Brooklinen was a direct-to-consumer darling that promised consumers high-quality sheets at great prices. By eliminating supply chain complexities and “cutting out the middlemen,” Brooklinen was able to streamline the product development journey and fully immerse consumers in the ethos and values of the brand. While the core product value proposition is still very much intact, like many other brands that started solely online, Brooklinen’s growth story has evolved.
One aspect of this expanded growth story is Brooklinen’s growing store count: the company has nine to date, with plans to “thoughtfully grow” its fleet by the end of 2024. However, the company also has achieved growth thanks to new awareness and sales channels such as:
- A blossoming Brooklinen for Business (B4B) strategy: The company has launched a new ecommerce destination that allows hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and other hospitality businesses to purchase Brooklinen products. This division has seen 60% year-over-year growth, and the company expects it to triple in size by 2025.
- A growing presence on Amazon: Brooklinen has a branded storefront on Amazon that features a curated assortment of its entire product line, from sheets to robes. Amazon net revenue has grown 29% year-over-year, and the company has used the marketplace as a key customer acquisition channel.
- A new sub-brand and wholesale partnership with Walmart: With Marlow, Brooklinen is officially in the pillow business. The sub-brand is in 1,000 Walmart stores and, as a result, has doubled in growth from 2022 to 2023.
- Successful partnerships with wedding registries like Zola and The Knot: These brand integrations enable Brooklinen to engage with consumers in a contextual way.
Brooklinen’s approach illustrates how DTC brands are evolving to not simply be “present” on several channels but to carve a unique presence in new markets and categories while unlocking new revenue streams. “Above all, a best-in-class omnichannel experience is paramount to obtaining and retaining customers,” said Kelly Hallinan, SVP of Emerging Channels for Brooklinen in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We want to meet our customers everywhere that they are, which means investing in our DTC website and also various other channels.”
Hallinan offered more context into Brooklinen’s evolving omnichannel strategy, and how each of these channels and touch points connect to the core brand story and ecommerce experience.
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): The Marlow Pillow was developed based on customer feedback and insights. What were some of the takeaways from this data-gathering process and how did they support the strategy?
Kelly Hallinan: After launching Brooklinen in 2014 and starting to grow our product assortment, we were hearing anecdotally that many of our customers were struggling to understand the pillow market.
We then spent the next several years talking to our customers about specific concerns. We saw in survey responses that nearly half of respondents found picking the firmness of their pillows to be the hardest part of purchasing a new pillow. We also learned that nearly a third [of consumers] overheat at night. We then conducted research and crafted dozens of samples to reach our final design, which was formulated to tackle these customer concerns, with cooling materials and a fully adjustable, no-mess zipper that makes customizing the firmness of your pillow easy.
RTP: How does Marlow integrate into the Brooklinen brand marketing strategy and experience?
Hallinan: The plan for Marlow was to reach a new set of customers more efficiently by creating a new brand with its own website. Our thought was that it would be easier to promote the benefits of Marlow to a new audience versus convincing a Brooklinen customer to try another pillow. However, what we have learned over the last two years is that Marlow appeals to all customers alike, whether they are generated on Marlowpillow.com or Brooklinen.com.
RTP: Walmart is Marlow’s first wholesale partner and the brand is now in 1,000 of the retailer’s stores across the U.S. What is the broader vision for expansion via wholesale?
Hallinan: When we originally launched Marlow back in 2021, the intention was to enter wholesale easily — and this idea influenced everything from the product itself to the packaging. Now that we’ve done this with such an incredible partner, our goal is to grow the brand name and reach new customers in a place we’ve never been before. We also hope for the partnership to be successful for both us and Walmart, so we would love to potentially enter new stores in the future.
Wholesale is just one part of our emerging channels strategy, which has the ultimate goal of reaching new audiences and existing customers wherever they’d like to see us.
RTP: A big part of “being where your customers want to see you” is Brooklinen’s B4B business strategy. How is that evolving?
Hallinan: Earlier this year, we launched a dedicated website for B4B, and that has been huge for growth and demand! What was previously a very manual process is now more automated, so customers can place orders whenever they need. Before the website launch, a potential customer had to reach out to our team directly to start the order process. While some B4B customers love using Brooklinen’s main line, we also launched a commercial line in 2022 for businesses to have an option more suited toward commercial washing levels and frequent use.
In terms of future growth, our plan is to invest in this channel by continuing to introduce new dedicated products to the collection, investing heavily in marketing programs across channels and bringing in an outbound sales team. We also hope to continue spreading the word so hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and other potential B4B customers know we’re here for them. We have customers across the globe — from short-term rentals for small groups to hotels that host hundreds of guests. Our goal right now is to reach anyone and everyone in the B4B space in a general sense.
We’ll continue to listen to these customers as we expand the collection to best suit their needs. What we care about most is that whoever purchases our products absolutely loves them! From a product assortment perspective, we are focused on expanding our top-of-bed offerings, such as comforters and mattress pads.
RTP: Brooklinen has expanded its Amazon assortment as a result of significant growth through the channel. How are you investing in your Amazon presence via advertising and the shopping experience?
Hallinan: Beyond advertising, there are a number of things we’re doing to best inform the customer about who we are and what our products are all about. We ensure that each product has a detailed product detail page (PDP), so customers know exactly what they are purchasing. We also invest in a great brand store experience, continuously updating assets to entice customers to move further down the shopping funnel. We see a lot of sales generated from our brand store, so we are doing something right.
RTP: What insights have you gleaned about how consumers are using Amazon to search and discover brands?
Hallinan: We learn something new daily about how Amazon customers shop. From this, we optimize our SEO campaigns to ensure that we are getting in front of the right customers at the right time. Seasonality also dictates which products we push and showcase on our brand store. For example, the weather is starting to turn, and people are wanting comforters, comforters, comforters.
RTP: How do you turn those Amazon shoppers into long-term customers? Is the goal to get them to your branded ecommerce site?
Hallinan: We have a limited product assortment on Amazon that consists of our top sellers. This is intentional because we know that once the customer purchases a product they will fall in love and want more. We do see customers who have previously purchased on Amazon and then go to Brooklinen.com. They are interested in browsing and purchasing the other items that we have to offer. In some instances, the product may be from a new line or a limited-edition color that is not offered on Amazon.
RTP: What have been your strategic areas of focus through 2023 and how will they drive your priorities in 2024?
Hallinan: Business is going well for both .com and stores, although this year was more challenging from a competitive promotional standpoint. We had to get creative in how we spoke to the customer and re-emphasize Brooklinen’s value props. One of the many ways that we were able to bring this to life was through the element of layering. We want to teach customers that there is so much more to a bed than sheets; there are also quilts, shams, blankets, etc. We want them to realize that they can make regular updates to their room outside of purchasing Brooklinen’s core product. This strategy will certainly carry on through 2024 via stores and online.