Early Direct-to-Consumer Adopters Got the Jump on Competition, Leaving Businesses with Old-School Approaches in the Dust

It’s a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to direct-to-consumer businesses, and if you are an old dog not willing to learn new tricks, some young pup with a shiny new coat is going to walk off with the Best in Show ribbon. The people and businesses below are examples of those who eliminated the barrier between themselves and the consumers, giving them control over their brand, reputation, marketing, and sales tactics.

Not to mention, they appropriately engaged their customers, learned from them, and made the buying experience that much better. Listening to customers is very important, and part of that education is knowing why they chose a business’ service or product, how they found that business, and what made them continue down the buying path to a conversion.

That’s what marketing attribution – specifically multi-touch attribution – does for companies looking to get ahead of the competition. There’s more on attribution at the end of this article, but for now let’s take a quick look at these pioneers that disrupted their industries:

  • Printing Money – Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post: The Amazon founder and CEO bought the struggling newspaper in 2013 and within three years doubled its web traffic and made it profitable. Even the newspaper’s former publisher, Donald Graham, a longtime Amazon customer prior to the sale, credited the long-term approach of Bezos for the impressive, and swift, turnaround of the news outlet. Bezos took an enterprise that lacked much-needed know-how and injected it with the technologies and technology-focused talent needed to make it a success.
  • Eyes on the Prize – Warby Parker: The custom eyewear company’s website says it all: “By circumventing traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly, we’re able to provide higher-quality, better-looking prescription eyewear at a fraction of the going price.” And for every pair of glasses sold, Warby Parker distributes a pair to someone in need via partnerships with non-profits. Consumers like buying from brands that do good things.
  • Mattress Marvels – Purple and Casper:
    • Purple Sleeper Eaters – Purple: The founders of Purple took their cushion technology originally used to better pad their wheelchair manufacturing and sales business and in 2013 created an easy, cheap-to-produce mattress and supported it with an easy-to-order online business. But the company’s niche is not telling its customers it has a better way to buy a mattress; rather it makes a better mattress that is, in fact, easy to buy. And it uses data gathered from all of its marketing – including humorous viral videos such as eggs not breaking even when a plate is dropped on them on top of one of its mattresses – to drive business by targeting and personalizing to consumers in relevant ways.
    • Boxing up Profits – Casper: The online bed-in-a-box maker launched in 2014 with a goal to disrupt the mattress industry by making it easy to get a mattress into any home and any room in the box the size of a dorm refrigerator. It makes one model, sells it online for an economical price, ships it cheaply, gives customers a 100-day money-back guarantee, and doesn’t charge for returns. Casper’s founders say it is a tech company first, with its own software to track raw materials, forecast what and when to build, and update customers on when their delivery will arrive. Casper knows its customers, and many become “evangelists” for the company.
  • Landing the Big Fish – Pacific Seafood: Family-owned and operated, the Oregon-based company manages all parts of the supply chain from harvesting/fishing to processing and distribution in order to provide customers with fresh, sustainable, high-quality fish products – “the healthiest protein on the planet.” President and CEO Frank Dulcich espouses the Diamond Philosophy, which guides the company’s practices and operations. According to the company’s website, this unique way of thinking provides an outline for operational excellence, which is established through consistent and continuous focus on sustainability, innovation, and impeccable customer relations.
  • Spare Change for Spare Room – Airbnb: The company’s business plan is simple: Fill unused space with people looking for space, and at a cost much lower than hotels. Airbnb was launched in 2008 when its founders rented out a spare room in their apartment, complete with an air mattress, for $80 a night when every hotel room in their city was booked. Airbnb embraced technology, notably mobile. Its platform facilitates transactions (payments) between strangers, includes insurance and security protection, and has created a community of “Airbnb-ers.”
  • Charting New Waters – YachtLife: The yacht seller and reseller took the Airnbnb concept to the water, making vacant $30 million luxury boats available to rent for “as little as” $6,000 a day (a bargain, and unheard of for vessels of that nature that normally require bookings for at least a week at a time). Like Airbnb, YachtLife connects those with yachts with those looking for yachts to use, but not necessarily buy. The direct, person-to-person connections are made through an easy-to-use app.
  • Life in the Fast Lane – Carvana: If would-be car buyers are doing the majority of their research online, doesn’t it make sense to let them buy online, and even have their shiny new auto delivered to their front door, sometimes even the next day? That’s what Carvana does, harnessing the power of digitization and applying it to the fragmented auto industry. In late 2018, one survey showed 96 percent of Carvana customers would recommend it to a friend. The pile of paperwork required at in-person purchases is reduced to a 10-minute online process, and the company will even pick up your trade-in when they drop off your new vehicle. And let’s not forget the customer data that is collected along the way. And you can even pick up your car from one of its giant auto vending machines, if that is more convenient.
  • The Loan Arranger – Rocket Mortgage: Financing or refinancing a home can be right up there with buying a car when it comes to “things people dread.” Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans figured out a way to take the sting out of the entire process, making it easy to do almost everything online as you work to take advantage of lower interest rates and save some money on your monthly house payment. You can upload documents to your personal portal, e-sign required documents, and receive easy-to-read status updates throughout the loan process. It really is as easy as the slogan says, “Push button. Get mortage.”

While the pandemic of 2020 has put many of the businesses listed above to the test, as it has for so many enterprises, because of how these companies operate and respond to customer needs, they are poised to bounce back quickly. By arming themselves with attribution tools and the insights from that data, they will be at the ready to ramp up business again and continue their customer-first approach to business. Here’s a related article that breaks down marketing attribution in simple terms.

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