Being stuck indoors for three quarters of 2020 has given rise to so much more time dedicated to wellness, beauty regimes
and a whole lot of health fads. While some have been hits, others have been harder to get stuck into (yet another sleep app anyone?)
However, self-confessed ‘disruptors’ SmileDirectClub have landed on a product that has stuck throughout 2020 and may well continue beyond that. The brand who are plastered all over posters promise users a confident smile in as little as four months for a fraction of the price of bigger companies on the scene. As 2020 pivoted to working from home, the brand used this time to tap into the at-home beauty market and shifted their strategy towards, focussing on ways of helping customers feel their best from the comfort – and safety – of their own home.
The result is an at-home service that allows users to mould their teeth and choose their perfect smile without stepping out of the front door. And to add to the success of this, the brand, which first started in America, has gone global and can now be found in the likes of Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Germany. As the business slowly takes over the telehealth market, SmileDirectClub’s CMO John Sheldon tells LBB’s Natasha Patel about changing communication during 2020 and beyond.
LBB> From a marketing perspective, how has it been getting the brand out there to customers in what has been a strange year? And how has this impacted sales?
John> While the Covid-19 pandemic caused us to pivot our business in many ways, we are fortunate to be in the field of telehealth. As an international oral care leader and creator of the first direct-to-consumer medtech platform for teeth straightening, we were uniquely positioned to serve our customers from the onset of the pandemic through our teledentistry platform and quickly shift our business from our SmileShops to our dentist-prescribed, easy-to-use remote impression kits, practically overnight.
Since then, we’ve witnessed telehealth interest, understanding, and adoption skyrocket with searches for telemedicine up 335%. As telehealth and teledentistry continue to rise in popularity, we are confident even more consumers will embrace SmileDirectClub as a convenient, affordable and safe solution to get a smile they love. In addition, we’re also seeing consumer preference for clear aligners over traditional braces continue to grow as people seek a more discrete option to straighten their teeth.
LBB> And how has your marketing strategy shifted?
John> The pandemic, while extremely challenging, afforded us the opportunity to rebuild our marketing from the ground up. We refined our strategy to ensure everything we do is driving incrementality for the business. It’s resulted in marketing that is much more efficient and effective. Cyber Monday was our most successful sales day in history with a fraction of the marketing support - a testament to the brand, consumer interest in telehealth and clear aligners, as well as our marketing.
In addition, we continue to see consumers more interested in our impression kits to safely straighten their teeth remotely, so we’re marketing them more heavily to meet consumer demand and support our customers.
LBB> The brand is hailed as ‘disrupting dentistry’ due to the ease of use and the fact that you’ve gone global, how does this make you feel?
John> We take great pride in being a global oral care leader, with hundreds of SmileShops, more than 1,000 SmileDirectClub Partner Network dental office locations, a network of 250+ affiliated, certified dentists and orthodontists, and thousands of team members across the globe. Our biggest sense of accomplishment is having more than one million satisfied customers and counting. We love seeing people go through their Smile Journeys and the impact a straighter smile has on their confidence and day-to-day lives.
LBB> How have consumers changed during the last 12 months and how, in any way, does the brand plan to take those changes with them to 2021 and beyond?
John> In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers are a lot more savvy using telehealth. They’re more comfortable now video chatting with a dental professional through our teledentistry platform because consumers are used to chatting with their coworkers, family, friends, and other medical professionals in the same way.
Consumers are also increasingly aware of their smiles. When you spend most of the day using video conferencing, it’s hard not to pay more attention to and take pride in your smile. Afterall, a smile is one of the few things that we can control right now, and it’s scientifically proven to boost happiness. As we continue to build awareness for the brand, we’ll continue to educate consumers on the intrinsic value of a smile.
LBB> How has having an ‘at home’ service and way of using the product been a benefit during lockdown?
John> SmileDirectClub customers were able to continue their clear aligner therapy throughout the pandemic without interruption. Thanks to our pioneering telehealth platform, our customers do not need multiple in-person visits to continue treatment, which has been a huge benefit to those who are under stay at home orders or not feeling comfortable yet to return to normal in-person activities. Our customers know that they have 24/7 remote access to our professional customer care and dental care teams if needed via chat, email, phone, social media and video. Additionally, all SmileDirectClub aligners are delivered at once, so there is no need to stop treatment mid-course awaiting your next in-person appointment or because of delays in manufacturing and shipping.
LBB> There are many different nuances around the countries you have SmileShops in across the globe, how do you tailor communications to each consumer?
John> We have in-country marketing teams that work closely with our headquarters teams in the U.S. This ensures that we offer a localised approach and streamline best practices so that our communications are consistent, yet tailored to each customer and market. We are continually collaborating with our global teams to share key learnings and insights, and have a team dedicated to supporting our launches into new markets.
While we have a multi-year strategy, we also have an agile test and learn approach to our business which allows us to quickly pivot to adapt to new concepts, ideas, and trends to reach new marketing channels that might be emerging. Though each market is unique, globally we’re united by a need to increase access to affordable oral care and help more people get a smile they’ve always wanted.
LBB> And in particular, which countries have had the best response to SmileDirectClub?
John> We are now in 11 markets and are continuing to expand our international footprint and increase access to care around the globe. Current markets include the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, Austria, and Spain.
We have seen a positive response across all of our markets because we’re fulfilling an unmet need. Our customers appreciate our accessible, affordable, and convenient solution to premium oral care. As such, we’re able to help more people realise the life-changing potential of their smile.
The UK is the first market that SmileDirectClub expanded into outside of North America, and we have seen exponential growth since our launch. This includes the recent launch of our first storefronts to coincide with the UK’s first birthday to invest further into the UK market, and to also help drive footfall to support British high streets.
LBB> How has social media impacted reach?
John> Social media has helped us build awareness and community for the brand. Our customers often undergo a complete transformation thanks to their new smiles, and they love to share their Smile Journey with others. Potential Club Members love to see their before and after photos as inspiration for what they desire to achieve in treatment. Our Club Members also support one another throughout treatment on social media. They’ll post about where they are in their treatment plan, the very normal but uncomfortable feeling when they change into a new aligner as their teeth gradually move into position, among other things. It’s helpful to hear from people going through a similar experience, and independent Facebook Groups have been wonderful forums to share those stories and connect.
We also work with many influencers and celebrities who want to create a smile they love and share with their followers, with Instagram being one of the most popular social channels.
LBB> Putting yourself out there can come with varying responses so how does the brand deal with any negative attention?
John> Disruptors often face challenges and misinformation from those being disrupted. We keep our focus on our customers - the real reason we exist and continue to increase access to premium oral care. Though SmileDirectClub was founded in 2014, we are still educating consumers, regulators, insurers, and the dental community that there is a new and better option to straighten your teeth, and we are constantly innovating to provide a superior Club Member experience. While we will continue to head off naysayers who are threatened by our business, our Club Members inspire us to keep pushing forward.