When pondering the most radical transformation in retail over the last ten years, what comes to mind? Many praise technology because, well, it’s true. You can’t understate the impact of Amazon, social media, and smart devices on consumer behavior. But just as important has been the direct-to-consumerization of everything.
Unfamiliar with the “Direct-to-Consumer” (also called DTC or D2C) movement? The phrase describes the stampede of hip, digital-first brands selling everyday items online that you used to buy at a store or from a third party wholesaler. Beyond a stunning social media presence, DTC brands offer greater convenience, typically via a subscription model that ships your orders on autopilot, directly to your door. Products range from fresh dog food to underwear, produce boxes to contact lenses, and just about everything in between.
With 8 or 9 figure revenues and billion-dollar acquisitions, many popular DTC brands are disrupting their industry. For example, Gillette’s share of the U.S. men’s razor market fell from 70% to 54% between 2010 and 2016 — precisely the same time brands such as Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s carved out their own sizable slices of the pie. Unilever then responded by purchasing Dollar Shave Cub for a cool billion (with a “b”). Meanwhile, the same trend of rapid disruption and acquisition took hold beyond just shaving across a wide variety of product categories.
Best D2C brands
|Overview||Funding($) & HQ location||Related Reviews||Category|
|Apostrophe is an online pharmacy offering prescriptions for men's hair loss, ED, Premature ejaculation, & more.||6.1m, Oakland||Apostrophe skincare review: https://finvsfin.com/apostrophe-reviews/|
|hims is an online dermatologist with telemedicine treatments for acne, hair loss, wrinkles, Rosacea, & more. Use code FIN10 at checkout for $10 off.||197m, NYC||Hims vs Rogain review: https://finvsfin.com/hims-vs-rogaine/|
|Nurx is a leader in online birth control and STI testing for women.||93.4m, San Francisco||Nurx birth control review: https://finvsfin.com/nurx-reviews/|
|Keeps prescribes premium men's hair loss meds online.||22.8m, NYC||Hims vs Roman vs Keeps: https://finvsfin.com/hims-vs-roman-vs-keeps/|
|Roman is an online pharmacy offering prescriptions for men's hair loss, ED, Premature ejaculation, & more.||176.1m, NYC||Roman PE review: https://finvsfin.com/roman-premature-ejaculation-reviews/|
|Blink Health is an online pharmacy for a wide range of prescription medications.||165m, NYC||Blink health review: https://finvsfin.com/blink-health-reviews/|
|Rory helps women in Menopause with treatments for vaginal dryness, latisse, and more.||176.1m, NYC||Rory vs latisse: https://finvsfin.com/rory-latisse-review/|
|Zero is anti-smoking gum designed to help you kick your nicotine habit.||176.1m, NYC||Zero smoking cessation review: https://finvsfin.com/zero-smoking-cessation-reviews/|
|Cove is the only DTC brand focuses on migraine relief treatments.||22.8m, NYC||Cove Migrain Relief Review: https://finvsfin.com/cove-migraine-reviews/|
|Lemonaid is an online pharmacy offering wide range of prescription medications.||20.7m, San Francisco||Roman vs Lemonaid: https://finvsfin.com/roman-vs-lemonaid/|
|Hers sells prescription birth control, anxiety meds, and acne treatments for women online.||197m, San Francisco||proactive vs curology vs hers: https://finvsfin.com/proactiv-vs-curology-vs-hers/|
|Curology prescribes personalized prescription acne treatments.||22.6m, San Diego||proactive vs curology vs hers: https://finvsfin.com/proactiv-vs-curology-vs-hers/|
|Hubble offers an affordable daily contact lens subscription.||73.7m, NYC||Hubble vs waldo: https://finvsfin.com/hubble-vs-waldo/|
|Waldo manufactures affordable daily contact lenses and sells them direct to consumers online.||6.8m, London||Hubble vs Waldo: https://finvsfin.com/hubble-vs-waldo/|
|Billie is a hip women's razor blade brand and shave subscription.||35m, NYC||billie vs Flamingo vs Venus: https://finvsfin.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Billie_logo.png|
|Modibodi is popular brand of leak-proof period panties for women.||Australia||modibodi vs Ruby Love: https://finvsfin.com/ruby-love-vs-modibodi/|
|Quip sells sleek and portable electric toothbrushes that are ideal for travellers.||62.2m, NYC||Quip vs Goby vs Sonicare: https://finvsfin.com/quip-vs-goby-vs-sonicare/|
|Drizly is the fastest alcohol delivery app, bringing you booze in 60 minutes or less.||69.9m, Boston||Drizly vs Saucey: https://finvsfin.com/drizly-vs-saucey/|
|Graze offers delivers nutritious snack boxes.||Acquired by Unilever, London||Coming soon|
|Grove is a marketplace for healthier groceries and home essentials.||165.8m, San Francisco||Coming soon|
|Hint ships fruit infused bottled water directly to your door.||6.8m, San Francisco||Coming soon|
|Home Chef is a leading fresh meal kit delivery subscription.||Acquired by Kroger, Chicago||Coming soon|
|Hungry Harvest offers farm-to-doorstep produce delivery.||0.5m, Baltimore||Misfits Market vs Imperfect Produce vs Hungry Harvest: https://finvsfin.com/misfits-market-vs-imperfect-foods-vs-hungry-harvest/|
|Impefect Foods ships a fresh produce subscription box for 30% less than stores.||47.1m, San Francisco||Misfits Market vs Imperfect Produce vs Hungry Harvest: https://finvsfin.com/misfits-market-vs-imperfect-foods-vs-hungry-harvest/|
|Noom is a leading weight-loss app for building healthier habits.||114.7m, NYC||Noom vs Nutrisystem weight loss system review: https://finvsfin.com/noom-vs-nutrisystem/|
|HungryRoot delivers healthy meals ready to eat in <10 minutes.||35.4m, NYC||Coming soon|
|Ollie is a leading fresh dog food subscription service.||17m, NYC||Ollie vs Pet Plat vs NomNomNow: https://finvsfin.com/ollie-vs-petplate-vs-nomnomnow/|
|Pet Plate offers a fresh dog food subscription to keep your furry friends healthy.||4m, NYC||Ollie vs Pet Plat vs NomNomNow: https://finvsfin.com/ollie-vs-petplate-vs-nomnomnow/|
|Ritual sells personalized vitamin formulations for women.||40.5m, Los Angeles||Gem vs Ritual women's vitamins review: https://finvsfin.com/gem-vitamins-vs-ritual/|
|Thrive is a members-only market for sustainably-sourced organic goods.||161.9m, Los Angeles||Online organic markets review: https://finvsfin.com/brandless-vs-thrive-vs-honest-company/|
|Freshly prepares chef-cooked, healthy meals and delivers them to your door.||107m, NYC||Coming soon|
|Misfits Market reduces food waste by partnering with local farmers and selling their excess produce to consumers in a healthy subscription box.||16.5m, Philadelphia||Misfits Market vs Imperfect Produce vs Hungry Harvest: https://finvsfin.com/misfits-market-vs-imperfect-foods-vs-hungry-harvest/|
With so many Direct-to-Consumer companies out there, we needed a framework to choose only 40. We wanted to be objective and name the most legitimate and likely to stick around for the long haul. Starting by gathering a fairly comprehensive list of well-known D2C companies we knew personally or could find in public databases like Crunchbase and CBinsights (excluding fashion, for now), we scored them based on 5 key empirical metrics. We then assigned each of those core metrics a weight (out of 100% total) based on the strength of the signal:
Next we needed to calculate individual scores between 1 and 10 for each key metric. So we established ranges for each KPI with evenly-tiered point values. As an example, here’s how we assigned points for venture funding:
For example, a D2C brand with $42 million in funding would score a 4. After doing this for all five metrics, we calculated the score using the formula below:
Overall score = (VC Funding Score*.25) + (Unique_visitors_score*.25) + ( Instagram_followers_score*.167) + (Facebook_followers_score*.167) + (Twitter_followers_score*.167)
So is any company that delivers technically “Direct to consumer”? Not exactly. Let’s take a step back and fully define what we mean by a “D2C brand”. In the traditional value chain for retailers, brands managed everything from design, production and marketing before passing the baton to larger retailers for distribution and sales. As an example, most tampon producers used to only sell to retailers like brick and mortar pharmacies or on third party marketplaces like Amazon. These third party intermediaries were the only way brands knew how to sell to their end customer.
Direct-to-Consumer brands are different because they take on the distribution and sales of their product themselves. They opt not to pass the baton, which not only gives brands more control of the customer journey, but also increases profits. Over time, it tends to be more efficient for brands to take on the work themselves. The consumer benefits because D2C companies often pass on these savings to their customers in the form of lower prices, or by subsidizing a better experience (i.e. free shipping, introductory offers, etc.) In general, it’s a win for consumers, and presents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs.
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