from your own website, on social media, or on marketplaces. All that data needs to be collected, aggregated, interpreted, and then used to guide action.
It all begins with understanding how your consumers talk and search for products so that you later know how and where to communicate with them. In other words: mastering SEO. The world of SEO is huge, but some of the more obvious tools worth mentioning are:
- Google Search Console / Google Ads: The mother of all SEO tools with no further intro needed.
- Ahrefs.com: Alternative to Google’s proprietary software.
- Answerthepublic.com: Answer the Public provides questions from Google’s autocomplete results (and some other types of searches). This is helpful for generating ideas about specific content to use and where/how to communicate with your consumers.
Consumers are talking about you and your brand, whether it’s on marketplaces, your webshop or any other place for product feedback or recommendations. And there is much to learn about how your offer can be improved. But without a few helpers, the task is just too complex to achieve. Some smart tools for review management are Brandwatch, Gominga and Talkwalker. If you want to listen more broadly and focus on your competition in addition to your consumers, you can do a digital store visit to find out how you are positioned on the digital shelves of your retailers. A powerful tool to do so is Adapt.
D2C Tools: Improve Your Offer & Communicate Back
Once you have listened closely and are ready to test your ideas for improvement, there are tools to help you do just that.
A/B Testing: VWO lets you test anything from design changes on your website to alternative products. And for a slightly more traditional approach to the same idea of product testing, check out market research providers Appinio or Opinionstar.
While the bulk of outbound communication to consumers can be managed by CRM systems like Salesforce, MS Dynamics, or Hubspot, the social listening tools mentioned above can also play a major role here. With a particular focus on generating social media campaigns, Hootsuite is a widely used tool.
Since they get so much public attention, let’s also briefly touch on the role of influencers. On the one hand, marketplaces like Zalando and AboutYou have started to cooperate with influencers and integrate them into their marketing packages for brands. AboutYou calls this “Influencer Outfit”, i.e. you can book an influencer wearing your outfit.
On the other hand, there are software tools out there to help you find the best match for your brand. InfluencerDB was probably the market leader for this in Germany, until Facebook very recently denied access to an important data repository so that they had to shut down. Good alternatives are: Buzzsumo (part of the Brandwatch portfolio), Cision, or CreatorIQ.
While all the D2C tools mentioned so far a certainly great point solutions, part of the complexity of managing a D2C brand arises from the sheer complexity of using too many non-integrated software solutions.
A very interesting proposition – probably more suited to larger brands – is the Ingenuity Software Suite sold by The Hut Group (THG). It integrates many of the functionalities I’ve mentioned in one place. THG developed it as part of their own go-to-market model of building D2C brands, so it’s essentially a software package based on a D2C business model blue print.
THG even goes a step further and integrates some production orientated features into the ingenuity suite. It’s based on the four pillars of technology, operations, digital, and data. To date, this is the most comprehensive D2C technology package that I have come across and it will be interesting to see how it further develops.
There are always new tools worth mentioning out there and I look forward to hearing more about your favourites in the comments. With the hope to have added some useful inspiration for your brand’s own D2C journey, I look forward to seeing you again soon on this blog!
About the Author:
Christoph Berendes is a consultant in strategy development and process optimisation for fashion brands and retailers. He has more than 15 years of experience as a consultant, line manager in the sportswear industry and in e-commerce marketplace distribution. Read more of his work here or connect with him on LinkedIn.