Direct-to-consumer brands eschew selling through intermediaries (e.g. department stores) in order to ‘own’ their customer relationships wherever they can. This means owning their contact information for future marketing, as well as their first-party data such as preferences or shopping habits for personalized offers or experiences. Brands have shown that direct-to-consumer business improves retention, lifetime value, and profitability, so it’s no surprise this has been a dominant trend among B2C companies for the past 20 years.
In DTC it’s all about ‘who owns the customer;’ in web3, the customer owns the brand as much as the brand owns the customer, and we believe this symbiotic evolution is transformatively positive for both parties.
This co-ownership model is achieved through brand NFTs, fungible currencies (eg. $FWB), or both, but it essentially means ‘tokenizing’ brand IP and allowing consumers to acquire, use and sell brand tokens at any time – frictionlessly, instantly and globally. Consumers get to own the unique asset itself, with all its possible benefits, but also own a share in the brand’s overall equity. This direct incentive alignment drives consumers to take it upon themselves to grow the brand as co-beneficiaries in its success. This is any marketer’s dream: an army of brand evangelists with a built-in affiliate model. Meanwhile, consumers passionate about their favorite brands get rewarded more directly for their evangelism. Win-win!
Consumers are already buying digital products. Last year consumers spent $2 billion on Roblox and $5 billion on Fortnite alone… and billions of hours on these platforms interacting with brands. But these assets are landlocked and can only be used within their native platforms. Web3 enables different digital products. Instead of being landlocked and ruggable, NFTs are interoperable and fully owned.
Brands are creating their own web3 platforms, not just products. Consumer giants like Nike understand the potential of a digital product line, generating over $186mm so far from NFTs. Late last year, they announced the launch of .SWOOSH, a community-based platform for digital shoes and jerseys that also unlock access to events, physical products, and co-creation opportunities. They are selling these digital products direct-to-consumer with creative ways to upsell and cross sell.
Secondary markets offer new ongoing revenue streams. Consumer brands today rarely capture any value when their items are resold. Unlike physical products, NFTs can be encoded with a ‘royalty’ such that every time it trades hands on the secondary market, a fraction of the payment is sent to the brand automatically. Web3 native brand Bored Ape Yacht Club has generated tens of millions in primary sale revenue, and more than $100mm in secondary royalties. That’s a new business model, and major traditional brands have noticed. Adidas and TIME have generated $5mm and $4mm, respectively, and Nike has earned more than $90mm in secondary royalties alone. The leading brands are adding custom secondary markets to their sites to retain traffic, stickiness and margins through a complete buying experience for consumers.
NFTs are powering supercharged loyalty programs. NFTs don’t have to be pricey to be effective. Starbucks is moving their 50-million-person loyalty program, which generated $15 billion in revenue last year, over to web3 platform 'Starbucks Odyssey'. They see NFTs improving that program by making loyalty ‘stamps’ ownable, and gamifying engagement in exchange for tradeable benefits like discounts and offers. As all marketers know, it’s always more cost effective to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. The incentivized nature of web3 adds a new dimension to loyalty and evangelism that big brands are starting to leverage.
NFT communities are dynamic peer-to-peer brand engagement groups. NFTs not only offer a new kind of DTC relationship for brands, but also for consumer to consumer. Token-based brand communities represent ‘fellow owners’ who are actively and organically interacting with each other about the brand in places like Discord and Telegram. This is also a low-effort way for brands to sustain a lively and engaged community: peer-to-peer brand discussions rather than more unidirectional engagements on Instagram and Twitter posts.
There are rich new consumer data insights in web3. Direct-to-consumer brands obsess about ‘first-party data’, essentially proprietary insights they glean about customers through their browsing and buying habits within their own ecosystem. Otherwise, brands have virtually no idea what customers are doing outside their four walls. This means rich customer data is splintered into silos across each brand’s incomplete picture, with no brand able to deliver an optimal experience for lack of full visibility.
Web3 data is much more interesting and powerful because it’s ‘open’ and tied to a consumer’s wallet address on-chain. Take a look at what other digital products they own, from which brands, and how they’re spending their money across all of crypto. All of this information is available and actionable on the blockchain.
The vision for DTC was always for brands to create and sustain lasting relationships directly with their consumer. Instead of a consumption-based relationship with the consumer, in web3 brands and consumers “win” together in a more participatory model. In the traditional sense of DTC, the financial relationship comes down to a “buy now” moment. With web3 and NFTs, it is a ‘buy into now,’ with a value exchange loop that doesn’t end; brand and consumer are intertwined by shared incentives to create value for each other. Consumers benefit from utility and perks, or from resell potential from a liquid ‘always-on’ market. The brand or creator benefits from transaction volume via embedded royalties… in the words of Charlie Munger, “show me the incentive and I’ll show you the outcome."
It’s certainly not a straightforward to simple step for a global brand to integrate blockchain technology into its existing framework. Those that have succeeded in making the web3 leap like Starbucks, Nike, adidas and Sotheby’s have all done so in different ways – sometimes it’s through membership, sometimes it's through loyalty and rewards, sometimes it's simply through a new digital product line. Brands that will be the winners of this DTC revolution are the ones who see its potential to not only supplement their existing business, but offer entirely new kinds of value to their consumers.