Hawkers, a company that produces sunglasses fitted with polarized lenses that are styled to impress, began in December 2013. In just two years, the company began to top the “best-of” lists. It’s fair to say that the company disrupted the fashion sunglasses industry. From just a few hundred initial sales, Alejandro Betancourt grew the company into a mega-selling store that, by 2016, moved 10,000 units per day and raked in over $70 million. To do so, Hawkers revolutionized the potential for e-commerce and online selling, but they didn’t follow the standardized rules. Of the $70 million in sales made in 2016, almost $65 million came from social media. Here’s how they did it.
In everyday speech, “influencer marketing” is known as a paid endorsement, but Hawkers and Alejandro Betancourt didn’t start with celebrities, as is the usual practice. They focused on consumer communities and began to place their products with influential social media stars in exchange for sharing photographs of these influencers, not only on the company’s social media platforms, but also on each individual influencer’s platform. Hawkers gave incentives, free merchandise and paid the influencer a percentage of each sale they helped create. Also, they allowed the influencer to offer discounts. Those actions enabled the company to utilize each influencer’s social status and social circles to sell their products.
Moreover, Alejandro Betancourt and his team targeted influencer marketing on college campuses, where they utilized word-of-mouth marketing combined with social influencing. The Hawkers buying community was mostly organic. With the help of word-of-mouth marketing and social leveraging, the company brought members to their buying community from more than 140 countries worldwide.
Today, Hawkers sells 90% of their products online. Their ability to disrupt the sunglasses industry is beyond amazing. The company went from four friends working together to promote one product to adding even more products and many employees. How they accomplished this is simple. They were a new company that needed social influencers, but they didn’t have the budget to book an A-lister. Instead, they looked at the world around them, at the world of social media and its non-celebrity influencers.
Hawkers launched a Campus Ambassador Program that used influencers from social media circles. In Spain, they found 5,000 brand ambassadors on college campuses across the country to help drive sales. They capitalized on the social reach of a variety of students from across the college spectrum, including star athletes, students with lots of friends, and the average college kid. Each student posed on their social media profile wearing Hawkers sunglasses and living the lifestyle of the brand.
Since each student had his or her own circle of friends, word about the brand began to grow. The students went to festivals, concerts, and other events, and their selfies showcased Hawkers sunglasses in some cool venues. People noticed, and Hawkers sales accelerated. Each student’s circle of influence hit the social media world, and from there, they helped catapult Hawkers into becoming a multimillion-dollar company. That is the power of social media and it paid off for Hawkers.
Through the power of social media, Hawkers built a buying community. Later, they turned to social media ads to further their reach and increase sales.
Scaling to World Sales
From their simple, fashionable designs that featured quality and style, Hawkers went from selling a few hundred pairs of glasses each day to taking orders for more than 10,000 pairs of sunglasses every day. Their employee list went from five to 65, and they struggled to meet demand. Their success was a product of organic word-of-mouth and an affiliate program that empowered their influencers’ personalities to shine and make money. The use of promo codes was significant, and that tool empowered their influencers to give back to their social circles through discounts on Hawkers products.
Because Betancourt and the team needed to handle the crazy increases in demand, they turned to Shopify Plus to give the company the technology they needed to advance. As the company grew, Shopify Plus efficiently handled that growth. It was a seamless growth that provided Hawkers with the tools they needed.
The greatest gift that Shopify provided was the ability for the team to focus on what they did best: marketing and sales. Shopify handled the tech, so the team didn’t have to reinvent it. Shopify provided tools like custom integration and API, which empowered Hawkers to deal with their buying community in real time. That level of customer service helped drive sales. Providing details about orders at every juncture not only is helpful for the buyer’s journey, but it also allows the company to remain in contact with customers who may buy more products. Shopify Plus provided that win-win.
The Lesson Learned
Today, Hawkers is on Spain’s top 10 list for startups, does business in 50+ countries worldwide, and their sales have topped the 4.5-million-unit mark. They have brought in more than $100 million in sales, and continue to challenge some of the top and iconic brands. They are happy to address social issues and make their products in ways that please their buying community. As a sustainable and eco-friendly company, they are popular with many members of the buying community.
We talk a lot about the power of consumerism, but not every company listens. Social media marketing and the power of word-of-mouth marketing allow a company to deal directly with the end consumer. Other companies can learn from that. Because they took the time to care about what their customers considered significant, what they believed in and their social concerns, Betancourt and his team turned it all into a company that managed to go from a $300 investment to $100 million in sales in just a few years.