After leaving a job with an international retail chain, Phoebe Yu launched online bedding company Ettitude in order to make consumption more sustainable. Heather McIlvaine, editor of Inside Small Business’s sister publication Internet Retailing, recently spoke with Ettitude’s CEO and founder, Yu, and the start-up’s marketing manager, Jess Pang, about the online-only business model, social-media strategy and the importance of sustainability.
Heather McIlvaine: What’s your business model and how is it different from the way other retailers in your sector operate?
Phoebe Yu: Ettitude is a vertically integrated e-commerce company. We see ourselves as a disrupter in the bedding industry as most bedding labels are sold through traditional bricks-and-mortar stores. We are also the first in the world to use 100 per cent organic bamboo lyocell fabric to make bedding. By focusing on using innovative, multi-functional, sustainable bedding materials, we have distinguished our brand from other major bedding brands you find in department stores.
HM: Why did you decide to manufacture and sell your own product exclusively, rather than have your product sold by an established homeware retailer, or through an online marketplace?
PY: We want to offer high quality bedding at accessible prices for everyone, especially when we spend one third of our lives in bed! We want to simplify the traditional retail model and remove the middlemen. By working directly with supplier, designing in-house and selling directly to customers online, we are able to remove retail markups and brick-and-mortar expenses to pass these savings onto our consumers with a transparent, honest pricing model. Another huge advantage of our business model is that we are able to respond to the market trends and consumer needs to make production decisions and adjustments quickly.
HM: What’s your social media strategy? Is it more about driving brand awareness or sales? Do you do paid advertising? If so, how do you decide which channels to invest in? Do you use video ads or influencer marketing?
Jess Pang: We use social media in general to drive brand awareness, to create an online brand identity and cultivate a community. By using our social media strategy to create a conversation with our customers, we are able to engage them to forge a deeper, more meaningful relationship. We often talk back to our followers, and ask them for feedback and to vote on new colours and patterns.
We use Instagram heavily because a picture is worth a thousand words, and now it can reach millions of customers a day! Visual content works especially well with bedding and homeware products because people love looking for interior inspirations from styling images and seeing how they can work different colours into their bedrooms. We use Instagram to post our product images, inspirational images, wellness tips and also user-generated content; we spotlight customers who show us how they #sleepwithettitude and repost their images.
Traditionally, bedding shopping isn’t exactly an exciting activity – it takes hours for customers to compare different brands, fabrics and colours in shopping malls and departments store. There are not many bedding labels that are talking directly to their customers like a friend.
We are also currently experimenting with more video content on YouTube and in our social media strategy. Moving images definitely help to highlight the softness and silkiness of our fabric.
HM: What are the e-commerce trends that you’re paying attention to today?
PY: We are not planning to open a permanent physical store at the moment but we are planning to do pop-up shops and concept labs in different states or even countries for customers to feel our fabric on a real bed.
This article comprises of extracts for an interview that first appeared on Internet Retailing, sister publication of Inside Small Business