2022 is here! If you’re like me, I was hoping to let out a loud sigh of relief from the unforgiving past two years of extraordinary change. While I can’t expect the universe to completely correct its vibe in Q1 of 2022, I am excited about DTC trends, aka Direct-To-Consumer. It’s safe to say direct-to-consumer ecommerce isn’t going anywhere. In fact, direct-to-consumer selling is a trend all entrepreneurs should embrace.
Shopify President Harley Finkelstein tweeted at the beginning of the year, “I’m predicting in 2022 people will realize how wrong they were when they thought DTC was a fad.“ He goes on to say in a response to a question about it, “DTC brands have been underestimated for a decade. As recently as 2020 Forbes was questioning if DTC was a fad and headed for the graveyard. The pandemic created a fundamental shift in retail, how people shop, and who they want to shop from. DTC brands have since proved otherwise.”
As the Manager of Ecommerce Marketing, I live within this ecosystem daily. But I realize those reading this might not understand what DTC is, and why DTC is so much more than a fad.
What is DTC?
DTC simply stands for Direct-To-Consumer. Direct-to-consumer selling is selling products directly to customers, bypassing any third-party marketplace, distributor, or reseller. Our blogger extraordinaire Paul does a great job of explaining here the basics of direct-to-consumer bookselling.
Before the internet, DTC was buying straight from the source. An example would be shopping at the farmer’s market rather than the grocery store. No middle man, great prices, fresh products, and a simple exchange. Good for the buyer and good for the seller. Now DTC means buying directly from the creator’s website as opposed to a retailer, distributor, or middleman.
Let’s Examine the Benefits of DTC for Booksellers
Although Covid tried its darnedest to wipe out in-person shopping, books are still sold in bookstores and online. Books and shelves are like peas and carrots. However, buying online is always nice because you get to read the reviews from the convenience of your computer or mobile device—and not just the back cover or book jacket flaps.
And the benefits for authors selling DTC are undeniable: more profit, simplified fulfillment, you know exactly who is buying your book, direct reviews, and feedback, and you build a relationship that hopefully will lead to future marketing opportunities.
Perhaps most important, selling direct is a long-term investment in your brand. When you sell your books using distributors, there’s no brand consistency as they have oversight and control on all policies, sustainability practices, and customer experience. Nobody is going to put as much effort into their brand as you will.
You want to build long-term, ongoing relationships with your readers. And that can be a challenge with big box store sales. Customer engagement through email and social media can lead to brand loyalty and more purchases. But if the publisher-to-buyer relationship only exists in email and social media—and not in a marketplace—it seems like a missed opportunity.
Once you take control of your own marketplace and begin selling DTC through your own ecommerce website, you’ll start to nurture valuable connections with your audience. In this case, the old adage “knowledge is power” works to your advantage as the author or publisher.
This lays a foundation for you to begin collecting customer data, offering custom promotions, and educating your customer base about what sets your brand apart from other books in the same genre. Without customer knowledge and connection to your audience, you won’t be able to learn everything possible about your brand.
Quick DTC Ideas for 2022
- Host an author Q&A with your audience over Zoom and live-stream it on social media.
- Excite consumers through special promotions, flash sales, free shipping, and merch like bookmarks, stickers, and anything else that might complement your book.
- Reward your most engaged customers through special benefits, such as pre-sale access and exclusive discounts.
Having the right direct-to-consumer tools on your website in place will make these marketing initiatives easier.
Why DTC? A Peek in the Future
Shopify recently pulled together data around the future of ecommerce, and here are the major takeaways that can help you decide if ecommerce is right for you:
Staying Ahead of DTC Trends
Shipping costs are still on the rise. The average price of a shipping container is four times higher than a year ago. Covid has put pressure on shipping worldwide and supply chain logistics, where this lands in 2022 is something all retailers are monitoring.
Third-party cookies are under a microscope and expected to phase out this year. This will affect the entire landscape of online advertising for all marketplaces large and small. This means the creepy marketing of searching for something and seeing it pop up as an advertisement a few days later will eventually go away.
Another thing to consider is when your business grows, it will expect more from you. So if selling books is your side hustle, you will need to invest more time in monitoring sales, troubleshooting delivery questions, marketing, and other tasks associated with running a business. Hiring an outside resource might be a future need for your website—and what a great problem to have.
Lulu has tools to help future-proof your business with Lulu Direct—a way to sell books on your site and plug into our print-on-demand network. Keep an eye out for more exciting announcements, ecommerce tips, and educational resources on our Facebook, Twitter, and blog.
No doubt keeping up with new trends and navigating the world of ecommerce, all the while keeping your brand in check as an author will be a big-time investment. Informing yourself of what’s to come—and staying up to date with new features—is worth the time and connection to your readers.
Sarah is the Ecommerce Marketing Manager at Lulu. Her primary role is to educate and help those who would benefit from our direct-to-consumer tools. Sarah is passionate about helping authors and publishers find ways to connect with their audience. In previous roles, she led public relations campaigns for over 75 authors and coached many more in preparation for their book launches. When not in the office, you’ll likely find her in the bleachers at her boys’ baseball games or cheering on the UGA Bulldogs.