Exclusive: Lola Co-founder Jordana Kier Explains Why Lola’s Expanding Its Walmart Partnership

"It’s important that brands are able to show up in this omnichannel way."
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Francis Scialabba

6 min read

Six months after period care brand Lola hit Walmart shelves, the duo is expanding their partnership to include a family planning product suite across 2,900+ stores.

Why it matters: It’s a sign thatsticking to the essentials (like I predicted) and breaking old merchandising cycles works for DTC brands entering brick and mortar retail. The brand told Retail Brew it’s sold more than 10 million menstrual care products through Walmart since kicking off the partnership in March.

Lola has an advantage as an essential product in an essential retailer, but some of its omnichannel strategies can apply to any brand. So I spoke to Kier about Lola’s approach to IRL merchandising and what all digitally native brands thinking about an expansion to brick and mortar retail should consider. Read on for her insights.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Retail Brew: Let’s talk category expansion first. What made Lola feel confident in expanding its retail presence through Walmart during the pandemic?

Jordana Kier: Obviously when Covid hit, we had been planning this amazing launch and partnership with Walmart to have our menstrual products on the shelf. In any moment, but especially during this time, it’s critical to ensure that there’s access to these essential products. And whether that’s through a subscription, whether that’s on the shelf, we were just so thrilled to launch at a moment when accessibility and convenience [are important], especially as consumers are changing their habits.

It’s really about ensuring that no matter how people are comfortable shopping right now, whether through DTC or on the shelf in over 4,600 Walmart stores, through pickup services, which a lot of big retailers are seeing go gangbusters, it’s important that brands are able to show up in this omnichannel way. I think even in March, we were having conversations around what was the opportunity beyond just menstrual care and how can we continue to partner.

An additional dimension here [is the expansion] will incorporate a QR code that will drive Walmart shoppers to critical resources on menstrual health and family planning. That I think is such an important dimension for brands to be offering their customers, where it’s not just about trusted products but also expert resources.

A benefit of staying largely direct to consumer is getting to control how your brand’s story is told. Were there any difficulties translating your vision to Walmart stores and online?

From day one, our collaboration has centered around building a robust end to end experience and we respect how Walmart approaches how it wants to take care of its customers. I think they equally respected how we thought about our holistic brand and ensuring that end to end experience was amazing, whether they’re discovering us on the shelf at Walmart or discovering us on our own website, mylola.com.

When we launched our menstrual care product [at Walmart], it was actually the first time that pads, liners, and tampons were co-merchandised together. That may seem like such a simple thing to you and me, as shoppers who need those products, but that’s not how the aisle appeared for decades. So to take a step forward and partner with us, and having us deliver on those insights to say, here’s how women are shopping this category, and drawing from insights on our DTC channel, it wasn’t just that they were like “let’s just try it.” It was rooted in data.

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You’re introducing new bulk packs through Walmart that aren’t sold through your DTC channel. Tell me about how Lola landed on that strategy.

While our customers are going on less trips, they’re spending approximately 30% more per trip. So our initial offerings online were more of a variety of convenient pack sizes, but to be able to introduce a bulk pack on Walmart.com as a result of this continued trend is really very exciting. It shows that they want to listen to their customers, they’re looking at the behavior, and making adjustments in real time with us.

More broadly, physical retail continues to be an important medium for acquisition, for a brand overall. Yes, online shopping is seeing a healthy upward trend, but the majority of new Walmart Lola customers told us they purchased from Walmart retail stores in the last four months. And also 27% of Lola shoppers said the first time they heard of Lola was shopping in store at Walmart. So for us, it’s really about solidifying the fact that physical retail is an important medium for Lola and for her to start to discover us.

How do you define Lola’s business structure now that you’re not purely DTC?

For us, DTC has been a channel and not a business. There is a certain value that Lola delivers through a DTC channel, but in order to build a brand you have to meet customers where they are.

Our focus on building and bringing our magic to dot com and on the shelf have always been crucial, but it’s been particularly crucial as our world has been turned upside down. Being available on multiple channels I think allowed us to quickly adapt to changing consumer habits, being able to reallocate inventory to different purchasing trends, and really ultimately be there where our customers are and where they need us.

The sales you’ve generated make this partnership sound pretty successful. What should brands reading this interview consider if they’re looking to enter their first brick and mortar retail partnership?

That’s a great question. There were a few big factors that we took into account as we thought about this partnership. First and foremost, it’s where are your potential customers and where are they shopping? The idea that the majority of US women shop at Walmart and half of them shop for their feminine care products there, that was a really exciting opportunity for us to provide access to ingredient-transparent, high quality products for a large subset of American women.

Also, Walmart was excited about being able to deliver even more in the light of convenience. 72% of our customers don’t buy a single absorbency. There is no quote-unquote bestseller pack on our site. So to be able to offer that convenience and customization through our Walmart offering was a really important element too, of how could we get creative to actually deliver that customization for somebody walking the aisle?

They obviously were excited about naturals and having more of a presence there. The naturals category more generally shows year over year growth and is outpacing synthetic menstrual care options across retail environments. So having a retailer that’s excited about the categories you’re playing in and wanting to make additional investments in those areas, and sees you as a great brand to help make that come to life, is important.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.