This post was originally published on NBC News.
Nutpods in Seattle is a multimillion-dollar business with both national and international distribution. However, it is unlikely the non-dairy creamer company would be the success it is today had it not been for Amazon.
“For us to be able to go on Amazon [and] have pretty much nationwide distribution overnight really allowed me to have a direct way to consumers,” says Madeline Haydon, founder of Nutpods. “They could learn about who we were, what we were trying to do, and what our products were.”
In just two years, Haydon has turned her kitchen counter recipe into a formidable competitor to veteran creamer brands such as Nestlé’s Coffeemate.
Her Amazon store allowed her to start and grow her business without the huge budgets that billion-dollar companies traditionally use to bring new products to market.
“I didn’t have a background in commercializing food,” says Haydon. “And it took like 28 failed trials of trying to commercialize our formula. Then, on the 29th trial, you know, we got it all together.”
Haydon’s fast track to Amazon favorite taught the determined entrepreneur how to score big using the e-commerce giant’s playbook.
Build brand loyalty first
Haydone learned that new brands like Nutpods get lost and disappear on Amazon if they don’t have a loyal customer base willing to seek them out when they launch.
Before Nutpods went global, it was a Kickstarter campaign. This not only helped raise money, but Haydon says it also helped her to test the market.
“Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely needed the funds,” says Haydon. “But what was more important for us is that we needed to see if people were interested — people who weren’t going to give us five bucks because I was their sister or their neighbor.”
The Nutpods Kickstarter campaign proved so successful that the company was able to cultivate a cadre of loyal brand followers whose comments and activity on Amazon got the attention of those who didn’t know about Nutpods. Additionally, contributions from the early Nutpods investors showed Haydon and her team that people would seek out her coconut-almond creamer once it became available.
Get good Amazon reviews
Peter Kearns, a former Amazon manager and current e-commerce consultant, says that reviews are essential for companies looking to increase their visibility on Amazon. According to Kearns, the reviews are where most Amazon shoppers start.
“They want to know, is this a good product?” says Kearns. “Is it a bad product? What are people saying about it? What are the things that I need to know?”
Nutpods used their early contact with customers to identify and cultivate the biggest enthusiasts so that when the Amazon site went live the loyal Nutpods lovers were prepared to go to the site and buy.
Amazon prohibits its sellers from asking for reviews and deletes fake reviews, so the Nutpods team got their word out through use of their social media pages, website, and blog posts.
Give plenty of information
The blog and the Amazon site feature recipes and stories about Nutpods that keep her loyal customers engaged with the brand. Nutpods consumers then write Amazon after trying the recipes.
Haydon has posted photos of her product that can be blown up. She shows the ingredient information and shows her product in use stirred into a cup of coffee to inspire visitors to order the product.
Her sharp professional-grade photos help buyers to decide whether or not Nutpods are a product they want to buy.
Improve back-end support for your own site
Lastly, Haydon makes sure to monitor her inventory and make sure that there is enough product on hand to avoid running out.
Amazon takes careful note of the products that are delivered late or arrive broken, and penalizes repeat offenders.
With these elements in place, Haydon’s Nutpods are well positioned to reach the same market that big brands with big budgets control via brick and mortar stores. However, she’ll always stay close to her roots.
“Start with a great product,” advises Haydon. “You just can’t fake that.”