How MVMT Watches Boostrapped Their Way From Zero To A $300M Exit in 5 Years While Disrupting The Watch Industry In The Process [Case Study]
Imagine being 22 years old with 20,000$ in debt.
You’re dreaming about buying a watch to show off in front of your friends, but there’s no way you can simply drop 1000$ or even 500$ to get yourself the beautiful watch you really want. This industry has been around for decades and it’s simply impossible to find a watch that’s both beautiful and affordable with high quality.
So instead of falling under the pressure and abandoning your dream, you get the idea of disrupting one of the oldest, most legacy-filled and competitive industries in the world with brands making over $8 billion per year, by building your own brand.
Sounds crazy, right?
Well, in 2013, that’s exactly what happened to the founders of the world’s fastest-growing watch brand: MVMT co-founders Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante.
At the time, the former was working as a valet to pay off debt from his previous ventures…
Fast-forward five years later and the watch brand has made over $100m without any external venture capital or business angel funding. Today, the company has sold over 1.5 million watches, sunglasses, and other accessories in over 160+ countries worldwide.
In August 2018, Movado Group decided to acquire the brand for $300 million with a net benefit of $170 million for the 27 and 26-year-olds. As the company was 100% privately owned, this will go straight into their pockets.
So how did they do it?
One answer: by leveraging social media and using strong digital marketing strategies.
Every successful start-up started with a disruptive idea. But anyone can have disruptive ideas; it’s the execution that matters.
Kassan and LaPlante have managed to build themselves an empire off of the hidden needs of the Millenials generation by understanding how the 20-somethings interact with the digital world.
This led to the first-ever watch brand selling solely online. Although they initially had the intentions to move into retail, their digital success coupled with some advice from Shark Tank’s Daymond John made them stick to what they’re good at: online retail.
The usual start-up story goes like this: have an idea, do the market research and write a business plan, rap up a huge amount of capital to fund your first round of product and pray for the next few years that your products will be able to haul in enough cash through marketing strategies to pay your investors back.
But what’s really impressive about MVMT’s story isn’t the fact that these two men have managed to build a successful start-up dropping out of college (that story is starting to get somewhat common nowadays), but that they’ve managed to create successful strategies, step-by-step, understanding the mechanics of different platforms at different points in time, and have put it all together to create a very strong brand while using 0 external funding.
In this article, my partner Max Andersson and I have analyzed MVMT’s digital marketing strategies to understand and unveil what has made the brand so successful. We’ve also taken a look at what they’re doing today and how they can improve in the future – and believe me, there’s still lots of room for improvement.
Let’s get started with how MVMT got to where they are now: through social
Crowdfunding isn’t a social media per se, but it’s an important channel in MVMT’s story and the way it happened is important both in the early success of the company, but also in the way they handled other social media platforms later on.
Without any cash or external investment to launch their new product, Kassan and LaPlante turned to crowdfund with their new concept: beautiful, high-quality watches at an affordable price.
However, the most common crowdfunding website, Kickstarter, refused their pitch. And they didn’t just refuse it once, they refused it TWO TIMES…
But instead of giving up on crowdfunding as a source of cash and selling their souls to investors, they decided to turn to another platform: Indiegogo.
They fixed their initial goal at $15,000. Within 50 days of launching the campaign, they had raised over $300,000 from 3000 backers, becoming the second most-funded fashion brand on Indiegogo in 2013.
What’s very important to understand here is that MVMT’s founders were not a bad crowdfunding product as Kickstarter had suggested with their refusals, but they simply needed to find the right platform with the right audience for their product.
And that’s exactly what they found at Indiegogo.
To make sure their campaign would stand out with the users of this particular platform, they included specific information such as:
- Information regarding the brand, the vision and the mission of the founders
- A video explaining the concept and asking the visitors to “join the MVMT”
- A detailed description of the watches that were being offered for the backing, with specifications and quality assurance
- Satisfaction guarantees and warranty
- Call-to-action buttons
To make their crowdfunding campaign successful, they used these three strategies:
- The best backers are your closest friends, so start with friends and family and ask them to back you up
- Aim low for the initial goal of the fundraising – making it easier to reach will improve trust for people who have never heard of the brand
- Know the platform and know the audience
These three lessons will be very important in the next chapters of this article and can be summed up into one word: trust.
People buy from brands they trust, that’s just a fact. And crowdfunding was the first-way MVMT managed to earn their community’s trust.
It was their first successful digital marketing strategy with their new, revolutionary brand.
The next big strategy they used was influencer marketing.
Based on the strategy used initially by the watch brand Daniel Wellington and the hashtag #DWMoments, MVMT decided that a great way to build trust with their consumers would be to leverage influencer marketing.
Just like Daniel Wellington, MVMT could build an army of influencers by targeting small-to-midsize follower bases instead of spending millions on high ticket celebrities. The great advantage here is that you can get your posts in front of millions of eyeballs without spending a fortune.
They partnered with the marketing agency Mediakix and launched their first influencer marketing campaign with 62 influencers who averaged 47,000 followers, creating 73 sponsored Instagram posts.
After one week, they had over 100,000 likes, 2,800 comments and their posts had been exposed to over 3 million people.
Although these metrics might sound like vanity, leveraging small-to-mid size influencers has a strong effect: their followers place more trust in them.
Since they’re not big celebrities, they’re much easier to identify with. As a result, when they post something, they actually tend to have an even stronger effect than a big superstar has on the followers.
When coupling all of these small influencers together, you get the “MVMT” you want.
And the hashtag #JointheMVMT was born.
Today, the hashtag has almost 120,000 publications, and there are more added every minute.
The brand has made it easy for new influencers to “join the MVMT”, by adding a specific ambassador page on their website to allow influencers to advertise their brand for them (but we’ll talk more about the website later in the UX section)
The influencers can join as ambassadors and add discount codes to their pictures, as we can see “brittie15” on the Instagram picture above. This allows them to earn commissions when followers buy MVMT products and allows the brand to track what influencers are the most effective, and why.
In the long run, working with both macro and micro influencers can have a strong impact on any brand. Macro influencers allow a big exposure while micro, or “niche”, influencers often have a stronger impact on their follower base.
For now, MVMT hasn’t worked with any big celebrities, but it seems only like a matter of time before that happens.
To leverage their influence even more and grow their brand, MVMT also reposts and shares all influencer’s posts featuring their products on their own Instagram pages. This way, visitors get drawn directly to the brand which creates possibilities of engagement in the form of likes or comments on the page.
Let’s now have a closer look at their Instagram page.
Today, MVMT actually has two Instagram accounts: MVMT and MMVTforher
Together, they amass a total of over 1.4m followers and a TON of User Generated Content (UGC).
Most of these pictures are featuring MVMT products, with some of the posts amassing up to 20k likes, although lacking some engagement in the comments section compared to the original posts on the influencer pages.
The Instagram pictures are also featured directly on the website with an amazing feature allowing users to directly buy the products that they see (which we’ll talk about later). This feature is also available on a few of the pictures directly on Instagram, which is an amazing way of showcasing the products in a new environment every day.
Alright, let’s move on from influencer marketing and Instagram a little bit and take a look at the more traditional social media platforms, to analyze and understand what MVMT are doing across the board and how they are interacting with their community in various ways.
And we’ll start with the biggest: Facebook
MVMT has an enormous amount of likes on their page with over 3,6 million people following their page. It’s also responsible for 47% of their total social traffic. However, there is still room for improvement on this platform.
The “very responsive to messages” tag is a great one to have, but the 3.9 out of 5-star rating isn’t all that great. And although the page contains lots of photos and native videos, the page only posts organically 0.2 times per day with a low 3% engagement rate. This shows that MVMT’s shared content doesn’t resonate with their audience.
You might say that organic Facebook is dead, and I’d somewhat agree with you. However, in the case of MVMT, it’s very important to keep their community updated and engaged with the content of the brand.
They could do this by leveraging the content they already have on Instagram as well as on their blog and stirring up user’s emotions and curiosity on the page. Posting more than once a week would be a smart move to create more engagement on the page.
Currently, most posts are pictures of the products to sell them. It would be awesome to interact in different ways with the audience on their page, such as Grammarly does with perfection.
Although MVMT has almost 13,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel, it feels like the brand could leverage this channel much more to engage with their fans.
In the past year, most of their videos have less than 5k views. Videos from the last four months have less than 1k views for the most.
However, a couple of videos from over a year ago have over 1 MILLION views, such as this one:
Also, there are a few product videos that have amassed 300k, 500k, 800k and even over 1M views, showing us that MVMT has used YouTube advertisement in the past.
This is for sure a great source of traffic and branding for MVMT, and I’d love to see them leverage this strategy more in the future. The latest videos they’ve added haven’t seemed to bring that much traction.
MVMT is using tons of YouTube influencers though, which is why they’re getting incredible amounts of traffic from this channel. Similar to influencer marketing on Instagram, YouTubers earn commissions based on sales done through their promotion codes.
With Pinterest, we’re going back to sharing images, in a close but still very different style than Instagram.
MVMT has an extremely impressive 7 million UNIQUE viewers on their Pinterest every month. That’s A LOT of viewers. On this Pinterest they have 29 boards with titles such as “Join the MVMT”, “Men’s Fashion”, “Women’s Fashion”, “Street Style”, “Foodie”… the list goes on.
On an open platform like Pinterest, MVMT can really use their story and branding to share pictures on the various themes and values it lives by: travel, fashion, lifestyle, and quality. They initially started using the platform as a way to connect with women, but have since broadened their strategy and reach.
The channel has been a great motor to spread word-of-mouth and gain visibility. According to a case study performed by Pinterest, close-up shots of watches perform the best, as “a lot of people come for Pinterest in discovery mode, looking for products to purchase for themselves or others.
Through promotions, Kassan and Laplante quickly realized that visitors from Pinterest converted twice as much as users from other channels. That a 100% stronger conversion rate than any other social media platform. In addition, some of their most successful campaigns have seen up to 20% increase in sales.
Pinterest may often be viewed as a mostly predominantly feminine platform. And it is, as 81% of the 175 million Pinterest users are female. However, what needs to be accounted for here is that these women also buy gifts for men. This has had a gigantic influence on MVMT.
We kept the best for last as the MVMT team explains that Tumblr has had the biggest impact on them. According to the founders, getting a few good pictures on some of the large tumblers is one of the best ways to spread your products and reach tons of people.
Just like Pinterest and Instagram, people have been sharing pictures on their blogs with the MVMT watches accompanies by the hashtags #MVMT or #JointheMVMT. These manage to get some great traction and get in front of a lot of eyeballs when landing on one of these popular blogs.
Social Media conclusion
Now that we’ve covered a few of the social media strategies, let’s take a step back and analyze what it is MVMT is trying to do:
- They are trying to be everywhere: they have accounts on all platforms (even those I didn’t cover)
- They are adapting their strategies to each platform according to the audience while keeping their message and their core values intact
- They are leveraging the media that has worked the most for them: pictures
Overall, social media has been the driver of success for MVMT, but it doesn’t stop there.
Although organic traffic will always be the best, it’s impossible to neglect the power of Ads. MVMT knows this, and as we’ve already discussed in this section, they have used Ads on almost all social platforms.
The reason is that organic reach on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest has become so difficult that these companies are almost forcing us to use advertising. However, this is a win-win situation for all, as everyone is earning something in the end: the social media platforms get their CPCs from ads, the brands get the traffic and the audience gets the products they deserve.
So let’s dive into some of MVMT’s Paid Marketing strategies.
Now, we’ve really understood how MVMT interacts with its community and grows the brand organically through social media platforms. However, this is still an e-commerce brand, and while it’s very important to them to build a community and trust, it’s even more important to sell their products.
In today’s world, paid online advertisement has become one of the most effective ways to get the right posts in front of the right people, at the right time.
Let’s have a look at how MVMT does this via Facebook Ads and Google Ads.
MVMT’s using a lot of Facebook Ads to get their products into people’s news feed. And rightfully so, as Facebook Ads are a great way to boost e-commerce sales.
Let’s have a look at some of their best-performing Ads.
MVMT’s team are using mostly Instagram Ads or Facebook Photo Ads, where ads are focused on showcasing one type of product and redirecting clicks directly to the product’s product page. I have seen very few video ads, as maybe this is something that hasn’t worked out for them in the past. They should definitely try this out again as video Ads work really well at the moment.
Using these types of ads is the best practice when using the Business Manager platform for e-commerce stores. However, it would be interesting to analyze how MVMT would perform with Multi-product Ads or Collection Ads.
beautiful, with short, clear text and a call-to-action “Shop Watches”. They generate a huge amount of likes, and MVMT seems to breed their blue swan ads constantly, with new Ads coming out almost every day.
Interestingly, many other people are throwing money into Facebook Ads to showcase MVMT’s products. This makes sense as influencers earn money from commissions, which allows them to spend money into advertisement and earn their keep from the difference, such as this guy… Or this well-known golf brand.
According to Ahrefs, MVMT is only bidding of 772 keywords worldwide, about one third of them being in the US, as we can see on the following graph.
For a company making millions of revenue in online sales, this is a great area of opportunity. Under 1k of keyword bids on Google Ads in the world is very low.
Strangely, the company is barely bidding anything at all in big markets such as the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany or France.
Leveraging a strong Google Ads strategy would be a great move for MVMT to increase their online sales.
Let’s have a look at some of their ads.
Their Ads look good, with some great H1s, H2s and even the new H3s that just came out. They’re showcasing benefits of the brand like “Clean and stylish Designs at a Fair Price”, “Always Be on Time & In Style” or “Free Shipping Worldwide”. I’d love to see some more call-to-actions on there, though.
They have nice ad extensions and descriptions as well. Looking across the 272 ads that are available in the US, some are targeting very specific landing pages, which is great.
They’re also bidding on a large number of keywords (although mainly branded), leveraging the opportunity of grabbing traffic from targeted, mid-to-long tail keywords. Here’s a sample:
With the knowledge they seem to have in Google Ads by looking at an account with various keywords and well-written ads, I’m surprised that they haven’t yet used this strategy more outside of the US. Maybe this will come in the future, as it’s a great opportunity for them.
Let’s now skip over from Paid Marketing and jump into organic traffic with some SEO analysis.
As we can see from this graph, MVMT’s largest traffic acquisition channel is Search, followed closely by Direct and Social.
Let’s start by having a look at the website’s traffic and organic rankings.
Traffic & Rankings
MVMT is huge in terms of traffic, with over 2 million visitors per month and a global rank of 412 in the shopping category.
As we can see, the bounce rate is also very reasonable with 43% as well as a great time on site average of almost 3 minutes.
However, I was quite surprised to discover that almost half of their visitors are located in the US, as seen in the following picture.
One explanation for this could be that the website is only available in English, a clear improvement possibility for MVMT.
In the website’s footer, users can select their country, but this doesn’t change the language of the website, only the currency.
For countries where English isn’t spoken much, this makes it very complicated. This is why MVMT needs to create a multi-language website if they want to expand internationally.
However, one of the great advantages to this is that all ranking is concentrated in one place; the main domain.
This allows them to rank for English keywords across the board, resulting in organic rankings for 74 THOUSAND keywords. That’s a lot of keywords.
Let’s look at how they’re doing on their main market: the US.
In the US alone, MVMT ranks for 18.7k keywords, which is a great number. Looking at the graph, the growth of their ranking was really stable from October 2015 to early this year, in February.
No one seems to know in the SEO community what really happened in February 2018, but such a big change in the rankings is often a sign of a Google update. In this case, it seems to have hit MVMT pretty hard, although they seem to have recovered since.
Today, out of their 18.7k rankings, 943 are in position 1-3. Obviously, many of these are branded terms, with “mvmt watches” amassing an incredible 165,000 in search volume each month. They’re also ranking highly for generic keywords such as “gold watch” (position 7 and 49.5k SV), “women’s watches” (position 7 and 33.1k SV) or even just “watch” (position 8 and 450k SV).
Overall, MVMT is doing really good in organic rankings on the US market. I still believe that they have a lot of opportunities abroad, but maybe with the investment from Movado Group, this will change.
MVMT has a very strong backlink profile, with 29.4k backlinks across 2.28k referring domains. These numbers are still relatively low for a website of this size, but it showcases that MVMT is concentrating more on quality than quantity.
As we can see in this graph, MVMT has had a beautiful growing curve of referring domains ever since the creation of the website back in 2013. This shows a very healthy backlink profile containing all types of domains without ever having any issues with Google Penguin penalties.
Page speed is an important factor in the rankings of a website. Unfortunately for MVMT, fashion and jewelry websites have the issue of using many pictures, often heavy, to showcase their products.
This makes their pages heavy and very slow to load.
As we can see, the MVMT website takes a full 12.82 seconds to load. Most people will be gone by then.
Let’s now move on from traffic acquisition strategies and talk about one of the best retention strategies online: e-mail.
MVMT seems to have a good e-mail marketing strategy in place. I’ve been subscribed to their newsletter for about two weeks and I’ve already received 10 e-mails! Although I enjoy e-mail marketing and promotions, doesn’t that look a little too excessive? You decide…
They’re playing with lots of promotions and new collections in their e-mails, prompting users to come back and shop on the website. The designs of their e-mails look great overall, and I can see that MVMT puts a lot of effort into their e-mailing strategy.
And why wouldn’t they? Keep in mind that people subscribing to a newsletter have already shown love to your brand. In this case, it makes perfect sense to keep sending those offers and promotions to make users come back for some more.
As we all know as digital marketers, it’s much more difficult to acquire a new customer than it is to upsell to an already acquired one. Here, MVMT has totally understood this and does a great job with their e-mailing strategy.
In order to keep up the good work and increase their AOV with e-mail marketing, MVMT should leverage the “bounce-back” e-mails and send offers directly to customers who’ve just purchased a product on the website. These types of e-mails have proven to help out tremendously with the one-time buyer problem, prompting users to come back at a later date to buy again with the offers they’ve received.
- Welcome e-mail
- Pre-arrival e-mail
- Social promotion e-mail
- Survey e-mail
- Video review request
Now that we’ve gone through all user acquisition and retention strategies, let’s go over to the heart of MVMT’s business. The place where everything happens; the website
Let’s talk about user experience and website design. Although we’ve already covered page loading speed in the SEO section, let’s have a look at MVMT’s design, structure, and shopping experience.
MVMT’s website is built with Shopify Plus, as Kassan has mentioned that the platform has been a huge blessing for them thanks to the many back-end tools it offers such as Shopify Reviews, LiveChat and Abandon Aid.
Let’s start with the home page.
MVMT changes its homepage quite regularly, so you might not see the same one as I’m analyzing here. However, the overall structure mostly stays the same and the analysis that I’m bringing here applies to most of their updates.
This is what their current homepage looks like
As MVMT is selling products both for men and women, it makes total sense to introduce the website with products of both. However, it has been shown that women tend to shop more online than men.
Let’s look at the attention and heat maps of this home page to discover some flaws in its design.
This first thing that strikes me here is the non-existing attention toward the women’s sunglasses and watch. As I mentioned, women tend to shop more online than men, and although MVMT was initially a men’s watch brand, I believe it would be interesting for the brand to concentrate the design a little more towards the women’s products.
However, attention is directly drawn towards the two “Shop Now” CTAs, which is great. And even though we’re not being drawn toward the women’s products, we have a very clear, early view of the men’s.
It’s even clearer when we look at our Areas of Interest analysis:
It’s slightly incoherent to have the men’s watch and the women’s CTA stand out the most, and I believe MVMT would gain from focusing on one of the sides.
Let’s scroll down.
I love this. I truly believe that every e-commerce website should have a best sellers section on their homepage. It’s such a great way to showcase your best selling products to new users.
What’s great as well is that this best sellers section seems to update automatically through time, showing the best-selling products of specific time periods. This is great to keep returning users on their toes, prompting them to come back and check out the latest trends.
This section is a large part of the heaviness of the page, as the products move when hovering on them and an “Add to cart” CTA appears.
I love that MVMT has a blog section. It’s not a common trend in fashion, but MVMT’s blog has some great visual content with beautiful images and videos like this blog post.
As a brand, creating content can be great for branding and SEO purposes. However, it’s crucial to keep this content of high quality to increase rankings and provide users with quality time on the blog. MVMT knows this, creating only posts with great text and amazing visual content
Definitely check it out, it’s worth a visit.
This section is my favorite. As MVMT has built most of its brand of social media and Instagram, it makes all the sense in the world to have an Instagram section on the Home Page.
However, this isn’t just an Instagram section to show off some great looking pictures who redirect to Instagram accounts.
No, this is a shopping section, as you can directly click on any of these pictures to “shop the look”
Wow. Every time I look at this section I’m just amazed by how awesome it is. Being able to shop directly from a picture makes it so much easier to visualize in real life and creates a great shopping experience for users on the website. This is a great showcase of MVMT’s omnichannel approach, interlinking the experiences of social media pictures and shopping.
You’re no longer buying a product just by looking at the product, but also buying the product based on the context in which it looks good!
Finally, we get to the footer of the Home Page.
I really like how they’re showing their benefits:
- Free shipping
- Free returns worldwide for orders over $50
- 24 months warranty on all products
- 100% safe and secure checkout
These are some really awesome benefits. Free returns worldwide? That’s an insane benefit.
Below we have some pretty standard internal links leading to the men’s or women’s shop, customer service links and all contact and about links. Nothing fancy here as it doesn’t seem like MVMT is trying to push SEO link juice to any specific pages.
Let’s continue our journey into the product pages.
I’ve gone straight into one of the best sellers to check out MVMT’s product page.
And it looks awesome:
What strikes me when looking at these maps in the lack of attention put into the CTA. Although the attention map shows us that it’s one of the elements that we see first (which is great), the heat map shows us that users will spend more time looking at the product (good!) and the logo at the top (not so good…).
Maybe changing the color of the CTA to something shinier would make it stand out more? I believe MVMT should test this.
What’s also sad about the heat map is that it shows that users aren’t paying attention to the amazing 4.5 star-rating from almost 2000 reviews. Or even the upsells with the straps.
On one hand, MVMT doesn’t want to distract users who are in buying mode with other types of information. But, on the other hand, great reviews sound like a pretty strong buying argument to me. Maybe make it slightly bigger and more prominent on the page?
Anyways, let’s add this beautiful piece of clockwork into our cart and keep going.
MVMT’s website doesn’t actually have a cart page. Even when clicking on the cart button at the top of the page, this little cart menu pops out.
What I really like about this cart is its simplicity. I can see my product, the price, the “free shipping” reminder and a very clear CTA to proceed to checkout. It’s simple, clear and effective.
As a regular online shopper, I also enjoy when I can check out without signing up as a user. This makes the process so much easier and more user-friendly.
The Checkout page is pretty standard, with some important elements into it.
First, MVMT has removed any distractions from the users such as the menu, upsells, or any other feature that could make users leave the page.
Then, the page is showing the product that we’re buying with an image (very important), the price and once again, the free shipping.
Finally, the page showcases various payment methods, which have proven to be great to increase conversions on checkout pages for e-commerce stores in general.
The checkout is made in three simple step:
- Customer info (always ask for the e-mail first, for cart abandonment purposes)
- Shipping Method
- Payment info
This process is quite simple and well organized, which I believe is very important for user conversion rate.
Overall, this website’s user experience is great. Apart from the slow loading speed of some pages, the website is very well structured and easy to use.
We’ve showcased how good MVMT have been at their strategies, going from social media and being present on every platform, to strong paid marketing strategies via solid Google ads and Facebook/Instagram ads, through e-mail marketing and a very well-designed website.
Step by step, MVMT have built an empire around their brand starting small and stacking successful strategies one after the other.
However, here are some improvements for the future of the brand to keep their digital marketing strategies rocking:
- Create multi-language websites. This would be awesome to generate more traffic from countries like Germany or France.
- Leverage YouTube. It seems like they’ve let this channel down a bit, why not give it another go?
- Video Ads in Facebook. I’m quite surprised that they’re not doing any, and they should definitely try it out.
- International Google Ads. This goes with the multi-language website but has a big chance of attracting a whole new array of users.
- Reducing page loading speed. 12 seconds is a way too much, they definitely need to improve this.
It’s going to be interesting to follow how the brand changes now that its part of a group. Let’s keep an eye on MVMT in the future and see how it goes for these two young geniuses!
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