Direct-to consumer brands are using their unprecedented customer insight to offer a new relationship that goes way beyond the functional benefits of price and convenience.

While many online retailers continue the faceless race to the bottom competing on price and speed of deliver that few will be able to sustain long-term, a new breed of challenger brands are continuing to re-shape the direct-to-consumer relationship. Dealing direct offers brands greater control and influence over the whole customer experience and delivers a rich source of insight along the way.

Brands like Cubitts eyewear are offering consumers a fresh take, with greater customisation, a fixation on quality throughout the customer journey and significantly cheaper prices, they have a lot of positives to offer as a brand and consumers are, not surprisingly, impressed. As Tom Broughton, the founder of Cubitts, comments “Brands play a bigger role in representing the person and who they are. As a consequence, the end consumer has a much stronger relationship with the designer of a specific product.”


Vitamin Brand Ritual wanted to ensure that their products were as transparent as possible as they felt their customers deserved to know exactly what they were putting in their bodies. Understanding that this only intensifies when women are pregnant, their whole premise is transparent right through to the source of their ingredients and that openness builds trust.“We saw an opportunity to lead with transparency, because we believe that women deserve to know what they are putting in their bodies and why,” explains founder and CEO, Katerina Schneider.

They also understood that buying great vitamins and supplements is only half the battle so they continued to engage and support their customers through social media and digital content to make sure they took them.

But delivering a new product direct-to-consumers has its challenges too. The logistical nightmare of supply and demand that many of the established retailers have had years to perfect is not something you can produce overnight. Speaking at Cannes Lions last year Henry Davis, President and Chief Operating Officer of beauty brand Glossier, was candid about the early challenges they had competing with the meticulous supply chains many of their global competitors were masters of. As demand grew rapidly they were struggling to meet their customers expectations. They decided to be brave and write to their customers personally and just be honest, it worked, but Davis is the first to acknowledge this isn’t something you can do more than once. With a current market value of $390m Glossier has demonstrated that there is definitely a consumer appetite for innovative brands even if there are challenges to overcome. If you connect with people on a real enough level, customers will be prepared to support you through some teething issues.

The direct-to-consumer relationship allows brands to own valuable customer data and insight that can ultimately lead to an enhanced customer experience and allow consumers to have a more direct influence over every element of a brand’s engagement with them and it seems to be working.It isn’t just challenger brands that are exploring this route. In 2017, Nike announced that it was launching Nike Direct as part of a direct-to consumer focus that would also see it reduce its global workforce by 2%. The goal they are chasing is no doubt a reflection of where all successful brands are ultimately heading and one thing none of us can ignore is the value of putting a deep rooted understanding of the customer front and centre. “Today we serve our athletes in a changing world: one that’s faster and more personal,” said Edwards. “This new structure aligns all of our teams toward our ultimate goal — to deliver innovation, at speed, through more direct connections.”  Trevor Edwards, President of the NIKE Brand.

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