Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands remain well behind their established competitors in the retail and FMCG sectors in terms of online interest from shoppers, according to new data on Google search trends provided exclusively to Marketing Week. However, the gap is closing for a number of brands.
DTC brands have garnered huge amounts of attention in the business press for the threat they could pose to multinational brand owners, Dollar Shave Club’s razor subscription service being the prime example. Online direct-response marketing has become crucial to their efforts to scale up quickly and cost-efficiently.
Most are still a long way from catching up with their big brand competitors’ search volumes, suggesting years of building brand equity and significant advertising investment still provide an advantage in terms of the potential market that can be reached. But if current trends continue, some market leaders may soon find themselves falling behind.
The brands under attack
Dollar Shave Club earned less than half the search volume of Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) Gillette in 2018, according to research on UK-based searches that Marketing Week commissioned from Google. But Dollar Shave Club has increased its search volumes by 432% this year, while Gillette’s have dropped 2%. The eight-year-old US startup, purchased by Unilever for $1bn in 2016, launched in the UK in January.
According to Google’s data, another DTC razor brand, Harry’s, beat both its rivals’ search volumes in 2018, with Gillette getting just 76% as many searches. But this is likely to be primarily because the results are skewed by searches for the name ‘Harry’. Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle was a key event of 2018, for example.