Through our fast growth community, our aim is to share with you insights and best practice from brands going through their high growth journey.
We recently hosted an intimate roundtable discussion with a selection of the UK’s leading direct to consumer (D2C) brands and wanted to share some of the key learnings and themes discussed on the day.
A laser focus on culture and community
“Early on we saw the importance of building a community around our idea and as a result have leaned on them as our core since the start.” Kristian Tapaninaho, Founder and CEO of Ooni
The importance of building and maintaining a strong community has never been more important for brands than it is today. Many of the businesses experiencing fast growth owe part of their community and brand building success to crowdfunding – as a means to raising seed capital, but also as a way of building an engaged base of customers and investors.
Seed investors that come on board early in the journey tend to remain loyal, and can act as valuable source of feedback on products or offers. Importantly, these customers form a passionate community who can act as advocates for your product and become brand ambassadors across social networks and review forums. While not all companies start out crowdfunding, direct to consumers brands should always be looking for opportunities to build the same level of communication and advocacy with their customer base.
Making sure you always understand what your consumers are looking for and innovating to meet that is a skill to master. Some of the D2C brands spoke of using regular customer feedback surveys to gauge interest in new products, reaction to existing products and ideas for the future. For many founders, actually picking up the phone and speaking to their consumers was a key part of the early development of their business and has remained a part of their strategy while they continue to grow.
While this personal approach might not be sustainable for everyone, making sure that your brand culture, company values and goals are clearly communicated to your team and ensuring they live those values when they communicate with your consumers is so important. Technology can help here too, data is king when looking to understand your audience, how they are talking about your brand and how they connecting with it.
Adapt and innovate through technology
“Innovation has kept us resilient during the pandemic but to innovate successfully, make sure it’s what the consumer wants.” Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, Founder & Director at Genius Foods Ltd.
It comes as no surprise that technology is a huge focus for fast growth businesses, not only using it to stay connected but to innovate with new products.
The pandemic has been a time of enormous change for many direct to consumer businesses as consumer habits have changed. While some D2C businesses may be concerned about how this will translate post-pandemic, others have found new ways of promoting their brand or selling their products.
A key point that emerged from the discussion is the importance of a frictionless customer journey, making it really easy for your consumer to click ‘buy’ on your product. Whether you use innovative e-commerce software or an e-commerce app like Shopify, your technology needs to be running smoothly to ensure the customer buying experience is as easy and as smooth as it can be. This has been particularly important for those brands who, prior to COVID-19, relied heavily on supermarkets and high streets as a primary route to market.
Using agencies for e-commerce strategy can be very useful for brands reluctant to invest in technology too soon. This approach means you’re closer to any changes in technology because the agency will have the insight to know what’s working. However, you have to be sure the agency understand your business.
Even if you choose to recruit a dedicated e-commerce lead or adopt a hybrid model of both internal and external advice, the key to success is your strategy and ensuring that everyone involved is pulling in the same direction.
“For peace of mind we surveyed 10,000 customers after the first lockdown to understand if they were planning on staying with us.” Tim Lee, CEO at Mindful Chef
A large number of D2C businesses will now be focused on retaining their ‘lockdown loyals’; finding ways to reinforce their new buying habits and brand loyalties.
There are many opportunities to take advantage of for D2C businesses. It’s likely that office workers will continue to work from home for a portion of the week, perhaps more so than they did before, so delivery lunches, pre-planned meals or something to brighten up the home office may still be in demand.
Brands using subscription business models have been innovating, for example by extending a monthly subscription to a 3-monthly plan or by allowing customers to gift a week’s shopping to a loved one who is shielding. This sort of innovation will serve these companies well if it maintains and builds those new customer relationships.
“Getting on top of the form filling has been essential for us, luckily we have had minimal issues and our team have done a good job.” Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, Founder & Director at Genius Foods Ltd
A large number of fast growth businesses operate in international markets from an early stage in their growth cycle. Even if they don’t operate internationally from the outset, their growth rate might mean new international opportunities open up quicker than they might expect. Remember that exporting from the UK, particularly into Europe, can mean additional layers of process –planning ahead and seeking external support will be critical to your chances of success, particularly when selling products with a short shelf-life.
The key advice from leaders of D2C brands, is to have team members ‘on the ground’ in the market you are trying to penetrate. Someone who understands both your offering and the regulations in that location is incredibly valuable. As a business leader, it’s incumbent on you to understand the ‘nuts and bolts’ of your chosen export market and all of the processes you will need to follow before you can make your international venture a success.
Visit our high growth hub and join the community to gain insights from your peers and invites to future roundtables and events.