Over the past years, many apparel and footwear brands have strengthened their direct-to-consumer (DTC) operations to compete with Amazon and other major retailers — and to strengthen their customer relationships (and access to their customers’ data). Still, just one-third of US online adults have purchased clothing (35%) and footwear (32%) directly from a brand or manufacturer, according to Forrester’s Retail Topic Insights Survey, 2022.
In our just-published Digital Go-To-Market Review: Apparel And Footwear Brands, 2023, we reviewed 27 brand websites across the attributes that are essential to their long-term success. Here are some of our key findings:
- First, brands need to establish a direct relationship with consumers. Compared to other categories, apparel and footwear brands do well with DTC capabilities: All 27 of the apparel brands that we reviewed enable DTC sales. To compete with major retailers and promote customer loyalty, it’s crucial to have a well-executed direct-to-consumer website and capture customer information, and brands must ensure that the site experience is at least as good as anywhere else a shopper could buy their products online.
- Second, brands need to rigorously protect their brand presence online. Just eight of the 27 apparel brands we reviewed had a warning about the threat of counterfeit goods or guidance on how to recognize legitimate products. According to Forrester’s Q1 2023 Global State Of Brand Manufacturers Survey, done in partnership with Vorys eControl, 50% of brand decision-makers surveyed say that online marketplaces are growing faster than their traditional wholesale business. Brands must enforce strict governance for distribution and pricing, ensuring that their products are authentic and authorized for sale and that product content is accurate and up to date.
- Other features of the best brands include innovation and values alignment. Fifty-six percent of US online adults say that they are always willing to try or do new things, so brands must offer fresh products, add-ons, solutions, and changing content, per Forrester’s Consumer Benchmark Survey, 2023. Many athletic-wear brands prominently feature celebrity collaborations that they sell exclusively on their sites. In alignment with its core values and commitment to the environment, Patagonia has a secondhand sales program, has strict guidelines around its discount strategy and corporate partnerships, and has even ventured into the sustainable food space.