San Diego-based Blenders Eyewear has been growing at breakneck speed since its launch in 2012. Last year, its online sales soared roughly 400% to post “tens of millions” in revenue.
And it all started with a DJ.
The sunglasses retailer is the brainchild of Chase Fisher, who came up with the business idea for Blenders after buying a pair of $5 neon green “beater” sunglasses from Target Corp. to sport while taking in one of his favorite DJs at a downtown San Diego nightclub.
“There was all this buzz around my $5 shades,” says Fisher, who is Blenders’ founder and CEO . “Then, I realized there was a massive gap in the market. There were the $5 ones I was wearing and the $200 brands like Oakley—there wasn’t a brand in between.”
To fill that gap, Fisher borrowed $2,000 from his roommate and launched Blenders, which sells hip, vibrant and affordable shades priced between $20-$65, mainly to consumers with active lifestyles. (It’s company tagline is “live in forward motion.”)
The business took off. What began as Fisher selling shades out of his backpack while doubling as a surf coach during the company’s first year is now a business with 18 full-time employees and 1,000 street team ambassadors who work on commission and promote Blenders on social media and in their communities. Blenders expects to sell more than 1 million pairs of shades in 2018, Fisher says.
Much of Blenders marketing strategy focuses on athlete sponsorships, promotions in conjunction with events like concerts or music festivals and partnering with influencers such as snowboarder Jessika Jenson and professional skimboarder and video artist Amber Torrealba. (Skimboarding is similar to surfboarding, although it begins on the beach and athletes “skim” out to breaking waves.) It also frequently hosts giveaways and sweepstakes and launches special edition lines of shades.
One consequence of the retailer’s multipronged strategy was that it increasingly relying on landing pages to promote special collections, highlight influencers, athletes and musicians it is working with, and encourage fans to sign up for early “sneak peeks” of new lines or giveaways.
At first, Blenders used a landing page plug in available through Shopify Inc., Blenders’ e-commerce platform provider. But Blenders quickly found itself constrained by the service’s tools. For example, it didn’t integrate with Blenders’ email list, and it didn’t allow consumers to enter information. That meant a shopper couldn’t provide her email on a landing page to sign up for early access to new product lines or to enter a sweepstakes. Additionally, the service only offered a limited number of fonts and colors, which meant the look and feel of a page might not match Blenders’ own branding and design scheme. Fisher says that rich media, such as video, also didn’t work well via the app; video content was often in poor quality or poorly formatted.
“We are sending lots of traffic to these pages so we want to be able to show off our brand properly,” he says. “You want your landing page to encapsulate all the ethos of your brand. We were doing a ton of collaborations and partnerships with athletes, organizations and events and we needed a way to display our content far beyond a social media post or an email. We needed a better way to tell a story and visually merchandise the product.”
A better solution
In 2016, Blenders began using Shogun, which enables online retailers using Shopify or BigCommerce for their e-commerce platforms to build more customizable landing pages. Shogun’s technology integrates directly with Shopify and BigCommerce e-commerce sites, so e-commerce sellers don’t have to set up sub-domains that could impact search engine optimization. Shogun’s service is much more robust than the earlier landing page technology Blenders was using, Fisher says. For example, it allows for motion-based graphics—especially useful when Blenders wants to highlight an athlete it is sponsoring—that enable visitors to hover over an image to move or shake it.
With Shogun, Blenders also can capture customer information directly on landing pages, which came in handy in the kick-off to the holiday season, Fisher says. “We were able to do a Black Friday and Cyber Monday $500 gift card giveaway and send people to a landing page to sign up,” Fisher says. Consumers also can sign up on specialized landing pages to get a sneak peek of new sunglasses lines before they are widely available. It also offers a wide range of customization options including colors, button placements, fonts and high-quality video, Fisher says.
“Shogun provides us the opportunity to scale our landing pages and allow for gift guides, look books, giveaways,” he says.
While Shogun is easy to set up, for retailers that want to add extra effects, Fisher recommends having a web developer on staff to really take advantage of all the functionality available through the platform.
Fisher says at any time some of its landing pages rank in the top-three most-visited pages for the retailer—so it’s imperative they be engaging and beautiful. While he doesn’t have specific metrics on how much the pages contribute to sales, they have contributed to the retailer’s overall strong growth, brand awareness and brand loyalty.
“These pages have a lot of eyeballs on them,” Fisher says. “When done right, beautiful-looking landing pages can go a long way to build your brand. Shogun provides top-notch branding aesthetics that match our website,” he says. Blenders pays a monthly flat fee for Shogun but declined to say how much.
Shogun has more than 6,000 clients, including fitness apparel company Gaiam, No. 618 in the Internet Retailer Top 1000, watchmaker MVMT, (No. 443) and men’s apparel company Chubbies Shorts. Last week, Shogun announced it had raised $2.1 million in a seed round of funding from investors including Initialized Capital and Y Combinator.Favorite