Creating Physical Experiences for Digital DTC Brands

If your brand exists almost exclusively online, there is value in spending time, effort, and money to develop ways for your consumer to have physical experiences with your brand. Besides simply a purchase. We’re talking about you, digital direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands.

No matter the quality of your marketing, some people crave the ability to touch/feel/experience a product before they buy it. Following, we’ll explore some ways in which such a goal can be achieved for a brand with no consistent, physical retail presence.

Partner With Retail Outlets

One big step a DTC brand can take to further expand their audience, is to explore a presence in retail outlets. This might seem like a cheap shot right off the bat, as “you’re no longer DTC.” And while you’re not, exclusively, you still can be (as long as this doesn’t become your main point-of-sale).

Retail partnerships can be strategic for digital DTC brands. You can hash out the level of inventory you must maintain with them, and use your in-store signage/packaging to direct consumers to your website for subscription promotions, first purchase discounts, etc. If you’re a subscription based service, your retail units can come with pamphlets explaining how to subscribe, or how to buy more from you directly, later.

You can also mention on your website and social media, that you’re available at ______. While still promoting the benefits of purchasing directly from you. This will allow curious consumers to go in and consider your product, but go back home to make the purchase online.

Of course, retailers want your product to sell in their stores. So, you should still expect to make some sales there. You should be transparent with them, and let them in on your plan. Otherwise, you risk having your products pulled and investments lost.

With a higher price in-store, you’re not losing out by making a sale there; and then the ball is in your court on where that customer’s next purchase occurs.

Explore Pop-Ups & Other Events

Just because you don’t have a constant physical retail location, doesn’t mean you can never have one. Pop-ups are stores that exist for only a short period of time. They could be an actual brick and mortar storefront, ‘food truck’ style, or even a retrofitted tour bus. These can be a great way to drum up press, user-generated social content, and of course: provide a physical experience with your brand that usually exists exclusively online.

In addition to pop-ups, there is endless potential for events that represent your brand. If you have enough capital, maybe you host your own music festival. Or, some local artist fairs in communities across the globe. You could create a [your brand] hotel or [your brand] Airbnb(s), that can actually be rented. Perhaps you host a trade show, or go on a concert-style tour with your influencers and/or celebrity endorsers.

Whether a pop-up storefront, or some other experience-focused event, the key to a successful launch is going to your audience. Where do you already ship a lot of product? Where do people frequently add to their cart, but not complete a purchase? What cities buy, but not as much product, or as frequently as you’d like? Don’t decide on a place just because it’s easy for you to get to and set up in.

Go to markets that offer potential for growth. Adjust your experiences to foster these growth points specifically and uniquely in each targeted locale.

Encourage Community & Recommendation Culture

If you aren’t in a place where you can afford the sometimes costly buy-in process for a national retailer, or the still potentially expensive pop-up/event scene; your best bet is to focus on building community around your brand.

Encourage those who purchase and enjoy your product, to invite their friends to try theirs. Make it something they’re proud to own, and use. Provide benefits that they can’t help but share with those they care about, work with—even ones they meet on the street.

Depending on what your brand is, and what you sell; word-of-mouth marketing can be extremely effective. And, it can be taken to the next level by treating your customers like the micro-influencers they are.

This is much different than MLM. We’re talking about building a community, not a cult. We’re not asking your customers to sell for you, just to help with your marketing. This can be done through referral codes and rewards, or by simply instilling a sense of pride in sharing their experience with (and love for) your brand.

If you’re a transparent, trustworthy, inspired, quality brand: this will come easy.

How often have you hesitated on the purchase of a DTC brand because you couldn’t see it in person before purchase? What are some unique ways you’ve seen DTC brands provide physical experiences for their consumers? Let’s brainstorm down below!

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