I learned more than I expected and hopefully you can take something from my capturing of data as well.  This is just the first of a number of shallow dives into business models I plan to do.

If a brand is not going to sell on Amazon, how can it look professional, appeal to an audience, and convert customers?

Knowns

An incredible amount of stores look the same.  The default Shopify themes really are pervasive.  It is reasonable to assume that this is largely because the playbook has already been written for it.  There are no surprises left to work through and most customers already know how to make a purchase. Conversion ratios are understood.  There are plugins available that will work without additional configuration. Clean and easy.

What you give up is differentiation.  The bigger players all spend time and money investing in custom development, branding, comms, and storytelling. I think it is reasonably safe to assume that as stores become easier and easier to setup differentiation will be near mandatory.  It is imperative for any new DTC company that just took millions in VC funding to set itself apart from all the drop-shippers out there.

Common Themes

Of the stores that took the differentiated path, there were still some commonalities.

Colors & Themes

Millennial Pastel

The DTC favorite by a large margin, especially in the social/happiness space.  Pinks, purples, yellows and greens that have been desaturated and lightened.

ex: takearecess.com, notpot.com

Neutral Beauty

Most sites that advertise beauty, health, or wellness products with go for a minimal clean look with color blocks in natural skin tones, light greens, and pale blues.

ex: livso.com, hims.com

Minimal White

There is still a large contingent of sites that are simply minimal.  Whitespace dominates and there is either a single accent color or monochrome.  Designs depend on product imagery and key art to carry tone.

Loud Brualist

Instantly polarizing, unforgiving designs that are going for impact over beauty.  Massive block fonts, colors straight from a Crayola 8-pack, and images floating in space.  Often overlaps with the white minimal trend.

Personality

Modern commerce plays tend to be upbeat, cleverly worded, and well packaged. They err of the side of caution when approaching issues, and respond quickly to incoming questions. Social media plays an outsized role as companies compete to earn free shares (and mindshare).

While they advertise aggressively, the ads themselves are typically fun and quirky. Visit a DTC brand site and the ads will follow you for weeks.

Opinions

  • I doubt the super pastels or brutalist designs will age very gracefully.
  • Design agencies (like Gin Lane, Red Antler etc) really love 'blanding' modern projects.  The results are very appealing block fonts and pretty colors, but lack much for targeting.

- The main downside of this that ad spend has to work extra hard.
- The upside is free user trust as all DTC companies look alike.

  • Agency built sites are on average incredibly well designed and thought through.
  • Usability ranges drastically.  Most sites are only OK compared to traditional SaaS companies.
  • Most people will have purchase intent, or not, before going to a site.