“When people buy online, it’s not just the website experience that’s important, it’s how quickly they get the product too. James and James offers a fantastic service and we’ve had great reviews from customers coming back.”
“The idea for the brand came from Millie buying a Beautyblender. It was essentially a sponge, about half the size of your palm, which cost £16. It got us thinking: ‘How much did that actually cost to make?’”
Two years on, Jack Thompson and Millie Watson (pictured) are celebrating their success at the 2018 Attracta Beauty Awards.
Of the five products they entered, three were declared winners and one was named as a runner-up, making their eight-month-old MEMI makeup brand the most recognised at the competition.
The feat is all the more remarkable given that the two co-founders are both just 21, and their resources are tiny compared with their global competitors’.
Setting up a cosmetics brand with a difference
Jack rewinds to April 2016: “Millie was spending so much money on cosmetics that she thought could be improved. I was working in a marketing agency, while studying business at college. We could see a lot of cosmetics brands were charging high prices and raking in the cash. There was an opportunity to stir the market up and create a product that was unique in terms of quality and price point.”
Quitting their day jobs a few months later – “We visited so many manufacturers, we didn’t have any holiday left to take,” confesses Jack – the pair began scaling the steep learning curve required to launch a cosmetics brand.
After 18 months of R&D, quality control, packaging design and trademarking, Jack and Millie launched MEMI in November 2017, with a simple proposition – high-quality, cruelty-free, vegan makeup that everyone can afford.
Outsourcing fulfilment helps MEMI plan for the unexpected
Soft launching online, MEMI chose to outsource their order fulfilment from the off.
“We knew that, for at least a year, we’d primarily be an eCommerce business,” says Jack. “We started looking into the organisation required on our end to fulfil orders properly – storing customer addresses, allocating order numbers, tracking shipping and returns.
“Granted, we could’ve done it ourselves for the first couple of months. But as soon as orders took off, we would’ve had to hire staff. We decided it would be more strategic to outsource our fulfilment from the start.”
Providing the integration and visibility MEMI needs
MEMI chose James and James Fulfilment largely due to ControlPort – it’s award-winning, cloud-based order fulfilment software.
Jack explains: “We had to make sure that we had a fulfilment company that could really integrate well into our Magento website, so we could make sure everything was organised and done properly.”
“ControlPort enables us to do that – to manage stock, see the orders that have gone through, place internal orders, and identify the products that are and aren’t selling well. It’s easy and quick to navigate. It’s what sold us on James and James.”
Meeting customers expectations for fast delivery
James and James has also helped MEMI deliver the shipping speed that eCommerce customers expect today.
“When people buy online, it’s not just the website experience that’s important, it’s how quickly they get the product too,” says Jack. “We get asked ‘Where is it stocked? Where can I try it?’ so often that having fast shipping is a must.”
“We offer first-class shipping as standard and say on our website that it’ll take two to five working days. But, in reality, most customers get their order the next working day. James and James offers a fantastic service and we’ve had great reviews from customers coming back.”
Coping with spikes in sales from PR and influencer marketing
Having an outsourced fulfilment service has also enabled MEMI to take full advantage of PR and influencer marketing, without fear of receiving spikes in orders.
“Cosmetics is so social-based now – Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat completely dominate the sector,” says Jack. “But we’ve tried to avoid paid promotions and build organic relationships with influencers who support our brand instead.”
As a result, MEMI’s products have received glowing reviews from both traditional media – from Cosmopolitan to the Daily Mail – and modern-day influencers – from Made in Chelsea’s Lucy Watson to Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown.
Removing the fear of a sold-out product
Jack continues: “Brands can sell out overnight if the right influencer posts the right image at the right time. We send out so many samples to so many people, this could happen at any point – we could wake up with one or more SKUs completely sold out.
“If we were fulfilling in house, it would be impossible for us to ship all of those orders, which would then result in a negative experience for customers, making them think twice before they repeat a purchase.
“But James and James and ControlPort enables us to manage that. We can track the volume of orders coming in, see the stock deplenish, and be confident that all orders will be sent out as normal.”