The Business of Fashion recently discussed what pioneer direct to consumer (D2C) brands will look like moving into 2020 and beyond. We have seen digitally-native D2C brands dominate across industries over the last decade which has set the standard for what is expected from consumers. As the apparel industry continues to evolve to fit the changing landscape of consumer demands, geopolitical uncertainty, and microtrends, D2C brands need to establish a plan to sustain profitability and growth.
There are three factors that brands of all sizes should take into consideration as they adjust their business plans to scale their companies:
Centering your brand around just your product is a plan that will ensure explosive success that fizzles out when the next trend comes along. Through the power of the internet and social media, anyone can start a brand which means there’s only so many products left to fully innovate. Apparel is no different. Unless your brand can develop a garment or silhouette that has never been done before, your differentiator is going to be in your brand’s messaging and positioning.
Brands can accomplish this by positioning themselves as the platform that connects a community of their like-minded consumers. Research has continuously shown that consumers are more connected to brands that align with causes that share their values. If your company has a deeper value that stems from a social cause, a philanthropic mission, and/or a relevant social mission, they will be able to connect on a personal level with their consumers. This will resonate with the conscious consumer and create deeper brand loyalty.
As the market becomes more and more saturated, consumers are overwhelmed with options on where they can purchase from and what they can purchase. This means D2C brands cannot remain solely e-commerce to scale their company. As retail moves away from being about the product and more about the experience, fashion companies need to have an extended brand presence. Platforms such as Instagram, mobile apps, pop-up shops, and space in traditional brick & mortar stores become imperative to scaling to the next level.
In addition to having a presence in multiple locations, brands need to have access to multiple designs and products. With custom development taking up to a year in some cases, brands need to have additional, faster options. Many companies have now switched to white label and wholesale as a way to keep up with changing consumer demands. This allows brands to have a diverse product line without the long lead times or hefty costs of custom development.
Adaptability doesn’t mean just quick turnaround times on product development through wholesale and white label. While D2C has completely changed the way we look at retail, inevitably, a new model will eventually displace D2C. As retail continues to evolve, brands need to have a business plan and supply chain that allows them to quickly and seamlessly switch gears to better cater to their consumers. This type of adaptability is established through a diversified supply chain portfolio. If you have established a presence across countries, categories, speeds, and capabilities, you’ll already have established where you need to be to keep up with consumer demands for years to come.