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Creating Customer-Driven Healthcare with Hilary Coles, Co-Founder of hims & hers

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The fact of that matter is that the healthcare system was not built with the consumer in mind. That is, until hims & hers came along. 

This three-year-old company has been making waves in the industry, and for good reason. Its platform has facilitated more than two million medical visits and is valued at more than $1.6 billion. And all of this in an industry that has been immune to disruption for decades. 

hims & hers is the first true consumer healthcare brand that, through its platform, creates an easy, transparent, and high-quality experience for all those frustrated with their current healthcare option. Its mission is to help people finally feel empowered to talk about and get treated for certain conditions, and Hilary Coles, the co-founder and VP of Merchandising for the company, is responsible for making that happen.

On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Hilary explains why humor really is the best medicine when it comes to marketing, and she talks about how brands should approach experimentation. Plus, she provides tips to anyone who is thinking about trying to disrupt a big industry, and why she thinks it’s a risk worth taking.

Main Takeaways:

  • Everything the Light Touches: Talking about certain things is uncomfortable — especially when it comes to your healthcare. But for a brand to make an impact, it has to have a message, reach into those uncomfortable places, and make it okay for those you’re trying to reach to talk about them too. By embracing humor and truth in marketing, you create an authenticity that is often missing and you open the door for your target consumers to feel empowered to take action
  • Social Experiments: Making experimentation and ideation a social process is one of the best ways to bring the most creative ideas to the table. When you invite everyone to contribute, and when you are honest with everyone about what ideas worked and which failed, you create an atmosphere that encourages risk-taking and you are more likely to experiment in channels or with opportunities your competitors are overlooking.
  • But Why?: Having an endless curiosity and need to ask “why” is the best way to disrupt an industry, and also to keep improving your processes. Too often companies or entire industries fall back on doing things the way they have always been done. The company that comes in and consistently questions how and why things are done a certain way and then changes them is the one that consumers will begin to take notice of.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“hims and hers is really the first consumer healthcare brand, and what that means is that we prioritize the consumer and really thought through every aspect of the business in order to suit the consumer, in order to give them choice, in order to give them control, in order to give them transparency into how they take care of themselves.”

“Everything happens on our platform, and the reason why we did that is so that we could ensure that from start to finish we were in control of the level of quality that you would experience as a consumer.”

“Everything we prioritized from the beginning was our brand. I think we knew that unlike 10, 15 years ago, when you had all of these ‘disrupting’ startups coming out, your brand wasn’t as important. But because the barrier to enter direct-to-consumer is so low these days with all the onslaughts of digital channels that you have, having a differentiating brand, having a point of view becomes so important and earning trust becomes so important. You need to have a deeply differentiated and personified brand today in a way that I think was not as urgently important 10 years ago.”

“For us, it’s about slaying all the dragons of access and cost and barriers to make it easy for the customer but we can’t walk you to the front door. We have to be on the journey with you and you have to believe that we’re on that journey with you, and so that’s really our mission at the end of the day.”

“Some of the bets we’ve taken with marketing channels have been more on the creative side like the urinal dominations, or we’ve sponsored corn hole tournaments, and all sorts of things that people haven’t necessarily tried before. It’s because I think we have a really deep empathy for our consumers and we’re thoughtful about where are they spending time? Where are their eyeballs? I always joke with our team, if you try hard and believe in yourself, anything can be a billboard or a messaging opportunity for the company.”

“Sometimes not saying anything is as powerful as saying something, and thinking about what do your customers really want from you? What are they coming to you for versus what you personally are excited about and what makes you sleep better at night? It’s not about making you feel good, it’s about serving your customer, and I think some brands get that twisted this year.”

“Fundamentally why we’ve been so successful in a short period of time, is we’ve just asked why. Because especially in established industries like health care, so much of it is just continuing on because that’s the way things have always been done. And a lot of it was just us asking naively, ‘Why? Why do you do it that way? Why is it done that way? Could it be done this way?’ And just having that endless capacity I think for curiosity.”

“A key piece was having our brand be aspirational and safe and celebratory. And why we knew that that worked and resonated is in the first two weeks of sales being open as a company, we had men submitting videos of themselves unboxing their hair loss kits. We had men submitting before and afters probably, and these are all on public channels like Instagram, tagging us in them. And these are things that historically were so private and had never been spoken about, and here they were sharing, tagging, telling us, ‘Please post. Please share my story. I feel so good and I had no idea it was possible, and everyone should know about this.’ And so, community from day one has been such a core piece of everything that we do in helping you feel like we’re your hype person.”

Mentions:

Bio:

Hilary Coles is the co-founder and VP of Merchandising at hims & hers, men’s and women’s wellness brands that provide access to medical-grade products and preventative solutions via telemedicine. She earned her MBA from Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Welcome back to Up Next In Commerce. This is Stephanie Postles, co-founder of mission.org. Today, I’m really excited to be chatting Hilary Coles, the co-founder at hims and hers. Hilary, welcome.

Hilary:

Thank you so much for having me.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I’m really excited. I think we’re going to have such a good conversation and there’s so many areas where we can take it. I was doing a bit of research, and there are so many case studies built around you guys. Did you know that?

Hilary:

I didn’t actually know that. Is that true?

Stephanie:

Yeah, I found at least three and so many articles diving into your business model. So, there’s a lot of content I want to cover, and maybe first we need to start with what is hims and hers?

Hilary:

hims and hers is really the first consumer health care brand, and what that means is that we prioritize the consumer and really thought through every aspect of the business in order to suit the consumer, in order to give them choice, in order to give them control, in order to give them transparency into how they take care of themselves because we thought it was way too hard to take care of yourself today and navigating the health care system is incredibly difficult. And that’s really because it’s never been built with the consumer in mind, and so everything we’ve done from the beginning has been really just to champion the consumer. And so, today hims and hers is a platform that allows you to treat everything from dermatological conditions like acne to sexual health and wellness, to metal health, to hair care, all conveniently from home, which after this year has never been more important.

Stephanie:

So, as a new customer, I can essentially get on there, have a virtual doctor’s visit, maybe even get a prescription for something I need, and then even order it on your platform, like it’s everything from start to finish? Am I thinking about that correctly?

Hilary:

Exactly. Everything happens on our platform, and the reason why we did that is so that we could ensure that from start to finish we were in control of the level of quality that you would experience as a consumer. So, from the moment you come on to our platform, you select what you’re interested in, what your health care goals are, you are given education, you are given a direct relationship with a provider, you are given product options, and you are able to make that decision that’s right for you. And then, you’re able to skip going to the pharmacy, skip taking off work, finding child care, taking off time in your day to go see a doctor, and able to talk to a doctor from wherever you feel comfortable. And then, having that product shipped directly to you and managed by you, which is again, just totally revolutionary from the way we’ve thought about health care to date, which has never prioritized the customer’s needs but has focused really on everyone else in the healthcare industry except for the patient.

Stephanie:

Yeah. When I was looking through it I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is what I’ve needed all my life.” I’ve always thought everything with health care feels backwards and old school, and I’m like, “How have I not heard of this?” I mean, I’d heard of you guys before but I didn’t know it was also for women.

Hilary:

Yeah, it’s such a good point, and the reason why we developed hims and hers is because when we looked at our lives and the level of control and choice we have with with, you can choose a hundred different things to be delivered to your house in the next 20 minutes for lunch. You can choose your mode of transportation, you can choose what kind of couch to get delivered to your house. You can choose what kind of workout you’re going to do today at whatever price you want, but when it came to your health care it was like this weird thing that you put off doing because it was so inconvenient. You never knew what it was going to cost. You were made to kind of go on a maze to figure out who’s the right provider, are they covered by your insurance, how do you pick an insurance plan? And it’s so unlike the rest of our world works today, and I think consumers are too smart for that and they expect better. And so, we really just developed something that fit into the rest of our lives.

Stephanie:

I love that. So, just so everyone knows the scale of where you guys are at, because I saw a lot of numbers from all my research, everything from evaluations, your revenue numbers, but I’d rather hear it from you and know it’s accurate. Where are you guys today? What’s your evaluation or what revenue numbers can you share just so everyone knows how big you are? Like, you’re legit.

Hilary:

We’re legit. So, in the past three years we’ve done well over two million medical visits, and when you think of a big company like Teladoc in this space, it took them 13 years to get to one million visits, so we’ve accomplished double that in three years. We are valued at 1.6 billion dollars.

Stephanie:

Billion, everyone.

Hilary:

Which we think there’s so much more to do, because if you think about it, the health care industry is really the last trillion dollar industry that hasn’t been disrupted. So, we really think this is just… It sounds like a big number, but it’s just the really top top tip of the iceberg. The majority of our business is subscriptions, ongoing reoccurring revenue, and yeah. There’s lots of excitement coming. We have more than a dozen conditions that we treat with almost 100 skus, so we’ve really… I think that’s been a key differentiator for us in this industry as more and more people enter the D to C healthcare industry. When you look around at the landscape, so much of it is pretty niche and one condition focused, and what we’ve strived to do from our early days is be this umbrella company where you really can treat multiple conditions, you really can take care of yourself very practically on one simple to use platform. We’re not expecting you to jump around.

Stephanie:

And that’s great, it really is. It’s like the future, it’s what I’ve always wanted. So, I love talking about the early days of starting these companies, and especially with yours it feels like it’s so intricate, especially on the back end. Probably not for the consumers who are like, “Oh, everything just works,” but behind the scenes I’m just thinking about the partnerships that you’re getting with the doctors, and then you got the products that you’re selling and how to make everything work. I want to hear a little bit about how did you start it, what did you focus on first, and maybe what did you experience where you’re like, “We would’ve done that differently if we knew what we knew now?”

Hilary:

Right. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but we… Our first iteration into Hims was an MVP I think that we called club room at the time, and that was to learn how men were shopping for haircare products, and specifically hair loss products at the time. We explored funneling and promotions, we explored brand personas, and really how to talk to men. And we learned a lot about price points, we learned a lot about what men were looking for, and that was a really really valuable… We got enough signal really from that to have confidence that we were doing something differently with what is not hims and hers. And we knew a couple of things, we knew we would have to provide access to providers in every single state. So, by the way, that means setting up an entity in every single state, which is just a tremendous amount of work. There’s nothing out of the box we could do so we had to build everything from scratch on the back end.

Hilary:

We needed to have proprietary products. Part of our goal and what we’ve continued to do is really blending both wellness products and prescription products and education, and so we had to create our own wellness products. So, I remember in the early days showing up to manufacturers in the middle of the country who looked at me like I was crazy and I was begging them to put our brand on the line and produce Minoxidil, which is generic Rogaine. And they basically said they felt bad for taking our money because this is an industry that hadn’t shifted in decades, and what were we thinking, and there’s no way this is going to work. And we were able to blow through what we had ordered from them in days, not months, and from there it was just kind of beyond. I think everything we processed from the beginning, or we prioritized from the beginning, was our brand. I think we knew that unlike 10, 15 years ago when you had all of these “disrupting” startups coming out your brand wasn’t as important, but because the barrier to enter direct to consumer brands is so low these days with all the onslaughts of digital channels that you have, having a differentiating brand, having a point of view becomes so important and earning trust becomes so important.

Hilary:

And you need to do that, you need to have a deeply differentiated and personified brand today in a way that I think was not as urgently important 10 years ago. And so, that was the bet we took early on that really really paid off, as well. And [crosstalk 00:10:19]-

Stephanie:

You can definitely see that with all your marketing and branding, and people are eager to buy your products and you focused on a market, especially around men in the beginning, that I think wasn’t being served well. I mean, you mentioned Rogaine and I’m thinking about the commercials back then of like just not very pleasant ones. I wouldn’t want to buy that product based on the TV commercials I used to see around that, and it seems like you leaned into that and not only served the market but did it in a way that people were eager to even talk about it and have word of mouth.

Hilary:

Totally. I think the most interesting thing about our brand today, and especially in the early days, was that majority of the people coming to us for hair loss, for sexual wellness, for mental health, it’s the first time they’re ever treating these conditions, the first time they’ve trusted anyone with these conditions, and that’s a big deal because it’s not like you wake up one morning and you decide you’re going to take action. It’s usually on the heels of days and weeks and months and years of feeling unsure and feeling like it was something you had to hide in the back of your cabinet or didn’t want to engage with, like the Rogaine example you just had. And so, that’s really been the key unlock is that relationship we’ve been able to foster. And to this day, that remains my favorite compliment that we get as a business is, “Your brand empowered me. It made me believe in myself.” That’s really what we’re getting at here, because the products exist, and for us it’s about kind of slaying all the dragons of access and cost and barriers to make it easy for the customer but we can’t walk you to the front door. We have to be on the journey with you and you have to believe that we’re on that journey with you, and so that’s really our mission at the end of the day.

Stephanie:

I love that. So, you just mentioned about the brand empowering your customers. How do you create that messaging, especially around topics that a lot of people don’t want to talk about? How do you go about doing that in a way that has grown and seen the success that you all have?

Hilary:

I think one of my favorite quotes ever is that sunlight is the best disinfectant, because I think if you can’t see it you can’t talk about it. And so, that, from the very early days of fundraising, was a big eye opener for us because when we came into the room and we were talking about erectile dysfunction and hair loss, no one wanted to be the first to ask any questions about it. No one wanted to seem overly interested in it even, you don’t want to be associated in it. And it wasn’t until we changed tack and started using humor and started using numbers and saying, “Hey, every third person in this room will probably suffer from erectile dysfunction or hair loss.” You need that provocation, that shock, that humor to remind ourselves that in a weird way, you’re not special, like baldness doesn’t… hair loss doesn’t choose you, anxiety doesn’t choose you. It happens and it’s common, and if we’re all in it together we can talk about it. We can find the education, the products, and the services to tackle it and get you feeling good.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s great. All the campaigns I was looking at were funny and I could definitely see it sparking engagement, like people like… I mean, I saw there was a urinal campaign that you guys did and there was a quote I think that you said-

Hilary:

Our urinal takeover.

Stephanie:

Yeah, you’re like, “No one in the history of ballparks ever wanted to advertise in a urinal, but we saw it as a creative channel.” Tell me, how do you even think of things that are funny like that? Maybe I’m just not a funny person because I’m like I would never think to do that, but that’s great, or like your cactus, your erect cactus. You know, people look at that, they know what this is for, it’s super funny.

Hilary:

Right. You can’t deny… I think that was part of the beauty certainly the early campaigns where we did city takeovers with city takeovers urinals dominations we called them with the phallic cacti, because you can’t deny that you know what it is. You instantly know what it is, and so it save you the rigmarole and dance of are we talking about this, what is this, I think it’s this. And fundamentally, I think some of the bets we’ve taken with marketing channels that have been more on the creative side like the urinal dominations, like we’ve sponsored corn hole tournaments, and all sorts of things that people haven’t necessarily tried before. It’s because I think we have a really deep empathy for our consumers and we’re thoughtful about where are they spending time, where are their eyeballs? I always joke with our team, like, if you try hard and believe in yourself, anything can be a billboard or a messaging opportunity for the company because we’re…

Hilary:

You want to meet your customer where they are, and I think unlike a typical DNVB and D to D playbooks out there where you’re on the same channels as everyone competing for the same eyeballs, we really are striving to be health care for the people, for all people, for anyone with a body, and to do that we have to get eyeballs everywhere. We can’t just be on the traditional digital channels. We have to think outside the box. We have to be provocative. We have to shift the traditional ways of thinking.

Stephanie:

How do you go about encouraging your team to think creatively like that and to come up with new ideas? Is there a process that you guys have in place or something to have fun ideas rise to the top like that?

Hilary:

Our team is amazing, so they need very little encouragement, but I think what we’ve preserved since the early days of Andrew and I joking around on text message late at night or around a table is just what do you think is interesting? What do you think is funny? what are we not seeing? And so, from whether it’s a customer service agent, whether it’s someone on our creative team, whether it’s someone on our analytics team, just what are you interested and what are you seeing? And I think as the team’s gotten bigger it’s gotten… it’s been so interesting to learn all of these different perspectives and what people are into. Like what is happening is with gamers? What is happening with cooking trends, and how is that relevant and what does that mean about people today? I think we try not to be too precious with our own ideas, and I think Andrew and I are the first ones to say, “Oh, that didn’t work. That’s fine,” and we very much internally socialize the things that didn’t work as much as the things that did. And that ladders back up to the priority we place on testing and learning, and so I think because we remain flexible with that and have fun with that all in service of learning, it makes every single big campaign less do or die.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I like the idea of not being too precious with your ideas and being open to just testing and seeing what works. In the spirit of testing, what campaign did you launch, or your team launch, where you’re like, “That’s not going to work,” and it actually did?

Hilary:

Oh my goodness, we have… There is a commercial we can find later, and it’s still shown, and it is essentially just our full portfolio of the Hims products and the signature peach and pastel colors that we’ve become known for. And all of sudden, when we launched our company three years ago we launched with candles, which a lot of people made fun of us for but we wanted to really be extremely explicit about the fact that we were a wellness company as well as a health care company and we were doing something different. And so, we played on this idea of candles being something we were known for, loved for, and mocked for, and that whole campaign is somebody just lighting that candle in front of the portfolio of products.

Stephanie:

Oh my gosh.

Hilary:

And we’re like, “It’s so simple. There’s no way it’s going to work,” and it’s been going for like a year and a half. It is far and away one of our most successful creatives.

Stephanie:

That’s so funny. I’ve heard that same theme though around the things that you don’t think will work actually end up working. I mean, especially we’ve been experimenting with different YouTube ads and just seeing what people connect with sometimes is a little out there our you’re like, “Wait, why do people like this?” But that’s why it’s important to test and actually figure out what connects with people. Who knows, maybe in that candle commercial people are like, “Well, let me…” like, they’re obviously going to look and see what’s being the candle and analyzing it more than they probably would in any other commercial.

Hilary:

Right. You’re competing with so much nowadays and I think there is a tendency sometimes to over complicate, to simply copy what other people are doing, and I think we’ve been pretty brave with what we’re willing to test and keeping smart about that rather than having, you know, pouring millions of dollars into one solitary campaign, we’re able to come up with several different iterations that are more appealing to more different groups of people. Which again, comes back to our mission of being for everyone and meeting you where you are.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I love that. I think going forward brands can learn a lot from your guys’ campaigns because I think, especially the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of censorship on how the brands can and should interact and what campaigns are okay or not, but I think really for that authenticity is going to be really important for the brands to actually come above the other ones and stand out by actually leaning into their goals and doing it in a way that they feel is best for their products and their customers and connecting with the people they need to.

Hilary:

That’s totally right, and I think is one of the more exciting trends that I’m hoping we see more of in the coming years. I think, as I mentioned earlier, especially in the past five years, it became so easy to launch a company and as a result I think you saw a real copycat culture, a real everyone using the same kinds of design, a real same kind of brands and missions even, for a lack of a better word. And it became really hard to tell the difference between anybody, and I think where everyone’s feet started being held to the fire is this year where there’s been so much in the world happening and it’s now becoming clear if you don’t stand for something, or if you stand for the exact same thing as everybody else, you get lost in the shuffle. And I think that’s really going to separate the brands that are here to stay from the brands that probably won’t cut it, and it comes down to having that clear point of view. Because again, consumers are so smart and they know.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I think authenticity will always win and I would rather maybe be offended by a brand who’s trying to do something where I remember them than just be like, “Oh, this is another brand saying that they’re standing for the same thing as everyone else because they’re probably being told that that’s what they have to stand for.” Those are the ones that I forget about versus the ones that are experimenting and trying and testing out messaging. That’s the ones I’m excited to watch where they head.

Hilary:

Totally. I think that’s where sometimes not saying anything is as powerful as saying something, and thinking about what do your customers really want from you? What are they coming to you for versus what you personally are excited about and what makes you sleep better at night? It’s not about making you feel good, it’s about serving your customer, and I think some brands get that twisted this year.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I completely agree. So, when it comes to… since we’re diving pretty deep on marketing and brand voices and stuff, how do you think about measuring your campaigns and which ones are doing best? Like, I saw you partner with Snoop Dogg, which is awesome, like how do you measure a partnership like that versus your TV commercials and what’s successful in that area?

Hilary:

I think the thing that has been the most interesting about our marketing approach is that on any given day we are in at least two dozen different channels, and we are testing within each of those channels. Again, it ladders up to this mission of being there for our consumer wherever they are, and so it’s about not just having radio and podcasts and various audio, but it’s what are you saying within each of those channels and does it make sense? Because you don’t want to jar the customer out of what it is, and so, yes, the Snoop Dogg campaign was awesome for being well known and the J-Lo and A-Rod campaigns I think all make sense in certain contexts, but I think we keep a pretty broad playbook which allows us to really start the relationship off on the best possible foot with our consumer. Because I think at the end of the day the KPI that matters the most is NPS, and I think what’s been really remarkable about hims and hers is that our NPS is 65, and for healthcare services the NPS of the whole rest of the industry is nine.

Stephanie:

That’s what I was going to say, is it like five?

Hilary:

Yeah. So, we’re talking about single digits, deeply unsatisfied people, deeply negative experiences, and we’re talking about a huge exponential growth on that. And that’s what we’re really protective of and why I think a real reflection of what happens when you give consumers choice and control and transparency and kind of treat them like adults and know that giving them more information is not going to, if anything, going to increase their trust in their lifetime with you.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s great. How do you think about personalization, because healthcare just seems like such a tricky thing, and especially when you’re talking about the NPS and developing that trust. What do you do, if you do at all, personalize when communicating with people so they’re like, “Oh, yeah, this is just about our conversation. This isn’t a generic message?”

Hilary:

Absolutely. I think personalization remains so important particularly in healthcare where you’re used to being treated like a number, where you’re used to being left behind and expected to sprint to keep up with just a basic level of treatment. And that’s where we’ve been able to differentiate so much by having that end to end control and being totally vertically integrated as our consumer healthcare platform. And so, we spend a lot of time thinking about, within each of our respective categories, within each of our respective brands, what that consumer journey looks like and what the consumer segment within that consumer journey looks like. So, that end to end we know you’re going to get checked in on at the right time to make sure that your skin is adapting well to your new prescription skin routine that you’re on, so that you’re being exposed to the most amount of information and the ability to chat to your personal provider whenever suits you and being there kind of one step ahead. I think that’s the best lessons in hospitality that we’ve tried to bring into our business of anticipating the need before it happens, before you even think about it, and that’s where our service has been super seamless.

Stephanie:

So, how are you anticipating that need? Because that is a really good example where I’m thinking about factors… It’d be so nice if they checked in on me a bit more because I’m also just lazy.

Hilary:

Right?

Stephanie:

And a lot of times I might need something but I just need a reminder, but I haven’t seen any of the traditional models having a good method for doing that, that checks in in a way that’s not annoying.

Hilary:

Absolutely. So, each category, each journey is heavily directed by an advisory group of the top medical professionals from all the best institutions across the country, and really getting that brain trust together within that specific category, so say using the skincare example, the top dermatologists in the country and walking through if you had a magic wand, what would the best possible treatment look like for a patient? What would that best possible experience look like? And then, we map out, if you could clone yourself 600 times as a doctor, what would you be doing, and then we go and we build that.

Stephanie:

Man, that’s a really good lesson I think for any business model. It’s kind of coming in… I mean, it is coming in with a beginner mindset and just saying, “Start from scratch. How should this work?” Doesn’t matter if it can work or if we know how to make it work, what should it be doing right now? What is success, and then building towards that?

Hilary:

Yeah. I think that’s really fundamentally why we’ve been so successful in a short period of time, is we’ve just asked why, because in so many, especially in established industries like health care, so much of it is just continuing on because that’s the way things have always been done. And a lot of it was just us asking naively, “Why? Why do you do it that way? Why is it done that way? Could it be done this way?” And just having that endless capacity I think for curiosity, and I think the more we… When we first started working on the company, we had assumed there were, to be frank, adults in the room who had already figured this out and had already really tried to do their best possible job for the consumer. And the more we asked questions, the more it became clear nobody was doing this and wasn’t an impossible task nearly, it was it just needed a different lens and some elbow grease I think.

Stephanie:

I can imagine you guys getting a lot of pushback and people kind of betting against you, especially in the early days around what you wanted to do.

Hilary:

Oh, definitely. I think, one, sure, disrupted [inaudible] industry and then do it using millennial beige color and a bunch of cacti. We were nobody’s best friend’s. I remember even my fiance saying in the early days, like, “Are you sure about the name Hims?” I wasn’t 100%.

Stephanie:

And now it’s like, “Well, yeah, obviously.”

Hilary:

Yeah, exactly.

Stephanie:

Very very cool. I could see there being a lot of room of having a great community, and maybe you guys already have that, because I’m thinking you’re getting people to talk about topics that they maybe never would have otherwise, but you know everyone is on there googling their problems and you end up finding bad Reddit threads or, who the heck knows, whatever you stumble on, and you’re trying to see, like, do other people have this issue? How are y’all approaching community and having people speak up and talk about and talk about their results and everything?

Hilary:

That’s such a great question. That was a key motivation for us, is how you get people to stop doom spiraling and looking in the middle of the night for things… to ask about their health, because spoiler alert, anything you ask about your symptoms is going to lead to you’re dying.

Stephanie:

Yeah, you’re dead.

Hilary:

And it’s scary and you’re not empowered and you don’t feel in control. And so, it was really like how do we make it so easy that even you would be willing to, just as easy as googling something, it’s just that easy to go to our platform and that level of simplicity and directness of that relationship. And that was really, again, I think a key piece of having our brand be aspirational and safe and celebratory. And why we knew that that worked and why that resonated is in the first two weeks of sales of being open as a company, we had men submitting videos of themselves unboxing their hair loss kits, we had men submitting before and afters probably, and these are all on public channels like Instagram, tagging us in them. And these are things that historically were so private and had never been spoken about, and here they were sharing, tagging, telling us, “Please post. Please share my story. I feel so good and I had no idea it was possible, and everyone should know about this.” And so, community from day one has been such a core piece of everything that we do in helping you feel like we’re your hype person.

Hilary:

We’re here for you, and I think people really responded to that idea of positivity. And I think that’s kind of wild to think that there are brands with 100,000… a healthcare brand with 100,000 fans on Instagram who are-

Stephanie:

Yeah. No, that’s wild.

Hilary:

… submitting and talking and sharing their, prior to us, deepest secrets. [crosstalk 00:33:34].

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s crazy to think about someone sharing before and after pictures without getting paid. I mean, that whole industry when you see those pictures you’re like, “Is this real? Is this a real person that seems like they’re kind of like me?” I mean, how did you encourage that word of mouth and encourage people to want to share that kind of stuff, other than just having a good product? Because that’s obviously key, you have to have a good product that actually works, that people get excited about, but how do you encourage them to take that next step and actually put it on a platform that’s public?

Hilary:

Yeah. I mean, truly we were surprised. We didn’t think it would be a lever for us, especially in the beginning. We thought there was no way you were going to see the before and afters you were seeing on some of the other D to C companies or what you would normally see on a woman’s brand, for example. When we started seeing it, we were like, “Oh, this opens up a whole new world,” and so we built a community team that focuses on relationships with our existing consumer, and that can be everything from seeding them new products and seeing what they think of those products. It can be sharing their story for people who tell us that they want to be that inspiration for somebody else. And yeah, we’ve gotten to a point where we have 1,000 people in our community network who are just true fans of the brand that happened completely organic. And then-

Stephanie:

Very cool. So, what does the next maybe two or three years look like for hims and hers, and what kind of big best are you guys taking?

Hilary:

I think where we are really excited in the next couple of years is to continue to expand into more conditions in order to be of more service to the consumers on our platform, to provide entry points for new consumers, and to be able to manage with that high level of quality that consumers expect, more conditions. And so, for us what that means is entry into chronic conditions like fertility, like sleep, like cholesterol. That means expanding into broader portfolios into the main categories that we serve today, and that means continuing to expand into our wholesale partnerships like we have with Target which allow us to be more accessible, same day, more accessible in any single market to people who are in need of effective affordable products.

Stephanie:

That’s very cool. What kind of advice do you have anyone who’s looking to disrupt a big market? I think you’re the perfect person to answer this, like it’s doable, but what advice do you have?

Hilary:

It’s doable. I think, again, just keeping asking why. I wouldn’t assume that there’s a reason why things are the way that it is. If you see something that isn’t right, that doesn’t reflect the world or reality that you want to live in, ask why. There’s a good chance that it’s a pinpoint for other people and it hasn’t really been tacked effectively.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I love that, ask why. Is there any tech that you’re betting on, tech trends, things that you’re thinking you might be able to implement over the next couple of years that you’re excited about?

Hilary:

I think we are super excited to continue to centralize information for our customers and help them make smarter decisions about their healthcare. When you look at, again, this digitally native generation who thinks of healthcare in a very different way from the way our parents think about healthcare… When you ask a gen-z or a millennial about how they think of taking care of themselves, it includes nutrition, it includes sleep, it includes mental health, it includes physical health. It includes a wholistic picture of flourishing, and I think using data to help coral all those decisions and provide them all at your fingertips so it’s not just this discreet siloed experience, I think is very revolutionary and where we’re excited to think about. And it’s so different from how we all thought about healthcare before, which was you only really engage with it when something physical is broken and something wrong with you, otherwise you stay far far away. And so, I think we’re motivated and excited about a future where you feel good because all of your decisions that affect how you feel are… You have options, you have information, and you have opportunity to help meet your goals.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that wholistic view of things is something I’m very excited about and can see you guys crushing, because right now, like I said, it does feel like so much of healthcare is siloed, and if I have an issue why isn’t my diet taken into consideration? Why isn’t how all my supplements interacting with each other, interacting with vitamins that might interact with whatever you’re going to prescribe to me, like why isn’t everything taken into account? So, to have like a dashboard where not only can your doctors talk easily and see what’s going on wholistically, it seems like where the future needs to go and what everyone wants right now, and you guys are the first to tackle it.

Hilary:

Yeah, I think we firmly believe that the future needs to go the way our lifestyle and behavior preferences are going, and it’s very cool, especially as we talk to the gen-z consumers who are like, “Yeah. No, of course, I never wanted it to be siloed and I fully reject a future where it is.” And they’re just… It’s very cool to see that that’s an expectation for the future, not a nice to have.

Stephanie:

Yeah, very inspiring. All right. So, let’s move over to a quick lightning round, which is where I’m going to ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready, Hilary?

Hilary:

All right. We’ll see.

Stephanie:

All right, we’ll the tougher question first. What one thing do you think is going to have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?

Hilary:

I think big etailers entering the market and consolidating is going to have the biggest impact.

Stephanie:

Tell me a little bit more about that, that’s interesting.

Hilary:

I think as we start to see, especially with the pandemic, we start to see Targets and Amazons and Walmarts start to be even more of a one stop shop than normal. As we’re all trying to stay home and take care of our families and limit the amount of trips that we’re making, I’m interested to see how those big companies start including different services, different products that where they wouldn’t normally have been interested in in a year or two ago in order to serve more of the needs of the every day consumers, and where consumers will trust and not trust them, but for sure we’re going to see some aggressive moves.

Stephanie:

That’s a really good take about consolidation. I like that. What do you not understand today that you wish you did?

Hilary:

I don’t really understand TikTok but I really wish I did.

Stephanie:

Someone just said that, I just did an interview about an hour ago and they said the exact same thing. Even they do really well on TikTok, their company does, she was like, “I don’t understand it and it takes a long time to makes videos.”

Hilary:

Exactly. I mean, I love it. I love the generation of content creators and I think it’s really interesting that the shift is moving from influencing to actually creating, and I think it’s certainly more democratic which is more in line with certainly the world that we believe in at hims and hers, but I would be lying if I said I came close to understanding it.

Stephanie:

We’ll have to learn it together.

Hilary:

Yeah, deal.

Stephanie:

Because, yeah, I agree. What is your favorite book? It can be a business book or something where you’re look, “I quote stuff from here. It’s something that always come to mind when I’m making decisions.” What’s your favorite book?

Hilary:

My favorite book… Let me think, it changes all the time.

Stephanie:

Or you can have a couple.

Hilary:

I think the things I come back to frequently are The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Innovator’s Dilemma, and I think one that is earning a place on my shelf is the New Rules of Culture that Netflix just came out with.

Stephanie:

Oh, I haven’t heard of that one. I’ll have to check that one. Those first two are good ones. Very cool. All right, and the last one, if you were to have a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?

Hilary:

If I were to have a podcast it would be focused on people who use their energy to uplift and amplify other people, and to me there’s nobody who does that better than Michelle Obama.

Stephanie:

That’s great. I would enjoy listening to that. We need to make that happen, Hilary.

Hilary:

[inaudible 00:47:34]. I’ll reach out to her. I’ll send her a DM right now and see where we end up.

Stephanie:

Yeah, just DM her. We’ll have this in the works in like a week, no big deal.

Hilary:

Yeah. That’s the Hims pipeline, for sure.

Stephanie:

All right, Hilary, well this has been such a pleasure having you on the show. I knew it was going to be a good interview and you exceeded all my expectations. So, thank you very much, and where can people find out more about you and hims and hers?

Hilary:

Definitely, there’s always so much going on, and thank you for all the thoughtful questions. Forhers.com and forhims.com and on our Instagram @Hims @Hers are always the best ways to keep in touch with the latest and the greatest.

Stephanie:

Awesome. Thanks so much for joining us.

Hilary:

Thanks, Stephanie.

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Episode 66