Nicki Shirley, Head of Marketing at Qrious, summarises the MA's Brainy Breakfast on D2C


Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) is one of the most fascinating sectors right now. And with recent world events, D2C businesses are in accelerated growth, particularly as organisations have had to look at new digital channels to access customers. In light of this rare opportunity many brands have taken bold steps with new or invigorated online sales platforms, new social media tactics, and direct digital marketing campaigns to drive sales and build brand loyalty.

At yesterday’s Marketing Association Brainy Breakfast event we heard from three very different speakers about how they’ve tackled challenges to support or build thriving e-commerce businesses.

Not omni-channel, but ‘total retail’

First up we heard from the always engaging Juanita Neville-Te Rito from RetailX, who shared her observations on trends around the world, where retailers are changing their customer experience to seamlessly integrate the shift to digital. Juanita reminded us that a staggering 73% of consumers use multiple channels to shop. 

She had four key areas of change, including total retail, low touch, re-econonmy, and social commerce. Her core message was to stop thinking “omni-channel” and just think “total retail”. She said that consumers don’t think in terms of “online” and “offline” or “channels” – they just get on with shopping no matter where or how they’re doing it – so retailers shouldn’t think like this either.

She also recommended that New Zealand retailers need to just grab new ideas, run with them and to quit using excuses like “we don’t have enough budget, time or people”. In fact, her belief is that it’s these factors that truly are a New Zealand marketer’s secret weapon. We’re able to look overseas and implement only what works in a country where customers are pretty open to giving things a go.

Her closing point was that you must keep up as customer expectations are constantly changing and it’s about having courage as a marketer, and as a business, to try things. So be open to criticism and be open to failure so your business can keep learning.

Being data and digital-centric is critical

Next up we heard from Rob Cooke the Chief Marketing Officer at TheMarket. Rob admits that he’s in a pretty rare position where him and his team were able to design their data structure before they even had a single SKU. And this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start from scratch and build data and digital-first systems has been a huge blessing.

He told an incredible story of what his team did in the first seven days when New Zealand went into lockdown just over a year ago. They moved ridiculously fast to become an essential service business and quickly service their customers in a convenient and safe manner - it was truly an inspiration!

He also took us through their approach leading up to the launch of TheMarket, and he had some great pieces of advice.

TheMarket's six key launch principles:

  1. Agility
  2. Focus on acquisition
  3. Digital first
  4. Merchant support
  5. Build database
  6. Staff advocacy

With this structure in place and not a dollar to waste they launched TheMarket. Because of their data-first and agile approach, when the first lockdown hit, overnight the business was able to change how they got goods to people. They were able to give the customer exactly what they wanted, when they needed it – an absolute must in the D2C world.

Try and try again

Lastly the audience heard from Kevin Bowler, the CEO of My Food Bag – a brilliant example of D2C done right. My Food Bag has revolutionised how Kiwis shop for fresh food since launching just eight years ago. So what did we learn from Kevin? Simply, stuff things up, get things wrong – but most importantly learn from your mistakes.

Kevin has built a culture inside My Food Bag which has enabled the team to build great insight from their customers by testing, iterating and continuously learning. He gave an example where his team designed a whole range of ready-made meals, advertised to people in their late twenties and found that no-one was taking up the product. But as soon as they looked at the data, they found that their targeting was completely wrong, and in fact it was the over 60’s who were interested in this product. Needless to say, they’ve pivoted their marketing approach, and now the ready-made meals are flying out the door.

He really hammered home the point that the only way to be successful in D2C marketing is to take a test and learn approach, because you can’t rely on doing the same thing over and over. He also said the reason My Food Bag is able to get away with so much is because when you put so much effort into “customer love” they can actually be very forgiving if you get things wrong. And you’ll quickly see when you get things right.

Legacy systems are causing headaches

During the event we did a little research of our own to gain insight into some of the barriers businesses come up against when trying to access data within their organisations.

Here are the results:

Qrious screenshot (1)

As you can see there are quite a few common issues across the board with most businesses struggling with legacy systems.

We had a few different examples of New Zealand business that are doing D2C well, in particular pet.co.nz, with one of the common themes coming through that these businesses are really nailing the convenience factor.

In the D2C space we’ve seen many new (and some existing) businesses truly owning the end-to-end customer experience through seamless purchasing and providing maximum convenience, as well as delivering an authentic brand experience.

This is only just the beginning, and I’m excited to watch the explosive growth in this area as businesses harness the opportunity to be data, digital and of course customer-centric.

If you’re interested in how Qrious can help your D2C business, get in touch. We have dataAI, and marketing services that can help you deliver the personalised and seamless customer experiences that consumers are craving.