WHEN YOUR BUSINESS JUMPS FROM E-COMMERCE STARTUP TO THE INSTAGRAM GENERATION’S FAVOURITE PHONE CASE BRAND – REACHING A REPORTED ONE IN SEVEN MILLENNIALS AROUND THE WORLD – YOU’D IMAGINE IT MIGHT BE EASY TO START TAKING SUCCESS FOR GRANTED; TO ASSUME YOUR MIDAS TOUCH IS UNIVERSAL.
Not so for Wes Ng, founder and CEO of CASETiFY. The world’s fastest growing global tech accessories brand. “We actually say no to a lot more ideas and collaborations than we say yes to. It can be tough sometimes but our whole business model’s built on testing and learning from our audience and growing accordingly. A lot of ideas simply don’t fit that.”
When Ng, who comes from a new media background, started the business eight years ago, he saw a gap in the market based on two emerging cultural phenomena. First, the collective desire to customize and make ourselves and our belongings unique in a world where individuality has become currency. And second, the rise of social media – in this case, Instagram – and its relentless thirst to reflect that individuality. His solution? Military-grade, drop-proof phone cases that combine utility with the latest customizable – and, perhaps most importantly – highly shareable styles and motifs. One share in particular, when the brand was still in its infancy, helped CASETiFY reach the world – from none other than British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
Ng says: “After he [Oliver] received our product he uploaded a picture of it onto Instagram and Twitter. A sudden surge in demand crashed our servers. So, I quit my full-time job, and ran my business seriously, together with my partner. And that’s how CASETiFY was born.” And although Ng is the first to admit that CASETiFY was lucky enough to get into influencer marketing before it was even ‘a thing’, it doesn’t change the fact that this is a company very clearly built on an unshakeable core brand identity. And in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it world, that’s an attribute that stays the course.
“Yes, our brand values of quality, creativity and innovation are what we’re founded on. But they’re also what drive us forward in an increasingly competitive market.” Says Ng. When you look at the evidence, it’s clearly working. The global mobile phone accessories market is due to grow by USD$22.21bn between 2019-2023, yet it’s by staying two steps ahead of the competition that CASETiFY continues to cement its place as an irreplaceable commodity in an increasingly vast market among almost every target demographic.
Ng is nothing if not candid about CASETiFY’s success on social media. “Instagram built our brand. There’s no getting away from that.” He muses. But as many businesses have learned, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to succeed or last. So, what’s CASETiFY’s secret? “First and foremost” says Ng. “It’s all about looking hard at the data. There is no quick fix when it comes to understanding your market. So we use every possible tool available, paid or otherwise, to explore what works for our audience. Trying everything, testing everything. Then implementing that knowledge to better our business.”
For CASETiFY, utilizing those insights comes in many forms. Ranging from big sexy collaborations to the more design or function-led creative. Yes, it helps to harness the selling power of famous customers like football star Lionel Messi – who places an order for a custom-made case every time he gets a new phone – or collaborations with other brands such as SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker, Moncler, Vetements and of course, DHL. In 2018 ,CASETiFY created a limited-edition collection that playfully used DHL's signature red and yellow colors, tape and waybills as icons to bring the brand's passion, high service quality standards, commitment to speed and can-do spirit to life.
But none of these collaborations would work if it weren’t for CASETiFY listening intently to what its audience wants at all times. So successful and iconic have the brand’s designs become that Ng compares their most dedicated followers to ‘sneakerheads’, die-hard sneaker collectors known for their passionate dedication to growing their collections.
One of the advantages of launching CASETiFY as an e-commerce business rather than through bricks and mortar stores is that Ng was able to identify and cater to exactly what his customers needed. There was no need to create superfluous products or branding to sell in the business. There was simply a strong central product supported by a relatable core value proposition, and there’s no doubting that this is an attitude that extends to CASETiFY’s offering across the board. For instance, when asked for his thoughts on global shipping, Ng replied: “Be competitive. It’s so hard to get ahead when you’re starting out, and if one of your competitors is offering a better logistics solution, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on customers. My advice is to start out by making it as easy as possible for your customers to get your product. Then, once you’ve got an established audience, you can begin negotiating on things like P&P.”
Indeed, by building DHL’s API key into their platform, CASETiFY were quick to break into other global markets like North America and Europe, expanding at a phenomenal rate. The happily ironic payoff of doing things this way around? CASETiFY are now set to open two physical stores in Hong Kong and Japan in the coming months. Both designed to reflect that same customer journey, but in an exciting, relevant experiential format.
But success can be fleeting, which is why CASETiFY has always been prepared for change whenever necessary. Chief among those changes recently was a move to an m-commerce platform to better their reach. “It’s the number one most important thing at the moment for e-businesses. We use our own custom m-commerce platform, but other widely available options like Shopify are equally helpful to new businesses.” Ng proclaims. Or, following a constant stream of feedback through various channels, the implementation of a new logo and brand feel. Which, Ng claims, had a far larger impact on the company’s success than he could ever have imagined.
In truth there is no quick fix to making your e-business a success. But listening to Wes Ng, it’s clear that hard work and the ability to incorporate being both proactive and reactive within the business model are at the heart of everything CASETiFY does. “Be patient. Do the work. Distractions are all around. Stay focused and stay true to your company’s DNA. Audiences are savvy; they will recognize and reward that if your product’s good enough.” Says Ng. And for those looking to collaborate? “Every partner is different. Remember that it’s an exchange of ideas, not just an opportunity for you to hijack someone else’s brand or follower count.” Wise words indeed.
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