A new advocacy group dedicated to direct-to-consumer retail was announced this week with representation from Google and several major retailers including QVC, Brooks Brothers and Lane Bryant.
The DTC Collective, as the new group is called, says its purpose is to navigate industry-specific matters, including “the external forces that influence the trajectory of digital retail’s evolution.” It foresees a short-term evolution of retailing to an all-DTC world.
“The need for such an organization has become imperative over the last three years, during which the retail industry has witnessed — and been directly affected by— three force majeures in rapid succession,” says a statement from the group, “1) The onset of GDPR in Europe, which sent retailers scrambling to comply with guidelines that weren’t designed in response to companies like theirs. 2) The ongoing elimination of third-party cookies by companies like Mozilla’s Firefox, Apple, and soon, Google. And 3), the onset of coronavirus, which expedited what many analysts had previously predicted would be a three-year journey to a 50-50 Online/Offline shift in retail.”
The Collective was conceived by Fayez Mohamood, co-founder and CEO of retail technology company Bluecore. Its first gathering was originally planned as a two-day affair in New York City to discuss Google’s planned sunsetting of third-party cookies. The pandemic forced it on to a digital platform in early Q2. Instead of focusing on the cookie issue, the meeting became a think tank session on strategies for dealing with the effects of the pandemic as well as the resulting supply chain crisis and hard-hit economy.
The group is ambitious at the outset. It wants to guide the progress of digital retailing by getting ahead of the industry-wide changes driving consumer adoption of the digital shift. It has set out three tenets for its influence: 1) Retail autonomy, meaning retailers must uphold the highest standards of conduct; 2) Policy change, meaning change should come from retailers themselves, not the government; and 3) Consumer respect and data transparency, meaning retailers will do what they say they are going to do with data and nothing more.
So far outside of the initial meetings (there was a second one June 26) the group’s activity has been limited to a white paper that summarizes some of the key concerns of the executive members. Those concerns center around the speed and scale of the digital shift, consumer changes and issues with remote workplaces. The most compelling issues concern data collection and usage, admitting that brands lack a comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior.
“Brands are finding that year-over-year growth is no longer the most reliable benchmarking metric when judging their current performance,” the white paper says. “With consumer behaviors changing so quickly and unpredictably, brands are improvising on-the-fly to figure out the most effective approaches to measurement, tracking and optimizing their efforts. Brands have not yet reached the point where they can confidently say what the leading and lagging indicators of success are, so looking at the same thing every day and tracking those daily variations is key right now.”
The white paper also aims right at the Digital 3.0 FIT framework advanced by PYMNTS. Its issue for in-store retailing has everything to do with health and safety, just as the framework holds the virus and consumer health as the foundation of go-to-market strategy in the pandemic.
“What are now considered as perks or necessary adjustments to the shopping and marketing process (e.g., curb-side pick-up, virtual cosmetic demos) will inevitably become the norm in the experience,” the report says. “On the other hand, shoppers that choose to return to the store, may arrive with general concerns about health and cleanliness — shoppers may not want to try on clothes that have already been tried on by someone else.”
The group’s next virtual forum is planned for August 27.