Is it time to make the switch?
If you have a business, primarily reliant on the traditional wholesale or retail distribution model, you might be wondering if DTC is the right path for you. It’s a fair question, and one that deserves a clear understanding as there are obvious benefits, but also financial implications and barriers to entry including internal capabilities, online infrastructure, access to capital, and a highly competitive marketplace including AMAZON.
According to a recent IAB study, over two-thirds of consumers have come to expect direct access to a brand, and about 67% of customers have used a company’s social media for customer support.
For most businesses, the most obvious hurdles are organizational and operational deficiencies combined with competing in a very crowded market. In reality, the biggest challenge is the revenue and profit losses that occur when wholesale is decreased and DTC is being built. Brands that have relied on revenue from the wholesale partners to invest in the business are at a massive disadvantage when compared to the digitally native brands that use investor funds to develop and promote their DTC channel. The key is BALANCE. As you gradually turn off one channel, you continue to optimize and strengthen the other.
But, if you agree that the majority of commerce is done on the internet, and the best decisions are made with data, then this is the only option for growth.
The benefits of a DTC business are clear:
How to make the switch:
Before jumping to buy some turnkey software solution, you need to
1- Start with your CUSTOMER:
2- Study your direct and indirect COMPETITORS:
3- Evaluate your CAPABILITIES:
4- Understand the COST:
Go where your customer is … now.
My advice: don’t settle for what’s kind of working today. Challenge yourself to make BIG things happen tomorrow. Work within your financial and organizational constraints and do what you can afford to do NOW. You can layer on and spend more as business improves and resources become available. In this time of constant change, it is critical to make a move so you are better prepared to ride the wave in lieu of getting wiped out.
If you want to go where your customer is, you will quickly realize DTC is not an option but an imperative. Building a direct relationship with your customers and delivering the right product, at the right time, at the right price, will foster a better customer experience. With a better brand experience, your customers become loyalists and then evangelists, and will do a lot of the selling for you.
Move the Needle, Disruption, Unpack, Push Back, Low-hanging Fruit…..
Any of these sound familiar? Like you just heard them (or even used them) on your last ZOOM call? These cliches have become the “script” within the corporate world. And let’s not forget PIVOT … that was cliche before we were leaning in! But in the wave of the pandemic and the unprecedented number of struggling businesses, “pivot” deserves some unpacking.
Transitioning a core business or diversifying into adjacent categories or distribution channels is critical for survival. But for many companies, this shift into new customer segments, product categories, revenue models, pricing strategies, etc. is uncharted territory. To succeed, it requires the same surgical approach and consideration you would use launching a new brand. While time is of the essence, a delicate balance of speed and comprehension will yield the best result. You can be quick, but don’t be in a hurry!
Over the past few months, I’ve been working with owners and operators in hospitality, food & beverage, accessories, apparel, and design who are eager, and in some cases desperate, to pivot their business. I have found that regardless of industry, I consistently pose a series of questions (below) to proactively uncover inevitable issues or glaring opportunities.
Here is my list:
There is no way to anticipate all the items that may impact your goal. But one way is to keep asking yourself, “If this fails, why?” Be exhaustive with the list up front, it will serve you well and preserve your precious resources.
Last, develop a rigorous process for review and adjustment. If you cannot poke holes in your own strategy, surround yourself with people who can. At the end of the day, stay nimble, patient, and let’s circle back if you need more guidance!