Blog post

D2C Demands a Different Approach to the 4 Cs of Marketing

By Jennifer Polk | December 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

Marketingdigital marketingCustomer Acquisition and Retentiondigital commercee-commerce

Of course, you remember the 4 Cs of the marketing mix.

  • Convenience
  • Communication
  • Consumer
  • Cost

Fortunately, the 4 Cs still apply. But, direct to consumer (also known as D2C or DTC) demands a new approach to these marketing basics.

turned-on laptop
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Why are the 4 C’s different for D2C?


Unfortunately, D2C is disadvantaged when it comes to convenience. Imagine buying groceries by brand instead of basket! Surprising to many brands, D2C also demands new forms of convenience.

For durable goods, convenience includes services. Products like appliances, mattresses and gym equipment need delivery and installation. Can your brand meet those expectations? Will you offer design, delivery or installation? Or will you partner with third-party providers? Sleep Number, for example, uses email and mobile to follow up with customers immediately after purchase to schedule delivery and communicate with them throughout that delivery process.

For consumables, this could mean auto-replenishment or bundling? What about adding e-commerce site feature like measurement calculators or configuration tools?

Tip: Define how your D2C brand will compete on convenience.


Consumer brands know how to address the top of the funnel. Yet, DTC takes full-funnel marketing.  Going from B2B2C to D2C requires direct marketing. Targeted ads, Web, search and email marketing are keys to site traffic and conversion.

Other D2C marketing priorities involve:

  • Engaging consumers across channels
  • Distinguishing brand-owned sales channels
  • Supporting sales and post-purchase interactions
  • Staying engaged between campaigns and transactions

Tip: Plan for brand and product marketing to optimize the end-to-end customer journey.


Retailers offer a tactile or omnichannel experience. Marketplaces provide breadth of assortment. Setting the brand-owned, D2C channel apart from other channels challenges your value proposition. Chances are, price won’t be it. Retail trade agreements can restrict brands’ price flexibility. Also, upstart D2C operations also have slim operating margins. As a result, it’s vital to protect profit, which can, in turn, limit promotional levers.

D2C brands often use free shipping to drive conversion and email sign-up. Fortunately, when tied to sign-up for mobile or email messaging, this approach can also accelerate data collection. Some use loyalty programs to offer incentives for a range of customer behaviors, from purchases to product reviews.

  • Products: What’s your D2C assortment plan? Will your site offer the same assortment as retailers? Interestingly, while that’s easier to manage, offering exclusive products or early access to merchandise could set your e-commerce site apart.
  • Services: What role will services play in your D2C site? Aside from the expected services, what else could you offer to build competitive advantage? Also, where do you have service competencies that can be commercialized or monetized?
  • Content: How will your brand attract consumers to its D2C site? Some brands use value-added content to draw an audience. For example, food and beverage brands offer recipes and cooking videos and clothing brands share outfit inspiration.


This is, perhaps, the hardest of the 4 Cs to tackle because D2C brands are disconnected from end customers. Without first party customer data, how do you size the addressable market? It’s unlikely trade partners are handing over this data. Second and third party data can be useful for targeting until you can connect directly with customers. This can make forecasting e-commerce sales tricky, but it can, at least, allow you to reach shoppers.

Now the ball is in your cart. As consumers engage with your performance marketing campaigns, how will you capture marketing campaign data? When they land on your e-commerce site, how will you ingest session data?  What is your plan for collecting, storing and integrating data at the customer level, not to mention managing consent? Most importantly, have you adapted marketing processes to use this data for targeted and triggered consumer marketing?

For instance, U.K. sleepwear brand Desmond & Dempsey has adapted to a consumer trend.  Given COVID-19, fewer consumers are traveling. As a result, campaigns that might have featured pajamas in a suitcase now show them being worn at home. D2C brands have the opportunity and obligation to observe these trends through their own web analytics and transaction data.

Your ability to recognize and respond to changing consumer needs will set your D2C site apart from other brands and channels. But it requires you to structure your e-commerce site to capture key data. It means designing your digital experience to marry products and services for convenience and the ability to compete on more than cost. And it means owning full-funnel marketing and communication. 

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Comments are closed