Watch retailer Wrist Mafia launched its ecommerce site in 2017, and founder and CEO Johnny Brown said “the majority” of its growth happened during the pandemic.
“The pandemic has been like rocket fuel for us,” Brown said. “I’m not sure if it was people getting stimulus checks, or spending less money out and about each day.”
Wrist Mafia sells watches online, but almost exclusively through subscriptions. The subscriptions it offers are monthly, every three months, bi-annually or annually. It uses fixed dates, Brown said, meaning that billing and shipping each happen on the 15th of every month for essentially all customers. That helps avoid worrying about keeping inventory in stock and storage fees, he said.
“The product comes in and goes right back out all within a week’s time,” Brown said. “And then we’ll usually have some sort of reserves for people with billing issues, new customers and things like that. But it really just limits our overhead where we’re not just sitting on a warehouse full of watches.”
Brown said Wrist Mafia had about 2,000 subscribers at start of the pandemic. By December 2021, that shot up to 10,000 subscribers, he said. It even reached a peak of 11,000 in early 2022. But the expansion was too fast, Brown said. Acquisition costs were too much for a single quarter, and supply chain issues led to the retailer struggling with the costs of goods, shipping and gasoline, as well as shipping times.
“We pulled the brakes back” to start 2022, Brown said.
Wrist Mafia takes its time growing subscription base
The Tampa, Florida-based retailer now hovers around 6,000 subscribers, Brown said. In the first half of 2022, it slowed its advertising, regrouped and collected cash to prepare for quarters three and four.
“By the end of quarter two, we were pretty much pushing at full steam and we’re back now,” Brown said.
Wrist Mafia has begun advertising again and is now gaining between 1,000 and 2,000 subscribers a month.
However, conversion since the pandemic ended has been slower, Brown said, adding that it has “not necessarily dropped off.” Consumers are back to spending money elsewhere, he said.
Wrist Mafia also noticed shoppers were abandoning their shopping carts. It improved its conversion rate after optimizing its landing pages and improving checkout speed, Brown said.
Wrist Mafia’s previous interface, ReCharge, made shoppers leave the retailer’s Shopify-hosted site to complete the payment process, he said. ReCharge had a separate processor and application built on top of Shopify, rather than an interface that integrates directly into the platform, Brown said. Shoppers couldn’t use Shop Pay or Google Autofill forms during checkout, which decreased conversion, Brown says, without sharing specifics.
“If you have to go through six pages to check out, you’ll lose most of those customers,” he says. “We did.”
Finding a new groove
Wrist Mafia’s customers can now check out in less than 10 seconds, Brown said. That’s down from two to three minutes. And that checkout speed improved after the retailer implemented subscription-management vendor Ordergroove’s interface in September 2022. Ordergroove helped reduce the number of pages shoppers had to navigate to subscribe by three pages, Brown says.
“ReCharge has since offered a V2, but that was also a migration,” Brown said. “When we were weighing our options, it just seemed like Ordergroove made the most sense for us.”
In the first week of implementing Ordergroove’s interface, Wrist Mafia’s subscriber acquisition rate increased 15%. Within three months, Wrist Mafia grew its subscriber base 63%.
“For us, being a singular product, that’s really all we need to focus on is the customer experience while they’re on the site,” Brown said.
Lauren Lowman, vice president of marketing at Ordergroove, said the subscription interface allows consumers to easily pause or opt out of subscriptions at any time. People’s needs change sometimes, she said. Consumers might be overstocked or have subscriber fatigue, she added.
“The whole goal is that we’re a platform you join and grow with and don’t scale out of — not necessarily an entry-level one that you’re going to run into issues with after a year or two,” Lowman said.
Wrist Mafia adds prepaid subscriptions through Ordergroove
Rather than paying monthly for a subscription to Wrist Mafia’s watches, consumers can opt to prepay for a subscription period. The prepaid model accounts for more than 30% of Wrist Mafia’s revenue, Brown said.
“A lot of people from a buyer’s psychology aren’t comfortable committing to subscription,” he said. “I personally don’t really subscribe to anything myself, so I’d like to be in a position where I could be prepaid or I can try it before I buy it.”
And to acquire new subscribers, Wrist Mafia heavily discounts the first watch in the subscription, Brown said. That discount for the first watch is the best available price other than during the Cyber 5. Cyber 5 refers to the period from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
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