The storefront for Dirty Lemon's new store concept.

Conversational commerce has a new store experience via Dirty Lemon, where the physical space essentially is a walk-in vending machine.

The functional beverage brand on Wednesday opened a new retail concept in TriBeCa at 293 Church Street called The Drug Store. The company is believed to be the first consumer brand to sell products exclusively via a text message, and now it has taken that concept and expanded it into a brick-and-mortar setting. Dirty Lemon said the SMS-based text-to-order system enables a “seamless communication” with customers, while at the same time providing the company with instantaneous insight into purchasing behavior trends.

The TriBeCa store, open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., is more than 1,000 square feet. Beyond the open “vending” space will be a private bar experience that’s curated for the brand’s VIP customers, or those who buy at least one case a month. A case contains six bottles and costs $45, a savings of $20 for a one-time purchase. The private space will be opened later this year.

In the new space, customers walk into the store, take a product from the fridge and send a text message to Dirty Lemon. The beverage firm’s 24-hour customer service team charges the credit card linked to the customer’s mobile number, and then texts back a confirmation of the sale. New customers will be asked to set up an account. The company said there will be no one on-site to monitor the space or assist customers.

Zak Normandin, Dirty Lemon’s chief executive officer, said, “We’re moving beyond experiential marketing and into experimental — this type of engagement enables the convenience customers have come to expect from our brand.”

Conversational commerce has even gotten the attention of Walmart Inc., which in May unveiled its first incubated company, Jetblack. The business is cofounded by Marc Lore, the founder of Jet.com, which was acquired by the mass discounter, and Jenny Fleiss, who cofounded Rent the Runway. Jetblack’s basic premise of “need it, text it, get it” starts with a text message on one’s smartphone.

Dirty Lemon plans to send a text message to its more than 25,000 customers inviting them to the store and offering their first bottle for free. The store will also serve as the test site for product launches, with the new turmeric drink slated for later this month. There are currently eight options. One drink is formulated to trigger new collagen production, while another contains amino acids and antioxidants to elevate metabolism. Each bottle is under 15 calories and there are no added sugars or sweeteners. The one gram of sugar in each bottle is from the lemon juice that’s part of the drink.

According to Normandin, the company already tested the concept last year when it opened a three-month pop-up at a smaller site, also in TriBeCa.

Dirty Lemon acquired Poncho, a conversational weather platform, earlier this year. Normandin would only say that the company is considering ways to incorporate it into its own conversational platform to build out its brand community and customer engagement features. There have been rumblings in the marketplace that Dirty Lemon is on the hunt for more acquisitions, and some believe that a deal might be announced shortly. Normandin declined comment.

The company began in 2015 as a response to the consumer beverage space around juice cleansing products.

“What we wanted to do was create a beverage brand where the first focus was on detoxing….Consumers don’t have to take powders or pills and can consume [what they need] in a single product. The brand [now] is more about convenient access to functional ingredients than it is about cleansing and detoxing,” the ceo said.

The majority of its consumers, or 80 percent, are female, and 25 to 45 percent have “high discretionary income.” Normandin said the brand’s consumer base are individuals “who care about wellness, beauty and what they put into their bodies.”

Dirty Lemon is said to be working on a seed-round raise, Normandin declined comment on who are its investors and how the company is funded. Venture capital firm GGV Capital is one of the brand’s early investors. GGV arranged for attendees to sample the brand at its investor program in June.

 

Dirty Lemon says the SMS-based text-to-order system enables a “seamless communication” with customers.  Courtesy Photo

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