Stores that don’t sell anything, strictly BOPIS locations, and cashierless concepts like AmazonGo, 2018 has been anything but traditional transactions. Now, one consumer goods brand is taking it to a whole new level with a pay optional retail presence.
Healthy beverage brand, Dirty Lemon, recently opened an outpost in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood called “The Drug Store.” This almost completely unmanned store relies on conscious consumerism when it comes to making the purchase. Dirty Lemon already utilizes a text message model for online purchases, so an adaptation for an in-store experience doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch.
A Conscious Consumerism Concept
Entering the store customers are greeted with a wall of refrigerated units stocked with 16oz. bottles of Dirty Lemon’s signature beverage blends like detoxifying charcoal or a metabolism boosting matcha. Once they’ve made their selection, customers simply text the phone number on the bottle and specify which Dirty Lemon beverage they grabbed. A customer service representative then texts back asking for an email to send a link to enter credit card info. New customers are encouraged to set up an account. Reportedly response time is within 5 to 10 minutes, so customers can go ahead and start sipping away before they’ve even paid and potentially well after they’ve left the store.
With the concept created around trust, Dirty Lemon has built in some elements to reduce the risk of theft. Heat tracking cameras monitor to identify customers, and the refrigerated units have RFID trackers to detect what products are taken (think hotel minibar fridge).
“We think this is a really great controlled way of ultimately providing a really valuable experience to our customers,” said Zak Normandin, founder, and CEO, Dirty Lemon. “It’s a relatively low risk for us to be able to do something innovative and unique for the brand and with our customers.”
The Beverage Blend Beginnings
Even with all of the recent industry innovation in customer experience, some may think this model is a little radical for today’s market. When you take a closer look at the brand’s ethos it really fits. The brand has been aggressively building a following on social media with influencers and cult-like fans. But the road to get there was strategic and amplifying the social connection was purposeful to create a direct conversation with the brand’s consumers.
Dirty Lemon’s founder, Zak Normandin started his career in consumer goods with his company Little Duck Organics. There he gathered his distribution experience working with major retail brands like Target and Whole Foods. At the same time, he also developed a frustration with the buying process and the time it takes to get a product to market. Often it’d take up to a year to get the product onto shelves.
Given the frustration, he sold the company in 2013 and moved onto an agency to create food products for small to medium size companies. The goal was to develop fully formulated products ready to be produced to speed up the entry into the market. Normandin recognized a shift in the market. Limited runs, special editions, and seasonal products were in demand and consumers were calling for access to innovative products from the brands they love. But Normandin felt incomplete developing products without seeing how they were implemented in the market.
In 2015 he decided to create the Dirty Lemon line of beverages and disrupt distribution model with a direct text model, making it the first consumer brand in the US to implement such technology.
Understanding Consumer Trends
The drinks themselves were inspired by the popularity of consumer juice cleanses. Normandin understood that consumers were looking for something to enhance the diet, not replace it though. Given the consumption trend, the drinks are intended to serve as a daily replacement for coffee or tea, a product to boost energy and provide benefits with high-performance functioning ingredients.
Prices may be a little pricey with six bottles for $65 or $45 for VIP subscription members, but they pack a punch with health benefits. One of the unique characteristics is it’s a proprietary blend featuring Ashwagandha which helps boost your metabolism and stabilize your energy throughout the day. Currently, the brand has 100,000 loyal customers and half those order six cases each month.
Back to Brick and Mortar
The new NYC health drink outpost isn’t the brand’s first foray into physical retail though. Last summer they launched a summer-long “Drug Store” pop-up in Nolita. It served as a non-alcoholic cocktail bar with actual bartenders handcrafting the Dirty Lemon blends. They hosted events and tested new product developments to see what they should market next. The brand’s current +Matcha and +Rose were crafted as a result of consumer interest. Talk about a real R&D lab for product development.
The social first strategy could be a real impetus for how online brands make the move to brick-and-mortar. Dirty Lemon has a close pulse on consumer demands and a clear goal to create frictionless shopping and a direct connection to the consumer.
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