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Direct-to-consumer retailers innovate – in-store and online

True Religion store
True Religion is transforming to a digitally native DTC retailer.

The direct-to-consumer (DTC) vertical is producing some interesting technology deployments that transform operations across channels.

DTC retailers are brands that remove the middleman and directly engage customers. Some are online-only while some also operate brick-and-mortar stores. With the evolution of solutions and services that facilitate workflows such as processing and fulfilling physical and digital purchases, more brands than ever are making the jump to DTC retailing.

Here are three recent examples of DTC retailers engaging in innovative technology deployments to ease the process of engaging consumers, wherever they may be.  

Filson and Shinola

Two direct-to-consumer brands owned by Bedrock Manufacturing Co. are offering a unified shopping journey across all channels. Filson and Shinola are deploying NewStore mobile POS, order management, and store inventory solutions.

The outdoor apparel and accessories brand and hancrafted wallet, jewelry and leather goods maker will leverage the NewStore platform’s omnichannel capabilities, including mobile checkout, endless aisle, store fulfillment, buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS), and buy online return in-store (BORIS).

In addition, Filson and Shinola associates will be able to consolidate customer, order, and inventory data into one iOS app. Store employees will be equipped with iPhones, providing them with access real-time data and enabling them to assist customers and process transactions from anywhere on the store floor.

True Religion

Premium denim and sportswear brand True Religion is launching a new omnichannel loyalty offering. Known as True Fam, the program is the latest in a series of strategic initiatives intended to transform True Religion into a digital-first direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand.

Previous efforts include the introduction of a new mobile app in time for the 2022 holiday season. True Religion has said that it expects to generate “well in excess” of $100 million in e-commerce sales during 2022, and anticipates that online sales will represent 50% of revenues by 2025, up from 35% in 2021.

The three-tiered True Fam loyalty program allows members to earn and redeem points across all consumer touchpoints, including in-store, online, and through the brand’s recently launched mobile app. Co-created and tested with True Religion’s customers, True Fam’s tier names borrow from the brand’s roots and connection to the music industry. It’s tiers—Opening Act, Headliner, and Icon—are differentiated by spending threshold and rewards.

Each tier offers points based on spend, welcome discounts, birthday discounts, and early access to sales. The program has been rolling out to customers across all of True Religion’s channels throughout spring 2023.

In addition, True Religion is using emails and SMS messaging to promote True Fam. In-store offerings include signage, scannable POS receipts, and sign-up and redemption at checkout.

True Religion developed True Fam in partnership with Lexer for CDP data and Yotpo, a loyalty strategy platform. Zurb tested the program with current and prospective True Religion customers.


DTC eyewear retailer Zenni is actively adopting advanced AI technology to optimize its digital shopping experience. In an exclusive Chain Store Age interview, Zenni CTO David Ting discussed how AI is transforming e-commerce operations.

“Zenni introduced an optical character recognition (OCR) solution where customers can just scan the prescription,” said Ting.” No matter how sloppy the writing is war, or if the form fields are named differently than on our webform, or if it’s in a different language, our AI is smart enough to input it correctly.

“At this point, AI outperforms a human customer service agent in preventing webform errors. The return rate has dropped because 20% of customers are using the prescription OCR solution.”

Ting described other AI-enabled solutions Zenni is launching, such as a proprietary visual search solution that lets customers take or upload a picture instead of typing words in its search results.

“There's a lot of advancement with AI that will allow consumers to see a new type of shopping experience that's basically going to lessen the disadvantage of not having physical products there by making it easier for customers to find what they need,” Ting said.

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