Direct to consumer (DTC) products have been wildly popular in the past few years, and as they slowly infiltrate big box retailers’ shelves, brands such as Casper, Harry’s and Bonobos are gaining more attention and getting an even bigger sales boost.
But traditional retailers are learning from them as well.
For the biggest retailers, partnering with DTC has been mutually beneficial. Walmart bought men’s fashion retailer Bonobos in 2017 for $310 million. Target is partnering with Harry’s to sell the well-made, discount-priced razors in stores, as well as Casper mattresses — which can also be found in top-tier stores such as Nordstrom’s.
Part of the draw of those and many other DTC brands is their popularity: They will drive customers into stores and online. Forging partnerships with newer, more sought-after brands helps retailers attract and create relationships with a new segment of shoppers who may not have otherwise shopped with them.
In addition, what big retailers such as Walmart, Target and Nordstrom’s can gain from well-established DTC brands is digital expertise. These products have successfully launched and sold products online with no physical stores. They are marketing powerhouses, and big box stores are learning from their strategies, particularly for their own private-label merchandise. For example, Target’s partnership with Harry’s spurred it to step up its men’s grooming selection by expanding its own Goodfellow & Co’s offering to more than 30 products. (Target is clearly focusing on the segment and rounding out its offerings by also incorporating Ulta Beauty shops this year into 100 locations this year.)
What these relationships mean for consumers is that brands and retailers are becoming more attuned to the future of shopping. Customers are fluid in how they want to shop: One day they may opt for a personal, immersive experience at Sephora and the next they’ll order lipstick online. Convenience is a driving force, but it doesn’t always mean ecommerce. Sometimes, convenience is the ease of being able to go to a physical location and try on, inspect, and ask questions.
Successful retail has always meant providing what customers want, when they want it. Today’s technology merely widens the possibilities, and requires retailers to be intuitive and flexible.