August 25, 2020
  |   Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, UX / CX

Building a Direct-to-Consumer Channel with a Hybrid Solution

We’re living in a world where more consumers are shopping online, fueling the need for brands to assess their digital channels. B2B brands in particular have long relied on retail partners to attract, convert, and retain customers. But studies show that an increasing number of consumers want to shop with brands directly. According to Forrester, 45% of online adults are interested or very interested in buying directly from a brand that makes a product rather than a retailer or marketplace.

End consumers are not the only ones that want to shop directly with brands online. 38% of business buyers today complete about half of their purchases online, and in three years this percentage is expected to exceed 55%. By combining content and commerce, brands can deliver relevant, personalized DTC and B2B experiences that integrate into a single ecosystem.

Why Make the Shift to Direct-to-Consumer?

During the next five years, eight out of ten consumers plan to shop directly with a brand. Retailers and online marketplaces, like Amazon, help brands reach new segments and acquire customers. However, these channels are reluctant to share customer and product data, leaving brands with little influence over the shopping experience. A customer-first DTC model allows brands to reap key benefits:

  • Higher margins and profits
  • Ownership of customer analytics and relationships
  • Full control of the end-to-end customer experience
  • Ability to make data-driven product and merchandising decisions
  • Enhanced loyalty programs and content strategies
  • Exclusive product and service offerings

What do Warby Parker, Casper, and Le Creuset have in common? They own the customer experience. Find out how you can too with Blue Acorn iCi’s report, Own the Customer Experience: Making the Switch to Direct-to-Consumer.

Content + Commerce Solutions

Creating a digital experience that’s relevant to both DTC and B2B audiences requires B2B companies to have the right mix of content and commerce. To achieve this, one of the first things you need to consider is the technical solution:

  • Headless: A headless commerce solution separates the backend systems used primarily for operational purposes and the frontend used for user experience (the presentation layer).
  • End-to-End: The commerce platform is the primary owner of the backend systems as well as the frontend experience. Functionality from third-party apps can be added via API integrations.
  • Hybrid: A hybrid commerce solution allows brands to present various frontend experiences, or pages, rendered by different applications—all on the same URL.

Once you’ve chosen the technical solution, think about how you’ll deliver the complete customer experience from a design and UX perspective. B2B buyers typically need buyer enablement features, such as user permissions and business credit options. DTC audiences seek features that provide convenience and value, such as subscriptions or curbside pickup. Finding the right solution that ties together content and commerce will help you deploy the right UX to the right customer.

Benefits of the Hybrid Solution

The hybrid solution gives B2B companies the flexibility to deliver relevant experiences across the customer journey, regardless if the consumer is a DTC or B2B buyer. Marketers and commerce teams can add functionality and features faster, such as buy-now-pay-later or loyalty programs, update content seamlessly, and maintain consistency across touchpoints.

Faster Time to Market

Creating duplicate content in multiple systems is time-consuming and often requires the help of a developer. With a hybrid solution, a marketer can create content in a single platform and deploy across all touchpoints using a robust digital experience architecture. For example, you can create a single FAQ document in a CMS that will work across mobile, desktop, customer portals, chatbots, or voice assistants.

Improved Scalability

The hybrid solution combines the flexibility of the headless architecture with the robust commerce capabilities of a traditional, end-to-end solution. This gives companies the ability to adapt their B2B ecosystem to accommodate DTC across all touchpoints. In other words, you can present personalized, relevant DTC or B2B experiences on the same domain. 

Adapt to Emerging Trends

The flexibility of the hybrid solution gives brands endless possibilities for integration solutions, such as localized inventory, user-generated content, or customized products. If a more robust third-party app enters the market or you find that customers need additional functionality, you can easily integrate the solution into the ecosystem.

What to Consider Before Adding a DTC Channel with a Hybrid Solution

  1. Evaluate your technology stack: The critical component in the hybrid solution is flexibility. You need systems that seamlessly integrate to deliver consistent experiences across all touchpoints. One option is choosing a digital asset management platform and a commerce platform under the same umbrella, such as Adobe Experience Manager and Magento Commerce.
  2. Identify content gaps: DTC consumers expect a highly personalized experience that aligns with their interests and needs, while B2B buyers need detailed data and information to ensure they receive value from the product or service.
  3. Define your DTC roadmap: We see the most success when brands take a phased approach with building their DTC channel. This could mean starting with an exclusive, limited product line, bundled products, or an entirely new brand. For example, PepsiCo launched PantryShop.com which delivers bundled snacks and products, and Ocean Spray launched a new product line under AtokaWellness.com.
  4. Determine Process & Organizational Changes: Building and maintaining a successful DTC channel goes far beyond creating a pretty website. You’ll need to update your processes and organization to manage stock, transact online, fulfill orders, align promotions with other channels, and service the customer.

If DTC is on your roadmap, we can help. From CPG household names and kitchenware brands to multi-billion dollar manufacturing companies, we’ve helped B2B companies make the switch to DTC. Reach out to us today.

Shannon Abel
After graduating from Clemson, Shannon started her career in marketing, focusing on content creation and engagement. As Blue Acorn iCi’s Media Marketing Specialist, she keeps clients and customers up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the ecommerce world. She also produces and hosts Blue Acorn iCi's podcast, The Funnel. In her free time, she enjoys running with her dog and checking out the local breweries in Charleston.
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