If you are a novice D2C entrepreneur in the U.S. looking for brands that are disrupting the consumer market, then you’ve landed in the right place. This article discusses the best 15 D2C brands in the United States that have grown in immense popularity and divulges the reason why.
A Look at the Rise of D2C Brands in the United States
Much like in Europe and India, the rise of Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) brands is an inspiring story for eCommerce in the United States. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic created the launchpad for digitally native brands to emerge. These companies forgo the traditional model of relying on wholesalers and retailers to distribute their products to customers.
D2C companies opt for a middleman-free business model that sells directly to consumers. In fact, 55% of U.S. consumers were willingly engaged in shopping directly from them instead of circling to multi-brand retailers. With an economical business model, D2C brands invested their surplus funds into marketing and customer service.
D2C brands in the U.S.A. are enormously popular amongst Millennials and Gen Z consumers appealing to their use of social media and support for social causes. Many brands leverage the subscription model to reach customers every month while investing in sustainability.
Top 15 D2C Brands Disrupting the US Consumer Market
Here are the top 15 D2C brands that have been disrupting the U.S. consumer market since their inception. We have made the list based on their popularity and taking into account their net revenue.
1) The Blue Apron
Taking the first spot in our list, The Blue Apron is a D2C brand that debuted as a premium subscription-based meal kits and ingredients delivery company. It operates exclusively in the U.S.
The Blue Apron started in 2012, providing its subscribers with a simplistic solution, tackling expensive grocery shopping and menu planning. The D2C brand is popular and well-regarded for rekindling the love for home cooking with fool-proof recipes and high-quality produce.
It has a meal kit for all types of picky eaters, from those favoring chef-worthy menu items to those looking for quick bites. The brand has over 298,000 monthly subscribers. It also garnered a net revenue of $113.1 million in the first quarter of current year.
Founded in 2014 in San Francisco, California, Allbirds is a high name in the sustainable D2C apparel industry. It is prominently known for its strong adherence to sustainability with materials like merino wool. Its classic Wool Runners are designed to offer comfort wrapped in style.
Allbirds drives a purpose that millennials and Gen Z consumers resonate with- eco-friendliness with ethically sourced products and natural fibers. Unlike many of the companies in footwear, it swapped carcinogenic synthetic fibers for sugarcane-based SweetForm. Its shoes are made for all occasions, from everyday wear to travel and running to slip-on.
Over time, it has developed clothes made from recycled plastic, castor-bean oil, eucalyptus trees, and sugar cane. From its products to packaging, Allbirds steers clear of superfluous branding. Its strong ethos has led fashion icons and environmentalists to give it their approval.
Though Peloton was founded in 2012, it exploded in popularity in recent years after giving home-bound consumers in the U.S. a studio-worthy exercise setup. It mostly sells stationary treadmills and bicycles to consumers who want to exercise from their homes. Additionally, the exercise equipment are well-regarded for its high-end technology.
Peloton has designed a way of life that incorporates taking personalized exercise classes with Peloton instructors on a high-tech bike. It focuses exclusively on creating a user experience at par with Apple or Netflix. As such, it offers a subscription-based fitness video streaming service and sells to consumers online, replicating an Amazon-like delivery experience.
Peloton has built a community around its products and services, with 440,000 followers on its official Facebook page. People share their workout regimes, and some even the company’s tattoos. Peloton has famous faces like Usain Bolt and Hugh Jackman endorsing it.
4) Harry’s Inc
Taking a cue from subscription-based services, Harry’s Inc began its story as a men's personal grooming care company especially shaving equipment. The $400 million brand has 3 million recurring customers and a $250 million investment from venture capitalists. Market experts dub Harry’s Inc as a shaving subscription powerhouse.
The D2C company quickly rose to fame by selling sleek but low-priced razors, bringing down the monopolies of traditional retailers like Gillette. Its success recipe has much to do with marketing as it has with the products. It creates a mission statement that reverberates with the everyday shaving person- the brunt of over-prized razors.
This gives Harry’s story an emotional charge, one it has coupled with word-of-mouth referral programs. This has effectively a closely knit customer base, a slew of quality products, and a recurring delivery system. Harry’s Inc is present in 7 countries, including the U.S.
5) Warby Parker
Valued at $6.8 billion, Warby Parker is said to have revolutionized the D2C channel for eyewear. It was driven with the purpose of disrupting the traditionally expensive eyewear sector with empathy and low-cost lenses.
The result was classy but accurate and affordable prescription eye-wears.
As an alternative crusader, it circumvented traditional distribution, designed glasses in-house, and engaged with customers the D2C way. It began its journey as a digital storefront, allowing its customers to try out lenses from the convenience of their house, added with free shipping. Thus, Warby Parker could control 100% of the customer experience.
It provides customers with a free try-on period, 30-day returns and exchanges, and eye-popping packaging. With direct customer engagement, it gathers feedback from them and analyzes data points to further better its products and service offerings. Furthermore, it operates a donation program and has given 13 million pairs of glasses, giving its customers a further bonding point.
At its core, Lovevery is a toy subscription service, but it's one that aids in child development. Starting in 2015, Lovevery was created by parents wanting to create developmentally-appropriate and neurologically stimulating toys. Lovevery is onboarded with academics, researchers, and neurologists who put together the Monstessori-inspired toy service.
Lovevery’s presence is well-appreciated by parents bombarded with plastic toys. What Lovevery brings is the idea that playtime can be part of a child’s development. It provides aesthetically pleasing, gender-neutral, educational, and even customizable toys and play-cards. It also has an educational app for its subscribers to guide new parents.
Lovery’s surging popularity has much to do with giving working parents a way out when they can’t create their own play settings. Instead, it offers ready-made tools that are purposed to train children with early childhood education. Lovevery is vetted by Forbes and Wall Street Journal. It's not surprising that its annual revenue is steady at $78 million per year.
Topping the charts in the D2C pet brands category with excellent customer service, Chewy has become a top pet food and accessories store in the U.S. Based in Florida, Chewy strives to make pet parenthood a fun experience by giving 24/7 access to real pet experts.
Both novice and veteran pet parents benefit from its wide range of pet food and veterinary diets as well as treats. Its pet supplies are neatly categorized into toys, grooming kits, clothing, accessories, vitamins and supplements, and much more. Since its inception in 2011, Chewy has strived to become an ‘everything’ store for all things that pets want.
Adding to its wide portfolio of products, Chewy launched a telehealth service during the pandemic, earning it appreciation from pet parents. It also has a dedicated pharmacy section presenting treatments for common pet ailments.
Launched in 2010, Everlane is one of the early adopters of the online D2C model. Much like Allbirds, Everlane disrupted the traditional retail sector in apparel with its high standards for ethically sourced apparel. On top of this, it focused on preserving the durability of its clothes, pairing them with classic styles and season-focused trends.
In going D2C, Everlane has cut costs from relying on wholesalers and third-party retail intermediaries. Everlane practices ‘radical transparency,’ allowing its brand loyalists to support ethical production and sustainability. Its factories are audited based on compliance factors like fair wages and reasonable work hours.
Since its launch, Everlane prioritized convenience over anything else. From selling cotton t-shirts, the brand has come a long way, introducing products like cashmere sweaters and Peruvian Pima tees.
9) Stitch Fix
Founded in 2011, Stitch Fix quickly catapulted to fame, with some 4.2 million shoppers looking for personalized shopping. It became one of the first platforms to create an online version of personal styling, presenting handpicked clothes and accessories in a subscription box.
The brand combines the expertise of thousands of stylists in the U.S. and a data-based predictive algorithm to fit the right ‘fixes’ for clients. All customers have to do is state their size, height, and style preferences, and 5 pieces of articles will be shipped to their doorstep. They can try to keep all the clothing or pick what suits them best and pay accordingly.
Apart from its ingenious service, Stitch Fix offers an affordable subscription starting at $20 per box plus free shipping. The frequency of the subscription deliveries is flexible, ranging between biweekly to quarterly plans. Its comprehensive style quiz considering customers’ budgets makes it an appealing choice for time-bound working women.
10) Function of Beauty
Function of Beauty lives by the mantra ‘no one size fits all,’ delivering a slew of customized beauty products that suit the uniqueness of each individual. Founded by Zahir Dossa in 2015, for pioneering distinctive formula-based hair, skin, and body care products. Besides employing scientists to develop these formulas, it allows customers to create their own tailored products.
One of the major highlights of its products is its pastel-toned recyclable and recycled plastic. As a D2C brand, it also honors sustainability with practices like local product sourcing and reduced transportation emissions. Its exclusive membership subscription doles out lucrative perks like early access to deals and products.
11) Misfit’s Market
In the world of the U.S. D2C sector, Misfit’s Market is a name that’s quickly risen to claim a top spot in the online grocery segment. It was started in 2018 by Abhi Ramesh in New Jersey to fight off food waste. Misfit’s market works with local farmers in 50 states to buy organic produce that would otherwise be discarded by them.
It acts as a bridge between farmers and consumers wanting the finest groceries at affordable prices, catering to 400,000+ households. In fact, the brand claims to offer groceries at 40% lesser prices than regular grocery chains. Considering this, the major highlight for its customers is saving $1200 on 500+ grocery items per year.
Another amenity it offers is on-demand shipping with doorstep delivery. Customers get an assortment of high-quality pantry staples, meat, and seafood, plus fruits and vegetables that they pick for their curated cart. Moreover, it presents the opportunity for endless modifications. The average annual revenue of Misfit’s Market is $137.2 million.
12) Hims and Hers
Hims and Hers is an online telehealth service with multi-specialty health consultations for both men and women. Based in San Francisco, California, it connects 1 million subscribers with licensed doctors and health care professionals. Hims and Hers has created a model for accessible healthcare without the hassles of high co-pays, long wait times, and expensive drugs.
Hims and Hers explores multiple health issues affecting both men and women as well as those particular to either sex. It also offers a safe channel for patients to access professional help for mental health care and skin care. Apart from teleconsultation, it also sells prescription drugs online.
The major USP of the brand is that it doesn’t require insurance for co-pays, offering transparent pricing instead. Its mobile application supports an extensive health journey with professionals available around the clock. This innovative D2C brand earned $191 million in the first quarter of the current year.
In the beauty and cosmetics D2C segment, there is hardly anyone who hasn’t heard of Glossier yet. Started by Emily Weiss, the beauty influencer behind Into the Gloss blog in 2015, the brand was valued at $1.9 billion in 2019. It has 5 million customers around the world who firmly believe in Glossier’s mantra- every individual is an influencer.
Glossier’s phenomenal rise owes much to its ingenious marketing that’s forged a genuine connection with customers resonating with the brand message. It created a valuable feedback loop to establish an insightful dialogue with its 2.7 million Instagram followers and brand loyalists. Its direct chat has fostered connections that turn customers into ambassadors.
Lastly, Glossier strictly focuses on providing the finest-graded skin care products and then cosmetics. From foundation to fragrance, it pays homage to multifarious skin types, tones, and complexion. Glossier’s net revenue for 2022 stood at $180 million.
Casper prides itself on premium sleep products, having deep-dived into sleep research that makes ergonomically engineered mattresses. The novelty of Casper lies in its products. It has roped in technology to create unique mattresses, such as one that maintains a 5° cooler temperature. Another example is using technology to alleviate aches and pains.
Casper successfully leveraged social media since its inception in 2014 and furthered a buzz with celebrities posting viral ‘unboxing’ videos. Its signature mattress formula comprising multi-layer foam mattresses has set the trend for new brands. As a pioneer in the D2C global mattress industry, Casper offers flexible pricing making sleep accessible to all.
Casper operates omnichannel retail syncing both products and delivery services such as buy online and pick-up in-store. Recently, it entered the retail supply chain and partnered with Target, West Elm, Denver Mattress, etc. Currently, Casper has diversified its product portfolio to include dog beds, pillows, furniture, and accessories.
BArkBox is a subscription-based D2C brand for dog toys and treats. BarkBox leverages the convenience of subscription boxes with monthly themes that pet parents would love for their furry friends. Currently, the brand has an active subscription count of 2 million customers.
BarkBox solves more than the playtime needs of different pet personalities. For example, it has a special box for ‘heavy chewers’ consisting of durable toys and customizable diet treats. The brand has also launched dental products and treats formulated by dog experts.
BarkBox’s growth strategy included customer retention strategies and word-of-mouth marketing, such as customer referrals. At the same time, it delves heavily into personalization offering around 150,000 variations in treats to 6 million dogs.
D2C brands have become a home-grown reality in the United States with over 89% of consumers having shopped with a D2C brand in recent years. Furthermore, almost 40% of consumers believe that D2C companies offer better pricing. The success of the top D2C brands in our list is a testament to the fact that the U.S. is a ripe market for D2C proliferation.
1) What are the pros of the D2C business model?
A D2C business model allows retailers to exercise direct control over the supply chain, maintain better customer relationships, and control their brand identity. Moreover, it also allows them to foster faster brand loyalty.
2) How big is the D2C market in the United States?
It is estimated that the D2C market in the United States will reach $213 billion by 2024, as it has already garnered $117 billion in 2022. Moreover, it is predicted that the number of U.S. consumers shopping from D2C companies will rise to 111 million by next year.