While Hollar built its brand through aggressive advertising spending, new CEO Steve Oliver is focusing on bolstering the retailer's search engine optimization and affiliate programs, as well as content- and influencer-based marketing.

For the first two-thirds of last year, Hollar was riding high. The retailer, which seeks to reimagine the dollar store online, was averaging nearly 1.2 million monthly unique visitors, according to digital measurement firm SimilarWeb Ltd. And it had raised $47.6 million in venture funding, according to Crunchbase.

But it only had 861,553 unique monthly visitors in September 2017, a 23.1% decline from 1.12 million the previous month. And its website traffic has continued to fall. In the final four months of last year the retailer was attracting around 612,000 unique visitors, which was roughly half the number it had been attracting in the first eight months of the year. And, in the first half of this year, its average monthly unique visitors had declined to 387,000. And its app also saw declines.

The declining traffic contributed in part to the departure of David Yeom, the retailer’s co-founder and CEO. And his replacement, Steve Oliver, who joined the company in June, was given the reins of a company that had significantly reduced its marketing spending to keep its customer acquisition costs in check while it focused on “operational efficiencies.”

“We’ve had success growing our customer base,” Oliver tells Internet Retailer. “But we’ve realized that we need to take the time to focus on building a business model that can scale.”

While Hollar built its brand through aggressive advertising spending, Oliver is focusing on bolstering the retailer’s search engine optimization and affiliate programs, as well as content- and influencer-based marketing. “We’re not looking at short-term results,” he says. “We’re looking at where we can find the best efficiencies.”

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As part of that push, Hollar also is looking to find ways to drive consumers to spend more on its site and to return to the site more often. That starts with its merchandising, he says.

“We want to be known as a place where you can find fun, interesting, value-oriented products,” he says. “There is a constellation of places where people shop: They go to Walmart for most things, Dick’s for sporting goods and Best Buy for electronics. We think we can establish Hollar as the place to go for an online dollar store.”

Hollar’s website and app feature an endless scroll with a vast array of products that range from unicorn sticky notes (which sell for $2) to an iridescent fanny pack ($6). The idea is to foster discovery by driving consumers back to its site and app to see what new items have been added.

Key to Hollar’s success is driving up consumers’ basket sizes, which is one reason it set its free shipping threshold at $25, he says. If the retailer can achieve “even a modest basket size,” Oliver is confident the model will work in the long term.

Oliver believes that Hollar can appeal to an extremely large customer base, or as he puts it, the “majority of Americans.”

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“60% of [U.S.] households are Prime members, but that means that 40% aren’t,” he says. “To the 60% of households that are Prime members, that membership might seem like a great deal. But for many folks, $119 is a meaningful amount of money. We want to offer those people a place where they can find a good value and products that they won’t be able to find on Amazon or anywhere else. And they don’t need to pay a subscription to get those deals.”

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