5 Shopify Stores Nailing D2C and What You Can Learn From Them
There’s a new generation of digital disruptors shaking up the retail industry as we know it. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, selling everything from make-up and mattresses to sunglasses and sneakers, are competing with some of the biggest businesses on the planet by rethinking the traditional approach to retail.
As their name suggests, D2C brands sell directly to the end-consumer via an online medium, cutting out the middlemen typically associated with traditional retail. This means they can maintain end-to-end control over manufacturing, marketing, and distribution, therefore operating at lower costs than traditional consumer brands.
The D2C model also gives brands full control over the customer experience, allowing for increased customer-centricity from product discovery right the way through to delivery and beyond. This direct, end-to-end interaction with shoppers allows companies to capture rich customer data and therefore understand their audience better.
Whilst there’s no single trick to succeeding as a D2C brand, there are plenty of common characteristics that successful D2C brands share. Let’s take a look at five Shopify stores crushing D2C e-commerce and what you can learn from them.
First up, cult-favorite sock-makers Bombas. Undoubtedly one of the leaders in the D2C revolution, there’s a lot to learn from this apparel brand with a difference.
This is a company that lives and breathes its values. Since launching the business in 2013, its founders David Heath and Randy Goldberg have been on a mission to help those experiencing homelessness, for whom new clothing (socks in particular) is in extremely high demand. This is, and always has been, the driving force behind Bombas.
For every item purchased, a clothing item is donated to the homeless community in the United States. By May 2020, they had donated over 37 million pieces of clothing!
It’s obvious that Bombas’ commitment to this social mission isn’t just an empty PR move. Instead, it’s an inherent part of the brand’s identity. This is a key ingredient in the recipe for D2C success.
Authentic social responsibility has become a priority for consumers, who are increasingly demanding transparent and impactful action from retailers. Today’s savvy shopper’s reward brands like Bombas who stand behind a clear and compelling purpose. Knowing that they are making a real, tangible difference with their purchases, consumers are more likely to come back and buy again.
Another area of D2C e-commerce in which Bombas excels is its strong consumer-focus. For example, the brand’s Happiness Guarantee covers free and easy returns, no questions asked. They’ve recognized that the customer journey doesn’t end as soon as a purchase is made, so have prioritized a hassle-free returns process as part of the post-purchase experience.
What’s more, the Bombas Customer Happiness Team is on hand when shoppers “need a recommendation, a refund, or just a reason to smile”. Everything about the Bombas customer experience is simple and straightforward - perfect for the D2C marketplace.
A good D2C brand listens to its shoppers and constantly strives to improve the customer experience. This is exactly what Bombas is doing by actively encouraging customers to submit feedback about existing products and even suggest ideas for new styles. Not only does this make shoppers feel valued and listened to, but it helps to create a community with strong brand-consumer ties.
Key Takeaways for Your D2C Brand
Get behind a clear and compelling purpose - and embed it within your brand identity.
Make things easy for your customers.
Focus on customer service.
Listen to your customers and act on their suggestions.
2. Sara Gabriel
Denver-based bridal accessory brand Sara Gabriel has been creating vintage-inspired wedding pieces for 20 years. Each bespoke accessory is artfully designed, cut, soldered, and sewn one at a time - and all in-house.
At the heart of this bespoke bridal business is a commitment to its craft roots. Just like Bombas, this D2C brand lives and breathes its values.
Sara Gabriel is proud to handcraft every veil, sash, and earring with love, sharing its passion through a combination of visual and written content. This helps demonstrate the brand’s artisanal credentials, showing shoppers that they are what they do, not just what they say.
Customers can immerse themselves in the artisan culture of the brand, which creates a meaningful brand-consumer connection, as well as a compelling reason to purchase a Sara Gabriel item over that of a competitor.
And, as the brand has direct control over every aspect of manufacturing and marketing, it can consistently deliver this sort of messaging.
Sara Gabriel also makes it easy for customers to find exactly what they’re looking for. So easy, in fact, that shoppers can try before they buy! The brand will send brides-to-be two ‘try-on’ veils so they can see them in person before committing to an order. This is a great way of removing the risk sometimes associated with purchasing products online (especially for special items like bridal veils that carry so much importance!) and ultimately improving the customer experience.
Sara Gabriel’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic further demonstrates why this is a brand that has got D2C just right. Leveraging the inherent flexibility that comes with being a D2C retailer, Sara Gabriel has been quick to react to the recent changes in customer behavior fuelled by the crisis.
With weddings fast being canceled, daily orders down to single figures, and the survival of her business hanging in the balance, founder Sara decided to pivot to face mask production.
Speaking in a recent interview with Bank of the West, Sara said: “We’ve always run our company with a sense of purpose, so our shift to making masks was aligned to our company’s operations and values.”
In the true D2C spirit, the brand maximized its digital channels to spread the word. With a new page for ‘The Mask Project’ created on their Shopify store, they promoted their new products across social media and amassed $40,000 in sales within 48 hours!
Key Takeaways for Your D2C Brand
Tell your brand story with confidence.
Remove some of the inherent risks of buying online with a ‘tryout’ service.
Monitor and react to customer behavior trends.
Maximize your digital channels to reach your target audience.
Nutrition-focused meal replacement brand Huel is a well-known name in the D2C arena, having sold over 100 million meals in over 100 countries.
Huel’s very evident investment in branding and design has propelled this brand to success on a global scale. Huel’s team knows who they are and shout about it with confidence. The brand tells its story masterfully through a combination of strategically-crafted elements and touchpoints that work together to create a unique, memorable branded experience. Across its e-commerce store, social channels, and product packaging, Huel effectively conveys who it is as a brand, what it’s doing, and why it’s here. This gives customers something to buy into, rather than just a place to buy from.
This is a brand with a relentless focus on the customer experience, as well. Huel serves up a customer-centric subscription offering that helps users save time, money, and effort. Shoppers have ultimate flexibility at their fingertips: they can choose to have up to 16 packs of powder, of any flavor combination, delivered on a schedule that suits them.
Subscribers can pause, update or cancel this service at any time, and are provided with comprehensive user guides to make their experience as smooth and stress-free as possible. This is the sort of convenience that today’s modern consumers crave, and one of the driving forces behind Huel’s success as a D2C brand.
As well as useful subscription support material, Huel’s e-commerce store is populated with extensive FAQ material, how-to guides, and blog articles, covering everything from nutrition and foodie facts, to logistical areas such as orders and shipping. This is a brand who’s fiercely passionate about its product, and equally committed to providing the best customer experience possible.
Another way this brand is nailing D2C e-commerce is by championing transparency. Huel knows that its target audience is motivated by honest, factual information. Therefore, the brand caters to this need by providing a clear, detailed breakdown of its products, the ingredients, and how they are sourced.
Last but not least, Huel has been hugely successful in building a useful community for its customers, or ‘Hueligans’ as they are known. The brand’s online forum encourages customers from all over the globe to communicate with each other about products and wider lifestyle topics related to health and nutrition, creating a sense of camaraderie amongst Huel users. This has propelled thousands of satisfied customers to share content across their social channels, building a loyal tribe of brand advocates.
Key Takeaways for Your D2C Brand
Invest in branding and design - be consistent across all channels and touchpoints.
Consider a subscription-based model that offers flexibility and convenience.
Be transparent with your customers.
Build a community that turns customers into fans.
As the first razor delivery service designed exclusively for women, UK-based Friction Free Shaving is on a mission to make shaving cleaner, easier, and cheaper with their top-rated subscription box. Their endearing approach to eco-friendly, cruelty-free shaving has won legions of female followers, with tens of thousands of women joining the revolution to “live friction-free with no commitment”.
So, what can we learn from this fast-growing D2C brand?
First off, by keeping things simple and narrowing down their product offering, they’ve removed the ‘paradox of choice’ that can often leave shoppers feeling frazzled. Much like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s, two huge D2C disruptors in the men’s razor market, Friction Free Shaving has taken an everyday item and shaken up a crowded industry with a more convenient, affordable solution. Put simply, they’ve made it easier for women to buy razors.
Next, Friction Free has focused its product and marketing efforts on its customers’ pain points. This is a brand that’s clearly in touch with its target audience. It knows what its customers want from a razor (and what they don’t want), and hones in on this through a carefully considered combination of written and visual content across its Shopify Plus store.
Similarly to the other brands we’ve looked at so far, Friction Free Shaving stands for something more than just making a great product. This is a brand passionate about reducing the plastic content in the world’s oceans. As part of their mission to “shave the planet”, they’re saying no to single-use plastic razors. They communicate their support for this pertinent environmental cause throughout their e-commerce site, with full transparency around their efforts to reduce plastic waste.
And finally, Friction Free by name, friction-free by nature. Consumers are provided with a silky smooth subscription sign-up process that guides them through to the checkout in just a few clicks. The colorful calls-to-action clearly signpost the journey, whilst clear progress indicators provide clarity and reassurance throughout.
Plus, consumers can easily pause, amend, or cancel their subscription at any time from their account page, putting full flexibility at their fingertips. All of this contributes to a frictionless brand experience that puts the customer first - another contributing factor to Friction Free Shaving’s razor-sharp D2C offering.
Key Takeaways for Your D2C Brand
Solve your customers’ problems - address common pain points.
Stand for something more than just your product - get behind a social cause.
Provide a frictionless buying experience.
5. Shoko Shop
Shoko Shop has been creating unique sustainable fashion for the everyday woman for over a decade. Bonded by a shared love of beautiful fabrics, distinctive designs, and outstanding attention to detail, the Athens-based Shoko team design and make ethical clothing and accessories for customers all over the world.
When it comes to their D2C success, this is a business big on brand storytelling. Shoko Shop is great at creating and sharing engaging content that communicates the brand’s ethos. The brand’s Shopify store offers shoppers a sneak peek into life at Shoko HQ, with plenty of high-quality imagery and video showcasing the team and their office.
Shoko Shop also has a purpose that goes beyond selling a product. Far from your average ethical fashion brand, Shoko HQ is home to a cat shelter that houses and supports rescue cats from around Athens. Opening up about their rescue mission on their e-commerce store and across their social channels satisfies consumers’ demand for authentic social action, laying the foundation for strong emotional connections.
Another way this fashion brand is establishing meaningful direct customer relationships is through its loyalty program. Shoko Shop isn’t just building a customer base, it’s building a fan club. Its Shoko Pointsloyalty program encourages customers to engage with the brand on Facebook and Instagram, thereby building a platform for Shoko shoppers to form a social community. The brand is breaking down barriers and fostering a strong sense of trust between the company and its customers.
Similarly to Sara Gabriel, Shoko Shop responded quickly to its customers’ needs during the coronavirus crisis, pivoting to produce reusable, ethically-made face masks. As a D2C brand, customer data is part of Shoko Shop’s DNA. By monitoring shopping trends and listening to customers throughout the pandemic, they were able to understand consumers’ immediate needs and build a customer-centric experience to meet these expectations.
Key Takeaways for Your D2C Brand
Create and share engaging content that tells your story.
Take an authentic approach to social responsibility.
Use a loyalty program to incentivize customers to spread the word.
Listen and respond to customers’ needs.
So, there you have it, five Shopify stores that have nailed D2C. We hope the strategies that these brands have used will inspire your own e-commerce journey!
If you’re a B2B brand looking to make the move into D2C e-commerce and take a slice of this profitable pie, check out Swanky’s round-up of six best practices to consider when you’re setting out on the transition.
Swanky’s team of e-commerce experts can also help optimize your store with a tailored growth strategy, designing and implementing features such as loyalty programs and subscription flows on Shopify.
About the Author
Hannah Leary is Content Marketing Manager at Swanky, a leading end-to-end Shopify Plus agency committed to accelerating the growth of ambitious brands through the delivery of creative digital solutions and outstanding customer experiences. Her blog posts specialize in e-commerce strategy, website design, and store optimization, helping e-commerce managers around the world make the most of their online presence.