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Direct-to-consumer (D2C) branding: from end to end

The growing e-commerce trend has accelerated with the pandemic and it will likely continue to pick-up pace. Brands are also pivoting their operations to allow a direct-to-consumer approach take the driver’s seat in their digital strategy.

In Southeast Asia, online marketplace giants include Shopee (by SEA Ltd) and Lazada (by Alibaba) and they are leading the charge in the e-commerce penetration. However, brands are fast realising that an over-dependence on such marketplaces will lead to increased costs over time because of the winner-takes-all environment that envelops the tech growth segment.

What this means from an economic perspective is that the online giants will continue to grow market share past a critical pivot point where the top 3 to 5 capture 80% or more of the market whilst the rest will fail to survive as they struggle for relevance and visibility, creating a greater downward pressure on their businesses.

In a space where dominance equates to relevance, going direct-to-consumer (D2C) is beginning to take-off in a huge way. This allows brands / businesses to bypass the oligopolies helmed by online marketplace giants and connect with customers in a deep way that goes beyond the templated fashion of these giants. Also, being at those marketplaces alone is a guarantee that brand relevance is lost. Yours is just one of the many out there and standing out from the crowd becomes an issue. More importantly, the precious commodity that is data, can be retained by brands instead of having it ceded to these giants as well.

Your brand needs to pivot and take advantage of this approach as the tide of digital commerce that speaks and connects directly with customers happens right before our eyes. Regardless of where you are located, there are tools available to make your brand available to the rest of the world. But let’s take the time to examine Southeast Asia for a moment.

The Southeast Asian economy as a region, is one that is characterised by fragmentation. 7 in 10 of Southeast Asia is now a digital citizen, and that means 400 million of them. Of this figure, one third of them are new, all because of the COVID pandemic that drove them online[1]. Just in Indonesia itself, we have over two hundred indigenous groups[2] and reaching out to them will be a challenge, particularly since many are unbanked. Yet, there are businesses that provide the very tools to bridge the gap. Global-E for example, works with businesses to bring the D2C experience one notch higher, allowing brands to “land and expand” in a different country/language/currency very rapidly.

Strategically enhancing your brand’s D2C experience

Rethink "shoppable" moments

Your brand strategy needs to provide space for a rethink of how each moment or touchpoint with a consumer is a “shoppable” or “brandable” moment, even in a quick pivot situation.

For example, when it comes to a lockdown, how can brands efficiently deploy D2C in delivering products and services without losing the brand experience? How does a brand use technology to connect and execute a consumer experience that is “unbroken” even if a situation is? AI can be used to personalise experiences. Platforms like TikTok have been employed for live streaming and purchases.

Deal with the discounting dilemma

A D2C experience does not mean having to discount goods and services that dilutes brand equity. Many retail brands use initial discounts as a hook in their digital strategy. But when over-emphasised and over-used, a brand can look like a discount-store as consumers become fixated with sales like opium. They might even throw a discount tantrum or fit if discounts are withdrawn.

The problem with the giant marketplaces that most brands are on right now is that the “discount culture” is rampant and it creates unnecessary peer pressure. Brands think that by using less attractive product models to be projected as loss leaders might work in hooking and drawing in customers, but the appeal can only go so far. And by that time, dilution in equity would have taken place.

Take back control of data

Data is the one commodity that you need to have control of. The giant marketplaces have many things that are inherently destructive to branding. By providing visibility, they are asking you to trade-off data ownership and monetisation from data. And this control needs to be taken back under the brand’s management.

What are the habits of these customers buying from you through these marketplace platforms? Beyond the discounts, you might know a few other trivial things but very little about intimate knowledge of your customer. The D2C approach turns the tables on these marketplaces and puts the power of knowing your customer in your hands. The data that you gather can be richer and more meaningful to be monetised in other forms.


Need help in setting up your business for a D2C brand experience?

Reach out to our team today at We have the expertise to take your brand from ground zero to the next level in our fast-track D2C approach.

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