E-commerce has seen a massive surge in growth over the last two years because of the pandemic. Most consumers have taken a lot of their shopping online, and e-commerce juggernauts like Amazon have monopolized the market. Shopping now begins and ends on the giant platform for many people. So, in this new world, how can smaller D2C brands keep up—especially as hyper-consumerism in the U.S. continues to surge?
Well, Mark Kohlenberg—a 30-year footwear industry veteran and CEO of WDM Footwear and Accessories—knows the secret. Not only does his company run a private label production and e-retailing business, but he also works with dozens of D2C name brands and is the owner of successful smaller accessory brands like Moral Code and Milwaukee Boot Company. So, he has first-hand experience navigating the ever more complicated Amazon-esque world that can offer cheaper goods.
The good news? Small brand success is possible.
“D2C brands are inherently more competitive simply because they don’t need to slice the pie as many times as conventional wholesale brands or those that sell through Amazon,” said Kohlenberg. “And consumers are always looking for unique, local and new takes on established brands, so messaging and a unique and a strong sense of purpose is critically important when it comes to separating your brand from the pack.”
But, what’s the secret? Here are three ways small brands can keep prices competitive and be successful. And they’re not what you think.
Define Brand Fundamentals
Brand fundamentals are essential for maintaining competitive pricing. “You need to have a non-commodity product that creates attention, buzz, and demand,” he said. “And on top of that, brands need to work on creating and keeping themselves fresh, engaging, and alive. If you continually check these boxes, you’ll undoubtedly remain competitive in the market.”
Don’t even bother to compete with e-commerce titans like Amazon directly instead of co-exist. “There are more than enough customers out there that will buy from both Amazon and your brand, and you can easily co-exist with Amazon and build still a profitable business,” he said. “If anything, Amazon has helped speed up retail transformation to make e-commerce an additional way of buying products.”
Consider a Physical Store
Brick-and-mortar isn’t dead; it just needs to change. Especially in industries like fashion, it’s always more advantageous to have the ability for a customer to touch, feel and experience your product—which makes brick-and-mortar more productive for the customer and the retailer.
“I recently saw several brick-and-mortar retailers that recognized they needed to change and are engaged on social media and utilizing email, event, and partnership marketing to keep their customers buying,” said Mark. “And I believe that if you have a better-grade, higher-priced tactile product, there’s always going to be a brick-and-mortar place.”