A brief history of DTC
When “digital native” brands like Bonobos and Warby Parker arrived on the scene over a decade ago, they disrupted the traditional retail model. Today, over two-thirds of consumers expect direct connectivity to brands. To succeed in a world where 40 percent of consumers have made a purchase from a direct-to-consumer (DTC) company, it’s essential to invest in developing long-term relationships with consumers.
DTC has been tied to the evolution of commerce and consumerism since the late 1700s. Advances in transportation and technology meant the cost of freight was decreasing, but middlemen were pocketing the difference. The focus of DTC sales was on lowering prices for consumers and raising profits for farmers and manufacturers. But what started as a simple fix quickly turned into something much bigger. Consumers liked the exclusive experience and close relationships they were building directly with product makers—regardless of the price they paid.
Today, there are more than 400 DTC brands in operation—and traditional brands are taking notice.
In the infographic below, we’ll journey through the (not-so-brief) history of DTC, from the first milk deliveries in 1785, to the inclusion of DTC in the strategies of major brands today.
About the authors
Martin Mehalchin is managing director for retail and consumer at PK. He has dedicated his career to working with executives and managers to help them define their strategies and then translate those strategies into results. Among the clients Martin has worked with are Nike, Atlantic Records, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Expedia, Victoria’s Secret, Adidas and DuPont. Martin is a Board member and Chair of the Marketing Committee for the North Cascades Institute.
Camilla Whitmore is a senior consultant at PK focusing on retail and loyalty strategy. With a background rich in marketing and public relations, she is inspired to create connections and drive brand growth for clients. Camilla’s obsession with brand experience and customer engagement is rooted in her work with consumer brands in fashion, lifestyle, tech and fitness over the past dozen years.
Rebecca Lucash is a senior insights consultant at PK specializing in research and insights-driven strategy. She is passionate about customer-centric marketing—learning what drives customer behavior and leveraging those insights to create value and more meaningful experiences. Prior to joining PK, Rebecca worked in the consumer-packaged goods and publishing industries.Tags: DTC