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In late 2019, when Anna Harman and Lisa Bubbers launched ear piercing and pierced earring company Studs, providing IRL services was at the center of their business model. But then the pandemic hit. Today, e-commerce is every bit as important.
“In 2022, we’re focused on both [channels],” said Harman, on the latest Glossy Podcast. “We want to really continue to invest in and grow the retail footprint, as well as grow the e-commerce business. We’d like them to be highly complementary to one another. The business will be more successful over time if both are key channels for us.”
The company has raised more than $30 million to fuel that cross-channel growth.
As for expanding its store footprint, Studs has a good start: Harman and Bubbers opened six new stores in 2021, and they plan to own more than 20 stores by the end of 2022.
“You have so many small college towns across the U.S. that have a really captive, large audience of a portion of our core demographic,” said Harman. “And so we can have a really large store footprint through time. The opportunity for Studs is unbounded.”
Outside of sales channels, Harman and Bubbers are focusing their efforts on expanding their in-house team and overall brand awareness. And, at every step, they plan to write their own playbook.
“Innovation and outside-the-box thinking and creation are what get us out of bed in the morning,” Harman said.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Fueling UGC at every touchpoint
Bubbers: “The stores are really designed for UGC. They’re highly Instagrammable. Piercing itself, as an act, is very Instagrammable; you really want to tell the world and your friends what you just did. So we have a lot of UGC in-store. And for at-home ‘earscaping,’ our packaging is very Instagrammable. We have really cute neon Studs pouches, we have a scratch-off in every e-commerce order — you can scratch off to win. One of the prizes is a $500 shopping spree, or [you could win] a tote or a discount code. And so we have moments and stickers. And also showing your earscape as part of your outfit at home is really popular. So we really see you UGC across the board; that goes for both ends of escaping — both piercing and the fashion assortment.”
Bubbers: “One thing that we’re doing well that’s working to acquire customers is our own content. We’ve gotten to 196,000 Instagram followers in these two-and-a-half years, and we really invest in content. We shoot ears in our photo studio, and we make what we call ear-ducation — and so it’s a lot of content on how to style [earrings] or [how to wear] one stud three ways. We also do a lot of piercing education and piercing content. We’re launching an ear-ducation hub, which is our resources and guide to all of our information around piercing and aftercare and styling and trend. And so our investment in content is really paying off, from a [customer] acquisition perspective. People are really excited. And then the other way we’ve been driving a lot of our e-commerce growth is through e-comm drops. The [products] also drop at the store, but they really drive ecomm growth. So we did a big Studs Loves New York campaign last year, where we had New York-inspired jewelry, in collaboration with a local designer, Garbage NY, and we brought our Studs On Wheels mobile truck out. And that kind of drop campaign with a really novel assortment was a big driver for us. We did something similar [around voting]. We’re gonna have a bunch of big campaigns launching this year that have jewelry that’s really differentiated. Something about Studs is that, because we do have that fun, bold brand, we can do a little cowboy boot or a ‘fuck off’ stud, and that works for our brand. And our customer really likes that from us. And so there’s a lot of really new, fun jewelry that’s gonna drop this year.”
The role of physical stores
Harman: “Stores are the key business driver for Studs. They are very economically viable; they are not just a marketing activation. The business wouldn’t function without the stores. We definitely think we can build many hundreds of them across the US., so we have extreme ambitions as it relates to that. And then in terms of how they will work as a marketing tool for Studs, the biggest thing we see is that where we put Studs stores, we get bumps in our e-commerce revenue — which is not unique to us; all physical businesses frequently see that. But we are definitely experiencing that, which is proving to us that, as the store business grows, the e-commerce business will grow in tandem.”