The Direct to Consumer (DTC) market continues to grow rapidly – 40% of US internet users expect DTC brands to account for at least 40% of their purchases within the next five years. 

These “disruptor” brands know it’s all about creating connections and providing powerful consumer experiences to acquire long-term, loyal customers. Eliminating the “middle man” between the brand and the customers, DTC brands can efficiently build a loyal customer base to further spread the word about the products. 

Leaning into performance marketing channels to reach and engage with this audience has helped DTC brands acquire customers at scale efficiently, and you can leverage your affiliate partnerships similarly to foster growth. With rising ad costs, particularly on Google and Facebook, it’s the right time to invest in your affiliate partnerships to help with customer acquisition and long-term customer retention.

The customer experience is top of mind for DTC brands. This means you can’t ignore the customer experience at any touchpoint; whether the customer reaches you through laptop or mobile, through paid search or display, via your social channels, or your affiliate partner sites. This means you must work closely with your affiliate partners to communicate your brand guidelines and expectations. This way, your customer experience is consistent no matter the entry-point. While your affiliates know their audience, it is your job to make sure that they can be a strong champion of your brand and promote to their readers with your brand voice in mind.  

Many DTC brands are mission-driven – this aligns with current consumer trends around healthy and virtuous living. (CJU19: The Consumer Megatrends Shaping Holiday Shopping 2019) Remind your affiliates what your mission is, and partner with affiliates who give their audiences an opportunity to give back. Affiliates like iGive and Goodshop/Goodsearch allow consumers to make giving back easy as they shop online.

Customisation is key for today’s consumers. Successful DTC brands know that their customers want to personalise their experiences on and offline. They build choices for the customer, so they can interact with the brand from discovery to engagement through the transaction and beyond in the way they most prefer. 

Working with a diverse group of affiliate partners ensures that your audience can find you and experience your brand through a variety of channels and touchpoints.

Your customers are interacting with retailers and brands in so many ways. With the right affiliate partnerships, you can reach them via Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms, on cashback or points sites who consistently engage with their extremely loyal audiences, email marketing affiliates, review sites, gift guides, the list goes on! These partners all help reach your customers where they are browsing, having conversations with friends, learning about trends, and searching for bargains. 

Browser extensions like Honey and Wikibuy, who have received mixed appreciation from brands in the past, are offering more customisation and more personalised experience for their audience. Consumers report that the way these partners streamline choices is a helpful tool for them as they shop online. (CJU19: The Consumer Megatrends Shaping Holiday Shopping 2019) 

Authentic storytelling is a hallmark of DTC brands. Partnering with social influencers and other content partners can extend your reach with authentic storytelling across niche audiences. 

Recruit content creators whose voice and values align with your own, and who will help amplify your message as a brand ambassador. Make sure these partners have what they need to engage their own loyal audiences, from custom offers and creatives to tips on what to feature. Give them the freedom to reach their audience in their own voice, but make sure they understand your brand guidelines so they can also increase yours. These partnerships are a resource investment, in both money and time, but they can help build your brand in a truly authentic way that engages customers and creates a loyal customer base.

Partnering with larger media sites whose content is trusted and viewed as “authentic” by consumers can help you build your own brand reputation and acquire new customers. Consumers trust the recommendations from their favourite media sites like Buzzfeed, Business Insider, or Wired. These large media partners can offer you exposure to a vast consumer audience and it’s worth the investment to engage with these consumers.

DTC brands know that a seamless, integrated experience is paramount to their customers’ experiences online, and they invest in innovations and improvements that will continually ensure they are delivering this experience. You can do the same for consumers and affiliates by ensuring you are ITP 2.0 compliant, and that you are tracking across all devices and channels appropriately. Investing in smart attribution and consistent, reliable tracking not only helps your affiliates trust you and invest in your relationship further, but it also provides you with robust data across all your customer interactions, so that you can make informed decisions about your program.

Because they own all their customer data, without anyone in the middle of their brand and their customers, DTC brands can use this data in a continuous feedback loop of customer experience innovation. You can do the same, by listening to the feedback from your affiliate partners and helping your affiliate program evolve to meet the needs of the consumers who find you through these partner sites. Your partnership should truly go both ways.

While you’re communicating with your affiliates about your brand, your products, your new offers and benefits to consumers, your affiliates have amazing insights into their audience demographics, behaviours, interests, and challenges. You should be learning from each other and continually innovating to meet the needs of consumers. When the customer experience is at the forefront, everyone wins.