Above all else, AdRoll is laser-focused on leveling the playing field for emerging D2C brands so that they can compete in the era of smart retail. While the fundamentals of smart retail marketing remain, what’s changed is the absolute need for customer-centricty and data insights needed to make strategic decisions. 

Last week, we attended the Modern Retail Summit in sunny Palm Springs. Jam-packed with content, networking, and D2C retailers, the 3-day event was one for the books. There were thought-provoking panel discussions, speed networking with D2C brands, and speaking sessions with thought leaders from companies such as Tommy Bahama, Daily Harvest, Lively, and Poshmark

There was no shortage of engaging discussions over the most pressing topics and trends in the retail industry, so we decided to condense a list of our key learnings:

Digital and Physical Equilibrium Are Key

As more D2C retailers are looking into brick and mortar stores to sell their products, they want to keep the brand and customer experience consistent — which can be challenging. This challenge seeds a huge opportunity to test pop-up stores, which is an increasing trend amongst D2C brands. 

The benefits of pop-up stores aren’t just that they’re trendy, but more importantly, they’re a smart investment. Here’s why: 

  • They’re cost-effective. Multichannel marketing is a must in today’s evolving landscape. Customers want to be able to purchase something with one click and be able to touch, smell, and physically see what they’re about to purchase. Pop-ups are a great happy medium if you don’t have a store.
  • They’re great for testing, well, everything. Pop-ups help test for locations, in-store experiences, and new markets. They also allow brands to test the physical presence of a store before committing to a lease (Try before you buy, right?!)
  • They’re an excellent tool for customer engagement. With pop-ups, it’s easy for retailers to engage with customers face-to-face, through product demonstrations, and more.

Influencers Are a Rising Trend For Retail Brands’ Growth Strategies

Another popular topic was how brands are formalizing their influencer programs. Marketers aren’t just looking to track the ROI — they also want to create communities to keep their influencers consistently engaged. However, the struggles of Influencer programs are real — marketers discussed the complicated process of manually finding influencers, making sure they’re legit, and sometimes working with external agents who represent them. 

While there weren’t any quick solutions, there were some interesting talks about how to mitigate the risks of influencer marketing. Here are a couple of tidbits: 

  • Don’t just look at followers. Look at other metrics, like engagement. Look for indicators on how interactive an influencer’s audience is. While followers can be bought, when readers comment, respond, and share, it’s probably the real deal.
  • Do your research. Comments are one thing, but are they meaningful? Are people actually interacting with the influencer, or are they bots? Look at influencers’ sponsored content ratio and check out their stories — are they genuinely using sponsored products? By merely looking deeper into their social pages, you can get an idea of whether their clout is real. 

“There’s a shift in market share towards emerging brands.” – VP Product, Daily Harvest

Emerging brands can compete by having a relentless focus on customer-centricity. However, the top challenge for these D2C brands is closing customer feedback loops amongst their teams in order to take action on their customer feedback. Data can be impersonal, so it’s essential to transition from answering “What?” to “How?” by digging deeper into their customer feedback.

While emerging D2C brands have an advantage over bigger companies when it comes to customer-centricity, it depends on what they do with their data. For instance, is customer feedback adequately circulated across the whole organization? If it’s siloed on one team (looking at you, Analytics, or Product), then your other teams could be missing out on key information that could help guide strategy and decision-making. This includes things like how your customers find out about your product, or how they’re interacting with your brand.

D2C Brands Are Partnering Up to Drive Growth 

To cut down on customer acquisition costs and increase brand awareness, D2C brands are starting to work together for more exclusive product pairings, giveaways, and events. The goal is to target consumers who shop at a brand that shares a similar demographic to drive more traffic and brand awareness. 

For example, Gravity recently teamed up with Eight Sleep to gift their Cooling Blanket for any customers who bought the Eight Sleep Pod (a $2,000 temperature-adjusting mattress). 

Note that you don’t have to only partner up with similar brands — get creative. Glossier x BARK dog toy collaboration may seem random at first, but the products (dog chew toys modeled after Glossier’s top-selling products) are way too cute to pass up.

Read more on why it’s critical for D2C brands to define their key differentiators.