Dear Maelove Family,
I hope 2019 has been filled with many joyful memories and big smiles. I can’t believe that we’ll be welcoming 2020 in just a matter of hours!
Since our 2018 yearend letter to you, there are several updates I’d like to share with you – progresses we’ve made, the types of challenges we faced (and how we're overcoming them), and what we hope to bring to you in 2020 and beyond.
I enjoy writing these updates because it gives our team the time to reflect and learn from the past and to set the vision for the future. And sharing these thoughts with you makes us accountable to you, our customers.
So, let's first review how we measured up to our 2019 goals that we outlined a year ago, in our 2018 year-end update:
More products to delight you
You’ve probably noticed that we’ve been busy introducing a number of new products in 2019. We now provide the core building blocks of a great skincare regimen. We feel blessed and proud to have created close working relationships with some of the leading cosmetic labs whom we partner with to manufacture our formulas.
In the early days when we were planning the launch of Maelove, we recognized that many shoppers already had their own routines, incorporating products from different brands to suit their individual preferences.
We believe the key to long term success in improving one’s health – whether it’s skin, mind or body - is not in some novel ingredient nor “breakthrough” fads. Rather, it’s more about building a consistent habit around sound products and practices that allows you to enjoy long-term and sustained benefits.
So, we focused on creating products that are each good on their own, and we also made them lightweight and without fragrance for easy layering with other products in your routine.
Upgrading our backend logistics has become critical as our business has grown. Earlier this year, many of you had to wait more than a week just for your order to ship. That's unacceptable.
Our order volume fluctuates constantly. Mondays, Fridays and month-ends tend to be busier while Tuesdays, Wednesdays and middle-of-months are usually slower. A mention in the media (social or traditional) can result in a volume surge.
These peaks and valleys in order volume can be disruptive because unpredictability in order volume makes it much more difficult for our fulfillment partner to schedule staffing. This can result in both delayed shipping and higher handling costs.
We took on this challenge by taking a proactive rather than reactive approach. We are now proactively packaging orders ahead of time based on historic customer demand. So as a new order comes in, we now only need to apply an address label. This has cut order processing time by as much as 90% in some cases. The result is we can ship out your order faster.
This shift in approach has also led to additional benefits. Our fulfillment partner is happier because their employees can enjoy a more consistent and predictable schedule. On slow days, the fulfillment team members can work on pre-packaging orders for the upcoming week. And when order volume suddenly increases, the team members are able to handle the workload more easily because a chunk of the incoming orders have already been pre-assembled ahead of time.
Thanks to this efficiency gain, we were able to negotiate lower processing fees with our fulfillment partner, which helped offset postage increases in 2019 and helps us to continue to provide you with free shipping.
We're still actively looking for a good way to ship orders outside USA with all fees (postage, duties, customs, tax, etc ) prepaid at the point of order placement. We believe this will ensure that customers won’t experience inconvenience or confusion at the time of delivery.
There had been some confusion over the United States possibly withdrawing from the Universal Postal Union (an internal postal treaty that provides assisted shipping between member countries) that caused significant uncertainty around international shipping, and there are fee increases coming across every major carrier in January 2020. We’re monitoring these developments to ensure we can offer you a shipping option that’s convenient and reasonably priced.
I know there are many overseas shoppers who have been patiently waiting, and we apologize for the delay.
We’re surprised by how many customers have been asking for a subscription feature. We'll look at creating a subscription service that's about providing you with convenience and savings with easy cancellation.
One wrinkle is that our website is built on Shopify, a fabulous platform that provides ready-to-go services for various aspects of an online retail business from setting up a storefront to processing payments. The flipside is that Shopify can be difficult to customize, so if we create a subscription program, we think it'd be in the latter part of 2020.
Maturing as a business and setting priorities
With some early success came temptations to grow faster -- take on more projects, hire more people, spend more on marketing, and get into more stores.
It seemed fun and exciting, but we ultimately decided to go in the opposite direction: double down on the basics.
We believe what you want most from us is simple: high quality products, great value and convenient shopping experiences. With that in mind, in 2019 we focused on becoming a brand you can rely on, and I’m happy to report to you that the time we spent improving our processes are leading to more good products, better inventory, fewer incorrectly packed orders, and faster free shipping for you.
We were able to unveil 8 new products, reduced the number of out-of-stock days from 258 last year to 39 this year, saved order processing costs by 20% (which offset postage increases in 2019), improved incorrect order packing rate from 1 out of 200 to 1 out of 800, and sped up average time of order delivery by almost 2 days.
Unfortunately, the flip side of having a streamlined process is that we currently don't offer a lot of choices - ranging from shipping methods, international shipping, and gifting options.
Our approach is to prioritize projects that would benefit the largest number of customers, and as we ensure the core basics are well covered, we’ll continue to add other features. I know some of you have been frustrated with our lack of flexibility, and I want to thank you for your patience as we work on mastering the fundamentals first that will benefit all customers.
And finally, here are additional projects we’re working on for you:
Many of you have inquired about a retinol product, and we’ve been quietly working on it. We were in the midst of testing a few formulas in 2019, but ultimately decided to hold off on it because I wasn’t 100% in love with any of them.
We've been working hard to create a high-potency, low-sensitivity retinol product, and we finally have some formulas that I'm excited to launch. I have two formulas that I love, and we're currently creating the appropriate packaging and putting the formulas through our various quality tests. I hope to have the first retinol product available around April 2020.
In addition to retinol, we also have other products in development that we hope to make available in 2020 so please stay tuned!
Many of you have also inquired if we can take our philosophy of creating luxury-quality products with a simplified/curated approach and apply that to other categories such as hair, body, makeup and health supplements. As you might guess by this point, we’re pretty careful about embarking on new projects. I've personally had a lot of interest in expanding to other areas as well and have been working on some exciting developments that we hope to share with you in the coming months.
More environmentally friendly packaging
As a start, we'd love to reduce the use of plastic, but it has proven to be tricky. As an example, we had looked at replacing plastic jars with glass. While it would certainly reduce plastic use, because glass is much heavier than plastic it'll also use much more fuel as thousands of these jars get transported in individual packages monthly. We then looked at using recycled plastic. A problem there is that plastic recycling requires a huge amount of water and energy.
While both seemed at first to be promising, once we looked at the entire end-to-end picture, it wasn't clear to us that they actually delivered a meaningful net environmental benefit.
The good news is that there is a surprising amount of innovation in packaging technology. For example, there are promising alternative containers utilizing biomatter (such as sugarcane) as plastic substitutes. We’re at the early stages of evaluating these alternative packaging materials.
Our packaging evaluation process can be quite lengthy. Any new packaging must go through a number of tests (environmental stability, equipment compatibility, formula compatibility, durability), so if we do transition our packaging it probably won’t be until 2021 at the earliest.
2019 was an eventful year, and we’re looking forward to an exciting 2020. Thank you for all your love and support. On behalf of everyone at Maelove I want to wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy NEW YEAR.
-Jackie Kim, CEO