How HiSmile unlocked the millennial market

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It was an idea that disrupted an entire industry – and quickly became one of Australia’s most successful start-ups. Today, HiSmile, which offers at-home teeth-whitening kits, sells 1 million kits each year and has turned over $200 million over the past five years.


But to truly appreciate the brand’s extraordinary popularity, you only have to scroll through its social media pages. There, videos of fresh-faced beauty bloggers enthusiastically applying HiSmile products sit alongside photographs that have been ‘liked’ and commented on by tens of thousands of the brand’s devoted 4 million fans. 


“We’re a brand that was born and bred on social and digital," says HiSmile 2IC Justin Gaggino. "[When we launched] no one had the unique understanding of social media that we did at the time, which allowed us to scale for maximum results.” 


That unique understanding of the appeal of social media to millennials was aided by the fact that the company’s two co-founders Nik Mirkovic, 24, and Alex Tomic, 26, are millennials themselves. “They saw an area [in teeth whitening] where no one was really building a brand in the teeth whitening space. It was very clinical and dental, whereas the way we’ve approached it is very cosmetic.”

We’re very agile – we’re not afraid to just try things, and I think that speaks well to millennials

- Nik Mirkovic, Co-founder, HiSmile

Part of HiSmile’s millennial-savvy strategy involved embracing social media influencers - from micro-influencers to superstars such as Kylie Jenner and boxer Conor McGregor – early on.


These days, the focus is on “trusted” influencers with deep engagement, rather than huge followings – although Gaggino adds that “as the influencer market matures, we’re looking at different ways to attract the attention of our core customer”. This means paid media spend, user-generated content, investing in attention-grabbing original social content with a nine-person in-house team and exploring new platforms like Tiktok. “We’re very agile – we’re not afraid to just try things, and I think that speaks well to millennials.”


Although HiSmile’s core customer base is 25-34, the brand aims to speak to 16-25 year-old women. “It’s all about reflecting who your loudest customers are – the ones who will build that brand advocacy. Those young advocates are loud, they're quite passionate and creative... which attracts the attention of other demographics." 


For this young customer base, transparency (HiSmile products are cruelty-free and vegan), a fun, relatable approach (emojis and millennial pink are fixtures on the brand’s social pages) and personal customer experience are key. 

Afterpay has been very beneficial. Cart abandonment rates have dropped, and when customers shop with Afterpay average order values increase

- Justin Gaggino, 2IC, HiSmile

Another crucial aspect has been Afterpay, says Gaggino. “Afterpay is a core component of millennials’ purchase behaviour. It’s the way millennials like to shop.” For products like those offered by HiSmile, which retail at $80 per kit, Afterpay has helped ease the path to purchase, says Gaggino. 


“Afterpay has been very beneficial. Cart abandonment rates have dropped, and when [customers] shop with Afterpay average order values increase.”


Not only that but digital co-marketing partnerships have helped HiSmile extend its reach, including into new territories like the US. “We’ve been advertising with Afterpay and they’ve been advertising with us. We’ve been working in tandem to make mutually beneficial business gains, where we spread awareness with our customer base and vice versa.”


So, where does a fast-growing $200 million company head next? Gaggino says the brand will be investing heavily in research and development in 2020, and looking to cement itself as a global, household name. One thing’s for sure: wherever HiSmile goes, millennials are sure to follow.  


 Anna Saunders previously worked as the executive editor marie claire Australia, and at The Sunday Telegraph (UK). She is the co-founder of PRIMER.


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