The Digital Age has transformed almost every aspect of business. From the way businesses communicate internally, to the many ways that new products can be brought to market.

One of the early promises of a connected world was that instant access to information would level the playing field and change the make-up of entire industries. By the look of the current retail landscape, it seems that traditional retailers and brands have been caught off-guard.

Acquiring customers by offering the best deals and deepest discounts has become the go-to trick for most major brands and retailers. The idea that the product with the lowest price wins has become pervasive. As prices have been driven down, product quality has been sacrificed and many brands have lost their authenticity and connection to their core customer. Attempts to make up the loss by chasing volume at any cost have failed (i.e., the entire surf industry).

Rising out of the ashes of traditional branding and retail there is an ever growing number of direct to consumer brands positioning themselves to fill the void. These emerging companies can only exist because of modern technology, and their focus is almost never on price, it is on the customer.

For example, Ace Marks, a direct to consumer luxury footwear company that I founded, is not built to only acquire customers and deliver products to them.  Our operations are focused on engaging customers and turning them into brand enthusiast. Many of today’s successful new brands understand that a customer that is lured in solely on price has a lower lifetime value than one that is fully engaged and indoctrinated into the brand’s mission and purpose.

Today’s emerging direct to consumer companies follow 3 core principals to create brand enthusiast:

Quality & Value

Deliver products of very high quality at fair prices. Today’s consumers have a lot of information at their fingertips. They know the difference between a high quality product and one that is overpriced just because of the brand on it. Maximizing profit margins cannot alone dictate pricing and production strategies.

Engagement

Control your brand message without interference from retailers and deliver engaging content directly to your customer. Content should focus on educating your customers about your product, offering transparency as to your processes, and responding to your customer’s questions and suggestions. This content does not have to be expensive to create. In many cases, a low-budget look will feel more authentic and be more impactful.

Sense of Ownership

In the Digital Age, consumers want to be more than just customers. They want to feel an authentic connection to the brands that they frequent, akin to having a stake in the brand. To nurture this, treat your customers like team members. Provide regular business updates, be responsive to their communications, and make sure that their input reaches decision makers that can take action and implement customer generated ideas.

In reality, having a customer first approach is nothing new. Only the tools have changed. These new tools enable brands to create a bond with their customer unlike anything previously possible. As a result, there is a huge opportunity for brands that shift their thinking into the Digital Age and focus on creating brand enthusiasts instead of bargain shoppers.