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No Longer Sustainable: The Unraveling of Direct-to-Consumer

Topics: Benefits of EDI, EDI integration, EDI provider, ERP integration

Direct to consumer products

Spurred largely by the pandemic, the direct-to-consumer (DTC) business model experienced exponential growth, enabling brands to establish a direct connection with consumers, bypassing traditional retail channels. However, the landscape is shifting, and signs suggest that the once seemingly invincible DTC model may no longer be sustainable in its current form. A recent CNBC article purported that many once successful DTC brands are now struggling, and “…more than half have seen a decline of 50% or more in their stock price since they went public.” Why the change and what does this mean for the once profitable vertical?

Saturation & Competition

The DTC space has become oversaturated with new entrants trying to capitalize on the model’s success. As more brands flood the market with influencers on TikTok and Instagram Reels, competition intensifies, making it increasingly challenging for businesses to stand out and acquire new customers. The cost of customer acquisition rises, and smaller players may find it difficult to compete against DTC established brands like Ruggable, Casper and Warby Parker.

Rising Customer Acquisition Costs

Initially heralded for its cost-effectiveness, the DTC model is now facing a significant challenge in the form of escalating customer acquisition costs. As competition heats up, brands are forced to spend more on marketing, advertising, and promotions to capture the attention of potential customers. This undermines the model’s profitability and raises questions about its long-term viability. Meanwhile, marketplaces continue to grow by leaps and bounds. According to Forbes, the behemoth Amazon continues to grow an average of 8.5% year-over-year.

Supply Chain & Logistics Challenges

When a product company also becomes their own technology and logistics company, then business trails off, they now have this IT and logistics infrastructure eating holes in their cash flow.  Managing the entire supply chain, from production to distribution, is a complex task for DTC brands. Many have struggled to scale efficiently, facing logistical challenges and increased operational costs. The need for robust infrastructure and efficient supply chain management is becoming a stumbling block for the sustainability of the DTC model. The DTC model has not evolved from a supply chain technology standpoint. Where electronic data interchange (EDI) integration has been the backbone of supply chain for the last 40 years, DTC is still relying on difficult-to-integrate webstores with no standardization in site.

Consumer Fatigue & Loyalty Concerns

Consumers are bombarded with an overwhelming number of DTC options, leading to decision fatigue. With so many choices, brand loyalty becomes elusive, as consumers may switch between brands easily. This lack of loyalty poses a threat to the sustainability of the DTC model, as repeat business is essential for long-term success. Gone are the days of toy and cereal commercials on Saturday mornings. In 2024, brands must be much more clever for the savvy consumers buying today. When you can skip ads on premium streaming services, you must look for new ways to reach your audience!

Marketplace Dominance & Retail Resurgence

E-commerce giants and marketplace platforms have established dominance in the online retail space. The convenience of same day delivery and free returns, coupled with vast product offerings provided by these platforms, are diverting consumers away from DTC brands. Additionally, traditional retailers are adapting to the digital landscape, offering BOPIS (buy online pick up in store), challenging the exclusivity that DTC brands once enjoyed. Behind the scenes of course is EDI integration, which offers stability and efficiency to the supply chain – something still elusive to the DTC model.

Regulatory Challenges

As the DTC model gained popularity, regulators started paying closer attention. Compliance with various regulations, especially regarding data privacy and advertising practices with the popularity of social media, has become a significant concern. Navigating these regulatory hurdles adds another layer of complexity for DTC brands, potentially affecting their ability to operate smoothly. A new layer of complexity is the recent popularity of artificial intelligence (AI). Any speculation at this point on how AI will affect regulatory issues in the near future is just that, but sooner or later – it is coming.


While the direct-to-consumer DTC business model has played a pivotal role in reshaping the retail landscape, its current sustainability is under scrutiny. As challenges mount, from increased competition to technology challenges (lack of EDI integration) and changing consumer behaviors, DTC brands must evolve to stay relevant. Whether through strategic partnerships, diversification, or innovative solutions to address supply chain issues, the future success of DTC brands hinges on their ability to adapt to a shifting market landscape. Additionally, DTC brands must demand that their technology vendors offer the means to connect disparate systems in order to leverage the efficiency of EDI and data integration.

If you’re struggling with EDI integration, speak to one of our experts and end the struggle, once and for all.

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