Performance Secrets of the D2Cs

Q: When is a $10,000 couch not a couch?

A: When it’s a sofa!

With that distinction, Brant Schmitz, director of performance marketing at BLU DOT, maker of fine furniture, stayed true to his brand. Staying true is even a part of a search for media partners, in that “they have to realize I can’t just do a lot of buys because it’s not going to work. We have different price points, modern furniture. Our buyers really enjoy aesthetics, which makes it fun to be on the brand side.”

He spoke at MediaPost’s Brand Insider Summit D2C Wednesday in Austin as a panelist.

”We said, ‘Let’s make furniture that we love at a price we can afford,” Schmitz said. “Now we have 10 retail locations. What we tried to do is make it all about the customer journey, very aspirational. People who are coming in to buy a $10,000 sofa are not impulse buyers.” Facebook, for BLU DOT, doesn’t work well because there’s not a lot of scale. Instagram is better, he said, it’s more branded in nature.

Fellow panelist Ricky Joshi, co-founder and chief strategy officer of luxury mattress maker Saatva, roiled the audience when he declared, “I never believe in budgets.” Unapologetically, he said “that philosophy has gotten us where we’ve gotten to today. To get around the scale challenge, we increase our AOB and can start selling sheets and pillows.” 

Trang Dao, VP, performance marketing for HungryRoot, purveyor of health, convenient foods, noted that in order to balance brand versus conversion, one must understand that “brand and performance are two roles in two departments but not two different things.”  She said she inherited a program familiar to D2C brands, i.e. 90% of its budget was on Facebook and the company was “too dependent on one channel. Facebook is an easy channel to lear and run. What happens is a start-up with see tremendous growth and then hit a wall.” It’s important, Dao added, to look at how one can translate Facebook insights into other channels.

Moderator Ben Gaddis, president of T3, asked the panelists to share the most successful thing they have done in the performance space. Joshi mentioned using Google paid search, adding he was using machine learning for the long tail but also doing a lot of manual bidding. “Machine learning wasn’t weighting things or taking seasonality into account.”

Branden Windle, VP of marketing at Tecovas, which makes Western wear, particularly handmade boots, suggested speaking with a TV vendor that makes pricing transparent. He said Tecovas got into TV with just a $25K spend “and now it’s a lot ... more.”

Dao suggested owning your own customer data. And collect it yourself. “People talk about Google, Amazon, Facebook as being these walled gardens,” she said. “And they are. But what kind of wall is it? Can I climb it? You need to understand what these platforms offer and how to use it to your advantage By requesting audience insights on a regular basis.”

BLU DOT’s Schmitz said the most successful thing they have done is go old school with print and catalogs. “It’s beautiful,” he said. “It’s not junk mail.” With an omnichannel approach, all the company’s campaigns reinforce the catalog. “We’re looking at other print things to do.”

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