For many years, direct-to-consumer (D2C) was the unicorn aspiration of brand and marketing managers in the western world. Having people care enough about a product to seek it out online was a tease that compelled many brands to collectively waste billions in investigating a way to have a direct commercial relationship with your customer.
The goal was obvious. Cut out the middleman. Access full margin, data, and consumer information. Create a reason for that expensive, under-performing website we so lovingly built.
We saw mainstream brands of all kinds, from beauty to beer, rushing to create "active online relationships" with a view to one day commercializing them through direct purchase and delivery.
People love their beer. In fact, it’s one of the few fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) categories where people love the brands. But that love is at the bar, in the fridge, in a glass or bottle on a warm summer afternoon, in the moment. It doesn’t extend enough to want to order directly from the brand (unless they're selling a keg, then, well, maybe).
Recent data shows online marketplaces are consumers' preferred places to shop. This preference underscores the reason that D2C remains a unicorn for most brands. Choice is a key driver of the chosen retail environment. It doesn’t have to be large, just relevant (and ideally curated) choice. D2C does not offer choice, while online marketplaces do.