Herbs’Oil: Initial Challenges and How Being Digital-First Has Helped During Times of Change
Why was being digital-first important to your business?
The Herbs’Oil team has embraced digital media from the very beginning. With one co-founder in Hawaii and another in Hong Kong, it was important for the business to utilize digital resources to support a mostly remote team (even pre-pandemic). On top of this, starting out as an eCommerce company made the business digital-first by nature. With the company being born in the digital age, the team recognized the need to connect with audiences virtually. That’s why marketing has always been centered around social media, email campaigns, and building relationships with consumers through digital platforms.
What was the opportunity? What was the scale of the desired impact?
The company started when one of its co-founders, Tata, struggled to find a solution for her then-newborn son who suffered from eczema. Tata was inspired by the nature that surrounded her in Hawaii; she hoped to create products based on Hawaiian botanicals that were gentle yet strong enough to soothe sensitive skin. She worked with skincare chemists to create products that were both safe and effective, and from there, Herbs’Oil was born.
She and her co-founder Vriko decided to bring these skincare solutions to Hong Kong, since both co-founders grew there they knew the market well. They believed consumers in Hong Kong could benefit from improving their overall skin health. As the only in-house brand founded in Hawaii in Hong Kong, Herbs’Oil found its nich. When Tata and Vriko founded Herbs’Oil in 2016, revenue in the skincare segment of Hong Kong amounted to US$454.1m. With a population of more than 7 million people, capturing even a tiny sliver of that would mean providing tens of thousands of people a solution to their skincare needs.
What were the specific challenges you faced?
Starting this business posed two challenges: communicating brand identity; and building brand awareness.
Since Herbs’Oil was founded in Hawaii, the brand’s commitment to cultivating unity and the “Aloha Spirit” shaped the company’s culture from the beginning. Literally, “Aloha” means “The Breath of Life,” and this translates into living in the present moment. It was important for Tata and Vriko to have Herbs’Oil not be just a product-based company but for the brand to spread positivity and create a community around wellness. The co-founders recognized that a major part of the appeal of the brand would be the Hawaiian aspect related to the culture and the Aloha Spirit.
Along with communicating this Aloha Spirit, the other challenge that Tata and Vriko faced was getting the brand out to potential customers. As an online-only retailer, Herbs’Oil didn’t have the advantage of capturing foot traffic in the busy cities of Hong Kong because no physical store existed.
What approaches did you take? What did you learn? What were the measurable results? How have you made use of the Facebook platform?
Tata and Vriko saw an opportunity to tack these challenges through digital media. They invited their existing personal and business connections to like and follow the Herbs’Oil Facebook page. To date, the page has nearly 28,000 followers. In order to further tap into the community, they created a private Facebook group to further engage with customers. This group created a sense of community and allowed for a more informal and intimate relationship. It was in both Tata’s and Vriko’s personalities to connect with people and because of that, the community just formed organically. Tata and Vriko would share their journey of entrepreneurship in this group, and people appreciated that vulnerability. Loyal customers could feel like they were part of the brand.
Even to this day, Tata and Vriko regularly post about the company, their personal lives and lifestyle in Hawaii, and the Aloha Spirit. Which remains a core value of the brand. People responded to this with fans of the brand enjoyed learning about Hawaiian culture and life in Hawaii as well as the clean beauty aspect that ties it all together. The group also became an avenue for the Herbs’Oil team to seek and receive feedback from real customers, which helped greatly with product development and customer service. Today, Herbs’Oil’s private Facebook group has grown to more than 7,600 members.
With the Facebook following that Tata and Vriko built, satisfied customers referred their friends, and word spread, capturing the attention of major publications like Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire. Touting these positive reviews and testimonials through social media and email campaigns, the brand gained more customers and saw exponential growth in its first year. The subsequent year, sales more than doubled. To date, the brand has served upwards of 12,000 customers.
Of course, as with any new business, they faced challenges, like how to stay relevant, how to be creative, and how to stand out among the noise. For Herbs’Oil, this meant asking for feedback from customers, learning from others, constantly staying up-to-date with the website, investing in advertising, and always being open to innovative ideas.
How will you continue to make use of digital tools in the future? What examples do you have of when being digital has been helpful during times of change?
The brand continues to adapt as new technologies come forth. One such recent change was adding different payment options to make the checkout process easier and more convenient. Another example of the brand embracing technology is making use of the different ways content can be delivered; the brand’s videos have accumulated millions of views. During times of change, the video content can be easily adapted. In fact, one of the brand’s highest-viewed videos was a recent one showing that their new sunscreen and tinted day cream products could be worn without smudging on a face mask. With the prevalence of face masks becoming worldwide during this pandemic, this video was very relevant during this time and reached nearly 97 thousand viewers with a total engagement of 86.
As with most businesses, the pandemic has definitely brought many challenges. Overall, consumers are spending less, especially on non-essential products. While the sales environment has been tough everywhere, being digital-first has helped Herbs’Oil to survive in the current economic climate with so many businesses closing due to the pandemic. While Herbs’Oil has had physical pop-up stores in the past, sales have not been dependent on having an in-person store. This has proven to be beneficial. In fact, the recent pandemic has forced the company to grow its digital presence even further. With lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing becoming the norm, the Herbs’Oil team recognized the need to build even closer relationships with its customers.
In May of this year, Tata and Vriko created a free 21-Day Challenge Facebook group (above) where they invited yogis, meditation practitioners, and even an iron chef to engage with Herbs’Oil customers. The purpose of the challenge was to showcase the brand’s values beyond just what the products could offer, again harnessing that Aloha Spirit that’s been present from day one. Creating this group was a way to encourage the community to focus on their wellbeing, both mentally and physically. This theme not only fit well with the brand and its culture of Aloha but also shed some positive light during a time of uncertainty. It was a way to remind customers, amidst the pandemic, to take care of their health and wellness. In less than a month, the group had more than 700 members join and participate in the challenge.
In today’s world, it seems inevitable that digital transformation will be a necessary part of any business. For Herbs’Oil, being digital-first has proven to be beneficial and the business will without a doubt continue to evolve over time.
This case study is part of a series called Facebook Curated, in partnership with Facebook. Learn more.