For direct-to-consumer bridal retailer Azazie, whose gowns reflect the crowdsourced design preferences of everyday consumers, a surprising pocket of the wedding market generated over 300% growth.

Fellow digital-native Sklyar, the natural fragrance startup that in February 2019 netted $8 million in funding, nudged a new way to drive demand for its scents by changing shopper behavior.

And robotic sports enterprise Drone Racing League (DRL) found that developing proprietary technology to elevate the sport helped unearth a “massive fan base around the world,” Nicolas Horbacziewski, CEO of the league, told CO—.

Here, DRL’s Horbacziewski, Azazie CEO Charles Zhong and Skylar CEO Cat Chen unpack how drone engineers, men’s grooming products and a subscription scent club yielded the businesses’ returns on their investments that also came as a surprise.

 Charles Zhong headshot
Charles Zhong, founder and CEO of Azazie — Azazie Bridal

Charles Zhong, founder and CEO of Azazie: ‘It doesn’t cost us anything, and the insights are invaluable’

One of the strategic pillars of our business is listening to our customers through consumer surveys, social listening and crowdsourcing design. It doesn’t cost us anything, and the insights we have been able to gather are invaluable.

A year ago, we received several requests to develop a dedicated groomsmen accessories collection that matched our bridesmaids’ dresses perfectly. We never would have foreseen that a year after we launched, we would see over 300% growth in our accessories business and it would become our second largest category.

The accelerated growth that we witnessed was surprising because we didn't anticipate a men's category to perform so well on our site, but it affirmed that our target demographic was making all the significant purchasing decisions when it comes to the bridal market. Our mission at Azazie is to think big, take risks and rapidly iterate in order to meet our customers’ needs.

 Cat Chen headshot
Cat Chen, founder and CEO of Skylar — Skylar

Cat Chen, Skylar founder and CEO: ‘It’s really amazing to see behavior change’

Our new Scent Club is one of the most rewarding programs we’ve had. It's a clean subscription scent program that was created based on customer insights, as 65% of our customers have said they are constantly seeking new scents.

We took that insight and turned it into a program that's affordable, convenient, and gives the customer that newness and freshness they're looking for.

It was a huge investment cross-functionally for us. We invested in product development, creating brand new scents every month. We did a lot of consumer testing, focus groups and surveys during the development process as well. It's also been a technological investment, too. We built out the platform to support the scent club subscription program, making it easy for people to customize their experience.

With all of this, the return we've seen has been great. We just launched the Scent Club April 1st, 2019, and already have thousands of subscribers. What’s the most important and rewarding is how excited our subscribers are. We already have people eager about and asking about next month’s scent. We know that subscriptions are not the typical way people purchase fragrances, and it’s really amazing to see behavior change and customers excited and engaged in the club.

Nicholas Horbaczewski, CEO of The Drone Racing League

Nicholas Horbaczewski, CEO of The Drone Racing League: ‘World-class drone engineers’ lead to 57 million viewers/followers on NBC, Twitter

Robotic sports require real cutting-edge technology, and, if the robots aren’t there, you don’t have a sport. Unfortunately, this was the case for drone racing in its early days — organizations would host grassroots events for pilots to race each other, but the drones would often experience technical difficulties and barely stay up in the air.

When I started The Drone Racing League (DRL) three years ago, we decided to invest in the technology in order to professionalize the sport of drone racing and bring our premier circuit to a massive fan base around the world. To do so, we hired a team of world class drone engineers who developed proprietary technology including custom-built, standardized FPV (First Person View) racing drones [that] fly faster than 90 miles per hour, and transmit a live video feed from the camera mounted on the drone to the pilots’ goggles without any lag time. We also created a groundbreaking radio frequency system that would allow the drones to fly a 3D flight line through eight feet of concrete along complex, mile-long courses.

Because we invested in the drone technology, DRL was able to successfully pit the most elite pilots against each other through our past three seasons along video-game inspired tracks in iconic venues like palaces, museums and stadiums, host live spectator events in front of 3,000 cheering fans, and broadcast DRL to more than 57 million viewers on top networks in 90 countries worldwide — such as NBC and Twitter, which will premiere our 2019 DRL Allianz World Championship Season on August 11, 2019.

To date, our tech team, which makes up nearly a third of our company, has been awarded 26 patents for its drone innovations. They’ve invented five FPV drone models including the Guinness World Record-setting fastest racing drone on the planet, the DRL RacerX, and created a true-to-life drone racing simulator, the DRL SIM, which uses real drone physics and features virtual DRL drones and maps to teach gamers how to fly drones, provide players with a 100% accurate FPV flying experience, and even recruit players into the league.

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