When you think about sunglasses, most think about how crowded the industry is. In 2012 though, as a San Diego State University graduate, Chase Fisher saw a gap in the market.
The idea all started while buying a $5 pair of shades to see one of Chase’s favorite DJs. Chase realized there were expensive sunglasses like Oakley and cheap shades on the other end, but there wasn’t much in between.
With a concept to build a brand around the action sports lifestyle in San Diego, Chase borrowed $2,000 from his roommate and launched Blenders, selling vibrant shades prices from $20-65. In between his time teaching surf lessons, he would sell shades out of his backpack.
To scale, he realized he needed to focus on brand building so started to channel his efforts to social media. Without money to spend on ads, Chase launched Blenders on Indiegogo, raising $7,000.
With this initial money, they began to fulfill more orders and focus on community building.
Content is King
If you’ve ever looked at Blender’s Instagram, you know content is a key to their brand. Every one of their posts fits a certain vibe and mantra. With that said, it didn’t always look like that.
In the early days, Chase and his team used to send Blenders to Instameets, where Instagrammers would meet up at a certain spot to shoot photos and videos together. This helped them increase their network of photographers to get photos of their products for free.
They then took this to the next level by finding brands that targetted a similar demographic with different products to collaborate with. Together, these brands would host giveaways on social media, boosting each other’s social media reach.
The rules of the giveaway were typically to tag a friend or two in the comments to win a pair of Blenders and another product from a company they had partnered with.
This win-win strategy helped Blenders get to where it’s at today: over $42m in sales!
Customer Experience Wins
A customer-first strategy has been a key to Blender’s success. When they made the decision to extend their line of sunglasses to snow goggles, this was largely in part because customers wanted to rock a Blender’s style in the snow.
This customer centric approach has fueled Blenders to really focus on getting customer reviews, star ratings, and comments from their customers. Many of these reviews are used in advertisements and ads with a review in it saw a 38% lower cost per acquisition and 62% higher return on ad spend.
Each product listing on their website also has reviews below it to further incentivize a conversion. These reviews are powered by a tool called Yopto.
In 2017, Blenders really started to take the Black Friday, Cyber Monday holiday push seriously. This fueled 10x growth compared to their last holiday shopping season. So what was their strategy?
They used a mixture of email and social marketing, teasing a major sale that was going to be huge. Ten days before Black Friday, posts across social media started to prime their followers for what was to come.
Each day that the sale got closer, more hype was generated and then when Friday hit, BOOM! Emails were sent announcing 40% off snow goggles nad 55% off sunglasses.
Blenders sent seven holiday emails for Black Friday Cyber Monday. Klaviyo powered these emails to ensure a smooth send and social spending was ramped up to retarget these potential customers. Since Blenders knows it’s target demographic, they become very detailed with ad targeting:
- 66% of spend was on 25-to-44-year-olds
- 58% of spend was on females
- 42% of spend was on males
As Chase said, “We were able to spend 7-9X our typical week on Facebook and Instagram at a better cost per acquisition and ROAS. New audiences accounted for 82% of spend. And in just seven days, our customer base grew by 13%.”
The Secret Sauce
With this rapid growth (900% in Q1 2018), Blenders needed a back end to ensure its whole ecosystem ran smoothly. Powered by Shopify Plus, they are able to rely on a scalable infrastructure.
To fulfill their orders, Blenders uses a third party logistics provider called Saddle Creek Logistics. This means they don’t have to ship each one of their online orders out themselves.
Their sunglasses come from their factories in China via a ocean container and are sent directly to this third-party logistics center to warehouse and then fulfill each order as it comes in from their ecommerce and retail stores.
For the rapid growth of any ecommerce brand, having a reliable back end is a key to enabling growth.
Their Next Steps
The brand recently sold 70% of their company to Safilo Group for $90m, congratulations! Safilo Group is a publicly-traded sunglasses company that runs major brands like Carrera, Smith, Polaroid, and more. They plan to utilize Blenders to accelerate their ecommerce and omnichannel strategy, leveraging the digital DNA that Blenders has built.
For a bootstrapped brand, this is a huge win and means a lot for other ecommerce brands! Just like the Pura Vida story, it’s incredible to see what these San Diego based ecommerce founders have achieved through building a strong brand.