Meow-to-Consumer: Basepaws’ Early-Stage Sales Growth with Amazon
Guest post by Anna Skaya, CEO & Founder, Basepaws
Ever wonder, “why does my cat do that?” From meowing at 3 a.m. to walking across your keyboard, cats are a mystery I’ve thought of my whole life. I come from a family of biologists, and growing up in Ukraine, cats were a part of my everyday life since birth. In 2017, when considering my next startup idea, my passion for animals – and specifically my minor obsession with my own cat Koko – led me to feline genetics. I founded Basepaws because I wanted to get to know my own cat better, and because Koko can’t speak, genetics was one of the best ways to really understand parts of her. DNA opens a window into a new world for us, but much more for our pets and their health.
Basepaws is the world’s first at-home consumer DNA test for cats. We help you understand your cat’s breed composition and genetic health markers and give actionable insights that can help your cat live healthier and longer. As a data-centric company built on AWS, we are focusing on scaling our database of feline health, breed, and genome traits in 2021, as well as adding other data sources such as microbiome. We reach customers through our own sales and marketing channels as well as through Amazon.com, the only 3rd-party channel we are committed to for growth. Our big vision is to offer pet parents, veterinarians, breeders, shelters, and researchers products and access to our very unique database. In partnership, we hope to create more development of personalized nutrition products, new pet therapeutics, and pet precision medicine — all critical in creating a better world for our cats.
The journey to creating a direct-to-consumer company started with initial iterations of the DNA test and physical product, which helped us secure early pre-seed funding and our first customers. Our early marketing was driven by our own social media channels and our cultivated community of influencers. When budgets were small, we learned that converting new customers is best done organically by creating unique content like videos and blogs, and by working with influencers who share your product with their network at a minimal cost. We also leaned heavily into market analysis and used Amazon Mechanical Turk to better understand customer behavior. By the end of 2018, we had sold 2,000 kits and business was growing 20-50 percent month-over-month. Our big sales breakthroughs came first with landing an investment deal from Shark Tank and then with participation in the Amazon Launchpad program — two massive growth opportunities for Basepaws, in 2019.
Developing our Direct-to-Consumer Strategy
One of the most successful parts of our journey was our commitment to digital storefronts. By avoiding brick and mortar, we were able to create faster delivery, easier access to data, and ultimately, better results. As a Basepaws customer, your DNA test is shipped to you within 2 days, the sample is received in our laboratory via USPS, and your report is delivered to you digitally in about 4 weeks. So how do we go about finding all the cat people out there – millions of them in the US alone! – who want to better understand their cat with genetics? We started with Amazon Launchpad, a program that is specifically designed for high-growth, digital-first startups. Launchpad provided 1×1 support, creative listing suggestions, and new categories for us to showcase the product. From connecting with other pet brands to having access to more featured content, Launchpad is a must for any startup ready to make Amazon one of their key sales channels.
Committing to Amazon.com
Since Amazon is search-based, there are not many opportunities to stand out, even with a product as unique as ours. Our plan was to continue to organically grow our reviews and sales, thus showing Basepaws higher in search, and in parallel to use Amazon Launchpad and Prime Day as ways to highlight the brand. Once on Amazon, we quickly recognized the power of Prime Day, so much of the year is spent ensuring that everything is ready for the big sale. From inventory tracking and management to advertising and placement, Prime Day drives many of our decisions on Amazon. For example, we already see that Prime Day helps us by creating a big sales event outside of the holidays, thus keeping acquisition budgets low and revenue numbers spread across the year. We spend a sizeable effort on earning our reviews, ensuring our 4.6 star rating is solid, and that requires maintaining a strong customer CRM and relationships. The best Prime Day and Lightning Deal offers go to top-rated products, so keeping up with ratings and offering top value on Amazon is a year-long process. Prime Day 2021 is months away, but the time is now to start planning, from new designs for the listing to carefully managing pricing to showcasing happy reviews. We only have 6 months to get the biggest sales day of the year ready!
Selling on Amazon and aligning our strategy to grow on the platform has helped us recognize the importance of reaching customers where they are: online. While we look for other channels that can help us sell – in 2021, you will find us at your local veterinarian, too! – Amazon will always be the platform of choice for us.