Making Friends: How Smart D2C Brands Engage Customers

Like everyone else, I have an irrational hatred of some brands that stalk me online, and a soft spot for others. (Leave me alone, Home Depot. And hello, PatientsLikeMe. How are you feeling today?)

I scroll past brands I dislike in social-media feeds, unsubscribe often, and ignore those alerts — almost all of the time. A new study from ad-tech company Braze explains how some D2C brands are getting it right.

Using a variety of customer-engagement measures, the study compares the success rate of D2C brands versus others, analyzing 29 billion messages sent by 44 of Braze’s clients. It says D2C brands get open rates that are 59% higher in email, in-app and push notifications.

“The surprising part is that these companies, in many cases, are upstarts fighting big conglomerates,” says Will Crocker, senior director, customer and partner marketing of the New York-based company. “Yet they are having huge success in engagement. When we dug into what gives them such stickiness — especially brands like Harry’s Shave, Birch Box and Bark Box — it’s that they’re very human.”

Crocker tells D2C FYI that these brands act more like friends than someone trying to sell me something. “If you know I’m the kind of person who wants to communicate through text, that’s important,” he says.

And since it’s so easy to send too much, “the smartest brands seem to be able to weave all the channels together. Since they are able to say, 'This person responds best to messages sent in the app, or via email,’ they send less communication, in the aggregate. They know better than to bombard in other channels.”

Harry’s is a good example, he says. “When you’re a subscriber, it does a good job of alerting you to when a shipment is scheduled, for example. It gives you plenty of time to say, 'No thanks, I still haven’t finished my last order.’”

Those are the kinds of messages consumers are happy to receive.

D2C brands are more likely to experiment with message timing than their counterparts, overriding messaging frequency settings more often. They are 642% more likely to send in-app messages, which have nearly double the open rate that email or push notifications do.

The analysis also offers some hints for all companies. Action-based emails are 59% more likely to be opened than time-based messages, for example. Consumers are most likely to open notifications sent on a Saturday. And in-app messaging is the most effective channel for engagement, with an interaction rate of 40%, compared with 14% for email and 4% for push.

Crocker says Braze’s analysis found Facebook was remarkably ineffective as an engagement tool. “It tries the shotgun approach,” he says, “and it’s surprising that it hasn’t figured it out yet, given its scale.”

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