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How DTC Strategies Are Shaking Up Fashion

As direct-to-consumer business models become more popular, different industries are finding their own ways to make these kinds of experiences work for them. This has been especially true for the fashion industry. By cutting out markups, leveraging digital technologies, and promoting radical transparency, dozens of new fashion brands are succeeding with DTC. We’ve taken a look at the unique ways specific fashion verticals are taking their products straight to customers, and how they’re differentiating themselves from the legacy brands that came before them.

Whitepaper: The DTC Approach – 4 Aspects to Master

Denim: Simplified Selection and a Digital Storefront

Some products are timeless, but are the brands that sell them timeless enough to survive in the modern retailing world?

The traditional retail model means denim companies like 7 For All Mankind source their designs and fabrics from numerous designers and mills. They stock products their designers and buyers believe customers will like, but aren’t close enough to customers to bet on a handful of choice designs. Instead, like most retailers, they take a shotgun approach. Dozens of slightly different fabrics, cuts, and details make shopping for new jeans harrowing and downright consumer unfriendly. National retail outlets require huge warehouses and supply chains to keep locations stocked with all the varied styles, driving up costs for the end-buyer.

Younger luxury brand DSTLD sells premium denim and elevated basics direct to the consumer and is primarily online (with limited pop-up stores that let customers experience the brand in person). By selling direct, DSTLD is able to focus on quality rather than quantity. Their collection is easy to browse with a color palette of just black, white, grey, and blue. A reasonable price tag is a fair trade for a lesser-known brand name and limited retail stores—plus they use the same factories as many designer labels. DSTLD even allows true fans to invest in the company, ensuring that the brand will remain true to their customers as they grow—because they have direct financial control.

Focusing on a few good items done right at a fair price point is key to tapping into modern shopping trends, and encourages brand loyalty and repeat business by making clothes that become an essential part of customers’ wardrobes. Huge selections and hundreds of retail outlets are no longer likely to breed success.

Designer Fashion: A Closet in the Cloud

While the previous example focused on delivering a product, the new normal for retail also means fundamental changes in behavior. One of the biggest shifts: changing attitudes about ownership. Airbnb, Lyft, and WeWork all meet a desire to pay less in exchange for giving up sole possession. Why own a car when it’s so convenient to ride in someone else’s? Why stay in a hotel when you can stay in someone’s house for less? Rent the Runway provides a similar solution for your wardrobe. Why buy a new dress for every one of your friends’ weddings when you can rent one for a tenth of the cost?

With Rent the Runway, customers can get the same high-quality designer clothing, but without having to own it forever. If you don’t want to show up to every wedding of the season in the same thing, renting just makes more sense, and allows customers more choice and flexibility—they can get a much more expensive piece without worrying about the price tag.

RTR’s direct-to-consumer model adds value that a department store like Macy’s just can’t without majorly restructuring some of their current practices. Without the costly overhead of hundreds of national storefronts, RTR can deliver and scale a new kind of in-store experience without orienting their entire business around it.

Pre-Loved Fashion: Sustainable Style

Millennial consumers don’t feel the stigma of pre-owned items like previous generations. They’re more likely to embraced pre-owned fashion due to its sustainability (and lower cost), leading to a robust market for secondhand goods. New sites like Grailed, theRealReal, and TrueFacet are filling the gaps left between the small, independent, highly-curated boutiques offering clothes and furniture in most major cities. However, Material World offers a service that goes a step further than any of these.

Material World will pay customers for their pre-owned designer clothing up front—making it easy to trade in your lightly-worn items for hard cash. Yet this is just one piece of a bigger system. The Material Box is a subscription service that ships an outfit handpicked by a stylist every month straight to your door. You’re not just getting a sustainable, designer outfit for a fraction of the price, you’re getting unique and totally personalized styling services. The stylist who works with them knows the entire history of their purchases and interactions, meaning they can provide deep and contextual service. That’s a benefit you won’t find at even the most upscale boutique. The box can then be used to send back their own clothing, replenishing their old pre-owned clothes with new ones. Material World supports an ethical system that diminishes waste and elevates the benefits of pre-owned clothing, creating an experience that’s even more appealing and streamlined than buying a designer outfit for yourself.

As the DTC model becomes more popular, the variety and creativity of new DTC brands will only increase. The principles for CX success are clear, no matter which industry you’re in:

  • Adapt to changing customer expectations
  • Always push to innovate with new technology
  • Look beyond the old ways of doing things to find cheaper, faster alternatives

If you can do that, you’re sure to delight your customers and improve their experience. Learn some more aspects of the DTC approach that can help you deliver better service in our whitepaper.

How Subscription Companies Can Deliver a Better Customer Experience

Subscription’s rising popularity isn’t a fluke. There are a lot of real benefits for customers and businesses alike that you don’t get from traditional retail. Customers receive just what they want delivered to their door—even things they didn’t know they wanted—with no extra effort required.

However, their biggest benefit is also a huge drawback. Because customers don’t need to think about their subscriptions all the time, it’s easy for them to cut them loose once they stop adding value to their lives. This is why brands with subscription models are plagued by churn. Customers might jump on with ease, but if they don’t find lasting value, the novelty wears off.

Subscription-based companies must reward loyalty. They should be incentivizing customers to stay with them for the long haul, delighting them with new surprises and offers based on the length of time they’ve been subscribed. Every delivery must be used as an occasion to build a deeper connection. Agents need to be well-trained to deliver a complimentary experience, consulting with customers on their options and learning more about them to better target offerings.

There are more than 2,000 subscription box services on the market right now, but only a small percentage will still be doing business this time next year. To succeed, subscription businesses need to deliver a valuable customer experience. What does this level of customer experience look like on a practical level?

Rewarding loyalty

Bespoke Post and Boxycharm reward the customers that have been subscribed the longest with more hand-picked, high-value options in their boxes. The upfront cost pays for itself, as customers keep subscribing in anticipation of future surprises.

Asking questions

Every change in behavior is a chance to build a deeper connection. For a brand like Material World that delivers personalized outfits, if a customer puts their delivery on hold, it’s only in their interest to find out why. If the customer is going to be traveling somewhere warm, they could even send their box to where they’re going to be staying—with some tropical inspired options inside.

Exceeding expectations

Don’t hesitate—if a customer is asking about upgrading their subscription tier for a brand like SprezzaBox, reach out and follow up with a personalized offer. After trying out a free trial of a premium box for three months, they’re more likely to be convinced to bump up their subscription permanently!

Digging for more data

For classic subscription brands like Birchbox, agents should take every opportunity to learn more about their customers. They should be reaching out to customers to fill out their profiles, sending surveys to get a better understanding—and their organization should be empowering their agents with the data they already have.

Being proactive

If bad weather is about to roll in to a particular region, rather than being reactive and waiting for customers to respond with questions about a shipment, a brand like LOLA with a time-dependent delivery can reach out to them as early as possible and present them with new shipping options to avoid a delay.

As both brand new and legacy brands catch on to the benefits of subscription model, the delivery box options will only grow. However, the subscription companies that understand their customers and use great service and customer experience to ensure their loyalty are the ones that will last.

Want to see how Kustomer can help your company? Find out how we enable ecommerce business here.

The Future of Retail: Four Essential Takeaways for B2C and DTC Brands

Kustomer’s Future of Retail event brought together business leaders from leading modern B2C and direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, featuring a majority of female founders and executives across the agenda. Together, they discussed the trends that are shaping the retail and DTC landscape today, and what it takes to compete and thrive in this world.

We covered a range of topics, from understanding the customer to creating a consistent experience in-store and online and growing a business. However, four main threads emerged from all the conversations at the event:

1) Experience is the differentiator for modern brands

Now every retail brand, digital-first or established legacy, is in competition with Amazon. It’s unlikely that most will be able to compete on choice, ease of use, or connectivity of their product ecosystem. The only sure way to win is on experience—curation, community, and content is where you’ll be able to stand out.

A simple, clear business model means you can set yourself apart with your experience and service. Lola does more than deliver all-natural feminine hygiene products, their intuitive subscription service and direct-to-consumer prices, plus their commitment to a personal and engaging experience, makes them much more appealing than mass-market brands.

Fast delivery and a good website is not enough, instead customers crave a community and a genuine experience. Women’s workwear brand Argent even calls their pop-up stores “Community Centers”, where they host events themselves and from members of the community—with the end-goal of adding value to customers’ lives. You can learn more about using pop-ups as part of your retail strategy in our report here: Digital First, Store Next.

Similarly, cycling brand Rapha received a shout out for their innovative Club Houses. Instead of traditional brick-and-mortar retail, they’re a hub for Rapha customers, where they host events, local artists, athletes, and speakers, plus organize daily rides.

As Aniza Lall, Chief Merchandising Officer at Bluefly, summarized: “Commerce, content, and community: the brands that can monetize those channels are going to succeed.”

2) You need an omnichannel approach to connect every touchpoint

From first touch and acquisition to the post-purchase experience, you need to be able to trace a solid line following your customer along each.

More brands are getting their start on Instagram like AYR, or as a source of content like Glossier, and scaling from their with a handful of products. It’s crucial to be able to capture all the information about those early fans that you can, because they will form the core of your audience and define your brand experience.

Eleanor Turner, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Argent, described the importance of connecting these dots: “Experience is such a buzzword today, but it’s really all about creating an experience that’s unique to your brand, personal, and streamlined end-to-end.”

3) Subscription is the future of customer loyalty

New, digital-first brands are shifting their business model to become part of life and rhythm of the customer. For these businesses, profit comes from retention and lifetime value, and you need to know whether or not customers are happy based on their actions, not their words. Doing so can drastically raise their lifetime value.

Men’s subscription box Sprezzabox uses a loyalty program to reward customers based on how long they’ve been a subscriber, giving them access to higher-quality items and delighting them with special offers.

Feminine hygiene brand Lola partners with other brands like Cuyana, Warby Parker, Equinox, and Harry’s to extend their value proposition and reach new audiences.

Material World has shifted their focus from being a marketplace for secondhand luxury items, to building an ongoing relationship by having customers exchange their old clothing and other items for a new pre-owned set each month. As Rie Yano, the company’s Co-Founder and CEO described, “People used to use the brands they shop for as their identity, but now identity is about how you spend your money, not what you spend it on.”

Brands like Rent the Runway and Material World provide more value for customers with a service that replaces ownership with an ongoing relationship with a brand.

4) Stay laser-focused on what your customers love.

Even as you grow, you need to keep the core facets of your brand and experience that your customers love at the forefront.

Women’s clothing brand AYR launched on Instagram and social 3 months before their product lineup fully launched, just to communicate with their customer and get feedback. It’s remained a huge driver for their business: “Our biggest win has been having a direct line to the customer. We launched our t-shirts, plus-size jeans, and eco-friendly products based solely on customer feedback.” Co-Founder Max Bonbrest also gave a big shout out to Glossier for the same reason, “Having an engaged community before you start selling a product is a huge benefit. The best example of this is Glossier, obviously.”

Similarly, Lola’s brand is built on what real women have to say about feminine hygiene. After having a number of conversations while coming up with Lola’s brand direction, founder Alex Friedman had an epiphany: “I realized that there are all these moments where stigma leads to a lack of discussion. I see our job as contributing to the conversation in those areas and extending the brand in those directions.”

Whether your brand is just getting started or has established itself over decades, the discussions at Future of Retail reiterated that success in the modern retail landscape is grounded firmly in gaining better customer understanding, and delivering a powerful, connected experience.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this event possible, we’ll have even more awesome events and informative conversations like this one coming soon!

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