Fulya Uygun is the Co-founder and CEO of Bower Boost - an NYC-based digital marketing agency that specializes in beauty, fashion, wellness & consumer goods.
After heading digital marketing teams of various NYC-based eCommerce brands, Fulya joins us for a conversation on how to seamlessly build teams and profitably scale direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands in 2023 with killer campaigns
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Hi everyone, and thank you so much for joining us for today's D2C Multiverse session. My name is Sara, I'll be your host. Today we have Fulya Uygun, who is the co-founder and CEO of Bowery Boost, a New York City-based digital marketing agency that specializes in beauty, fashion, wellness, and consumer goods.
She is also a digital marketing expert with over 15 years of experience. Throughout her career, Fulya has scaled brands through seed funding to Series B, in addition to working as head of digital marketing for corporate companies. Now, her agency works seamlessly to build teams and profitably scale direct-to-consumer brands, and is dedicated to investing in and supporting women and minority entrepreneurs.
So I'll pass it over to you, Fulya. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Of course. So, I've been in the New York market, I think working as a head of digital marketing for about 12 years. Of course not all of it was head of marketing, but the majority of it was. I spent a lot of time working at startups or bigger corporate companies, but even at a bigger company, we always worked as a startup. Super scrappy. Just figuring it out, building the teams.
Just a heads up, when I started working in the D2C world, it was a D2C bubble. It was when lots of D2C companies were launching—a lot of VC money was around. Things have changed since then. So, I did that for a lot of years and then I was hired to be a part of a team to launch a D2C brand for L'Oreal, which was the first D2C brand that they were launching. While I was doing it, I was also consulting to a lot of different brands. Eventually, organically, this became an agency three years ago (just before COVID), which was a very interesting time.
And since then, we've been working with over 35, 40—I guess almost every single client of ours are women founders, majority of them in the consumer goods space. We are specialized in targeting women with products that are built for them. Right now we are a team of 12 people. I'm super proud of our team's growth.
Majority of our team members have almost 10 years+ in the digital marketing world. So super experts! And then we work really closely with our founders to scale their brands and understand what is happening in the digital landscape.
That's amazing. And maybe tell us a little bit more about Bowery Boost and the types of offerings you have. You spoke about your target audience and when you were founded, but what's so special about Bowery Boost?
Yeah. I think the part that is a little different is when I started the agency, I had no agency background. I had absolutely no idea how an agency worked because—this kind of hurts me to say—even when I was leading the digital marketing teams, I was building my in-house teams, running them in-house.
So I didn't necessarily have that, like: What is an agency? How much [work] do they remove [from a client’s workload]? I have no idea. So, I built a team to become an actual digital marketing team for the companies that we work with. We are super passionate, especially for supporting women and minorities. I mean, I know a lot of companies say it, and I know a lot of companies do a great job, but we really try to be a part of their team to understand the full scope not just to take a step back.
We do everything paid that is trackable from a data platform. So, whatever we came from a channel or a media source. We can track from GA, Shopify, or Beam—any attribution solution, we can pretty much do it. We have a lot of partnerships around the US with different data tools and different platforms to provide our companies, our partners, with as much detail as they like to see.
And then again, our whole goal is to understand their ecommerce landscape, and then give them the numbers and metrics they need to make smart decisions on their growth and their growth process.
So that's what we do.
And especially nowadays measuring everything is so fundamental to understanding customers to build these really fundamental and smart digital marketing solutions. So, maybe we'll start there. What does customer centricity mean to you in digital marketing?
Yes, exactly. I think for us, it's pretty much really understanding. Because in the marketing world, there is your budget. And then you just pretty much go ahead and spend it. But it's not only about that—of course, there's profitability in an agency world, too—but what are we trying to really understand? What does retention look like for us? What does ‘scalable’ look like for our partners?
So, consumer-centric means we need to really understand your numbers. Really get to the core of all the metrics that make your company scale and grow and exist. Honestly, it's a very tough world out there. That is just what I see. If I can provide the numbers to profitably help you grow, you'll be happy eventually.
And then along the way, we’re everything that you need from a digital partner. We are creative first. We are super data-driven. So, whether that's creative input or even building your creatives, we can do that—anything that you do not have the time to do to scale your company, while also providing you the data that you need to make smart decisions. I think that makes our clients happy.
We have a really high retention rate, so I'm assuming that is working for us. And also, it's really tough to start a company. Just to sit down and listen: Hey, how is it going? What do you think? What does growth look like for you?
Even if it's not my area, founder-to-founder, how does [growth] look for you? Are you happy? Are you not? What can I do? What else can we do to support you and support your growth? That's how I define it. And during my time, if I found an agency partner that would provide that, I would be happy to do it.
I'm sure there are companies. Of course, you can't tap into every single one of 'em. But that's how I define it.
For sure! Great marketing and great partnerships are built on empathy. So I love that you speak about talking from founder-to founder, as woman-to-woman, talking about those experiences and how you can grow together.
That's a really great foundation for the brand. So, we're gonna pivot a little bit and talk about some emerging trends in D2C growth. From the TikTokification of commerce, to gamified experiences, to omnichannel selling—what do you think of these trends and which ones do you think are going to be big players this year?
So TikTok is a funny game and I don't wanna hurt myself or the whole idea about TikTok right now. We got the news that it's been banned in Montana, so we don't know how long these things are gonna continue. We have some brands that are killing it on TikTok. But even those brands that are killing it on TikTok—based on the attribution given from TikTok—their CPAs are higher than Meta.
So, unless you have an attribution solution or a very strong post-purchase survey, you don't really see the direct benefit. But also, a lot of people on TikTok are still engaged with content. Not a lot of them are bouncing to a website. This just reminds us: In the early Instagram days when it was a little different, it was more about content. Not right now. People are very used to shopping on it.
I think for the majority of our brands, omnichannel has been the game changer. You wanna be where your customers are. It can be your D2C [website], it can be your retail partner, it can be Amazon. Just be there. When I was doing digital marketing, at the core, Facebook was almost like an ATM. You put one in, you take four or five. It's not like that anymore. So people need to say, “it's become really very important to actually build a brand,” and that is not done strictly by putting money on a Facebook machine.
You need to build this brand. You need to be part of out-of-home, or maybe some programmatic TV ads. D2C might be retail. Anytime our partners launch in a retail store, we do see the benefits of it. Of course, it takes a little bit from your D2C channels. Maybe there is a little bit of decline in your ecommerce revenues.
But sometimes not. Sometimes it picks up. But it just changes the game because then people can see you in the offline store. So out of everything we talk about, I think Omnichannel has definitely been a game changer for a lot of brand partners that we have. TikTok is still a game we are trying to figure out every day. Testing and learning, testing and learning. But we don't even know the future of the tool yet.
For sure, especially depending where you are in the world and the legalities around TikTok, the landscape's constantly changing. So, it's trying to keep a pulse on something that changes every minute. Every second.
So, how do you do that?
For TikTok, what we do and what we suggest is: Don't necessarily see it as a numbers game, right?
Like you have a CPA (cost per acquisition) goal or a ROAS (return-on-ad-spend) goal. Don't just look into it, it might be your awareness channel. I think there's a lot of things that you need to pay attention to with TikTok because this is brand building as well, it’s how we engage your customer base. You can't ignore that, right?
Like you need that engagement to build a brand. So that's a part of the strategy. But if you are strictly looking at numbers, that might be a losing game.
So just look at your CPMs or CPCs or what other metrics. Am I getting enough eyeballs on the platform? Then that's a win. That's how I always like to see it. You have to have it. You have to figure it out. But figuring it out cannot always mean profitable CPA on a platform. Like, out-of-home, right?
Like you don't really know if it's working on the spot. Programmatic TV apps. You don't know. Marketing is not… You don't necessarily see it right away. It's building a brand again.
For sure. And brand building sometimes isn't always measurable by numbers, right? You get that qualitative feedback from—like you mentioned earlier—post-purchase surveys.
Understanding how someone found you and actually understanding why they bought on the channel that they bought on is so important. Do you see that these trends, from omnichannel to TikTok, vary across the different industries that you work with? From beauty, to fashion, to wellness?
Again, I can't necessarily speak too much for service-based businesses, which is my business, but product-based businesses, we do see these trends play out pretty similar. At the end of the day, you're targeting a similar audience base, and that's all that matters. Who am I going after if it's the same person?
The strategy doesn't necessarily differ that much. You build the same strategy, maybe play the game a little different, but it's the same people you’re going after.
So it doesn't differ that much for sure.
And what trends and strategies have you found to be the most effective in driving retention and loyalty for the product companies that you’ve worked with?
Yeah. Honestly speaking, I will say on top of my head, not promotions.
It comes down to building a brand. I think the most important part is actually building a community. It is to talk to your customers. It is understanding what they want, engaging with them, understanding what they like to see.
And it helps us so much as marketers on the content process. If you know what customers need, we build the content based on that. Gimme that—that's the best part. So, once you build a community and communicate with your customers, and they feel engaged, they feel they are heard by you, that really makes a lot of difference.
Any company and partner that we work with that has great social listening, great customer service that just constantly engages. You'll see those people advocate for you and that is retention. You know? That is loyalty. And that's the best way of building loyalty.
Of course there are a lot of loyalty programs that you can utilize to build these communities, but again, it comes to actually speaking to the customers and then understanding, “am I doing the right thing for them or am I just thinking this product might be a good fit?” It’s not about what you think, it’s about what they tell you most of the time, so listen to them.
For sure. Do you have some favorite brand examples who have done really well in the loyalty and retention space, or folks that you've worked with?
I think we have some clients that are doing an amazing job. We have one client called Le Mini Macaroni. I wish I had the product, it's so cute. It's like this macaron-shaped gel nail brand.
So our strategy since we launched—and we've been working with them almost two years now was—gel nails at home. And during COVID, it's a great strategy. You do your nails at home, it's gel. It takes 15 seconds to dry. But they started communicating with their customers.
And we understand people actually like the concept of on-the-go—you can use a portable charger or you can plug it in anywhere and do your nails. So we started getting this feedback, their customers are like,” Hey, I wanna use it when I'm in the car, when I'm flying on a plane,” because it takes a second, you can even do it on the beach.
So we understand that it's happening and we got a whole bunch of content around that. Again, as a marketer, I love that. Gimme the content, what they want, and then we push our content out in the world and people are engaging. It's not always at home, it's on the go, too. And that opens another market to us.
So I think that was a great example. Now we have an at-home core, but we have other things to tell people. Hey, this is a solution for you. You are at the beach and your nails might be chipped. How about you do it on the go? So that's a great example.
We have other brands. They listen to their customers. We are working with a brand called Cadence.They have these super beautiful and very, very usable, reusable travel capsules, and they were hearing a lot of people wanted different sizes and they came up with this super flexible extendable capsule system for everybody's travel needs.
It's like you fill it with your skincare beauty and then carry it around when you're traveling. So that's a product built based on customer feedback. It's a lot easier for me as a digital marketer to actually promote that product because: You asked for it, we know that solves a problem. So I think that’s two very good examples that we've been seeing. Again, hear them out, build what they want, and then I have the content all ready for me. I know what I need to use to capture people's attention.
So we don't need to constantly test hooks. Of course, that's a part of our job, but when you already have it, because the customers are telling you this, just gimme that and I'll make it work.
For sure! If you listen to them, they'll tell you exactly what they need and then you can build products around them, right?
Good products are very much customer first and take those insights and scale them. So I really love your examples there. I think it's a great example of taking that insight of portability and then using it to market, to better understand the usability of the product.
So, we have observed that sometimes brands that just start exploring paid advertising see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are some of the biggest mistakes brands can make when they first start running paid ads?
Yeah, I think if it's a company that is just launching, putting your money on paid advertising right off the bat might not necessarily be the smartest thing. You need to first understand your product for market fit, otherwise you are really gonna lose a lot of money.
Your differentiation points, I need that. As a marketer, all we do is: What makes you different? Gimme that example. And I'll go after them. Not building your personas—build like three, four different personas and give it to us so that we don't just go ahead and target a whole bunch of different customers.
We need a little bit more data before going after a customer base. I think that's one thing that I do see that just kind of hurts. You know, as a matter of fact, we need data to run something. If I don't have data, I don't know who you’re targeting. I don't have lots of details about what exactly differentiates you from a whole bunch of other companies out there.
I will do my best, but it might not be enough. So that's one thing, product market fit, you can understand that doing social tests, of course it can take like a couple of thousand dollars running ads and communicating to people before actually going after a CPA target also expecting very quick results.
That's not gonna happen. You're just launching. There might be a product out there that everybody needs and doesn't exist yet, but it's very rare. So it always comes back to understanding your differentiation points.
Expecting immediate results is not gonna help you. You need to have goals along the way. Your right-off-the-bat goal cannot be a CPA target. Unfortunately, a lot of times you really don't see it. Not investing enough in creative is another one.
Let's say you have your personas built for you. You have the product market fit. You have the differentiation points. That doesn't mean it's gonna work. We are gonna still have to test a lot. While testing, we are gonna have to build a whole bunch of different creatives with different hooks and then go after different people. Your personas and all that creative become a very big part of it actually. After iOS 14, almost is like 70% of our job is actually building the right creative to talk to the right audience.
I think that’s one of the most important ones is creative and then also making decisions too quickly based on very limited data is never gonna be your friend. You really need data. You really need substantial data to actually define that something is working or not working.
We sometimes launch brands and then they see like two conversions. CPA is high so that's positive. I'm like: It's just a two person decision. You're making a call with like five people’s, 10 people's decisions. Just don't do it. I think a lot of things play out, but again, the best way to help an agency or the digital part marketing leader is to give the product market fit, differentiation points, your personas. Tell me what you already have as a brand founder. Nobody knows it better than you. And then just let me do it. And if you need creative help, I guess that's a conversation you need to have with your agency.
But then again, you need to spare a chunk of money for testing.
I actually founded a company, I think it was maybe 2008 - 2009 and I launched a jewelry brand, which (I think) was the most gorgeous thing in the world. It was super unique, a whole bunch of jewelry from all around the world, and I spent so much money on merchandise and I had not a dime left for marketing.
You can't do it if nobody knows what you're doing. Unfortunately, nobody's gonna buy it. So you need to understand that marketing is going to be one of your biggest expenses. So you can't just spare a couple of thousand dollars and then be like, all right, let's do it. It can't be early—results might be disappointing.
That doesn't mean it's not gonna work. We just constantly assess. And then you need to get ready for the mindset of sometimes things take time.
And what is a good timeframe to initially start out with? I know it depends on the industry, and what the creative is, and how you're testing, and how many messages you're testing—but what is a good number, or length of time, to run an offer to decide whether it's effective or not?
I think more than time it's conversions, like how many conversions you need to understand if something is working. If you're talking about creative, you need at least 15 to 20. Also, you need to understand what are the CTRs, what are the CPCs along the way?
A lot of different metrics actually tell you if this creative or audience is really engaged with you. It depends on the budgets, right? Like you might be spending $10, it might take you six months, you might be spending a thousand bucks a day. It might take you two weeks to figure it out.
It all depends. I think you need to spare (it's not gonna sound great) at least 10k to 15k, 20 k just for the testing and be comfortable doing it in a limited amount of time. Don't just spread it to a couple of months. It might just hurt you because everybody gets frustrated when you're waiting.
You’re waiting, there's not enough data. You're telling your digital partner, “Hey, make a decision.” I'm like, “I can't, because there is no data.” It's not gonna help anybody. So I think it's just sparing a decent amount of money. It's the most important part of it. Building a brand again, like building the right content, going after an audience, understanding if it's the right audience or if it's not the right audience, there's a lot of things to be done. So I guess budget-wise, you need to be smart about putting some cash on the side for the marketing process.
Eventually something will work if you have the right product market fit.
For sure. And something else I heard with what you were saying, apart from product market fit and the budget and giving it time to test, is consistency.
So consistently applying something to see results. What kind of digital store experiences can help engage and convert customers once they land on your website after seeing an ad? Usually consistency plays a big role there in terms of messaging, graphics, et cetera. What else have you seen work?
I mean, absolutely.
Like, I think that is the most important part. What am I saying on an ad? What is my site saying? you are testing an ad, but your ad is not speaking the same language, unfortunately it's a big mess. They're gonna be like, oh, where am I? So, landing page is definitely, definitely a big part of it.
Understanding the funnel. Where are they? You know, like if it's a first time customer or if it's someone who has already been to your site and coming, like giving them different messaging is definitely important. I mean—very basic first purchase offer, it's a good incentive. Just give them what they want. It's always easy.
Or free shipping, some sort of offer to make it easier because they can shop on Amazon from someone else with free shipping. Like, what can you provide them that doesn't take them back to Google and then search for something else.. You know, give them enough reason right there on that very particular page.
Your differentiation points, your videos, what people are saying about you. Anything, any differentiation point that could make a person convinced that this is the right product for me, that has to be for the right funnel. Iit has to be built for the right creative, and it also helps with Google ratings as well.
You have a perfect landing page with the right content that matches the copy that you're writing. Your quality score is a lot better so you win more games. And also, All sorts of different incentives to make a person make up their mind rather than going back and searching.
So again, it's very competitive. You might miss your price point, but if you have the right content there to convince someone that this is worth it, that's how you convince someone after landing. Testing landing pages is a big part of it in addition to landing creatives.
And on that, Can you walk us through some of your successful digital marketing campaigns or case studies of successful brands that either you've worked with or seen? We've talked about the Mini Macaron earlier. But is there anything else more specific to a campaign that you'd like to talk about?
Very early on we started working with a brand when they were launching, they were one of the first companies that we ever worked with, and to this day we're working with 'em. It's been three years. We were lucky because it was pre iOS 14, so it was a lot easier.
And even then, the whole campaign that we built together was about testing out as many creatives as possible with the right hook to understand what the solution is, what people like. To understand what your product is actually doing for them has been a game changer.
We tested a whole bunch of creatives for three months straight. We were just spending some, not a lot, but then reading the metrics: What is the CTR, CPM, and click to purchase ratios. So tweaking the ads and tweaking the ads. Iit took us three months of constant testing, almost 10 different creatives every week.
Adding to the mix and adding to the mix. And the third month we figured it out. We figured out what people like. Till this day we still use that as an evergreen concept. And we've been working with them for three years. One of our biggest partners right now. When we are talking about a very good win and a decent case study for me it's still this.
Almost every company that we work with right now comes to the same guy. What is the right creative for you? What is the right audience that we can target with that particular creative? How can I scale on it? Like what does scalability look like? What are the different variations of this that we can constantly add to the game?
I will always say, of course you’re gonna be super data smart to understand what the creative is selling. The creative is selling a story, but test out as many as you can and then figure it out. What is the biggest problem you solve and then scale. And again, we were barely spending anything when we first started.
Right now, one of our biggest partners, and I'm super proud to be working with them.
That's fantastic. That's really great to hear. So we have a few minutes left, so I'm gonna ask two more questions and the first question will be: As Google moves towards a cookie-less world, how do you think that will impact tracking and the ability to test and iterate quickly?
And what do you think will be the new point of reference or leading indicators?
We use attribution solutions. I think that is a must for everybody. It makes such a difference in our world. I've been doing this for 15 years. It's changed so much.
If you're a smart marketer, IOS 14 was unfortunate. We thought that's the end of the world. I mean, look at us now. We are doing just fine. I think you need to be super data savvy. An attribution solution is a must. Your first-party data is going to become the most important thing that you have—not using that data is just not gonna take you anywhere.
I would say if I launched a brand right now, if I'm spending $10,000, the first thing that I would do is actually invest in an attribution solution. There are solutions out there that are not that expensive. You can do it. And with that, you have some sort of data, and again, diving into your holistic metrics is always gonna help you.
We used to be channel agnostic in a way. This is Facebook ads. This is Google. This is this. You compare week-over-week results, but it's like, what is my CAC? Like, what is my ROAS? How are those numbers looking? When you add YouTube on the top of it, you can be smart with it.
You are adding one channel at a time, spending maybe like 5% to 10% of your overall monthly marketing budget. Things are looking great. Go dive into it, go increase that. So being holistic and an attribution solution. I don't think there's anything we can't do by having those two looks as a part of your marketing strategy.
We'll figure it out. It is coming for us. We'll see. When IOS 14 was happening, I was extremely concerned, but I was always seeing that, “hey, this might be the time that actually brands need us more because we as the marketers, have to be on top of the game.”
We have to be the leaders. We have to learn and then teach our clients as well to look at different metrics when these things are happening. And I think it's good from a consumer standpoint. People are freaking out. So, it is what it is. And a cookie-less world is not as scary as IOS 14.
You know, we still have some data there.
I love that. Not as scary—but still a little bit scary—and definitely livable. No matter what happens, marketers will find a way to thrive, survive, and do even better in a cookie-less world. So I really like the points that you spoke about there.
And then the very last question is, you've started a brand, you've worked with so many brands. If you had any piece of advice for someone just starting out in the D2C space, what would it be?
I think it will.
I mean, if you are in a D2C product space, I think knowing your competitors, understanding what sort of value I can bring, it's very competitive.
What differentiates you, why should someone choose your product versus the other without being too emotionally connected with the brand that you're building is a key. Why me versus all the other guys out there? Because that information, again, as a marketer is very important for me. Just tell me what differentiates you?
It's only gonna get expensive to acquire customers. There's a whole bunch of different companies coming in the game every day. You know, it's just a differentiator in building a product that adds value to the customers—to this world. People are a lot more connected, a lot more understanding of the values that brands. They're more sensitive to that.
Add some value to this world and then differentiate, have a differentiated product. I think marketing becomes a lot easier when all of those are resolved again. You can't be just another skincare company that does the same thing, right? You can't win this game with that.
Just add something more to it. Target the right audience and find the right smart marketer to work with you to get the word out there and you can scale.
That's a great way to end this session. I love the concept of value—value is co-created with the consumer and brands, and the more value that you can put up front, the more value is perceived on the consumer side.
So I really love that tidbit. Thank you so much for joining us today, Fulya. Everyone who's listening, give Fulya a follow on LinkedIn or all the other socials that you're on. Give Bowery Boost a follow. And we'll see you next week for our next D2C Multiverse Livestream. Thank you so much again, and have a great day.