For years, direct to consumer brands had been pouring their marketing budgets into physical flagship stores in hopes of real-world discovery. Now that storefronts are going through a transformation, brands and curators like Naked Retail and Showfields are rethinking the role of popups and stores. Here's what the new DTC showrooms are looking like in the coronavirus world.
In a sense, #BoxedOut was just a clever advertising effort. But the central thrust of the campaign — that a group of small independent booksellers would coordinate to fight Amazon’s disruption of its industry — felt oddly new. While plenty of one-off businesses have criticized Amazon before, coordination on a broader scale is rare. And it might signal a future trend among small retailers struggling to match Amazon and Walmart — if they want to beat the heavy hitters, they need to work together.
One of the dominant moods of 2020 has been paralyzing uncertainty, and it's been particularly prevalent this week as Americans wait for the results of the presidential election. The election isn't the only thing on direct-to-consumer startup executives' minds -- after all, once the election is over, Black Friday is right around the corner. But Election Day also can't be business as usual.
Now that the threat of a potential TikTok ban has all but subsided, e-commerce startups are ready to give their advertising dollars to TikTok. And TikTok wants to make it easier for them to do so, thanks to a new partnership with Shopify, that will make it easier for Shopify merchants to run new ads on TikTok. The new partnership signifies that TikTok -- and e-commerce advertisers' interest in it -- is here to stay.
While delivery services have pushed further into non-food categories, some brands are choosing to go about same-day delivery on their own. With assistance from white label solutions providers, both direct to consumer brands and big retail chains are foregoing delivery apps reaching customers directly.
As more food and beverage sales move online, e-commerce is becoming a bigger part of food startups' strategy. Take Siete Family Foods, which makes grain-free versions of Mexican-American staples, like tortillas and chips. The six-year-old company is now using its website to test out new products before selling them in physical stores. Through a new section of its site called Small Batch, Siete Family Foods plans to launch ten new products within the next year, selling anywhere from roughly 100 to 1,000 units of each. The goal is to gather data on what types of Siete's most loyal customers are most interested in, and use that data to pitch retailers on carrying that product in stores.
There's a new most-talked about acronym in the DTC world these days: SPAC, which stands for special purpose acquisition company. SPACs give startups an alternative way to go public, without going through the traditional IPO. In a SPAC, a group of individuals raise money in order to acquire a company with the purpose of taking it public. At least one direct-to-consumer startup, Hims has already opted to go the SPAC route. But investors caution that SPACs won't entirely replace the traditional IPO process.
CPG brands in the frozen and fridge aisles are finding themselves at the crossroads of opportunities. While direct to consumer has become a popular strategy for building a food or beverage brand, some founders argue that now is a great time to invest in scaling into national brick and mortar retailers. “E-commerce is a great tool, but it can’t be the be-all and end-all strategy," said one founder.
Quip's latest retail partnership shows that direct to consumer brands know they need to get into the hands of mainstream consumers to scale globally. It can also help drive subscriptions. As Quip CEO Simon Enever told Modern Retail, establishing brand ubiquity at national retailers “has always been a part of the plan."
In the direct to consumer space, a foray into retail usually requires getting noticed by big players like Walmart and Target. However, for a select group of home decor-centric brands, Williams-Sonoma-owned West Elm has become a resource for entering brick and mortar. From Leesa and Bearaby, to new cookware brands like Caraway, West Elm's portfolio of brands is looking increasingly like a DNVB hub.
Many direct-to-consumer brands have long held off on selling through Amazon. But they can't completely ignore its orbit, as Amazon still sets the conversation in e-commerce. There's a laundry list of DTC brands that have still held off on selling through Amazon -- Glossier, Warby Parker, Allbirds and Away to name a few. But, a few trends emerge among the digitally-native brands that have taken the leap to selling through Amazon.
After years of focusing on e-commerce shoppers in the U.S., Afterpay is adding an in-store installment payment options through its app. Retailers like Forever 21 and Levi's have signed on as partners, allowing Afterpay users to split their in-store purchase into four payments. This comes as retailers are trying to find ways to regrow sales -- and alternative payments solutions are clamoring to become leaders in the space.
Pattern, formerly known as Gin Lane, arguably helped create the ubiquitous minimalist DTC aesthetic. But after helping brands like Sweetgreen, Harry’s and Everlane achieve their branding goals, chief creative officer Emmett Shine explains why he's taking a step back and rethinking the model's tropes. "At the end of the day, you have to sell products," he told Modern Retail.
In conversations with a handful of direct-to-consumer startup executives about their holiday marketing plans, the biggest concern cited was figuring out when was the right time to run holiday ads. Both to ensure that customers order far enough in advance so that they get their products by Christmas, and to ensure that they are spending their holiday marketing dollars most efficiently. The executives Modern Retail spoke with said that for the most part, they weren't that concerned about rising digital advertising costs, either because they've been able to further diversify their ad spend away from digital this year, or customer acquisition costs are still lower than they are last year.
As Walmart+ gains momentum, so does the retailer's mission to double down on its DTC offerings. Specifically, the retail giant has been busy signing on digitally-native sexual wellness brands like Lola and Modern Fertility as partners in recent months. The burgeoning program allows DTC brands to reach millions of new customers physically, while the retail chain adds disruptive new brand offerings to its portfolio that target new and younger demographics.
With in-person sales largely out of the picture this holiday season, brands must adapt to deliver the frictionless experiences that online consumers expect and demand.
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