Expanding Your DTC Brand to Retail: 5 Expert Tips for Success

Casper’s done it. Birchbox, too. So have Away, Glossier and Harry’s. 

Some of the best-known direct-to-consumer brands are no longer online only. In recent years, they’ve gone omnichannel, expanding into traditional retailers like Target, Nordstrom, Costco, Walmart, and Whole Foods. 

Ecommerce brands are smart to diversify into brick-and-mortar stores. A retail presence can increase brand awareness, boost credibility, lower customer acquisition costs, create additional revenue streams, and power growth.

But succeeding in traditional retail is very different from running a Shopify store. And there are plenty of potential pitfalls along the way. 

Erin Chambers, who runs marketing for the hair color brand oVertone and the beauty line BOOM! understands the risks and rewards. oVertone was picked up by Target in 2022, and BOOM! Is also looking to expand into big box retail. 

On a recent Nerd Marketing podcast episode, she shared her insights on increasing store velocity, balancing resources, and hiring expert advisors. 

1. Hire Retail Experts Early 

Every aspect of your retail distribution agreement needs to align with your brand’s goals and abilities. The pricing structure needs to pencil out. You need to be able to deliver on volume expectations. 

DTC owners are used to making decisions on their own. But retail agreements can dictate how you package your products, where you can sell them, and more. 

Chambers says it’s smart to hire knowledgeable consultants early in the expansion-to-retail process. They can help you navigate the complexities of traditional retail, and make sure you’re making the smartest deal possible. 

“We honestly probably could have pushed for a bigger assortment if we’d had that support earlier,” she said. “Once you're in, you're also kind of stuck with the deal you've made with that retailer, for better or for worse.” 

2. Getting In Doesn’t Mean Staying In

Breaking into a major retailer might seem daunting, but it’s staying there that’s the real challenge, Chambers said. 

“There's always new competitors in every market,” she said. “If your units aren't turning on the shelf, they'll find someone else.”

Retailers put their brands through regular product line reviews. In line reviews, brands pitch their products and explain why they should be on the shelves. 

“It's about building relationships and convincing retailers why they should carry your brand,” she said. “You just pitch your brand, pitch your products and hope they like you.”

Strong sales are essential, but there are other factors at play. 

During oVertone’s last line review, it learned that Target was simplifying its beauty aisles. The brand pitched the idea of replacing a couple of SKUs that were performing less well. The new mix, they hope, will make decision-making easier—and boost sales. 

3. Packaging Matters

If you expand into retail, you’ll have to rethink packaging. It needs to be eye-catching, pick-up-able, and in line with the retailer’s requirements. 

In the online space, customers make comparisons pretty late in the customer journey. But in retail stores, the competition is all around you, vying for attention. 

Shoppers will (hopefully) be touching your packaging and using it to judge whether they’re going to put your product. You don’t have a lot of space to make a convincing argument. 

Plus, you won’t have control over where your products are placed. 

“In the DTC space, you’re just communicating to your customers on your digital shelf,” Chambers said. “You can put things where you want them to go. The expectations consumers have when they're buying things in a retail environment are a little bit different.”

oVertone had to add secondary packaging, and continues to optimize. 

4. Balance Channels Strategically 

Retail accounts for less than 10% of oVertone business but is still an important channel. It drives brand awareness, Chambers said, and captures customers who want the product immediately. 

“You want to be where someone can go out and say, ‘I'm coloring my hair—I can pick this up today and not have to wait for shipping,’” she said. 

Chambers has to allocate her resources to meet multiple goals at once. She wants to achieve store velocity, meet sales goals and open doors for more inventory and expansion. But she also tries to favor DTC, where the brand gets most of its sales. 

“We need to make sure that we're not putting all of our bandwidth behind one of our smaller channels,” she said. 

5. Invest in Driving Traffic and Demand 

A big advantage of selling through a retail store is that your brand can piggyback off the store’s foot traffic and marketing efforts. But that doesn’t mean you can take a hands-off approach. 

To meet its retail revenue goals, oVertone participates in Target’s in-store marketing opportunities and promos. 

The brand also uses its email list and social media channels to cross-promote, keeping its audience in the know about brick-and-mortar promotions and sales. 

In the future, it will use PostPilot’s ShopDrops campaigns to hyper-target customers near stores where it’s stocked, driving sales at the most crucial times. 

Grow Your DTC Brand

Expanding a DTC brand to retail requires careful planning and execution. 

A retail presence can increase brand awareness and credibility, and boost growth, but there are also plenty of challenges. 

Chambers advises DTC brands who want to expand into traditional retail to hire expert advisors, be prepared to rethink your packaging, and invest in driving in-store demand. These tips can grow your DTC brand—and make it more attractive to investors and acquirers.

Ready to increase your revenue?

Join thousands of ecommerce brands using PostPilot to acquire more customers & keep them coming back again (and again).

Try it risk-free
5.0 Shopify Rating

No contracts. No minimums.