Well I guess the title says it all. I’ve been back in New York for exactly one year now and my goal was to setup Gaiatrend USA here in North America. I guess we can say that I’ve managed a couple of things, but nothing too relevant to my partners. By relevant I mean sales.
Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later. Og Mandino
After going through all the necessary market research, focus groups, defining the brand specific to the US and creating our branding strategy, we tackled the PR and Social Media leading up to the launch of AlfaliquidUSA.com on July 14th 2016. Our press release was ready to go and under embargo by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal allowing us to expect a great launch.
On that same day and 30 minutes after making our website public, as we were about to let the media release the info, one of the deadliest and cruelest terrorist attacks happened in Nice, France.
Needless to say that our articles weren’t published. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have had it any other way and priority was to be given to this attack. On the other hand, given that our entire revenue plan for the first couple of months was solely online, I have to admit a certain frustration.
We tried to make up for it using an ecig-specific ad network Ecig Media and spending $5k on it in order to attract visitors and recover at least some of the planned orders. My god were we wrong … We got the traffic indeed, 200 to 300 visits per day but only a handful of purchases. What were we doing wrong ? Was is the website ? The numbers of clicks to checkout ? Navigation ? What was the quality of the traffic we were getting ?
After going through hours of Inspectlet recordings to figure out what was preventing the conversions, we first thought of pricing. The FDA’s Deeming Regulations had been announced 2 months earlier and a lot of eliquid was being dumped on the market at cheap pricing as people were trying to get rid of a lot of products before the August 8th deadline. So we tried to bring the pricing down with a BOGO offer, then by working on a 30% launch promo, but still no significant sales.
What could it be then ? Allow me to let you in on a little secret … our brand, Alfaliquid wasn’t in brick and mortar stores yet so no one knew about it. Also we only sell eliquid: how can you attract new vapers – which are our target audience – to a website if they have to go buy the hardware from another one. They’ll simply end up buying it all from someone else. Sounds simple once you think of it right ?
Which brings us to our decision, upon reception of our new Alfaliquid GCC Certificates certificates on the 15th of August 2016, to completely shift our sales strategy and focus solely on retail. In other words, getting the product out to vape shops as well as smoke/head shops.
Our main sales pitch was articulated around 2 things:
- made in France
- safety and transparency
Little did we know that people actually don’t care too much about the “made in France” and even less about the quality, safety and transparence which we proud ourselves in (i.e.: we are one of the only companies that has a best by date, that discloses the origins of our ingredients as well as their % in our recipes).
The second hit we took was for the 50VG / 50PG composition of our line, the standard that all vape shops are selling is 70VG / 30PG, thus completely dismissing our target audience: switchers or beginners looking for a consistent and mature brand.
To top it all off, remember how I previously spoke of the shift in the market caused by the Deeming Regs, well that shift was also visible in the volume of bottles which are slowly but constantly shifting from 30ml to 60ml bottles. Of course, this was also helped by the modern devices and tanks burning through eliquid at a much faster pace than before. this information was confirmed by 2 of the largest distributors in the United States after discussing pricing with them.
So, I think I’ve set the stage with regards to why we are now under pressure, its simple: we need retail sales asap or else we risk running out of cash. I’ll be discussing in upcoming articles how we are tackling this and trying to use our competitive weaknesses to our advantage. In the meantime, for those who were courageous enough to read up to here, allow me to wish you a very pleasant day.