Are Digitally Native Vertical Brand (DVNB's) The Future?

May 11, 2020


Amir M

Whether it’s B2C, DTC, or DNVB, in the world of online business, there’s no shortage of acronyms.

Luckily for us, in this particular case, they all — broadly — mean the same thing.

B2C (Business to Consumer), DTC (Direct To Consumer), and DNVB (Digitally Native Vertical Brands), are different terms for companies which, among other things, specialize in cutting out the middleman and selling products directly to their customers.

But it’s the latter of this list, DNVBs, which we’d like to pay particular attention to, specifically because of their pureplay approach to the digital marketplace. With that in mind, let’s ask a simple question: are DNVBs really the future of buying online, or just the flavor of the week?

Let’s find out...

What is a Digitally Native Vertical Brand (DNVB)?

As we’ve already seen, definitions can get a little murky when it comes to digital brands, so you’re probably already asking: just what is a DNVB, exactly?

The most common hallmarks of a DNVB are:

  • A digital business built and run entirely online.
  • Often pureplay brands, built around a single flagship product.
  • Sell directly to consumers via their own website as opposed to e-commerce outlets or resellers.
  • Heavy focus on the customer brand experience.

We’re sure you already have some names in mind, but popular DNVBs of today include Casper, Dollar Shave Club, and Everlane.

Millennials and DNVBs: the perfect pairing?

It should be clear at this point that DNVBs were born for the web.

With a singular focus on the online space — at least at the beginning — this also means that the demographics for DNVBs starts off relatively narrow, too, with millennials a common target. Here’s why:

  • Millennials are the first generation to adopt a truly digital lifestyle, with multi-channel engagement across the internet.

  • This demographic has been brought up to simply expect more from the customer experience. With easy outlets for complaint via social media, they also have the power to reinforce that expectation.

  • The urge to be unlike their parents has led to the rejection of large corporations and multinationals and towards smaller, more grassroots brands — like DNVBs.

  • Millennials value the brand experience over and above the purely transactional aspects of the interaction, often engaging with the brand via social media outside of the purchasing funnel.

While millennials are already embracing DNVBs across the board, can the same be said for the next generation, Gen Z?

Well, that’s a trickier question, and involves just a touch of fortune-telling.

Predicting the future of DNVBs

As the first digitally native generation, it’s not yet clear whether Gen Z will follow the example of millennials in their love for DNVBs, or instead begin to move back towards what came before.

Just look at the cyclical nature of fashion: from one generation to the next, the trends ebb and flow. How will this shifting impact DNVBs with their laser-focus on singular products? It’s tough to say, but there is already evidence that — perhaps due to being born as digital natives — Gen Z is showing an appreciation for more tangible experiences.

Books are a great example of this, with younger generations showing signs of preferring printed books over e-readers. There’s also a definite trend towards brand experiences outside of the digital space — everything from escape rooms to Secret Cinema.

And, in fact, many widely successful DNVBs are now experimenting with bricks and mortar: Glossier, Away and allbirds, to name just a few.

So, what’s the conclusion here? Are DNVBs the future of the consumer experience, or will they be usurped by the returning champion of physical stores?

The most likely outcome is that we’ll see these spaces reach a natural equilibrium, where pure digital DNVBs can co-exist with more artisanal, boutique physical brand experiences on high streets.

And isn’t it better when we all just get along?

Is it time to define your brand’s future?

Whether you’re a fledgling pureplay DNVB or an established multi-channel brand with physical locations, the future is always unknowable — but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for it.

At Blackcreek, our team specializes in building a foundation for brands to grow (and thrive) in unpredictable digital marketplaces, helping you to get ahead of the curve and delight consumers at the same time.

If you’ve been looking for some direction for your brand, or you just want to explore our unique design-led innovation framework, get in touch today, and let’s peer into the crystal ball together.