Thinking of starting an online business? Looking for some inspiration? Let’s dig deep into some successful case studies for D2C business that have emerged in the digital revolution. From each of the four, we will extract one lesson for you to take into your own businesses.
So sit up straight and get your notepad ready — it’s time to grab some gems from some of the most inspiring online businesses.
What is D2C?
The direct-to-consumer business model is where brands sell their wares via ecommerce websites. Rather than a consumer having to commute to their nearest physical store, they can buy products online and have them shipped directly to their door.
The success of the model over the last ten years shows that physical stores are no longer essential for product-based businesses to work. This levels the playing field, allowing nearly anyone to start up a business without the worry of brick and mortar overheads like rent.
ASOS, or As Seen On Screen, has revolutionised online clothing shopping with its comprehensive marketplace. Similar to a supermarket model, they stock well-known brands while developing their own brand alongside. Currently, ASOS has 23 million active users globally, and that figure is only getting stronger.
What lesson do they teach? Prioritise delivery
Everyone who has used ASOS knows about their Premier Delivery system and super flexible returns policy. With an annual subscription of £9.99, users get to experience free next day delivery on every order. Consumers will ‘window shop’ for items on other websites then purchase on ASOS because of their free next day delivery.
So what’s the lesson here? It’s obvious — for your D2C business, seriously consider investing in a good quality, reliable courier with a speedy delivery promise. Some couriers, such as CitySprint, even offer same-day delivery as a core service. And if you’re going to compete with big players in any industry, your delivery has to be a priority. It’s worth the investment to get it right.
It’s crazy to think that Gymshark was founded from a garage in 2010. In less than ten years, it managed to solidify itself into fitness culture, and its reputation hasn’t waned. If you’re not convinced of their presence in the industry, all you need to do now is walk into a gym and you’re almost guaranteed to still see at least one of the iconic shark logos.
But how did they get from non-existence to gym-dominance in less than a decade? Let’s get into what their success teaches us.
What lesson do they teach? Be smart in where you invest your marketing
Ahead of so many other brands at the time, Gymshark focused the majority of their marketing efforts on digital. They were early movers on Instagram, which at the start of the 2010s was still in its emerging stages.
Like how Amazon gained success from using Google Ads in the early 2000s, Gymshark went big on Instagram and Facebook ads while they were still underpriced. This delegation in budget was a genius move and is what helped grow the business so fast.
There’s also their use of fitness influencers. Gymshark’s founder, Ben Francis, explains in a video how the process of hiring ‘influencers’ was natural and organic. They did so before the term ‘influencers’ became what it is. He wanted to see lifters he admired in his clothing. The process went from there, and now influencer marketing is a vital part of their strategy, with an entire team that recruits new and budding influencers.
It’s important to note that it’s not always about the higher number of followers, it’s about the vibe that a certain influencer has created within their community. Their brand must reflect or complement Gymshark’s brand too.
Take the time to understand where your marketing efforts are paying off, whether it’s creating TikTok videos or investing in influencer marketing, and craft a strategy to enhance the rewards.
Made.com is an online, direct-to-consumer furniture and homeware retailer. The company supplies goods directly from manufacturer to consumer, minimising the extra cost of middlemen. Founded in 2010, Made has grown to have a revenue of over 200 million, and is well on their way to the founder’s goal of “becoming the new IKEA”.
What lesson do they teach? Build a truly customer-centric business model.
Customers are put in the centre of everything that goes on. The customers get to decide which furniture goes into production. Made.com has disrupted the market by addressing the need for unique and affordable furniture which other companies, including Ikea, have failed to do.
By voting on their favourite designs, the customers get to decide which ideas go from sketches into production. In other words, their designs are crowdsourced. This means that demand is naturally embedded within their model. It also allows them to make quick decisions with regards to the discontinuation of certain collections if they do not live up to the company’s expectations.
How can you apply this to your business? Remember to be consumer centric. Your customers aren’t going to be physically walking into your store, so you won’t be able to see or interact with them in person. So you need to make sure they still feel involved in the process, and use their feedback to help grow your own brand.
Dollar Shave Club
When Dollar Shave Club was founded in 2011, their vision was pure and simple: For as little as $1 a month, customers could get high-quality razors delivered right to their door. DSC’s mantra — “Stop paying for shave tech you don’t need” — took a direct shot at the pricey name-brand razors sold in retail stores. By 2015, DSC claimed 48.6% of the razor market, and they have continued to grow at a stupendous level.
What lesson do they teach? Make your website a conversion machine
As soon as you land on their homepage, you’re greeted with a question: how do you get ready? It’s clean. It’s to the point. It doesn’t mess around with any announcements you don’t care about like other homepages.
It’s been designed with the cold audience in mind. They’ve made their homepage a sales page. Now that’s confidence. And it’s because they back the quality of their products, and know that if they can convert new customers, they’ll be able to keep them. There’s no data available to the public on their LTV (lifetime value), but it’s bound to be very strong, as explained in this article.
Your website is your brick and mortar, so invest in it. Make sure it’s right. It could easily be the first thing customers will see when they interact with your brand, so ensure their experience goes how you want it to. Be smart. Be emphatic. Be mindful of your customer and understand what they want out of your website.
Bonus lesson: Incorporate customisation
When you click the very clear call to action on the DSC homepage — ’Get started’ — you’re invited to undergo an easy, almost enjoyable questionnaire. Dollar Shave Club allows you to customise your pack, specifically in terms of its content and how often it arrives. For example, you could personalise it so that four blades, some shaving butter and post-shave dew arrive every 1 month, 2 months, or 3 months.
Give your customers the freedom to choose exactly what they want and need to ensure they stick with your brand.
Cover photo credit: Cottonbro / Pexels