CEO and founder Craig Dubitsky sits down with Digital Commerce 360 at NRF to discuss ecommerce profitability and going direct-to-consumer online.

Hello Products’ CEO Craig Dubitsky is on a mission to make personal care products more personal.

Hello Products’ CEO Craig Dubitsky eats a bottle of his brand’s toothpaste on stage at NRF 2020.

Hello Products’ CEO Craig Dubitsky eats a bottle of his brand’s toothpaste on stage at NRF 2020.

The oral care brand launched in 2013 and focused on wholesaling its products to big-box brands, including Target Corp., CVS and Walmart Inc. Dubitsky wants its products, which Hello markets as “naturally friendly,” to be available to everyone. And for products like toothpaste and mouthwash, that meant the brand focused on selling in stores before launching online, he said.

“You got to fish where the fish are,” Dubitsky told Digital Commerce 360 at the National Retail Federation conference in New York City earlier this month. Hello also didn’t want to be categorized as a product that was only sold online.

“We’re an everyday, mainstream brand,” Dubitsky said. “We’re not a niche brand. We’re not an Instagram brand. We’re not a social brand. We want to be platform agnostic, to play in the bigger leagues.”

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Hello Products sells a suite of oral care products including floss, toothbrushes, mouthwash and toothpaste, as well as products infused with activated charcoal and hemp seed oil.

Now, seven years later, Hello is in 42,000 stores. Over time, however, the retailer discovered that selling where the shoppers are

now means selling online. Today, the large merchants that sell its products in stores also sell them online. Hello also sells its products via ecommerce merchants Amazon.com Inc., iHerb.com, Thrive Market and Grove Collective, as well as via its own direct-to-consumer site Hello-Products.com. These sites cumulatively account for roughly 15% of its overall sales, Dubitsky said.

Hello-Products.com launched ecommerce functionality in 2017 and sales continue to climb on its own site, he said without revealing more. The retailer has 29 employees and only raised funds before launching, said Dubitsky, who declined to reveal how much capital it raised.

Dubitsky scoffs at retailers that raise large sums of capital with the idea that they’re going to buy market share at whatever cost and lose money until another company buys them. He doesn’t like that strategy because, “it’s all about an exit,” he said. Hello Products achieved profitably a little more than year ago, a fact Dubitsky said he’s proud of.

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Although Hello Products is now a bigger brand, it still tries to remain true to its friendly core, Dubitsky said. For example, it handwrites notes with each package it ships, and Dubitsky lists his personal phone number and Skype video name on the website if shoppers want to talk to him. These little things show that the brand cares and makes shopping “more humane,” he said. “If you put heart into it, people can tell,” Dubitsky said. 

Hello-Products.com adjusts for growth and thinks to the future

As Hello Products’ sales volume grew, its ecommerce platform could not handle the increases. Orders were bottlenecked in its systems and did not enter into its system in a real time, but often hours after a shopper placed an order. Hello’s finance team started coming to work in shifts to accommodate the slow system, with some employees coming early in the morning and other employees staying late.

In September 2019, Hello decided to replatform to ecommerce platform NetSuite, a unit of Oracle, which could offer the tools and scale that it needed, he said.

The migration was easy, Dubitsky said, and he is grateful the brand didn’t lose its sales velocity during the project. Overall, the vendor was a good fit, he said.

“[NetSuite] appreciates our entrepreneurial zest and vigor, and they brought some rigor to our vigor,” Dubitsky said.

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Also new, the brand hired a vice president of marketing, Amy Calhoun Robb. One of her initiatives was streamlining its website, such as simplifying the site so shoppers had fewer clicks to get to products. “It had a material effect,” said Dubitsky without revealing more.

The brand also added a blog section to its website in early 2019 with oral care content such as “Should I mouthwash, brush or floss first?” and “What are the benefits of rinsing with activated charcoal mouthwash?” The blogs have boosted Hello’s search engine optimization value, which in turn has generated more traffic to its site, he said.

For example, traffic from search accounted for 76% of its desktop traffic in the U.S. from October-December 2019, compared with 52% of traffic from search from October-December 2018, according to web measurement firm SimilarWeb.

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