Where to find your US D2C customers post-pandemic

What makes US consumers check out a new D2C brand - and what convinces them to give it a try? We have the answers.

The pandemic helped many US direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands win new customers – and the good news is that a large percentage of Americans remain committed to online shopping as we enter recovery.

Millennials especially have turned to D2C brands and feel strongly about the benefits; 75% agree they like shopping directly with their favorite brands online (including 34% who strongly agree).

Gen Z also value the D2C experience, with 71% agreeing they like to buy directly (33% strongly so). The strength of feeling for these demographics is significantly higher than that seen in their older counterparts; 57% of Gen X and 55% of Boomers agree they like D2C shopping. 

75% of Millennials like shopping D2C

Meanwhile, Millennials remain overwhelmingly open to trying new brands; 90% say they’re open-minded versus 81% of Gen Z, 85% of Gen X and 71% of Boomers. This makes consumers in the Millennial age bracket (18-25) the ideal target for D2C brands… but how do you go about finding them?

The D2C Digest (US edition)

Full of the latest consumer insight, case studies, interviews and expert advice, the D2C Digest is an essential read for D2C marketers and brand leaders.

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D2C brands ignore marketplaces at their peril

Nike caused a stir when it decided to withdraw from Amazon to focus on its D2C offering. The brand argued that selling through the marketplace didn’t give them enough control over the customer experience. The concessions brands must make to do business with the likes of Amazon can certainly be off putting, but if you’re not a super brand like Nike, can you afford not to?

The answer is a resounding ‘No’. Our data shows that sites like Amazon are the primary place Americans in all demographics start their online shopping journeys – especially Millennials. This demographic favors marketplaces across every category. 

Interestingly, it’s Gen Z that gives most preference to going directly to D2C brands, being most likely to start shopping journeys for food and drink and pet care on a website selling own-brand products. Meanwhile, Boomers favor search engines when shopping for gifts and flowers, and websites selling multiple brands for furniture/homewares and pet care. 

Millennials prefer marketplaces across all categories

Outside of these categories, marketplaces dominate, showing how vital it is for brands to make them a part of their distribution strategy. They play an important role in discovery; 69% of respondents agree that marketplaces help them to discover new brands, rising to 80% of Millennials. 

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. This rises to 63.5% of Millennials, including 30% who strongly agree.

Younger demographics respond to social ads

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, across all demographics.

Of course, getting people talking about your brand relies on providing stand-out products and a great customer experience. But beyond this, D2C brands wanting to grow their awareness among Millennial and Gen Z audiences should look to social media advertising. Seeing an ad on a social media platform is the second most-likely factor to drive these consumers to a new website. This differs from Gen X and Boomers, who place reading or hearing about the brand second and social media ads much lower.

12% of Gen Z consumers start
a clothing shopping trip on social media

It’s also worth noting that social media is in itself becoming a more popular starting point for shopping journeys among younger consumers – 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). Just over 12% of Gen Z say they would start on a social media site if they wanted to buy clothing or accessories, while 13% would begin there if they were shopping in the toiletries, makeup and health supplements category. 

All demographics agree on the third most-influential factor when deciding to visit the website of a brand; ranking high in search results. Although we saw earlier that search engines are not as important as marketplaces, they can’t be discounted; 24% of consumers looking to purchase gifts or flowers and 22% wanting to buy furniture or homewares start on search engines. 

Gen Z and Millennials agree that reading or hearing about a brand is the fourth most-likely factor to influence them, while Gen X and Boomers put TV, radio and podcast ads in this place. Least likely to be credited with driving consumers to a brand’s websites were billboards, and newspaper and magazine ads, although these mediums often work on a subliminal level meaning people might be more influenced than they realize.

Delivery is a primary purchase driver for younger consumers

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 Gen Z and Millennials to make a purchase. This is followed by offering a discount on the first order.

For the older demographics, the top two motivators are reversed. But all age groups agree a great quality website is the third biggest purchase driver. Providing a free gift is the fourth most-persuasive factor, followed by a great brand personality (although Gen X rank them in reverse). 

A great quality website is important to all 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. 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 king of D2C 

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 huge 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, Walmart came third, followed by Adidas and Apple. 

One thing brands like Nike, Adidas and Apple have in common is that they have strong brand personalities. By providing a differentiated customer experience and bringing customers together into a community, it makes it rewarding to shop with them directly. D2C brands targeting Millennials and Gen Z will want to consider a similar strategy. 

The D2C Digest (US edition)

Full of the latest consumer insight, case studies, interviews and expert advice, the D2C Digest is an essential read for D2C marketers and brand leaders.

Get your copy now!

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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