Warrior Supplements’ Head of E-Commerce Shares the SMS Strategies Propelling the Brand’s Growth and Performance

photo of Adam Aubrey, Head of E-Commerce at Warrior Supplements
Published on
Mar 7, 2024
Written by
Kayla Ellman
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In the competitive world of sports nutrition, Adam Aubrey was looking for a way to cut through the noise and reach UK consumers directly. Here’s how he turned SMS into a game-changer for Warrior Supplements. 

The Conversation is an interview series with inspiring marketers who candidly share their stories of overcoming challenges, learning valuable lessons, and achieving success in the ever-evolving marketing landscape.

Adam Aubrey brings over 14 years of experience to his role as Head of E-Commerce at sports nutrition brand Warrior Supplements. But if you ask him how he ended up working in the e-commerce arena, he'll tell you he stumbled into it after studying electrical engineering at university. 

What started with an e-commerce trading role at Kitbag grew into e-commerce and business manager roles at Fanatics, and continued with sports licensing and merchandising roles at American Golf. So, really, it makes sense that Aubrey landed at Warrior, one of the fastest-growing supplement businesses in the world, that's helping people achieve their goals by supplying the best-quality goods in the UK.

Since joining Warrior four years ago, Aubrey's focus has been on building up the company's e-commerce strategies, overseeing web trading, marketplaces, social media, content, and digital marketing—all contributing to Warrior's rise in the industry. 

Recently, Aubrey sat down with Anup Khera, VP & GM, International, at Attentive to chat about his journey at Warrior and using SMS to enhance the company's growth and performance.

Watch the full conversation below, or keep scrolling to read the interview. 

The supplements space is pretty crowded these days. What makes Warrior stand out from other brands in the market?

I believe it’s the brand and the brand name itself. Our target customer is the 25 to 34-year-old male, and I think our name just strikes a chord with that demographic, almost like an ethos. It’s about unleashing your inner warrior, so to speak. That’s really helped us as we’ve expanded our reach through deeper distribution and growing our e-commerce and marketplace channels.

Another advantage is our vertical integration, which has allowed us to be much more agile in terms of product launches, reacting to the market, and delivering the best value to UK consumers.

You joined Warrior four years ago. What was it like when you first walked through those doors?

It was a massive change from what I was used to. I came to Warrior ‌from huge, multinational, scalable businesses. Going into a much smaller-sized business based in Trafford Park in Manchester was an adjustment. 

From an e-commerce perspective, there was no established target operating model. I was the only person in my role at the time. There were no processes in place, and the tools were minimal. So, it was about building that target operating model from the start. From then to now, I've gone from just myself to having a team of 12, with external support as well.

In the early days, a lot of the marketing we were doing was very much direct-response and lower-funnel. We also went through a huge customer acquisition phase during a time when people couldn't really go outdoors and everyone was looking for ways to work out and keep healthy.

Coming out of that period, we realized it was important for us to look at channels—SMS being one of them—for retaining our customers and bringing our overall cost per acquisition down.

triggered "SMS-iversary" text message from Warrior Supplements

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, how have you adapted your approach to reaching and interacting with customers?

From a business perspective, a big focus for us has been simplification. When I joined Warrior, our tech stack was very clunky. It wasn’t connected in any way, and there were a lot of manual processes involved. 

Over the last four years, we've simplified our operations and created a homogenous platform. One major step was moving to Shopify Plus, which has allowed us to be much more agile and connect to all of the different tools that we use. 

We also hired a head of PR last year, and we've seen our reach really expand as a result, with an increased presence in various publications. You can type “Warrior” into Google now, and you’ll see reams and reams of articles, whether it’s featuring our founder Kieran Fisher or about the brand and its success

We're also figuring out how to navigate the challenges of a cookie-less world. It's becoming much harder to digitally track and advertise. Google search CPCs have almost doubled in our industry alone. So it's really important for us to capture that first-party data using our SMS channel.

Are there any risks or gambles that you've taken with your marketing strategies to help Warrior stay ahead of the curve?

Getting into the social commerce arena with TikTok Shop has been a definite gamble for us. The growth over the past couple of years has been tremendous, and it was a space that we identified as not saturated for our market at all. The risk there was the brand protection piece.

As I mentioned earlier, our target demographic is 25-34-year-old men. We're keen on becoming an authority in the BJJ/MMA arena, and we've sponsored events like Polaris, seen on UFC Fight Pass, to start building our presence there. But with TikTok Shop, what we've noticed is that because there are so many creators on the platform, they don't all necessarily have an affinity to our brand.

Funny story about this, actually. There was a creator on TikTok talking about our Warrior MASS protein powder, but it was clear to us that, while a fan, they weren't really an expert on the product. We were like, what's going on here? Next thing we knew, they delivered three and a half thousand pounds worth of sales of Warrior MASS.

So, you need to let go of that brand protection a little bit when you’re in the social commerce arena and realize that it's very organic. Taking that risk paid off massively for us.

Speaking of staying ahead of the curve: What's your take on the role of AI in marketing?

I think AI has a good use in business and scalability. From an online marketing perspective, you’re able to harness AI to deliver personalized experiences to all consumers, whether that’s through product merchandising or upsells, for example. 

Operationally, you can use AI to take the guesswork out of campaign planning, segmentation, and all of the creative bits—to really streamline your business and deliver the best possible experience for customers. 

I think AI is going to be a cornerstone for decision-making moving forward and for allowing scalability and data-driven decisions. Personalization, segmentation, you name it. AI is the buzzword, and it'll continue to be the buzzword ‌for many years to come.

–  Adam Aubrey, Head of E-Commerce at Warrior Supplements

Let’s talk about your experience with SMS. What was your initial perception of SMS marketing?

Admittedly, when I came to Warrior, SMS wasn't a priority. If it weren't for the proof of concept we were able to achieve through Attentive’s free trial, I don't believe SMS would have ever become a priority for us. But we were able to get on board with the trial at the right time and get that proof of deliverable ROI to make it a priority, which now means SMS is 25% of our sales channel mix.

How has your perception changed since launching Warrior’s SMS channel with Attentive?

Well, SMS delivered 21% more revenue than email over our 60-day trial period. And immediately, that said to us, this channel needs to become a priority straight away.

Email has been the predominant focus in every business I've been a part of, and it’s just become so saturated now. With SMS, you can cut through and get your message to consumers much more quickly. And because you can cut through, the regularity of the communication doesn't need to be as great either. 

Conversational commerce can become a part of the experience, too. If a customer has a query about which supplements to buy online, or which products complement each other, you're able to deliver that insight through SMS more easily than through email. 

two-way text messaging example from Warrior Supplements

Can you share more about how you see that two-way relationship with customers working over SMS?

I see it as having a helpful shopping concierge who guides you on your journey. I imagine it's similar to the experience of being in Harrods with someone helping you personally. 

In our industry, especially, you do need to have a level of knowledge about which supplements you want to take. For example, we often get what I consider "simple" questions in our industry, such as the recommended daily dose of creatine, which is the most researched supplement in the world. I can easily answer that it's five grams a day, but many people aren't aware of that.

Conversations like that can take place over SMS and help customers feel confident enough to make a purchase.

How does SMS fit into Warrior’s marketing strategy? How are you using the channel to drive customer loyalty and retention?

Our main goal with SMS was customer acquisition and segmentation, which in our saturated industry, is crucial for driving revenue growth and creating personalized experiences for consumers.

Orchestration with our other channels has really allowed SMS to become a central part of our marketing strategy, complementing our email channel strategy and automations. We have a lot of automations in place at the minute, such as replenishment flows where we prompt customers who made a purchase on day zero to restock their protein or other products 30 days later. 

triggered restock text message from Warrior Supplements

Another key piece is understanding what your customers want and what their requirements are to provide tailored experiences. One of our best-performing flows is our birthday automation, where we send personalized offers to customers based on their birthday month.

birthday and loyalty triggered text message examples from Warrior Supplements

Our referral program has been a real win for us as well. Attentive has a deep integration with Mention Me, and we've been able to incorporate our automated referral touchpoints into our SMS flows. 

What we've seen is that people we acquire through referrals deliver four times more lifetime value than general customers. Through that referral, you're not only acquiring a new customer, but you're also rewarding your existing customer. So I think customer advocacy is absolutely key. 

Now that you’ve been using SMS for a while, how has it moved the needle for Warrior?

We gained over 100,000 SMS subscribers in 2023 alone. Not only that, we were able to reinforce our email channel by adding another 100,000 subscribers there as well. 

On top of that, we’ve seen an overall 9.5x ROI. So it’s been quite an easy decision to keep going with SMS, and it’s become a really important part of our growth.

When you look back, what surprised you the most about SMS? 

I think the reaction from the UK audience—that they were ready for SMS. Customers want tailored experiences, and ‌with SMS, you're absolutely able to deliver that. 

What advice would you give to a marketer looking to get started with SMS at their own brand? 

Give it a go. By getting that proof of ROI with Attentive, you can then take it back to your senior board members, your senior management, your line managers, whoever your decision-maker is, and say, “Here are the results that were delivered. This needs to be a priority.” I think it's quite easy, when you've got the data in hand, to be able to sell SMS to your company. 

Looking ahead, what’s on the horizon for Warrior? Anything new you’ll be doing with SMS in the coming year?

In the short term, we're adding social proof to our sign-up units to drive more opt-ins and acquire customers. Something as simple as “hundreds of people have signed up in the past day” to create urgency and capture that sign-up. 

email and SMS sign-up units with social proof from Warrior Supplements

A key cornerstone for our growth, as we move into 2024 and beyond, is international expansion. All of our ‌revenue currently is in the domestic market. It's great to have a partner like Attentive that’s active in 20+ countries worldwide, so we can immediately turn on our programs overseas and make SMS a key part of our international expansion strategy. 

Want to hear (and learn) more from leading marketers at other brands? Check out these inspiring customer stories.