Amid COVID-19 chaos, consumers want certainty and offerings to suit life in lockdown, and direct to consumer (DTC) brands are among the best placed to meet that demand.

Discussion about current DTC growth has largely revolved around online agility. As internet-born brands, many DTC businesses have thrived by focusing on e-commerce and limiting offline costs; a key advantage when the majority of physical stores are shut. But this overlooks the real power of DTC: close consumer relationships.

With complete control over their data ecosystem, DTC brands have the valuable insight required to power personalisation and predict their customers’ shopping needs to optimise every touchpoint.

When this insight is paired with unobtrusive, subtle native advertising methods, DTC brands have the ability to enhance their performance and build stronger relationships with their consumers. And, with 43 per cent of consumers finding it reassuring to hear from brands they know and trust, consumer relationships matter now more than ever. Telling truly captivating stories What makes DTC brands stand out most is their authenticity. These companies have distinct personalities and values that speak to consumers seeking more individuality and meaningful brand relationships.

Regional DTC pioneers such as SleepyCat, for example, are actively collaborating with buyers; founder Kabir Siddiq spoke personally to 5000 customers and adjusted the firm’s development in line with their feedback.

As a form of advertising that’s all about storytelling, native is the ideal way to boost interest via inspiration. Using soft communications, brands can deliver engaging digital content that communicates their vision, such as a story about the mission to provide sustainable homeware displayed under an article about staying ethical during the lockdown.

With an emphasis on genuine relevance and value, native allows brands to enhance the online experience while driving deeper individual affinity with their products and services.

Giving brand messages a suitable home

The global crisis has catapulted brand safety back to priority status. With the influx of coronavirus-related content, organisations are paying closer attention to where ads are seen — especially DTC brands heavily reliant on good customer opinion to sustain their businesses.

So, it follows that native ads, which are designed to seamlessly blend with suitable content, are the obvious choice for keeping associations positive.

Of course, this does depend on ensuring media quality. Not all native platforms are equal, and brands must be careful to select those that continuously vet publisher networks and offer robust security. For instance, advanced vendors are starting to leverage smart tools such as natural language processing to carry out granular semantic analysis against bespoke risk thresholds.

Negating the need for ad blockers

Staying visible is vital for brands to remain front of mind throughout the crisis, but there is a difference between being in view and interruptive. Audiences are losing patience with ads that disrupt their online experience and tolerance is lower in the Asia Pacific region than anywhere else: studies show 52 per cent of users run ad blockers.

Tempting as it may be to seize attention with screen-dominating ads, the wisest move for DTC brands is using formats that work with digital content. By harnessing ads built for minimal intrusions — such as scrollable native ads that appear within social feeds or bespoke ‘next read’ recommendations — brands can serve captivating messages that avoid irritation by keeping interaction control in the hands of consumers.

As the world moves online, there is scope for digitally savvy DTC brands to significantly bolster their reach. But before they ramp up advertising efforts, it’s crucial to consider the factors that set them apart from mainstream rivals: authenticity and dedication to consumers.

To maximise success, promotional strategies must create the perfect partnership of enticing DTC stories and content that natively weaves into the digital mediascape. In the long-term, it will be this commitment to giving consumers what they actually want that will be remembered long after the COVID-19 storm passes.