Direct-to-Consumer Spotlight: How This Popular Pizza Oven Brand Pivoted Their Communication Strategy and Saw a 650%+ Increase in Sales

Ooni Spotlight Blog

What happens when a global pandemic hits and restaurants have to close? People look for new products and recipes to help them make restaurant-quality meals at home. 

But what happens when your brand’s core message has always been about making delicious food at home? That message now becomes hyper-relevant to a much larger audience all over the world resulting in an explosion of sales.

Greg Muir, Chief Operating Officer (COO) for popular pizza oven brand Ooni, along with Angie Pilkington, the brand’s email marketing manager, recently took part in a digital event with We Make Websites to discuss how this happened to them when their core message of “make great pizza at home” became hugely important to pizza-lovers and families across the world who had found themselves in lockdown.

“We saw an explosion in the size of the market—somewhere in the region of a 400 to 500 percent increase in people hunting for pizza ovens—and we were perfectly positioned to take advantage of that, thanks to the good work of our marketing team, but also our existing customers, referrals, and the power of word-of-mouth,” explained Greg. 

"We saw an explosion in the size of the market—somewhere in the region of a 400 to 500 percent increase in people hunting for pizza ovens—and we were perfectly positioned to take advantage of that thanks to the good work of our marketing team, but also our existing customers, referrals, and the power of word-of-mouth."

Greg Muir, COO, Ooni

Incredibly, this initial spike in interest continued to increase even further the longer people were in lockdown, and this coupled with great weather meant that even more people were at home in their gardens and looking for ways to entertain themselves and their children.

While this level of growth is very welcome—especially throughout a period of economic uncertainty—it’s also a challenge when regular marketing activities and supply chains are disrupted.

Read on for Greg’s and Angie’s insights on how the Ooni team leaped to this new challenge through stellar customer communication and pivots in their content marketing and customer engagement strategies—and what they’ve learned from their experience along the way.

Managing vast sales spikes amid a global pandemic

It’s no secret that a pandemic would spark a domino effect across supply chains—especially when demand is at an all-time high for new essentials.

Because Ooni’s products are manufactured overseas, the popular pizza oven brand was impacted at every stage of the supply chain on the physical side—from manufacturing and inventory to shipping delays and warehouse operations.

The brand’s first challenge of managing exponential growth amid a global pandemic was the pressure they were facing from customer demand and word-of-mouth spreading like wildfire—and all this while the world was facing supply chain woes.

“We had challenges with stock and the demand was so high that our messaging had to change from ‘buy now’ to ‘get in the queue because everyone wants these ovens!’ Managing that message was quite the challenge and we had to pivot as quickly as we could,” Angie explained.

Ooni Apology TweetOoni Apology Facebook Video

Continually reviewing your content and making changes—just like Ooni did—is important because it ensures your messaging is relevant, while also showing empathy towards your customers who are currently experiencing strange and scary situations in their day-to-day lives.

“When something like this hits, it’s about trying to make sure that people dial back to what is essential. What do you actually have to get done? Things like customer support became massively important. We had to flip our entire customer support system to try and streamline it as much as possible, and make sure we were serving up as much information to customers before their questions came through to customer support,” added Greg.

During lockdown, Ooni’s warehouses were delayed by as much as 21 days on some occasions whereas they would normally be offering same or next day shipping. 

Greg explained that upfront and honest customer communication was crucial when managing this. Before making a purchase, customers were told about the shipping delays and were able to see when they were likely to receive their new pizza ovens, so they could decide for themselves whether they’d be willing to wait this extra time or not.

“As long as customers know that they’re making that choice, they’re generally very understanding,” said Greg.

For many businesses, Covid-19 has made “pivot” the word of the year—and this has been no different for businesses like Ooni experiencing extraordinary demand as a result of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

In Ooni’s case, one of these pivots had to happen when Amazon stopped receiving any inbound inventory, which put a huge amount of pressure on the Ooni team. 

They had to use other third-party warehouses to fulfill their Amazon orders or they would’ve disappointed both loyal and new customers—while missing out on an invaluable hypergrowth opportunity.

“Every big retailer had the same issues of fulfillment delays and trying to manage customers’ expectations. Overall, whilst we could always have been better, we did a pretty good job. Unquestionably, our customers are our biggest advocates and we never take them for granted. The power of one happy customer is exponential!” said Greg.

To fully make the most of this unique opportunity, Angie and Greg also told us about some new processes they’ve implemented. 

“It’s been a time for us to trial different things. I’ve put in any and every integration with Klaviyo that I’ve found so we can capture the most data possible. For example, we’ve tested different kinds of popups on the website and different kinds of incentives,” Angie explained.

"It's been a time for us to trial different things. I’ve put in any and every integration with Klaviyo that I’ve found so we can capture the most data possible."

Angie Pilkington, email marketing manager, Ooni

Ooni’s advice to other brands managing hypergrowth right now

When asked if they think they would have done anything differently now that they have the benefit of hindsight, Greg said they probably should’ve recruited additional temporary staff faster to help them with their spike in customer enquiries that came with the increased sales.

“We assumed this spike was an acceleration of people who’d been thinking about buying an Ooni, and they were like: ‘Okay, I’m going to be at home for a few weeks—I’ll buy an Ooni,’ and that this would quickly flatten or even go down, as who knows whether people would feel negative about spending money as a whole,” said Greg.

“But it just kept growing! The downside of this is that, whilst we were trying our best, we weren’t as good as we wanted to be at answering our customers fast, which is so important to us,” he continued.

Building a community and driving customer engagement

Through any stage of business—whether you’re experiencing hypergrowth or not—Angie and Greg discussed how it’s vital that you fully understand your customer, such as who they are, what they’re looking for, and what they care about. 

“While we’re using Klaviyo for behavior-based triggers and experiences, as well as our welcome flow, repeat purchase flow, and sunset flow, we also started to test what kind of messaging and text structure resonates better. That was super important as we didn’t know how long this spike was going to last so we had to nail the message from the start,” explained Angie.

"While we’re using Klaviyo for behavior-based triggers and experiences, as well as our welcome flow, repeat purchase flow, and sunset flow, we also started to test what kind of messaging and text structure resonates better. That was super important as we didn't know how long this spike was going to last so we had to nail the message from the start."

Angie Pilkington, email marketing manager, Ooni

It would be easy to become distracted by these droves of new customers, but this would be at the expense of customer loyalty and retention rates. For a brand like Ooni, though, which has always placed a lot of value on their community, there was no danger of this happening to them.

For example, Greg and Angie recalled how the pandemic spelled trouble for their customers who couldn’t get their usual pizza ingredients—whether that be flour, yeast, or even pizza toppings like pepperoni. 

Thankfully, they had a plan up their sleeves to help their customers still get the most out of their favorite pizza ovens through the content the brand shared throughout the pandemic.

“We had to produce the content we knew people wanted, such as how to make pizza without those things. We put a bit of pressure on ourselves to produce that and to keep people happy within the community by talking to them,” explained Angie.

This strategy clearly worked for Ooni as they averaged open rates of 42 percent and click-throughs of eight percent throughout Q1 2020, while Q2’s open rates stayed at 42 percent and click-throughs rose to an incredible 21 percent.

Ooni Pandemic Email

The brand also celebrates something they call ‘Ooni Day’ with their community each year, which is all about encouraging their customers to use their Ooni pizza ovens and invite friends and family around for some delicious wood-fired pizza.

Unfortunately, this year’s annual celebration fell in the middle of a widespread lockdown. So the brand pivoted once more and celebrated a very different kind of Ooni Day with their customers.

“We said, actually, there are ways you can safely make pizza and deliver it. So we changed it up and said: ‘Alright everyone, order yourself some pizza boxes, make some pizzas and go and deliver them. Take orders in advance, drop them off at the doorstep or get people to come and collect the pizzas from you safely,’” Greg explained. 

“People loved it! It was just a nice thing to spread a little bit of joy at a very hard time. A lot of people were missing pizza, which is the least of many worries, but it’s a really simple thing to make for a friend or a neighbor and spread that community,” he said.

“And we decided to take it one step further! To make sure we were giving back, we offered to donate $1/£1/€1 to hunger charities for every single pizza our customers made for their community on Ooni Day,” Greg continued.

Ooni Day Email

Key takeaway

Sales in the home and garden categories have increased since the start of the pandemic, while food and beverage will always remain essential products.

While this is the perfect recipe for increased sales for brands like Ooni, hypergrowth can only be achieved if you’re able to pivot your strategies and adapt.

Ultimately, brands like Ooni succeed because they not only have a fantastic product, but they also understand the importance of keeping their customers—both new and existing—loyal to the brand and a long-term part of their ever-growing, ever-evolving community of brand advocates.

“Our Ooni army are hugely influential and are making people aware of Ooni and convincing them to buy. As a growing brand, we’ll never take that for granted because ultimately, our fans and the strength of our customer relationships are what will see us through,” concluded Greg.

Looking for more tips, strategies, and stories to help you navigate the “new normal”? Check out these resources.

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