A succesfull start-up on Shopify: about NUUD and Code by Linda Bleijenberg
“That Michael Dubin video! Yes, that was certainly a source of inspiration for Nuud, from the start. It’s been bought by Unilever now, his Dollar Shave Club. Which goes to show just how succesful this kind of webshop is now. The big players also want a share in the direct-to-consumer market, and with good reason.”
What kind of webshops are we talking about here, exactly? Dubin’s Dollar Shave Club is a good example, but Dutch newcomer Nuud also ticks off quite a few characteristics. At Code we expect this trend to become even bigger, so we thought we’d write a blog about it. What do successful webshops such as Dollar Shave Club and Nuud have in common?
Seeing and grabbing an opportunity
It often starts with a chance meeting. Dubin was at a party talking with someone with a warehouse full of cheap razor blades; Martijn van Seters stumbled on a formula for a deodorant using microsilver instead of the traditional aluminum. Both weren’t entrepreneurs at the time, but had been nurturing that ambition for a while. Dubin worked in marketing, van Seters at an international wholesale bank – but they kept their eyes and ears open for something more interesting. When they saw their chance they simply went with it.
His opportunity came when he talked with one of his father’s longtime suppliers. “It turned out he owned a deodorant formula that was incredibly effective, but he hadn’t yet built a brand around it or done any marketing. He agreed to sell it to me, so I went looking for possible partners to set this up properly, once and for all. By now it looks like I was right in suspecting that the formula had potential!”
I had had the ambition to start my own company for quite a while, because I wanted to have a bit more impact than my job permitted back then. And it felt logical to stay close to home. My family has been in the personal grooming business for generations, so I knew that market quite well. I noticed a major shift going on there: small start-ups offering unusual product propositions were rapidly gaining market share.
It’s all about your story
Both Dubin and van Seters started with a single product. And not only that: also a product that was available in every supermarket already. How do you make sure people are going to order such a product online? That’s where the story behind your product is crucial.
Dubin launched his razor blades with a single well-timed, perfectly executed video (see above), in which he juxtaposes his simple blades with the overpriced, way too advanced blades available at the drugstore. And, he wonders, why can’t they just be delivered at your doorstep every month?
For Nuud it was all about the microsilver formula, which enabled an entirely new deodorant-experience. No spraying or rolling several times a day, but applying a tiny bit of cream under your armpits every three to seven (!) days. No giant spray can, but a tiny little tube. The whole production process as sustainable as possible, from the ingredients to the tube made of sugarcane. And most of all: no more sweaty odours!
OK, so you’ve got a brilliant product that really works: but how do you attract your first customers? For Dubin his video was sufficient to reach a large group of American consumers; for Nuud, Facebook advertising turned out to be the key. Martijn: “The first month we promoted Nuud mainly among friends and relatives. But as of October 2017 one of our shareholders, who happens to be really good at performance marketing, unleashed a series of continually optimized Facebook ads. That was very succesful, and it still is.”
Naturally these ads also benefit from the appealing story we talked about earlier. Nuud’s story is a hit with consumers because it is really novel, and caters to a real need. By now the product sells itself. The many jubilant reviews on the site clearly show that word-of-mouth marketing is the biggest motor behind Nuud’s sales.
Smart business model
And then there is the direct-to-consumer phenomenon. This is what every entrepreneur wants: as few middlemen as possible. Not only do they skim off a percentage of your profits, they also prevent you from getting to know your customers. Webshops are in a unique position to avoid those layers in between. If they have a strong story they stand out, and are able to bond with consumers much better than existing companies.
This is further enhanced by a recent trend in eCommerce: turning customers into subscribers. Razor blades and deodorant are typically products that need regular replacement. Webshops such as Nuud and Dollar Shave Club see this as an opportunity to enter into a longlasting relationship with their customers. Instead of selling them a product once, they continuously solve a recurring problem for them.
As such, location becomes less and less important, because a webshop is accessible anywhere in the world, at any given moment. This makes scaling a webshop a feasible option. If you’re not bound to a physical store, the whole world is a potential customer. The Dollar Shave Club is a prime example of how fast these things can go: within a few years Dubin’s webshop became a player to reckon with, in a market where competitor Gillette had been calling the shots for a long time.
At Code, too, we frequently help clients to scale and go abroad: Veloretti (of the trendy city bikes) and Mr. Marvis (selling the perfect shorts) are good examples of Netherlands-based shops which quickly and succesfully expanded their sales market. For Nuud this wasn’t necessary, because they targeted an international audience from the start. About 25% of their deodorants stays in The Netherlands, the rest goes across the border: mostly to the UK, where Nuud has a growing customer base.
In manuals for start-ups it is often said you shouldn’t pay too much attention to the software in the beginning, and how it’s better to go with a quick, temporary solution to test if there is a market for your product. That is exactly what Nuud did in their first year. Van Seters: “At the launch in september 2017 our webshop ran on WooCommerce. A few months later we heard that Veloretti had moved to Shopify. We wanted that too! Shopify performs much better in terms of e.g. loading speed: super important for our store.”
They got in touch with Code for the migration. “ In the Netherlands Code is the go-to agency when you need an ambitious Shopify webshop. Their positive reviews were also promising.” Code moved the data from the old webshop to Shopify in no-time, added a slick-looking custom theme, and a bunch of apps – among them ReCharge, a superapp for subscription webshops – to take the site’s performance to the next level.
In addition to the migration Nuud commissioned a connector to their fulfilment partner Nic.Oud. This turned out to be a bit more challenging than expected, causing the launch to be delayed a little. Even so, the site went live within four months total!
Just wait for your chance encounter; make sure you have a good story; and off you go with smart marketing, business plans and software. This is in a nutshell the formula behind the success of Dollar Shave Club and Nuud. And behind Veloretti and Mr. Marvis. And perhaps behind your future webshop? At Code we’d say: go for it!
Have you got ambitions for your start-up? We’d love to supply you with the smart software that allows you to grow fast: Shopify of course. Wanna have a chat? Call or email us, or stop by in Delft or Amsterdam!