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The e-commerce space is one that's pretty unbalanced: it's filled with a few behemoths and then there's everyone else. Sites like Amazon, Walmart, Target are so dominant that it's not shocking that it can be incredibly difficult to go up against them.
The company, which started out as "the Honest Company for your medicine cabinet," with a monthly subscription box filled with curated bundled natural products, is upending its model by launching a whole new product that will be its single focus going forward: a browser extension called Healthiest Helper. The idea is that it will assist its users with finding the right products to buy on other e-commerce sites, including Amazon, rather than having Healthiest sell them directly.
"We are moving away from direct e-commerce and subscription box," Crystal Brown, founder and CEO of Healthiest, told me in an interview, explaining that, while the company's users liked the products they were getting, they were eventually turning to other sites to get them.
"We would come up with these monthly bundles, very well curated, great brands and then we had good relationships with the brands, but we were finding that a lot of our customers were going to Amazon to buy the product again and they weren’t coming back to our shop. Some were, but we found that it wasn’t our core business to be a true e-commerce player but more to be vetting and curating and relationship building with brands and doing the research is really where we had a lot more strength," she said.
"When started to look at our branding, and thinking what it meant to be healthiest, we came up with this concept: why don’t we build technology that works within Amazon, a Chrome extension that creates a button right on Amazon so that, as you’re shopping, you can click the button and determine what’s the healthiest option based on what you’re shopping for" So, for example, if you’re shopping for shampoo, our extension would pop up and say, 'We have healthier options for you.' Because we’ve had several years of research, we now are building a database of thousands or brands and products that meet our standards for being healthy."
How does it work?
Healthiest Helper works in two ways. The first is that a user will be on a product page, which could be for everything from dog food to supplements to shampoo to yoga clothes, and the Healthiest Helper button, once it’s hovered over or pressed, pops up and shows the customer healthier options.
Users are give three options, and then there’s another button that says, 'Can’t exactly find what you’re looking for?' and when they click on that another window opens that allows them to do full search into the Healthiest database.
The second thing that users can do is search directly in the database using the icon next to the browser window, which has a window and a search bar right into the Healthiest's database. Then, when they click on the product they want, it will take them right to that product page, and then they can add directly to their cart on Amazon.
"Our hypothesis is that customers don’t want to be taken off of Amazon, they just want help finding the healthier options when they are on Amazon," said Brown.
The company expects to grow quickly with this new product; while the company built up a base of around 8,000 customers over the past three years, mostly female, and it is now projecting it will have 50,000 customers a year after the launch of Healthiest Helper, and will be generating $2 million in revenue. Healthiest will make money by taking between 5 and 10 percent of every sale once users click through the extension, though the percentage is dependent on the product and on the retailer.
Right now, the extension only works on the Chrome browser and on Amazon, but it will soon be available on Safari and will also work in retailers like Target and Walmart.
Healthiest Helper is still in beta and the company expects to do a full launch of the product in September. Healthiest's subscription box for pregnant and new moms, meanwhile, was acquired by Bump Boxes at the beginning of April.
Through its subscription box, Healthiest developed a close working relationship with numerous brands, and Brown believes that that will help it as it develops the browser extension. However, she also made sure to note that Healthiest will be transparent about those relationships in regards to any recommendations it makes.
"The brands themselves do not pay to be in the database. We want our customers to know that we are not biased. We do all the vetting, determine whether or not a either a product is healthy, and if it meets our standards is then added into our database. We have considered, however, allowing the brands to pay for premium placement on the app, but that is down the road,” she said.
So, for example, if there are 10 healthy shampoos to recommend, and Healthiest is only showing three, if a brand wants to rank higher, they might pay Healthiest to be the first one users see. Healthiest will still be showing a healthy option, but the brand will have paid for placement.
"As long as things are very transparent, we’re comfortable building up relationships with the brands in that way," said Brown.
For now, though, it’s really trying to get the closest match to what the customer is searching for. If a customer is searching for dry dog food with chicken, then Healthiest wants to make sure that they come up with the closest match. If they're searching for lavender scented deodorant, Healthiest want to make sure that the search results are appropriate.
"The brands are very motivated to help us grow our user base, because then they become more visible to not only their customers but to other brands, so we have partnerships with all of them to let their users to know about our product."
(Healthiest CEO Brown & Co-Founder Drew Chontow with Dr. Oz at the Healthcorps Gala on Monday night)
The future of Healthiest
Now that Healthiest is moving away from selling products directly, and toward an affiliate model, the company is also looking at other platforms to help users find healthy options. Namely on mobile, with the potential for a stand-alone Healthiest app.
"The stand-alone app is more theoretical than in development at this point because we have a lot of customers to get to with the Chrome extension. We are an approved affiliate for Amazon U.S., U.K. Canada, Mexico, Germany, Japan, France, so we a lot of work to do just with the extension," said Brown.
"However, we do understand that people have moved to mobile and, at this point, Chrome on the iPhone doesn’t support extensions. So, either they’ll start to support extensions and that will solve the problem, or we have ideas to develop a functional app that someone can use because, again, we don’t believe that customers want to move off of Amazon or Target or Walmart, we think that’s where they want to be, but there are ways to use apps as a service on your phone, and maybe it would refresh the page with healthier options. We know that it’s possible, and we just believe that we’ll be able to get our mission out there when we have more healthy products available for more people and if we don’t eventually think about mobile we’re missing a big part of the market."
Healthiest also has its eyes on providing even more services to its users, linking them to more than just healthy products, but to actual practitioners, telemedicine and services.
"If I know that you’re searching for cough medicine and cough syrup and then I see that you’re searching for eczema cream, can we provide other content? Can we provide introductions to practitioners that specialize? Can we be trusted for telemedicine? Are there other things that we can layer on for our users that allow them to live a healthy life without having to have really expensive health insurance or having to go to their doctor? Can we be that partner? I think it allows us to head in that direction," said Brown, noting that people want really easy to find, digestible information, and that is what Healthiest will be able to provide.
"Using the current technology tools to make that happen is exciting for us. We’re right at this moment where more and more shoppers are going online and now that Amazon has moved into grocery, we can quickly help people shop easily online and that’s only growing at an exponential rate, so it builds up our brand as the trusted source," she said.
"In five years I believe we will be the leader in personalized healthcare and the leader as a brand in that trusted, what is and is not healthy, no matter what you’re talking about, whether it’s products or services or something else.”
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We all need that friend. You know the one, who always gives great advice, suggests the healthiest products and freshest trends. Don't you wish they were around when you needed them? Like when you're shopping online? Well, now they are. Healthiest Helper is your Amazon friend. Sharing the healthiest options with you while you shop.
Joined Vator onI have spent my career focusing on both for-profit companies and non-profit organizations at the start-up and growth phase in the areas of strategy, management, operations, finance, business development and relationship building.