Oliver Bridge, creator of subscription-based shaving brand Cornerstone, is taking on the male grooming industry’s dominant brands. He tells us how he is using technology to fuel a disruptive business model within the category.
Cornerstone is an online store selling men’s shaving products on a subscription model.
Our proposition is to offer a simple, regular delivery model. Our proposition is to offer a simple, regular delivery model. Through the website customers can say how often they shave and we calculate how often they will need razors, shave gel, face scrub and post-shave balm. Hair grows at a fairly predictable rate, so it fits the subscription model well.
The idea is to make shaving much easier for men, especially those who don’t enjoy shopping or are too busy to take time off from busy schedules. We take a traditionally offline purchase model, online.
Subscriptions have become a popular way to deliver products and services, from on-demand TV typified by Amazon Prime and Netflix, to organisations providing a regular supply of healthy snacks such as Graze. By structuring repeat business in this way, organisations can fit better with modern consumer lifestyles.
Be more convenient, have a great product and disrupt the market
I believe e-commerce fits well into men’s shopping habits. It’s a big generalisation, but women tend to enjoy experimenting, browsing and sampling more than men, who want to get a result quickly so they can, if the product fails, try something else.
But being online also means we can spend a lot of time and energy showing people how to shave properly via online guides, helping to demystify something which is generally not well understood by most men. which It puts us a step ahead of our competitors in the market who are focused solely on the number of units they can sell.
There is a big opportunity for a business with a technology focus in this market, and I think that is where we will steal a march on our competitors. There are plenty of examples from other sectors of traditional business models being changed, with Uber dominating the mini cab market and Airbnb now worth more than Marriot and Hilton combined.
I think the key is giving people in your category a really easy way to interact with your product. The appeal of Cornerstone will continue to spread more widely as younger generations come through and people grow more accustomed to buying via digital channels.
Innovating online to stay relevant
The technology will get smarter too. In time, the cost of computer chips will become so low that your bathroom products could identify when they run low and automatically send a signal that replacements are needed. Machine-to-machine communication will mean humans won’t need to intervene.
Alternatively, items might come with smart buttons that customers push for a re-order. Having simple, connected systems within your products means you wouldn’t even have to revert to your smartphone to do the ordering.
The subscription model is a stage before this. You work out how often a week you shave and we calculate when that means you’ll need to replace the items you buy. The model is completely flexible and you can pause it or order more without a penalty, so it completely suits customers’ needs.
In terms of the products themselves, there is a chance for innovation but I think essentially the razors we use in 50 years will be similar to the ones we have today, in the same way that bikes and umbrellas are essentially the same products they were half a century ago.
Recently I was at a trade fair and I saw a Bluetooth toothbrush which mapped how you brushed your teeth, which is cool but it feels like overkill. Someone will no doubt attempt to create a ‘laser razor’ that zaps the hair off your face, but I’m not sure people would take to it en masse.
E-commerce will be the centre of innovation in this market and I have no doubt it will change massively over the years, especially how products are ordered and how people pay for them. This will inevitably become ever faster and frictionless.
Top tips for new businesses
In growing Cornerstone to where it is today I have learned a few lessons; the most important one is to treat your suppliers as well as you treat your customers, because they are every bit as important. Without them you literally don’t have a business.
Find the right partners- It is hard to find good suppliers. We have built really strong long-term relationships with ours and there is a lot of mutual trust. It means when you are in trouble they help you out instead of simply cutting you off.
Work hard -The other big piece of advice I would give fledgling entrepreneurs is to know what you are letting yourself in for. TV shows like Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice are great but they don’t illustrate just how much grit goes into building a business.
Commit to your business -They don’t show the business owner at 10pm on a Friday night doing their accounts, or working like a madman to fulfil a last-minute order. Not everyone is cut out for such hard work, so you need to know you’ll be committed over the long-term.
As for my business, the plan is for world domination and to rival the major global players like Gillette and Wilkinson Sword. That is the long-term ambition, but until then we will continue innovating in our space and providing our growing customer base with great shaves every day.
Learn more about Cornerstone here.