U.S. shoppers are increasingly opting to buy from direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, leading to even bigger disruptions in the retail market. The study, conducted by IAB, in partnership with Cassandra, found that a strong community and the ability to provide feedback to brands was one of the leading reasons that consumers, especially younger shoppers, became loyal buyers. 

Direct-to-consumer loyalists tend to be younger buyers who want retail purchases to reflect their personal expression, that’s according to the newly-released IAB “Disrupting Brand Preference” study. The research found that 84 percent of respondents who prefer disruptor brands are under 54 years old and tend to have a household income of $75,000 and above.  

Other key takeaways of the study include:

  • DTC buyers find value in their ability to contribute ideas and feedback to brands and enjoy the sense of visibility they feel as part of sizable social communities. 
  • Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp lead the pack for sharing brand attitudes, especially by older, traditional brand shoppers. 
  • Disruptor brands can best build consumer loyalty—as well as lifetime value (LTV)—through cross-channel interaction. 
  • Search, shopping and social media sites together are nearly equal to traditional TV for brand discovery. 
  • Disruptor consumers expect 24/7 omnichannel access.  

The most insightful trend, however, revolves around Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) buyers using their favorite brands as resources for personal branding and self-promotion. Thus, 47 percent of respondents said that they are more likely to familiarize themselves with a Direct Brand if it aligns with their personal style (which is twice as many, compared to traditional brand-only buyers, who say that they purchase brands to express “who [they are]).” 

These avid DTC brand consumers make up a part of a new audience group, identified by the researchers as “Super Influencers,” who strategically re-post and/or create brand-driven content to increase their own influence on social media, the study suggests.  The expectation is that DTC brands can rely on influencer strategies in their marketing efforts. 

Senior vice president, research and measurement at IAB, Sue Hogan, said on the matter, “There is a tendency to think that the online social activities of younger consumers are incidental—frivolous. But they are not. The differences between disruptor brand consumers and incumbent-only shoppers are stark. For disruptor brand consumers, social behaviors are calculated and deliberate, feeding their need for self-expression.” 

The study was conducted via a 20-minute online survey among a diverse sample of over 3,000 consumers and sponsored by Google, PebblePost and Spotify.