How Bellroy built a community that powers a $59 million company

Bellroy’s first product was a wallet. A simple item people use all the time. Yet, this seemingly utilitarian product is actually very personal. From a high-end, leather bi-fold to money clip to a Velcro, cloth folio to a billfold made of Duct tape, the kind of wallet you carry says a lot about you. 

Founded in 2010, Bellroy started their company with the idea that the wallets that were widely available weren’t as good as they could be. Most of the wallets you could buy, outside of card sleeves and money clips, suffered from the same problem, they were just too bulky. What if there was a way to solve this problem, while still producing an attractive and fashionable leather wallet that still looked like a wallet?

By paring the wallet down to its bare essentials, Bellroy took an everyday item that hadn’t seen innovation in years and made it their own. They took a minimalist design aesthetic and a focus on quality over mass production and found a way to build a wallet that was free of distractions.

Their slim and stylish wallet helped spur a movement and lead to a wider product line, all built around the same ethos of utilitarian style and minimalist design. Wallets, bags, cases, even luggage, the products people use to bring their stuff along throughout the day, were defined by Bellroy as “carry” items; the things you carry with you every day and use to transport important possessions. Prior to Bellroy the burgeoning trend around carry items was not being met by the market.

Bellroy grew their audience by tapping into a community of people interested in well-designed, minimalist carry products that weren’t going to break the bank. They developed innovated ways to demonstrate the value of their products online, and built a conversion-minded eCommerce website experience. From there, Bellroy has grown their minimalist carry brand to over 60 products. Starting from a single wallet, they’ve built a company that is now shipping products around the world.

Find the right community and solve their problem

The Bellroy offices in Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia.

Bellroy founders Andrew Fallshaw and Hadrien Monloup weren’t happy with their wallets. Both avid surfers, Fallshaw and Monloup only had a few choices available that fit their lifestyles. Sports wallets were often too bulky or cut corners on quality, and more expensive wallets were well-made but not at all suited to their active lifestyles. With their backgrounds in furniture and personal accessory design, Fallshaw and Monloup set out to make the wallet that they’d always wanted.

While Fallshaw and Monloup knew what they wanted out of a wallet, they needed to find a way to validate the idea before going to market. That led them to create an online community site called Carryology, where they could connect with like-minded people to discuss better and more efficient ways to, well, carry stuff. On the site, they built a community of enthusiasts into bags, backpacks, luggage, and wallets. Fallshaw told Anthill, “It grew like crazy, which not only gave us confidence that a company focused entirely on carry could survive, but made us realize that wallets were where we could make the most difference.”

With their community established and the knowledge that there was a real need in the market for a slimmer wallet, Fallshaw and Monloup started designing and prototyping their first product. A year later, when Bellroy launched their product via an eCommerce site and a select few brick-and-mortar retailers, they were able to position their brand out in front of a market that was only going to grow.

Interest in slim wallets and everyday carry over time via Google Trends.

Before 2010, there was minimal interest in the terms everyday carry and slim wallets. Bellroy helped to change this by creating a forum that gave people a space to talk about the personal accessories they wanted to see in the market. Over the next eight years, both trends started to grow. With their community in place and a company positioned to offer products that fit the specific needs of the people, Bellroy has grown their brand offering to more than 60 products. Each new product they offer builds on top of their brand message of quality, simplicity, and functionality.

By tapping into a fledgling market before other brands, Bellroy established a strong position between mass-market and luxury brands. The growing interest in everyday carry and slim wallets—which they have smartly helped to fuel through content and community building—helps them maintain this position as does their pricing strategy.

Fallshaw and Monloup wanted to create a wallet that was better quality than the sports wallets they’d found in their surfing travels but wasn’t at the high price point of more luxury providers. Positioning their product in the mid-level part of the market let Bellroy carve out a place for the brand that didn’t previously exist.

Show don’t tell: The art of demonstrating value

The core design values that drives Bellroy are minimalism and the concept of slimming down. They bring those concepts to everything from product design to customer experience. Since they’re primarily an eCommerce brand, Bellroy has needed to find innovative ways to demonstrate the value and execution of their minimalist philosophy. 

From their products to their site design and marketing, Bellroy’s focus is on demonstrating the value their products provide. They accomplish this through expert use of video and animation, as well as photography and illustration. Every asset Bellroy creates is designed to show the customer the usefulness of their product. 

Via: GIPHY.

Bellroy ties everything together for the customer. They feature the quality of their product through videos about their design and production process. Their how-to articles and comparisons help demonstrate for customers exactly how their product stands apart  in the market. This not only helps drive home the value and usefulness Bellroy provides, it’s an important part of their selling process. Walking the customer through how the product is made, how it is used, and how it is better than the competition helps both encourage purchasing decisions and helps reduce the potential for returns after purchase. When a customer purchases one of Bellroy’s products, they already know exactly what they’re getting.

That idea of customer education, functionality, and showing value continues through Bellroy’s advertising, as well.

Advertising examples via Moat.

Ads like “Our No. 1 wallet just got better” visually demonstrate how much can be carried within one of their their wallets. The “Flappy Happy” ad shows the profile of their phone case wallet combination in relation to one that is bulkier and not as well-designed. These ads continue the narrative Bellroy has built around their brand and help customers understand what kind of products they can expect to see when clicking through one of these ads.

Monthly traffic sources for July 2018 via SimilarWeb.

In the past month, Bellroy has seen 33.71 percent of their traffic coming from display advertising. Their ability to tell a compelling story about their products through images speaks to potential customers and drives them back to the site to learn more about Bellroy’s products. With one-third of monthly traffic coming in this way, Bellroy is capitalizing on their ability to build interest through imagery.

Bellroy also effectively uses advertising to test their messaging. For example, below are two nearly identical ads currently running on Facebook. The only difference is the text on the image. This is one of a handful of campaigns being tested like this currently on Facebook, where multiple versions of an ad with one small change between each are being run simultaneously. This type of testing can inform copy and messaging on landing pages and other marketing collateral.

Build a website experience that converts

People typically want to hold physical products in their hands before making a purchase. This is a challenge that every online store faces. In order to convince a customer to buy one of their wallets, bags, tablet sleeves, or phone cases via an eCommerce website, Bellroy has to nail their value proposition right away and keep customers on the site longer. 

Their homepage is simple and straightforward, with a photograph of some of their products and the following message:  “Considered carry goods to enhance your everyday.” Bellroy tells the customer right away what kind of products they’ll be able to purchase and hints at the design of these items with their photography. This is the same kind of streamlined experience we found in their ads and continues through to Bellroy’s landing pages as well.

When a customer clicks through one of Bellroy’s ads, they’re taken to a landing page that is more than a straightforward sales pitch. With their targeted approach, it’s no surprise that Bellroy is one of the best designed eCommerce sites around.

Top landing pages via Ahrefs.

Category pages are the top two performing landing pages for incoming paid traffic. That’s not surprising; they are bringing in potential customers who are mainly searching for the Bellroy brand. The third most popular page is one of Bellroy’s landing pages that features their slim wallet.

Bellroy: Slim Your Wallet landing page.

When customers land on this page, Bellroy makes their expectations clear. The customer can compare the Bellroy product to another type of wallet via the slider that’s positioned just above the fold.

Sliding left or right to increase or decrease the amount of cards carried within the wallet visually shows how both expand or slim down. This is a great hook for anyone looking for a slimmer wallet, which Bellroy knows to be true about the visitors coming via targeted ads. But it’s not the only way that Bellroy is optimizing their website for conversion.

Whenever you land on any of the top three pages, the top level navigation gives people an easy way to move deeper into the site. Landing pages are entrance pages for potential customers, so it’s important to give visitors an easy way to learn more about the product and the company. Anyone who comes to this page is greeted with the same kind of sleek and educational design they encountered through Bellroy’s ads or social media accounts. The brand does an excellent job of maintaining the same look and feel while also making sure that customers are able to move deeper into their site from any page.

Key takeaways

Finding the right market and being able to show customers the value of your product is vitally important for eCommerce companies. With their exceptional design sensibilities for both product and the customer experience, Bellroy has built a brand of everyday carry items with staying power.

► Show don’t tell

Design matters. It’s not enough to tell customers how awesome your product is, you have to show them. Use visual content to give customers a real look at what your product has to offer them and find a way to talk about the value it provides in the real world.

► Demonstrate value everywhere

Bellroy makes sure that their customers know exactly how valuable their products are every chance they get. Find a way to show customers how your product can help them in their day-to-day activities and highlight that whenever possible.

► Find your market fit

Fallshaw and Monloup wanted a wallet that fit their lifestyle and design aesthetic. They created a community around these ideas and built an audience who shared their ideas. Before even going to market, you should make sure there’s demand for the products you plan to create.

► Design to educate

When you land on Bellroy’s site, it’s really easy to find out more about their product. Build your eCommerce site to give customers  the right kind of information as quickly and directly as possible and make sure they can always find a path to more in-depth information if they need it.

► Build a consistent experience

Interacting with your brand should always feel the same. Bellroy’s products are sleek, modern, and functional. Whether you go to their website, see one of their ads, or interact with them on social media, that aesthetic is always present. The company has created a narrative around their product that is undeniable.

Sam Hollis
Sam Hollis is a writer at Jilt. When he's not writing about high growth eCommerce startups, he likes to play the piano and cook. See more his writing at his Contently page.

1 Comment

  1. I bought my Bellroy wallet a few years ago when I saw an ad like this on the web. I have to say that their wallets are extremely durable and reliable. They are as advertised. Bellroy has built its trust in the quality of the product and that is what has made the company so successful.

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