Being former college and professional hockey athletes, brothers, Jarred and Brandon Smith, are very familiar with the sports drink industry. Left wondering why they and their teammates were left feeling less than winners after games and practices, noting acid reflux as the common symptom, the brothers looked to the sponsor-provided “enhancing” sports drinks that were often given to the athletes. Finding the usual suspects loaded with sugar, high in acidity, and jam-packed with additives, the duo set out to create a product they could quite literally stomach.
Developing their business while playing pro, the “side-prenuers” founded NOOMA, "the sports drink that won't waste your workout.” Formulated alongside experts and short for "No More Artificials", the brand keeps a short and clean ingredients list. Organic and plant-based, low in sugar, and of course pH-balanced to keep acid reflux away, NOOMA fuels any level of fitness performance.
When first launching NOOMA in 2014, the winning GTM strategy was retail. Starting locally, the brand began selling in quite a few grocery stores in Cleveland, Ohio, but to think making it into stores is the end all, like taking home a gold, would be naive. To succeed in retail, a brand has to not only compete with supply chain issues, but they also have to compete with other brands for the best product placement.
"Learning the grocery store game taught us to hone in on our customers - we talked to them and learned what they cared about, what they loved about, and what they wanted from NOOMA." -Brandon Smith
Like playing for the Stanley Cup, the grocery store game is one of the fiercest, and with recognizable players like Powerade and Gatorade taking up most of the market share, Brandon and Jarrod had to work to infiltrate the sport drink industry. Hosting live demos in-stores, and even showing up with coolers full of NOOMA to fitness events and studios, the brothers raised a level of brand awareness and built relationships with their customer base that quickly made them become known as the NOOMA Bros. With hometown support, the bros garnered a lot of attention and soon signed with Whole Foods-taking the brand national.
With major league in-store wins, the NOOMA team continued to expand, entering the direct-to-consumer market. Not to take away from their commitment, the bros will continue to hold Northeast Ohio as the brand’s home base, but the founders saw an opportunity to explore different brand growth and profitability channels, as the pandemic caused shopping behaviors to shift play.
"Early 2020 changed shopping habits and buying power. We were looking to expand into the ecommerce market prior to the pandemic, and when we saw the opportunity of digital reach, we took the shot." -Brandon Smith
The brothers quickly realized the ease of gaining brand awareness in a DTC market was vastly different than in stores. Any customer looking to purchase NOOMA could do so from the comfort of their home and have it delivered directly to them, without needing to search through stores to find it. Looking to continue to enhance their customer shopping experience, they turned to subscriptions as the future of their business. As rookies to the ecommerce space, the brothers originally launched their subscription program with Recharge. However, due to limited customer account portal capabilities and poor customer support, the brothers made the easy decision to switch to Smartrr. Since switching to Smartrr, NOOMA’s AOV has since increased 22% and subscriptions made up nearly 50% of their online orders in the month of July! Working closely with their CSM, Sam, to bring forward the best NOOMA online shopping experience, the brothers continue to utilize all of Smartrr's new features and make sure to put their customers first. Off the bat, NOOMA sets expectations high and allows for customization with subscriptions by allowing different flavors, bundles, and delivery frequencies to be chosen.
"With Smartrr’s native Shopify checkout, we made the switch. We’re always focused on our customers, so creating a better subscription experience for our customers is top priority, Smartrr’s account portal makes it easy for customers to manage their subscriptions themselves and create their own NOOMA experience."
As for their customer account portal, well that goes above and beyond subscription preferences with additional add ons, order gifting, bundle swaps, and more.
Retail vs DTC, there really is no need to watch the match anymore, especially when customers can have both. With the in-person feedback from customers, the NOOMA Bros acknowledge them more as teammates than as customers.
"We spoke to our folks in person, we got to know them. When we regrouped after demos we were able to answer, 1. who got it? And 2. where does NOOMA fit for them? Their feedback was and is important to us, it informs the future products we develop here at NOOMA." -Brandon Smith
Still, buyers enjoy the security and convenience of subscription delivery. Driven by access to robust customer data, Brandon and Jarred also acknowledge the unmatched flexibility of e-commerce. Deeply understanding customers and their wants, NOOMA has been able to launch multiple new products like pre-workout drinks, recovery drinks, and hydration mixes, without having to pitch and wait for a grocery buyer to carry them. Extending their reach far beyond traditional sports drink target she NOOMA Bros have widened the industry as a whole by creating products that help fuel fitness for people at any stage in their fitness journey.