How to Enhance the 3 Key Digital Assets DTC Channels Must Get Right

Mike Plachta
Reading time: minutes

Fortune favours bold DTC channels

If done exceptionally, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) channel has the potential to build a brand so strong that it boosts a retailer’s total annual revenue. Smart brands will offer digital tools that insinuate themselves into customers’ everyday lives, fostering loyalty and keeping the brand at the forefront of consumer consciousness.

If done badly, on the other hand, a DTC channel has the potential to irrecoverably damage a brand’s reputation. Poor user experiences, unintuitive user interfaces, bugs, error messages and slow loading times threaten to permanently deter customers from coming back.

Gone are the days when having a DTC channel meant selling online via a single platform. The best DTC brands today maintain multiple digital assets — here's how to enhance the three they must get right.

1. Eliminate friction from the brand website

All DTC channels need a website featuring an integrated e-commerce solution.

While allowing customers to buy via your website won’t necessarily boost your brand’s reputation, a poor checkout process could damage it. A Shopify study found that 18% of people get so frustrated with checkout processes that they abandon their carts. If customers can’t pay easily, they might not pay at all; worse, they might never come back.

While it might seem like a large task to manage payment, delivery, order tracking and returns, rigorous testing can eliminate flaws and accelerate go-to-market times, allowing retailers to concentrate on what matters most: brand building.

A seamless e-commerce solution is the bare minimum for your DTC channel. Here are some questions DTC brands should ask themselves:

  • Can customers successfully add and delete items to/from their basket?

  • How easy is it for customers to add a payment method, and do the available options suit customers based in multiple locations across the globe?

  • Where is there friction in the returns process?

  • What are the main reasons customers abandon their basket, and what can we do to fix it?

Most companies spend a lot of their time trying to optimise their e-commerce platform. While a smooth checkout process can help avoid basket abandonment, it does little to actively encourage sales. This is where the main website body comes in.

Small errors or slight friction can be enough to put off customers. Proving that you care about their experience across all aspects of the website suggests competence and professionalism and is key to winning customer trust.

The broader website body is a retailer’s best chance at selling their brand. Here are some crucial aspects to test:

  • Do chatbots provide the answers customers need?

  • Does our website render correctly regardless of device, browser, and operating system?

  • Are page translations idiomatic enough for foreign language speakers?

  • With so many different pieces of content, how can we keep track of whether all our links are working?

  • Can customers successfully log in to their customer accounts?

2. Ensure UX consistency across mobile

Often, retail apps augment an existing brand website. Due to their supplementary nature, apps often receive less attention than their website counterparts. This is despite the increasing popularity of m-commerce, which is set to become the go-to channel for online shopping after the COVID-19 pandemic.

When creating new digital experiences, retailers need to ensure that they stay true to existing brand image and messaging. The more digital experiences offered as part of a DTC channel, the harder ensuring consistency becomes. Here are some things to consider when launching a retail app:

  • Do customer accounts sync across the website and the app, so that shoppers can save items to their basket on one and complete the purchase on the other?

  • If the app offers a novel technology such as voice or VR/AR, does it work for all customers, given the diversity of their accents and appearances?

  • Can people with different accessibility requirements, such as visually- or hearing- impaired customers, make the most of the features on the app?

  • Are consumers receiving relevant push notifications at the right time?

3. Assimilate effortlessly into consumer lifestyles

Brand engagement inspires customer loyalty. That’s why, in addition to retail apps, many retailers now offer lifestyle apps as part of their DTC channel. Nike, for example, offers both a Training Club and Running Club app in addition to their e-commerce app. These apps provide users with home workout videos, nutrition advice and GPS tracking among other features.

Lifestyle apps need to assimilate themselves into real lifestyles to be effective. Counter-intuitively, they need to work so well that they fade into the background of a consumer’s everyday life, to the point of being taken for granted. Only apps that work seamlessly everytime can achieve this level of inconspicuousness.

Given that lifestyle apps often need to connect with devices at the centre of consumer lifestyles, such as smartwear or smart home devices, achieving seamlessness can be challenging. Smart watches, heart rate monitors, and VR glasses are just some of the technologies already making their way into DTC channels.

Introducing a new device into a DTC channel inevitably increases complexity and bolsters the need for rigorous testing, especially when novel technologies are involved. Retailers need to assess multiple considerations, including:
  • Can users successfully connect the app to various smartwear devices via bluetooth?

  • Are audio-guided experiences successful across different languages and for people with hearing impairments?

  • Does the app work just as well in depopulated, remote areas as in the city?

  • How do you support customers who struggle to set up their connected device?

  • Under what environmental circumstances does the connected device fail?

Holistic testing is crucial

Whether a retailer is standing up an e-commerce channel from scratch, launching a retail app or connecting to smart devices, it can be hard to know where to start. For brands with little experience with digital platforms, just managing payment, delivery, order tracking and returns can seem like a large task. Brands with an extensive digital repertoire must ensure consistency across all digital assets in their DTC channel to present an effective brand image.

Applause works with everyone from startups to the world’s leading retailers to make sure they provide digital experiences that inspire customer loyalty and strengthen the brand. Our Product Excellence Platform (PEP) provides a comprehensive approach to digital quality, equipping retailers with dedicated test teams and modern tooling that ensures exceptional digital experiences for your customers.


You might also be interested in: