The rise of the Digitally Native Vertical Brand - Spotlight on UK and European DNVB
There is disruption happening in the eCommerce space, much of which is being caused by a specific type of startup brand. We became interested in the likes of Warby Parker, Casper, Everlane and Bonobos not just for their approach to business but also the emphasis they placed on user experience as part of the entire service offering.
As a Consultancy working with established brands eCommerce channels, we're firm believers in the brand value of owned channels which is a key characteristic of a DNVB - the value of owning the relationship that going Direct to Consumer (DTC) channels allow.
In this relatively new movement, the poster children are often born out of Silicon Valley, and we wanted to look closer to home to see who was succeeding in this space on this side of the Atlantic.
The terminology Digitally Native Vertical Brand - often shortened to DNVB - is being used to characterise these brands. So what is a DNVB, and who is operating in this space?
As I dig deeper into this space, I'll update this blog regularly.
What is a DNVB? (Digitally Native Vertical Brand)
According to Andy Dunn - founder of Bonobos - a digitally native vertical brand typically meets four criteria;
It's primary mean of interacting, transacting, and storytelling to consumers is via the web. In almost all cases the brand is born digitally. Hence the name digitally native.
It’s a brand, and that brand is vertical. The name of the brand is on both the physical product and on the website. It requires the commercialization of an e-commerce channel, but that channel is an enablement layer, it’s not the core asset.
The DNVB is usually maniacally focused on customer experience and on customer intimacy. The experience tends to be three-part bundle of physical product, web/mobile experience, and customer service that collectively become the brand in the consumer’s imagination.
While born digitally, the brand rarely ends up digital only. This means the brand can extend offline, eventually. Usually its offline incarnation is through its own experiential physical retail or highly selective partnerships. In nearly all cases of partnerships, the brand controls its external distribution versus being controlled by it.
For a brand wanting to start out with a Direct to Consumer model, there are three key areas to understand as part of a Get to Market strategy;
Proposition; What brand role is the brand assuming? To understand this fully, both primary and secondary market research needs to conducted to help the brand understand who their audience is, how the brand will communicate with them. Whilst brand strategy was often seen as a cumbersome process, we've developed a way of taking the best of big brand strategy into startup brands.
Platform; DNVB's are born digitally, and technical platforms like Shopify and Mailchimp have made it easier than ever to launch a direct to consumer channel without the investment into Enterprise solutions such as Magento from the outset. It's vital that at this point the brand is focussed on the value of eCRM and SEO strategy as these provide the cheapest routes to market. Hiut Denim realised this early, and became laser focussed on their 'email list once they realised they could build a £1million turnover off a Mailing List of 15,000 subscribers. This highlights how important it is to make sure engagement analytics are in place - and regularly reviewed - to highlight areas of growth.
Performance Marketing; Often seen as both the key and the curse of DNVB growth, the role of customer acquisition through paid channels is paramount for operating a direct to consumer model. As Facebook, Instagram and Google change algorithms and make it harder to reach audiences organically tools like Leaf Grow are disrupting the market and empower brands to engage, and monetise digital audiences, without all the time and guesswork.
Don’t let the recent sale to the Walmart Heirs, and the resulting diversification into wholesale, mask a remarkable growth in a niche market of ‘luxury cycling’ powered by owning their route to market and making the majority of revenue through their own site.
In 2012 the flagship London store opened, followed by rapid worldwide expansion using the same ‘Clubhouse’ model that places as much emphasis on cycling culture (coffee, pre-ride meets, live racing) as it does the product. The Rapha Cycling Club membership scheme followed, charging £135 per year for access to exclusive kit and benefits - the club reputedly boasts over 10,000 members and proves the deep brand sentiment many feel towards them.
Previously based on Wordpress and Hybris, their recent online revamp saw them go all in with Hybris.
A true example of a brand following DNVB best practices, the brand that ‘revolutionised the humble slipper’ was born when Ankur Shah took to the internet to look at what people were searching for. After first looking at flip flops further research told him that slippers could be a £4bn industry. Vast investment into acquiring customers with display ads online saw the brand grow rapidly and reportedly be profitable from the off.
As part of our ongoing relationship with iconic denim brand Wrangler we introduced ‘Born Ready’, a new pan-European digital platform and brand product offering, through responsive eCommerce and contextual omnichannel messaging.
The Born Ready platform brings to life Wrangler’s personality and philosophy – a commitment to creating innovative denim products that prepare you for adventure.The new ‘Ready Range’ launches product innovations such as Rain Ready and Cold Ready jeans to give everyday adventurers the freedom to transition seamlessly from work and city life to the great outdoors in style.
With the brand aiming to be category leaders in performance denim our goal was to clearly present their commitment to denim innovation and display new product offerings through a best-in-class digital experience.
Given that this is the first brand campaign in several years, we realised digital gave us the chance to speak on a local level to consumers that hadn’t been spoken to for some time.
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