When Lindsay McCormick launched her plastic-free toothpaste company, Bite, 5 years ago, it was an entirely online business. But like many direct-to-consumer companies which debuted online, Bite is making inroads into physical retail.
“Fewer people are shopping online right now than they were during COVID,” she told “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal. “And also there have been substantial changes when it comes to being able to target your customers.”
Last year, Apple introduced a modification of its mobile operating system, requiring apps to ask users for permission before tracking their web activities. This has reduced the effectiveness of targeted ads on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
“Before iOS 14, it was kind of like, you put $5 in the Facebook machine, you get $10,” McCormick said. “Being a small brand, [that] was awesome – we were able to grow really fast – but also really scary because if these brands had more money than us, they might just put more money into Facebook ads and kick our ass.
Now, the cost of acquiring a customer through targeted advertising is much higher. “And it’s a lot harder,” McCormick said. “But we’re able to grow through word of mouth, working with influencers, going into retail, getting really scrappy, and doing other things that other brands aren’t doing.”
Currently, Bite’s products are sold online and in a few specialty retail stores. McCormick said she hopes to reach more stores next year.
But adapting an e-commerce product for physical commerce is not as simple as putting a box on a shelf. “It basically changes the DNA of your business,” she said.
At a WeWork conference room in Culver City, Calif., where McCormick and three of her employees were preparing about 300 units of Bite’s plastic-free deodorant for store shelves, she showed Ryssdal the plain white packaging Bite uses to online orders.
“It’s so boring,” Ryssdal noted.
“[That’s] because this customer is already fully educated, they know what this product is, they ordered it online,” McCormick said. In retail, “we had to make sure we got their attention,” she said.
“We went to stores to see what color all the cartridges in the unit were, we went through photos, we did mockups,” said Heather Sison, Bite’s creative director. In the end, the team landed on three-color boxes that McCormick described as “trendy.”
She showed Ryssdal a mockup package with a photo of Bite’s foil deodorant case taped to it. “Our next job is to hopefully get [shoppers’] enough attention to pick it up, then flip it on its back and find out what it is.
As Bite strives to expand its business footprint, McCormick said the unknowns are “very scary.” She told Ryssdal: “I really think – and all of our numbers show that – that it will be a net positive for our business… but you never know 100% until you do it.
There’s a lot going on in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is there for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down world events and tell you how it affects you in a factual and accessible way. We count on your financial support to continue to make this possible.
Your donation today fuels the independent journalism you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help maintain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.