While some direct-to-consumer startups have reported that their online sales have tripled or doubled since the start of the pandemic, not every retail company is benefitting from the e-commerce gold rush. In March and April, demand for certain products like travel accessories and wedding attire all but evaporated as those activities became impossible to do under stay-at-home orders. So companies that sell these types of products are doing something they swore they never would before: offer a sale.
A number of direct-to-consumer startups have reported huge revenue growth during over the past several months, in some cases acquiring double or triple the amount of new customers that they did during the same period last year. Now, their focus is on keeping those new customers. Even though retention is important for DTC startups year-round, it is especially so during the pandemic, as more customers are buying certain types of products online for the first time.
In March, the fundraising environment for direct-to-consumer startups was "downright frozen," as Michael Duda, managing partner at hybrid accelerator agency and venture capital fund Bullish, put it. Now, March seems like a lifetime ago. Over the past six months, many direct-to-consumer startups in categories ranging from home improvement, health and wellness, and food have struck it big, reporting that their online sales have doubled or tripled while customer acquisition costs have decreased. Consumer investors are starting to close deals again, while investors that had previously soured on DTC startups because of high customer acquisition costs are starting to change their tune.
All big-box retailers are now trying to become tech companies. That's the takeaway from the news that Walmart is teaming up with Microsoft to submit a bid to acquire TikTok. Acquiring TikTok could help Walmart grow its advertising business astronomically -- and that could be a boon for e-commerce startups looking for somewhere else to spend their money besides the Facebook-Google duopoly.
The business landscape was upended overnight when a virus wreaked havoc on the world. Now, digitally native brands are trying to figure out how to operate in this new landscape. In this report, Modern Retail details all the shifts that occurred over the last year.
Despite their affinity for shirking traditional retail practices, there's one that direct-to-consumer brands can't shake off entirely: the belief that the customer is always right. Or, more commonly, DTC startups like to follow in the footsteps of Amazon, and declare themselves customer-obsessed. But when customers behave badly, it's often retail workers that pay the price. In order for DTC startups to truly champion diversity and inclusion, they have to train their store staff on how to handle racist or belligerent customers.
During the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., e-commerce has become a lifeline for businesses to stay afloat when many non-essential stores were ordered closed in April and May. Now, changes being made to one of the backbones of the e-commerce landscape -- the United States Postal Service -- threatens to create a huge headache for retail and consumer startups .In mid-July, many businesses started reporting packages were taking longer to get to customers, which coincided with new cost-cutting measures that the USPS could implement. Every e-commerce business, from mom-and-pop shops all the way up to Amazon rely on the USPS in some way, and any changes in service or prices could wreck havoc on small e-commerce businesses.
Even before the pandemic, malls were struggling to figure out how to diversify their tenant mix as fewer shoppers visit department stores. Now, the pandemic has exacerbated those challenges, as existing tenants stopped paying rent during March and April store shutdowns, and other types of businesses are concerned about signing new leases before the pandemic is over. Simon Property Group and Macerich's earnings from this week show that there is still a long ways for mall owners to go on the road to recovery.
DTC Twitter is obsessed with Tweet threads. Or, at the very least, they are frequently cited as recommended reads in industry newsletters like 2pm Inc. and Lean Luxe, and often serve as inspiration for further discussions in Clubhouse, Slack, or virtual events. Heavy Twitter usage is not unique to the DTC startup scene, but these Tweet storms are a good a mirror to expose the strengths and weaknesses of DTC startups.
During the coronavirus pandemic, direct-to-consumer startups in categories ranging from personal care to athletic apparel have reported tripe-digit sales growth. The big question though, is how much it will last, as coronavirus cases start to rise again in some states like California and Texas, forcing other businesses to close once again. Five direct-to-consumer startups said they aren't seeing many signs of headwinds -- yet.
Shopify has a bevy of competitors, like Magento, WooCommerce, Salesforce, Microsoft Amazon and BigCommerce, which just filed to go public this week. But no one company yet has emerged as the biggest threat to Shopify's position as the go-to e-commerce platform for DTC brands. Shopify's dominance says a lot not just about the state of other e-commerce platforms, but also about the state of DTC brands.
Before the coronavirus, opening more brick and mortar stores was a surefire way for DTC brands to acquire customers more profitably. Now, that calculus is changing.
Retail workers, especially in grocery and delivery, were lauded for being on the frontlines when the coronavirus outbreak first began. But the treatment of these often-exploited employees hasn’t always matched brands’ sentimental commercials, says one worker.
Long before Covid-19 hit, the industry had been grappling with the so-called retail apocalypse. Now that the pandemic has exposed many of the supply chain’s weak points, brands are rushing to pivot their strategy to survive.
After months of Instagram posts about how "we're all in this together," and turning their factories into production centers for masks, direct-to-consumer brands are finally starting to return to business as usual. That's particularly evident by the number of new startups entering the market. But they playbook they're following is rapidly changing.
One thing is true for nearly all conversions on Amazon: They’re captured by products on page one of the search results. And a significant share of purchases go to just the top few results.
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