The BUBBLE platform, which launched in early 2019 with a few hundred products, now features more than 2,000 shelf-stable products from pantry staples to snacks, drinks and supplements from around 400 vendors, and is gearing up to launch a suite of perishable items including meat and seafood and produce in 2022.
However, it has built up a sizeable backlog of prospective vendors (1,000 brands are still in the pipeline), which it will now be able to onboard far more quickly, said founder and CEO Jessica Young.
“Each product goes through a rigorous approval process… to review food safety certifications, ingredient labels, as products are not allowed to sell if they contain refined sugars, dyes, gums or preservatives, inventory levels, and then once approved, to upload SKU information into the platform.
“The average time for a brand to get on the platform to start selling used to be about three weeks. With the new platform [built by new CTO Savraj Singh, a former colleague of Young’s from Daily Harvest], brands are now able to be up and selling within the week that they apply,” she said.
“Some of the features of the autonomous platform include the ability for brand operators to adjust inventory and prices, receive shipping labels, edit product information, track sales, and more.
“Into 2022, BUBBLE will be focusing engineering on giving brands the ability to collect and share data and insights that will aid in optimized product listings and sales.”
Meanwhile, she said, “The game plan for perishables is to release drop shipping by zip code. So customers will enter their zip code when they visit the site, and they'll see a select perishable inventory that can ship within a two day region of them.”
'Brands make more money with us than they do with any other resale or wholesale relationship’
BUBBLE is similar to Thrive Market in that it offers a curated selection of natural and organic products (with a strict set of criteria), but there is no membership fee, and it doesn’t hold any inventory, operating a drop shipment model and taking a commission on each sale.
“Thrive Market is Costco meets Whole Foods," said Young.
“Brands we're in touch with, they say that it's known that Thrive Market is a great place to get volumes, but they break even, they don't really make money on Thrive Market, and the Thrive Market consumer is looking for a deal, and with more moving to own label they are becoming more like a Trader Joe’s online.”
'I wanted to make something as simple as possible for brands'
At BUBBLE, dubbed the ‘Etsy of health food,’ there’s no minimum inventory required, and brands set their own prices. BUBBLE takes a 35% cut, and brands take home 65%.
“Brands make more money with us than they do with any other resale or wholesale relationship,” according to Young, who says 80% of products on BUBBLE cannot be found on other large online retailers.
“I launched BUBBLE because I felt there was a really big gap in the market for all these amazing innovative brands that were trying to go direct to consumer. It’s very expensive to acquire customers and get them to come back and very hard to get customers to enter their credit card information for a single food product, however good it is.
“I wanted to make something as simple as possible for brands who make something amazing to turn on a new revenue channel, especially small to mid-tier brands that have local or regional but not national distribution.”
BUBBLE deploys a drop shipment model, but is looking to offer shipping and logistics services for top selling items next year
When orders come in, BUBBLE’s platform alerts vendors with orders and creates pre-paid shipping labels (it partners with Stripe for vendors to receive payments as orders come through). All vendors need to do is fulfill orders and use BUBBLE branded tape to seal packages.
While this means that customers ordering 10 items could get 10 separate deliveries if they are all from different vendors, there is still only one transaction on BUBBLE, said Young: “It’s not like Etsy where you’re checking out separately for every product. With us, you’re only entering your information once.”
However, she added, “We plan to offer shipping and logistics services for top selling items as soon as next year.”
'We saw a major shift from ‘cool snacks’ to pantry items'
So how are people using BUBBLE?
Pre-COVID, people were mostly buying snacks and supplements; typically a handful of unique items they couldn’t buy locally. When COVID hit, however, BUBBLE’s average order value skyrocketed, its repeat rate went up and it suddenly saw huge growth in pantry items such as gluten-free pasta and sauces and beans, said Young.
“We saw a major shift from ‘cool snacks’ to pantry items, and we also had a ton of pet brands apply to sell on the platform, which is a vertical we didn't even see coming.
“I think we have some of the strongest metrics in the game and this really is the most effective way for a brand to go to market. We have about 40% repeat user base, which is a great starting point, but we're going to, I think, knock that out of the park when we have our ultimate experience come out later this year and we move into perishables.
“Our average time to second order for customers is 32 days, so that's basically subscription service numbers… once the customer finds and discovers BUBBLE they come back. Also, the brands themselves help all the other brands when they promote that they're selling on BUBBLE.”
'We have a completely differentiated inventory compared to everybody else'
Asked about shopping trends on the site that emerged during the pandemic, she added: “AIP autoimmune protocol… we had a lot of customers asking about that, so we put up a collection for AIP. We also had a lot of interest in home baking and foods with upcycled ingredients.”
She added: “We see ourselves as very complimentary to a Whole Foods purchase or an Amazon purchase; we have a completely differentiated inventory compared to everybody else.
"If you're really into beauty, you're going to shop Sephora. If you have kids that love Cheetos, you're going to get them on Go Puff or Amazon, but in the same way that Etsy is there for handmade craft goods, we’re there for unique products from independent food makers.”