March 19, 2024

Cuppa 6: Clean beauty, A/B Testing, Lululemon, TikTok Hype

Shope Delano
VP Marketing

Welcome to the latest issue of Cuppa, a quick-fire newsletter for internet-first brand builders. Filled with analysis on the art, science and culture of building breakout brands in a digital age, it's quick enough to read over a cuppa. (Or something stronger, if you need it. No judgement). To get it direct to your inbox every other Monday, subscribe here.


Are DTC brands prioritising aesthetics over functionality?

Launching with a slick look-and-feel is somewhat of a rite of passage for modern brands. It's ‘start scrappy’ as long as you don't let the customer know. My worry? There's a crop of brands prioritising aesthetics over functionality, and a reckoning is on the horizon. Becoming a necessity rather than a nice-to-have will define long-term success.


$1.2 billion Kylie Cosmetics repositions as a ‘clean, vegan’ brand.

Seems that Kylie Cosmetics execs have caught wind of the fact that next-gen beauty = clean beauty. Instead of just announcing the new formulations with minimal disruption to sales, they've decided to take the website down, delete all instagram posts and set a date to ‘relaunch’. It's smart. They've manufactured hype and built out a hero campaign that involves a new website with “educational content and shoppable product selections” and a mini docuseries on YouTube.


Fashion shows have been replaced by…reality TV.

Love Island gets 5 million views per episode, 6 nights a week, mostly from women aged 18-34. Incredible, no? A 30-second spot reportedly costs £50,000. But Missguided went further than traditional TV ads - contestants wore the clothes, and customers could shop the via the Love island app. They saw sales increase by 40% compared to the 8 weeks before the show aired, and if a product appeared on screen, sales would spike by up to 500%.



How Native went from 0 to a $100m acquisition.

Acquired after only 2.5 years, Native is a vegan and cruelty-free deodorant brand founded by serial founder and former lawyer, Moiz Ali. The brand kept it lean at launch (Moiz was the only employee for Year 1, and they used no paid ads), used A/B testing to perfect the formula, and once they'd nailed that, doubled down on social proof (which became the backbone of their paid ads strategy). 


UK ‘end of life' leader - ACS - gets £2.5 of fresh funding.

You can't claim to be a responsible or sustainable brand without thinking about end of life. I'm talking recycling, resale, or rental. ACS takes care of the last two and have a fresh cash injection to increase their operational capacity. They claim to offer "circular, sustainable solutions at scale" by specialising in the tech, sanitisation, repairs and reverse logistics.


Is lululemon becoming a tech company?

Lululemon did $4.4bn in revenue in 2020. Over the years they've steadily expanded away from the cult product that put them on the map - their leggings - into menswear, and more recently acquiring home workout companies like Mirror. This is a brilliant long read in how lululemon found white space, and used ‘flywheels’ to re-ignite their growth.

The Clothing Rental Revolution: The Money's in Niche Markets and Software 

By Josh Willcox

There will always be a couple items that you want to keep forever: Grandad’s watch, the blouse you wore when you had your first kiss, the jumper that always reminds you of home, and Dad’s Hawaiian T-shirt (though, you probably keep that locked up under the stairs).
But what about everything else? 
The UK rental clothing market is booming. But the idea is hardly new. Anyone who’s attended a wedding has sweated their way through dinner, worried they might get a stain on their rental attire. Moss Bros started their rental service in 1897, but it took till the 2010s for us to answer some bigger consumer wants: “I want to wear something stunning this weekend, but there’s no way I can spend a couple hundred pounds”. While fast-fashion has positioned itself as a potential solution, consumer trends suggest an increasing appeal to rental as a more sustainable alternative. Rather than a brand new item sitting in your wardrobe, only to be demoted two weeks later by the next shopping spree, you can send the outfit back for someone else to rent. 
Declutter your wardrobe, experiment with styles, and extend the lifespan of clothing: this is what rental has to offer.
Different rental models have blossomed: particularly with event-hire no longer being a possibility during lockdown. Between short-term rentals (Mywardrobehq), longer-term subscriptions (Onloan), and peer-to-peer lending (Hurr), there are now about eight companies in the UK leading the rental revolution. According to GlobalData, the UK rental market value is expected to reach £2.3 billion by 2029. 
So what’s the future, I hear you ask? Where’s the money? 
It's in niche markets and software.

Rental, by definition, is temporary. So what parts of life are temporary? There are two markets ripe for disruption: maternity clothing and childrenswear. Onloan, a long-term rental subscription service where you pay a monthly fee, is the only company that allows customers to filter through products based on which trimester of pregnancy they are in. Buying stylish maternity clothing can already be a struggle for soon-to-be mothers. Knowing it may never get a second innings only makes the process worse. Rental gives mothers the opportunity to choose an item they love without the guilt of wasting money.
It’s the same story for childrenswear. A parent’s worst nightmare is going clothes shopping only to find that their little ones aren’t so little two months down the line. The Little Loop Company is changing this. After paying a subscription fee, parents order clothes for their children and exchange them for new ones when they’ve outgrown them - as simple as that!
The next couple of years are no doubt going to witness a further proliferation of rental companies. Whether it's maternity clothing, childrenswear, jewellery, bags or shoes, experimentation, variation, and sustainability are becoming more important to consumers than ownership. 
Yet software is still the biggest barrier to entry for companies wanting to participate. For most DTC brands selling their products online, software companies like Shopify make life easy. You make your product, upload it to Shopify and it helps you create your website, track your inventory, organise logistics, and analyse product data. For digital rental brands, not a lot exists yet. If you want to start a rental website, you have to hire a software engineer to figure it all out. Isabella West, founder of Hirestreet, recently launched her own white-label software Zoa Rental for companies to test rental models. And the software makers aren’t the only behind-the-scenes players. ACS Clothing Limited is the logistics company running the show for Rotaro, Hirestreet, The Endless Wardrobe, My Wardrobe HQ, and Moss Hire. The nuts and bolts may not be where the spotlight is pointing, but it’s definitely where the action is happening.
It’s still too early to call who will be the rental mammoth, but I’d hedge my bets that it won’t be any of the brands we’re buying from now; it’ll be the software company servicing every company seeking to go rental.

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The future of rental is in niche markets and software.


TikTok made you buy it?

Would Cuppa really be a newsletter about internet-first brand building without including an article about Tik Tok? Get into this breakdown on Vox about how (and why) certain products go viral, and sell out. A question that springs to my mind - given the ephemeral nature of ‘TikTok hype’ is it smart for brands to double down on the channel? Sure, a spike in sales feels good and sounds great in the investor updates. But you could end up with thousands of low value customers that never purchase again.

Influencer Kayla Itsines sells her fitness app - Sweat - for $400m

In 2020, the app generated a $99 million in revenue. An acute reminder people follow people, not companies, and being able to build and maintain an engaged audience is a skill that could be worth, well, $400m.

Reimagining football with Marcus Rashford

Nike commissioned illustrators to create 5 posters that celebrate a more accessible time in the sport as part of their ‘Land of New Football’ campaign - “A land where everybody’s welcome – no matter who you are, where you’re from, or how long you’ve been in the game.” After last weekend's painful loss (and racist fall out), the message is rings truer.

Another amusing drop from MSCHF - tiny toy figurines of failed VC-backed startups. The mini Theranos blood-testing machine was my personal favourite.

Shope Delano
VP Marketing
charlie oscar