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Taking the plunge into Direct-To-Consumer

Mike Flynn
Strategy Director
Design Bridge


Taking the plunge into Direct-To-Consumer?  Dive in brand-first.

With the global success of direct to consumer (DTC) brands such as Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker, more and more Dutch brands are considering a move into this rapidly expanding channel.  

And for good reason.  It’s well documented that going DTC offers advantages in “cutting out the middleman,” data collection, customer satisfaction, expanding product offerings, and the ability to control pricing and margins.

To achieve these advantages, a checklist of best practices within the industry has developed over time:  

  • Create a seamless user experience
  • Focus on mobile platforms
  • Offer thoughtful customer service
  • Leverage customer data to build loyalty  

While these certainly are must-haves in getting the DTC experience right, they’re no longer quite as novel: simplicity, speed, and exceptional experiences have become table stakes for customers; they’re simply the price of entry for brands entering the online retail space.  For example, Amazon has made free shipping so ubiquitous that consumers now recoil at the thought of paying for postage.

As we’ve also seen in the long-established retail channel, what will ultimately win the DTC battle is the value added through brands.

Therefore, as companies move into the DTC space, brand stewards would be wise to focus on the true advantage that this type of commerce presents:  The ability to fully control brand expression and story across all aspects of the DTC experience.

In other words, the opportunity lies not in creating a strong relationship between consumer and channel, but rather in creating an exceptionally strong relationship between consumer and brand.

Taking a look at a few of the key points along the DTC consumer journey, here are some recommendations and examples of how to ensure this kind of brand-led experience:

User Experience: Challenge your user interface and user experience designers to bake brand purpose in your design language across all stages of customer experience.

A good example of this is bike brand VanMoof, which builds the idea of worry-free travel into simplicity of their web interface and the functionality of their app. The VanMoof app lets you unlock your bike, check its battery levels, and remember where you parked it, all from your phone.

Customer Service

Unlike retail, DTC provides the opportunity to showcase and optimize the “human” side of your brand in a more controlled way.  Think about how tone of voice can create surprise and delight across all stages of a user’s experience.

For instance, the Ace & Tate eyeglasses brand delivers its service of “Home Try-On” using playful packaging and communications, making the transaction feel as easy as one-two-three.


The digital shelf does not need to play by the rules of retail.  Consider removing traditional shots of packaging and using your brand’s other visual and verbal assets to “package” your products in a way that optimizes communication of the brand idea and proposition.

Dutch undergarment brand Amigo has built its products and brand around the idea of “keeping cool.” Throughout their user experience they present models with digitized Panda heads, reinforcing the calmness that their underwear and t-shirts bring.

Delivery / Unboxing

In the DTC world, a new “moment of truth” is created when the package arrives at consumers’ homes.  Use this as your brand’s stand- out moment, leveraging visual assets and tone-of-voice in ways that create excitement and word of mouth.

Online retailer Coolblue's purpose is to do “Everything for a smile.”  Utilizing the real estate of their delivery boxes, the brand brings out smiles in a variety of clever ways, including icons that warn not to open the box with things like carrots or axes; contests for “creative box make-overs”; and label inserts to thank neighbors for accepting the package.

While the digital world of DTC may seem like it requires a whole new approach to marketing your brand, we believe looking at this channel “brand-first” will provide a clear path forward.  It’s the one asset you have that will continue to reap rewards long past the next new tech trick.