Entrepreneur Peter Byrne knows that it can be a risk to discover the next big thing, but is always worth it when it pays off.
Such was the case when he brought the popular invention Trolley Bags to Australia, which is now reaching more people through Facebook videos than McDonalds.
Trolley Bags is a system of reusable shopping bags that spread across a trolley and stand up on their own when packing groceries into the bag. The innovative product was first invented in Ireland by Paul Doyle, who presented the product on the TV program Dragons’ Den in 2012.
From Ireland to England to Australia
The bags were a hit with viewers and judges alike, and were ideal in Ireland where a plastic bag levy was introduced in 2002. The business was bought by UK-based Joby Cronkshaw, who patented the design and introduced the bags in England.
Peter Byrne, an importer and distributor of innovative lifestyle and construction products in Australia, came across Trolley Bags and bought stock to distribute in 2014. He took Trolley Bags to retailers, including ones he had previously worked with, but could not secure a wholesaler.
Accidentally blowing up on Facebook
Thinking Trolley Bags wouldn’t be a success, Peter created a Facebook page in order to sell the stock.
He was surprised to find the limited stock sold out almost immediately.
The eagerness of customers on the Trolley Bags Facebook page led Peter to order more stock.
Peter relied on Facebook for promotion and the simple demonstration videos he posted on the page steadily received more and more views as more and more people shared them, with organic reach exceeding that of sponsored posts.
Peter eventually became a co-owner of Trolley Bags and helped the brand gain a mass following worldwide through the Australian and NZ Facebook pages.
“The popularity of Trolley Bags has been a complete surprise. A demonstration video on the Trolley Bags NZ Facebook page has over 35 million views and has been shared nearly one million times. They really are a hit with grocery shoppers,” says Peter.
Making the most of the Facebook buzz
The success of this video has created huge demand for Trolley Bags globally, and Peter is planning on launching in the US, Brazil, Israel and Europe, where they regularly receive online requests and Facebook comments.
Stockists in Australia have increased since witnessing the popularity of Trolley Bags on Facebook. After initially turning down the offer thinking it wouldn’t be profitable, Howard’s Storage World now stocks Trolley Bags. Newsagents and IGAs are also beginning to stock Trolley Bags nationally.
Stuart Bain, Operations Manager of IGA says, “When we first stocked Trolley Bags there was immediately interest by customers with the first bags selling out within just a few days.”
“The feedback we received was that the product made shopping so much easier. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback and highly recommend them to customers.”
When your social media game is too strong
Social media is fast becoming one of the most important marketing channels but most brands could only dream of the viral success that Trolley Bags has experienced.
Trolley Bags have tailored their marketing strategy to reflect their customers, such as focusing on Facebook, the platform best suited to their customers. Peter has also launched an affiliate program on their website, which rewards customers for referring others to Trolley Bags.
Members receive a five per cent commission for every sale that comes from their referral. As their business model has relied so much on word of mouth marketing, it only makes sense to reward them.