Where to find your D2C customers post-pandemic (UK)

Shoppers have their wallets in hand and a spending renaissance is anticipated. While consumers have more choice where to spend their money, a large percentage are still committed to online.

With life beginning to return to normal in the UK and consumer confidence growing, shoppers have their wallets in hand and a spending renaissance is anticipated. While consumers have more choice where to spend their money now that shops are re-open, fortunately for the growing ecommerce and direct-to-consumer (D2C) industries, a large percentage are still committed to online.

D2C brands are especially well positioned to benefit from a spending renaissance, with many people having discovered D2C shopping during the pandemic. Our data finds that attitudes to buying directly are resoundingly positive; 72% of respondents like shopping directly with their favourite brands online. And they’re not only interested in the brands they know and love; 84% say they’re open to trying new brands. 

So, with this in mind, what can D2C brands do to get discovered by new customers and, ultimately, win them over?

Marketplaces are an important distribution channel 

Selling via marketplaces invariably means having to give up control – on everything from customer experience to profit margins. It’s the reason brands like Nike have decided to withdraw from Amazon. But while cutting ties with marketplaces might be ok for big names like Nike, can smaller brands afford to ignore them?

They certainly play an important role; 71% of respondents agree that marketplaces help them to discover new brands. What’s more, thanks to the confidence conferred by the likes of Amazon, brands can increase their chances of being purchased for the first time. More than half of respondents (53%) say they’re more likely to try a new brand on a marketplace than directly with the brand’s own website.  

With that said, marketplaces are not the primary place for consumers aged 18-40 to start their online shopping journeys. Across all product categories, respondents said they were more likely to begin their search elsewhere. But interestingly, Gen Z respondents do show more preference for marketplaces than their Millennial counterparts, especially in the following categories:

  • Food and drink: 22% versus 12%
  • Gifts and flowers: 19% versus 11%
  • Furniture and homewares: 17.5% versus 11%
  • Pet care products: 17% versus 11%

Search engines dominate discovery

Where consumers start their shopping journeys varies from category to category, but most frequently they’ll begin on a search engine. Google et al. are the preferred starting point for gifts and flowers, electronics, furniture and homewares, kids stuff, pet care and sporting goods.

There’s only one category where shoppers are more likely to head directly to a specific brand’s website and that’s food and drink. Although clothing and accessories is a close second (people shopping in this category are marginally more likely to start on a website selling multiple brands). Those looking for toiletries, makeup and health supplements are also most likely to begin with a multi-brand retailer.

Meanwhile, social media is becoming a more popular starting point for shoppers, whether that’s heading to a brand’s page for inspiration or actually being able to purchase directly from the platform (i.e. Instagram Shopping). This trend is largely being driven by Gen Z. In comparison to Millennials, roughly twice as many Gen Z consumers start their shopping journeys on social media across most of the categories. The leading category for social media shopping is clothing and accessories; over one in 10 people aged 18-25 say they begin their search there.

Go social to get eyeballs on your website

We asked respondents what would most persuade them to visit the website of a new brand. The importance of word-of-mouth is no secret and, indeed, getting a recommendation from a friend is the number one thing that would persuade someone to check out a new D2C brand. 

Of course, getting people talking about your brand relies on providing stand-out products and a great customer experience. But beyond this, D2C brands can really grow their audience through social media advertising; seeing an ad on a social media platform is the second factor most likely to drive consumers to a new website. Gen Z, especially, respond to social media ads, placing them almost on a par with a recommendation from a friend.

Rounding out the top three, is ‘ranking high in search results’, which figures given that search engines are where most shoppers start their journeys. PPC and SEO are particularly important for attracting Millennial shoppers – this demographic responds to search results above social media ads.

Least likely to be credited with driving consumers to a brand’s websites were all forms of traditional media, including TV and radio adverts, billboards, and newspaper and magazine ads, although these mediums often work on a subliminal level meaning people might be more influenced than they realise.

Discounts and delivery are primary purchase drivers 

Getting consumers to visit your website is one thing, getting them to actually buy something is another. So what convinces people to get their wallets out? According to our research, providing fast/free delivery is the number one thing that persuades consumers aged 18-40 to make a purchase. 

Also ranking highly is offering a discount on the first order. It comes in second place for both demographics, but is more of a motivator for Gen Z. We see a divergence between the two demographics when it comes to the third biggest purchase driver. Millennials are more motivated by a great quality website, while Gen Z are persuaded by a free gift. Millennials also give more preference to brand personality than Gen Z, although it comes in fifth place for both demographics. 

The least important factors in securing a first purchase are providing instant chat/responsive customer service or showing commitment to a particular social or environmental cause. Both demographics rank CSR last, with Millennials only fractionally more motivated by brand purpose. 

That’s not to say these last two factors are not important, but it’s likely they are push factors rather than pull factors. Customer service only becomes important when the consumer has a negative experience. Likewise, a company with a poor CSR track record will deter consumers.

Nike is the favourite D2C brand

For emerging D2C brands wanting to model themselves on those that are already successful, who should they look to? We asked respondents to name a brand they like to shop with directly online. Nike was the most-named brand by a big margin, perhaps indicating that their decision to ditch Amazon was the right one. 

Amazon itself was the second most-named brand – and the site does sell a large range of Amazon branded products – although we’re unable to tell if respondents were referencing the marketplace’s D2C offering or misunderstood the question. 

Meanwhile, online-only clothing retailers ASOS, PrettyLittleThing and Boohoo also feature prominently. One thing all of these brands have in common is strong social media. This includes working with of-the-moment influencers to champion their brands, encouraging user generated content and making products available to purchase in-platform. D2C brands targeting the younger consumer will want to consider a similar strategy. 

Bel Booker

Senior Content Writer 

Bel has a background in newspaper and magazine journalism but loves to geek-out with Attest consumer data to write in-depth reports. Inherently nosy, she's endlessly excited to pose questions to Attest's audience of 125 million global consumers. She also likes cake.

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