I’m departing from my typical interview format for this week’s episode of “Ecommerce Conversations.” Instead, I’ll offer a year-end recap of Beardbrand, my ecommerce company, and address its future.
As always with these episodes, the full audio of my discussion is embedded below. The transcript that follows is shortened and edited for readability.
A Challenging Year
I launched Beardbrand in 2012. 2022 was among the most challenging, although we accomplished a fair amount. As an owner, I question whether I am moving the company forward. As many entrepreneurs know, there are seemingly unlimited options and decisions.
In November 2021, we cut all our social media advertising — Facebook and Instagram — roughly six months after the iOS 14.5 updates. We were spending upwards of $100,000 per month to acquire customers. This wasn’t profitable. Approximately $20 per acquired customer is breakeven for us. We never figured out how to reach that amount. We were more or less reallocating our profits to Facebook.
So we eliminated social advertising right before Black Friday 2021. Some residual awareness continued to drip into December and early 2022. The beginning of 2022 was very profitable. If you spend a lot of money and then cut it completely, you’ll still see sales for a while. But then our sales leveled out and, ultimately, declined. We shifted our acquisition focus to affiliates and influencers and improved content.
Now we are working on building relationships with influencers. We are seeing more growth. We’ve been signing up affiliates and learning how to find the right partnerships. At the beginning of 2022, we were doing only about $200 a week in affiliate sales. By the end of the year, though, we had increased it to about $1,300 a week. That’s $5,200 a month. This is nothing to brag about, especially when we once could spend $1,200 a day on Facebook and drive $5,000 in sales.
There are always opportunities to improve. Search engine optimization was a big one for us in 2022. We worked with Jeff Oxford from 180 Marketing, who was on our podcast several months ago. We’ve improved our page speed and started monitoring in Shopify’s dashboard. We went from a Lighthouse speed score of 25 to about 50, which we’re happy with.
We came up with new offers to drive bundling and relaunched our products with new packaging and value propositions. Our site looks much different in early 2023 than a year ago.
I’m a big believer in building long-term efficiencies. For instance, we’ve created thousands of videos on YouTube over the past 10 years and built a couple of channels. One has a million subscribers, and the other has 200,000. Each gets thousands of views per video. That’s a real awareness. And the same thing goes with blogging and SEO. Our blog posts are more likely to go to the top of the rankings now than 10 years ago.
Moving to Amazon
Our distribution model will change in 2023. We will stop selling in big-box physical stores such as Target and switch to Amazon. Brick-and-mortar will be a small percentage of our revenue. We’ve built our team out to handle the Amazon channel. I’m not a fan of Amazon, but the shift was necessary given the realities of today’s consumer.
Our strategy is to serve people on Amazon and, crucially, our loyal customers who buy straight from Beardbrand.com. Merchants should always view running an Amazon business differently than their own websites. It requires careful consideration of both channels and the value you’re bringing to each. Folks who buy from a brand directly are the most loyal. Amazon buyers value speed, two-day shipping, and a vast assortment of choices.
We may expand the business into Europe in 2023. But, similar to Amazon, selling on international marketplaces creates challenges — i.e., customer support, customs clearance, taxation. We will focus on growing our core markets first, however, before adding new ones.
So my priority is getting Amazon up and running and gauging that potential. If we succeed there, we may allocate resources to Europe.