NA-KD Founder Jarno Vanhatapio’s 3 Insights for Aspiring Direct-To-Consumer Entrepreneurs

With over 10 years of ecommerce experience and multiple successful start-ups under his belt, Jarno Vanhatapio is undoubtedly one of the most influential leaders in the Nordic ecommerce world. After having founded and sold Nelly, one of the most well-known and loved fashion e-tailers in Scandinavia, Jarno wanted to delve into the direct-to-consumer space. This new direction was born out of his own assessment of where the market was going, and the personal desire to build a customer-centric brand. By 2017, two years into this new venture, Jarno’s new brand NA-KD was among the top 20 fastest growing companies across Europe.

That same year (2017), Jarno Vanhatapio joined the NES stage to share his personal insights into what it takes to build a fast-moving, successful direct-to-consumer brand. Here’s what he said:

1. Do more with less.

Jarno started off by explaining that the direct-to-consumer model is an entrepreneur’s dream. Brands that fall into this category are typically financed, designed, produced, marketed, and distributed by a small in-house team of agile go-getters. Keeping the team small and in-house helps cut costs and allows the team to work both closely and quickly, which is important when fast growth is vital to the success of a business. Plus, by cutting costs and some of the “traditional” operational barriers, these brands are able to better focus on what’s most important: the consumer.

2. Understand your customers.

In order to build a customer-centric brand, you need to study your customers. Jarno built the entire NA-KD brand around key characteristics that his research revealed to be quite prevalent among most individuals within his target demographic (Millennials). Some of these traits include an affinity for postmaterialism, the desire to be experience-focused, and a burning need to be more sustainable. With such strong views that realistically go against everything traditional fashion retailers stood for, Jarno knew that he needed to really break the mold in order to find success with his audience.

3. Be authentic and personal.

Finally, direct-to-consumer brands are about the customer experience. This entire business model grew out of the convergence of the accessibility of the internet and the coming-of-age of the anti-establishment Millennial generation. Jarno went into great detail about how NA-KD was built to be a socially-conscious, engagement-focused brand that represents so much more than just the clothes it sells. The brand uses Instagram influencers as models (instead of celebrities), gives customers the chance to share their own content and be featured, and prides itself on offering customizable experiences to fit every individual’s needs. Jarno proclaims the brand’s success is based on its ability to stay true to itself while focusing both on selling products and the preferences of consumers. After all, the recurring theme throughout all of Jarno’s insights is that building a direct-to-consumer brand is about humanizing brands in a way that makes consumerism more about community than profits.

You can view the full discussion with Jarno below:

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