DTC, you’ve been dear to us. We’ve loved exploring your creativity, flexibility, and opportunities around the world. But we’ve changed. It’s not you — it’s us. We’re different people now. And in 2023, it’s time to let go and embrace the new.
We’re talking about CTC — Connect-to-Consumer.
What is this model? It’s the follow-up of DTC, albeit far more personal. Instead of relying on traditional digital marketing strategies, CTC embraces evolving standards for consumers online. It encourages businesses and brands to focus fully on the humanity of consumers, and use inventive new measures to attract their business.
Ecommerce isn’t what it used to be, and that’s not a bad thing. As we know by now, social media and internet-born industries are always evolving. It’s inevitable that expectations change, consumer priorities shift, and businesses have to adopt new ways of winning their attention.
Shopify first coined the term in their Summer 2022 Editions Report when they proudly announced, “The C2C era is here. Let’s connect.”
At the heart of CTC is audience personalization. Instead of trying to market broadly online with a general target audience in mind, companies are encouraged to get personal. Ads are getting more expensive and less effective; small business owners are especially burdened when it comes to striking the balance between an affordable marketing strategy and a valuable ROI.
CTC encourages brands to adopt more creative approaches that rely on technologies their audience already loves. We’re talking social shopping (like Instagram and Twitter), TikTok promotions, and web3 content.
Instead of relying on Facebook ads, CTC focuses on creating content people connect with. Even the most relatable ad is still an ad. Content has often been seen as supplementary in the DTC world, cushioning a company’s image and SEO while paid ads did all the hard work.
In 2020, when people were in lockdown and DTC exploded, this strategy worked because everyone was online shopping. Inflation hadn’t hit yet, so products were more affordable to buy and sell.
Now that the economy has peaked and experts predict a recession, large DTC brands are struggling. Revenue drops as operating costs rise, and with a greater need to complete in 2023, they’re facing even greater price tags just to stay relevant.
For smaller brands, even ones that haven’t launched yet, the DTC model has some concerning points. It’s not as unique as it used to be, and many feel as though the industry itself has tapped out in the ecommerce space.
With global sales expected to top $6 trillion by 2024, it’s obvious online shopping isn’t going anywhere. But there are certain niches that have become so popular, getting to the front of their marketspace would likely prove difficult for any new business if they followed a traditional DTC marketing strategy.
In order to combat the wave of competitors with top-ranking products, they’d need to create a brand story that was compelling, authentic, and, most importantly, relevant to their audience’s lives. People need to see themselves in a brand’s storytelling.
CTC focuses on creating a seamless journey for buyers, no matter where they hang out online. Social media integrations will make it easier for everyone to find products and make purchases in their preferred digital spaces. Brands will be able to benefit from greater visibility and reach thanks to a highly accessible storefront, backed by consistent content.
Now, it’s important to note that CTC isn’t really a replacement for DTC. It’s the next phase of its evolution. Businesses will still need to perform audience research, understand brand positioning, and still use some paid ads to gain traction online.
It’s helpful to think of CTC as the next wave of DTC, designed to embrace all the emerging technologies slated to shape the future of the internet in the coming years. More specifically, we’re talking about web3. It’s the more personal, ubiquitous variation of the digital sphere that sounds like its straight out of a sci-fi movie.
In reality, web3 gives brands lots of opportunity to connect with buyers in new ways. It’s less pushy (no more pop-up opt-ins, please), and way more in touch with what people actually want to see when they’re shopping.
For example, virtual reality will make it easier for customers to try-on products without going to a store. This breaks down barriers and empowers consumers while expanding a business’s reach. Consider Roblox, the wildly popular online game, that has already been tapped into by major retailers like Zara, Forever 21, Van’s, and even luxury brands like Ralph Lauren and Gucci.
Most of Roblox’s user base is under 24, and 50% of its players are under the age of 13. With nearly 50 million active users each day, it’s one of the world’s most visited platforms.
Roblox serves as an early example of what Facebook’s metaverse aspires to become — a digital world that coalesces into our own. Instead of being an alternate reality, web3 will gradually make it easier to align our online lives with our real ones.
While having a great website for your ecommerce store is important, it’s not the only way to sell products in 2023. The future of online retail will rely on creating connection in spaces that your audience already knows and loves.
CTC builds upon DTC, so if you’re just getting started in ecommerce, work on the fundamentals first. You’ll need a great platform that’s modern and adapted to emerging trends. That’s where Popup comes in.
We help you create stories your audience cares about. For us, selling products is the goal, not the journey. Our platform makes it easy for anyone to start building a brand they’re proud of. Without any technical or design skills, you can still create a captivating site that illustrates the heart and soul of your brand.
If you’re already in the ecommerce industry, we have automated features that allow you to off-load some of your most time-consuming tasks and save up to 10 hours a week. Automation is important for adopting CTC as brands will need greater time to focus on creating communities around content. This requires freeing up space behind the scenes by automating processes like order fulfillment and sending messages.
With 4.32 billion active mobile users in the world, mobile optimization is an absolute must for any brand. Your store should be easy to navigate on smartphones and tablets, naturally scaling and optimizing its design to reflect a visitor’s browsing device.
Design plays a big role in the ecommerce experience. Your digital storefront replaces a traditional retail space, so you need to choose a layout, colors, and style that make your audience happy to be on your site.
By leaning into clean, mobile-friendly design, you can ensure that anyone who decides to check out your store sees the best of what it has to offer.
All the heavy-hitters have made it possible to pair your social media pages with online stores. We’re referring to Instagram Shopping, TikTok Shopping, and Twitter Shopping, specifically. Taking advantage of retail features on social media ultimately help brands bridge the distance between users and consumers.
Rather than trying to win their attention and turn them into a lead, you have a much higher chance of converting directly through the platform. People can browse products at their own time, without having to leave the site they’re on.
No, we don’t mean constantly recording TikTok voice-overs. Social media trends have evolved far beyond the stereotypical dance routines and hashtag challenges. Today, they’re highly nuanced and even niche-specific.
Delve into the areas online your audience really cares about — maybe it’s fitness, cooking, or crafting. Find ways to pair your own brand’s content with the biggest and emerging trends tied to your audience’s favorite topics.
Doing this helps your business in two ways:
1. The content is inherently considered more relevant by your audience, so it’s more likely to be engaged with, shared, and remembered by viewers.
2.Your brand image appears more in touch with its consumer base, fostering a deeper sense of trust, and creating greater opportunity for connection.
Since communities will play a big role in business success in 2023, we recommend being active on social media. Don’t feel limited by typical promo posts! People do want to see your products, but there are a lot of ways to get creative with their placement.
Remember, people care more about why what you’re selling is worth it. Aesthetics aside, don’t forget to lean into showcasing benefits, solutions, and everyday uses!
CTC is the next wave of DTC marketing that focuses on creating more accessible, personalized ecommerce experiences. You can start to integrate core CTC concepts into your brand now by focusing on website optimization, social media integrations, and ecommerce platforms that streamline your buyers’ journeys.
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