How Blenders Eyewear Achieves Hyper Growth While Remaining Authentic To Their Grassroots Beginnings

Industry: EyewearPlatform: Shopify Plus

270%

increase in affiliate revenue in 2020

3x

increase in affiliate conversions in 2020

4x

higher revenue per affiliate email recipient in 2020

The story of Blenders Eyewear is every budding entrepreneur’s dream. Started in 2012, Blenders Eyewear Founder and CEO, Chase Fisher, took a personal fashion statement and, over 7 years, turned it into a household, international brand valued at $90M.

How did Blenders go from 0 to 90? By staying close and remaining authentic with their customer.

Like all fast-growing DTC brands, Blenders was faced with the decision of how they’d grow. Would they adopt a “grow at all costs” strategy centered around marketplace advertising platforms to attain new customers no matter the customer acquisition cost (CAC)? Or would they utilize different channels that would help them effectively and sustainably win customers at a lower CAC — but an even higher customer lifetime value (CLTV)? The latter choice may sound like a magic bullet, but it’s exactly what Blenders achieved. They relied on two owned marketing channels to accomplish this: affiliate and email marketing.

A Grassroots Brand Goes Big

Passionate about creating eyewear that represented the California surf culture from which Blenders was born, Chase would sell sunglasses from his backpack while doubling as a surf coach. He replicated that authentic insider sales model with friends from San Diego State University — local surfers, athletes and style enthusiasts. In its first year, Blenders Eyewear grew entirely through grassroots marketing efforts and influencers (even before that was a thing).

Although Blenders Eyewear was born and cultivated among the surf and sand of the West Coast, there was no denying the brand had international appeal. Blenders direct-to-consumer sales model allowed them to reach adventurous spirits seeking fresh style all over the world. No matter the language, Blenders Eyewear maintained a consistent promise to its customers to always be RAD — Relevant, Affordable and Dependable.

Fast forward to 2019, when Blenders caught the eye of Italian eyewear giant, Safilo Group, who purchased a majority stake, valuing the homegrown Pacific Beach brand at $90M.

“Blenders’ skills in attracting millennial and Generation Z customers are formidable,” said Paul Altman, Managing Director and Partner at The Sage Group, which represented Blenders in the Safilo Group transaction. Altman shared to the San Diego Union Tribune, “Blenders has an unparalleled grip on its targeted demographics, and expertly knows how to communicate with them to build sustainable, lifetime value.”

Creating Valuable Relationships At Scale

Blenders launched by staying a surfboard’s distance from their first customers — grassroots growth is integral to their DNA. So, the decision to continue growing by building relationships with their customers — and fostering relationships between their customers — was a fitting strategy. Blenders took the same model that helped Chase sell his first pairs of Blenders and opened it up to customers and brand enthusiasts, creating a “boots on the ground” community of influential ambassadors called the Street Team.

Armed with Blenders love, active social media accounts and exclusive eyewear perks, members of the Street Team generate a continually growing percentage of Blenders annual revenue.

Blenders’ Street Team is a tight-knit virtual family. Blenders Street Team Manager, Marygrace LeGros, shared, “There have been a lot of close bonds and relationships that form through the Street Team. Over the years I’ve seen members reach out to each other on social media and you can tell they’ve bonded and created a friendship even though they’ve never actually met in person.”

Blenders created this culture intentionally and keeps the engagement level high by being selective about who they let in. They also encourage micro-commitments along the way — such as participation in social media challenges — and by rewarding and recognizing affiliates based on conversions. The enthusiasm and commitment to the program is infectious, proving to Blenders that a focus on quality relationships is more important than the quantity of relationships.

Screenshot of Blenders email

The Tools: Refersion + Klaviyo

Blenders chose Refersion and Klaviyo as the technologies that would enable them to organize and build valuable customer relationships at scale.

Blenders uses Refersion to automate scalable parts of the Street Team like creating tiered offerings for affiliates, tracking affiliate conversions and paying out affiliates for conversions — tasks that are important to both the business and the operation of the Street Team.

After qualifying applicants, Blenders onboards affiliates quickly and can begin orienting affiliates about offers and products. The Street Team hears it first, and can go to market with Blenders on new launches and product news. LeGros checks the tool daily to track performance and use data to evaluate and support her strategy.

“The reports definitely make my life easier,” LeGros shared. “I can easily get information I need to share with our accounting and marketing teams, and it answers a lot of their questions without me having to go back and forth. Having clear reporting is super important, especially when it comes down to seeing all the revenue that the Street Team brings in. I can easily see what they are doing, how often they are sharing, where their sales are coming and how well they are converting.”

Using Klaviyo, Blenders sends eye-catching emails to customers with influencer potential. Once those influencers are on-boarded, they use newsletters to keep them informed about Blenders news, engaged with the community and also encouraged to purchase products using their exclusive Street Team discount.