DTC (Direct-to-consumer) is on vogue right now. Hardly a day goes by here at the Femtech Insider HQ without another health and wellness DTC brand popping up in our feed or inbox. For many companies in the femtech space creating online brands, engaging and selling to their customers directly is a first step, that’s often followed by a retail distribution strategy. But what if there was an in-between? Can DTC femtech brands benefit from pop-ups and collaborations with brick & mortant businesses and brands? We wanted to find out and spoke to Amanda Watts is the founder of Sheau, a new company that helps facilitate real-world collaborations between brands targeting similar audiences. Sheau is built on the belief, that offline experiences can help online businesses boost brand loyalty and increase engagement.
Amanda, can you tell us more about Sheau and your work? How did you come up with the idea?
Amanda Watts: Living in New York City, I saw the impact of ecommerce on brick-and-mortar retailers. Technology completely changed the way we shop, and retailers struggled to adapt to new consumer behaviors and expectations. The traditional model, where stores exist only to sell goods, falls apart in our digital economy since products can easily be purchased online with just a couple clicks. It became increasingly clear that without a sound strategy focused on what today’s consumers actually want – engaging experiences – foot traffic would continue to fade away.
At the same time, while some businesses were falling victim to the retail apocalypse, others were proactively responding to their customers growing demand for experiences by hosting in-store events such as pop-ups, panels and workshops. The issue, however, is there’s no easy way for the brick-and-mortar businesses that want to activate their space with events to find the brands and experts that can participate in these events. Sheau solves this problem.
What kind of companies should consider partnerships with brick & mortar stores? Who is your target audience?
AW: Many of our community members are DTC brands looking to leverage events as a customer acquisition tool, instead of paying the high costs for digital ads. Sheau is also a great solution for experts and creatives such as career coaches, fitness instructors, artists, or authors who want to use events to market their skills and grow their following.
What are the benefits of “going offline” for companies?
AW: Creating a new customer acquisition channel and driving awareness are two of the main reasons brands move offline. Additionally, in person events give brands the chance to connect more intimately with customers, tell their story directly and receive valuable feedback on the spot.
Are there any femtech companies, that you’d love to work with, who you think could really benefit from adding “offline” to the marketing mix?
AW: I think femtech companies, especially those in the health and wellness space, are perfect candidates for offline collaborations. The reason is that there’s often an educational element to their products and services. Participating in events, especially panel discussions, allows founders to share relevant knowledge, which builds trust between brand and customer.
Can you share some best practices? What should companies think about, when planning a collaboration?
AW: As with all partnerships, communication is key. It’s important that collaborators are on the same page and expectations are clearly defined early in the event planning process. One of the features we built into the platform to ensure seamless communication is our dynamic Events Form, a shared document between collaborating counterparties that centralizes all event details in one place.
Last question: Do you think DTC femtech brands missing the offline opportunity?
AW: I wouldn’t say they are missing out; it’s more they are being left out.
Historically, the only way DTC brands could access customers in the real world was to lease physical space. And while we’ve seen more short-term (3-6 month) pop-up opportunities arise in major cities like New York, it’s still not an affordable option for most early stage companies.
With Sheau, we are making access to physical space possible for emerging brands by focusing on collaborations, not transactions. Our members aren’t renting space, they’re partnering with brick-and-mortar businesses that target a similar audience and working with them to create on-site events. This model works because both parties are incentivized by the same thing – growing and engaging their shared customer base.
Joining Sheau will be free while we are in beta and I’d love to help members of the femtech community increase exposure for their brands through events, so feel free to reach out if you’re interested in joining the network as one of our early users.