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How Candid is moving in on SmileDirect and Invisalign's teeth straightening game

3 months ago by Joshua Fruhlinger in

Candid Co. (PRIVATE: CANDIDCO) the company that's trying to do for teeth straightening what Warby Parker did for glasses, is on a run. The company, which offers Invisalign-like teeth straighteners for less than SmileDirectClub and Invisalign, has scaled out to 27 locations all while building out a complementary direct-to-consumer digital approach. That hybrid model — sell direct while popping up in key retail locations — appears to be working, and it surely has SmileDirectClub and Invisalign checking their rearview mirrors.

Location strategy: Attack competition in under-served markets

SmileDirectClub, which is looking to go public, currently has 387 stores throughout the US. Compared to Candid's 27 locations, that's pretty dominant. But, when we look at where (and how) Candid Care is opening its new studios, a very smart strategy emerges.

Candid's location outlay reads as much like a hot neighborhood list as it does a smart business looking for new customers with discretionary income and a little bit of vanity. In the map above, it becomes clear that Candid's locations - few as they are - are located smack in the middle of SmileDirectClubs' hot spots where current population levels have room for a new player in the space. Meanwhile, low-population-density areas that are already being served by SmileDirect aren't prioritized.

Only 6 of Candid's 28 locations don't have a single SmileDirectCliub within 5 miles.

The strategy is similar, perhaps, to how beverage brands place less-expensive alternatives on shelves near competitors: while a customer may like the more expensive brand, the alternative could be just as good, if not better.

A proximity analysis on Candid locations revealed that for every Candid Care location, there are an average of 1.9 SmileDirects within 5 miles. That means that for each of those particular SmileDirects, customers have a potential Candid alternative. One CandidCare in affluent Irvine, California has 3 Smile Direct locations within 5 miles. In fact, only 6 of Candid's 28 locations don't have a single SmileDirectClub within 5 miles.

In-person experience closes the gap

Unlike pure direct-to-consumer brands like Warby Parker, Candid's real-world presence gives customers the option — and opportunity — to come in to a studio to do a free consultation and scan. Candid's locations are wildly different. Some are in business complexes while others are in workshare spaces like a studio in Spaces Perimeter in Atlanta or a Bay Area studio in a WeWork. The intimate, down-to-earth approach appears to be resonating with customers, too: the Emeryville location has two perfect 5-out-of-5 ratings on Google, and the Atlanta studio also has a perfect score.

But even for Candid studios that have been around a while and have collected more reviews, like a studio in Houston wit 59 reviews, customer satisfaction is nearly perfect (that location has a perfect 5 out of 5). 

Name

Review Rating (Average)

Number of Reviews

Houston

5

59

West Hollywood

4.8

51

Boston

4.9

46

Upper East Side

4.7

46

Chelsea

4.6

43

Atlanta

5

38

Dallas

4.9

30

Santa Monica

5

29

Columbus

4.7

20

Chicago

4.9

16

Product makes - or breaks - the brand

Positive experiences at intimate studios aside, reviews for Candid's products — the actual teeth straighteners — is excellent, but a bit spotty. But it's in good company: reviews for SmilreDirectClub straighteners are also erratic, if slightly less-so. Both brands tend to score at least 90% or above on a weekly basis as reviews come in. But what the comparative reviews show is a slightly more erratic pattern for Candid, based on data from more than 100,000 reviews.

Retail smarts with direct-to-consumer scale

Candid CEO Nick Greenfield

Candid's combination of direct-to-consumer scalability and limited overhead with an aggressive retail strategy isn't a mistake. The company's CEO, Nick Greenfield, comes from a long list of outfits that looked to change the way people behave in the brick-and-mortar world.

He was COO for Paribus, a company that tracks retail prices to help customers get refunds when prices change. Before that, he was VP of Growth at Washio, a company that imfamously looked to disrupt the laundry industry by offering on-demand pick-up and delivery of everyone's least-favorite chore. He even spent two years at Lyft in Special Operations. In short, he understands how to use the internet to scale a direct-to-consumer approach, but he also has his eyes on the retail landscape.

As for whether or not all his experience will translate to success at scale for Candid has yet to be seen, but the strategy certainly looked measured, at least as far as the data we see is concerned.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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