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October 8, 2020

Vivian Chang of Clorox: D2C Strategy Lessons From a Winning Global Brand

Written by: Jason Fidler

For many direct-to-consumer (D2C) practitioners, life can sometimes be pretty uncomfortable. Many describe their role as being within a bubble of a larger organization — where few others have a full understanding or appreciation of the purpose of D2C.

They can feel like they’re simultaneously being pulled in many different directions, constantly needing to explain where and when D2C initiatives make sense while fighting for a higher place in the organizational hierarchy.

For Vivian Chang, VP of growth at Clorox DTC, being comfortable with discomfort and venturing into the unknown is what makes the D2C world so exciting.

In 2018, The Clorox Company acquired Nutranext, a manufacturer and marketer of leading dietary supplement brands. Chang, the marketing executive who had previously led acquisition strategies at Plated and RetailMeNot, joined post-acquisition to accelerate customer adoption for the D2C businesses.

Chang led the most recent D2C Strategy Playbook Series session, presented by the Digital Shelf Institute (DSI), “How to Inject D2C DNA Into a Successful Global B2B Consumer Brand.” Chang outlined why she chose the opportunity at Clorox and her ingredients for making D2C programs a success.

Clorox Embraces the D2C Model

Chang was attracted to the opportunity at Clorox for several reasons. First, Clorox had already bought into the D2C model, bringing in the former CMO at Box to oversee the growth and implementation of a D2C management team, including executives from startups, traditional commerce teams, and even B2B industries.

“Our CEO was really passionate about this idea, and a lot of the GMs [general managers] I spoke with really wanted to move to D2C,” Chang said. Without that executive buy-in, Chang noted, fledgling D2C programs tend to fail.

Second, there are few brands as well known and respected for product quality as Clorox. Chang realized that leveraging that brand recognition to get D2C programs off the ground would be a huge benefit.

“You see it right now with COVID and brand loyalty, and really speaks to the power of the brand,” Chang said.

D2C Strategy: 3 Essential Ingredients for Success

Chang highlighted the three essential ingredients for building a successful and scalable D2C effort, based on her experience working with a winning global brand.

1. Find People Who ‘Fail Fast, But Fail Forward’

According to Chang, those that thrive in D2C environments have a “start-up mentality.” They are comfortable in circumstances in which projects might not be well defined. They enjoy the thought of launching initiatives that might not be fully baked. They are willing to let consumers dictate where things went wrong.

Yes, they need to have the “hard skills” of data analytics and understand the essential marriage between performance marketing and brand storytelling. But, as Chang noted, “They need to fail fast, but fail forward.”

2. Build Data-Driven Customer Understanding

Data is at the heart of Chang’s D2C strategy. Data analysis and parsing is a skill that every member of her team must have. Additionally, the team invests a lot of time and effort into creating dashboards that are easily readable for the rest of the company.

By collecting as much data as possible, Chang noted, “You are able to tie your efforts to the metrics that matter to the company.”

One particular set of data analyses that Chang and her team conduct consistently is cohort analysis. By taking a subset of consumers and watching how they interact across the portfolio of Clorox brands over time, “We now know something about their browsing and purchase behavior and have a better understanding of what they will do next.”

This strategy leads to benefits ranging from more effective repurchasing marketing campaigns to cross-sell promotions across the portfolio of Clorox brands.

3. Use Content and Storytelling to Stand Out

D2C allows brands to own the consumer experience entirely, and what Chang has found is that it opens up a host of great opportunities for brand storytelling through content. Particularly as brand values have become central to their overall offering, content on those brands’ sites can become a significant differentiator.

“With D2C, you can talk about the farm where the ingredients were sourced from, things that are really hard to communicate when you’re walking through a Target,” Chang said. “But on digital, you have so much more opportunity to make a product which may not be all that interesting in and of itself more aligned with consumers.”

Of course, not every story will resonate with every consumer, which goes back to the importance of data. Segmentation and personalization technology can ensure that the most resonant messaging gets in front of target audiences.

Be Willing to Dive Into the Unknown

D2C programs ultimately allow brands to develop a better, more one-to-one relationship with consumers. By marrying a data-intensive approach with the power of great content — all overseen by a team willing to dive into the unknown — other brands can emulate Chang’s approach to make D2C an essential part of their overall commerce strategy.

Watch the full session to hear more about the pitfalls, wins, and strategic lessons of bringing D2C strategy to life inside one of the world’s largest consumer brands.

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