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SJ Summit Preview: Rhone Co-Founder Kyle McClure on Why Consumer Insights Are Critical in the Emerging DTC Landscape

The direct-to-consumer model has re-energized the modern retail landscape, and has the potential to completely revamp the way consumers shop.

For men’s performance lifestyle company, Rhone, quality has always trumped quantity when it comes to product assortment. The startup, which targets an athletically-inclined set of style-conscious male consumers, touts practical technologies that promote cooling and odor control, as well as versatile designs equally appropriate for casual Fridays at the office or a weekend hike.

DTC brands boast manifold attractive innovations, but how has this subset of retail players managed to eschew traditional channels and reach consumers so effectively?

Upstart companies with small quantities, limited assortments and sometimes little industry know-how are not only pulling it off, but threatening to dethrone the industry’s reigning power players. For Kyle McClure, former NCAA lacrosse player and one of Rhone’s four founders, industry know-how has proven overrated.

McClure will join a panel of entrepreneurs at the Sourcing Summit New York on Oct. 17 to discuss what really makes the DTC model work. In a look at what’s ahead for the Summit, Sourcing Journal caught up with McClure to find out what DTCs’ competitors need to learn, and what it will take for them to secure longevity.

In lobbying for men’s wallet share, the chief product officer has stressed that building brand equity through clear, consistent messaging and consumer targeting is paramount to striking gold in the DTC era.

When asked about the importance of targeting a niche market in a sea of competitors, McClure is resolute. “A clearly defined and distilled thesis focused on what you’re about, what you’re intending to accomplish and who your customer is is crucial,” he told Sourcing Journal. Most retail brands—and DTCs especially—have come to rely heavily on data and machine learning to inform insights that help hone product strategy and consumer targeting efforts.

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“I believe that without those parameters, your product is going to show up as undefined and lacking cohesiveness to consumers. For us at Rhone, focusing on the men’s market at a premium price point and clearly identifying the partners we wanted to align ourselves with was essential,” he said. “If for nothing else, it maintains focus.”

McClure also believes in exploring different types of sourcing opportunities, and forming relationships with traditional players if and when those avenues prove beneficial.

“We’ve investigated innumerable opportunities both with ‘traditional’ sourcing companies and our own hunter-gatherer approach, and are very pleased with where we are headed and the relationships we’ve built with our partners,” he said.

Most important to Rhone’s sourcing efforts is the quest for quality, McClure assured. That, and a dependable product that men can return to time and time again. “Men want quality and consistency, and that’s something we have and always will prioritize at Rhone,” he said.

Hear McClure speak on the Sourcing Summit New York panel, “What You Don’t Know About How DTC Brands Are Doing What They’re Doing.” Visit our event page for more info and to buy tickets.