The Secret to Transforming First-Time Buyers into Brand Advocates: (Before it’s Too Late)

Published On: 09 Jan 2023


Brand advocates are groups of like-minded individuals who share a common identity and similar opinions toward a particular brand and try to promote the brand.

DTC space is becoming fiercely competitive and companies are leaving no stone unturned to mesmerize their customers. Buyers' expectations have skyrocketed and they have a plethora of choices. Customer advocacy is the most significant factor which can make or break a DTC brand. As per a 2019 research study by Oracle and Jeanne Bliss, 43% of customers would eventually stop any business interaction with a brand over a single bad experience. Additionally, 59% will tell their friends and family about the poor experience which can put a dent in the organization's reputation.

Gone are the days when customers would prefer buying from top brands. Today, customers, especially first-time buyers, want to buy from brands with whom they have a strong connection. These first-time buyers choose brands they care about and expect the same from the brand.

If customer engagement and experience are met properly, people would love to be brand advocates and promote the brand widely. Here, in this article, we will dive deep into the world of DTC marketing strategies and find the secret sauce to converting first-time customers to brand advocate benefits before they think of opting for your competitors.

What is brand advocacy?

Brand advocates are groups of like-minded individuals who share a common identity and similar opinions toward a particular brand and try to promote the goodness of the brand and its positive impacts. Brand advocacy strategy has been phenomenally leveraged by the top brands across the globe as word-of-mouth marketing has been the most trustworthy source of brand promotion even now.

Brand advocacy can help a business to:

  • Create brand awareness
  • Improve sales numbers
  • Foster customer loyalty and advocacy
  • Grow word-of-mouth referrals
  • Deepen customer relationships with the brand

How to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers?

Customer engagement and retention are the two areas brands are focusing on the most. DTC and Ecommerce brands must find a means to understand and acknowledge the customers in a better and distinct manner so they effectively take a consumer-first approach. Here are a few top ways you can create effective brand advocacy campaigns:

1) Create an engaged community

In the world of direct-to-consumer (DTC) or Ecommerce brands, building a loyal customer base is critical to long-term success. More than 70% of brands have active communities and that number keeps growing. Engagement is what turns a customer from someone who loves your brand to a true advocate for it.

One great brand advocacy example can be taken from the French multinational retailer of personal care and beauty products brand Sephora, which has gone above and beyond the traditional level of building a loyal brand community and introduced the Beauty Insider community.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Create an Engaged Community

It's an online community where beauty enthusiasts come together to ask questions, participate in challenges, share their looks, exchange advice and try new products, and connect virtually with other Sephora shoppers. While anyone can search and read the information, only registered members of the community can start a conversation, post photos, or leave replies.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Create an Engaged Community Like Sephora

Sephora's Beauty Insider community consists of five responsive features aimed at providing the virtual customer with an open line of communication with their experts. Sephora has successfully created and provided a Reddit-like experience for its users.

Brand Advocacy Takeaways:

  • Members of the Beauty Insiders club provide their favorite photos, reviews, and recommendations for products and trends.
  • The community members keep engaged with Sephora by consulting with beauty insiders completely free of cost.
  • The Beauty Insider community lets you shop for discounted products, access newly launched products, attend special events, and more.

2) Build a rewards program

As per the 2020 Yotpo survey, 68% of customers will join a loyalty program if one is available. Transform your customers into loyal fans and increase their frequency of purchase by employing a customer rewards marketing strategy.

Rewarding shoppers with points based on past purchases is a good place to start. When you launch a loyalty program, make sure you reward the brand advocacy in addition to repeat purchase rates. The key brand advocate benefit is it turns your best customer relationships into brand ambassadors while solving the problem of one-time buyers. Reward points or discounts for recommendations from friends, followers or social shares, product reviews, or relevant content creation are great ways to show your appreciation towards your advocates.

Parade, an Ecommerce clothing brand, offers its loyal customers free and early-access items. This supports customer retention and brand loyalty and usually leads to a surge of user-generated content (UGC) on social media promoting the brand.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Build a Reward Program Like Parade

Brand Advocacy Takeaways:

  • Parade's loyalty program "parade friend" helps to engage the loyal members by acknowledging their efforts.
  • Parade friends get incentivized by having exclusive and early access to discounts and new products, giving them the right hook to stay tuned with the brand.

3) Deliver exceptional customer service

Customer service is one of the most important factors in turning customers into brand ambassadors. Show your customers that you value them by taking proactive measures such as responding quickly to inquiries, being courteous and helpful, and doing everything you can to resolve their issues.

One way to delight customers is to go beyond purely reactive customer service. This involves a combination of direct contact with customers and the creation of self-service resources to help more prospects, retain customers, reduce cart abandonment, and improve your brand's customer experience.

A great brand advocate program example would be Jones Road Beauty - a DTC brand for women's beauty products. Jones Road Beauty makes it easier to shop for beauty products online by collecting customer data from third-party suppliers. There are three tests that customers can take to help them find exactly their product.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Provide Excellent Customer Support Like Jones Road

Not only do these tests help customers find the right products, but this page also tells them how to use products. Aside from helping buyers, these questionnaires allow Jones Road to collect data from third parties and create personalized emails, relevant SMS messages, and other campaigns.

Brand Advocacy Takeaways:

  • Brands with superior customer experience generate 5.7 times more revenue than their competitors.
  • Help customers find the right fit of products that suit their needs.
  • Enable your customers to navigate through the information so they can seamless experience. Help them wherever they feel stuck sailing through.

4) Listen to your customers

Your customers are your biggest supporters and promoters of your brand. You need to listen to your customers at all stages to get the right intel to shape your brand as per your customers' wants and needs. It can include fixing issues with existing products, improving customer support, and even developing new products based on customer needs and wants.

This is a much better approach than adapting your products or adding product lines based on trends and assumptions about your target audience. It allows you to consistently meet and often exceed expectations, giving first-time customers and existing users a reason to stay.

The first step to your brand advocacy strategy is collecting customer feedback. Do this by social listening, monitoring reviews, and taking customer surveys. Once you've collected feedback from various sources, collect and analyze the information. Be sure to prioritize the most common issues. Apply feedback throughout the customer experience.

An example of this is Rifle Paper Co - a greeting card company. They have separate customer surveys to collect feedback and incorporate necessary changes. Since the inception of the brand, they have made sure that they would go by the choices of customers and not the other way around. As a part of its customer loyalty program, the brand organized an online consumer survey, posing queries such as where and what categories customers shop for the products and how they'd love to see the brand in and received more than 10,000 responses.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Listen to Customers

Brand Advocacy Takeaways:

  • Your customers are your biggest stakeholder and benefactor. You need to listen to them at each step regarding their opinions and shopping choices.
  • Be ready to be adaptive to changes as per customer needs and wants rather than going with your own set of products.
  • Align yourself completely with your customers so you can identify and understand their pain points and their aspirations for a brand.

5) Give your customers a voice

An integral part of your customer advocate strategy is to encourage your customers to share their experiences with your brand. Give them a platform to express their opinions and join the conversation. According to Gorgias, repeat customers count only 21% of the average brand's customer base but garner 44% of that brand's revenue because of repeat purchases and high-value orders.

Many DTC brands communicate primarily through email, SMS, newsletters, new product announcements, and notifications via apps/web, which can make customers feel like they're on the remote end of the communication.

Instead, allow your customers to participate in two-way interactions and allow freedom to contribute to your brand stories:

  • Invite them to try new products/services
  • Respond to their social media posts about your brand
  • Invite them to your branded events

Two-way conversations between brands and customers are essential to making them feel valued and building real, lasting connections. Curology allows all community members to participate in their members-only community and encourage other community members.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Give Customers a Voice

Brand Advocacy Takeaways:

  • Your customers need to feel valued. Provide them with the right medium to voice their opinions.
  • 68% of DTC marketers cited social platforms as their primary way of reaching out to their target audience. Request and encourage your customers to share their stories and feedback over social media about the brand.
  • Invite them to your special brand events, hear out what they have to say about the products/services, and try to incorporate the necessary changes.

6) Show appreciation

Show your customers that you value their loyalty and support. Offer discounts and gifts, or simply thank them for their continued support. Successful Ecommerce companies have found creative ways to use this effect to generate more sales through the use of loyalty and rewards programs. About 84% of consumers say they are more likely to stay with a brand that offers a loyalty program, and 66% say the opportunity to earn rewards modifies their expense behavior.

Customers are happy and willing to continue shopping from one brand to another when they get rewards suited for them. A great way to do this is to let customers choose their own rewards. For example, Thrive Market allows new members to choose a free gift from their bestseller list.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Show Appreciation

Brand Advocacy Takeaways:

  • As seen in the copy above, make it easy for the loyal brand advocate to choose a freebie by giving them a list of products to choose from.
  • The copy is equally striking: with the use of words such as “Free shipping while supplies last” and “exclusive new-member perk” they make the first-time buyer feel good while prompting the FOMO.

7) Invest in content marketing

Most Ecommerce companies invest heavily in creating original content, including videos, that they can share with their communities. In order to create content that resonates with your audience and brand advocates, it's important to identify the goals, needs, and pain points of your community members. Make time for meaningful conversations with customers and focus on hearing what they have to say.

We'd recommend that you involve your audience in the content creation process to boost community engagement. Interviewing people from the community and sharing their stories should be done more often. Not only is this a great way to engage community members, but it's also a great way to discover and encourage overall member interactions. You can create engaging and interactive content in a number of ways:

  1. "Ask me something" session
  2. Use opinion polls
  3. Implement Gamification
  4. Turn support tickets into FAQs
  5. Promote user-generated content and customer feedback

A great example would be Northern Brewer - an e-commerce brand of home brewing starter kits. They have mastered the art of educating customers as making craft beers is a trendsetter right now and customers are eager to learn the craft. They educate customers through a step-by-step process on how beers can be made such as Homebrewing 101.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Invest In Content Marketing Like Northern Brewer

Not only this, but to take it further, they have a sugar calculator as well to give the right mix and quantification for the newbies and an extensive video library for reference purposes as well.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Invest In Content Marketing (2)

Brand Advocacy Takeaways:

  • 92% of DTC brand marketers consider their content to be a business asset. Make sure you are constantly evolving with your content to keep your customers engaged.
  • Try to understand the bottlenecks and friction points for your customers and create tutorials, and guiding articles for the same to help them navigate.
  • Understand what type of content is preferred by your customers and try to engage them with their choice of content.

8) Promote social sharing

Encourage your customers to share their experiences with your brand on social media. Make it easy for them by including share buttons on your website, apps, and emails. Additionally, you can collaborate with micro-influencers to promote your brand through social sharing and engage with your customers and prospects.

Social sharing is also an undeniable social proof for your potential customers and first-time buyers. Having word-of-mouth promotion helps your brand ace the hurdles of visibility and trust.

This leads to more meaningful interactions for brands as they relate to your target audience. For example, kombucha company Health-Ade used 214 micro-influencers to generate 1.6 million impressions.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Promote Social Sharing

Brand Advocacy Takeaways:

  • Social sharing works as social proof for your company. Encourage your customers to share more on social media about their journey with your brand.
  • Resolve any queries your customers might have by interacting promptly over the posts.

9) Strengthen your community

Internet-first brands are always looking to create a deeper customer connection so that the loyal customer base can grow significantly. Your community of brand advocates is the biggest asset that you can have. Your community provides feedback, opinions, and insights to improve your product and gives you the necessary sneak peek at how your product will fare in the market.

For this, you need to develop engaging content for the community, create space for meaningful conversations, and offer brand advocate benefits and rewards for their brand loyalty.

Aerie has always been a brand that stands for body positivity, women empowerment, and inclusion for women. With its #AerieREAL ambassador community, the brand has taken these ideals up one notch by cultivating a diverse group of women, such as college students, moms, professionals, and more.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Strenghten Your Community

Aerie has built a strong community of advocates through body-positive ad campaigns, inviting customers to use the hashtag #AerieREAL in their content, and transforming the conversation about beauty standards.

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Strenghten Your Community like Aerie

10) Encourage referrals

Repeat customers spend 67% more per order after purchasing from a company for 30 months. They spend more during festivals, events, Christmas, and the holiday season. Your existing customer is your brand's best advocate and can bring you more customers organically.

As a part of your retention marketing campaign, create a referral program that blends with your brand community to help both your brand and your first-time customers along with the existing ones. Create a loyalty program to thank them for their trust. Set aside incentives for referrals. Exclusive offers, special discounts, and early access to product launches are all good incentives to offer.

A customer referral program offers several benefits:

  • Get new leads
  • Reward your current customers and encourage them to promote your brand to others for more profit as part of the brand advocate program.
  • Create more customer success stories, social network mentions, and visibility

Dr. Squatch, an American personal care brand, found that the free bar of soap provided a greater incentive to buy. This realization allowed the brand to quickly overhaul its referral program, leading to the launch of its current referral offering: "Give a bar, get a bar."

Strategies to create brand advocacy for first-time buyers - Encourage Referrals

Final Thoughts

Successful and sustainable DTC marketing strategies are all about building a community of brand advocates and ambassadors and maintaining their loyalty over time. You can accomplish this through authentic branding, creating unique experiences, and genuinely understanding customers. Loyal customers are the best brand advocate examples for your brand.

Hopefully, you can use these ideas and examples to create your own brand advocacy strategies. If you can keep an open mind and not shy away from experimenting to keep your first-time buyers excited and elated, you will have a much higher probability of success.

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