SmileDirectClub: Is it the end of DTC Era?
SmileDirectClub has failed to provide value for customers beyond the purchase transaction. The quality problems and bad customer experience set new standards in the clear aligner space – speaking sarcastically, of course. Not just that, how the company’s legal team coerced patients into signing NDAs as a perquisite to give money back only left poor taste in the consumer’s mouth, further negatively impacting the brand’s customer referral-rates, indirectly contributing to the rising disparity between the customer acquisition cost (CAC) and lifetime value (LTV).
It’s obvious that selling cheaper aligners was not enough to build customer loyalty. In fact, pricing alone did not earn a long-term or even a strong referral affinity – clearly failing to build an intimate connection with the consumers. While the company has taken steps to improve its Quality issues and the customer journey, however it all came too late and too little.
FY 2022 an analysis of SDC’s market share stability revealed that:
SDC continues to lose its market share in the clear aligner space and may have to settle for being a niche player, should the company not go out of business in upcoming years.
SDC needs to acknowledge that the company’s customer acquisition cost is just too HIGH. Not just that, the company’s marketing spend is not employed to ‘grow’ the business, but rather spent on sustaining the next quarter.
Unlike other players (like Candid), SDC has failed to acknowledge that it needs to completely overhaul its go-to market and commercial model. H1’22 Candid announced that it will be exiting the DTC category completely and will be re-positioning itself as a white-label or OEM manufacturer.
FY22 SDC spent approx. USD 290 million in marketing while its revenue dropped almost 25% YoY, significantly underperforming its peer group.
The company lacks a clear path to profitability. And to make matters worse, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for SDC.
If it was true three years ago that SDC could not compete against Invisalign, it is even truer today especially as the list of competitors has only grown longer in recent years.