Lab SQLI NY has unearthed a gem among the growing crowd of pure players in the United States. Dirty Lemon, a company that sells water bottles online. The brand owes its success to the community of users it created and which encouraged it to sell its products in physical stores. Its strength: customer data gathered to constantly improve the product and build the trust of its community. Its innovation: a cashier-less store where customers pay via SMS.
Formed in 2015, the company developed its concept of marketing directly to consumers, with no intermediary. Each bottle is currently sold at a price of $10 and the brand is popular with its customers for its design and natural qualities. The water is naturally filtered and contains pure lemon juice, as well as minerals and salt from the sea.
The customer base is 80% women and 20% men, aged 25 to 45 years old: millennials who are concerned about their well-being. The bottles were originally sold exclusively online via an internally developed sales platform, which enables customers to place orders via SMS.
In September 2018, Dirty Lemon opened its first “store” in New York
This point of sale is original in that there are no staff and the only means of payment is via SMS.
The store is open every day from 8am to 8pm and customers can pick up one or more bottles from the refrigerated cabinet, which can hold up to 1000 bottles.
Order placement and payment are managed by a chatbot via SMS.
To effectively manage communication via SMS with customers and transactions, in May 2018, Dirty Lemon acquired the start-up Poncho from the New York-based start-up studio Betaworks. The Poncho bot was specialised in providing weather forecasts. Dirty Lemon adapted it and uses NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) which it developed to improve the quality of the chatbot’s responses.
When new customers make a purchase for the first time, the process takes longer as they need to enter bank card details. For subsequent purchases, customers are identified only by their telephone number.
Customers can therefore purchase bottles in the store without needing a means of payment or to install a mobile app. Only a very basic mobile phone is needed to make a purchase.
The same system can be used to purchase a single bottle or several packs. Human intervention is only required when customers ask questions that are not related to payment or logistics. Dirty Lemon provides 24/7 live customer service throughout the United States.
A warehouse will be opened in the United Kingdom at the end of the year to provide the same service quality to customers outside of the United States.
Dirty Lemon’s strength is its ability to adapt to customers
In New York, customers are usually either going to work or coming home; they therefore have no time to waste. They take a bottle and pay later via SMS: the process is simple and based on trust. Customers pay by sending a text message to a number on the label of the bottle. They can therefore pay from any location. The system works: in this cashier-less store, less than 5% of bottles that leave the store are not paid for.
Dirty Lemon has many customers in New York, and the 100,000 online customers form a true community. They are highly connected to the brand via social networks and, according to the brand, it is this trust-based relationship that makes it possible to deploy their direct-to-consumer marketing strategy. The brand is in the news: Coca-Cola is said to be in talks to invest in the company.
Focussing on trust is a successful strategic direction in today’s commerce. The question is: can it be applied to other markets and geographical regions, both at national and international level?