Pura looks to clean up with online baby wipes subscription service

A UK-based, purpose-led online subscription service selling environmentally-friendly products within an in-demand category certainly taps into the zeitgeist of 21st century consumerism.

But although Pura, the baby wipes and nappies brand which launched in June and fits that above description, ticks a lot of boxes for today’s shoppers, it is the impact it can have on tomorrow’s world that provides the driving force behind its inception.

Co-founders and husband and wife team, Guy and Abi Fennell, self-funded and launched their baby wipes into the market with the aim of providing a more eco-friendly alternative to the incumbent manufacturers. Some measures suggest 90% of the baby wipes sold in the UK contain plastic, so Pura has launched non-plastic wipes, including a flushable variety.

New parents, Guy and Abi Fennell, launched Pura in June 2020
New parents, Guy and Abi Fennell, launched Pura in June 2020

Through working with the Department for Environment, Food, & Rural Affairs and local councils, Pura is also looking to develop a path for the creation of structured nappy recycling facilities in the UK. According to the charity, Wrap, the UK throws away three billion nappies each year and most products are not recyclable – and the Fennells have an ambition to make the sector more sustainable through new products and services.

“We want to drive change – real change,” Guy Fennell tells Essential Retail.

“We want to ban plastic wipes in the UK. We will do it, it’s just a matter of time, and we also want to change how nappies are recycled in the UK.”

While this represents a wider purpose, the fundamental everyday retail business is structured as a direct to consumer (D2C) eCommerce subscription service selling what currently is a small range of products but which is set to expand in time.

“Subscription models are huge in the US and growing massively in the UK – more and more people are going for it,” Fennell states.

According to Barclaycard research published this week, that appears to be the case. As reported, the UK has experienced an increase in subscription take-up – fuelled by the coronavirus-enforced lockdown – with 65% of UK homes signed up to regular services of this nature.

Barclaycard estimated the UK subscriptions economy is worth £323 million, and said individually Britons spend an average of £46 per month on subscriptions, equating to £552 per year.

Three-quarters of retailers responding to the research said subscription services offer them a more reliable and predictable source of income than a one-time charge model, with 82% saying customer relationships are enhanced through increased contact.

There are plenty of established retailers tying people in to regular orders, as well as relatively new kids on the block such as Tails.com and Smol, where the whole model is based on subscriptions for their respective product areas, pet food and detergent.

In the first week of launch, Pura experienced 85,000 visits to its website and it received more than 22,000 orders, and it has reported growing momentum ever since, according to Fennell.

Subscription start-up tech stack

Success does not come easy, though, according to the co-founder, who acknowledges it was a three-year slog involving “blood, sweat and tears” to get from concept to official launch. It’s also crucial to implement “the right infrastructure and back-end systems”, he says.

Pura is built on Shopify, taking advantage of the platform’s integrated payments processing, fraud prevention, and general online functionality. The start-up relies on Canadian Shopify plug-in, Recharge, for managing its subscriptions.

“I’m happy the customer data is secure, and payments are managed and controlled in the right ways, and with the service they provide they can cope with a surge in traffic,” Fennell notes.

Pura has plans in place to participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year, and is confident the site will scale to concentrated shopper demand if required. Marketing is driven by pay per click on Google, and paid social through Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, while a recent YouTube video ad has already secured 6.6 million views to date.

“We need to be getting the keywords but we need to make sure we’ve got the right faces behind the brand,” the co-founder states, listing dancer and new Britain’s Got Talent judge, Ashley Banjo, and ex-Hollyoaks actress, Gemma Atkinson, as ambassadors.

One imminent change to the site is a move to encourage customer reviews, and Pura is going to donate one pack of wipes each to charitable organisations NSPCC and The Hygiene Bank every time someone comments on a product through its site's integrated Trustpilot platform. Conversion rates improve when the products are reviewed, Fennell says, and he wants to build a transparent brand.

International agenda

The company’s head office is in Cheshire, while the Birmingham-based warehouse covers the full UK and Channel Islands, and is about to provide the hub for shipping to France, Germany, Spain, and Italy in the next two to three weeks.

As Fennell and Pura attack the European markets, they will do so having analysed web visitor data that suggests there’s real interest in the brand outside the UK. Even at this nascent stage in the brand’s life.

Plans are already in place for a US launch in early 2021, with any potential Brexit ramifications seemingly no barrier to this new D2C player with an ambitious outlook.