As traditional retailers struggle to maintain the excitement they drummed up over the holidays, there is much to be learned from the marketing tactics of the direct to consumer brands successfully engaging their ever-growing audiences.

Every day, direct to consumer (DTC) brands are proving that they are quite adept at captivating, engaging, and nurturing users. As a result, eMarketer projects that 40% of individuals expect these brands to account for at least 40% of their purchases in the near future.

So how are they doing it? There are a few key lessons that traditional retailers should take note of.

Target Specific Use Cases
Direct to consumer brands aren’t looking to be everything to everyone. They go after a particular niche, sometimes even a single use case, and deliver a singular, strong message. So often, traditional retailers look to run digital campaigns that are simply too broad, or that attempt to fit too many disparate messages into a single banner or video. It’s a scattershot approach that simply isn’t as effective as the surgical tactics & clear messaging employed by DTC brands.

Think Beyond Product Specs
What makes a product stand out on a shelf beside competitors is often not what makes it stand out online. While it may be important to articulate specific nuances of a product’s superiority on packaging & in-store signage,  the need to directly compare oneself to the competition wanes in an e-commerce environment. As noted by eMarketer:

“While brands have traditionally competed on a crowded shelf inside a physical store, the D2C environment offers a more monogamous relationship and a higher degree of consumer attention. This allows brands to market themselves entirely differently and convey the higher-order attributes of their business.”

Hyper-Target Messaging
Similar to targeting specific use cases, direct to consumer brands are also successful at executing hyper-targeted campaigns. They leverage digital channels where they can employ first party data, contextual targeting, and dynamic creative optimization to truly deliver the optimal message to a given user at a particular time.

While overarching awareness campaigns across mass media still have their place for powerhouse brands, allocating significant effort & budget to hyper-targeted messaging is advised for any marketer looking to meaningfully engage with their audiences.

After all, 71% of shoppers prefer brands that offer the ability to customize their selections to better suit their style and taste, and half prefer personalized shopping experiences. To appeal to these individuals, marketers of traditional brands must take a cue from the digitally savvy disruptors in their space.

Listen for Changes
To make those hyper-targeted campaigns, marketers must first have a basic understanding of their users. In this regard, direct to consumer brands typically excel more than their traditional counterparts. Instead of developing year-long or multi-year campaigns around audience assumptions, these brands regularly collect insights about shifting consumer sentiments and adjust accordingly.

Get Social
There’s a reason digital disruptor brands heavily rely on social media to drive awareness & engagement: the audiences are there & ready to engage.

Indeed, according to a recent study, a considerable majority of 30 to 64 year-old consumers use Faceook to follow the businesses & brands they like, and over 80% use some mix of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Across all age groups, 75% follow their favorite brands on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.

Thus, for traditional brands to stay competitive, active & meaningful engagement on social media is key. While blanket paid campaigns are tempting, engaging on these platforms must be more than a checkbox to tick off. Social media is more than a user acquisition or general awareness tool: when deployed smartly — as so many D2C brands do — it can truly complement the effectiveness of other digital efforts quite nicely.