Navigating the New Age of eCommerce: Insights from Lucas DiPietrantonio, CEO of Darkroom Agency

Jared Mintzlaff

October 25, 2023

The bustling streets of eCommerce have become a cacophony of brands vying for attention.

From pop-up ads to influencer collaborations, the path to securing customer loyalty is intricate and ever-evolving. Recently, on the latest episode of Magnetic, we sat down with Lucas DiPietrantonio, the visionary CEO of Darkroom Agency, who offers a compelling 10,000-foot view of the evolving marketplace.

His take? It's not just about selling products anymore—it's about fostering community. View today’s article as a summary of this rich and technical conversation. Before giving it a read, we encourage you to watch the full episode here:

Lucas’ Take on “Community”

As we settled into our conversation, we begins with a profound question: "Community is now more important than ever because that's the only way many of us are differentiating. So how should brands go about it?"

He elucidates with the story of Jolie—a newer brand selling shower heads. You’ve probably seen their awesome videos on TikTok lately.

In a world where such products are almost commoditized, Jolie scaled from zero to a whopping $26 million in a mere 18 months. Their secret? Starting with community, joining—and more importantly—leading the conversation.

"Starting with community, starting with conversation," Lucas muses, drawing attention to Jolie's impressive out-of-home campaigns and community events, such as their signature dinners in the Hamptons.

When was the last time you were invited—or even heard about—a dinner party in The Hamptons hosted by a shower-head company?

But this wasn't just about pushing a product; it was about catalyzing conversation and human connection. Lucas emphasizes, "They just put in the effort."

The Economics of Loyalty

Given the rapidly changing dynamics of eCommerce, I wondered: How can brands measure loyalty today? Lucas leans in, offering insights from the frontlines.

"I care about sales and revenue," he begins, emphasizing the importance of metrics like repeat purchase rate and repeat customer statistics. But his eyes light up as he speaks about BRUNT—a workwear brand for construction workers.

"If you weren't buying a pair of boots every eight months, you didn't like the product." It was a tangible barometer of product quality and brand loyalty.

Yet, with marketplaces like Amazon reducing switching costs and eroding brand loyalty, Lucas paints a grim picture of the challenge brands face today.

"Brands are moving to marketplaces where switching costs for the consumer are lower. And so these brands have to outcompete each other and become more competitive," he laments.

The Power of Engagement

Navigating these new waters requires an understanding of engagement for your own brand. Every brand is different.

Lucas recounts the story of Bandit Running, a Brooklyn-based running brand. Despite having a modest following of around 40,000 on Instagram today, their community engagement on platforms is monumental. "Let’s say they have 20,000 followers, but on every post, they’re getting 10,000 interactions. Huge engagement" he mimics with pride.

Every brand, he says, needs to find its own metrics of engagement.

Lucas's personal barometer? The recurring attendees at Darkroom's events and their engagement on LinkedIn. It's not just about likes and shares, but about the depth and quality of interactions.

Thinking Outside the Box

As our conversation nears its end, Lucas dives into a fascinating topic: High friction marketing.

"It's about doing the unexpected," he says, alluding to BRUNT Workwear again.

They made waves with a podcast targeting blue-collar workers, a seemingly strange approach for a direct-to-consumer brand. "Why are you doing that?" was the common refrain they encountered. But soon, their podcast soared, becoming a top 1% Spotify sensation, crediting their CEO’s deep understanding of their audience, believing that they simply wanted to hear what he had to say.

"Looking at attribution," Lucas smiles, "It became clear that community, engagement, and the right tactics drove growth."

As the world of eCommerce churns with volatility, Lucas DiPietrantonio's insights offer a beacon. In a world overrun with brands, what makes the difference is community, loyalty, and deep engagement. Brands must think outside the box, fostering authentic connections with their audience.

So, for every direct-to-consumer eCommerce founder and marketer, remember: The landscape may be shifting, but the human desire for connection remains unchanged. It's those brands that recognize and leverage this truth that will stand the test of time.

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