Today’s guest is absolutely PIERCING the competition to say the least.

Co-Founder, Board Member, and Advisor of Studs, the retail and Ecom brand reimagining the ear piercing and earring experience, meet Lisa Bubbers.

Rated one of the most innovative companies in retail for 2023 by Fast Company, expanding to 25 retail stores across the US, and doing it ALL organically, Studs is one of a kind.

And lucky for us Lisa gave some insights on The Marketing Millennials Podcast into how Studs has been able to scale organically in retail in 2024.

Here’s what she had to say in her own liiiiightly edited words.

1. Is Brick and Mortar Dead?

“We’ve learned a lot about our customer, our first store opened in Nolita in New York. 

Being close to Soho and right in the primetime shopping scene in New York City was a great learning experience to figure out what kind of foot traffic and customers we have.

Plus having a store on a main street of attraction next to other stores like Lululemon and Warby Parker where our ICP wants to shop has been a fantastic way for us to piggy back off of their already known brand image (super smart).

But now we are actively looking to move into premium lifestyle centers, a place like Century City in Los Angeles is the perfect example.

It’s really hard in Los Angeles to drive to myriad locations, the Los Angeles customer wants to go to a premium lifestyle center that’s outdoors, has every single brand they could possibly want, plus food options. 

So it all comes back to understanding the habits of your customers within each market, because how a New Yorker shops is drastically different from how someone in LA shops which is drastically different from how someone in Austin shops (YES).

2. Niche >>>:

Our customer is often not getting many other types of body piercings, they’re really focused on ear piercings, which is why we ONLY provide ear piercings. 

There are different customers that also would like their nose pierced and lip pierced, that customer is great but they’re more likely to go to their local piercing parlor. 

And we’re more than okay with that, we are purposefully going niche. (Niches = riches.)

We don’t do other jewelry categories, no bracelets, no necklaces. 

For us our inspiration for a great omni channel brand with a services component is Warby Parker. You can get your eyeglasses prescription, you can shop for sunglasses, but they’re really focused on getting your the right prescription while styling it well. 

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By going so niche they’ve built the trust and authority to go do that (authority over everything).

Our goal is to maximize the trust and authority we have on ear piercing with needles. Our piercers are highly trained on the piercing and style components. 

This isn’t the dentist, you don’t have to get an ear piercing, you’re doing this because you want to change up your look, it’s a style choice.

So we NEED the right assortment, we need the store to look really cool, we need our team to be amazing at styling and they all need to have great style themselves. 

3. How to Build Customer Trust:

The number one reason people come to studs is because we pierce with needles and we only pierce ears. And the number one reason people recommend studs is because of their experience with our team. 

We are a customer service and hospitality driven business (SEE what Lisa said here?! No, they’re not an ear piercing business, they’re a customer service business. EVERY business is a customer service business.)

The first part of that is the consultation and personalization, you can get 20+ different piercings on your ear, we have over 50 pieces of piercing jewelry to choose from. 

That’s 1,000 combinations of styling right there. 

A piercer will help you decide what works with your ear anatomy, what works with your style, we’ll walk you through everything and make the right aesthetic decision.

Piercings take eight weeks to two years to heal, so you really want to make the right choice with the right jewelry. Then the piercer will also walk you through aftercare, we sell a specific type of saline and will walk you through a routine because healing is a huge part of the process.  

We do a great job at hiring, the people that work at studs love what they do and you really feel that in the store (delegate to elevate). 

For me I’ve always said, a brand is a promise delivered and the team is really delivering that promise in real time, every day in the studios. 

4. Scaling Efficiently:

The business that has changed the most over the four years since we’ve launched and we have really learned who our customer is, what they want from us from an assortment perspective, and what is worth investing in and not. 

We launched two studios four months before COVID happened, luckily had a captive audience from the two studios we had launched. 

We always had it on the road map to work on Ecom, but COVID really forced our hand to work on it immediately. 

So we developed a drop driven business where we were dropping earrings and collections that were thematic, we found tons of success with this. Drops like a vote earring or a beach themed collection things that were highly novel with designers or celebrities.  

Recently as we’ve gotten good at the core of our business, which is piercing services scaled nationally via retail, we have focused much less on the drops driven and performance driven parts of Ecom and focused much more on what the real flywheel of the ear escaping customer is.

What do they actually want from an assortment perspective? How do we efficiently drive Ecom growth for us? (LOVE.)

That’s really focused on a best basics ear escaping assortment which means earrings that you will wear for two years, that you can sleep in, that you can shower in. 

We are an ear escaping brand with piercing authority, we’re all about finding the right size earring for your ear anatomy, that’s such a different value prop than a fashion brand that is all about what Kylie Jenner or Hailey Bieber are doing at this exact moment.

That expertise and longstanding fashion authority is what will help us to efficiently grow our business.

5. PR is a Thing of the Past? NOPE:

I love PR and even though the PR landscape has changed dramatically and the outlets aren’t the same I am still a massive believer in the medium.

You have to rethink what PR really means, it’s a broad term. I have seen so many Marketers just ignore it because they can’t attribute the cost of the investment.

They’re right, it’s not as easy to understand the payback and LTV, like with a Facebook ad. 

But PR can make or break a business, it gets written off as fluff (ouuu tell me more), but it’s a really strategic critical thinking process you have to make on how you are going to do communications and publicity around your company. 

The consumer is not going to the physical or digital magazine to read articles anymore, a lot of those places are shutting down.

There’s a lot of other ways to think about a replacement for the lifestyle magazine article online that drives SEO, there’s Substack or how people are tweeting about your product.

You have to think of PR as the conversation around your brand, whether that be with celebrities and events or actual media relations and how you’re working with individual thought leaders and tastemakers

Daniel Murray
Daniel Murray
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