For the vast majority of respondents, optimizing e-commerce channels is the most important step. As more and more people move to shopping online, retailers of all types are trying to make sure their e-commerce and delivery channels are optimized -- as wine seller Winc’s co-founder Brian Smith said during a Modern Retail Plus talk last week, this is an opportunity to “meet customers where they are” -- aka, at home, on their phones.
For many direct-to-consumer founders, it's been six weeks of extreme highs and lows -- some companies have recorded simultaneously some of their best and worst sales days within those same time periods. But even companies that have reported record sales haven't been immune from having to lay employees off. As a result, many DTC founders are finding themselves having to navigate situations that they never have been before, and are having to learn new ways of leading.
Direct-to-consumer startups have been thinking for weeks about how and when they want to re-open their stores. But as the time has come to re-open stores in some states, no one has any better idea of what the right path forward is than they did six weeks ago.
Longevity in the coming year will require “re-imagining at home consumption,” said COO Brian Smith, with restaurants and hospitality down at the moment. Here are some takeaways about how the wine brand has strategized in this current economic climate.
In some ways, it's starting to feel like the early days of the direct-to-consumer boom all over again. A startup's website is once again its most important sales channel, as stores remain closed. Startups are having to operate with as small of a team as possible. And Facebook is once again a cheap place to advertise. Over the past couple of years, the constant refrain has been that DTC startups need to rely less on acquiring customers through Facebook. As more companies started advertising on the platform, Facebook advertising costs started to rise. Now, as more companies are dramatically slashing their advertising budgets in the wake of the coronavirus, Facebook is becoming less crowded.
"Focus on storytelling right now," said Higgins. “DTC is predicated on having a one-to-one interaction," with the customer that can't be emulated if there is a middleman.
Temporarily, respondents said they would be “leaving” or reducing the use of nearly every single retail channel, except mass retail stores. The majority of respondents were leaving pop-up shops, shop-in-shops, permanent brand stores, as well as “retail-as-a-service’ platforms.
Right now, direct-to-consumer startups have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and nowhere is that more evident than within their brick-and-mortar divisions. Most of the executives I spoke with this week said that they don't anticipate being able to re-open their stores until the summer. "I think people are preparing models [in which stores] will open as early as July and as late as October," said Logan Langberg, principal at Imaginary Ventures, which has invested in Camp and Everlane. But it's absolutely critical that when stores re-open, DTC brands are ready.
It's impossible to predict the future, but Vuori senior director of retail Catherine Pike thinks "huge advancements in brick and mortar retail" are coming now that brands are out of their comfort zone.
Apparel retailers have a ticking time bomb on their hands while stores remain closed. They have to figure out how to move what will likely be an unprecedented level of excess inventory once stores re-open and beyond, while taking as little of a loss on it is possible.The challenge is two-fold: first, retailers have a huge amount of inventory in stores that they can't sell right now. That inventory also risks becoming more out of season the longer that store closures drag on. Second, because it's unclear just how much consumer demand there will be the rest of the year, retailers are also trying to figure out what's in the pipeline for the rest of the year that they can still cancel, so they don't risk being left with too much inventory in the fall and beyond.
As no one knows exactly how much consumer spending will rebound (or not) in the coming months, retail and e-commerce businesses are being forced to reconsider every single expense. The most obvious way for companies to cut costs is to lay off or furlough employees. And many of them have already done that. But beyond that, how do you save money? Consumer investors are advising startups to think of every single expense as negotiable. Here are some of their tips on places to save money.
Visibility is a real problem for execs across media and marketing. It’s unclear how long this crisis will last, and the feeling in the first few weeks that this would be as simple as flicking a switch back on once things go “back to normal” has largely dissipated.
At Modern Retail's first Plus Talks, WellPath CEO Colin Darretta talked about how he's retooled his DTC wellness brand. He provided tips and insights about how to prepare a supply chain during a global downturn, as well as the business trends he's looking toward.
A month ago, I was talking to the founder of a one-year-old direct-to-consumer startup who was out fundraising. The founder told me it was a weird time to be fundraising. The coronavirus outbreak was just starting in the U.S, and some investors were already starting to get hesitant about deploying capital. Additionally, many of the investors the founder was meeting with were looking for companies that could display a surefire path to profitability, but without sacrificing high growth rates. In the month since then, things have only gotten weirder. Months ago, steps that were being billed as smart and necessary in order for an e-commerce company to become profitable, like expanding wholesale partnerships and opening their retail stores, have now turned into logistical nightmares as most stores remain closed.
For retailers, running heavy promotions during store shutdowns is proving to be tricky. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, large retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom, along with chains like the Gap, are aggressively pushing seasonal sales to make room for spring merchandise. With virtually all brick and mortar sales down, anywhere from up to 80% to 100% of expected revenue effectively disappearing for large brands, offering discounts is one of the most effective ways to stay afloat right now, said senior retail analyst at Fit Small Business Meaghan Brophy.
Advertisers, in a marketplace transformed by creativity gone remote, how much of your campaign content is still in-house versus UGC? How are you using data to make choices and effectively target your campaign content? Take this survey and get the full results plus a $5 Starbucks gift card.
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