When Zak Normandin set out to create Dirty Lemon, the wellness beverage company, he wasn’t only thinking about the most in-demand health ingredients to incorporate into his drinks, but how to deliver them to his customers in a more efficient, up-to-date way.
The answer was “c-commerce,” or conversational commerce, which entails selling product and communicating with consumers via text message.
“We became the first brand to sell products via text in 2015. The idea was to connect with customers and offer innovation faster. We quickly realized that this way of doing business has incredible promise in the retail space, particularly as grocery stores are becoming obsolete,” said Normandin.
Since then, the company has gone on to gather more than 100,000 members who pay for their monthly deliveries. It has expanded its offer to eight organic beverages featuring some of the trendiest ingredients in the health space, such as collagen, charcoal, matcha and rose.
According to Normandin, the concept has resonated because modern-day consumers want products delivered to them, and appreciate the ability to ask questions directly about what they are buying.
As the brand grew its audience, Normandin leveraged the momentum by building a broader sense of community around the Dirty Lemon products. He did so by going into physical retail and using brick-and-mortar locations as a means of marketing rather than selling.
Instead of buying shelf space in grocery stores like traditional food and beverage companies, he chose to place his drinks at members’ clubs like Soho House and gyms in the U.S.
“We want to be where customers spend their time. If we are not delivering to your door, we want to be where you work, play and spend the rest of your day,” he added. “We’ve always explored retail as a marketing channel; we’re not looking to make money from it.”
The company took a similar approach when it came to opening its own retail locations. Its first store concept, opened in Manhattan’s NoLIta neighborhood, took the form of a nonalcoholic bar called the Drug Store. It showcased the craft that goes into creating the beverages and aimed to engage customers old and new.
“In the mornings, the store became a place for people who hadn’t heard of the brand before. In the evenings, we reserved it for VIP members to host live music concerts or panel discussions. It offers a new level of connection with the brand,” said Normandin, adding that he plans to expand the store concept to other cities across the U.S. A launch in London is in the works for later this year.
Retail has proven an efficient communications tool for Dirty Lemon’s new products. When it was debuting its rose water beverage, the company opened its own rose flower shop on Valentine’s Day and invited customers, via text, to visit for the chance to receive a complimentary drink.
That strategy was in line with its policy of never texting customers to sell a new product, but to offer them something instead. Opening pop-ups has also proven fruitful on the data front. “Collecting data at retail and using technology to drive people to retail is a very meaningful part of the business,” added Normandin.