How Ugly Drinks got DTC outperforming wholesale

It started as an accident. 

Their online shop was a ‘nice to have’, but then something unexpected happened… 

It was generating as much turnover as some of their London wholesalers. And so Ugly’s interest in DTC, online shopping and e-commerce was sparked, and as they invested in it, they started reaping the benefits.

Here are our favourite tips on how they did it..


Find an arena built for you to win 🏆(just one – not loads).

For Ugly, it’s Facebook ads. On Google Paid Search, a keyword like ‘sparkling water’ will see them pitted against giants like Pepsi whose long legacies and deep pockets make them hard to compete with. But with Facebook Ads, the playing field is levelled because a good story, and beautiful packaging can do a lot of work in attracting customers. 

Emails at Ugly are a key growth driver, particularly when coupled with a strong discount strategy to incentivise first-timers, so make sure your site is optimised for email captureSign up to their database to see for yourself.

Ultimately, different channels have different strengths and audiences, and will suit certain products better than others, so a good mix of channels will be the way forward.


So don’t be afraid to get it or use it 🤓.

Ugly’s method is simple. They email their customers a Typeform survey, no more than 10 questions, and often with an incentive such as a discount coupon in exchange for their time attached. Rinse and repeat, until you have a working feedback loop.

But once you’ve asked your customers for all that data, you’ll need a way to collate and interpret it so it can start informing how you develop new products and experiences

A fantastic tool for collecting and analysing that data is Yaguara, a platform that integrates with everything and can provide you a holistic view of all your data in a single dashboard. 

For Ugly, this info helped them discover something very unusual about the demographic breakdown of their customers. 

Seltzers tend to skew very heavily female in terms of audience gender, but Ugly was split evenly. 

This is the kind of stat that kills in a pitch deck, and one that’s been a huge advantage for Ugly when they present to retailers. They’re able to show that they won’t create a redundancy by competing with similar products, but will instead bring in new customers because they have penetration with a usually untapped demographic.

It’s a great example of how the DTC model can support omni-channel marketing strategy and create the basis for a really effective pitch deck.


Ugly knows that their consumers could get the product from other places, so they put time and effort into creating a fun and unique experience that’s specific to the platform.

Ugly recently launched a programme where they create batches of a limited edition flavour that you can only get directly from the site, and let their fan communities vote on their favourites and what they want to see next. 

This kind of activation makes the audience feel special because they’re having a real impact on the brand and know that their opinions are being heard, and you in turn get the benefit of a highly engaged focus-group

Once you build this reward system into your DTC platform, you’re able to have your product sit in multiple places, assured in the knowledge that your online shop provides something unique enough to retain its own customers. 


Make that site a delight  😎, and it doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg. After all, you’re going to be constantly updating it. Your site will be the ultimate destination for your brand’s consumers. 

For a new web shop, conversion tends to be between 1 – 5% on average, so if you slip below, you’ve got something to fix. And if you soar above, find out what you’re doing right and do it more.

Luckily for all of us, Shopify is an excellent place to start. UpWork or Copy Club ClubHouse forums are great places to look for affordable ad hoc talent. 

Do you know what your break even point is? Are you very clear on what financial success looks like?

You don’t need to be profitable from the first day of trading, but spending the time to really crunch the numbers is essential to your success. 


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