As Apple’s privacy changes continue to drive up paid social media ad costs, it is clear that eCommerce companies that are closer to customers have a major advantage.
In fact, the most successful eCommerce brands of this decade will also be media companies. By and large, more modern direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are creating in-house media companies to own distribution channels and get closer to customers than ever before.
The term ‘media company’ often brings to mind images of global corporations like Twenty-First Century Fox or Walt Disney, both of which hold dozens of subsidiaries that also produce widely consumed content. Enter today’s DTC eCommerce brands that are rivaling that perception.
In this post, we’re sharing the advantages as well as some examples of some eCommerce companies dominating this trend.
The Rise of eCommerce Brands as Media Companies
The idea of DTC brands as media companies isn’t as new of a concept as it may seem. Consider a product-based brand like Red Bull, which spearheads Red Bull Media House as a globally distributed multi-platform media company.
Over the years, Red Bull has grown from an energy drink distributor to a major event sponsor to, in 2007, a premium media outlet that encompasses audio, digital, mobile, television, and print. Today, the company produces more than 1,250 events annually across upwards of 100 disciplines in 160 countries. However, Red Bull isn’t alone in these endeavors.
Other major brands have boasted in-house media companies for more than a decade, including software companies like SAP and financial services brands like American Express. Where these companies differ in their approach to in-house media content is where said media is published. Red Bull keeps Red Bull Media House as a separate entity, where a company like SAP utilizes their main brand site to publish content.
Is there a preferred method to publish in-house media? No.
In the case of SAP, business operation content makes sense to live on the company’s main brand site, where Red Bull Media events and portfolio are better suited for a separate brand site.
4 Advantages of Having a Media Brand
Here are some of the advantages that are convincing DTC eCommerce brands to helm their own in-house media companies.
1. Added trust
YouGov’s 2021 International Media Consumption Report, a study of 17 countries, discovered that social media ads are the least credible form of advertising globally, with just a quarter of the global sample claiming they trust these types of ads. Search engine ads rank above social media ads but are still trusted vastly less than traditional television, radio, and print.
These findings can be troublesome for DTC eCommerce brands that rely on social media and SEM traffic to generate sales.
By pushing out additional forms of content, from YouTube videos to blog posts and live events, brands provide the public with additional forms of promotion that don’t feel like paid advertisements. Likewise, brands that create a media brand separate from their main entity implement a sense of distance between themselves and promotional content, generating more trust with consumers.
2. Get Closer to the Customer
In the same way in-house media can help DTC eCommerce brands gain trust with consumers, it can also bring brands closer to a target audience. In-house media companies allow a brand to address the goals and challenges its customer cares about, including topics that may not be appropriate on the main site or may be unrelated to current on-site content.
Likewise, consumer data sourced from in-house efforts allow a brand to be more targeted and efficient with its messaging. By learning what type of content a consumer gravitates towards, DTC eCommerce brands can ramp up efforts to become the go-to resource within their industry. The closer to the customer a brand is, the more likely they are to convert.
3. Owned Distribution Channel
Between a myriad of updates across Facebook and Google and increased competition on all digital spaces, now is the time to find ways to become less reliant on paid ads.
Creating an in-house media company means companies can decrease ad reliance over time as their owned distribution efforts pick up steam. Not to mention, people who regularly consume a brand’s content tend to be easier to sell to and will buy more often.
4. Higher LTV + Decreased CAC
It is no secret that people who are reading or viewing the content you put out are going to be easier to reach and more likely to buy your products again. This, in turn, can decrease your customer acquisition costs and increase customer lifetime value.
In fact, Ally Financial CMO Andrea Brimmer even cited owning distribution as a method to make the company 25% more efficient. Less cost to acquire a customer ultimately equals more value in the long run.
7 Examples of eCommerce Companies Dominating in-house Media
What was once a rising trend for marketers is now a trusted brand strategy for DTC eCommerce brands that understand how in-house media can boost control, efficiency, and cost.
Take a look at some eCommerce brands that have created in-house media companies.
1. Kiss My Keto
You’d be hard-pressed to find an industry more competitive than the health food and supplement industry.
One company that has found a way to stand is Kiss My Keto, who is also a Bean Ninjas’ client. They sell snacks and supplements catering to people on the Keto diet, and have built a loyal and fast-growing customer base based largely on producing helpful content via their blog, social media, free courses, and Youtube channel around the Keto Movement.
For example, in this Youtube video, they share how to make chocolate that is Keto-friendly.
Today, they have become a trusted authority in the Keto niche.
Glossier, the self-titled “people-powered beauty ecosystem” is a skincare and beauty company with a digital-first model. The brand heavily emphasizes communication with customers, to the point of involving its audience in the creation of its products through in-house media. The strategy began in 2010 when Glossier Founder and CEO, Emily Weiss, launched a personal blog, Into The Gloss.
As a home for all things makeup and skincare recommendations, the blog quickly became a launching pad for product development in 2012 when Glossier was launched.
Today, the blog serves as a space to learn more about consumers’ daily beauty routines and current must-have products in its infamous The Top Shelf section. Here—as well as on Instagram where the brand’s racked up 2.7 million followers—consumers have built a community of fellow beauty aficionados that provide feedback that directly informs new Glossier products.
Oura is a Finnish health tech brand known best for its Oura Ring, a smart ring that monitors sleep and physical activity. It’s also built an in-house network led by world-class athletes, which they dub as “The Community,” that’s also home to inspiring stories from real-life users.
However, what truly positions Oura as an in-house media company is its The Pulse Blog. Unlike Glossier, which houses its blog on a third-party website, all Oura content is published on-site. Content ranges from Community Stories to Research & Validation, which is a collection of company-sponsored research and partnerships to inform—and gain the trust of—consumers.
Up next on the list of DTC eCommerce brands successfully creating in-house media companies is Beardbrand, a men’s grooming company that launched in 2013 and was featured on the reality television series Shark Tank in 2014.
For a quick overview of how Beardbrand has been dominating in-house media, check out this podcast episode of Ecommerce Marketing School by Privy.
In short, Beardbrand has found a loyal community on its YouTube channel, with nearly 2 million subscribers and videos that rake in more than 7 million views each. The main Beardbrand page is home to haircut videos, beard trimming tutorials, and barbershop playlists.
However, the company also hosts Beardbrand Alliance, a private online community for growth-minded individuals, Beardbrand Products, which documents styling and product tips, and work closely with big-name beard influencers like Jeffrey Buoncristiano. Together, these efforts helped garner Beardbrand a loyal following and consistent customer base.
Thinx is a DTC eCommerce brand specializing in feminine hygiene products, specifically underwear that can replace traditional menstruation products. To helm its in-house media strategy, Thinx leverages both an on-site blog, called Periodical, as well as a robust Instagram profile.
Instead of being a place to push products, Periodical is a safe space for Thinx consumers (or potential consumers) to learn more about their menstrual cycle in a less clinical way. It pushes the boundaries of a typical DTC brand, diving into topics like women’s health, sex positivity, and even pop culture, with a recent post titled What #FreeBritney Can Teach Us About Reproductive Autonomy.
The Thinx Instagram page, operated under the handle @shethinx, is an even mix of user-generated content (UGC), subtle product placement, and informative infographics. While it’s clear what products the brand sells, the Thinx Instagram page, much like its blog, is another in-house created opportunity for women to self-educate and find a community.
6. House of Wise
Similar to Thinx, House of Wise is another female-owned and operated DTC eCommerce business. House of Wise sells CBD products, like tinctures and gummies, with an affiliate or referral business model. A relatively new business, the company has found success by immediately building a community.
In a series of tweets, House of Wise founder Amanda Goetz explains she has opted for an “omnichannel” strategy that favors building company “cheerleaders and affiliates” rather than paid ads. While Goetz recognizes that paid ads have their place in today’s increasingly digital society, a large portion of the marketing budget is allocated towards building relationships with customers that inevitably boost the brand.
For this reason, House of Wise is currently operating an ambassador program, dubbed #WiseWomen. Ambassadors apply via the House of Wise website and receive a custom commission code that allows them to earn 20% of every order’s total when friends and family use their link to purchase. With this model, ambassadors have a constant incentive to share the product and consumers have real users they can trust for recommendations.
Last but not least, Gymshark is a British fitness apparel and accessories brand that was launched in 2012 and has made quite the stir in the eCommerce world since then. A recent case study that analyzed the growth of Gymshark over the years reveals the key to its in-house media power is via successful partnerships with popular influencers.
Just one click over to the brand’s website reveals its most recent collaboration with Whitney Simmons, a lifestyle and fitness influencer with more than 3.2 million Instagram followers. The phrase “Gymshark Athlete” is even in Whitney’s bio, with the most recent collab filling her feed.
Using just social media and influencer marketing, Gymshark was able to boast 193% compound sales growth over three consecutive years. Recent growth may be attributed to the brand’s popular Tik Tok page, which features a cool 3.3 million followers in addition to the 5.4 million it’s gathered on Instagram.
Relying on paid ads as your primary distribution channel is only getting more expensive. While going cold turkey and removing your entire ad budget at once isn’t a great move, the sooner you get started building out your media company the better. Now more than ever, eCommerce brands can gain consumer trust and get closer to their customers by building a media company.