The Simple Tip Offcourt's Founder Used to Get on Shelf at Walmart

We chatted with OffCourt founder Bani Bahari about scaling up Amazon, DTC, Walmart, and everything in between.


The consumer landscape looks pretty different than it did just a few years ago, pushing so many DTC native brands to switch up their growth & acquisition strategies. In this new miniseries, we pick the brains of the founders, marketers, and operators behind brands navigating the shift. Today: all things Amazon, DTC, Walmart, and everything in between with OffCourt founder Bani Bahari.

What are some of the biggest hills you’ve had to climb in the last year or so as a marketer? What’s the dream state for OffCourt in 2024?

The biggest challenge is just the pace that the marketing and media landscape is changing. What worked last quarter, or even last month, may not work tomorrow. As a small brand, it’s really challenging to keep up with this. Things work really well one day and then in the blink of an eye, they don’t. You haven’t changed, but ‘the algorithm’ has. It’s important to stay nimble and flexible so that we can jump on opportunities quicker.

Another constant challenge for us is just that the costs of acquiring customers digitally are just high – especially in relation to the cost of our products. We are constantly working to keep our prices very affordable while still having the margin to grow the business.

How have the DTC and omnichannel landscape changed for OffCourt in the last year or two? Are you feeling bullish, and on which channels?

We started OffCourt in 2021, launching on Amazon and DTC. This past fall, we entered Walmart with seven SKUs. I am very bullish on DTC and retail because our product has a very high re-order rate, with a solid group of people who LOVE it and tell their friends about it. This has been the driving force of our growth.

Amazon as a channel has become very expensive. In some of our product categories, the cost per click has tripled in the last two years, and of course Amazon fees move in only one direction – up. As a result, we don’t really focus on growing this channel. It’s important to have a presence on Amazon because many customers expect it, however, in my view, it’s impossible to build a sustainable brand on Amazon for products that cost less than $50 or $60.

Any advice for founders trying to land an account like Walmart?

Two things – First, keep an open mind about retailers who could be a fit for your brand. I meet a lot of founders who have 1-2 retailers they want to land and that’s all they are focused on. While it is good to be focused on your vision, flexibility is the key in landing a retailer. You never really know how the retailers are changing and what their strategic focus is and if your brand can be exactly what they were looking for. Second, many retailers use brokers so make sure you have a broker with the right relationships representing your brand.

How do you think about positioning the OffCourt brand in different sales channels? Do some serve different customers or psychographics than others?

From a positioning perspective, we have the most control to communicate and educate the customer on our website. As we enter a new sales channel, we adapt to the native nature of that channel and try to communicate our positioning in the way it is expected of that channel. For example, Amazon is very product-focused, so we highlight our product differences compared to the competition on our listing images. On the retailer shelves, it is much harder to convey the positioning, so we try to do all of that on our packaging.

What are some of the biggest hurdles driving sell-through in stores? Where do things get stuck? What tactics or tools actually work?

From the day you enter a retail store, you have to drive your customer to go and buy your products on the retailer shelves. Most people think that if you are giving a 50% margin to retailers, they’d give you the customer, but that’s just not how it works today. The brand pays for all the marketing, so making sure you have the margin to do so at scale is crucial and also hard because the retailers negotiate every penny. We have done some testing with coupons, and we have seen great lift in sales in retail stores – so they definitely work – but, like anything effective, they can be very expensive for some retailers.

Want more OffCourt? Get a Thingtesting exclusive chance to try it here.

What’s your take on pay-to-play retailers or partners who require really substantial investment to get the right placement on-shelf? Worth it, unavoidable cost of growth, or shady?

It depends on the product category, the retailer, and the amount of investment. You always have to make some level of investment into an expansion, but you have to assess whether the pay-off is there or not, and that’s difficult to do. The ROI is very uncertain so it is a gamble.

I have personally rejected a retailer because their slotting fees were so high that I just couldn’t make sense of it. I think when making these decisions you have to be very realistic about your expected performance in retail. Yes, your existing customers love your product, but will you really get the attention of new retail customers? It’s such a competitive environment that you can’t assume immediate success. I have seen brands get into a lot of trouble being overly optimistic about retail performance so, in general, I am against paying a big fee to a retailer to just place my product. I am, however, very happy to pay for customers to try and sample my product.

What advice do you have for marketers who are pushing a DTC brand into new sales channels for the first time, as a brand that’s nailed that expansion?

When looking to drive retail sales, be careful of brand awareness ‘opportunities’. It’s expensive and you can’t track success and you probably don’t have the budget to scale. Instead, look for opportunities that have a tangible ROI by driving actual sales in-store - whether it’s the retailer programs or outside coupon programs. Also, be ready to invest in multiple opportunities. Try a few different ones and don’t commit to just one strategy.

Lightning round! ⚡

Your take on some of the new trends and channels we're seeing? TikTok Shop? Flip?

I am a fan of TikTok shop. Jump on it while TikTok is subsidizing it and find your customers!

What's your favorite omnichannel brand? Who do you look to for inspiration or think is crushing it?

So many favorite omni channel brands to frankly list! A recent favorite is lashes from Doe Beauty.

My inspiration has always been founders who grow their brands in a very bootstrapped manner and find arbitrage in growth and I am so fortunate that I now have a group of these founders in my community, and we help each other out.

Favorite OffCourt product?

Right now I have two: our Body Spray in Fig Leaves + White Musk and our Exfoliating Body Soap in Fresh Citron + Driftwood.

OffCourt uses Thingtesting to power sell-through and customer acquisition in retailers like Walmart. Curious about learning more or doing the same? Learn more about our growth tools here or watch a quick demo.