As the holidays fast approach, young, direct-to-consumer brands are plotting how to best reach their customers during this noisy time of year. The result will be a mix of smarter and less aggressive discounting than their predecessors, as well as timely product launches and events.
One key challenge these companies face is the kicking off their plans earlier than ever. According to NRF, more than half of holiday shoppers will begin researching their purchases in early October. “In the past four years, we’ve seen a huge shift in consumer behavior,” said Maggie Winter, the co-founder of the women’s luxury basics brand AYR. Not only does the shopping start sooner, she said, but the post-holiday sales season lasts longer each year, too, trickling all the way into February and March.
“It’s a wonderful time to be a shopper, but it’s a tough time to run a full-price business,” she said.
The heavy discounting the season is known for goes against AYR’s ethos, which is grounded in investment pieces: “Many companies protect their margin by cutting costs, but we’ve committed to really beautiful raw materials and to very controlled distribution,” explained Winter. As such, too much discounting is more risk than reward for the small brand: “We’d rather produce fewer pieces and preserve the integrity of the brand over time.”
Jenn Kapahi, the co-founder of the travel-friendly beauty brand Trèstique, lamented the growing discount period, as well. “It seems to happen earlier and earlier, at steeper discounts,” she said.
Although her e-commerce company plans to offer site-wide discounts in the weeks leading up to the holidays, Kapahi said they’ll both be later than most brands’ and also less extreme than the 50 percent off or more that many rely on. Promotions, like a “12 Days of Giving” product giveaway campaign, will also be run — largely on social media, rather than the website, as that’s where the brand’s consumers are most engaged.
Overall, however, the Trèstique team will be focused most on launching new products during this period that can be easily marketed as gifts. A holiday gift guide will launch on the website on November 1, complete with new, limited-edition holiday sets of shimmery eyeshadows and other holiday party staples — offered in both large and mini sizes that will work as stocking stuffers. The brand also intentionally timed its newest product launch — a set of Mini Lip Plumping Balms — to the season.
“We find focusing on giftable items and sets really works. It lets the customer play with a wide range of shades for a good value,” said Kapahi.
Jessica Lee, the co-founder of Modern Citizen, is following a similar path for her minimalist womenswear brand, debuting a gift guide later this week that will emphasize not just spending for others but — in perfect 2017 fashion — treating yourself, as well. Although the brand is known mostly for its clothing, the guide is an opportunity for its lesser-known assortment of home and beauty products to shine, she said. The guide will also be categorized by recipient (they include your best friend and your mother) to streamline the experience.
“Keeping it simple [is key],” said Lee, of her strategy. “Our customer is already so busy with family, friends and work during the season, we want our shopping experience to feel easy.”
Designer Anine Bing wearing holiday-themed product from her namesake line
But despite consumers increasingly moving online — NPD reported they’ll spend 70 percent more online than in store this holiday season — young brands continue to chase after foot traffic, too.
Lee and the Modern Citizen crew will be hosting “intimate, community-building events” at the brand’s San Francisco flagship. They’ll range from organizing gratitude-focused meditation classes to inviting other female-founded companies like Outdoor Voices to set up small pop-ups in the store.
AYR will tap into the holiday hype in its own way, too, selling one-of-a-kind pieces exclusively at its Soho store in New York. “When they’re gone, they’re gone. You can’t Google a better price or order it on Amazon,” said Winter.
According to Annika Meller, the chief operating officer of trendy womenswear brand Anine Bing, giving customers face time with the brand’s namesake is a key in-store traffic driver during this period. As such, the brand will be hosting a few meet-and-greets with Bing at its Los Angeles flagship. As usual, it will promote the events on social media.
“We’ve brought in some incredibly strong [crowds] to our brick-and-mortars, simply because customers love her so much and are hungry for any chance to engage with her on a more intimate level,” Meller said.