5 Lessons We Can Learn from Text-to-Order Beverage Company DIRTY LEMON.


Calling Iris Nova Founder and CEO Zak Normandin an out-of-the-box thinker is like calling spinach green. The 35-year-old entrepreneur has created some of the most interesting retail concepts in recent memory with DIRTY LEMON and The Drug Store.

The Drug Store, in particular has received a lot of attention recently. The unstaffed store essentially works on the honor system. You take what you want, and then just text them what you took and they charge you for it.

At the heart of it all is Iris Nova’s cornerstone brand, DIRTY LEMON. DIRTY LEMON is an extremely interesting product: a high-end beverage brand that is only available for order via text message.

While that might sound a little strange at first, once you begin to dig into the business, it starts to look downright ingenious. The use of text ordering in particular is what is interesting here, as Normandin has really figured out how to leverage it from every possible angle, and it may very well shape the future of retail.

Let’s take a look now at 5 lessons we can take away from DIRTY LEMON’s text-to-order model.

  1. Texting is convenient

While apps and eCommerce sites have put ordering in the palm of our hands, their convenience level still pales next to the simplicity of sending a text message. Texting is quick and doesn’t require any navigation to get to what you need.

With their text-centric commerce model, DIRTY LEMON has tapped into one of the key pillars of success for a technological advancement: it makes getting what you want easier. How long will it be before you can text your local grocery store to bring home bread, milk and dish soap? Will we even need spouses anymore?

  1. Texting is personal

Unlike traditional eCommerce, texting is a two-way communication. Even if the responses are highly automated, if done correctly, it feels like a personal interaction. This intimacy can create a sense of connection with the brand that retailers have been sorely lacking in the lonely and sullen activity of shopping online.

According to DIRTY LEMON founder Zak Normandin, “Text messaging has historically been reserved for your close friends and family. I feel very lucky, as a business, to be communicating with customers over that medium.”

  1. Texting makes segmented tests easy

Want to test a potential new product with a limited release?  Want to test a marketing campaign? Text-based ordering makes segmented testing dead simple.

Manufacturers that sell direct-to-consumer could target a specific market or buying profile to test a new product or campaign before going all-in. As some food and beverage companies have started using AI for rapid innovation, these segmentation abilities could complete the market research picture and remove the need for focus groups.

  1. Texting enables automation

One thing that’s particularly interesting about DIRTY LEMON is how they’ve incorporated machine learning and automation into their customer service model. Because of this, the company is able to offer high quality service with a relatively lean team.

According to Normandin, “If you just say, ‘Can I get an update on my tracking?’ the system knows, based on that string of words, that you’re looking for a tracking update. It sends you a tracking link. If you say, ‘I’m pregnant right now, I have a question about this specific ingredient,” it gets pushed to customer service.”

  1. Texting lets you invest in growth

Since texting is platform agnostic, it minimizes the spend for tech infrastructure like design and development costs. You can now reallocate those dollars toward growth accelerators such as data analysis, marketing and product development.

DIRTY LEMON’s parent company, Iris Nova, has invested heavily in data and is constantly using it to drive new product decisions and retail concepts like The Drug Store.

What do you think about DIRTY LEMON’s business model? Do you think “T-Commerce” is a good idea? What do you think is the biggest benefit? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Sound off on social media now and join the conversation.