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DTC Lessons: Build a more resilient DTC brand with Penny Black (2022)

Each week, we're calling on an expert in the Ecommerce space to share their wisdom on building a bulletproof DTC brand in 2022 and beyond.

Today, it's the turn of Penny Black's Senior Marketing Manager, Mollie Woolnough‑Rai. Penny Black lets you send customers personalised messages the moment they open your package.

Take it away, Mollie.

What's your role and what do you do day to day?

I’m the Senior Marketing Manager at Penny Black and I’m all about creating the most engaging and educational content for Ecommerce marketers. 

What are the biggest problems facing the ecommerce packaging and personalization world right now?

The biggest problem is that Ecommerce marketers see packaging as a cost centre when it’s much more than that. It’s actually the newest marketing channel that will generate more revenue for your brand. By personalising the unboxing moment, smart marketers can use this time to push marketing messages, make their customers feel special and retain them for longer.

The next big problem is that many brands don’t know how to personalise effectively. They use a scattershot approach that’s not strategic. Or, they just use basic demographics, like name and location. This can be pretty damaging. Particularly because you can lose up to 38% of customers because of poor personalisation efforts. Instead, brands need to optimise how they use the zero-party data at their disposal to make an unforgettable experience that builds emotional connections with shoppers. 

What has caused these things to happen? What changes have happened?

First and foremost, the rapid growth of Ecommerce caused by the pandemic created more competition for most brands. Then, more recently, economic uncertainty and rising inflation have had an impact on customer spending. To top this all off, marketers have been met with privacy changes and iOS updates, leaving them in a tight spot trying to juggle cutting costs while acquire and retain customers at scale. 

These challenges have had a knock-on effect on the time and resources brands can spend on their packaging and personalisation.

What 3 things should DTC brands be doing to provide the best post-purchase experience?

First of all, they should be using their customers’ behavioural data to personalise the unboxing moment. This should be through in-package flyers that serve content related to the purchase they’ve just made – like product recommendations, how-to instructions or content related to their interests – or through free products.

Secondly, they shouldn’t miss this moment to convert customers again. By including campaign-specific QR codes on these in-package flyers, brands will be able to bring customers back into the online journey and motivate them to convert again with discount codes, the promise of loyalty points or exclusive perks.

Finally, brands should be connecting up all their Marketing tools and tech to provide the best post-purchase experience possible. Not only will this benefit the performance of each channel, but it will also help improve the performance of their overall marketing. 

For example, an Ecommerce marketer could set up a trigger in their ESP (like Klaviyo) or SMS platform that triggers a thank you email campaign once a shopper has scanned the QR code on their in-package flyer. This could ask the customer why they haven’t made the most of the offer on the flyer or remind them of the content they’re missing out on.

Your whole business is centred around ecommerce personalization. What industry knowledge or tips and tricks can you share that DTC brands should take advantage of?

Customers are becoming more demanding with the personalisation standards they expect. In fact, 66% of customers expect brands to understand their individual needs and 70% said the ability to understand this directly impacts their loyalty. 

This is why brands today need to get creative with how they collect zero-party data from their shoppers. They should set up forms to understand their customers’ likes and dislikes or create on-site quizzes that help customers understand the best products for them. 

Brands can then use this data in their post-purchase strategies to show they know their customers on a deeper level and, ultimately, build their loyalty. For example, if a customer is particularly interested in Italian cuisine, a food brand could create content that shows how to use their products to create a tasty pasta dish. This could then be included in the customer's package, in a thank you email or in retargeting ads. 

Over time, the shopper will know they’ll get additional value from your brand and will feel like you know them on a personal level. Do this well and you’ll be able to grow their LTV and retain them long-term.

What are the top 3 brands you’ve seen executing these strategies?

  1. The haircare brand, ARKIVE, sends customers that have bought their best-selling shampoo or conditioner a flyer in their order that recommends their hair oil. The flyer includes a discount code for this product and encourages the customer to explore more of ARKIVE’s product inventory. 
  1. As a girl with curly hair, it can often be difficult to know which products are best for my hair type. Curlsmith has an on-site quiz that helps customers understand their hair type and then recommends the right products for the customer. Curlsmith then uses this data to serve hyper-personalised retargeting ads on Instagram that remind shoppers of the tailored products they could be buying that are perfect for their hair type.

  1. Finally, Just Spices (a brand that creates spice blends) uses their customers’ previous purchase history to serve tailored content in their orders. For example, when customers buy Just Spices’ notorious Avocado Topping, they receive a recipe in their order for an avocado pasta that customers can keep and make at a later date.

What are the common mistakes you see DTC brands make when trying to execute personalization techniques?

The most common mistake we see is that brands aren’t using their data in the most efficient way. They often try to serve up personalised ads for products that a customer isn’t interested in, putting the customer off. Or, the content they share just comes across as creepy, rather than really “knowing” the customer. 

Ecommerce marketers should remember that customers are people, just like them. They should also be mindful of how much personalisation is too much and instead of focusing on acquiring customers that may be discount-motivated and churn, they should focus on retaining customers that are connected to the brand. 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, but the same amount say they feel like they’re treated like a number. It’s important to use personalisation to show customers you care.

What do today’s customers want, according to Penny Black?

Today’s customers want a top-quality customer experience. In fact, one in four customers are willing to pay up to 10% more if they know they’ll receive excellent customer service.

With the likes of Amazon leading on price and convenience, DTC brands need to delight customers with a truly unique customer experience that stays with customers for a lifetime. 

One way to create an experience customers won’t forget is to deliver a high-quality unboxing experience. One that’s sharable, memorable and drives shoppers to tell others about you. This could be through high-quality packaging, a personalised message in their order or free gifts. Not only does this show you care about your customers on a personal level, but it also allows you to bring the in-person experience of physical retail to the online customer. 

Finally, what are your predictions for the coming months? What should DTC brands jump on?

Lately, on LinkedIn, I’m seeing more and more Ecommerce influencers posting about the value of print media – be that in the unboxing moment or through direct mail. And it’s not surprising either: 70% of people believe that direct mail is more personal than email and 63% of brands plan to invest in direct mail marketing. While it may seem archaic to some, print media is clearly making a comeback. Brands need to be mindful then that when they do invest in print media as a marketing channel that it’s optimised to convert customers.

We’ve also noticed that physical digital ecommerce is a trend that’s getting spoken about in much more depth lately. To us, 'phygital' is all about combining the best of physical and digital experiences. It’s not like omnichannel, where physical and digital experiences are separate pieces of the customer journey. Phygital combines the two together into one physical asset that involves cross-channel personalisation.

Where do you turn to for inspiration?

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