Branding

50 Direct-to-Consumer Brands & What You Can Learn From Them

50-direct-to-consumer-brands-&-what-you-can-learn-from-them

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the market gradually shift towards direct-to-consumer brands (DTC brands). Direct-to-consumer brands create a more direct relationship with their suppliers by cutting out any middlemen so they can bring better-quality products at lower price-points to their consumers.

This business model works especially well now because more and more consumers flock online to purchase everything from medicine to household items to fashion products, so it’s easier for traditional, in-person retailers to be cut out of the buyer’s journey entirely.

In an increasingly saturated online market, the power lies with the consumer. They can choose who they buy from—from a sea of options—and often, they desire a more personal shopping experience. Plus, they’re savvier than ever before. They make conscientious purchasing decisions, evaluating brands by all manner of things—their sustainability efforts, the standard of their customer experience, their ethical practices, their brand personality, and more.

This is why online born-and-bred DTC brands are taking the shopping market by storm. They can provide exactly what these educated consumers are after: A more customized, accessible, consumer-focused experience.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at emerging DTC trends and explain how brands can benefit from incorporating DTC sales, supply, and manufacturing strategies into their own business plans. Then we’ll explore 50 of our favorite direct-to-consumer brands and evaluate what you can learn from them.

That’s lots to cover, so let’s dive straight in!

What is Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Ecommerce?

As we’ve already mentioned, direct-to-consumer ecommerce (DTC) refers to selling products directly to the end consumer. Essentially, you cut out any middlemen. The purpose of the DTC model is to tailor your shopping experience to “the consumer rather than the retailer,” making it more convenient for the buyer.

DTC also tends to cater to consumers’ desires for simplicity by eliminating unnecessary product choices. As a result, analysis paralysis is often avoided. According to Hubspot, DTC removes “the hassle of researching, browsing, and choosing from hundreds of options, making shipping practically effortless.”

However, eliminating the middlemen doesn’t only benefit the consumer. Brands that manufacture, market, and distribute their own products can reduce costs, interact directly with customers, and provide an uninterrupted buyer experience that’s truly seamless.

What’s not to love about that?!

The movement first started with easy-to-ship items like skincare, fashion, and makeup. Brands like Bonobos and Glossier pioneered this distribution model in the mid-2010s.

Needless to say, the DTC business model is an attractive option for start-ups since DTC provides easier entry into the market.

How?

Well, founders have fewer contracts to negotiate with third parties, fewer limitations on branding and fulfillment, and more immediate interaction capabilities with their customers. The latter point is fantastic for sourcing data that can be used to optimize marketing and sales strategies to fuel growth and boost a brand’s bottom line.

DTC’s Driving Factors

One study suggests that over 80% of consumers intend to purchase from a DTC brand by 2023. As a fast-growing business model, we’re confident that DTC businesses will heavily influence future brands.

The following are the driving factors behind successful DTC businesses, generally speaking. These kinds of brands focus on:

  • Being completely digital
  • Personalizing their products on a large scale
  • Proving their brand values as being authentic, consistent, and meaningful
  • Exploiting the weaknesses of traditional brands and distribution models
  • Advocating for the needs of their target audience

How DTC Brands Differ from Traditional Retailers

As we said earlier, unlike traditional retailers, DTC brands cut out the middleman in many areas, including manufacturing, distribution, and marketing.

For example, when conventional companies might advertise themselves via TV, billboards, or magazine ads, DTC brands market themselves directly to the consumer. They do so through social media, YouTube, podcasts, etc. In other words, through online channels, brands communicate directly with their audience.

DTC brands put a lot of emphasis on customer experience and outreach so it’s unsurprising that, on average, their marketing budgets are increasing at higher rates than traditional retailers. In fact, in 2019, 78% of DTC brands said they increased their marketing budgets, compared to just 60% of conventional retailers.

DTC brands are digital-first, which often makes them more data-focused than their traditional counterparts. And at the risk of casting broad aspersions, as younger organizations, they’re also (usually) more open to experimentation. Compared to conventional retailers, who typically stick to their tried-and-tested strategies, DTC brands are still working towards profitability at scale. Often, this involves trying new things to see what works for them as a brand.

Lastly, the growth goals of these two distribution models are often quite different. DTC brands focus much more on scaling their business, customer acquisition, and personalization. Often they’ll work with technology innovations like AI and chatbots to achieve these targets.

On the other hand, it’s more likely that traditional retailers will have to satisfy internal stakeholders, therefore, to match a DTC brand’s rate of innovation and development, these retailers (usually) need to convince executives to take more risks and trial experimental channels. As you can imagine, there are often timely and arduous processes to be satisfied before marketers can hit the ground running.

Why DTC?

Here are just some of the reasons why, as an entrepreneur, you should consider adopting the DTC business model.

Meet Rising Customer Expectations

Consumer expectations are continuously rising. With internet access at an all-time high, nearly every consumer can research brands and make conscientious buying decisions. There’s more choice than ever before, which puts a greater onus on brands to meet their audience’s needs.

Consequently, customer experience has become the hill on which brands flourish or die. In fact, 89% of companies expect to compete primarily based on CX.

DTC is one of the many ways that can improve customer experience. Brands selling through traditional retailers often have little choice about how the product is sold, its branding, and distribution limitations are also common. Being at the mercy of their distributors, these brands rely on third-parties to satisfy their customers. Conversely, when you sell directly to your audience, you take back control over the customer journey.

DTC, however, doesn’t eliminate every customer experience problem. You’ll still have to gather data to get insights into your audience’s needs so you can tailor your customer journey and branding to appeal to them. This is why an in-depth understanding of your end customer is crucial.

Build Better Relationships With Customers

With the DTC model, it’s easier to communicate your brand’s values and mission to your customers.

If you sell a product via a traditional retailer, you might make a profit, however, you lose the opportunity to relay your brand’s story or interact directly with your customers. This is crucial for building long-lasting consumer relationships.

By selling through your own online storefront, you can utilize branding, promotions, content, and storytelling to engage with new and veteran customers alike.

But, this presents challenges, too. If you already have profitable partnerships with retailers, by switching to a DTC model, you could lose an essential marketing channel. So proceed with caution. Take Nike as an example—they’ve aggressively pushed towards direct sales, which has strained its relationship with some retailers.

Collect Customer Data

As we’ve just said, to customize a consumer experience effectively, brands need a thorough understanding of their customers.

This is why conducting customer surveys are worth their weight in gold. These are three of the easiest ways to identify your audiences through surveys:

  • Priorities
  • Requirements
  • Pain points

Of course, there are plenty of other things you can gather from launching customer surveys, but you get the idea. Since the DTC model provides direct access to your customers, collecting this information is way easier than when you sell through an online marketplace or a traditional retailer.

Capitalize on Your Audience’s Favorite Sales Channels

Since DTC brands (typically) operate 100% digitally, you must provide customers with a seamless online sales journey from researching products to browsing to finally buying. It’s also worth noting that more and more DTC brands are investing in their mobile audience to cater to a growing market of shoppers that use their mobile devices. In fact, over 67% of people admit to window shopping on their smartphones, and 77% of these digital browsers make impulse purchases.

In light of this information, it’s essential to establish which online sales channels your customers prefer then you can make sure you offer and optimize them as part of your DTC business strategy.

The Pros and Cons of DTC

No distribution model is perfect. While many brands have enjoyed success using the DTC model, businesses should carefully evaluate what’s necessary to make it work. Take a look at DTC’s pros and cons below to get a better feel for whether you think this model could benefit your business:

The Pros of DTC

  • Brands Have Full Control Over their Image: Your branding and communications aren’t diluted, so you can mold your brand’s identity exactly how you wish.
  • Establish More Robust Customer Relationships: It’s easier to personalize customer interactions to build deeper connections.
  • The DTC Model Unlocks New Business Opportunities Requiring Little Investment: If you’re already selling through a traditional retailer or an online marketplace, launching your own online store broadens your distribution base. The cost of designing and managing your own online store is minimal in comparison to its potential gains!
  • You Own Your Customer’s Data Rather Than the Retailer or Marketplace You’re Selling Through: For instance, you can collect email addresses to grow your own mailing list and then send out surveys to gather even more customer data.
  • Meet Consumer Demands: Online shopping is increasingly becoming a way of life for most consumers, so launching your own ecommerce store is a fantastic way to establish your online identity and meet consumer demands all at once!
  • Capitalize on Organic Traffic by SEO-Optimizing Your Content: When done well, you’ll drive relevant traffic to your website without paying a penny for the leads.

The Cons of DTC

  • You’re 100% Responsible for Customer Satisfaction: When you go it alone, you’re entirely accountable for your customer experience and support quality. As such, the onus is on you to understand your consumer’s needs and fulfill them.
  • Going Strictly DTC Alienates Larger Retail Platforms as Sales Channels: If you’re already enjoying profitable relationships with traditional retailers and online marketplaces, we suggest keeping these partnerships and running and launching your own DTC channels on the side. That way, you’ll enjoy the perks of each business model!
  • You Carry All Your Operational Costs: From manufacturing to distribution to marketing, with the DTC model, you’ll handle it all.

How DTC Brands Market Themselves

As we’ve already hinted at, we’re seeing a shift towards ethical consumerism. More and more shoppers gravitate towards innovative brands that build authentic connections and boast the same values that they do.

This is where the direct-to-consumer model works perfectly.

It lends itself best to start-ups and niche businesses operating with smaller arrays of products and a specific target demographic. Often, their products are unique, eco-friendly, sustainable, fair-trade, etc. They sell the David and Goliath story—the conscientious small businesses versus mainstream corporations.

So as you’ve probably gathered, to succeed as a DTC brand, you’ll often need to commit to a cause. Consumers today want to support brands that do good in the world, and it’s what will likely inspire them to choose your DTC brand over a big-box store. If you’re wanting to go the DTC route, make your cause a part of your brand story and share it on your marketing channels.

50 DTC Brands & What You Can Learn From Them

We’ve compiled a list of some of the top 50 DTC brands. These businesses encapsulate DTC’s heart—they all capitalize on specific niches with an interesting twist. Interestingly, the majority of these examples have the following in common:

  • They have smaller product catalogs than traditional retailers
  • They avoid mainstream manufacturing
  • They appeal to younger generations by evidencing their ethical supply chains and using their brand’s story to connect with their audience

So, without further ado, allow yourself to be inspired by these clever DTC brands.

JUDY

JUDY Direct to Consumer Businesses

JUDY sells emergency preparedness kits and primarily caters to a niche, younger audience with their branding and marketing. Their storefront boasts a next-gen design using modern language, crystal clear product imagery, and a bold orange color scheme.

In terms of their DTC strategy, JUDY harnesses the power of SMS text messaging to engage customers, send emergency alerts, offer ongoing updates, and provide useful videos.

One of JUDY’s core values is education, and they back this up by providing visitors with tons of valuable materials and video tutorials on their website.

Haus

Hause DTC Brand

Haus sells custom wines featuring various notes and flavors and offers a membership subscription that supplies customers with several bottles a month. Haus’ membership grants access to exclusive flavors, free shipping, and members-only events. For a wine company, their DTC strategy certainly helps to establish long-term customer relationships.

United Sodas

United Sodas DTC

United Sodas nails personalization. As the “People of the United Sodas of America,” they invite you to find your unique flavor. Also, they offer themed packs and variety packs to give their audience what they want.

Like Haus, they too have a monthly subscription that keeps customers’ fridges stocked with all their favorite sodas. With its bright, sparkly brand identity, United Sodas undoubtedly appeals to soda-lovers.

Beklina

Beklina DTC Strategies

Beklina was the first-ever online eco-boutique, offering a unique twist on fashion with its artistic collections. Due to their individualistic and natural appeal, Beklina caters to a niche audience of independent women.

Plus, the team also welcomes visitors to their studio in California, and when customers make a purchase, Beklina offers a gift-wrapping service. Both of these personal touches are ideal ways DTC brands can build and maintain loyal customer relationships.

First Rite

First Rite DTC Brands

First Rite is a prime example of an up-and-coming brand that started off as one individual’s vision. Nikki Garcia launched her business from her California studio, promoting her own collections—something she still does today. This gives First Rite a personality that’s true to the designer herself. Straight from the artist to the customer, this DTC brand undeniably illustrates the power of personal branding.

Pink Peony Kids

Pink Peony Kids DTC Brands

Pink Peony Kids exudes a personal, warm, and approachable charm. Launched by two sisters born and raised in Downtown LA, their upbringing certainly reflects their products. All of their wares are locally made children’s clothing inspired by the Californian style they grew up with.

Chaboukie

Chaboukie Direct to Consumer

Chaboukie is another Californian children’s clothing brand but this one was born out of one mother’s personal experience. Instead of approaching customers through third parties, the DTC brand founder writes a journal on her website. There, she regularly emphasizes her mission and belief in sustainable products and actively draws a line between her work and major retail brands.

Blu Pony Vintage

Blu Pony Vintage DTC Brands

Blu Pony Vintage came to life when a designer took her love for high-quality vintage clothing and utilized the DTC model to transform her dream into a reality.

With custom-created clothing, Blu Pony Vintage operates on a small production basis. Besides supporting charity, the brand also offers a Birthday-Club subscription. They promise to send out a little gift to kids on their special day. How’s that for customer delight?

Ugmonk

Ugmonk Direct-to-Consumer Brands

Ugmonk’s core products are tees donning the founder’s simplistic yet elegant designs. Instead of selling off-the-shelf shirts, Ugmonk creates its own in the US including the stitching and dying process. Ugmonk provides plenty of insight into their brand’s journey and product creation methods which is excellent for communicating its core values. It’s a true DTC brand.

AmericanTrench

AmericanTrench DTC

American Trench is a family-owned manufacturer that produces quintessential American clothing. Their mission is to bring together as many Americans as possible to create something unique. Like Ugmonk, they, too, openly outline their brand’s journey and product creation processes on their website, inviting visitors to delight in their practices.

Apolis

Apolis Direct to Consumer Brand

Apolis’s unique niche is high-quality, customizable grocery bags. They sell premium products to compensate their Bangladeshi partners with fair wages—a testament to the brand’s strong ethics. This empowers consumers to invest in more than just a shopping bag. By purchasing with Apolis, you support the livelihoods, benefits, and retirements of Bangladeshi mothers and receive a handmade, quality product—win-win!

For Days

For Days DTC Brands

For Days has developed a unique sales approach to zero-waste, where you can build a trial kit of t-shirts. When you’re ready to purchase new shirts, send in your old ones, and you’ll receive a discount on For Days’ latest products. Your old shirts will then be sustainably recycled by the company. It’s a truly unique DTC concept!

This brand is ultimately more than just a clothing retailer. They offer a zero-waste approach to life and invite customers to adopt this journey with them for the long-haul.

Origin

Origin DTC Brands

Origin sells everything you need for your next outdoor adventure. They embody strength and masculinity, with a product range including durable shoes, nutrition packs, and fitness equipment.

Glossier

Glossier DTC Strategies

Like many DTC brands, Glossier utilizes popup stores to sell their skincare and makeup products across various locations. The brand first gained traction via its beauty blog, which provided an insight into people’s beauty and skincare experiences first-hand. This personal approach continues to fuel their brand and features in many of their product choices.

Elhoffer Design

Elhoffer DTC Brands

Elhoffer Design is a “geek-themed” apparel company that focuses on providing “geeky” women with fun clothing that encapsulates their passions. Elhoffer Design shifted to DTC from wholesale so they could offer a more tailor-made approach to ensure they offer practical fits for all body types (and sufficient amounts of pockets!).

Boardroom Socks

Boardroom Socks DTC Strategies

Boardroom Socks is a family-run brand with over seven generations of textile experience. They’re committed to supporting American manufacturing and back this up by employing small local businesses for every step of their manufacturing processes.

Shinola

Shinola DTC Brand

Shinola sells watches inspired by traditional design and quality standards. To maximize customer personalization, they employ a team of stylists to custom-pick recommendations for each interested shopper based on their needs and likes. The Shinola team then sends the prospective customer an email with a few watch suggestions that fit their criteria. They even craft a personal message to explain their choices. This is a great example of the kind of customer experience DTC brands can give!

American Giant

American Giant DTC

American Giant values community support and traditional quality and durability. They mostly work with supply chains that support local communities. American Giant cuts out stakeholders and corporations and instead, they favor simple, durable, value-driven products, which is reflected in the hoodies, jeans, and t-shirts they create and sell.

MATE the Label

MATE DTC Businesses

MATE has an extremely local supply chain (within a ten-mile radius, to be exact), keeping its


carbon footprint to a minimum. The label offers eco-clothing made out of ethically sourced, organic cotton. They also allow customers to return their purchases to be recycled. Plus, all of MATE’s packaging is eco-friendly and fully recyclable. MATE the Label truly practices what it preaches in terms of ethical consumerism.

Mission Workshop!

Mission Direct to Consumer Brands

Mission Workshop has a fabulous brand story—a hallmark of DTC brands. Their website details their rise from an old warehouse in the then-coined “messenger-ghetto.” Through blood, sweat, and tears, they transformed themselves into an influential apparel brand that makes products that are as tough as they are beautiful.

Little High Little Low

LHLL DTC Brands

LHLL’s niche is vintage music tees, curated for their unique design and comfort. Their simple, careful approach meets the needs of music lovers with its crisp, simplistic, and casual style.

Agave Denim

Agave DTC

All of Agave’s denim jeans are ethically made in the US and promote a simple, timeless American style. The brand promises that they only make what they love to wear and promote honesty, integrity, and open-mindedness amidst their customers and staff.

The Sill

The Sill DTC Brands

The Sill started with a cool idea that houseplants could be delivered to your doorstep… Just like you’d order a pizza!

This brand allows you to give the gift of green or to enjoy houseplants yourself. Each plant comes with care instructions, and if you need further assistance, you can also call up Sill’s customer service. This brand provides incredible customer experience within a pretty niche industry.

Stay Home Club

Stay Home Club DTC Brand

The Stay Home Club celebrates introversion and having a great time on your own, at home. Through their brand’s story and business mission, the founders embrace their customers’ qualities that they also share. This makes the Stay Home Club massively relatable to its target audience.

What started as a one-woman business now employs five people in a studio. The brand sells apparel and home decor with intelligent art motifs, that are bound to put a smile on any introvert’s face!

Schmidt’s

Schmidt's DTC Brands

Schmidt’s started home-brewing in a kitchen for want of natural, fragrant, and healthy deodorant products. Their core DIY principles appeal to those that love down-to-earth and natural approaches to product creation. With Schmidt’s, customers can purchase in the knowledge that all their products are plant-based, certified vegan, and cruelty-free—which are the kind of call-outs consumers are leaning more towards these days.

Inkkas

Inkkas Direct to Consumer Businesses

Inkkas is a fantastic shoe retailer boasting fair trade standards. They’ve also partnered with the OneShoeOneTree Initiative which does exactly what its name suggests—a tree is planted for every shoe they sell. Their shoes are handmade in Latin America, where fair wages are paid to farmers. The brand’s slogan is “Buy a piece of a better world,” which appeals to conscious consumers everywhere.

Cancelled Plans Candles

Cancelled Plans DTC

Cancelled Plans Candles appeals to the individualism of their consumers and celebrates the introvert that loves staying at home. They sell beautiful candles for cozy evenings and they’ve even matched scents to help their audience tackle typical modern-day problems. Are student loans stressing you out? There’s a scent for that. Social anxiety? They’ve covered that one too.

Who Gives A Crap

Who Gives a Crap DTC Brands

In short, Who Gives A Crap sells eco-friendly and recycled toilet paper. Their products are plastic-free, and a fraction of each purchase supports the building of toilets in underdeveloped areas. They also offer a subscription service to help keep your bathroom stocked. They’ve truly embraced the core DTC brand pillars.

Knix

Knix Direct to Consumers Brands

Knix sells comfortable underwear to women of all ages and body types, embracing natural beauty and real body shapes including options for leakproof and postpartum underwear. One of their marketing campaigns included a call for photos that encapsulate the postpartum experience. 700 women submitted—including celebrity names—and the campaign gained over 220,000,000 media impressions! This is an example of how DTC brands can develop a close and meaningful relationship with their audience.

Pela Case

Pela DTC Brands

Pela Case sells phone cases and other accessories from robust, biodegradable materials. They dream of a plastic-free ocean and a waste-free world and want their brand to form part of the solution. Their brand values are based on the four Cs of Creativity, Consciousness, Courage, and Community, and their products and business model certainly support that.

Rogue Fitness

Rogue DTC Brands

Rogue Fitness sells exercise equipment, including heavy shippables like weights and barbells. They want to be part of the “Industrial Revolution 2.0,” where factories support communities by employing local people who then reinvest their wages into their neighborhoods.

Supply

Supply Direct to Consumer Brands

Supply sells razors and razor accessories like shaving creams. They claim their razor is the only one you’ll need for the rest of your life. Supply doesn’t believe in degradable products that require reinvestment so when you purchase one of their products, you’re buying for life. This commitment to quality and long-lasting products is another common thing seen in DTC brands.

Harry’s & Joy Shaving

Joy DTC

Harry’s and Joy + Glee Shaving both offer shaving products. Harry’s, for men, and Joy for women. Both exude distinct online brand identities, including celebrity backing, bright brand colors, and a great sense of humor. This is an excellent example of how to set yourself up as an audience-focused brand. Their life as a DTC brand launched like a rocket when the Harry’s shaving video went viral many years ago. It’s a clear example of how powerful DTC marketing can be.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker DTC Businesses

Warby Parker recognized the eyewear industry was dominated by primarily one manufacturer. So, he founded this company with the belief that high-quality, designer eyewear should be affordable and tailored to each customer’s specific needs. That’s why Warby Parker decided to adopt the direct-to-consumer approach, circumvent third-parties, and design his own glasses.

Casper Mattresses

Casper DTC Strategies

Casper is a Canadian mattress manufacturer. They’ve built their brand on customer feedback, directly working with consumers to create the products they want. They further ensure the quality of their customer experience by offering commission-free store advisors and a 100-day risk-free product guarantee. They were one of the first DTC brands to tackle mattress products and it’s taken the market by storm because it’s eased the (previously arduous) process of purchasing a mattress.

DUDE Wipes

DUDE Wipes DTC Brands

DUDE Wipes have successfully carved themselves a space in the male hygiene industry. It just goes to show that when it comes to business ideas, you just need a little creativity. What makes DUDE Wipes stand out from the crowd? Their sense of humor—they celebrate fart jokes, and their product slogans incorporate puns which keeps their core audience engaged with their brand messaging.

As a company selling toilet accessories, they don’t take themselves too seriously, which makes them endearing but they still promise to deliver on quality.

Felony Case

Felony Case DTC Brand

Felony Case sells novelty phone cases in bold colors and patterns. They’re living proof that it’s possible to take an Instagram following and transform it into a stable customer base.

Daniel Wellington

Daniel Wellington Direct to Consumer Businesses

Daniel Wellington’s watches come with an interesting origin story, however, the brand’s main appeal is its interchangeable strap design. This ingenious idea shows they genuinely understand their customer’s needs. Consumers just purchase one watch and personalize the strap to suit different occasions and moods.

Gymshark

Gymshark DTC

Founded by a group of teenagers back in 2012, Gymshark sells fitness apparel and accessories with their customer’s workout needs in mind. Their clothing is comfortable and figure-hugging, so it never gets in the way when customers are pushing themselves to the limit. Gymshark attributes its enormous growth, in part, to its social media influence.

MVMT

MVMT DTC Businesses

MVMT delivers premium watches, sunglasses, and other accessories boasting minimal designs. They pride themselves on their fair pricing amidst what is usually an often overpriced industry. MVMT secured crowdfunding back in 2013 and is another DTC business that’s grown primarily through social media.

Hubble Contact Lenses

Hubble DTC Brands

Hubble’s Contact Lenses are comfortable, barely noticeable, and affordable. Hubble Contact Lenses offers a subscription model that provides customers with contact lenses for as little as one dollar a day. Their packaging is also fully recyclable.

Billie

Billie DTC Brands

Billie creates clean beauty products with a focus on the most-used and often most underappreciated products. From razors to deodorants, lip balm, and makeup wipes—Billie has it all and they send it directly to consumers.

Quip

Quip DTC

Quip’s settled into the oral health market with a mission to bring a modern perspective to products like toothbrushes. They adopt a user-focused approach as they innovate on designs that have barely changed over the decades to create something fresh and exciting!

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh DTC

Hello Fresh is more than just a food-provider—they’ve found a way to make their product a lifestyle choice. With weekly, zero-waste deliveries, consumers can order just the right amount of ingredient packs they need to make nutritious, healthy meals. This eliminates lots of the complexity and uncertainty associated with cooking and encourages young people to engage with healthy, home-cooked meals in a new way

Blue Apron

Blue Apron DTC Brands

Blue Apron uses a similar model to Hello Fresh. You can choose your recipes, define your dietary requirements, and have fresh ingredients and recipes sent to your doorstep. Blue Apron promises to deliver fresh farm ingredients and personalized menus, without lengthy subscription commitments!

Hint Water

Hint DTC Brands

Hint Water sells water, with a twist. This lifestyle brand adds a hint of fruity flavor to their water without sugar or sweeteners. This brand aims to make healthy decisions with all its products. They believe using quality ingredients is more important than those typically chosen for profit margins alone.

23andMe

23andMe DTC

23andMe helps you make healthier choices based on your DNA and provides customers with an exciting insight into their ancestry. This brand innovates on basic family-tree services and comes with an intuitive mobile app.

Brooklinen

Brrooklinen DTC Brands

Brooklinen cut out the middleman and can, therefore, offer lower prices on their sheets, comforters, blankets, and bedding—without compromising quality. Interestingly, in 2018, they were the third fastest-growing retailer!

Lively

Lively DTC Businesses

Lively sells vintage-style underwear with a modern twist, combining the appeal of active and swimwear with old-fashioned designs. They take inspiration from the contemporary version of sexy—smart, healthy, dynamic, and outgoing. This feminist business idea reached great acclaim on social media and, in 2016, earned $4 million in seed funding.

Aurate

Aurate DTC Brands

Aurate found ways to cut costs and market their jewelry at a more affordable price—namely, by keeping all their operations local and saving on import taxes.

They also recycle their excess materials and produce pieces on a made-to-order basis. Again, this works wonders for keeping inventory costs down. Their sustainability initiative also promises to use 100% recycled gold made in NYC.

The Core Takeaways From These DTC Brands

Now we’ve taken a look at these 50 top DTC brands, let’s recap what we’ve learned.

DTC Brands Appeal to Conscientious Younger Generations

Buzz words like eco-friendly, organic, ethically-sourced, and sustainable, often pop up when talking about DTC brands and it’s because these values typically appeal to younger generations. 73% of millennials claim that they’d happily spend more on products promoting sustainability!

The Key Takeaway: You can appeal to the next-gen population by offering sustainable products. Take a moment to think about how your brand could positively impact the environment, and go from there.

Embrace Individuality

Most of these brand identities hinge on personality traits that their audience can relate to and engage with. There’s certainly a trend towards selling niche products that celebrate the quirky, bold, and youthful. Humour also appears to feature a lot in their branding strategies.

The Key Takeaway: Your brand voice is important. Use the language and tone that appeals to your core audience and don’t be afraid to really hone in on a niche!

They’re a Part of Their Consumer’s Lives

As we’ve just seen, it’s not uncommon for DTC brands to offer subscription services. Gone are the days where online marketers tried to sell one product at a time. Instead, more and more entrepreneurs are doing all they can to become their customer’s lifetime companions. Brands like Hello Fresh, For Days, Haus, and Hubble (just to name a few!) have embraced this model.

The Key Takeaway: Successful DTC brands carve out a place in their consumer’s lives to ensure they’re the go-to for their respective items.

Novelty & Innovation

The examples above neatly outline how novelty and innovation can propel start-ups into success. The premise is simple: Unique ideas are more likely to gain traction on social media. In turn, this increases the chances of featuring in major publications and TV shows (as many of the above brands do).

The Key Takeaway: Novelty attracts attention—period. And you don’t need us to tell you, once your audience is hooked, you’re more likely to run high-converting marketing campaigns.

Storytelling

Many of these brands started with one individual who chased down their dream. It’s important to share your humble beginnings and be transparent about your whole journey. Everyone loves an underdog, so these stories engage your audience on an emotional level. After all, who hasn’t had a dream they wanted to pursue? This is why so many successful DTC brands incorporate storytelling as part of their website, social media, and online ad copy.

So, if you’re not doing this already, this is undoubtedly something you should consider implementing into your own marketing materials!

Are Ready to Implement What You’ve Learned from These Direct-To-Consumer Brands?

As consumer mindsets shift, so does the ecommerce landscape. We’re confident that direct-to-consumer brands and all their associated trends will continue to disrupt the online marketing space and as time goes on, they’ll only become more influential.

So, now’s the time to take a leaf out of the books of these DTC businesses—especially where customer experience is concerned. Examine your own brand to see if there’s room for improvement and if you’re creating a new brand, think about what DTC tactics you can include.

This article originally appeared in the A Better Lemonade Stand blog and has been published here with permission.

About the author

Steve Hutt

Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. In the early days of online commerce, he achieved Power Seller status at eBay, which then propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens, and eyewear retailer. After a successful exit from his startup, he embarked on his next journey into agency work in e-commerce and digital strategy.

Currently, Steve is part of the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus, where he is a Strategic Advisor helping brands continue to grow and scale with the Shopify Commerce Platform.

To maintain a competitive edge and life of learning mantra, Steve also hosts and produces a top-rated weekly podcast show, eCommerce Fastlane, where he interviews Shopify partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, to help Shopify brands build and scale lifetime customer loyalty.