In this episode, we meet Michael Wieder, co-founder of Lalo. Lalo is a one-stop shop for parents who feel overwhelmed with the buying process for an expanding family.
I was initially an entrepreneur and then became a sports agent. I needed to get back to my entrepreneurial roots, so I founded a fitness tech company based in New York. Then I joined a start-up called WayUp, where I met my co-founder Greg. Together, we created Lalo, which took us a few years to make happen after the initial idea.
Greg and I did not have children. But we saw how our friends and family struggled with becoming parents. They needed to buy a lot of stuff and didn’t know what to buy. When we looked at the popular brands, we noticed a disconnect between the customer and the stories the brands were telling them. It seemed like the brands were selling anxiety and were focused on selling only products.
We surveyed the parents to look at the different opinions and deeply understand them. We focused on the white space that was the connection between the consumer and the brand, and not the product which became the vision that built Lalo.
When we got started, everyone was asking us what agency we were going to use to create our brand and write our manifesto. I felt that as founders, we needed to tell the story of the brand. Paying someone to write your brand story in a PDF will not build your brand. We took a bunch of those meetings to help inspire the direction we wanted to take. But as founders, you need to be able to define the brand and tell the story. And that’s what we did.
We saw all of the incumbents were selling products through anxiety, and we wanted to sell through love and building connections. We fashioned Lalo to be about love, and celebrating milestones. And avoid medical and technical jargon that preyed on fear.
We have grown in ways that exceeded our expectations. Last year we introduced 29 products when 3 years ago we only had 3 products. We have launched products to stay connected with our customers and continue to grow with them. Our growth is all about being there for more memories and milestones because there is so much to celebrate when raising children.
Our focus was on building a connection with the customer, and that can only be achieved by talking to the customers. DTC is an important channel we can use to connect with the customer and build a strong brand.
We also understand that our customer doesn’t shop exclusively at Lalo. This is why we have a partnership with Babylist , the fastest-growing online baby registry. Babylist owns 50% of the new parent market.
We focus on where parents would look for products and focus on building a connection. Gift givers, including grandparents, are important to consider and we think about where grandparents shop and where they feel comfortable shopping. That segment has us looking at new channels and retailers.
In terms of brand scale, market share, and brand awareness. For example, Amazon, more shoppers start a search on Amazon than on Google. If you don’t have organic search traffic going into a channel, it's going to be harder to scale.
If you have organic search traffic, you can put less into marketing and advertising. The key is launching in channels where there is already velocity around the brand. And less money is poured into paid media.
Brand experience doesn’t happen just on the internet. It may start on the internet but starts well before they decide to purchase. For our category, the power of word-of-mouth is amplified more than any other category.
First-time parents often start shopping by asking friends or family members, that are one step ahead of them. Asking “what brands do you like?” and “can I see your list?” The conversation is happening everyday between mothers.
So we need to make sure customers and prospective buyers all have a positive experience and association with the brand. I love hearing stories of people who got something else as a gift but tell their friends to check out Lalo’s highchair because that’s what they would have bought on their own. It means we are resonating with people that don’t have our #1 best seller. They are probably going to buy something else eventually, and are helping with our flywheel of efficient growth not even being a customer.
It speaks to what we’ve built as a brand. The touchpoints begin online, with imagery, social media, advertising, and assembly videos. During the product development stage we look at how to make everything easier for the customer, i.e what else can be pre-assembled.
In terms of customer experience and support, it’s how we show up for the customer if they have any issue with assembly or shipment. It speaks well for the brand reputation. We win 10 out of 10 times.
It comes down to ease. How can we make the experience easier, in terms of product registration, assembly, exploring, and finding new products? When people decide to buy from us, they will not be fully exposed to our product catalog, when they buy a highchair, they will find out that we have other products. The ease of that is enabled by BRIJ QR Code Experiences.
First, the buyer is not the end user. Second, people edit their registry, just because you are added doesn’t mean they will buy the product. Third, the time frame – sometimes people start building their registry from the time they find out they are pregnant. Most people are building registries during the 1st and 2nd trimesters. And most of the gifting happens in the 3rd trimester leading up to a baby shower or birth.
So, we need to capture our buyer ahead of the purchase and find out who the buyer is, and closing the loop is a hard process. We look at our data to understand, our repeat customers and the buyer journey. For example, people come for the first time and buy an extra cushion, when they haven’t bought a highchair. Obviously, they received it as a gift. There is some tricky nuance to connecting data and attribution.
Parents have category education, in that they know about the different types of products, but do not know anything about the nuance of each product. They want to know what a specific high chair and infant bathtub is like and why one is better than the other. Parents usually have no clue about what to buy or why one product is better than the other. As a brand, we provide this education and support to parents for free and it’s not just about our products. For instance, we just did a webinar on “how to start babies with solid foods.” And 1200 people joined.
A one-to-many approach is a great way to market anything. Local communities can be reached through guerrilla marketing. The second method is creating a great product and experience allowing the brand to speak for itself. Your customers then become your advocates.
Early on we needed to do guerilla marketing to generate awareness, but not so much anymore. If there is a conversation in a private Facebook group, there’s now a good chance that it’s going to come up without us doing anything.
There is no business that hasn’t had a failure. Inventory management is the hardest part in the early days. We ended up buying too much of a product or buying too little of a product. It's more expensive to be out of stock than in stock for inventory management. We now plan inventory and focus on management because of its impact on the business.
I think DTC will remain a strong channel for us. People want to interact with our brand. Retailers will be an interesting place for Lalo as long as they understand brand alliance and value. Eventually, we plan on becoming an international brand.
I’m a time management efficiency junkie. I like to get a lot of things done in a small amount of time and I can multitask. I commit to learning new skills to be self-sufficient.
Favorite omnichannel brand
What is the thing you wish you could change about our industry?
Comparisons. Stop comparing yourself to another brand.
Favorite social media channel
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
The favorite event you are planning on going to this year
Kind + Jugend, a global baby product trade show in Germany
Where can our listeners connect with you?