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Michelle Bitran
Blog Manager @ Yotpo
June 27th, 2018

How MVMT Cracked the Code on Direct-to-Consumer Growth

MVMT reveals what it takes to become a must-have Millennial brand.

Table Of Contents

With more than 1.5 million people across 160 countries sporting their sleek watches, MVMT has become a timepiece empire for the fashion-forward and price-conscious. The brand, designed for and by Millennials, is driven by the vision of a life well-lived.

Founders Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante dropped out of college to start MVMT in 2013, launching an Indiegogo campaign to get their new business off the ground. They took a bet on a trend they noticed among their peers: a desire for a good-looking timepiece that could complete an outfit without dipping into vacation savings.

MVMT cut out the middleman, selling chic designs directly to consumers for under $200. With their value prop firmly in place, they pursued a social-first growth strategy, spurring a wave of “Instagram brands.” Their own account has 1 million followers, a razor sharp aesthetic, and enough wanderlust-inducing photos to keep anyone scrolling for hours.

mvmt direct to consumer

MVMT’s viral success has since prompted them to expand into a full-fledged accessories line, selling sunglasses and bracelets alongside their classic watches. Boasting upwards of $60 million in revenue and two spots on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List, the landmark Millennial brand is now focused on reaching new markets and maximizing their social reach with influencer collaborations.

With every upstart direct-to-consumer brand looking their way for inspiration, we sat down with MVMT’s Director of eCommerce, Alicia Radabaugh, and eCommerce Coordinator Sarah Tuffey to get answers to your most pressing questions about building and growing a killer brand.

The recipe for building an authentic brand

Q: What differentiates MVMT as a brand?

Alicia: I think what makes us really special is the energy behind everything we do: how we create products, how we bring them to life, who we partner with. The DNA of our brand is inspirational and aspirational. It’s about living life on your own terms, choosing to spend your money on experiences in life rather than on a $600-dollar watch or accessory. Instead, we provide those accessories at an affordable price point so you can look great.

Q: What are your tips for building brand devotion?

Alicia: It’s really about defining your brand and keeping your product in line with that original definition. Your diehards are going to be there from the beginning and they’re going to be the best free marketing you’re going to have — all the word-of-mouth in the world. It really comes from the early adapters — so you have to keep them with you for the journey.

Q: What did you learn as you expanded your brand to a wider audience?

Alicia: It was really about supporting all the sales and growth we were seeing early on. Choosing to partner with Shopify, choosing all the apps, building that infrastructure to support all the marketing we were doing. We also scaled different marketing channels and fine-tuned how to communicate the brand and our reason for existing outside of just imagery.

Optimizing conversion on site & off

Q: What steps did you take to sell something online that’s traditionally bought in a store?

Sarah: It differs across categories, but having relevant product information on the product pages is key. We use a lot of lifestyle imagery for all of our products, but I think it’s especially important for sunglasses because they’re hard to purchase when you don’t have the ability to try them on. So, we try to give lots of imagery with different face sizes and shapes, so that our customer can really picture the product on them.

mvmt direct to consumer

Q: What methods do you use to maximize reviews and drive more eCommerce sales?

Sarah: I know that I’m always looking at product reviews before I purchase something online, I think they’re really beneficial. Somebody who has held the product, worn the product — they can give you a little bit more insight than the brand does.

I also think that the mail after purchase email is really important. We’re currently working with the professional services team at Yotpo on launching the design for our new mail after purchase email. I think it’s really important to get that engagement back after somebody’s purchased.

Along with that, we’ve really just started to dig into the new Insights platform that Yotpo provides, so that we can get a high-level look at all of the feedback we’re getting from our customers to see what we can do better or change.

Q: What’s your take on multi-channel selling?

Alicia: We relaunched on Amazon about 2-3 weeks ago.We were there couple of years ago and then we decided to really focus on the direct business. I think multi-channel makes sense as long as you can measure and control it. We look at it as an additional channel, and all channels have their own metrics and costs associated with them. You have to consider what’s the bottom line per channel and how profitable they are.

Amazon is a beast — something like half of all US households have Prime. We look at it as a new kind of marketing channel, because we’ll probably get more exposure there from people who might not take a second look on Facebook, or people who we might not be targeting.

But you don’t want to be too broad. You have to be really careful with your assortment strategy to make sure you’re not damaging any part of your business. Supplementing the site and the direct business is safe, as long as you’re keeping an eye on it.

Marketing and international growth

Q: What are the marketing channels that helped you grow to millions of visitors to your site?

Alicia: I think at first it was Facebook — our content and posts on social. People shared and we had that word-of-mouth on the ground. The site needed to be set up and in a good spot and then we ramped up Facebook and got some good traction there. I feel that really started everything. And then you build and learn from there.

We also expanded into technical influencer marketing and, last season, we tested TV and podcasts — we’re trying to go more multi-media to reach that audience.

Q: How did MVMT become a global brand and how did you calibrate the business to support that?

Alicia: Since we marketed on Facebook right from the start, there was crazy demand. Our international business has been roughly half the business since we’ve been in existence. For a while, we weren’t really servicing those customers in any different way. It’s really tough when you have a lean team. You can set up distribution, you can offer the option to ship, but customers may be waiting up to a month to receive their products.

Last year, we started by localizing the site, so that our international customers can shop in their local currencies and use additional alternative payment methods that may be more common in their region. We also worked on logistics, so we’ve shaved about a week or two off of our ship time for most markets. There’s definitely a lot more room for optimization, but that was really the first step: improving the service and the experience. My next big project is how do we take it to the next level and make sure that we are addressing the more specific market needs a little bit more.

Q: What are some of the differences between paid and social strategies in the US vs. abroad?

Alicia: Right now, not too different to be honest. What I’ve seen and heard is that people see us on Facebook, especially internationally, and then it’s just word-of-mouth.

Q: How do you handle competition?

Alicia: There’s definitely more luxury brands that are trying to get into the fashion side of what we’re doing. There’s also a lot of people starting their own watch brands now. I think when [MVMT founders] Jake and Kramer started, it was a new concept and people weren’t really marketing that product in that way.

I think it really goes back to the brand and how you differentiate yourselves. We’re constantly innovating, thinking about different ways to connect to our customers, we’re not just an ad that they see on Facebook. And I think we have the power and brand integrity to do that, which is really important. People come to us because they love the inspirational and aspirational side of the brand and that’s not going to change.

The winning influencer strategy

Q: You just launched a collaboration with influencer Sam Kolder. Tell me a bit about that.

Sarah: The collaboration sold out in a record 24 hours. We launched a men’s watch and a women’s watch that are really inspired by him and his travels. He’s someone who has been really inspirational for us and I think our followers agree. The watch came from color schemes of the sunset and the water, based on Sam’s travel images. The collaboration is about living life on your own terms, which is one of Sam’s favorite quotes.

Alicia: He’s someone that we really look to and source a lot of inspiration from because of his backstory. One of the taglines for the collaboration was “time, the greatest asset.” That’s what he believes and it obviously aligns with what we believe, as well as with the product that we created with him.

mvmt direct to consumer

Q: How do you find social media influencers?

Alicia: We get our hands dirty and search for people who are up-and-coming, people who we think might align with the brand, and we have a conversation with them. You have to find influencers that make sense for your brand and your product. And for us, one of the core values is authenticity. I think that consumers are starting to see the over-saturation in the influencer world and all the ads — they’re starting to disregard it.

Q:What do you see as the next big shift in influencer marketing?

Sarah: I think it’s more and more about making people believe that you are really backing the brand, that you’re not just being paid to do so.

Alicia: I think the ROI for really high-level influencers is probably just not there anymore, and then on top of that, there’s over-saturation. We want the people who are more mid-tier, who don’t have a really big following, but do have a more authentic following.

For more Q&A with MVMT, check out the full recording of our AMA below:

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