Commentary

Apparel, Wellness Still Dominate D2C Intentions

Image from AllBirds' Instagram account.


While a growing number of Americans are aware of direct-to-consumer brands -- and more consumers are buying these products online -- new research shows they still have many reservations.

Diffusion PR’s new annual study reports that 43% of American consumers are familiar with at least one D2C brand. And 69% of those who are aware have made at least one purchase in the last 12 months, while 79% say they intend to make at least one such purchase in the year ahead.

Apparel and health, wellness and beauty are the top categories for consideration, both at 29%. Furniture and home goods are the least appealing.

But while D2C brands continue to hang on to their perception as “the cool kids,” consumers of all ages still prefer physical retail for the chance to better vet a product, ease of return and value.

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The research, based on an online sample of some 1,100 adults, was conducted by YouGov.

It uncovers some key differences by age. “Younger Americans flock towards D2Cs for food and everyday goods,” writes Kate Ryan, managing director, Diffusion PR, in the report. “Older demographics lean towards clothing and home goods.”

About 74% of both the 18-to-34 and the 35-to-54 age groups aware of D2C brands have made purchases. And 59% of those in the 55-plus category have done so.

About 44% of those who buy D2C brands say they do so because they can purchase higher quality items at lower prices. And 23% say they think these companies are better arbiters of what’s cool or on-trend. But 28% believe D2C brands are not much different than traditional retail, while 33% say their appeal is simply that they’re driven by ecommerce.

And while many companies in the D2C realm have tried to distinguish themselves with social activism, these results suggest such strategies actually matter less to consumers than brands imagine.

“Americans expect all brands, traditional retail and DTC, to demonstrate responsible corporate behavior,” Ryan writes. “When it comes to purchase intent, and specific activity consumers have taken in response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the COVID-19 pandemic, the needle has moved -- but not by much.”

About 31% of those in the survey say they specifically seek out brands that demonstrate support for social and environmental issues. And 15% look for sustainable brands, while only 11% want products hat are ethically produced.

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