5 tips for driving DTC retention

Oli Osmond
Product Owner

Covid-19 has pushed all brands to look at how they reach, delight and grow their customer base.

So it’s an important time to review your DTC strategies for building direct, more meaningful relationships with your customers, growing retention and increased sales. 

Here are 5 quick tips when thinking about your DTC offering. 


Step 1: Let your brand values live through every touchpoint and step of the journey 

Your brand values can and should live through everything you do. From initial discovery, through to purchase and the end product experience. It’s important to take a holistic view of the customer journey outside of your internal company silos. 

Aim to delight your customer at every step, staying consistently true to your brand values. For example, MADE.COM, who have built a reputation for desirable, quality furniture, made affordable by selling directly to customers online. Their clean and simple design aesthetic is recognisable across every platform and interaction covering; email, website, paid media, instore technology and even the images created by their customers in user-generated social media content. 


Step 2: Understand your customers’ needs 

To provide a truly valued and valuable product, you need to understand your customers’ needs. This involves not just asking them how they feel about your product, but critically turning their feedback into real actions. 

There is a real skill to gleaning useful insights from user research, without directing participants. We noticed a lot of mobile customers on ITV Hub complaining about having to watch adverts when catching up with their favourite show. 

Instead of simply accepting this as part of the existing business model, we took this as an opportunity to offer our customers a subscription service, where they could pay a small monthly fee to watch the telly they love without the ads. 

It's unlikely that many customers would have asked for the opportunity to pay monthly as a solution to this gripe, but it has effectively resolved a real customer pain-point, making them more likely to spend more time on the platform and assuring revenue for ITV.    




Step 3: Be flexible in your offering 

It might be tempting to offer a ‘one size fits all’ solution to your customers. A fixed monthly subscription would seem compelling - one that’s simple to set up, easy to manage and gives your business the ability to better forecast revenues allowing you to sit back and watch the money flow in. 

However, this may not be the useful approach for your customers. 

But nowadays your customers expect more control and more personalisation. The more you can give the more edge you will have over your competitors.

Here are a few examples of how this can be done:

  • Skip a week. Freddie’s Flowers, a flower subscription service, has a standard weekly delivery frequency. Customers are allowed to skip a week, quite easily via the online calendar. However, there’s no option to set regular deliveries at every fortnight, or monthly. Each week needs to be manually skipped and can only be done for a month’s window, meaning you’d need to remember to do this every few weeks. 


  • Delay or send it now. Sports nutrition brand, Tribe, has a monthly subscription as their core offering, but email customers a reminder about when their package is about to be distributed, with the option to delay it a week, or further into the future. You can also ask for your package to be delivered straight away, if you need a top-up sooner. 

  • Total flexibility. Pact Coffee’s slider control lets the user easily select their package frequency, with helpful tips around how many cups of coffee they would get from that option. 

The best DTC experience should feel as personalised as a tailor-made suit, and e-commerce tools make this relatively easy to achieve. Being flexible and creating a personalised service will reduce friction and make your customer love you that little bit more. 

Resist the temptation of making it hard for your customer to cancel. Imagine how frustrating it would be to go into a bar or shop that wouldn’t let you leave, or put the exit out of sight?  


Step 4: Make Metrics Matter (and know what success looks like) 

If you are going to grow your business and delight your customers you will need to understand which metrics on which to focus. 

One good place to focus is retention, but also think about which metrics are right for you. Monthly active Users (MAUs) is for example a fair indication of overall performance for subscription or member based products. By increasing the number of MAUs it’s likely that you will increase your monthly revenue and you can of course increase MAUs by either reducing churn or increasing acquisition. 

The VP of Product at MagicLab (creators of dating apps Badoo, Bumble etc has talked about focusing on growth, with retention being a critical success factor, before realising that retention was ultimately in conflict with the core business goal of helping people find a partner. Afterall, if they are successful in finding a partner, they no longer need a dating website. 

Be prepared to constantly assess your metrics and make sure you’re focussing on the right thing. Don’t be scared if your happy path ultimately leads to your customer no longer needing you! 


Step 5: Don’t be scared to pivot

So... now you’re clear on how you express your brand values through your customer experience, you’re listening to your customers, being flexible to their needs and critiquing which metrics to optimise for. 

What if you learn something that takes you away from your initial direction? Pivot to a new one. Be bold . Read the signs. Understand the metrics and act fast.

You might start out as a subscription/plan service, but like Pact Coffee, pivot towards an online store, where customers can buy one-off packs for themselves, or others, putting them in the driving seat of how they want to buy from you, and freedom to enjoy your product in a way that suits them.  

In these fast moving times your customers have high expectations of you and your brand. Make sure you listen to them and learn. Be bold. Understand the key metrics and act fast.


Further reading/listening  

The Product Podcast Series - How to truly understand customer’s needs by Birchbox PM 

The Product Podcast Series - Good Churn vs Bad Churn by Miles Noris , VP of Product, MagicLab   

The DTC Podcast - Pact Coffee, Head of Ecommerce - Ted Charalambides