Do one thing, and do it well.
This advice is a little clichéd, but like most clichés, it has some truth to it — especially in business.
Andie Swim has taken that maxim to heart, and is keeping things super simple by selling one fantastic product. The brand offers classic, luxury one-piece bathing suits for women, in just 3 simple styles. And that’s it!
You might imagine that selling only one type of product is limiting for the brand, but it’s actually the opposite, according to Melanie Travis, the CEO and Founder of Andie Swim. Melanie has a background in tech and startups, having worked at FourSquare, the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, and Barkbox, the monthly toy and treat subscription for dogs, before coming up with the idea for Andie.
The company is just one year old, but has already made a huge splash and raised a seed round of funding in the process. But it all started the way these things usually do — with a smart founder noticing a particular and annoying gap in the market.
In this interview with The Empowered Marketer, Melanie shares:
- The importance of offering a narrow product selection to start
- Why startup ecommerce brands need a solid PR strategy
- How to engage your target audience on their preferred channels
- …and much more.
LISTEN TO EPISODE 10: THE EMPOWERED MARKETER
READ THE INTERVIEW
1. How did you come up with the idea for Andie Swim? What inspired you to build the company?
One summer at BarkBox, we were going on a work retreat to a lake and I didn’t have a one piece. I went out to find a one-piece swimsuit and really struggled. What I was finding was either super matronly, or had holes and cutouts, or emoji stamps. I didn’t understand why it was so hard to find just a sleek, timeless, work appropriate, but still youthful, one piece.
That’s when I decided to start a one-piece swimwear company. I actually ran a crowdfunding campaign for Andie in the first iteration, back when I was still at BarkBox in November 2016, and it went really well. We sold over 200 suits in two weeks on the idea of this business, and that’s when I knew this had legs. So, then I left BarkBox to start Andie.
2. Why did you decide to focus on such a singular product and not make hundreds of bathing suits or go all over the place like some other brands?
The one-piece was really the personal problem that I had, and when I looked at the market dynamics, I found that while two pieces are the vast majority of the swim category, one-pieces are the fastest growing category within it. You probably saw this summer, women everywhere were wearing one pieces. So, it both resonated personally and I felt that timing was right.
Given how traditional fashion companies work on such a long calendar, they can’t necessarily react to things that are changing as fast as an ecommerce company can. We decided to do it and they were out on our website. Generally, my hypothesis around ecommerce is that it’s better to be deep and narrow, rather than broad and shallow. If you’re broad, you set yourself up to compete with an Amazon, whereas if you go just deep and narrow and curated, then you’re providing a different value proposition.
3. Tell me a little bit about your target audience. Who are they? Is it hard to engage them?
Our target demographic is women, maybe, 25 to 45. That’s sort of the sweet spot. We do appeal to both younger and older women, but since we use a lot of digital customer acquisition techniques, we can actually really narrow in.
We started broad — saying this is by women, for women. And then, by advertising on digital channels, we collected a lot of data and we found that our best customer happens to be about 25 to 45 and lives in urban areas. We call them life builders. They’re building their lives and they’re maybe managers somewhere. They haven’t reached their peak goals yet, but they’re on their way. That’s both our target demographic and actually our best customer.
4. what is your most successful acquisition channel, right now? Has it changed over time? And, why do you think that’s working so well?
Our best acquisition channel is Instagram, by a long shot. Our buyer is definitely on Instagram. It’s visual, it’s a little emotional, and our buyer is a woman in her 30s and is definitely on Instagram. And that’s followed by Facebook, and then we’ve done a little bit of playing with Pinterest and Google search, which I think are good for brand building. But when we’re talking direct customer acquisition — just the least amount of dollars needed to acquire a customer — Instagram is, by far, our best.
We’re a lifestyle brand. You wear a swimsuit when you’re on a vacation or a holiday of some sort, and that lends itself to nice photography, whether you are at the beach in Fiji, or Martha’s Vineyard, or down in Miami. We have a lot of our customers taking photos of themselves in their Andie wherever, having these amazing experiences. Oftentimes, we’ll ask permission to use their photo for our own channel.
It’s so fun, and I think you look at Andie’s Instagram and it gives you a little bit of FOMO. You want to go there; you want to be there. Then, it’s not too far of a leap to purchase the swimsuit that the woman is wearing. We do so many creative shoots — video shoots, photo shoots — it’s such a visual brand and it’s just all about experiences. So, I think for all of those reasons, on Instagram, it’s just a perfect marriage.
5. Why did you focus on at-home try on? Why is that so important to the brand?
Home try-on, to us, is really important because swim is such a personal item. In many cases, it’s the most naked a woman will ever be in public. And so, she wants to make sure that her swimsuit fits right, feels good, and she feels really confident in it. The fit doesn’t matter so much if it’s a t-shirt, for example. A swimsuit is just a completely different type of object.
We wanted to make sure that women could feel really confident and absolutely love their swimsuit. And because we invest in high quality fabric and we manufacture at top facilities, it’s timeless, too. We don’t happen to do emoji stamped pieces, so you can buy any Andie and wear it for many, many seasons to come.
I don’t have the stats off the top of my head, but I would guess that within fashion, other categories have moved to ecommerce faster than swim. Swim has only a 14% ecommerce penetration. I think that’s because women have hesitated to buy such an important piece with fit online, when they can’t try it on. And so, they still subject themselves to this terrible in-store experience.
For Andie, the first fundamental thing was that it has to be a try-at-home. If you don’t love it, you send it back. We don’t charge anything for that. And, we have a team of fit experts on the phone and via email that can help talk women through what they’re loving, what they’re not loving, and make sure it’s right for them.
6. How do you think about customer loyalty? Especially, with such a specific product, do customers have a tendency to buy just one and then move on? How do you encourage multiple purchases?
We spend a lot of time thinking about how to increase our lifetime value of a customer (LTV). We launched with a very, very limited and curated capsule of three different styles for a variety of reasons. Logistically, with the home try-on, it made it more manageable. And as a new company, we didn’t want to over-invest in product and SKUs before we really knew what women were looking for.
But that means women weren’t really coming back for more swimsuits. When you have three styles, we were very lucky that many women would buy all of them and just have the whole kit and keep it. But, now that we’re one year old as a company, we’re shifting our focus to think about, “How do we bring women back?” Obviously, one of the things that we will be doing is introducing more styles and a more regular cadence.
Given that swim fit is so important, I do believe that once a woman finds her fit with Andie, and loves Andie, she’ll keep coming back for those fresh styles that we offer. The average American woman has six to eight swimsuits in her swim drawer. That’s a lot, so there’s plenty of room to keep coming back and then retire some old pieces and get some more. We’re only a year old and so there’s still so much room to grow. I’m incredibly excited. I see a future where Andie is every woman’s go-to brand when they’re looking for a swimsuit.