With a people-first, holistic approach, RAPP owns the buyer experience and customer relationship through data and community. Shiona McDougall, Global Chief Strategy Officer at RAPP, delineates the essential components to keep with the curve of Direct-to-Consumer marketing.
Without spilling your secret sauce of course, what is your pitch on DTC?
DTC marketing has been quietly on the rise for decades. The pandemic simply accelerated change and demonstrated the long-term potential value to those businesses a little behind the curve who are now catching up. Owning the transaction experience can of course be brand enhancing. Owning the ongoing customer relationship and having access to the corresponding first party data is where the real value lies. Brands who take responsibility for really knowing their customers through data are able to serve them better. Brands who serve their customers better – whether through communication, product innovation or service support – are rewarded with repeat purchase, increased revenue, advocacy and loyalty (the real kind that consumers feel and demonstrate with their loyal behavior, not just the bribery kind that creates a balance sheet liability holding).
November is a popular month for retail and ecommerce campaigns. How does RAPP cut through the noise to stand-out and engage with your target audience?
Everything we do is focused on individuals – finding the right people and matching them to the right products or services in the way that works best for them. The kind of work we do doesn’t try and shout louder than the competition. Sometimes a whisper in the ear of the right customer with the right message at the right time is way more powerful. And when you can do that at scale, it’s much more efficient at times of the year when everyone else is vying for attention by trying to outspend or outdo their competitors. Getting the balance right is important so we work alongside brand, advertising, media and PR partners to define the most efficient and effective customer experience holistically and based on insight from the data.
How do you manage a cross-channel experience that encourages community engagement and at the same time, remains true to the brand?
“Community” is an important component of the modern value exchange between brand and consumer. Building a sense of community can positively affect purchase decision-making and impact the decision to share data with a brand. RAPP has ten years of longitudinal research into 5 different value levers including “community” that can be used by businesses to strengthen their bond with their customers or prospects at any stage of the relationship with a brand and ultimately charge a premium for their products and services. Customers like to choose brands that work for other people like them. And we often see evidence of customers actively looking for “their people” in an omni-channel purchase journey. The brands who work to nurture and support an active community will disproportionately benefit from access to otherwise underrepresented audiences as well as efficient growth through advocacy.
As AI and social media continue to evolve, how you see them expanding opportunities for direct-to-consumer marketing?
AI has been used for many years in DTC marketing – whether its large language models for data manipulation or generative content adaptation for personalization at scale. AI is evolving at an exponential pace and there are very few areas of marketing that are not being impacted significantly. In particular, with increased AI sophistication, our ability to collect, manage and activate against an almost infinite number of data points is increasing every day. As we do this, new avenues for marketing exploration emerge. For example, personality-based marketing is growing in effectiveness in certain industries and content optimization can now be done with very little human interaction making it incredibly efficient. The opportunity is to refocus the human talent on the things that AI can’t do well yet: imagining new ways to leapfrog competitors and disrupt industries with creativity and lateral thinking without being weird. The marketers of the future will be “centaurs” – part human, part machine, and as a result, the pace of change will only get faster.