Sam Archer has launched myriad products during her decade working in beauty, and when she joined Nutrafol as vice president of product marketing and innovation, she knew it would take time to learn the company’s process. But more than the nitty gritty of packaging and supply chain, Archer found a customer-centric product pipeline that upended her expectations.
Shortly after she joined the company in June 2021, Nutrafol was set to launch their Growth Activator serum and began a journey into topical products, in addition to the ingestibles that have long been the foundation of their brand.
“Every other place that I’ve worked, the driving question has been about how we launch new products so that we can build revenue. But when I joined Nutrafol, I found the real question here is about how we can best help our consumers on their hair health journey,” she said. “And now, I have that ingrained in my mind at all times because if it isn’t going to help our consumers, there’s no reason to launch a product here.
“What we heard was that beyond the root causes of hair thinning. People had so many things showing up externally — oily hair, dry hair, dry scalps, flaking and inflammation. They have all these things impacting their overall hair health, but the products on the market are based on styling,” she said. “Our mentality in response is not to go after what we’re seeing, but to go after what causes what we’re seeing. That led us to the scalp microbiome.”
What is the scalp microbiome?
After the Growth Activator Serum launch, Nutrafol released the Build-Up Blocker exfoliating mask, Stress Reliever essence and Root Purifier shampoo focused on balancing the scalp microbiome. Most recently, the focus shifted to treating the hair itself with the August 2022 launch of the Strand Defender conditioner.
For a consumer used to seeing shampoo and conditioner sets on the store shelf, the line between products may seem straight, but Nutrafol’s focus on customer needs and research-based results has led to a complex product journey.
“What you should get out of your shampoo is very different from what you should get out of your conditioner,” Archer said. “They shouldn't say they do the same thing because your scalp needs to be cleansed and balanced in order to get everything that you should out of your shampoo. But then once your hair has grown out, it's not alive, it cannot regenerate, it cannot repair.”
For Nutrafol’s new launches, a huge level of collaboration was needed to draw on expertise from across the company — especially once the products moved into production and the baton was passed to the supply chain team.
“It was the first time we had to go out and ask more than ‘how is this going to work?’ as we moved outside of our traditional product line,” Archer said. “How’s it going to smell? How will the texture be? What is the packaging that we’re going to use? There was a huge collaboration with supply chain and procurement and figuring out what would actually be feasible.”
“We’re All Interconnected”: Supply Chain Challenges and Wins
If Taylor Santucci, senior supply chain manager, gets a whiff of the Growth Activator serum’s tea tree oil scent, she is transported to the process of its 2021 launch.
Santucci joined Nutrafol in July 2021 and immediately plunged into the cross functional work of launching Nutrafol’s topical products.
“Supply chain gets involved pretty quickly because having products on hand affects everyone,” Santucci said. “We touch every single part of the company. We have weekly calls with every department, and we’re all interconnected. Sometimes our priorities can differ, so we need to step back and say, ‘Okay, this is the end goal, but we need to help each other. Let’s work through it.’”
The supply chain team wasn’t just working with internal stakeholders. Their co-manufacturer and vendors also needed to be fully brought into the process in order to build smooth systems from initial formulation to putting the product into customers’ hands.
“One of our biggest challenges was getting the bottle itself right,” Santucci said. “We weren’t seeing the quality we wanted, and the inspection was taking a really long time. Our vendor wanted to make sure everything was perfect, but we kept hitting delays. Our co-manufacturer helped us find the right bottle vendor, and everything is going smoothly now because they understood what we were looking for and had the resources to adjust to our specific needs. And that process continues to be streamlined.”
Solving packaging challenges was a key part of production as well as Santucci’s own development as part of the supply chain team.
“Sometimes I’m surprised by how much my brain can process,” Santucci said. “We manage capsules, components, raw materials and finished goods without even looking at our new product launches, and all of that is on my team’s plate. We have to make sure current operations are still thriving the entire time, and we can’t just focus on one thing.”
But Santucci wasn’t facing the challenges alone.
“Since I’ve been here, Jared, the senior director of supply chain, built amazing relationships with our vendors that I was just able to come in and sustain,” she said. “Our vendors are so good. They want us to succeed, and we want them to succeed. We’re all excited to work together. It kind of sounds silly, but it’s actually true.”
Meanwhile, Sam Archer kept everything moving ahead across the rest of Nutrafol’s team.
“From there, it was a lot of work between marketing, digital product and growth to understand how to open our thinking a bit more to make the best experience for consumers and to make sure they’re coming back,” she said. “We figured out that we want to give our customers total flexibility and let them make decisions for themselves, and then we can optimize from there to make sure that we are doing the best we can for them.”
‘Lofty Goals’: The Digital Product Team Connects Products and Consumers
When Tony Ferreira, senior director of digital product, joined Nutrafol, he immediately began work on launching the men’s site, separating the products’ scope and categories, in order to help consumers find products that serve their specific needs.
“It was helpful for me to get a handle on how we were talking to the different audiences that we have as we went into the scalp products,” he said.
Since 2021, Nutrafol has expanded their line of topical products to encompass an array of hair needs. As of August 2022, their topical offerings include:
Nutrafol’s Scalp Support Topical Products
- Root Purifier scalp microbiome shampoo: a shampoo meant to cleanse while optimizing scalp pH levels for improved hair health
- Strand Defender lightweight protective conditioner: a conditioner that works to strengthen the hair cortex and cuticle to prevent damage
- Build Up Blocker scalp microbiome exfoliating mask: a scalp scrub that dissolves excess sebum and build up, while balancing oil production
- Stress Reliever scalp microbiome essence: a calming water-based essence that helps sooth and balance the scalp
- Growth Activator ashwagandha exosome hair serum: a lightweight scalp serum that works to boost cell-renewal and promote thicker-looking, stronger-feeling hair
The new products, of course, came with new challenges. As the topical product launch drew nearer, Ferreira started to experiment with functionality options on marketing pages. These landing pages are leveraged for advertising and specific focus areas, and allow the team to try out features and see how they might be able to replicate wins on other parts of the website.
“Even some of those lofty goals didn’t really concern me,” Ferreira said, “because I knew we had the power from personnel behind it.”
Like Archer, Ferreira and the digital product team were focused on building functionalities that serve customer needs.
“We always design mobile-first because that is the majority of our traffic,” he said. “A lot of our traffic finds our site because they see our commercials come on, and they'll pick up their phone, come to our site and then they’re here.”
One user functionality that made the grade was implementing selectable cards within product pages that allow people to build their own bundle of scalp products that worked together to fit their specific needs. Ferreira’s pride in the functionality went beyond its streamlined use that extended seamlessly to tablet and desktop — it also meant customers found the right products for themselves.
“I have nothing to do with product creation and formulation,” he said, “but the impact it makes to our consumers is something that I take pride in, because my job is getting products in their hands. It’s a collective thing that we’re all proud of. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows, but there are things to celebrate at all times.”
The topical launches have left the Nutrafol team with lots to celebrate.
“We’ve created products that everyone internally is using,” Archer said. “I usually have six, seven, eight shampoos in my shower that I use for different needs. I'm literally only using the Root Purifier shampoo now. I've never done this with any products I’ve launched in my career. We really achieved what we wanted to with these.”