The company also saw record sales amid the pandemic, as consumer shopping habits shifted more to e-commerce.
Outer cofounder and CEO Jiake Liu explained how the nearly 1-year-old company boosted its quarter-over-quarter traffic growth by 659.1% in the second quarter and saw sales increase by 21 times in just five months.
For many direct-to-consumer brands, the pandemic has helped business and web traffic soar.
In the case of the outdoor-furniture company Outer, the past few months have been some of the most successful for the brand since its founding in May 2019. The company was the fastest-growing direct-to-consumer (DTC) company for the second quarter, according to web-traffic data from SimilarWeb. A little over 1 year old, Outer boosted its quarter-over-quarter traffic growth by 659.1% in the second quarter, reaching 52,773 monthly visitors on average.
In terms of revenue, Outer saw a 21-times increase from January to May. But according to Outer cofounder and CEO Jiake Liu, such sudden growth should not be viewed as a short-term metric for success.
“We’re all about sustainable growth,” Liu said of his company’s second-quarter results.
According to Liu, there were several factors that helped the brand, which recently raised $4.3 million in investment funding in June, achieve its monumental growth last quarter. In addition to its solid, desirable product and strong advertising and marketing strategy, Outer benefited from pandemic-driven consumer-behavior shifts. With more people homebound during warmer spring and summer months, Outer was well-positioned as a company focused on helping people enjoy their backyards in comfort.
How Outer scaled its advertising and marketing spend
Though Outer launched a little over a year ago, the team did not decide to target growth until relatively recently. For the first seven months of the company’s life, Liu said the team focused on perfecting the product, streamlining supply and fulfillment channels, and figuring out scalable acquisition channels.
By January, Outer started to invest more heavily on paid marketing. By April, the team homed in on its search strategy and published engaging video content to highlight key features of the company’s furniture. Savannah Sanchez, a social-media consultant who worked with Outer to grow its digital presence, shared on Twitter how she helped the brand scale its paid-advertising spend tenfold on Facebook and hundredfold on Google since February.
Outer was already fixed on a path toward digital growth by the spring. But the pandemic gave the brand another few advantages.
The pandemic “coincided with our strategy of doubling down on growth,” Liu said, adding that the burst in e-commerce and the shift to warmer weather served as a benefit to his outdoor-focused company.
Outer’s playbook for what makes a successful DTC
The outdoor-furniture market has been growing rapidly since before the pandemic. So even without the tailwinds of the pandemic, Outer was strategically positioned in a market of high demand, which Liu said was important for any DTC company to succeed, pandemic or not.
“It really comes down to the product itself,” Liu said about why his team spent so much time perfecting the furniture before scaling the company’s growth. DTC brands can no longer expect to bank on a “great-looking logo and a shiny-looking website” to win over customers, Liu said.
One example of Outer “walking the walk” is the company’s emphasis on durable and sustainable products to mitigate waste, another factor consumers expect from DTC brands. This summer, Outer will launch three outdoor rugs of varying sizes, each made from over 400 plastic bottles.
But to Liu, the most important ingredient for DTC success is a focus on customer service. Being open, honest, and transparent is key, especially during a time of regular supply-chain disruptions and general uncertainty.
With a nearly perfect Net Promoter Score, a customer-satisfaction metric, of 93, Outer’s efforts in customer service appear to be paying off. To Liu, that’s a big part of what keeps his company on a trajectory of growth.
“I honestly think that DTCs live and die by the customer experience at the end of the day,” he said.