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What Every Brand, and PR Pro, Can Learn from the D2C Revolution

Thursday, August 22, 2019   (0 Comments)
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What Every Brand, and PR Pro, Can Learn from the D2C Revolution
Kate Ryan, Managing Director, Diffusion US

Direct to Consumer (D2C) brands have changed the retail landscape in recent years, drawing a cult-like following from consumers and bringing a much-needed, fresh approach to retail. Their explosive popularity has signaled more than just a passing trend, but nods toward a larger cultural shift in how consumers perceive retailers, and how the modern shopper wants to be engaged with by brands. But just what makes the subscription toothbrush more appealing than one you can get down the street? Why are consumers preferring to shop for furniture online when this has been a historically important in-store process? And more broadly, what are the factors that are pulling today’s shoppers towards these brands, or away from traditional retailers?

As communications experts, we’re in the business of learning and understanding how consumers perceive and seek to engage with today’s brands so we can use that information to help guide brands and consumers towards each other. Recently my firm commissioned the Diffusion Direct-to-Consumer Purchase Intent Index to dive deeper into the D2C revolution and to find out what modern consumers love about these digitally native, direct order companies, and how other brands can leverage these factors to better reach today’s consumer.


What We Found:

Our findings confirm that the modern shopper is changing and they expect the retail experience to change with them. Eighty-one percent of respondents reported that they’ll make at least one D2C purchase in the next 5 years, with 1 in 3 planning to make at least 40 percent of their purchases with these new brands.

So, what’s drawing consumers toward these challenger brands rather than the legacy retailers who had already earned their trust? Convenience and product quality. The data shows that consumers perceive D2C brands to excel in both these areas in comparison to traditional retailers. And this combination is noteworthy, as traditional retailers have historically struggled to position themselves as offering high convenience without sacrificing product quality.

The data suggests that with D2C brands, consumers feel these companies have a knowledge of their craft, or a specialization factor when it comes to their products, without sacrificing convenience.

Respondents also indicated, however, that D2C brands weren’t trumping traditional in every sense. Surprisingly, less than 10 percent of respondents felt D2C brands had superior customer service when compared to traditional retailers. And in line with these findings, many D2C brands have recently begun opening experiential stores, in an effort to provide that additional customer service experience along with their inventive, and efficient model. Already finding success with this kind of space, D2C modular sofa company Burrow recently opened their second experiential store in Chicago, D2C mattress giant Casper is planning to reach 200 locations, and newer disruptors like Away are following suit with flagship locations in New York City.


What it Means:

The retail landscape is continuing to evolve, and brands must change with them to remain relevant. We’re already seeing big box brands like Target and Walmart race to catch up with the convenience of D2C specialist companies either via acquisition or by increasing shipping options and speed to capture ultimate convenience. For D2C brands, with less ability to make big bets without solid proof, our role as PR professionals will be to guide them towards the key values of consumers and to help customize PR and marketing initiatives that speak to them.

For any company in the rapidly evolving retail space, understanding what’s important to today’s consumer is the first step in developing an impactful brand message – putting these messages into clear PR campaigns and goals is what comes next.



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