It’s Tim Armstrong’s belief that everything, eventually, will be direct-to-consumer, and he sees the issues currently burdening the DTC category as symptomatic of a burgeoning industry trying to grow up. There will be a tech-like shakeout, yes, but the successful brands in the space are rewriting the rules of how consumer companies develop product and market to customers, because at their cores, they actually know who their customers are.
Through the official partnership, VF gets access to data from Alibaba’s 654 million-customer database across its marketplaces, including Tmall and Taobao. With that data and TMIC, VF can more readily identify customer trends, test new products before launching them, build customer data profiles and track products post-launch in order to judge how well they’re performing with Chinese customers.
Terry Kawaja, CEO and founder of strategic advisory firm Luma Partners, anticipates these types of relationships will separate who wins in the DTC category from who disappears. Speaking at the BDMI Media Summit on Thursday, Kawaja positioned this evolution of the category as the natural evolution of an industry that started out independently, but now has to live up to big valuations from investor funding: According to data from Luma, $10 billion has been funneled into roughly 400 direct-to-consumer brands to date.
It’s not Amazon’s existence or cut-throat competitive strategies that have sealed the fate of other retailers that are losing market share, like JCPenney, Bed Bath & Beyond and Sears. Instead, it was a series of executional and strategic missteps over a critical window of time during which today’s better-equipped competitors were taking action in areas like e-commerce and logistics as well as experiences and services.
Under the weight of the category, and increasingly complex business models, the direct-to-consumer label is cracking in its purity, but startup brands still have a similar mission in mind as they navigate their categories: Build sustainable businesses by any means possible (even if that means wholesale) while keeping customer wants and needs firmly rooted in the center of that strategy.
Blue Apron’s rise and fall has become a cautionary tale to other billion-dollar-valued consumer startup unicorns: Profitability may not matter to venture capitalists, but a lack of it can sink a business that’s beholden to stockholders scrutinizing quarter-by-quarter performance.
Store fulfillment for online orders is something Target has been investing in heavily. Through a combination of ship-from-store, same day delivery powered by Shipt and in-store order pick-up and drive-up options, Target stores now fulfill 80% of online orders. As CEO Brian Cornell told investors during the company’s first-quarter results for 2019, it’s an operation that’s profitable for Target.
Retailers’ interest in CBD products is tilting the burgeoning industry’s favor towards traditional players, and away from DTC startups in the space. The digital marketing engines like Facebook, Instagram and Google that help spur the momentum of direct-to-consumer brands still block companies from advertising non-intoxicating cannabidiol products, as they’re derived from cannabis. These platforms have all blocked paid ads promoting CBD products, under their policies against advertising “drug and drug-related products.”
Showfields, the experiential rotating retail space in New York City, opened on Tuesday its fourth floor, which had been under construction since the store’s opening in March. Rather than dedicate the fourth floor to more retail space, Showfields designed it to be a coworking space.
Subscription models are no simple business: The cost of customer acquisition, customer fatigue and churn are hurdles for growth. Now, that difficulty to scale is bringing direct-to-consumer brands and Amazon closer together.
Any industry in transition needs honest and authoritative coverage that consistently drills past marketing speak and C-suite spins to uncover what’s really happening behind the scenes. That’s been Digiday’s approach to the media and marketing industries, and Glossy’s approach to reporting on fashion and beauty. Now, we’re taking on the retail industry with Modern Retail, which will dedicate daily coverage to news, and most importantly, add context and analysis to the most pressing topics and trends coursing through consumerism.
While startups brands shift their marketing spend to physical catalogs to break out of crowded digital platforms, Ikea is taking its print catalog to Pinterest. With a shoppable catalog built into Pinterest boards, Ikea hopes to drive both awareness and conversions.
Having made a collective mark on the retail’s makeup, direct-to-consumer brands are pushing to command more market share in their respective categories while dealing with an existential crisis. Direct-to-consumer retail, launched on the basis of selling directly to customers through owned e-commerce and physical retail, is exploring outside of its own channels to drive growth.
Companies like Vantage BP, MarkMonitor and CompuMark are brand enforcers-for-hire, promising to monitor marketplaces like Amazon for counterfeits, price violations, unauthorized resellers, IP infringements and gray market sellers for brand manufacturers.
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