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How indie brands are increasing their mass market appeal

One of the positive influences that social media has introduced is the increased ability for consumers to discover, interact with and shop from new, independant ecommerce sites. But is ease of discovery the only reason that sectors like Indie Beauty are starting to emerge victorious in the battle of ecommerce?

The Rise of the Indie Brand

Indie brands have sprung up across the globe and across every sector. They are independently operated brands, often by a small business owner, and often sell direct to the consumer (DTC).

Perhaps the most famous DTC story is the Dollar Shave Club, who offered their product direct to consumers from 2011, and by 2016 were acquired by Unilever for a reported $1 billion. Their unconventional marketing techniques and ability to communicate directly to their customers has undoubtedly earned them a seat in the digital marketing case-study hall-of-fame.

Like Dollar Shave Club, many of today’s indie sites are striving to innovate in their sector, to improve the way people buy. More often than not, these brands are striving to do things differently. They want to improve the consumer’s relationship with the product or service in a complete and holistic end-to-end experience;

Experience 1 - How their advertising makes a consumer feel about the brand
Experience 2 - The interaction with the site or app to purchase
Experience 3 - The actual experience of the product or service

Siloing any one of these experience stages without proper consideration for the end consumer is a fundamental no-no for the success of an indie brand.

DTC is the Way Forward

In June this year Forrester released a piece of research claiming that “81% of consumers plan to make a purchase from a DTC brand in the next five years”, with clothing, grocery, beauty and homewear predicting the largest increases in DTC sales.

What’s interesting is that we are starting to see traditional brands look to indie DTC sites for inspiration, with Goliaths like Nike reportedly beefing up its DTC channel. Why? Perhaps it’s because DTC indie brands are not shackled by large operations - they have the added benefit of agility and adaptability - something which in todays’ digital-first consumer world is a stranglehold for larger brands.

More Choice For Consumers

Brands today must realise they operate in a climate of retail hyper-fragmentation where consumers now regularly engage and shop from a long tail of microbrands.

Discovery platforms like Instagram have made it easier to find new brands, platforms like Shopify have made it much easier for businesses to create robust websites with a plethora of marketing plugins at their disposal. Improvements in logistics and delivery options have bolstered consumer confidence to buy from smaller, independent sites. All of these factors have created a burgeoning online audience for indie retailers. A far cry from the traditional high street mega brands that once dominated online in the same way they did offline.

5 Ways Indie Sites can Capitalise on Retail Hyper-fragmentation

1. Reaching The Conscious Consumer

Having conversation with consumers has to be about more than what you sell, it’s about what you stand for. Consumers today want to interact with businesses that share who they are ‘behind the scenes’. Think about communicating who you transact with throughout the supply chain, what events you attend, and even what type of employer or culture you have.

2. Knowing “You don’t own me”

Online discovery and shopping isn’t a monogamous experience. Recognise that your consumer is also engaging with another platform - be it Instagram, Facebook or an affiliate site. That consumer is only half interested in you. They are also interested in the platform and the other content they can discover there. The most successful brands engage an audience whilst remaining empathetic to the format and platform each message is surfaced on.

3. Recognising That Competition is Fierce

Competition to get noticed is fierce, and it’s even harder to keep the loyalty of a customer. Partnering with affiliates to secure reach across the internet, particularly away from your competitors is a positive way to help consumers discover your content. A great example of this is the Christmas Gift Guides that many sites publish in Q4. Securing placement in these guides can help keep you competitive and front of mind with christmas shoppers.

4. Don’t Have an Identity Crisis

Contrary to point 2! Consistent experience between all channels is still important. As a consumer moves between platforms and consumes media they don’t want to see repetitive messaging or creative, want a personalised experience with a brand that connects with them. Stay true to your identity and mission, regardless of what platform you deliver content on.

5. Your Affiliate Program is also your Ambassador Club

Blur the lines of your marketing partners - from influencers you work with, to websites you connect to who offer an experience or fill a need of the consumer at a certain point in time, such as a voucher discovery site on Black Friday.

The success of Indie brands shows marketers the value of being able to connect with a consumer. It has allowed Indie brands to immerse customers in a way that larger, multi-channel retailers simply can’t do. And most importantly of all, Indie brands have understood that ‘customer-loyalty’ is an imagined concept rather than a tangible reality. What really counts is being able to reach customers across a whole variety of platforms, connecting the conscious consumer with brands they buy into with their emotions as much as their bank accounts.

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