Client Spotlight: ZVerse Pivots During COVID-19 to Produce Millions of Face Shields

Ruthie Careyby Ruthie Carey

Home | News | Client Spotlight: ZVerse Pivots During COVID-19 to Produce Millions of Face Shields

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When the COVID-19 pandemic sent consumers online, ZVerse, a digital manufacturing platform based in Columbia, South Carolina abruptly pivoted to become one of the largest producers of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

It’s unlikely that John Carrington, ZVerse CEO, anticipated the company he founded in 2013 becoming a hugely successful producer of physical goods. With no prior experience in the realm of physical production, ZVerse embraced the urgent need for PPE during the pandemic and put their experience in 3D-printing software to the test.

As Carrington recalls, “We recognized our unique ability to quickly produce and provide valuable PPE to our front-line healthcare heroes, while also creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.” While consumers scrambled to gain a foothold for personal safety in the midst of a growing pandemic, this company seized the opportunity to serve the frontline workers in crucial need of protection, both physically and economically. 

ZVerse’s experience as a CAD as a Service (CADaaS) platform for digital manufacturers helped lay the groundwork for their leap into physical manufacturing. Prior to the pandemic, the company existed as a bridge for digital manufacturers and OEMs by providing the only joint CADaaS platform and designer marketplace optimized for the Manufacturing as a Service (MaaS) ecosystem. Through an AI-enabled platform and certified Designer Network, ZVerse integrates with manufacturers to expand pipelines, expedite, and streamline the file creation process to provide exceptional customer experiences for manufacturing leads.

Changing Direction

With 7 years under their belt in digital manufacturing strategy, ZVerse understood the endless roadblocks that seem to appear when companies attempt to bring their products to market. Their problem-solving capabilities throughout the manufacturing process, coupled with access to technology placed them in the ideal position to pivot and put their knowledge to use.

However, Carrington admits ZVerse’s swift turn towards PPE production wasn’t at the forefront of his mind when the pandemic hit.

“I was a cynic about the impact it was going to have in the U.S.,” he shared. “I didn’t think it would be too big a deal, but then I started hearing from doctors and nurses.” 

When a South Carolina state hospital sought ZVerse out with a request for 50,000 face shields, Carrington knew it was time for his 20-person staff to make a leap of faith. In just two hours, the team was able to come up with a design for the ZShield. Yet both the company’s limited staff size and only seven 3D printers left them unable to meet the growing demand for life-saving equipment. 

Thankfully, ZVerse knew actually where to turn for low-cost manufacturing at higher speeds of production: injection molding. For retailers in the 3D manufacturing industry, the separation between 3D printing and injection molding causes significant debate. Whereas 3D printers downplay development cost, injection molding allows for superior quality of product and lower volume cost. Ultimately, injection molding won the day for ZVerse’s venture into the physical product sphere.

With the aid of injection molding, ZVerse began its journey with the creation of the ZShield Health, a reusable face shield intended for healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic. Designed to be worn as a comfortable headpiece, the ZShield Health provides its wearer with a barrier from the potential spray and splatter of respiratory droplets. For individuals in high-risk situations for contracting COVID-19, obtaining a piece of equipment like the ZShield was integral to their livelihoods.

However, the issue remained with providing such equipment to the public in the midst of a pandemic. As demand grew for their product, the market for the ZShield opened up to education, food service, hospitality, and other indispensable industries returning to their positions. To keep up with the increasing need, ZVerse began shoring up its domestic supply chain in order to continue providing PPE to the masses. As orders for the ZShield grew by the thousands, Zverse needed to ensure their products could be placed directly into the hands of desperate consumers. With this goal in mind, ZVerse sought out marketing guidance from Visiture, an eCommerce agency.

At the time of ZVerse’s desire to expand their digital marketing abilities, they began a pre-launch for a new ZShield model: the ZShield Flex. The ZShield Flex provides comfortable protection for non-medical personnel, specifically workers in grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and elective medical roles. Rather than securing the face shield with a strap around the forehead, the ZShield Flex employs an adjustable neck mount to remain secure and functional for the wearer. In order to provide ZVerse with a personalized marketing plan and make their products as accessible to consumers as possible, understanding the industries that would be using the ZShield Flex was crucial. 

Because ZVerse had no prior history of selling physical products, the inception of reaching potential customers would prove to be a major challenge. For individuals searching for PPE on Google, ZVerse’s lack of brand recognition and low branded search volume provided almost zero visibility for their products. In order to grow their brand awareness, ZVerse worked with Visiture to drive traffic and conversions through Google, Bing, and Facebook. 

Finding A Platform

Due to restrictive ad policies from Google and Bing placed on companies marketing COVID-19 related items, ZVerse turned to Facebook campaigns to begin generating pre-orders for the ZVerse Flex. By using Facebook targeting for specific audiences based on interests, ZVerse was able to target the industries in desperate need of PPE. 

From this point, ZVerse began expanding its product lines to the ZShield Wrap, ZShield Youth, ZShield Ultra, replacement visors, and visor cleaning products. In order to continue its success with newly launched products, ZVerse needed to improve its presence on search channels. Their recent growth in brand awareness provided an immediate rise in branded search, creating an opportunity for the company to leverage its recognition and ultimately increase conversions. This newly solidified brand foundation also opened the door for ZVerse to improve their retargeting efforts for consumers who viewed their products but did not complete a purchase, and expand their reach to include a larger demographic of potential consumers. 

Through Facebook and paid social media efforts, ZVerse’s brand presence moved from “keywords not eligible to show due to low search volume” to spending over $400/day in branded terms alone. Ultimately, this social media strategy allowed for more awareness of ZVerse and its products while simultaneously increasing branded search volume and revenue.

Growing The Brand

After finding success early on in the pandemic due to digital marketing efforts, ZVerse’s notoriety as a brand only continued to grow. To most consumers there was simply no end in sight to the pandemic, leaving them desperate to secure as much PPE as necessary for their safety. Knowing this, ZVerse continued to push out brand awareness. In August, the company revamped its website in order to make it more user-friendly for new customers. They also launched television advertisements, which helped expedite growth in paid search efforts on Google and Bing. By the end of 2020, ZVerse’s brand presence had grown from around $400/day to over $2000/day. 

ZVerse’s newfound ability to access their community didn’t stop there. For schools weighing their options between reopening or virtual learning, ZVerse helped simplify the decision. ZVerse was able to provide three learning institutions in the state of South Carolina with ZShields. Not only did this transaction encourage these schools to reopen, but it also provided parents with relief in knowing their children’s health would be safeguarded by these ZShields.

Since their launch in March, ZVerse has sold over 11 million ZShields, and counting, to healthcare workers, educational centers, food and beverage workers, and non-medical personnel. Today, ZVerse produces five models of the ZShield: the ZShield Health, ZShield Flex, ZShield Wrap, ZShield Ultra, and the ZShield Youth designed to fit children. Thanks to their initiative, ZVerse’s bold venture proved to be beneficial to the economy by creating jobs, offering comfortable protection, and undoubtedly saving lives in the process.

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