How Luxury Pet Retailer Max & Cocoa Got to Running with the Big Dogs

 

We love us a good success story. Here’s the tail of one of our pet industry retailers and how they went from wags-to-riches.

Max & Cocoa founder Felicity Noble has plenty of experience in the retail space, and has taken some time out of her week to let us in on some of her secrets. Curious about how she positioned herself to quickly move from newcomer to industry staple?

If you made it past all of our terrible puns, you’re in for a treat…dig in.

From the beginning, Felicity had a clear idea of what she wanted Max and Cocoa (aptly named after her two adorable fur babies) to be – a hub for high quality, fun and stylish luxury pet accessories. Every careful decision she made was to take her dreams from aspirations to reality.

Felicity’s first step was solidifying Max & Cocoa’s brand image with the perfect homepage. As she recalls, “I [sought] a designer online. I could see that her style would integrate well with what I wanted to put forth for Max and Cocoa. I’d already had some thoughts of how I wanted [the website] to look, so her expertise was used as a basis to make a clearly laid out website that would be easy to use.”

Due to her restricted budget, Felicity knew she had to maximize impact. For new brands and retailers, making these types of investments can seem harrowing, but it’s important to realize the major impact they can have on a growing company’s success.

Like any new business, the name of the game is seeking out your customers rather than waiting for them to come to you. Being a pet retailer, it may seem like her choice of clientele was straightforward, but sometimes the secret to success is finding a niche to cater to. “We’re definitely trying to tap in to the high-end buyer,” Felicity explains. “Those who have greater disposable income and who see the value in quality. We definitely get all types of customers, but I’m targeting people who have money to spend on their pets as if they were their children.”

After defining her target market, Felicity’s plan was to see and be seen. “We’ve been contacted by GQ Magazine UK, as well as by another UK company who was looking at marketing luxury pet products to their clients. We’re definitely gaining exposure,” Felicity says. “Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – that’s been the biggest resource for us to get our message out there. We’re doing a little bit of both [paid and organic posts].”

But at the end of the day, what’s the easiest way to be found on the internet? Let me google that for you…

Felicity further explains, “We have also done some paid campaigns on Bing. You know, getting in on search results. But it all boils down to keyword searches and how you are identified with all the search engines.

“I think the initial mistake we made was trying to target just ‘pet supplies’. It’s such a broad category. Most people who google or search those terms don’t look beyond page 2, maybe page 3 of the search results. So we had to take a different approach.

“We then started targeting ‘luxury pet accessories’, and now we’re now on page 1! That was a big learning experience. We can’t cast our net too broad… we weren’t getting any recognition for that. We had to focus on what we’re truly here to provide, luxury pet accessories.”

Now that Felicity has the Max & Cocoa audience figured out, she makes sure to place herself in their field of vision (digitally speaking) in as many ways as she can. Using social media (mainly hashtags, she quips) she’s all over the luxury market like a dog on a bone:

“We’ll target all different sorts of luxury products. Cars, real estate, you name it. It’s something that get us exposure to those people who, more often than not, have a pet. It’s about trying to be creative with how you reach them.”

As a retailer, Max and Cocoa doesn’t manufacture its own products, so the brands Felicity gets her product from have to be able to maintain that luxury feel. After all, you’re company is only as good as your weakest link. She states, “Who I choose as my suppliers is a reflection of Max and Cocoa, so I need to have really good suppliers with a level of quality to their products. That’s key.”

“My suppliers have to be as good as I want Max and Cocoa to be. Because I’m not packaging my own product, I need to make sure that the suppliers that I’m working with have the same aspirations as me as far as the level of service and experience they provide. There’s no point in branding a luxury website and then having mass-produced products that you can find anywhere.”

When it comes to working with retailers, it’s not enough to just like their products. Logistically speaking, you must be on the same page. “I work on a drop ship basis,” Felicity explains. “It has its benefits. I’m not having to tie all my money up in holding merchandise. But at the same time, I’m at the mercy of the suppliers’ shipping timelines.”

How does she mitigate issues that arise from this and directly impact her customer’s experience? “I try to set a clear time frame for the customers, particularly if I know it’s not a product that’s going to turn around within 24-48 hours. I’ll communicate this to them on the product page so that they know there’s a lead time for the product.”

Everything else aside, it all boils down to making the customer feel looked-after. When people think ‘luxury’, one of the things they think of is being catered to. Perhaps one of the biggest markers of success for Max & Cocoa has been making their consumers feel extremely special. Felicity elaborates, “One thing I’ve learned is the personalization of our service [attracts repeat-customers]. We’ve had to work some magic to get the product to a customer on time. They weren’t expecting a conversation on the phone – they thought it would just be an email queue that got dealt with at some point down the line. I think when they get a response from the owner of the website, it makes a big difference [compared to] a customer service representative responding with a standard email.”

There’s plenty to learn on each brand’s journey to the top. If one thing’s certain, Max and Cocoa are barking up the right tree.