In a consumer world that has become increasingly digitally-focused, direct-to-consumer brands are leading the pack. Brands like Chewy, Casper, and Hello Fresh are great case studies in what it means to reach those who want to purchase from you directly. So what can we learn from D2C brands? Turns out a lot.\u00a0\u00a0 What does D2C mean?\u00a0 D2C is shorthand for direct-to-consumer. When a brand is D2C, its model is a \u201cdirect transaction between manufacturer and buyer, often enabled through mobile or digital channels.\u201d This cuts out the middleman and allows brands to reach audiences from the comfort of their phones and homes. The D2C model is also relatively new to the retail scene, making its debut in the mid-2010s. But it\u2019s grown exponentially. By 2021, 14% of total retail sales in the U.S. are predicted to come from e-commerce channels.\u00a0 If you\u2019re marketing for a D2C brand, you\u2019re probably \u201cmission-driven\u201d versus solely product-driven. D2C brands tend to focus their time and efforts on winning over a particular audience, like Gen-Zers. Versus legacy brands that can widen the scope of their reach somewhat. And, as most of these brands rely on monthly subscriptions, brand loyalty is everything.\u00a0 D2C trends As for current trends, there are a few notable moves in the category for 2020 and beyond.\u00a0 \t Subscription products: As we mentioned, many D2C brands rely on monthly subscriptions. With most of us at home for March and April, the consumer demand for these types of services only increased. Even brands that did not historically offer a subscription-based product began to, either as their primary business model or as an extra offering.\u00a0 \t Traditional retail making the move: Traditional retailers are starting to see the benefits of D2C (hint, hint if you\u2019re in this category). These brands are now beginning to offer their in-house versions of D2C products, such as Target\u2019s Good & Gather line. Another power move trend? Legacy retailers are acquiring smaller direct-to-consumer companies.\u00a0 \t Creating new categories: Those already in the D2C market keep things fresh by moving into new categories that might be previously untapped. An example of this being the brand Away which rebranded itself from a luggage brand to a travel brand to allow for product and market growth.\u00a0 This \u201cproduct diversification\u201d allows direct-to-consumer brands to reach new niche markets.\u00a0 Best practices\u00a0 To become a successful D2C brand and break through the noise takes a bit of work. Following current trends (and staying one step ahead) might be a good place for your brand to start. Besides that, D2C brands should:\u00a0 Be nimble\u00a0 When you\u2019re constantly trend-surfing, you have an inherent nimbleness. Nimble brands, as a rule, are innovative, take risks, and are flexible. Whereas legacy brands don\u2019t have agility in their supply chains or even their marketing reach, D2C brands can pivot when they need to. After all, \u201cthey need to test new media formats, messaging and audience targeting quickly so they can pivot toward what is working.\u201d\u00a0 Create a strong brand identity We mentioned how D2C brands are mission-driven before. That means they have time (and the motivation) to secure their audience\u2019s loyalty and work on their brand identity. Many of the most popular D2C brands have unique brand identities, quirky voices, and loyal consumers. To do this, focus on your brand story, engage your audience authentically, and become a recognizable piece of mainstream culture.\u00a0 Embrace digital\u00a0 Direct-to-consumer brands rely on digital outlets to reach their audiences and get their message across. Unlike legacy brands that often have a brick and mortar, D2C brands are typically online-only. As such, they take advantage of their website, app, and social channels to recruit new customers. This direct relationship with consumers means \u201cfans often become emotionally invested in brands that listen to their feedback and create personalized experiences for them.\u201d If that wasn\u2019t enough, 60% of consumers make purchases via social media. So more time on mobile has some big paybacks.\u00a0 Focus on consumer relationships Your customer is everything in D2C. When you \u201cbuild your business on the relationship with the customer,\u201d you are genuinely taking their wants and needs into account. In this brand model, nobody stands between you and your customer, so you have the opportunity to grow meaningful and lasting relationships. Keep in mind the customer journey\u2013\u2013from the first click on your site or app to great customer service to a personalized message in each purchased box. Keep them coming back for more.\u00a0 Case study: Chewy\u00a0 Pet brands like Chewy offer an interesting look into the direct-to-consumer world. Recent statistics show that pet e-commerce grew by $3.4 billion versus the 317 million for legacy retail in the same category. With Baby Boomers humanizing their pets and millennials opting for fur babies, this industry is one that will likely continue to grow. Which leaves an opportunity for D2C brands like Chewy.\u00a0 Chewy takes advantage of two demographics: new parents who need the convenience of ordering their pet food, medicine, and toys directly to their door. And the growing category of younger generations who truly treat their pets as members of the family. They also set themselves apart early on with their unboxing ads and their unparalleled customer service team whose quick and thoughtful responses (like condolence cards when a pet passes) make them a trusted brand.\u00a0 \u201cBy creating memorable experiences for its customers,\u201d Chewy established itself as not only a convenient brand but one that consumers admire and do not want to give up.\u00a0 Post-Covid D2C\u00a0 We\u2019ve said it before, but it\u2019s worth mentioning again. D2C will be at the top of consumer\u2019s minds in the post-COVID world. With the anxiety of leaving the house and being around others not likely to fade quickly, many will opt into more D2C brands that can deliver some assurance of safety.\u00a0 Although there is some debate whether these newer direct-to-consumer companies can weather the storm, there is something to be said of their advantages\u2014namely the lack of brick and mortar locations and increased ad spending. And certain categories that are more \u201cessential\u201d (like food and pet supplies) will continue to thrive. So those in other categories will have to step up their marketing approach to become essential to their audiences.\u00a0 Other brand examples Besides pet brands like Chewy, it\u2019s worth mentioning other popular direct-to-consumer brands that have made a name for themselves via their product and marketing.\u00a0\u00a0 Casper\u00a0 The D2C mattress company launched itself into popularity by disrupting the industry. Casper paid attention to trends, but also to what was missing in the market. They found an \u201canalysis paralysis\u201d from the overwhelming consumer options and simplified the customer experience. By not only delivering mattresses to their customer\u2019s doors (because who likes to go to a mattress store?), they \u201cfocused on making the mattress that would be most comfortable for everyone.\u201d\u00a0 Hello Fresh For those of us who needed a semblance of normalcy during the pandemic, Hello Fresh was a lifesaver. The D2C home meal delivery brand grew because they understood their audience, engaged with them to submit new recipes, and created a valuable and convenient product. From the convenience of an app, users can choose meals to feed themselves or their families for the week and then rate the recipes for future options. With this control, Hello Fresh took home meal delivery to the next level.\u00a0 Dollar Shave Club The Dollar Shave Club is an example of a D2C brand that a legacy brand acquired. In this case, it was Unilever. The shaving brand became valuable with its simple approach: provide quality and affordable shaving products directly to consumers with customizable shipment plans. In recent years, the company has expanded further into oral care with new brand Superba!, but continues to focus on consumer trends.\u00a0 Staying direct\u00a0 Direct-to-consumer brands are here to stay, especially in what will hopefully soon be a post-COVID world. Even if you do not have a D2C brand, there are things you can learn from them like a focus on your brand identity, mastering digital channels, and remaining nimble. And at Savy, we know all brands from D2C to legacy could use those skills in the coming months.