We spoke with SOLO Eyewear, an environmentally responsible sunglasses company that currently leverages Amazon Prime’s vast user base to advertise their products to millions of shoppers worldwide.
SOLO Eyewear was founded when Jenny Amaraneni partnered with her colleague to launch a sunglasses company that helps to fund eye care for those who do not have access to healthcare.
To date – SOLO Eyewear has helped to restore vision for 11,000+ people in need across 32 countries and thanks to Amazon Prime’s loyalty program, the company continues to gain access to an estimated 60 million Prime customers.
We spoke with SOLO Eyewear Creative Director and Co-founder Dana Holliday, to talk about her company’s recent growth and how they plan to stay competitive in 2016.
Q. How would you describe the early stages of SOLO Eyewear?
A. “We launched SOLO Eyewear while students at San Diego State University. My business partner Jenny was getting her MBA, I was studying Graphic and Web Design, and we both worked at the Entrepreneurial Management Center. SOLO started as a university project for both of us.
After learning that 80% of the world’s blindness is preventable and that 1 billion people do not have access to eye care in the world, we came up with the concept to use sunglasses as a vehicle to fund eye care internationally.”
Below is an outline of how SOLO Eyewear helps to fund eye care for those in need:
“We quickly decided that the concept wasn’t enough, and that we had an idea that could truly make an impact.
We began pursuing SOLO as a real business by developing an environmentally responsible line of eyewear, securing a manufacturer, designing our brand identity and launching an e-commerce website.
Using our diverse range of specialties and education to our advantage, we were able to cover a lot of ground with a lean team.
The first-ever SOLO sunglasses were sold out of our backpacks on campus. We set-up a photoshoot at the beach with close friends and hosted a launch party as a way to put ourselves on the map.”
Q. When did you first realize it was essential to build a presence on the Amazon Marketplace?
A. “We first launched as an online business and sold sunglasses primarily through our website, www.soloeyewear.com, and at local events. Our next step was building a retail base in the US.
We attended industry-focused trade shows in optical, fashion, and outdoor. We went door-to-door knocking at local retail shops, hosted trunk shows, and tried everything we could think of to familiarize the market with our story.
We’re now in about 60 retailers across the US and opened with our first international distributor in spring 2016.
Our current focus is revamping our online strategy and building channels that increase visibility and traffic.
Through making improvements to our website, strategic online advertising, and a stronger focus on social media engagement and brand ambassadorship, we’ve been able to drive a significant increase in online activity.
We’ve learned to test and measure everything, down to the use of periods or caps in an email subject line.
Our goal is always to find out-of-the-box, inexpensive ways to move the dial. Another successful tool in boosting online visibility was listing on the Amazon Marketplace.”
“We saw a huge jump in sales when we switched to a Fulfilled-by-Amazon (FBA) relationship and implemented Prime shipping.
Through our efforts, we’re building an audience of loyal brand advocates who engage through our social, email, and website.
By joining the Amazon community, we’re reaching an entirely new audience who we may not have otherwise identified as prospects or captured as customers.”
To learn more about FBA – check out “How Q4 2016 Amazon FBA Fees Will Impact Your Business“
Q. What Amazon advertising platforms have you seen the most success from?
A. “We’re constantly testing new strategies to ensure that our marketing dollars have the largest reach. As a small company, we’re very conscious of the best ways to invest our resources.
We’ve been running product display ads, headline search ads, and Sponsored Product Ads.
To date, we’ve seen the most success with headline search ads.”
Want to learn more? Check out our recent post:
“In addition to the direct sales generated, we find that online ads create a much larger perception of brand clout. Because it’s not yet standard for smaller companies to have robust ad strategies, we appear to be a much bigger brand simply by showing up next to the e-commerce giants whose ads are expected (and often overlooked).
Whether it leads to an immediate sale or a subliminal reminder, we find that being present on Amazon through paid advertising is a crucial component of our online strategy.”
Q. Which factors contribute to your success in the ecommerce space?
A. “Our most impactful online channel is email marketing. Building our email list has been a top priority for our brand over the past year.
We ran a hugely successful referral campaign this spring, prior to launching our new line of recycled plastic sunglasses, which grew our email list by 30k in less than one month.
Other channels of notable growth are Facebook advertising and Instagram.”
“We have a Creative Ambassador program which connects our products with notable influencers on Instagram. Through these partnerships we’re able to sponsor athletes, adventurers, and photographers, develop inspiring content to share through our social channels and increase visibility through active engagement with these influencers via mentions, giveaways, and contests.
As I mentioned above, we’ve begun making improvements to our website to increase conversions and improve user experience. We’ve implemented tools on our website that encourage engagement, including Popharvest, which utilizes user-generated content for shoppable galleries on our homepage and individual product pages.
Click here for – The 2016 Guide to Facebook Retargeting
We also added a review and rating system to boost traffic, increase sales and reinforce to our customers that we are invested in their satisfaction and support.
Up next, we’re working on implementing 3D imaging to best recreate the in-store experience and build customer trust in our products.”
Q. What do you envision for the future of SOLO Eyewear?
A. “We’ve seen incredible success over the last five years, but we aren’t resting on our laurels. Over the next five years, our goal is to restore vision for over 1,000,000 people in need, reach $10,000,000 in revenue, and become a globally recognized brand for social and environmentally conscious products.”