Water difference: how Ocean Bottle can offer personalised products at the right price

With TBM Solution, a sustainability-focused startup found a more streamlined way to reach customers outside the UK without trade barriers, while offering personalisation options for its premium products

Many businesses start small, but some aim big. That’s true of Ocean Bottle, which started with a clear goal: to prevent the equivalent of 7 billion plastic bottles from entering the ocean by 2025. The idea for the business came about when co-founder Will Pearson saw first-hand how parts of the Indian Ocean had become choked with discarded plastic. 

Vicky James, the company’s head of marketing, takes up the story. “We exist to bring people together to turn the tide on ocean plastic; making reusables that work even harder for the planet, through design-led products that fund the collection of ocean-bound plastic with every sale, and now with every refill, thanks to the Ocean Bottle app,” she says.

That ambition struck a chord with supporters around the world. The company launched in 2019 through an Indiegogo campaign that gained backers across 88 different countries. In a short time since, the team scaled from just three people to over 30 at its London HQ. 

Fast growth like that doesn’t happen by itself. Key partners were essential at vital points in the chain: getting the raw materials in, and then fulfilling orders to get the finished products into consumers’ hands. “Ocean Bottle partners with organisations to open plastic collection points in areas where plastic pollution is worst and enable collectors to exchange plastic for money and access to social resources such as healthcare, education and financial security,” Vicky explains. 

Fulfillment through a partner

The company also chose a partnership model for fulfillment. In its early days, Ocean Bottle had been using a single UK-based third-party logistics provider (3PL) that looked after global fulfillment. But as orders started ramping up into the thousands per month, the business hit a big obstacle: Brexit. 

Trade complications due to the UK’s departure from the European Union meant Ocean Bottle faced high custom charges and duties when fulfilling all orders via one UK site. This could have forced the company to raise its prices, which it didn’t want to do. “It was essential to split fulfillment markets to avoid passing high charges to our customers,” Vicky explains. 

Close working relationship

Another reason Ocean Bottle looked at alternative arrangement was to get a higher quality of service and build a closer relationship with its fulfillment provider. “We wanted faster communication and a dedicated account manager, as well as a partner who shared our entrepreneurial spirit and attitude to problem solving,” Vicky says.  

Ocean Bottle found TBM Solution through the recommendation of a colleague who had worked with them before. TBM’s network of 14 fulfillment sites globally meant that Ocean Bottle could adopt its preferred ‘hub model’ approach of having 3PLs in the UK, EU and the United States.

“We have hub model fulfillment and a slicker returns process and are able to offer laser engraving to our D2C customers to personalise their orders,” says Vicky. That’s been essential as Ocean Bottle expanded its product line of reusable bottles with three different sizes, brew flasks, accessories like brew lids for holding coffee, and carry loops.

Products with a personal touch 

For growing numbers of brands, personalisation has become a key part of creating closer connections with customers. Ocean Bottle’s website offers an engraving option for an extra charge. Customers can type in up to 12 characters and TBM Solution’s warehouse handles laser engraving for those orders, making the bottles unique to them. 

Vicky is certain the decision to work with TBM Solution has been a success. She’s impressed with TBM’s large team, their knowledge of logistics, and how they find innovative ways to make the shipping process more efficient. 

“We now have a more stable fulfillment model, allowing us to tap into key markets, alongside extensive storage space which was necessary during a turbulent 2020-2022 where there was a need to stockpile as a contingency plan to support future-proof demand,” she says

Looking ahead, Vicky anticipates an exciting phase in Ocean Bottle’s growth journey. “We are still hyper-focused on our core markets of the UK and EU, while looking to effectively scale newer territories, such as the US. Having a fulfillment solution that can support the business as we move from start-up to scale-up is important, and we look forward to working with TBM to support this next stage.”


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