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How an Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo, Conditioner Rocketed to the Top of Amazon’s Chart

Online demand has propelled Wow's sales into $1 million per month.

Amazon has put many indie beauty products on the map. Exposure on Amazon in India and more recently in the U.S. has built a brand called Wow into a robust business producing $1 million in sales per month.

That breaks down to 4,000 to 5,000 units per day in India and 1,000 to 1,500 units daily in America. What’s notable, according to one of the company’s founders, Ashwin Sokke, is that listing on Amazon fueled sales on that platform, but had a halo effect on Wow’s own e-commerce site. The other company founders include Arvind Sokke (Ashwin’s brother) and high school friends Karan Chowdhary and Manish Chowdhary.

The quartet launched as a nutrition and dietary supplement brand in India called Fit & Glow Healthcare in 2013. “We weren’t sure how people in India would react to buying online,” Sokke said. They sold out of their initial inventory in two weeks. The demand elicited the interest of Amazon, which at first he feared would be competition. But when the products started climbing in the rankings, Sokke realized the traffic-building power of the online giant. The company re-branded as Wow in 2014.

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Exposure on the online behemoth fueled sales of the company’s store as well as from Amazon. People were researching product information on Amazon, rather than other search engines. “People are just going to Amazon for one stop. Because of this originally, when we weren’t listed on Amazon, people didn’t hear about us as much,” Sokke said.

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With the product moving up the rankings, Amazon nudged Wow to extend beyond supplements into hair care and skin care. Sokke, who calls himself a health nut, was a fan of drinking apple cider vinegar for health reasons. It wasn’t a commonly offered beverage in India so Sokke launched it on Amazon. “Our customers gave us feedback and said, hey, why don’t you make a hair-care product out of it? Many people wash their hair with apple cider vinegar, but we were not aware of it.” The ingredient is said to help unclog hair follicles to reduce hair loss.

Acknowledging that the hair-care market is ultracompetitive, and consumers are fickle, Sokke looked for what could distinguish a new shampoo. “We had to figure out how to make ours stand out from the hundreds on the market ranging in price from $2 a bottle to $10.” Among the strategies beyond the apple cider vinegar, the decision was made to remove silicones and sulfates — a move that wasn’t common at the launch in India.

The launch included an e-mail campaign to all of Wow’s apple cider vinegar beverage enthusiasts. Fueled by that support and word of mouth, Wow’s entry jumped to the number-one-selling shampoo on Amazon in India within 30 days of launch. “That was 26 months ago, and we remain the number-one-selling shampoo, on average on Amazon in India for 26 months straight,” Sokke said. The company broadened its range to about 20 products including hair oil, face wash, eye roll on and aloe vera gel. Wow added retail doors in India for consumers who want to feel and see products.

From there, Wow put the U.S. market on its radar, testing the waters with some of its leading brands, including Wow Apple Cider Vinegar shampoo and conditioner. Again, Amazon drove sales on its own platform and on Wow’s web site, which accounts for 75 percent of sales. The shampoo and conditioner combo are usually in the top three rankings in the category on Amazon.

“We have grown over 300 percent in the U.S. in the last 12 months,” Sokke said.

Although both markets produced similar success, Sokke had to learn small nuances in each. “Basically, most people in India have one type of hair. In America you have to specialize in products for curly or thin hair,” Sokke said, adding those formulas are in the works. Also, he said, color-treated hair formulas are more important in the U.S. where there is a higher incidence of hair dyeing.

Beyond shampoo, a collection of essential oils, is gathering steam in the U.S. market, he said. With the tailwinds from Amazon behind it, Wow is eyeing physical store distribution in the U.S. as well.