Modibodi aims to change the narrative surrounding women's bodies and health, and while they're at it, they're changing the face of e-commerce. We sat down with Kristy Chong, the Founder and CEO of Modibodi, to discuss innovation, pureplay retailing and the future of customer-led businesses.
What started the idea of Modibodi? What makes Modibodi different from other traditional online retailers?
I was a full-time mum of a two-year-old and five-month-old when I had the idea for Modibodi, living in Seattle surrounded by tech start-ups. I was training for a marathon and had been experiencing occasional light bladder leaks. The available solutions were ugly, inconvenient, uncomfortable and a hazard to our environment – disposable hygiene. I just felt we deserved something better.
Once I realised how problematic the issue was, I also couldn’t understand why, with all the advancements in technology, underwear and disposable hygiene had not evolved. I knew instantly that I was going to have to create a whole new product category for women. I’m really proud that I took that idea and turned it into a product and now a range of products that can more conveniently, comfortably and reliably manage menstrual flow, incontinence, sweat and even breast milk leaks, and reduce the amount of single-use products ending up in landfill and damaging our environment.
I spoke to chemical textile engineers, scientists, garment developers, and textile mills and then did the sourcing and scientific testing for over 18 months to develop our patented Modifier Technology. The technology is found in the gusset area (and bra area of our breastfeeding singlets) and works by wicking moisture away from the body through to an absorbent and odour eliminating middle layer, then a waterproof breathable, hi-tech barrier prevents leakage.
Modibodi is going from strength-to-strength, with products now available via Amazon, eBay, Facebook Marketplace as well as on our e-commerce website. Exporting worldwide to countries including the UK, Iceland, South Africa, South Korea, USA, NZ, Singapore, Japan to name a few, we have sold millions of Australian-designed garments and replaced the need for billions of single-use disposable products.
Kristy, the CEO of Modibodi, has more than 13 years’ of experience working in PR and marketing. How did this help elevate the overall offering that Modibodi has for its customers?
Modibodi was launched with limited money. We had a small amount of seed funding, we didn’t get capital to launch the business, so I used my PR and marketing background to help – I was writing to journalists and influencers and pitching stories – that way, my time was about how we generated marketing and brand awareness.
Once we got Modibodi off the ground, having the right staffing behind me became so important; I needed to have the right people to live and breathe the Modibodi brand. We now have 24 employees who are incredible at what they do.
Modibodi reaches its target audience through a truly integrated approach. From pop-up tours to our influencer marketing campaigns, advertisements, advertorials and editorials, we’re reaching more people than ever before.
When I started Modibodi I knew how important it was to have a social impact side to the business, therefore, a percentage of our profits go to women in need who often can’t afford feminine hygiene products – we want to celebrate our success as a business but ensure we’re a business with real heart that gives back – it’s not just about having a feel-good marketing campaign.
We are part of the Sustainable Period Project and support many other organisations globally. Plus, our Give a Pair campaign encourages support from our customers which then facilitates Modibodi underwear donations to vulnerable and disadvantaged women across the globe.
Online retail has been experiencing history-making changes in the last six months. What have been some of the most significant changes that Modibodi has seen this year?
In the last six months, Modibodi has seen continued growth, despite difficult trading conditions. An Australian owned company, and online-only business, Modibodi sells direct to consumers in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA and the EU. We now have over 515,852 customers around the world and have sold over 1.5 million pairs of Australian-designed garments.
As Aussies realise the potential of e-commerce over the last few months, there has been a flurry of new customers entering the e-commerce landscape. Has Modibodi business seen a change in customer behaviour, and how has it impacted its strategy going forward?
We currently have 48 products across three core demographics Modibodi for women, Modibodi Red – our teen range, and a Modibodi range for men. Our strategy has always been to listen to consumer needs and understand where we can best support them. This in turn helps fuel new customer growth and identify direction for product ranges.
Over the last three months, Modibodi has noticed a surge in repeat customers and brand loyalty. An introduction of new products, including Maxi 24-hrs, has also strengthened our customer base. Comfort and security has always been important to our customers, they trust that the technology works and rely on it to get them through the day – but during the Covid-19 pandemic, this reassurance has been even more important to them.
As online continues to dominate the landscape amid the pandemic, how did Modibodi cope with an onset of orders?
As an online-only business, Modibodi were well prepared to cope with high order volumes. We also have efficient supply chains and logistics that helped with the onset of orders.
Many older Australian shoppers are using e-commerce platforms for the first time. Does Modibodi have a strategy to make the shopping experience easier for those who aren’t used to the e-commerce platform?
Our strategy is primarily about introducing Modibodi to every person who leaks, globally, by creating trust and starting conversations with our audience and customers. From first periods to menopause, incontinence, sweat, chafing and beyond – Modibodi has a diverse product range and target market, meaning that earning trust has become the cornerstone for all our customer interactions, new and existing.
Modibodi conducted user testing to guide website design for a seamless user experience and ensured the site and shop pages were easy to navigate. Sizing guides, simple and easy to understand product information, an FAQs section and online chat also assisted in making the shopping experience easier for those not used to the e-commerce platform.
Have there been introductions of new marketing strategies over the last six months to accommodate for the new online shoppers?
Like many businesses, 2020 provided us with the opportunity to regroup, assess performance and then adapt. As an e-commerce native brand, one of the many benefits is the ability to pivot swiftly in multiple markets at the same time and this is a blessing.
To accommodate the new online shoppers, Modibodi used 1st party data to continually engage with customers and leveraged our 100 percent brand trust to acquire new customers.
The backbone of our success is our loyalty to the strategy – primarily, listening to our customers! We are in constant communication with our customers across multiple platforms and conduct regular surveys to understand customer motivations and pain points – using this information to adapt and innovate where needed.
During the peak of the pandemic, Modibodi experimented with free shipping thresholds and introduced a risk-free trial and longer timeframes on returns, offering customers more flexibility. We will continue to innovate with regards to our product offering and will extend our customer care hours of availability for further support.
What do you believe are the biggest challenges for Australian e-commerce businesses right now, and what could be done to address these? What are the biggest opportunities?
The biggest challenges would be the crowded market and the execution of customer-centric tactics specific to an individual’s business. With so many buzzwords in the market, it can be difficult to know those strategies and platforms work best for an individual business, and those that are simply not relevant to the customer.
There are so many opportunities in-market for Australians e-commerce businesses. Australia is home to some incredible trailblazers within the industry, and as a nation, we are known for being innovators and disruptors.
The Modibodi team know that it’s about working smarter and ensuring that you remain loyal to listening to customer needs, rather than chasing fads. In just the last few years, we have come leaps and bounds in terms of offering a stronger, faster, more efficient supply chain, while negating the issues around shipping delays.
If you could go back in time, would you change anything about the Modibodi business strategy?
No, I wouldn’t change anything. We are proud of the work we’ve done, the impact we have had on people’s lives, and the environment, plus the conversations we’ve started along the way!
What does the future of e-commerce look like for Modibodi?
Moving into 2021 we want to ensure we stay true to our purpose and ensure that the ongoing innovation of the Modibodi product offering continues. We are committed to continue to address questions, curiosity and fear up-front and tackling the body hang-ups that can hold people back or stop them from being their best.
We want to continue to be a customer-led business, taking all feedback on board and ensuring the ongoing innovation of the Modibodi product offering continues. We have a global collective of agencies and creative partners that we work with on special projects when we require them as well as a passionate internal team and we are looking for even more of a global reach in 2020 and beyond.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Modibodi is preparing for an exciting and innovative year ahead in Australia and beyond, so watch this space!
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