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How to grow your D2C business — 4 tips from a successful founder

D2C market growth is on the rise... here's how to take part

How to grow your D2C business — 4 tips from a successful founder
Trinny Woodall
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Trinny Woodall

Trinny Woodall is the founder and CEO of global beauty brand Trinny London. Trinny Woodall is the founder and CEO of global beauty brand Trinny London.

Did you know Trinny Woodall is speaking at TNW Conference this summer? Check out the full list of speakers here.

There’s no doubt that the pandemic encouraged consumers to rethink their shopping habits, with over half now preferring to buy from brands directly. In fact, market growth of D2C in the US is expected to reach just under $175 million by 2023.

As the market continues to grow and become increasingly competitive, a strong D2C growth strategy has never been more important for a brand to stand out.

At Trinny London, we’ve worked hard to ensure we’re much more than just a makeup brand. We have a community of customers who share our values of authenticity and inclusivity, and our multi-pronged D2C strategy has paid off. Since founding the company in 2017, our revenue soared to £55 million by the end of 2021.

Here are my top four tips for building a successful D2C strategy:

1. Trust your gut – it’s your most valuable advisor.

When raising capital for Trinny London, I initially faced skepticism from male investors who believed a digital-first beauty brand wouldn’t work for our initial target market: women over the age of 35. Traditionally this audience preferred testing products at a beauty counter before purchasing.

Instead of being knocked back by their doubts, I stuck to my guns. I’d been in this position once before, when I launched my first business at the height of the .com bubble in 1999.

This time around, I knew the best person to rely on was myself. I was confident that there was a strong demand for the inclusive and personalized D2C brand I was creating, having spent over 20 years of my career speaking to thousands of women.

Remember: when you’re in front of investors, it’s likely they’ll be bringing their previous experience into your meeting. But what worked for their last investment might not work for you — you need to stand your ground. And for me, trusting my gut paid off; in 2017 we raised £2.4m and used the capital to…

2. Invest in tech.

If you want to join the world’s biggest D2C brands, you have to be able to offer customers a seamless and personalized digital shopping experience.

We worked with data scientists to create an industry-leading personalization service, Match2Me. The service enables customers to purchase makeup that suits their unique combination of skin, hair, and eyes. Now 75% of customers are using Match2Me when purchasing.

Not only is Match2Me hugely valuable for the customer experience, it’s also an incredibly useful tool from a business growth standpoint. Instead of guessing at the counter, these customers now have the confidence to shop online, and this confidence is integral to building consumer trust which we know is the key to success — 61% of UK customers are willing to pay more to purchase from a trusted brand.

What’s more, the customer data we retrieve from both Match2Me and instore from pop-up store experiences allows us to follow the journey of each customer from the very start.

We’ve now extended the capabilities of our Match2Me to include skincare, which will give us far more in-depth knowledge of our customer. For example, if we’re able to see how many of our customers have oily skin, we can ask ourselves if we’re doing enough to support this group of people and give them the products they really want and need.

The key is to collect data in a way that it can be analyzed with ease. We took time to build a data team so when we launch something new, the data points we need are embedded in the build. A strong data team is non-negotiable for an effective D2C strategy.

3. Strength is the ability to adapt.

The world of business is full of risk and instability — with globalization, new technologies, and extraordinary events like the Covid-19 pandemic on the minds of CEOs, being nimble has never been more important.

In order to adapt, it’s essential that your D2C strategy includes the monitoring of changes in the industry and wider world. If detected, act quickly by assessing your business model and current resources, and identify ways in which you can reshape them to fit the new demand.

Trinny London was quick to adapt when the world began locking down in March 2020. It was one of the first beauty brands to offer virtual appointments to customers (in fact, on the launch day 3,000 appointments were booked).

We now have a 24-hour booking schedule with professional makeup artists able to provide customers with a personal service from the comfort of their own homes — no matter what time zone they’re in.

As a result of our adaptability, Trinny London grew by 330% in 2020, with the number of new customers more than doubling from 95,000 in 2019 to 260,000 in 2020.

4. Don’t underestimate the power of community.

Without a doubt, the most valuable asset for a D2C brand is community. But don’t be fooled, a true ‘super’ community is more than just your social media following or customer base — it’s a group that provides genuine connections and enables a brand to make informed decisions that really move the needle on everything from product development to marketing spend.

Trinny London’s community, the Trinny Tribe, now has over 100,000 members in over 30 countries worldwide, and acts as a place for customers to not only discuss upcoming product launches and beauty tips, but also to make lifelong friendships.

And an online community can be powerful in more ways than one — recent research from HBR reveals that, amongst other benefits, resolving questions within a community is 72% cheaper than support channels.

Trinny London’s Facebook groups have had a massive positive impact on both the growth of the business and our product development strategy. In 2019, we made it our mission to take our Australian market revenue to 12% (which at the time was at about 6%). Thanks to a particularly inspiring tribe in Sydney, whose word-of-mouth was incredibly strong, we exceeded targets hitting 16%.

We hear our Tribe members loud and clear, and recently launched our 2-in-1 Lash2Brow as a direct result of Facebook comments requesting a Trinny London mascara. The product has been one of our most successful launches to date, highlighting the value of nurturing brand communities.

I believe Trinny London’s success is down to the strong relationship each customer is able to form directly with the brand. As a founder, take time to think about how the community becomes your customer and build a meaningful and lasting relationship with your brand, beyond the product or service you’re offering. That’s when you’ll see real success in D2C.

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