A NEW CULTURE OF CONSUMERISM
A NEW CULTURE OF CONSUMERISM
BY REBECCA PRUSINOWSKI
REBECCA PRUSINOWSKI IS WRITER/EDITOR AND THE DIRECTOR OF CONTENT AT PARACHUTE, AN ONLINE BEDDING ESSENTIALS BRAND BASED IN VENICE BEACH. SHE’S CONTRIBUTED TO THE NEW YORK TIMES, PAPER MAGAZINE, VOX MEDIA, YAHOO TRAVEL, RED BULL AND MANY E-COMMERCE BUSINESSES, LIFESTYLE WEBSITES AND BRANDS. FOLLOW HER @REBECCAPRUS.
"Not only are today’s consumers increasingly thoughtful as to how they spend their dollars, they want to know where their dollar is going – and to whom.”
Direct-to-consumer brands displacing traditional retail models is more than a trend, it’s a testament to conscious consumption that’s cutting across categories as varied as prescription eyewear (Warby Parker), bed linens (Parachute) and razor blades (Dollar Shave Club). It’s a cultural movement that reflects consumers’ growing interest in quality, transparency – and convenience, of course.
Chalk it up to the aftermath of a recession or the great twenty-first century awakening, but shoppers are bypassing brick and mortar stores in favor of brands that sell directly to them online. By eliminating licensing fees, distribution costs and retailer markups, direct-to-consumer businesses can deliver a premium product without the higher price tag. Simplifying the traditional retail model from start to finish passes savings along to customers – and they’ve taken note.
Not only are today’s consumers increasingly thoughtful as to how they spend their dollars, they want to know where their dollar is going – and to whom. Direct-to-consumer brands like Everlane (apparel) and Tuft & Needle (mattresses) specifically detail their fabric and material sources and where their goods are manufactured or assembled. Increased reporting on distressing labor conditions and environmental hazards (largely associated with industries like fashion) has shoppers considering their purchases more carefully: Who made these jeans? Where did they make them, exactly? “The True Cost,” a recent feature length documentary film, explores the impact of fashion on people and the planet. “To learn who is paying for our bargains, [director] Andrew Morgan dives to the bottom of the supply chain, to the garment factories of Cambodia and Bangladesh and the cotton fields of India, where he links ecological and health calamities to zealous pesticide use,” writes the New York Times in its review. Transparency is key.
So much so that traditional retailers are getting in on it. The U.S. apparel industry is gradually shifting towards omni-channel retailing, providing a seamless shopping experience across stores and online channels.
Don’t forget, though, that despite today’s cultural shift toward direct-to-consumer, you still have to earn your cred as a brand! Selling directly to consumers online certainly doesn’t guarantee sales or success. If you’re positioning your brand as “The Warby Parker of [insert category here]”...try harder. Solve a problem and have a distinct point of view, starting with your mission statement. Establish expertise in the category via relevant content, listen to and engage with your customers, partner with like-minded brands and – yes – open a brick and mortar store when the time is right.