Brandless sets out to answer the following question: Consumers have always wanted more for less, but what about better for less? With so much retail traffic happening online, people have access to more products than ever, and often for less money, but they aren’t always meeting the “better” category.
Recognizing some of the changes in consumer behavior and the struggle big brands were having, entrepreneurs Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler saw an opportunity to offer something that others weren’t, and their innovative company, Brandless, was born.
Ever notice how a store-brand item costs much less than the name brand? Sharkey and Leffler did too. Sharkey says, “Ido was really bothered by the idea that if people really understood what things cost versus what they pay for them, there would be rioting in the streets,” Sharkey says.
In an effort to provide better products at a lower cost to consumers, the pair began looking at what consumers want. After securing funding from big-name investors, the pair created Brandless, which is essentially an online grocery store. With the motto of “better everything for everyone,” Sharkey and Leffler are capitalizing on a major gap in the market.
Now over a year old, the company has used innovative ideas backed by research to make Brandless a contender in the CPG industry.
Cutting Out the Middleman
By nixing inefficiencies in the distribution system with their business model, Brandless can offer every item for $3 or less, including non-GMO maple syrup, “tree free” paper towels, and organic baby food. The company’s products are high-quality by most standards. All the food on their site is non-GMO, most is organic, and the household products adhere to EPA standards.
Know Your Market
Brandless started with two people who recognized a deficiency and sought a solution. Sharkey and Leffler used their initial curiosity and observations of market trends to mold their business model. Then they researched what consumers were using most often, looked at where costs were unnecessarily high, and spoke with manufacturers all over the country to find out how they could resolve these inefficiencies.
Brandless isn’t the first company to try this approach. Trader Joe’s uses a similar concept of providing quality goods at a lower cost and adds their own brand to the products they buy wholesale. But Brandless is capitalizing on the e-commerce portion of this industry that consumers seem understandably happy to jump on; having your entire shopping list delivered to your door is a tantalizing offer.
Beyond the Sale
Being an online retailer doesn’t keep the company from connecting with consumers offline. Sharkey and Leffler recognize the importance of building relationships with the people who shop with them. “Direct-to-consumer is not a channel; it means you have a relationship with someone,” Sharkey says. The founders are aware that their audience is part of a community that is conscious of what they consume, and they want to connect with the people in it.
Last year, Brandless set up a pop-up shop for two weeks in LA to connect with their online consumer base. The multiday event featured a series of guest speakers, including experts in wellness, philanthropy, beauty, health, and entrepreneurship. As Fast Company writer Elizabeth Segran says, “Startups have realized that physical shopping needs to be about much more than just transactions.”
Being Simply the Best
To fulfill their commitment to be the best, Brandless has a team of curators who carefully test and select everything they offer. Brandless takes this measure in an attempt to sway brand loyalists to stray from their favorite name-brand ketchup or lotion.
In a time when we are often exhausted by endless choices, Brandless is making some of them easy for consumers. Instead of offering, say, 10 different types of shampoo, Brandless sticks to one or two offerings per category. This keeps their costs down and simplifies the customer shopping process.
The Value of Transparency
If it tastes as good (or better), costs less, and is better for you, maybe it’s worth going Brandless. The company is cultivating its own brand loyalty by attracting customers who appreciate their emphasis on quality and transparency.
While its name might convey otherwise, Brandless is trying to redefine the idea of a brand, not reject it. Heavily featured on their website is their commitment to contribute a meal to Feed America for every purchase made. In their first 28 weeks of being open, they donated 250,000 meals. By cutting out the middleman, they’re saving money and passing those savings on.