Shopify Ecosystem

Top Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) Brands To Watch In 2021

top-direct-to-consumer-(dtc)-brands-to-watch-in-2021

With consumers shopping at home from their mobile devices in record numbers, direct-to-consumer brands are taking the lead in modern eCommerce. Here’s our short list for the top DTC brands to watch this year.

DTC Brand Outlook in 2021

DTC brands typically save on costs by leaving out “middlemen” distributors. As such, this year’s outlook highlights the agility of these brands to deliver more for less. Here are some of the top DTC trends to watch in 2021.

  • More Creative Discounts and Promotions – DTC brands can lower their prices (especially for a limited time) without lowering product quality, because their business process is cost-effective.
  • Greater Personalization – DTC brands enjoy direct customer relationships. This benefit ensures that key customer feedback doesn’t get lost in the distributor red tape.
  • Emphasis on Community – DTC brands that promote community don’t just enjoy more user-generated content, they also benefit from a more informed and committed audience.
  • Concern for Social Causes and Environmental Sustainability – Because of the many third party relationships that manufacturers and distributors must maintain, they do not often feel at liberty to use a stronger voice to fight injustice or protect the environment. DTC brands, on the other hand, have more ideological freedom to embrace these values and further endear like-minded consumers.

Top 12 DTC Brands to Watch in 2021

1. Grove Collaborative

Who is Grove Collaborative?

The founders of Grove Collaborative wanted to create a space dedicated to home cleaning products that were non-toxic to humans and the environment. Today, this DTC brand has expanded its offerings to include skin, pet, baby care products, and more.

Grove Collaborative is among the few wildly successful Public Benefit Corporations in the United States. Their commitment to saving the planet inspires audiences and contributes directly to environmental sustainability.

What are they doing right?

Benefit Corporations are neither for profit businesses, or nonprofit organizations. Brands that choose a B Corp formation are truly serious about their social causes, and depending on the industry, it can be difficult to succeed. Grove Collaborative has, and they are attracting attention.

Like many successful DTC brands, Grove Collaborative is highly social and partners with influencers through their #GroverPartner program.

Why do we like Grove Collaborative?

Grove Collaborative’s brand message is highly relatable to their target audience. For this reason, they have enormous success on social media and enjoy a large supply of compelling lifestyle images that they can repurpose in a variety of ways, such as email newsletters and paid ads.

2. Smile Direct Club

Who is Smile Direct Club?

Traditional braces are bulky, require patients to wear then all-day-every-day, and cost over $5,000 on average. Smile Direct Club provides a better alternative with their “100% at home” clear aligners and the option for patients to wear them for most of the day or only at night.

What are they doing right?

Smile Direct Club discovered that they could screen customers, send teeth impression kits to their home, and consult with credentialed orthodontists to deliver a completely-customized set of teeth-straightening aligners. This approach is not only more convenient for patients, but it is also much cheaper.

Smile Direct Club further personalizes their product by offering multiple easy payment options, such as two-year payment plans. But even customers that pay upfront can save thousands of dollars compared to traditional teeth-straightening devices and treatments.

Why do we like Smile Direct Club?

Orthodontic care is dangerous if aligners are not fully personalized to each patient. Smile Direct Club masters personalization well enough to become a safe and reliable alternative to traditional orthodontics. Also, easy payments is also a nice touch.

3. MVMT Watches

Who is MVMT Watches?

MVMT Watches creates luxury fashion accessories and sells them at affordable prices. Coining the online community #jointhemvmt refers to the brand’s message to “Live life on your own terms.” 

A core vale to living life on one’s own terms is that “style shouldn’t break the bank.” Based in Los Angeles, MVMT grew from a regional eCommerce watch supplier to an international brand with nearly 2 million customers around the world.

What are they doing right?

MVMT began as a crowdfunding startup and leveraged the power of fashion influencers to scale the brand. Its growth in under five years is astounding.

Today, MVMT maintains a vibrant influencer community and ambassador program. Additionally, brand marketers have tested repurposed influencer content in a variety of paid and traditional marketing channels, such as TV advertising and social media PPC.

Why do we like MVMT Watches?

Not only are they a pacesetter within the influencer and brand ambassador industry, but they’ve also taken time to show fellow DTC brands how to leverage influencers thoughtfully for authentic connections with consumers on social media.

4. Stitch Fix

Who is Stitch Fix?

Katrina Lake founded Stitch Fix in college. Her vision was to launch a clothing line that could perfect personalization through technology. 

Today, Lake’s brand sells widely in Europe and the United States. Customers begin by creating a profile and answering an extensive list of questions related to their dress and fit preferences. Unlike many clothing brands, Stitch Fix never requires you to measure yourself or answer questions that only your tailor would understand. 

At the end of your questionnaire, you subscribe to a style plan of your choice. There are always free returns for styles you don’t like.

What are they doing right?

With a unique hybrid of AI and human stylists, Stitch Fix has accomplished clothing personalization better than any fashion brand we’ve seen. As clothing purchases increasingly take place online, Stitch Fix is effectively addressing the problem of improper fits.

Why do we like Stitch Fix?

Stitch Fix is definitely disrupting fashion retail. They value  influencers and lean upon them for tips and impromptu fashion shows at home.

In addition, Stitch Fix is inclusive. They cater to both men and women of all ethnicities, as well as a wide style variety for each.

5. Bonobos

Who is Bonobos?

Bonobos is a clothing brand that started online and then expanded into brick-and-mortar stores. The brand creates fashionable clothing for men, a demographic often overlooked in traditional fashion retail.

What are they doing right?

This DTC titan began small like every other DTC startup and scaled strategically by being one of the first in retail history to offer men’s personalized clothes online shopping. Bonobos has existed in the DTC space for almost fifteen years (before DTC online clothes shopping was cool). The founders discovered an open niche and business model and then leveraged both to pave the way for other similar online clothing retailers.

Like Stitch Fix, Bonobos values personalized styles. Where Bonobos differs is that it has integrated brick-and-mortar stores with a solid eCommerce foundation.

Why do we like Bonobos?

We are aware that listing a third fashion DTC brand may feel tedious, but the reality is that shopping for clothes online successfully is one of the latest successful developments in eCommerce. Bonobos is yet another stellar brand that shows how it can be done well and sustainably.

6. Organifi

Who is Organifi?

Organifi started as a superfood juice blend company that evolved into a full health-and-wellness brand. The company offers health coaching, as well as an Organifi community dedicated to “support and accountability.”

One way in which this brand stands out is that it is determined to make green juice taste delicious. According to the founder, it took over 50 tries before the team achieved the classic Organifi great taste.

What are they doing right?

Organifi does community like few other DTC brands do. Not only are their online communities (primarily on social media) made up of typical average customers, but they also include fitness and nutrition influencers and brand ambassadors.

Organifi also leverages YouTube and paid video ads to discuss health and wellness. This approach establishes the brand as an industry authority. And with the assistance of key opinion leader influencers in fitness and nutrition, Organifi informs their audience with enormous success.

Why do we like Organifi?

Organifi embodies brand originality and community. The Organifi product is truly unique. And the depth of community among Organifi customers energizes genuine excitement, connection, and loyalty.

7. Outdoor Voices

Who is Outdoor Voices?

Outdoor Voices creates fitness wear with a mission to “get the world moving.” This DTC brand is deeply value-driven and preaches recreation over performance.

According to Outdoor Voices, most people who feel afraid to exercise are so because of society’s hyper-emphasis on sports performance. But simply moving one’s body produces the neurotransmitters (endorphins) to make people happy. As such, Outdoor Voices urges consumers to simply start #DoingThings.

What are they doing right?

In addition to helping audiences rethink exercise for their own health and wellness, Outdoor Voices champions environmental sustainability in the way they resource and package their clothes.

Using radical inclusion and social values, Outdoor Voices is able to engage consumers on social media. This engagement produces large volumes of customer advocacy and user-generated content on behalf of the brand.

Why do we like Outdoor Voices?

Brands that know how to engage consumers are most likely to forge authentic relationships with their target audience. Outdoor Voices uses its “voice” well for the betterment of humanity and the planet. And on top of all that, they make a great product, as is demonstrated by their positive customer reviews online.

8. Warby Parker

Who is Warby Parker?

Like MVMT, Warby Parker founders felt that they could deliver quality without being too expensive – in this case, fashionable frames. So it decided to make quality frames affordable.

Warby Parker’s streamlined DTC business model is a common “go to” example for how an ideal DTC brand works. Because this brand (like its DTC peers) saves money that would normally go to distributors, it can do more with its profits.

Much of those savings trickle down to consumers, and the rest goes toward providing glasses to those without the resources to buy glasses for themselves.

What are they doing right?

Warby Parker’s sell-a-pair-give-a-pair practice is a model for many socially-conscious online brands. The brand also makes it easy for customers to try on multiple pairs of glasses and return the ones that they don’t like (it’s called “Home Try-On”).

Affordably-fashionable like MVMT, and personalized like Stitch Fix, Warby Parker will go down one of the GOATs of DTC brands.

Why do we like Warby Parker?

Part of Warby Parker’s consumer engagement strategy is the use of influencers and pop-up shops. At GRIN, we’ve seen this trend – combining experiential marketing with influencers – grow at a rapid pace, particularly as traditional retail lease costs increase.

9. Trifecta

Who is Trifecta?

Instead of merely offering a scientifically-correct meal plan for weight loss, general health, and wellness, Trifecta understood the same as Organifi – community is crucial for growth, improvement, and happiness.

As such, Trifecta sets their customers up for success by putting their meal plan products in the context of mental health, physical health, and healthy relationships. 

What are they doing right?

Trifecta thinks bigger than their deliverable meal plans. The founders understood that systemizing meal planning and fresh ingredients for great taste were key to sticking to a proper diet.

More importantly, Trifecta is notably social. They also lean heavily on health, nutrition, and fitness influencers to help them inform their audience.

Why do we like Trifecta?

Similar to Organifi and Outdoor Voices, Trifecta gets consumer engagement on social media. Using this approach, the brand can leverage its online community to grow its customer base and extend each customer’s lifetime value.

10. 4Ocean

Who is 4Ocean?

4Ocean is another B Corp that produces unique fashion wear, such as bracelets and masks. But the proceeds go primarily towards cleaning oceans of litter and harmful debris. Each product is named “by the pound.” Poundage refers, not to the product’s weight, but to the amount of litter pulled from the ocean.

What are they doing right?

4Ocean is dedicated to their mission to clean up the ocean and preserve sea life. Their apparel and accessories are also fashionable. If customers want to contribute to more ocean clean-up, they can join a subscription program.

Why do we like 4Ocean?

4Ocean is one of the most unique DTC brands in all eCommerce. They promote social engagement through their values for environmental sustainability. 

11. Lume Cube

Who is Lume Cube?

Lume Cube is in many ways the GoPro of light. Designed with social media creators in mind, Lume Cube lights help photographers and videographers create more compelling content.

Due to the rise of remote work from COVID-19, Lume Cube has also become a premium supplier of video conferencing lights for the everyday employee. We also enjoy Lume Cube lights for our webinar events.

What are they doing right?

First of all, Lume Cube’s product is genuinely impressive, yet so simple. Built for creators, Lume Cube curates large amounts of fresh user-generated content from influencers and non-influencers alike.

Why do we like Lume Cube?

We at GRIN are an influencer marketing software company, and as such, we love brands that empower influencers. Not only does Lume Cube use influencers ingeniously, but they also supply influencers with low-cost, quality lighting that greatly enhances their content.

12. Hyphen Sleep

Who is Hyphen Sleep?

Casper has long been hailed as the leading mattress DTC brand. But Casper may now have serious competition with Hyphen Sleep. Hyphen Sleep also boasts intense testing and expert analysis, and customer reviews are raving.

The name “Hyphen” refers to the connection between great sleep and a good day. This DTC brand seeks to help consumers achieve the best possible sleep at night so that they are at their best during the day.

What are they doing right?

Despite Casper’s success, the mattress industry has remained a distributor-dominated industry. But Hyphen Sleep is another player demonstrating that great mattresses can be cheaper and better quality than leading store-bought mattress brands.

And because dependability is such a crucial aspect to what it means to provide a good mattress, Hyphen Sleep offers a no-questions-asked 20-year warranty on their products.

Why do we like Hyphen Sleep?

Hyphen Sleep doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Because achieving the perfect mattress is more about expertise and less about flair, this brand keeps things simple. Its marketing team is not afraid to leverage customer feedback to improve its product and validate its claims as a top quality mattress brand.

In Summary – The Future of DTC eCommerce

DTC eCommerce is here to stay. Not only is it easier than ever to create an online store, but social media platforms are also enhancing free and low-cost social commerce features. DTC startups can easily scale their brand and compete soundly with big-name distributors among niche audiences.

Special thanks to our friends at Grin.co for their insights on this topic.