DTC Brands Combine Physical Storefronts with Localized Search Strategy

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With Black Friday just days away, direct-to-consumer brands are ready to make their move. Having spent years living primarily on the internet, brands are combining physical storefronts with localized search strategies to win market share during the 2020 holiday season.

Some of the latest examples involves Allbirds and Fabletics, the DTC fashion brands known for sustainable shoes and trendy workout clothes. Despite the massive shift to online shopping as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, DTC brands are opening physical storefronts to reach local markets.

Allbirds and Fabletics aren’t the first DTC brands to open up for in-store shopping, of course. Brands like Warby Parker and Bonobos pioneered the approach years ago. But the latest class of trendy DTC brands is doing things a little differently. Rather than focusing on urban centers, like New York and Los Angeles, DTC brands are using local data to target new, smaller locations in states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas.

The approach is one that SOCi Chief Marketing Officer Monica Ho sees as a savvy play, as brands look at how to complement their physical presence with online localized marketing strategies — all in the midst of a global pandemic. Ho and her team at SOCi expect to see DTC brands amping up their presence to push both local digital and in-store experiences in the coming months.

That sort of localized approach to marketing for DTC brands is one that Ho sees going hand in hand with changes in Google search. Ho says some DTC brands are adding local stores as a way to take better advantage of non-branded search, which is undergoing rapid growth.

“Nine out of 10 of these search results pages now include the Google Map Pack at the top of search results. Based on the prominence of the map pack, those businesses that are lucky to come up in these top search results are awarded with the majority of the search traffic and conversions; in fact, we know that 75% of consumers do not look past the first search engine results page, and the businesses that appear at the top of organic results receive 93% of the organic traffic,” Ho says.

Another trend at play is the push among consumers to deliberately buy local to support their community businesses. Ho says in-store experiences are still key for local consumers. While many brands—DTC and otherwise—have had to shift their focus to creating digital experiences for consumers, in-store traffic is still a huge priority. Despite drops in in-store traffic as a result of the pandemic, Ho sees signs that consumers want to get back to their favorite stores.

“According to a recent report from Retail Dive, traffic had dropped 82% in April but has since improved to down 25.7% in September,” Ho says. “DTC brands must learn from consumers’ shopping patterns throughout the pandemic, such as the need to shift some focus to digital and revised business practices, [for example] buy online and pick up in-store, but also still prioritize in-store experiences to create genuine connections with local consumers.”

Even though consumers are researching their purchase decisions online, 76% of local smartphone searches are still leading to in-store visits within 24 hours, according to Google. DTC brands that are planning for the future are looking at how they can ensure their localized digital presence is holistic on local search, social, and rating and review sites, where consumers research their purchase decisions.

“Brands must balance the desire to push e-commerce and in-store, because while online sales are expected to increase, which can help recoup some of the lost revenue as a result of lessened foot traffic, in-store shoppers should not be overlooked,” Ho says. “Ensuring a positive in-store customer experience is key for creating returning customers and brand advocates.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.
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