In the era of gym culture, you’d be forgiven for thinking a clean protein-based drink wouldn’t be too hard to find.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case until LA-based beverage brand Après came along.
When Courtney McCracken struggled to find a healthy post-workout protein option, her husband Sonny’s brain waves started firing.
Fast forward five years and Après is a thriving direct-to-consumer (DTC) food and beverage company delivering protein-based replenishment for the modern wellness consumer.
So, how did this Shogun customer go from test kitchen to beloved beverage endorsed by Forbes, Vogue, and Oprah magazine?
We connected with Christina Burton, Après’ Director of Ecommerce, to learn how their investment in product development, and subsequent marketing has the brand expanding and reaching new heights.
Après DTC journey started when Courtney was seeking a protein product to bridge the gap between workout and meal, without bulking her up. As a health conscious person, understanding all the ingredients was key. When Courtney failed to find a healthy, clean, gluten free, dairy free option, Sonny got to work.
He set out to create “a great product that not only tasted good, but contained healthy, clean ingredients people would love.”
Sonny and team spent a full year and a half in the test kitchen sampling hundreds of recipes before he struck upon the right combination of clean ingredients and great taste.
The recipe delivers all the nutritional goodness bodies need – plant protein, healthy fats (MCTs), electrolytes, and low sugar – with none of the artificial, or dairy-based ingredients in other shakes on the market. Like all good entrepreneurs, he knew taking the time to craft the perfect product would ensure it lived on for a long time and the investment has paid off.
Selling products direct-to-consumer via Shopify helped Après to connect with and build a strong customer base. The brand successfully fostered a community of wellness advocates who have rave reviews for the product. With just a small but mighty team of five people, Après is doing good on its mission to make the world a happier and healthier place.
Launching an ecommerce store before branching into retail locations gave Après invaluable insights into its customer base and what this wellness community wanted.
The team discovered their core audience are label readers who value clean ingredients and clear information on what’s going into their body. Think busy moms, health and wellness enthusiasts, everyday people who are on the go and need post-workout replenishment they can trust.
Christina’s lesson for other brands starting with Shopify stores?
“Don’t underestimate the benefits of ecommerce. Getting that rich data online and owning the relationship with the customer, receiving feedback, and honing the product before it’s just another item on a shelf has been priceless.”
The main challenge with starting a beverage company online is that Après needed their Shopify store to sell the experience of a drink through digital images and copy alone. No small feat. As Christina mused aloud of her team’s mission, “how do you sell a taste?”
This is where the vision for the brand’s exceptional web experience and branding came into play.
Après opted for a clean, crisp visual identity that matches their product. Christina shared that having a clearly defined brand vision has been critical. Defining their look at an early stage — even as it evolves — has helped enormously with recognition as Après has grown.
Après protects this custom look by working with individuals who understand it. This means being selective with photographers for site content, for example. It’s important their imagery does a lot of heavy lifting and conveys simplicity.
Alongside the visuals, a priority for Après is having an ecommerce site that delivers a smooth experience for the customer. To prevent bounces and abandoned carts, Après needed to create a simple, quick journey from product selection to purchase, and through to shipping.
“We don’t want anything on the site to cause unnecessary friction, frustration, or have any hurdles between the customer getting what they need.”
When adding to their Shopify site with custom pages, Après first discovered Shogun. “A developer we were working with told us to check out Shogun and we all agreed it was the best route for us.”
The Après team knew that custom landing pages increase conversions, so began tailoring their Shopify store to maximize its impact. As the team found, Shopify “didn’t offer the greatest landing page experience.” Working within its restrictions proved to be clunky, time-consuming, and difficult to create the high-end look and feel that Après customers expect. Further, operating as a smaller team, time was not something they had to spare.
But, Shogun made everything easy. Page Builder eliminated a key barrier to growth by providing Après with a way anyone on the team to build high-converting landing pages that store visitors would love. This subscription page here is a great example:
With no website development background, Christina has used Page Builder to create several custom Shopify landings pages that stand out. As she says: “[the templates] really help me to get my head around how things could look, and then my branding is brought in, and everything easily rolls into the overall look, which is great.”
The best part, however, is the ease in which all the on-brand pages they create in Shogun plug into Shopify, creating a seamless and integrated customer experience. You can’t tell where the Shopify theme ends and a Shogun page begins: it’s the same.
With an incredible product and a strong online shopping experience in the bag, Après is expanding with their well-established community.
Their start as a DTC fuelled early growth into other channels, and they used feedback and reviews to establish a solid foundation. While not immune to the impacts of COVID-19 (gym locations where they sell products had to close this year), the brand successfully used 2020 to help the business grow in efficiency. Even facing the challenges of the past year, Après has expanded into retail and several competitive ecommerce platforms, including Amazon, Costco, and SnackMagic.
Christina’s final secret for budding entrepreneurs looking to replicate their success?
“Start with your brand vision and make sure everything follows this consistently. That early recognition and re-emphasizing your brand is so important. The logo needs to be the same, the packaging needs to look the same. This way, whenever someone interacts with your company they know it’s you and understand what you stand for.”
One cruise around Après’ online store, and it’s clear their web presence is customized for exactly this.