In 2021, consumers are demanding more from companies than ever, putting more pressure on them to meet increasingly high consumer expectations. As a result, more brands are adapting by making the move to direct-to-consumer (D2C) models.
PushON’s Head of eCommerce and Magento maverick, Timothy Willis, sat down with Segmentify for the eCommerce Growth Show to share his thoughts on the industry changes – and how brands can keep up.
What have been the biggest eCommerce trends you’ve spotted in the past 12 months?
Over the past year, we have seen a huge shift as brands have been moving to a direct-to-consumer model. Going D2C allows brands and manufacturers to sell directly to consumers, bypassing the traditional method of negotiating with retailers or resellers to get products to market.
Although COVID definitely played a part in businesses having to adapt their strategies, I think the changes in customer behaviour and purchasing decisions are here to stay. Even when physical retail scales back up again, many customer journeys will continue to be placed online.
Which businesses have really stood out to you?
Gym wear brand Gymshark is one of the biggest D2C success stories – it actually got valued at over $1 billion in 2020. During lockdown, brands began heavily investing in customer interaction, and Gymshark did a great job of this. It renamed its social channels ‘Homeshark’ to create a hub of fitness content to keep its customers engaged whilst the gyms were closed.
Heinz is another fantastic example. After launching its first-ever D2C website during the lockdown, Heinz encouraged purchases by offering a subscription service to its customers – many other well-known consumer packaged goods companies are following suit and setting up a similar service.
Of course, we can’t forget Bloom & Wild, Europe’s largest and fastest-growing D2C flower company, famed for its letterbox flowers. Bloom & Wild transformed every aspect of flower delivery and gifting and – most importantly – have got the product absolutely spot on.
What are the benefits of direct-to-consumer?
There are so many benefits of going direct-to-consumer! Businesses know their own products better than anyone else, which puts them in the perfect position to be able to sell them. It allows brands to have full control over their brand story and image, as well as any brand messaging, communications and consumer engagement. This gives brands an open line of communication with customers and allows them to learn more about who engages with them, building stronger brand loyalty.
Similarly, D2C gives brands better access to valuable customer data, allowing greater insight into consumers’ behaviour and buying habits. These insights help brands to better align their products and positioning with the consumer’s wants and needs.
Cutting out the middleman, such as wholesalers or retailers, also improves profit margins – definitely a bonus! It’s worth remembering, D2C eCommerce isn’t just for start-ups looking to avoid legacy retail and big overheads – it’s there for all brands that are looking to drive preference, loyalty and repeat sales.
Do you think there are any barriers for businesses that are thinking about moving to D2C?
Although I believe the barriers are relatively low, you must remember you’re competing against retail giants like Amazon, which have already established a huge customer following. So, from my perspective, the biggest challenge for newly-D2C brands is the shift of responsibility in distribution – without large resellers to support your brand, you have to work even harder on making sure that your brand stands out.
Plus, you’re also responsible for fulfilment, packaging, returns and warehousing, on top of everything else. Building your online presence is tough, requiring a lot of time and dedication, plus more focus on marketing – that’s where having an agency like PushON can help.
Which eCommerce platform would you recommend for businesses looking to move to D2C?
Without a shadow of a doubt, Magento would always be our recommendation as an eCommerce platform. It boasts a wealth of functionality to help ease the transition to D2C, giving you the necessary tools to create engaging customer journeys and personalised shopping, allowing you to build out a fully omnichannel shopping experience.
PushON has developed DEMAND alongside Magento, a package that uses Magento’s native eCommerce functionality to allow brands to get to market even faster – in fact, you could be live within just a matter of weeks.
PushON is an award-winning full-service eCommerce agency that provides a complete range of web development and marketing services. We push clients’ sales through optimisation, outreach, social media and content marketing. As a leading certified Magento Solution Partner, PushON offers impeccable standards of ingenuity, design and commerciality.
PushON has recently opened its first two offices outside the North West of England; one in Bristol and another in Edinburgh.