Retail

Building A DTC Men’s Personal Care Brand With eCommerce

Huron men's personal care products
Photo Courtesy of Be Huron

To provide men’s personal care items that feel like premium brands at accessible price points, eCommerce innovators are building product lines through the direct-to-consumer (DTC) model. Take Huron, which sells body wash, face lotion and face wash through its website. Founder Matt Mullenax was inspired to start the brand after cutting his teeth in the DTC world as an early employee at Bonobos. He also had firsthand experience with men's personal care products. “I was the kid who grew up with bad skin,” Mullenax told PYMNTS in an interview. He would purchase products at CVS as well as Walgreens and anything that GQ would pump out in their fall favorite guide or recommended products. “And really nothing worked,” Mullenax said.

It wasn’t until Mullenax was in business school that he started to experiment with some more luxury and premium products to which his skin ultimately responded positively. The mission for Huron early on, Mullenax says, was to create “branded assortment of products” that looked, felt, acted and performed like more of the premium players. From there, Mullenax rolled out a survey to approximately 1,500 customers to better understand consumer purchasing behavior. The company asked if the respondents used face wash (as well as what brand) and what price point they felt comfortable paying, among other questions.

The company then rolled all of those data points into a fake brand. It built and launched a website while disabling the cart and running social media campaigns all over the Midwest. The company had upwards of 50 or 60 different product pages to understand what was working on the social side of the equation. (In other words, it was seeking to find what was inspiring consumers to click through to the site as well as the customer journey once he or she got there.) The company had hundreds of attempted transactions, which Mullenax said was “super exciting.”

And 52 percent of consumers who clicked through the site were female. An early script emerged of her buying for him emerged, whether that is a wife, girlfriend, sister or another woman in a man’s life. As a result, the company had to create an excellent brand that resonated with her. (The company learned that was because often a woman is the buyer in a household.) When it comes to eCommerce, the company tries to build as many touchpoints as possible through its site. At various points, consumers can make a purchase a la carte or through a subscription.

The Products

The company also sells men’s personal care products individually (body wash, face lotion, face wash) or through kits (the on the go kit and the big 3 kit.) Mullenax says that one learning is how many customers are interested in buying a kit. The company accepts credit card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay and PayPal for payments. “We want this checkout to be seamless," as well as easy and multifaceted, Mullenax said. The lion’s share of customers still pay with credit, but he believes that the optionality of having many different choices has been to the company’s benefit. When it comes to the company’s products, Huron takes a ground-up approach.

One can start with a premium high-function product and maybe strip out a lot of the ingredients to ultimately lower the cost basis. The company, however, began by thinking how it wants the customer to feel and look after using its products and built the functionality from there. With the company’s body wash, for instance, it wanted the skin to feel moisturized and wanted the product to have the capability to deodorize as well as have a natural lather. Overall, it continued to opt into the better ingredient pathway when it could while still maintaining an attractive cost profile to the consumer.

For the face wash, Huron tested upwards of 25 or 30 different exfoliants because it wanted something that deeply cleanses and is proven to do a good job but is not harsh. The company tested them extensively with consumers and continually collecting feedback. (It ultimately settled on crushed bamboo.)  When it comes to funding, the company recently closed a $1 million seed capital round. And, beyond eCommerce, the company is in a few retail stores: One is Fourpost in Minneapolis in the Mall of America.

With a direct-to-consumer business model and carefully formulated items, online brands are aiming to connect consumers with men’s person care products through the web.

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