From Needs to Feelings: The Emergence of D2C Brands

By: Steve Jukes, CEO & President of Jumbleberry

The internet has long been the ‘killer app’ for direct response marketing and direct to consumer selling. Over the past several decades, consumers have adapted to the market and the market has adapted to the consumer. The emergence of direct-to-consumer brands (D2C) is a result of a change in consumer behaviour, the convergence of trends and technology advancements. So, what are those grounds that gave rise to D2C culture?

The first wave: Trust.

For consumers to shift away from brick and mortar shopping to buying online, they had to gain trust. We should say thank you to Amazon, Shopify and Alibaba for paving the way for this nearly universal adoption of e-commerce as a mode of consumption. The consumer learned to trust that what they see on the screen is real and will be shipped to them and arrive at their door. They trust that if they don’t really want or like the thing, they can ship it back. E-commerce has fully been accepted by consumers and is no more considered a novel experience but rather a given ability.

That was the first phase of e-commerce: consumers adopting the mindset and trust required for it all to work.

The second wave: Need vs want.

As the foundation was laid out, a series of other factors had to converge to give rise to D2C brands. The emergence of this segment came as a natural evolution rising from the changing consumer behaviour and the convergence of several trends.

The four convergence points:

1) From Pull to Push
Now that consumers trust the process and buy the basics with confidence, they are becoming more adventurous with what they buy. Instead of just needs fulfillment (i.e. consumers searching/comparing for a purchase they’ve already committed to), there is a transition to discovery, desire and impulse. Five years ago, Paul would’ve gone online to purchase a washing machine that just broke (Pull). He would spend time doing extensive research comparing prices and sellers. What we see now is consumers going online without the need to shop and buy but with a desire to be advertised to and purchase (Push).

2) Internet Everywhere
Always connected consumers with a supercomputer in their hand and constant mobile access to the internet have given rise to very specific and powerful marketing tactics and the products and services that go along with them. You can reach your consumer anywhere and at any moment and influence your target audience just when they are most likely to buy.

3) Everything On-Demand
Anything that can be conceived can be contract manufactured or written in code, and it is only the marketers’ imagination that creates limitations. In this world consumers win and traditional retail and legacy brands reliant on retail distribution lose. Eliminating the middleman, brands have no limitations in terms of what and when to make, and when and who to sell to.

4) Dopamine
There is a distinct difference between the consumer who needs something right now and one who is perfectly willing to forego the gratification of having the good right now. And yet, buying things online feels like instant gratification - the act of purchasing itself is the object of desire, while actually receiving the good becomes secondary and a subsequent thrill. Who doesn’t get excited buying  a new pair of shoes at 3 am, and then doubly excited when the package arrives?

These trends served as a perfect breeding ground for D2C brands. In this way, they are the first real manifestation of the emotion economy. Needs are boring - what consumers want and desire is what fuels this wave. These wants and desires fluctuate and are influenced by messages received not only through advertising, but though all consumed media. There is, at any given moment, a collective mindset biased towards a trend. Looking great and losing weight? Being more healthy and vital? Relieving pain, finding love, dressing up, having fun – what do you desire at this moment? There’s a product for that.

Catch the wave.

The first wave of e-commerce was about enablement, setting up the infrastructure and ecosystem required to enable an online transaction and resulting order fulfillment. is the prime example of this “digital mail order” retail e-commerce. The current wave of e-commerce is about fulfillment of desires, and it is the marketers, not the retailers, who are set to take over. Direct to consumer brands are on the leading edge of this wave. Are you ready to take advantage of this massively global opportunity?

Jumbleberry is a direct-to-consumer engine helping brands scale through paid media customer acquisition. Want to learn how we can help you grow? Contact us at