When it comes to marketing, brands have historically tried to keep things close to home, working with agencies that specialize in their particular geographic region.
That was then. Now, the rise of e-commerce and globalization have dramatically changed the way brands need to get their messages out to consumers — in large part because their potential target audience no longer has to live within driving distance.
As e-commerce brands increasingly go international to reach more diverse customer groups, their marketing needs must naturally adjust as well. That has led to many international e-commerce brands turning toward Los Angeles’s fastest-growing digital agency: Darkroom.
As Lucas DiPietrantonio, co-founder and CEO of Darkroom explains, the reason for his agency’s growth and international appeal all comes down to process and expertise.
“Regardless of location, the most important thing for any e-commerce brand is a willingness to carve out and truly own a strong brand identity,” DiPietrantonio says.
“This may sound trivial, but if you don’t have an authentic brand, you aren’t going to make a strong enough impression on your customers to cut through the noise of all the other e-commerce stores they could buy from. Founders that come to us with brand already figured out have fought half the battle. In these instances, we are able to integrate and accelerate growth much quicker.”
To that end, DiPietrantonio describes his agency’s process as brand-first, resulting in a more holistic approach to marketing strategy. Conversion-oriented digital applications, creative content and growth strategies all stem from their brand-first process.
That branding can have a powerful impact on digital customers with shortened attention spans. Research indicates that it can take as little as 50 milliseconds for a customer to form an opinion of a brand after landing on its website
Focusing on digital-first brands and customer experience design—the foundation of the Darkroom model—can have such a large impact on customer acquisition and retention strategies.
After getting drawn in by the brand, strong branded content and storytelling encourage site visitors to stick around and learn more — making them far more likely to become paying customers.
One aspect that makes Darkroom unique from other agencies is its expertise in apparel and fashion — a rapidly-growing sector that is expected to reach yearly revenue of $153.6 billion in the United States alone by 2024.
“Both my cofounder Jackson Corey and I actually got our start in the apparel e-commerce industry,” DiPietrantonio explains.
“Jackson and I have launched quite a few apparel ventures over the course of our careers, which gives us unique insights into the growth tactics that work best for our clients in this industry. Testing things out with our internal ventures has served as the ultimate sandbox for growth hacks, as well as helping us understand the growth needs of early-stage founders in this niche.” Darkroom recently launched an internal venture called NERA, a Hong-Kong-based luxury sneaker brand, and works with brands such as Maaji, Article Number, and Jessica Simpson Style.
Though Darkroom’s services extend to other direct-to-consumer brands outside fashion and apparel, unparalleled experience in a fast-growing industry gives their clients a significant advantage over the competition.
With the founders’ own real-world experiences, campaign strategies and branding initiatives aren’t left to guesswork. They are developed with a concrete knowledge of the “growth hacks” needed for rapid growth and a lasting market impact.
A big part of Darkroom’s growth has been attributed to the team’s undeniable digital expertise. After all, for e-commerce brands that exclusively sell their products online, it only makes sense that the vast majority of marketing would also take place digitally.
“Far too many brands think that a digital strategy comes down to Facebook and Google, and that’s it,” DiPietrantonio says. “While these platforms are undeniably important, they’re not the be-all end-all of successful digital marketing strategies. We go beyond the basics by performing a full strategic audit prior to working with a client. This helps us determine which platforms will perform best for a particular brand. This allows us to produce lean, revenue-maximizing digital acquisition strategies that drive revenue through relevant platforms, backed by digitally optimized creative and digital products.”
Of course, determining which platforms to target (and how to use them) is often easier said than done for e-commerce startups. The Darkroom team makes assessments on digital strategy based in large part on the brand identity and an understanding of the target audience’s preferences and behaviors.
“Successful digital marketing all comes back to the brand. Your Facebook and TikTok content will naturally look different from each other, because the audiences on these platforms are looking for different things. We’ve found that low-fidelity creative and user-generated content can be highly effective at stopping the scroll. At the same time, however, this content must remain true to your brand identity, no matter how ‘different’ it might seem. A consistent cross-channel experience across the customer journey builds trust and drives revenue.”
Building E-Commerce Brands for a Successful Launch
By understanding the nuances and complexity of getting e-commerce brands to appeal to their target market, DiPietrantonio and his team have helped an ever-increasing number of companies successfully launch or scale.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface of what we are going to accomplish for e-commerce brands,” he says. “There are so many amazing international e-commerce brands with incredible potential thanks to their innovative products or ideas. All they need is the right partner that understands digital and direct-to-consumer growth. The products and services we are developing to help brands launch and scale is remarkable.”
With this mindset, and successful processes in place, Darkroom seems on pace to reach and exceed its own goals, as well.