Customers Who Click
Omnichannel vs D2C - The Pros & Cons with Ryan Rouse
April 12, 2022
In episode 106 of the Customers Who Click podcast I spoke with Ryan Rouse, the Chief Digital Officer at HighKey, who produces sugar-free versions of all your favourite snacks. In this episode, we delve into the Omnichannel vs D2C debate and Ryan explains the pros and cons of each, and how to approach each channel individually. ‘Solving a very real problem in the market, it sounds obvious, but it’s one of the core fundamentals.’ Ryan is the Chief Digital Officer of HighKey, producing sugar free snacks. Ryans had an amazing career including a meal kit business that he sold to HelloFresh. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or head over to
Key highlights:

01:14 - 09:16 - Biggest Contributor to Growth Recently - Solving an actual problem in the market is so important. This is going to be such a powerful driver of growth. It sounds obvious but so many companies either dont, or they don’t position themselves properly and explain that benefit.

Being almost an incubator has worked really well as well. Being able to innovate and launch products super quickly has helped them adapt to the market, identify new opportunities quickly knowing that they can exploit them before other businesses get round to it.

09:39 - 17:30 - What Challenges Have HighKey Been Facing? - Competition is a big challenge and obviously happens in every market. The speed that brands can get to market, and even the speed that some of the established brands move does mean there’s ever-increasing competition. Seasonality is a challenge for them as well. Their products are linked to dieting and being healthy, which tends to spike in January then fall off as people lose interest. So trying to remove that link to dieting is a challenge going forwards.

Fortunately, as a trend, ‘better for you’ seems to be holding better than diets such as Keto which were obviously massive initially but now seem to be a bit more niche.

18:00 - 23:55 - Omnichannel or D2C? - It’s easy to be biased, particularly if you’ve always worked D2C before. But really, at the end of the day you’ve got to be present where your customers are. This goes for any business really. You need to find out where your audience hangs out, and where they shop, and make sure your products or services are present there. About 80% of grocery shopping is still done in-store, so you’re missing out on the vast majority of your potential audience if you don’t get your grocery products in stores.

You can also massively benefit from the SEO of these others websites. If someone searches for ‘better for you snacks’ or ‘sugar free snacks’ are you going to compete with Amazon or Walmart? Probably not, so make sure you are that top listing on Amazon and benefit from the SEO anyway.

At the end of the day, retail, Amazon, D2C are all distribution channels. It’s not one or the other, its all of them, and how do you use each properly?

23:57 - 42:10 - Using Amazon as a Discovery Channel - Chances are your customers shop on Amazon, a huge number of people do. Even Ryan’s wife, who hears about D2C all the time said ‘I had to go to their website because they werent on Amazon’. People trust Amazon, its quick and convenient, and with certain products like snacks they might not want to buy a 24 pack straight away, they might want to add 1 to their Amazon cart, or just take advantage of Amazon Prime to buy 1 pack to try.

But when customers become loyal to a brand, theyre much more likely to come back to the website itself. Ryan buys his toothbrush direct from the brand rather than buying it in-store. I do the same with several products I buy because I like the brand, I want to buy from the brand not from the supermarket.

It’s important to show the value a customer gets from you, buying direct instead of Amazon.

42:38 - 47:51 -  Brand Awareness as a Challenge - Brand awareness is a massive challenge, for any startup, for any D2C business. It’s expensive, it takes time. If you can get another brand to do that for you, to put you infront of customers, potentially even advertise your brand. Why wouldnt you do that?

48:37 - Who Would Ryan Like to Take For Lunch in the D2C Marketing World?

Someone from Nike would be great, or any other big brands that have really started to lean into D2C having previously been more omnichannel.

50:49 - Ryan’s Must-Have Ecommerce Tools:

If you’d like to hear more from Ryan, you can connect with him on LinkedIn or head over to