For Business

Advice for building a DTC brand that stands out

Get expert tips on how to build a brand that stands out in an increasingly crowded DTC space.


Brands don’t happen overnight. They’re slowly and thoughtfully built to stand out and get buy in. In 2022, having a great product or idea isn’t enough. When you ask a shopper to trust your ecommerce site over many of the other options out there, you need a strong brand to establish that trust.

At the end of the day, you can’t build loyal customers without first building your brand.

The past decade has seen a radical shift in how people shop. The pandemic accelerated trends that were already in motion and further fueled the explosion of direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales. In 2021, nearly 60% of US consumers purchased from a DTC brand at least once, and DTC sales are expected to hit $175 billion by 2023 compared to $76 billion in 2018. That means the DTC space is getting more and more crowded, and that it might be more difficult for your ecommerce site to stand out and get buy in.

“Branding is more important than ever because there’s so much out there—it’s not just about the product anymore,” says Carmen Mosset, Brand Marketing lead for Buy with Prime. “Being able to connect with customers on a deeper, emotional level and to understand what they want is what brands need to survive and thrive.”

According to research conducted by Harvard Business Review, “customers who trust a brand are 88% more likely to buy again,” noting that trusted companies outperform their peers by up to 400% in terms of market value. When you have brand trust, it means shoppers have confidence in your products or services.

Branding has the power to turn shoppers into customers and customers into fans. So how do you create a brand that helps you form these valuable relationships?

Four steps to building a brand consumers love

1. Define your intended audience.

Who benefits from your products or services? You likely developed your business with an ideal customer in mind. For example, when Being, a bath and body line, launched its ecommerce store, the founder needed to decide who she wanted to connect with most. Did her ideal customer care about sustainable packaging? Did they care about natural ingredients? Were they shopping for something accessibly priced? Asking questions like this early on helps determine the brand voice you should use.

“If you’re a small DTC brand wanting to grow, get out there and speak to the people who make up your audience,” says Mosset, recommending focus groups as a mechanism to do that. “You want to truly get to know them like you would a friend. Find out what they’re looking for that they aren’t currently getting from other brands.”

You can start by looking at your current customers and finding out what their shared characteristics are. Break them down into audience segments if you need to. You can use audience surveys to collect demographic information (for example, age, gender, location, job titles, or hobbies) and psychographic information (such as beliefs or personality). Even if you’re looking to expand or change your audience, learning about your current customer base and why they value your brand is important.

2. Focus on a brand differentiator.

So, what sets you apart? Maybe the products you sell on your ecommerce site are handmade or come at an unbeatable price point. Finding out what makes your brand different will require doing a competitive analysis to identify the “white space” or unmet needs. Find out what the other brands in your category are doing. Compare your findings to the features that your brand does better, and then lean into those differences.

Think of how many skincare brands there are in the market. They are able to co-exist because they built differentiators into their specific brand identity. For example, one skincare brand might tout that it’s organic, another might showcase that its ingredients are sourced from a certain region of the world. Find your unique code and make it a cornerstone of your branding.

3. Tell your brand story.

You can’t build a strong brand without storytelling. According to the Content Marketing Institute, “stories are what make people decide if they like you, if you understand their needs, and if they want to do business with you.” This is a chance to educate shoppers about your company’s mission and values. Brands use storytelling to incite emotions and encourage shoppers to interact with them.

Your brand story shouldn’t be tucked away on your “About Us” page either. It should be visible across all of your branding channels consistently. Explain to shoppers why you created your product and show the path that lead you there. Talk about the people behind the brand and the challenges overcome and the lessons learned.

“You must dive deep into storytelling to differentiate yourself,” says Mosset. She warns against being inauthentic, though, and not to tell a story simply because it sounds good. Shoppers are savvier these days and can sniff out brand stories that aren’t genuine, so your brand story should be honest and unique to you.

Mosset adds, “Don’t use buzzwords, like ‘sustainability,’ if they don’t actually apply to your brand. Use language that’s transparent and earns trust. It’s super critical; otherwise, storytelling is not going to help you.”

4. Be prepared to evolve.

As your following grows, so should you. Building a brand is an ongoing process—not a “set it and forget it” endeavor. The ecommerce landscape is constantly shifting, and your brand needs to be agile. If you see an opportunity for your branding to expand, keep the elements of your brand that are working but continue to refine the rest. If you examine traditional retail brands that have existed for decades, like Levis, Pepsi or Chevrolet, you’ll see that they aren’t using the exact same logo or color palette or messaging. They adapt to an evolving audience.

“Ideally you want visual and verbal identities that speak not only to your first customer, but also to your millionth customer,” Mosset says. “Even though we can’t see into the future, your customer base will likely evolve over time, so your brand needs to keep up.”

She adds, “That’s why having those direct relationships matters so much. Don’t lose touch with what your customer wants. Be intentional about finding out what elements of your brand can be improved as your customers evolve.”

How can Buy with Prime help?

If you already have a DTC brand but you’re having trouble building brand trust, using Buy with Prime can help get you over that hurdle.

Shoppers often don’t know what to expect from small or unfamiliar businesses. And if they haven’t heard of your brand, that uncertainty can be enough to prevent them from engaging with your brand, let alone buying something from your site. Adding the Buy with Prime badge to products on your ecommerce site lets shoppers know that they’ll have a convenient, secure experience from the moment they purchase to the moment the package arrives at their door.

Buy with Prime is an extension of Prime shopping benefits—but available directly on your ecommerce site. That means fast, free delivery and a checkout experience millions of shoppers already trust.

“Since adding Buy with Prime, the visibility and overall credibility of our DTC site has increased,” says Santiago, the co-founder of Gentle Living, a therapeutic pillow brand. “We believe it’s because of that trust factor. People know what kind of experience they’re going to get, so it’s a lot easier for them to make that decision to buy the product.”

Your brand-building doesn’t have to start from zero. By providing Buy with Prime as a checkout option, you’re leveraging the trust of Prime and getting that much closer to having a brand people love.

Learn how Buy with Prime’s marketing solutions can help you boost your brand.

If you’re ready to see how Buy with Prime can help your ecommerce business, learn about the requirements for getting started and sign up.

Anita Little