Zak Normandin has some ideas about the future of commerce.
The founder and chief executive officer of Iris Nova is building his portfolio of wellness beverage brands outside the constraints of traditional retail.
For starters, there’s c-commerce — or, conversational commerce, which Normandin predicts will someday replace e-commerce as the platform of choice on which consumers will prefer to buy products from brands they love. Iris Nova’s direct-to-consumer collagen water brand Dirty Lemon counts over 90 percent of its sales as happening over SMS, on a proprietary tech platform that allows consumers to order and reorder beverages directly from the brand over text.
“We knew that if we were going direct-to-consumer we’d need a technology component that would allow consumers to place orders for product, but also to reorder at any time,” said Normandin, of the brand’s 2015 launch. “That’s something traditional e-commerce infrastructure didn’t allow for.”
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Thanks to on-demand delivery apps such as Postmates and services such as Amazon Prime Now, consumers have become used to instant gratification when it comes to purchases, said Normandin — and he doesn’t think that is going away. “We’re pairing this idea of being able to get things when you want them with the intimacy of communication through a channel typically reserved for friends and family. We’re connecting with consumers in a way that is providing them a more elevated experience than what they’d find in grocery stores, but more importantly we’re getting new product to consumers very fast.”
Selling via SMS is just part of Dirty Lemon’s strategy. Citing the rising costs of customer acquisition of Amazon, Normandin has turned to brick-and-mortar to spark consumer interest in the brand. Iris Nova’s retail concept, The Drug Store, recently opened in TriBeCa and another location is set for Hudson Yards. At The Drug Store, one won’t find staff — instead, there’s a cooler stacked with some 1,000 Dirty Lemon drinks. Customers are encouraged to take one and text the brand what they took. It’s been going well so far, said Normandin. “We move a lot of product through the fridge,” he said.
A new concept is set to open in the back of The Drug Store — a cocktail bar for recipe testing, which will come in handy as Dirty Lemon rolls out its intended one new product every 30 days in 2019, and Iris Nova rolls out two more brands this year. “If we’re testing two flavor profiles — blackberry and raspberry — and most report they prefer blackberry, there’s a 90 percent chance that will do better at a national scale.”
Normandin described his strategy for Iris Nova as “taking a step back from depending on traditional retail.” “While most brands are constrained by shelf space, we’re operating on a virtual shelf — we can launch dozens of beverages and cater the products we’re launching to specific consumers.”