The State of Retail: How Traditional and Emerging D-to-C Can Build a More Meaningful Consumer Experience
The retail landscape has reached a permanently hybridized state, with shopping flourishing both online and offline alongside stretched supply chains. Amidst this landscape, more traditional brands are working through a dramatic shift toward more e-commerce, while direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) natives consider expansion into retail distribution.
Large, established CPG brands typically focused on selling in-store now face the challenge of learning to manage digital shelves via online retail marketplaces. This process has made rebalancing internal structures a priority. The need to break down silos between trade and sales teams is real, to create more digitally forward e-commerce departments. Meanwhile, long-standing spirits brands embrace delivery and shift away from premise-only distribution methods, and QSRs combine the drive for foot traffic with delivery aggregators.
As traditional brands push toward digital, many digital-native brands launched by selling D-to-C have started to expand distribution through retail. It can take 12 months to 18 months to get considered by a top retailer and acquire shelf space. For example, Harry’s and Casper, both true D-to-C brands by nature, saw an opportunity to leverage expanded distribution and in-store experiences through forging relationships with Target. Running media digitally across retailers’ platforms can serve as an entry point, but still warrants early planning and a sell-through approach.
These long-term business requirements won’t get solved overnight, but brands can still make strong strides toward creating a more seamless shopping experience that leads to success. Despite the differences in structures, the process remains analogous — and retailers across the board can implement a simple set of steps to forge more meaningful connections with consumers.
The Power of Social Commerce
Retailers must consider not only in-market consumers, but also discovery as a means of driving net new sales. Having a presence on platforms like Instagram and TikTok that allow for product discovery and shoppable ad experiences play a crucial role in scaling this consumer base. These environments allow community and impulse to influence purchase, with native checkout experiences to make the process even more seamless. Brands that lack a larger retail distribution should leverage these avenues as consumers crave shoppable discovery.
Introducing Innovative Technology Solutions
Beyond prioritizing shoppable commerce through product discovery, retailers can look for opportunities to develop sales infrastructure and leverage standard media to increase sales. More and more technology solutions allow for brands to create a shopping experience in any ad experience, whether through native functionality on social platforms, Amazon.com, YouTube, or via tools like Mik Mak, Adimo, or Kerv. Context remains critical but, combined with insights on the audience, highlighting a product within an experience and providing options to buy carries heavy importance. If a user is watching content on YouTube or interacting with a story on Instagram that features a product they love, leveraging the ability to transact becomes highly effective. These solutions also provide brands the ability to offer consumers online buying or store locations for purchase.
Adapting the Model
Aside from in-store to e-commerce or e-commerce to in-store, multiple other models need to get factored in. With the growth of online buying, in-store pickup, and delivery, ensuring that your retailers provide these access points for customers is increasingly critical. Expanding relationships with partners such as Instacart and GoPuff that facilitate these delivery expansion opportunities allows for a targeted approach to driving product sales within a marketing initiative. At a local level, many 15-minute delivery mechanisms are getting introduced. They warrant consideration and testing as this becomes more prevalent across a brand’s major markets for distribution.
Customizing Customer Service
To get ahead of competitors, retailers can think through packaging and unique offers. Adapting your content to reach new audiences through gifting, bundling and more can create new opportunities. Plus, don’t forget to stay prepared with customer service to handle any support needs. Other marketplace considerations to prioritize include:
- Are you taking advantage or participating in promotional periods? Are you participating in a deal?
- If so, are you leveraging your relationship to ensure the retailer's promotional coverage? Are you a preferred product?
- If not, you can still take advantage of increased shopping behavior in-store or via marketplaces online.
Ensuring the right infrastructure for seamless checkout experiences — whether online or in person — remains critical. Flexibility across business models has become the norm in a post-2020 world, whether through buy online/pickup in-store or payment plans like Klarna, and large retailers and smaller D-to-C brands should take note. Creating the right technology feedback loop also allows for structure models that provide more seamless management of the business’ operational aspects, such as inventory, returns and customer reviews, leading to more insight into customers’ needs and better responsiveness from brands.
Jessica Richards is executive vice president, head of commerce at Havas Media Group in North America running the Havas Market team.
Jessica is the EVP, Head of Commerce at Havas Media Group in North America running the Havas Market team. Her remit is helping brands create better shopping experience for consumers, allowing them to find products easier and buy more seamlessly, whether through direct-to-consumer strategies, via eRetailers or in store experiences. She is knowledgeable in all facets of marketing from traditional media, digital trading, social strategy, emerging tech and data management.
Prior to leading the commerce practice, Jessica launched the Social practice at Havas Media in 2014. Managing the business for six years and driving significant growth during her tenure. Jessica prides herself on a nimble, entrepreneurial approach to staying on top of an ever-changing market.
Her insight covers a vast majority of industries including highly dynamic and regulated brands within Retail, Entertainment, Spirits, Financial Services, Insurance, Pharma, Telecommunications, and Technology.