Written by Jess Bird, PR Senior Account Executive.
Before we were even hit by the coronavirus pandemic, traditional bricks and mortar stores were already on the decline. The world of retail was in flux and many new emerging brands just didn’t think it was the right route to market never mind an accessible one. Enter stage right, direct to consumer brands (D2C), who were able to reach consumers in different ways and across different channels with their brand firmly at the forefront of activity. They controlled everything – something that more traditional retailers (both in grocery and on the high street) could not match.
There’s always been something exciting about an online order arriving on your doorstep, hasn’t there? The naughty laziness, the anticipation of not having to go to the shops to get exactly what you want. Whether it’s Beauty Pie, Birchbox or Glossier for the beauty lovers, Harry’s subscription razors or cheese straight to your door thanks to Pong Cheese boxes, most consumers have been drawn into purchasing a D2C product at some point in their lives.
However, the melting pot of change that is 2020 has seen D2C go to the next level. Existing D2C brands have been given the chance to really come into their own and reframe themselves in their industry as a necessity. Recipe box sales have soared, as consumers look for convenience and ways of keeping occupied and healthy during lockdown. The sector has been a real winner in the pandemic. Mindful Chef is seeking £25m in fundraise as its sales rise and has reported a 452 per cent rise in customer numbers since the end of March, as well as a 387 per cent increase in its recently launched side-line in frozen meals.
Similarly, competitor Gousto secured £33m fresh cash injection from investors including Joe Wicks – whilst the company also had to stop accepting orders from new customers, hiring an extra 400 people to help keep up with demand. Other brands in this space – such as HelloFresh and Oddbox – have also spiked in popularity, enabling consumers to maintain a balanced diet when nipping to the shop isn’t always an option. And for more of a treat, Tom’s Pies have taken their pies and tarts online – giving free delivery on all web orders to bring their D2C offering to life.
It’s not just the disruptors either. The nation’s favourites are getting in on the act too. Heinz baked beans opened an online shop for the first time, selling 16 cans for £10! Ice-cream enthusiasts have also been treated by Magnum who sent out free DIY ice-cream kits to bored Londoners, as well as Häagen-Dazs who partnered with Secret Cinema to launch Secret Sofa and Curzon create a ‘home cinema kit’.
Other sectors have also quickly pivoted to adopt the D2C approach and serve customer’s properly during lockdown. If you fancy getting green fingered, Plant Pack launched a delivery service to rescue leftover plants during the pandemic. When it comes to booze, we know wine deliveries are through the roof and the launch of Hun wines (the perfect trap for gen z and millennials), just shows there’s a D2C corner of that market too. For the cocktail queens out there, Bacardi teamed up with Deliveroo as part of £1.5m investment to bring bespoke cocktails to your living room. And let’s not forget those brands who are using partnerships to get a foot in the D2C door – Uber Eats offered Bumble users 25% off food to go on virtual date – to help keep those quarantine romances alive.
Consumer behaviours have changed for good, and it will take some people significant time to feel comfortable returning to old habits, especially when it comes to shopping. This has encouraged retailers (such as Lidl and Aldi) who didn’t previously offer delivery to really understand the need for it now. Personally I think it’s likely retailer offerings, such as M&S’s online “food boxes”, Aldi’s food parcel deliveries and the Boots essentials delivery bundles, will remain in place for some time. To give those vulnerable consumers a helping hand.
Many of these brands, such as Oddbox, Birchbox and Doughnut Time, have also been supported by influencers and celebrities promoting their products across social media, offering discount codes and short period trials. For example, Gousto recently enlisted Nick Grimshaw to host an online dinner party. However, for D2C, after generating great results, customer acquisition is not the issue anymore, the next step for these brands is looking at consumer retention and loyalty.
Because they don’t need new sign ups, their attention needs to focus on ensuring their current users are engaged, especially when lockdown is over, and the world starts to return to some sort of normality. In the face of a new normal, can these organisations keep at the forefront of minds and succeed further? They will be met with an opportunity for innovation and change. Whilst we’ll likely watch current D2C brands grow, it will be interesting to see which other brands jump on the trend and whether it will become the new norm to have most of your products delivered to your doorstep.