For DTC brands with small digital marketing budgets, it’s getting harder to stand out among the many Black Friday sales, especially as brands increasingly offer deep discounts for full weeks or months versus single shopping holidays.
Extended sales are becoming table stakes for companies, and increasingly in the DTC space. For example, Nasty Gal is offering 60% off everything between Nov. 24 and Dec. 2, and Lulu’s has its entire site on sale for between 25% and 90% off Nov. 25-30. Brands with smaller marketing budgets are forced to find other ways to win over customers. This year, companies including Storq, Harper Wilde and M.M.LaFleur have all gotten creative to stand out as the end of the year approaches.
Storq, a maternity clothing company, typically only holds two sales a year: one for Mother’s Day and one for Black Friday. In years past, Storq has done the typical Black Friday sale, where product goes on sale Friday morning through Cyber Monday. However, the company noticed last year that even with upping its digital media spend across Facebook and Instagram in preparation for the holidays (the brand declined to share specifics), its website’s impressions fell 34% leading into November and Black Friday sales.
But there’s much opportunity for DTC brands to snag Black Friday sales, if they play it right. A report from OpenX and The Harris Poll found 70% of millennials plan to shop online on Cyber Monday, up 30% from the previous year. Additionally, 37% of millennials said they plan to buy direct-to-consumer products this year, and 20% of all consumers are looking to buy at least one DTC product. Yet, even with more attention on DTC companies, getting consumers to pay attention is increasingly difficult with over 400 DTC brands in the market, per Emarketer.
“Particularly with smaller brands — which, like us, have smaller spend — we’re getting drowned out in a way that maybe we didn’t in years past. You’re starting to see a lot of brands trying to get ahead of the noise by offering deep discounts earlier than when everybody is talking about it,” said Courtney Klein, CEO and founder of Storq.
In response, Storq decided to run a flash sale every other day leading up to Black Friday this year, beginning last Tuesday. On each sale day, the brand is deeply discounting one product, like 50% off the brand’s signature jumpsuit or caftan, for just 24 hours.
“Everybody is talking about and advertising on those two days. It’s hard to break through that [noise], particularly for a brand of our size. We’re not a Target or an Amazon,” Klein said.
While the company is doing some paid marketing, despite the drop in engagement, it’s focusing more on organic social posts for its 35,000 Instagram followers. On Instagram Stories, it’s featuring images of the daily discounted item, as well as photos from customers wearing the product. There, customers can swipe up to buy or click on a product sticker, which takes them to a product page on Instagram. From there, they can view the product on Storq’s website and buy it.
Storq is also relying heavily on email marketing to drive sales, sending out email blasts featuring the discounted item every other day. The email list is comprised of existing customers who have made purchases and anyone who has signed up on Storq’s website.
M.M.LaFleur is another company turning to a sizable email subscriber base — roughly 750,000 people — to drive sales on Black Friday. Rather than attract shoppers via sales, it’s looking to earn their support by linking with a cause.
From now through Dec. 3, the company is not discounting its products but is instead donating 100% of its proceeds from a selection of 10 little black dresses to the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit that helps refugees from over 40 countries settle into life in the United States. Ahead of the sale, the company emailed its entire subscriber base with a blog post explaining the sale and why M.M.LaFleur wanted to support this organization.
Similarly to Storq, M.M.LaFleur holds sales just twice a year. Styles were intended to be sold year-round at a set price, not to be marked down 30% every few months, said Sarah LaFleur, founder and CEO of M.M.LaFleur. When M.M.LaFleur does discount, it’s a way to liquidate any products the company made too much of, to keep inventory balanced.
However, the brand knew it needed to do something around Black Friday to drive sales into the holiday season.
“Our customers are not bargain shoppers, but shopping is in the air. If this is a time in our customer’s life when she is more aware of what is going on in the world of retail, we can use it as an opportunity to get her to know about the causes we are most passionate about,” said LaFleur.
Another brand focusing on causes important to them is bra company Harper Wilde. In January of this year, Harper Wilde started a recycling program for bras. With each order, the company sends customers a prepaid return shipping label for sending in their used bras. To date, Harper Wilde has collected over 10,000.
After seeing the success of the program, the company decided to tie its first-ever sale to it, along with Black Friday. Co-founder Jenna Kerner said the company’s products never go on sale, but it wanted to give customers something to look forward to, while staying competitive with others in the underwear space.
Beginning on Monday of this week, when customers pledge to send in any number of old bras, they get 25% off their entire order. Customers are prompted to take the pledge when they visit Harper Wilde’s website, and just have to enter an email address to receive a 25% off code. Prior, the company had only offered $5 off to new customers who sign up for email newsletters. To promote the sale, the brand is relying heavily on email marketing and is also running some paid digital marketing — a first for the brand. The company declined to share any specifics around its marketing mix.
Harper Wilde decided to make the sale a weeklong event, lasting through Black Friday.
“We’re all about convenience and simplicity. I think those four days when a lot of people are spending time with family after the holidays, it feels like there’s a lot of pressure to shop during that time. It’s nice for our customer to be able to do that earlier,” she said.