How Casetify Turned Custom Phone Cases into $300 Million in Annual Sales

Dec. 24, 2023

In 2011, Wesley Ng was browsing Instagram when he had an epiphany. People share photos online via their mobile phones. Why not give them the ability to put these photos on their phone cases?

This concept is the genesis of Casetify, a Hong Kong tech accessories brand founded 12 years ago by Ng and co-founder Ronald Yeung. Casetify has sold more than 15 million cases since the company was founded and last year had annual revenue of more than $300 million.

“I think we were one of the first brands to be born out of Instagram, and we grew from there,” said Ng, the CEO of Casetify who’s 42 years old. The brand started as an app that turned Instagram photos into phone cases. It has become a global technology accessories brand specializing in the production of high-quality, customized mobile phone cases and other products.

In addition to its customizable phone cases, the company is also known for its collaborations with hundreds of well-known brands and celebrities.

Here’s the story of how Casetify built a $300 million tech accessories empire.

Direct-to-consumer(DTC) hyper-vertical strategy

When Wesley Ng got his first Iphone 4 in 2011, he realized that he should buy a phone case to protect it. But the phone cases on the market at that time were basically anti-fall or waterproof, and he as an Instagram addict himself, he would like to develop an App to customize mobile phone cases, which later became Casetify.

Companies like Casetify, which originated online, are known as digitally native vertical brands, sometimes also called Instagram brands. These types of brands can reach different consumers through social media. Wesley Ng expressed this that although his clients do not have a specific group description, they are basically a group of people who express themselves with more creative ideas.

So Casetify puts itself directly in front of consumers.

Casetify’s products aren’t cheap. Most cases range in price from $50 to $90, and the company has seen a negative response to the pricing. Some users have turned to social platforms such as TikTok to share how their phone cases cracked. But experts say that consumers in Generation Z spend a lot of money on self-expression. A young consumer said that matching different mobile phone cases with her mobile phone is her daily life. For example, when she goes to drink coffee, she uses a coffee phone case, when she goes shopping, she uses a shopping phone case, etc.
Consumers in Generation Z still feel that Casetify is a big deal because it keeps up with trends, it knows what is trending, and it knows what people want to post and watch on TikTok.

Influencer marketing

Building Casetify into a multi-million dollar brand meant tapping into the then-emerging social media influencer culture. Early on, Ng messaged people he saw with large Instagram followings, asking if they wanted to turn their photos into custom phone cases.

“We found that if we get these people to buy our product, and if they like it, they will probably share it with their followers.” Ng said. “The Instagram influencer strategy…we’ve been practicing it since day one. It’s been really important to us.”

Part of its success comes from timing: Casetify’s influencer strategy is now common among companies trying to grow without much marketing budget, and being the first to adopt means less competition.

Visibility allows Casetify to extend its reach to real celebrities. Casetify has been featured in posts by Kylie Jenner and others in recent years. It sells designs by Drake and Olivia Rodrigo and has partnerships with global brands including Disney, NASA and Saint Laurent.

New platforms, new products

Even with these big-name collaborations, Casetify’s competition is fiercer than ever. In an increasingly digital marketplace, it’s hard to stand out without constantly trying new things.

That helps explain some of the company’s recent decisions, like breaking away from Instagram entirely. The company says Casetify will be deployed to any new social platform where trends can be spotted, which is why it’s offering a series of designs called “As Seen on TikTok.”

“TikTok is just a natural extension for us,” said founder Ng.

In 2014, the day after the Apple Watch was released, Casetify’s R&D office marked these new products and immediately decided to expand the accessory product line: Apple watch Band, Airpod case and MacBook case. Although these young consumers are attracted by new things, their loyalty to brands is indeed not high. So expanding the product line definitely makes sense and will continue to attract the target customer base, which is a key way for the brand to continue to grow and gain more sales share from consumers.

Offline retail: instant gratification

Casetify has also expanded its product range — which now includes a variety of accessories beyond phone cases — and no longer sells it exclusively online. Nordstrom began selling Casetify products in 2018, and the startup later opened its own retail store in Hong Kong in 2020.

Casetify has received the first in a series of financings in 2021. Currently, Casetify has 26 physical retail stores, mostly across Asia and Australia. The e-commerce approach works with younger, social media-savvy customers. Ng said the expansion is an opportunity to reach a wider audience, giving shoppers a chance to see the quality of Casetify products up close before buying.

Casetify, whose first U.S. store opened in Santa Clara, Calif., last year, is trialling “style labs” in a handful of cities, including a pop-up store in New York City last month. At Style Lab, shoppers can design their own products and have them ready in 30 minutes — a unique selling point for Ng.

“It’s instant gratification,” he said.

It is very difficult for a brand to grow with customers and become a part of their lives as they grow, especially for Generation Z users because their brand loyalty is lower than that of users from other generations. So it’s one thing to win over young consumers, but it’s more important to grow with them and continue to satisfy them over time.


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