Hint is a naturally-flavored bottled water company that generates millions of dollars of revenue via e-commerce, grocery store sales, and other typical distribution channels. Their latest mode of sale, however, may throw up question marks to some, as the brand is launching their first-ever retail store.
Located in the Union Street District of San Francisco, the new store is way more than just a place to buy water. Outside of refrigerators that carry Hint's signature bottles, there's a merchandise corner for branded swag, tabletops for people to come in and charge their electronics and study, and an interactive Instagram-worthy wall and photo booth. There's even a "Hint water bar" where you can sample different flavors of the company's products.
It's clear that for Hint, this is way more than just a retail location. The actual space where they sell product is relatively scarce for a place that would just sell bottled water, as only 300 bottles and 40 cases are stocked in the fridge at a time. Considering they sell thousands of bottles via other channels on a regular basis, this store isn't going to add a significant amount to their revenue line.
So why is Hint opening up a bottled water retail store then? According to the company's CEO and founder Kara Goldin, it's about experience. "We wanted to create an experiential storefront that would allow customers and visitors to come experience each of the flavors, immerse themselves in the culture of Hint, and get educated on what they're really putting in or on their body," she told Foodbeast.
But it's also so much more than just an experiential store for customers as well. For Hint, this space represents more of a playground for them to test the strength and appeal of their brand. "The owned-and-operated retail store gives Hint another touchpoint to connect with customers directly, ask for feedback, educate consumers, test concepts and ideas, exercise and test learnings from data collected elsewhere, and bring exclusive opportunities directly to our customers," Goldin says.
In other words, Hint's store is a place where the company can gather tons of points of data about their image without having to conduct surveys and focus groups about themselves. The store IS the survey in this case, as every feature inside of it can be used to collect customer's reactions, experiences, and takeaways about their products or Hint's brand in general.
Hint can then take all of that information and use it to test and validate new concepts and flavors while continually keeping an eye on their consumers to see if they need to make any changes to their brand image or products. That's going to pay off more for them in the long run than their retail sales of water will.
While Hint's flagship location is open in SF, the company is looking to establish more stores in the near future. Goldin wouldn't give specifics, but mentioned that "from the feedback we've gotten so far, it looks like we may need to open another store soon. We’re excited to take the hint pop-up and go educate consumers around the country."