Is Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Marketing the Right Strategy for Your eCommerce Business?
Man reading on his tablet

Following Dollar Shave Club's hugely popular YouTube marketing video (see below), direct-to-consumer marketing has been called the next big thing in retail. How effective will this approach be for online businesses, especially smaller brands who can't always afford expensive marketing channels? We take a look at how DTC marketing works and the benefits of using it in an eCommerce context.

An ordinary product, a low production budget, a video camera, and humour – these were all that Los Angeles based startup, Dollar Shave Club, needed to produce a successful viral marketing video. Three months after the company posted the less-than-two-minutes clip on YouTube it had already been viewed up to 4.75 million times, owing to widespread social media shares.

There's a reason why the response to the Dollar Shave Club video was so overwhelmingly positive. With intermediary marketing such as television commercials and radio ads, viewers are bombarded with ads they may not want to watch or hear. It’s easy to see the appeal in the DSC video; the message is straightforward ("Our Blades Are F**king Great") yet the concept is also entertaining. It is something that people found more engaging than the ads they were used to.

Dollar Shave Club's approach to marketing is a premier example of direct-to-consumer marketing. This involves a brand promoting a service or product directly to consumers. The entrepreneur sells to customers via their own eCommerce website rather than selling their products in retail chains or online marketplaces. Rather than paying advertising agencies and having actors and voice-over artists speak on their behalf, the entrepreneur communicates directly to the audience.

woman and child looking at tablet

With big brands such as Nike and L'Oreal discovering the potential of DTC marketing, it is becoming a growing trend. From the Dollar Shave video, this practice may seem amateurish; however, you may be surprised that there are very real benefits to actively engaging in DTC marketing.

Boost brand awareness

Direct-to-consumer marketing is cost effective, personal and lets the consumer derive better value from a business. That's why this approach is a great way for smaller online businesses to get the attention of customers. Dollar Shave Club proved that when businesses position themselves as living, breathing entities, they can become more recognisable and memorable. If you've seen the Dollar Shave Club video, you'll know that by using humour to discuss the company's mission, its CEO represents the brand as one with value and personality. The best brand-building strategies are the ones that connect with consumers on an emotional level.

Build better relationships

It can be challenging for new online businesses to attract a customer base. By creating a strong social rapport, eCommerce startups can go from just another face in the crowd to a business that consumers have confidence in. One of the most important ways DTC marketing can help to foster relationships is by allowing business to be more personal with their customers. Dollar Shave Club achieved this by not only customising their products but also limiting them according to what really matters to their members. In the video, the company's CEO – who introduces himself simply as 'Mike' – touches upon a subject that all shavers can relate to: the fact that they don't really need to spend $20 a month on brand-name razors or make do with all the extra features that they don’t use on their razor.

Gain stronger control over your brand

As the founder and CEO of your eCommerce business, you’ve put in the most effort to ensure it is a success. DTC allows you to maintain complete control over your company where its brand story and public image are concerned. No one can argue that casting Dollar Club Shave's CEO in their promotional video wasn't effective. He was able to best represent the brand and convey their values while showcasing the advantages of their razors. This demonstration is far more convincing than anything else. When you communicate directly with your prospects, you place yourself in a leadership position. The more in charge of your product your brand seems to the consumer, the more likely you will gain their trust.


Mobile and social media have enabled consumers to shop without leaving their home. These platforms also make it easier for South African online shopping websites to invest in DTC marketing. This form of marketing can be especially valuable for online startups with little brand recognition and smaller marketing budgets. With the inclusion of a flexible payment solution that accepts card payments online, brands can offer customers the best experience and generate more leads.