Interview: Quip Founder On The Journey From DTC Dental Care To Target Shelves
Simon Enever explains how the brand marshaled its strong beginnings as a digital native into sharing shelf space with larger CPG brands in a big-box store, maintaining its commitment to value-added content and services as well as accessibility to compete
When the DTC oral care brand Quip launched online in 2014, it was entering a playing field dominated by mainstream, legacy heavyweights. These oral hygiene brands—from Crest to Colgate—are often the subsidiaries of major CPG corporations, meaning they have the resources, appeal and mass recognition needed to gain a spot on countless retail aisles and household bathrooms.
But Quip’s mission goes far beyond these baseline oral care retailers, encompassing not just the initial electric toothbrush purchase, but offering a subscription package that includes oral education, brush refills and more. It’s this complete lifestyle positioning that has allowed Quip to sell more than one million toothbrushes and hold on to one million subscribers as of January 2019.
Now, the company is collaborating with Target to showcase its products with an in-store presence. PSFK spoke to Simon Enever, CEO of Quip, about the brand’s tactics for moving into an offline space and how it’s driving customers to visit the brand’s predominantly online ecosystem for post-purchase support.
PSFK: Could you describe your approach to selling in Target stores?
Simon Enever: Our mission at Quip is to make good oral health more simple, enjoyable and accessible for everyone. Launching with a direct-to-consumer approach was a critical way to help tell our story, educate people on what really impacts their oral health and change attitudes towards the routine as a whole.
Accessibility is core to our mission. We wanted to ensure we were offering our affordable oral care products in places that are as simple and convenient as possible. With our launch into Target, we were able to help offer affordable oral care solutions to the millions of people who use their weekly or monthly shopping trip to refresh their oral care products, rather than buy them online.
In retail, the jump between manual brush prices (up to around $5) and electric (often starting at $50) is even more apparent than online. We're able to offer shoppers who visit Target a more affordable way to get the assistance of an electric brush to help improve their oral health, especially considering that around 80% are unlikely to have ever upgraded to an electric brush before, often due to their price and the experience of using one. By doing so, we're taking huge strides towards our mission of making great oral health more accessible to more people.
What’s your approach to the subscription element when you’re selling in stores?
One factor that contributes to poor oral health habits is traditional retail purchasing. With in-store purchases, people are left entirely to their own accord to use the brush the correct amount and in the right way after purchase. They have no contact with a dental professional or the brand of the brush itself, and they are left to themselves to develop the proper oral care habits (which most fail to stick to).
Our mission is to help them develop these habits for life through a subscription that guides, supports and automates the key aspects of their oral care routine that matter most for their health. One key habit, that around 75% of people don’t stick to, is changing the brush head or toothbrush every three months when it becomes unhygienic and unable to clean properly. Our subscription service automates this process and nearly everyone who purchases Quip online signs up for this to help break those bad habits.
To replicate this habit change in physical retail, we only offer starter sets in store. Guests who purchase starter sets are pointed online through a unique code to sign up for a subscription refill plan (or buy a brush head without one) to help change the habits of buying a brush in a store and never changing the brush head. Instead, their brush head refills are auto shipped and refreshed every three months, just as they would if they purchased online. We also deliver optional anti-cavity toothpaste, and important oral health tips to our customers, including the proper techniques for brushing—and this helps improve their oral health overall as well.
What’s the difference between online and in-store consumers? Do you find that online shoppers have more purchase intention than offline?
We have only been available in Target for four months, so it’s a little early to say too much about the differences in consumers’ shopping behaviors between online and off.
You can imagine that someone buying online is typically seeking out an electric toothbrush or Quip in particular so they are landing on our website with a lot of intent. This is different from discovering our products while browsing for other non-related products in retail, which is a new behavior we have been excited to further understand, explore and see the impact of.
What are the challenges of entering brick and mortar?
One of the biggest challenges for us was operational: dealing with bulk purchases of our product and setting up an entirely new supply and logistics chain to fulfill those orders, with a very different flow from that of our ecommerce business.
Another challenge was the need to create an entirely new packaging design to deal with the different needs of on-shelf packaging compared to that of ecommerce. Selling online allows a retailer the freedom and space to tell their brand story, from that first ad through the landing page, checkout experience and post-purchase emails. In store, this experience is entirely different, where the only space you have to tell your story is the display, if there is one, and primarily the packaging.
Our in-house design team invested heavily into creating a package that relied on a unique three-dimensional design, not gimmicky graphics, to stand out on the shelf and worked to make sure the graphic design helped tell our story, and put Quip’s best foot forward in a way that wasn’t necessary for our ecommerce packaging.
How do you stand out from the competition, competing with larger CPG products?
In retail, one way Quip is differentiated is through the price point itself. A $25 starting price point means we can offer an accessible and effective option. It also comes down to the design of our packaging, display and product. Our packaging, as mentioned, is a unique and eye-catching shape yet more simplistic in graphical design, making it stand out without using distracting or misleading marketing tactics.
We place the brush image front and center to let the design of the brush speak for itself, which helps it to stand out through its uniquely slim and modern design for the category. And finally, the benefit and its connection to consumers' good habits is easy to understand upon further inspection of the packaging and reading of our display.
Quip is bridging the online-offline gap with a strong brand message and commitment to accessibility that allows it to stand out amongst CPG heavyweights in its category. For more from brands like Quip, see PSFK's reports and newsletters.