You also need effective tools and the right processes and key performance indicators (KPIs). To put it simply, succeeding in today’s hyper-competitive ecommerce environment requires a mix of math, magic, and art — and an understanding of the latest consumer expectations.
Aaron Zagha, chief marketing officer of Newton Baby, a DTC baby products company, understands this all too well. Founded in 2015, the company has built a loyal following among parents — so much so that some of its customer reviews on Amazon read like love letters to the brand.
"At the end of the day, what we're always selling is peace of mind to parents," Zagha says.
Newton Baby gives parents peace of mind with a range of innovatively designed baby products, including its flagship product — the only 100% breathable and washable crib mattress.
The company takes the needs of parents to heart because many of its employees are parents themselves. They understand the joy and fear that coincides with first-time parenthood.
This ethos doesn’t just guide the company’s product design — it also influences its product pages — which are very image- and video-driven rather than text-heavy.
"If the baby actually sleeps better and safer, the parent does, too," Zagha says. "So, everything we design, everything we look at, and every image we select, is really laser-focused on providing reassurances, peace of mind, other relatable customer testimonials, reducing marketing speak wherever humanly possible, and really providing that core human desire to feel safe and know you're doing the best you can for your baby."
Tip #2: Design a Better Product if You Want To Meet Consumer Expectations
Zagha says one of the keys to Newton Baby’s success is that its products are so differentiated.
The company has done third-party testing to validate its crib mattress’s breathability. When parents first get a Newton Baby mattress, they often put their face through the mesh to test the breathability themselves — something Newton Baby has marketed as "the breathable challenge."
Judging by the company’s five-star Amazon reviews, its products pass the test and meet consumer expectations with flying colors.
"Having the better product is the first step [to delighting customers]. It's easy when the product is so differentiated, so much better than the competitive field, and demonstrable in a way to the customer." — Aaron Zagha, Chief Marketing Officer of Newton Baby
Tip #3: Understand Your Company’s Unique Mix of Math, Magic, and Art
Zagha says one of the things that differentiates Newton Baby as a six-year-old brand is that the company has never taken any outside capital. It has stayed lean and grown organically, which has contributed to its success.
"If you're working for an old-line [consumer packaged goods] CPG manufacturer that’s public and has very, very strict margins you have to maintain, you have one set of constraints. If you're working on a [venture capital] VC company that's raised $5 billion, you have a very different set of constraints — or no constraints to work with," he says. "We had the fortune or misfortune of not taking outside capital ever. From day one, we had to be profitable, which totally constrained me in a way that was tremendously positive over the long run."
Newton Baby also uses very specific KPIs to optimize for growth. In terms of measuring marketing effectiveness, Zagha says he’s been fortunate that the company’s founders have always been focused on return on ad spend (ROAS) and total sales over total marketing spend.
"It has given me a lot of leeway to be really flexible on channel optimization, testing, and iterating because I haven't been micromanaged to the degree that Google paid search on a last-click basis has to have a ROAS of four and Facebook can have a ROAS of two or whatever else," Zagha says.
Tip #4: Cultivate Internal Subject Matter Experts — But Use Agencies When Necessary
Newton Baby has also stayed nimble thanks to its org structure.
Zagha says he likes to have one subject matter expert on his team who understands a specific channel inside and out — essentially creating ecommerce specialties within the team. He adds that Newton Baby also relies on agencies to supplement its internal expertise and help the company maintain lean operations.
"The ability to leverage learnings of a group of people across 500 clients — if the agency has 500 clients — and use best practices across all of those, especially when 10 of those 500 are probably in a similar industry or targeting a similar customer base, is really, really valuable," he says. "There's no way you can get that from one, two, or even three internal hires — that group learning and that wisdom of collective experience."
Tip #5: Nurture a Sense of Community
Fostering a sense of community can also help brands better meet consumer expectations and optimize DTC growth.
Newton Baby has focused on nurturing a sense of community among its customers, first with referral and coupon codes — and now with a thriving Facebook community to encourage customers to engage with each other and with the brand.
The company runs regular seminars and Facebook Lives with sleep experts, coaches, birth doulas, and other baby experts to share timely information with parents and nurture dialogue between customers.
"There's nothing better than a customer telling another customer how good the product is," Zagha says. "We can do it all day long, but they're not necessarily going to believe us even though we are customers ourselves of our product. But when it's someone else saying, 'Oh, you should only get the Newton Baby mattress. It gave me so much peace of mind,' nothing is going to be stronger or more powerful than that."
A Multifaceted Approach Yields Multifaceted Results
From being truly mission-oriented to clearly defining its KPIs and producing a differentiated product, Newton Baby demonstrates that driving DTC success requires a multifaceted approach. Whether it’s math, magic, or art, the company has effectively balanced all three to exceed customer expectations, drive growth, and most importantly, give parents peace of mind. And no metric can fully measure that.
For more tips on how your brand can optimize its DTC growth, check out the rest of this episode of "Unpacking the Digital Shelf."