D2C skincare brand
founder, Ulli Haslacher, has quickly become a fan favorite at MediaPost’s Insider Summits in recent years. Most marketers at our retreats were unfamiliar with the TV
shopping channels she has mastered for years with her compelling climate-based skincare line, as well as her telegenic enthusiasm. Attendees always had lots of questions. A big believer in
show-and-tell marketing basics, Ulli is a walking before and after demo of her Pour Moi line. She keeps one hand treated with traditional products and the other moisturized with a Pour Moi mixture
tuned to her current climate. Her hands go up -- and the point is made.
You don’t learn that in business school.
Ulli is also a big believer in the ultimate power of IP, and so Pour Moi has multiple patents for ts approach to climate-optimized skincare. In fact, the Pour Moi Climate-Smart 3-Step Rotating System was named one of . We checked in with Ulli last week, and sure enough, she surprised us yet again. It turns out she has been busy on the other side of her conference room video link – selling product via local news spots. You can listen to the entire podcast here.
MediaPost: You didn’t use the usual channels to build Pour Moi. Tell us how you have been using TV differently from most of the new generation of D2Cs.
Ulli Haslacher: I come from TV. If you look into
broadcast, the reason why people are watching local TV is weather and traffic. So climate-smart skincare is exactly what you need in the weather you are in right now. So I go on these local TV
stations, and we are buying small segments, and I do a presentation. I answer two or three questions, and then people go on our website and buy. That's how we
MP: So these are on local information series - daytime news sessions? And you're essentially buying space there to demonstrate the product?
Haslacher: It's paid media. We’re buying space, and as an example, we go on the morning Windy City, in Chicago ABC during the week. We go on Twin Cities live, which is their number-one afternoon local TV show, it's a lifestyle show. So it's either the morning show or the lifestyle. We go into the market, research what is in broadcast, what is everybody watching. And then we go on, and we have like a formula of questions that we send, that we want the host to ask, and I answer them, and that's pretty much it.
MP: As a marketer, what's the distinction between going on a QVC or home shopping network and doing these sort of local news and information?
Haslacher: Well, the local news stations and also the national now, they saw what QVC did, and they actually introduced it into their own programming. So today you have home shopping on all the different channels. It's part of the national and local entertainment shows.
So here's the difference from QVC. QVC functions just like a retailer. They buy your product wholesale. They manage everything on their side. It's their customer. You go on [air] and you sell, and you have a very large audience that only comes to QVC to find products.
If you go on a morning show, they go there to be entertained. They want to find out about traffic. They want to hear news, and then they get introduced to products. But it's your customer. You control the entire process.
This has been extremely successful for us. We're supporting it with paid Google search targeted to the cities that we go on. So even if somebody watches, and they just sit there with their phone and [search] “climate-smart” or “skincare based by climate,” boom, we're right there. And we are converting that sale.
MP: So the digital plan is mainly search timed to TV appearances?
Haslacher: Right. We're looking at ROIs between 12 and 39, because it's so effective.
MP: And you're also able to geo-target and time-target your buys so it contains your costs a little more, right?
Haslacher: Lowest possible cost with highest return on it, because we are right there on TV. And we understand our customer now very well. They look us up immediately on the cell phone. Then they go to their desktop, and the majority buy on the desktop.
MP: What are the tweaks that you can do to optimize traffic and conversions in a channel like this?
Haslacher: It moves the needle if there's a winter storm outside. We are tied to the weather.
I was in Detroit last week. The weather was so bad that the hosts kept on saying during the show how cold it was. When we come on with a solution for this really cold weather that gives you youthful skin, boom, we had a tremendous lift! Same thing in the summer, when it was really hot and humid: lift in sales. So the low-hanging fruit for us is extreme weather.
MP: How does all of this scale for you? I mean, that's a lot of local TV you have to do, and a lot of different markets, to equal even the reach of a typical nationwide shopping channel.
Haslacher: Well, I don't think it's scalable once the pandemic is over, because I do it out of my conference room with a Zoom link. Normally you have to travel to all these different places to be on the local TV, so this is really a pandemic opportunity. The TV stations constantly tell us we are kind of the only one who is doing this as a real rollout. I will be on 44 different TV stations in my conference room, when normally you have to travel, and that wouldn't work.
MP: So it’s not a question of whether the business scales, it’s whether Ulli scales?
Haslacher: Exactly! So how do you scale it? We're going to have to get a commercial. This is all filled without a commercial.
We are now selling between $250,000 and $400,000 a month, just with this native marketing. We know exactly what needs to go into this commercial now. So as soon as the pandemic gets better, we can come together and shoot a commercial. And then “the invention of the year,” having the seal on being the 2020 best invention by Time -- that already says you are innovative, so that helps in a commercial.
And you know, my experience that on one hand I use climate-smart skincare, and on the other hand I use a regular moisturizer. You can see the difference. All the brown spots are cleared up.
I showed the audience my hands, and they couldn't believe that much difference. So this is what I do on local TV. We have it live from my conference room. Because I think when you go on TV – proof, proof, proof, proof! That's how the shopping channel works. These are before and afters. These are clinical studies. You have to give proof to convince. For direct-to-consumer, that’s what makes consumers get out their credit cards.
MP: How are you scaling quality customer service?
Haslacher: By not outsourcing. I got my own warehouse before the pandemic, and people were saying what a traditional point of view for skincare. However, I used to be in the fulfillment business 20 years ago, and most of the fulfillment houses do not have air-conditioning. So I got that warehouse just because I'm introducing a new kind of skincare, and how that skincare works has a lot to do with how it's stored, how it gets to you.
So this is a very important part of why many women don't see results with their skincare -- because it was already ruined before they ever got it. We ship in two days because we have control over it.
And the same thing with customer service. We have our own call center, our own customer service reps. They are going through our training. When it's outsourced, I don't really know what happens.
MP: Is there a calculus for how much you invest in customer support and how much it's really worth to you?
Haslacher: Yes. In 2019 we had like $25,000 in sales, and in 2020 we have $1.5 million in sales. So we acquired about 15,000 customers in 2020. We have less than 1% return rate year to date. Direct-to-consumer has on average 20% returns because it's so easy.
Skincare is even higher. Beauty has no loyalty. You see your vitamin C cream somewhere else and it's cheaper, you return it. So then you look at the industry benchmark of 28% for skincare. We have less than 1%. This is such a unicorn. This is because it's an outstanding product. You can only buy it from us. And it has to do with outstanding customer service. You will love your relationship with that retailer.
In addition, of course, our reorder rate. We are growing on a 40% to 50% percentage of returning customers. We do no more than one email a month to our customers because I get annoyed with all these emails. I don't want to have my clients ever thinking that we are pushing everyday products to them. For us, it's a pull from the customer. So we keep on selling out like crazy, as you can imagine.