DTC Patterns: What We've Learned from Writing 100+ Articles on Ecommerce UX & Marketing

DTC Patterns is an ongoing Barrel research project in which our team buys real products from brands and highlights interesting and effective ecommerce user experiences and marketing interactions. We call our observations “patterns” and have compiled over 100+ articles showcasing various ways brands engage with customers before, during, and after the purchase process.

To celebrate our DTC Patterns milestone, we’ve curated some of our most popular articles along with lessons we learned from recurring patterns.

Quizzes Deliver Personalization and Capture Key Customer Data

Quizzes benefit companies by increasing conversions through more curated product recommendations for customers. They can help users narrow down their product options, making their decision-making process more focused.

Quizzes also provide companies with a way to collect zero-party data—or data volunteered directly from customers—and also add value to the full customer experience by adding personalization into the mix.

Prose, a personalized and all-natural hair care company, offers a consultation on their website in the form of an in-depth quiz, which determines a unique formula for each customer’s hair routine. The quiz asks questions about unique personal lifestyle factors like diet, environment, and physical activity, and in some questions preempts any participant doubt by explaining why questions are being asked.

Read more: Prose’s Product Picker Quiz is the Like Having a Hair Guru on Your Phone 

The Skin Decoder Quiz on Versed’s website collects multiple data points taken from user’s responses about environmental factors and personal habits, and products recommended at the end of the quiz can be selected as singular items or as a bundle. For those interested in stocking their cabinet with more than just the base products, selecting a product bundle offers up an instant discount and incentive to check out, ultimately increasing Average Order Value. 

Read more: How Versed Skincare Uses a Quiz to Unlock Personalization 

Optimizing the Ecommerce Shopping Cart to Nudge Conversions

Customers share an intent to checkout and purchase once they add an item to their cart, and to avoid cart abandonment or a lull at checkout, it’s a good strategy for companies to help them over the finish line. This can be done using different forms of in-cart messaging to gain a higher chance of increasing conversions and average order value. 

Some of the ways brands can take advantage of a cart is by offering free gifts as a bonus to a purchase, informing customers about their shipping policies, and helping them discover other items relevant to their interests.

Bombas—a New York City-based sock and apparel company—increases conversions through the way they’ve optimized their cart. The company indicates when users qualify for free shipping once they’ve added enough into their cart, and they recommend complementary products as a cross-sell in order to increase AOV.

Read more: Why This Sock Company’s Cart Works Harder Than Yours

Engaging Customers Through Email Marketing Increases Customer Value 

Email marketing programs help companies acquire customers and increase customer value, and is one of the most effective marketing tools for ecommerce marketing brands. It works as a direct line of communication to help spread brand awareness, but more importantly helps companies to develop strategies to segment and personalize their marketing.

For example, emails can include personalized content based on user preferences and browsing habits, and aside from driving customers to the website where the purchases are made, the way customers interact with their emails give important insight and data regarding the communications they’re receiving. 

Bite—a DTC company that aims to end toothpaste waste with a healthy and sustainable alternative that protects the planet—uses their emails to inform recent one-time buyers about their subscription offerings. In their post-purchase email series, they prioritize modifying orders to subscriptions by driving customers back to the website and hopefully converting them into monthly repeat customers.

Read more: How Bite Breaks Subscriptions Down For The Customer 

When trying to keep customers engaged at a time when interest tends to diminish post-purchase, innovative skincare company, Supergoop, takes an educational approach in their emails. They advise customers on how to get the most out of their purchase through complementary product recommendations and by educating customers on their benefits.

Supergoop’s “SPF VIPS” campaign encourages customers to come back for more by educating them about all the places they should be applying sunscreen. The lips, the nose, and especially the hair part are places that many overlook when buying SPF products, making this the perfect opportunity to drive customers back to the site to purchase additional sunscreen products.

Read more: Supergoop’s Educational Emails Have Customers Coming Back for More 

Rewards Encourage Repeat Purchases and Deepens Loyalty

Customer loyalty is having people who buy from your brand many times. This increases their lifetime value, or the total amount of dollars they spend with your brand from their first purchase to their last.

Having loyalty among customers means that they’re more likely to support a brand’s mission and be an ambassador for their products and services by recommending them to friends. So the question is, how can companies keep customers engaged in their activities and coming back for more? 

Loyalty programs are a great way to entice one-time customers into returning customers with offers that promise more and more rewards as customers spend more with them.

For activewear company, Fabletics, they’ve created a tiered loyalty program that rewards customers with discounts, free outfits, and other benefits when they accumulate enough loyalty points. These rewards can be earned by sharing product reviews, following the brand on social media, and referring friends to their program. 

Read more: These Loyalty Tactics Encourage Fabletics Shoppers to Earn and Use Points 

Girlfriend Collective, a company making high-quality clothes from recycled materials, encourages customers within their loyalty program to post to social media for loyalty points, which earns them media both on social and on their ecommerce website. Points can also be redeemed by creating a Girlfriend Collective account, which also helps companies gain data and insights from their members to be able to market with a more targeted and personalized experience.

Read more: Are Loyalty Programs Worth It? Girlfriend Collective Thinks So 

Boosting Conversions with Product Bundling 

Offering bundles as part of an ecommerce strategy is beneficial in helping companies promote popular items together, boost sales and increase average order value (AOV). Combining multiple products into a single item and listing the group at a better value than if they were all bought separately can encourage conversions, especially if the products work well together and cost less than if bought separately.

Magic Spoon, a high-protein, low carb cereal business, offers bundles as one of their most popular items, lowering their cost per cereal bowl as the quantity of boxes ordered increases.

For the Build-Your-Own bundle, customers can choose the four boxes of any flavor combinations they want, giving them the freedom to order only what they choose.

Read more: Magic Spoon Unlocked The Key to Increasing AOV: Build-Your-Own Bundles 

Sharing Authentic Content on TikTok Draws Audiences and Influences Buying Decisions

Social media marketing is a tool that brands are using today more than ever to connect with their audiences, and engaging on social platforms gives them an opportunity to increase their brand awareness, communicate with potential customers, and of course, go viral. 

An example of one company that went viral through their product videos is Truly Beauty who unlocked the code to viral organic success by speaking to younger audiences on TikTok. 

They rose to TikTok fame using a blunt, honest approach to communicating how their products address common shaving and skincare concerns. Their videos feature their products heavily, and don’t pull any punches when it comes to talking about some of the “taboo” elements of women’s hygiene routines.

Read more: The Truth Sells: How This Beauty Brand Went Viral on TikTok 

The Unboxing Experience Expresses Company Values and Brand Quality to Buyers

The unboxing experience is a marketing tool that usually provides customers with their first physical touchpoint.

For many companies selling directly through their ecommerce website, the arrival of a customer’s order acts as their first in-person impression. They offer the opportunity for companies to reinforce their brand, and can also demonstrate other value propositions like sustainability practices and environmental consideration. 

We purchased from iconic British luxury brand, Burberry, whose unboxing experience felt expensive and high-quality,  just like their products. The packaging was made from quality materials, which started the in-person experience off on a luxurious note and continued to be felt through to the actual use of the product ordered.

Read more: Delivering a Luxury Unboxing Experience with Burberry

At Barrel, we help brands scale and optimize direct-to-consumer ecommerce experiences, and we create exceptional experiences for growing brands.

Through our work and routine in researching dozens of websites for inspiration and reference points, DTC Patterns has become a resourceful tool that’s helped both in our exploration of ecommerce trends and seeing what effective tactics are being used by brands.

Know of a DTC company you’d like Barrel to write about? Or want to know more about our work? Get in touch!

After its launch, DTC Patterns, which derives marketing and UX insights from real purchases, now has over 100 articles in its resource library.

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