EP 38: Recurring Themes from Successful E-Commerce Brands


Episode Summary:

For “Recurring Themes from Successful E-Commerce Brands,” the Messenger Mastermind team took a field trip to Boston for the 2019 Klaviyo Conference. We brought back our favorite trends and themes from the conference and talk about them in this powerful episode.

Let us know what you think below 👇👇.


Episode Highlights:

  1. 2:18 The theme of Klaviyo Boston 2019 was, “Own It.” Why are Owned Channels so important?
  2. 4:35 It’s not just in your head: Facebook and Google ads are 2.5x more expensive than in 2018
  3. 7:22 Funny and fascinating presentation stories from Chubbies and BeardBrand at the conference
  4. 10:30 How Facebook Groups can be marketing powerhouses, and actually work as customer service
  5. 16:25 How the best companies use customer feedback for product improvement and marketing
  6. 19:48 NEXT-LEVEL customer feedback and customer experience tactics from Ministry of Supply


Resources Mentioned:

  1. Facebook Messenger Tool – Manychat
  2. Email Platform- Klaviyo

Episode Transcript:

Jeremy: Welcome, welcome to another week’s episode of The Messenger Mastermind Podcast. As always, I’m your host, Jeremy Horowitz, joined by my incredible co-hosts, Mark Arruda and Ben Vandal.


How are you both doing today?


Mark: Jeremy, what’s up? Ben, how are you doing?


Ben: Good, ready to roll.


Jeremy: Awesome, awesome. So, we all were at the Klaviyo Boston conference pretty recently. We finally got to meet up in person, which is always a treat.


We had a really great time. The Klaivyo team hosted an amazing event. They spent a lot of time and effort into thinking through who are eCommerce companies who are using Klaviyo, and more importantly, what they really did a good job of engineering was, “How can we share their stories so that people not only get value of ‘Oh, okay, here are a couple more ways I can use Klaviyo,” but really good takeaways that you can bring back wins for your business that are greater than just email marketing.”

So, we just wanted to break down some recurring themes that we saw from across not just from the Klaviyo keynotes and presentations, but also the keynotes and presentations from the other brands. And these were some pretty impressive, big brands. The three keynotes were Kopari Beauty, Hint Water, and Beardbrand.


If you aren’t familiar with either three of those brands, I highly recommend checking out their websites, their email, and what they’re doing on socials. They’re doing some really interesting stuff.


So, obviously, the theme of Klaviyo Boston this year was “Own It,” and how important Owned Channels are. And so, Ben, why don’t you just break down what were the big takeaways in the Owned Channel space that you got from the conference?


Ben: Yeah, I had a blast at the conference. I love to get out of the office and stretch the legs, you know, be among your peers, and meet up with you guys, and it’s always fun.


So, the big theme that I took away from the conference, obviously, was Owned Channels. Their tagline was “Own It.” They were big, big, big on the statement of Facebook Advertising increasing in price as we go, and it’s only getting more expensive, so really focus on your Owned Channels, because you can reach the customers when you want for a steady price.


We’ve talked about that for a long time here on the podcast. So, a lot of the brands that we went to talked about cross-pollination, they dealt with email and SMS, as Klaviyo announced at the conference, which is really cool, and kind of something they can talk about. That links up with the ManyChat recent announcement of email, Messenger, and SMS on their platform.


So, we can really see a shift in eCommerce on Owned Channels, and how important it is to own the customers that you want to reach.


Jeremy: And for anyone who is not aware, can you just quickly break down what you mean by cross-pollinating?


Ben: Yeah, so, cross-pollinating is basically taking somebody who’s on one list, and getting them onto another list.


For example, if somebody’s on your email list, you try to get them onto your Messenger or SMS list, and vice-versa.


Jeremy: Cool, yeah.


Mark: So, the phrase, “Own It,” is perfect, just because if you have ever sold a business, or read or listened to the most important parts of selling a business, everyone will always tell you the very first question asked when you go to sell your business is, “How big is your list?”


That is because the list is your owned asset of customers that you are able to sell to. In comparison, a business built on Facebook Ads, which as Ben mentioned are continuously getting more expensive, is not an owned channel. So that’s what Ben is speaking about here, and that’s why this is such an important topic.


Jeremy: I think one fascinating stat that I took away from the Hawk Media presentation (with the CEO, Erik Huberman) was, both Facebook and Google have become two-and-a-half times more expensive this year than they were last year.


So, your ads need to be doubled in performance just to do slightly worse than they did last year, and—I don’t think that trend is going to change. The real cause of it is the competitiveness of Facebook Ads—and we’ve talked a lot about this before—but, just for anyone who might have missed it: every big brand and their mother, the P&Gs, the Unilevers of the world, are starting to dump massive ad budgets into Facebook and Google. They can, just to be perfectly blunt, spend way more money than you.


So, by doing a lot of tactics that we talk about on the show, and by a lot of what was covered at the conference—by really bringing those people into email lists, SMS lists, obviously we talk about Messenger and Push as well—it gives you the opportunity to fight back against those costs. I mean, I’ve been tracking Klaviyo pricing for about three years now. I have not heard of them more than doubling the price of emails in that time period. So, really just thinking through how important those channels are is super, super important.


Ben, were there any examples or specific things that a company was presenting highlighted that you thought was really awesome?


Ben: We heard from a lot of great companies, and one of the coolest things they did at this conference was some brand spotlights, so you get to hear some specific tactics that brands are doing.


A company like Chubbies, who does Men’s Shorts—that’s what they specialize in. They really gave a great presentation about email and email opt-in rates, open rates based on the subject lines they used, and they got really creative, and it was fun to see that a company like that can create such a good voice with the current customers that they have.


Like we talked about—and I don’t want to scare anyone into thinking that Facebook advertising is going away, but it is getting more expensive, but it will always be an effective prospecting tool. But, what we’re talking about as far as owning channels is kind of elongating the purchase cycle from your customers, and maximizing lifetime value on your terms. You really have all of that information, all of the interaction with them, you’ll be able to unify your voice over a bunch of channels, and make the most out of each customer that you get in the door.


Mark: I love that. That’s awesome. A little bit off-topic, but super interesting: would you like to share some of the subject lines that Chubby shared with everyone at their talk?

Ben: Yeah—and like I said, when I get to these things, it kind of gets my left brain working, it gets me super creative. And Chubbies, they were just so out-of-the-box with the emails that they were doing. So, they would play a lot not just with the subject line, but the preview line, and even the sender.


So, one of the ones that made me laugh a lot was that they had an email, the subject line is, “I’m Real,” from abominablesnowman@chubbies.com, which is just really funny. And they had another one, “Send me cash,” from nigerianprince@chubbies.com. They just—completely random and very, very funny things. They’re taking the tactic that they want to stand out in the inbox. They don’t just want to be another email like, “We have another discount code for you.” They want to stand out, and be unique, and they’re doing a great job with it, and it fits right in with their demographic.


Mark: To tie that together: if you own the channel, you can do things like that.


Jeremy: Definitely. And I think the other amazing part about those specific examples, was in the presentation, they also pulled up screenshots of their social posts. So like, people tweeting at them, or commenting on their Instagram photos. And, people had such a visceral reaction to it that they felt that they immediately had to share it.


There were these amazing things like—a couple people were saying, like, “I could never buy a pair of Chubbies, like this product is just not for me, but I will always stay on your guys’ email list, because it’s just so engaging and entertaining.”


I think another interesting piece to that was how reliant Chubbies is on their email to drive revenue.


Eric Bandholz, the CEO of Beardbrand, was the last keynote, and he literally put up his revenue numbers on the screen for everyone at the conference, which was also being live recorded. So, big props to him. But he showed his breakdown of email. And I forget the exact percentage, but it was something like 21-25%, and it was just such a fascinating combination of seeing the extreme creativity of Chubbies and how they said that email was so important to them, and seeing that hard number from Beardbrand, who now has to be a mid-8-figure brand.


Ben: Yeah, and the last thing I’ll say about Owned Channels here before we move onto our next topic will be: a lot is being said on the Facebook and Instagram side, too, about the way copy is being written now. It’s a lot more compliance based. Right, like we have to fall in a lot of the Facebook Guidelines, things we can and can’t say, depending on what they approve and what they don’t approve.


Another great thing about owned channels is that you really don’t have to comply with anything. You can say what you want to say the way you want to say it to the customers that you want to say it to. You don’t have to worry about it being approved, or your ad being pulled for some reason. You can just come right out and say it the way Chubbies does. Very creatively in their subject line.


Jeremy: Yeah, definitely. And it really kind of speaks to a major theme of the conference of building that relationship with your customer on your terms.


So, I think the next major thing we heard a lot from brands was looking for other places to start creating those sorts of relationships with customers. Mark, I know that you’re a big, big, big Facebook Group guy, so do you want to walk through how the brands were talking and presenting about Facebook Groups?


Mark: Totally. I mean, you hear it on this podcast all the time: diversifying your channels among as many different places as possible, taking your audience and having them live in all of the places that they want to be, and then talking to them in those places. And, something that we’ve been preaching for a very long time is that there is still a ton of organic reach living in Facebook Groups, which not a lot of brands really spend time on.


They either don’t know how to do it, or don’t really realize that it’s there. But, we’re seeing it now, and this Klaviyo event really put it at the forefront for me. When I saw speaker after speaker mentioning on one level or another that they’re using things like Facebook groups and Facebook Live with tremendous success. The very first event that I sat down to was a brand, Spotlight, by the company Curlmix, who were previously on Shark Tank. They’re a company that sells, I believe, hair products, specifically targeted for people with extremely curly hair.


They use a Facebook group to demonstrate through Facebook Lives how to successfully use their products. And they said they do these week in and week out on the same day every week, these Facebook lives, within their group, and every time they go live, they see a spike in sales. That’s because they’re able to draw a ton of organic attention through the group, through the live, show off the product, something that’s interesting and instructional and educational, maybe a little bit entertaining. In the end, it’s really all about the products, that they’ve bundled in a nice way.


So, this is something that—like I said—we’ve been discussing for a while, and now, other brands are starting to realize unpack it as well. For this particular company, Curlmix, their group consists of only people that have purchased from them. Only their customers are invited into this group. I have heard of several brands doing exactly that, and I think that’s great to have a place to give almost another perk to your customers to come and have this unified place where everyone is a customer of yours.


I would say that I wouldn’t 100% agree that that’s the best tactic. We’ve personally found that by having a mix of your customers and also potential prospects, that that is really where the magic happens. Just simply because when you have all of your die-hard customers posting with your products and speaking for yourself with that social proof, it’s natural and organic. The people who are not customers get to see it from someone who is not the brand, and that is really powerful.


Ben: Yeah, and the way that Curlmix explained it—the phrase that really stood out to me so prevalently in their speech was, “Turning your customers into your customer service.”


So, your customers are in your group explaining how great your product is, how to use your product to people who have never used the product and are first time buyers. That’s amazing. So, if you have a Facebook group with 10,000 people, that’s 10,000 salesmen out there who are completely organic in helping you spread the word about your product. It’s really great.


The magnification of Live inside of Facebook Groups was so powerful that everyone talked about. But the two big things that I took away from that—the topic that Mark just mentioned—was One, of the people using groups, how successful they were for their brand, and Two, were the big, big companies that aren’t even using Facebook Groups. Which really, is astonishing, that there is still opportunity to get ahead of the game. We’re still very early on in this phase.


Facebook’s putting a big, big emphasis on it. So, if you’re just starting now, you’re not too late. You’re really ahead of a lot of people.


Jeremy: Yeah. I just want to echo that. I think one of my biggest takeaways from the conference was that everyone was excited to get into Facebook Groups. This definitely seems like a super, super early channel that—while we’ve been deep in the weeds for a while—not a lot of other companies have been aware of, but they’re all seeing the same things that you all just talked about: creating a real, authentic community where people are engaged, people are interacting with each other, people are sharing information.


I think, still, one of my favorite stories is for one of our clients. Their Facebook Group just blew up during a sales where their customer support team was just operating at full capacity just because there was so much traffic on their website. And people within their Facebook Group were answering each others’ questions and helping provide all the information that everyone else needed.


There’s just so many interesting and awesome opportunities that when you do get all these people who share a common interest together in one place—it’s just an amazing boundless opportunities to figure out how to foster that community more, how to provide more value to those people, and allow those people to connect with each other in a really meaningful way. Yeah, I think if we go back to Klaviyo Boston 2020, a lot more people are going to be talking about Facebook Groups and how they’ve been seeing a lot of success throughout the past year utilizing that channel.


Mark: Yeah. I think that ties nicely into your biggest takeaway from the event, Jeremy.


Jeremy: Yeah, definitely. So, if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you’ll know that I am absolutely obsessed with customer feedback, and talking to customers, and I think that was a really, really interesting point that was sprinkled throughout a lot of presentations. I think that there were a lot of creative use cases of how people were doing it.


I think the quick-summary-big-takeaway is: use every opportunity that you have of customers reaching out to you to source that information into one central place.


And so, I think a couple of great examples of that was, Chubbies has Slack Channels where they source all of their subject line and sender name ideas that we were talking about earlier, and they are constantly putting the results of those tests in those channels, and then talking to their customer support team to see how people are reacting to it.


Another great example was Ministry of Supply: they have actually figured out a way to combine every single interaction that their customer reach out to them through, and that’s whether it’s social media, their customer support team, people replying to any of their advertisements, and they’ve essentially created one central place where anyone on their team can say, “Hey, this person reached out” and they can actually put a score positive or negative to how they think the interaction went. And that’s something their team tracks on a monthly basis.


Now, their team is obviously pretty big and robust, but I think the high-level takeaway from all of that is: take all of these different places where your customers are talking to you, and reaching out to you—whether that’s your customer support, whether that’s your social media, whether that is your ads, whether that is even just talking to customers—and share that with the entire team. Just try to create as much empathy for your customers as possible. And I think also, going back to the Ministry of Supply example, one of my favorite pieces of that—and something where they took a really amazing internal process and turned it into a marketing tactic—was where they have a program where they highlight one customer every month. So, they go, hey this is Jane, and who she is, and break down a little bit of light demographic info, these are the products that she’s bought, these are the interactions that she’s had with the company.


Ministry of Supply now is both online and offline, so it’s been really interesting to see how they have been able to tie the stuff that she’s bought online and her in-store interactions, and then they review it internally. So, it’s almost like a little bit of a mini-presentation that they do once a month for the internal team, and it just breaks down another element of how a cool person is interacting with their brand, and kind of like their ideal customer profile.

Then, they actually turn it into an email that they blast out to their entire list. And they’ve just seen these amazing, amazing results where it’s actually starting to drive just as much revenue as product and promotion emails for them, because again, it’s just fostering that community, building those relationships with customers. It’s just had an amazing impact on their brand, and so I think that was a really, really big takeaway of: the bigger successful companies getting really good at that process.


Ben: Yeah, I agree. That’s kind of tying that information and intelligence into it, and emotional connection as well, right? And kind of highlighting that customer.


Another cool thing that Ministry of Supply did was they actually have—they call them “Wine and Dines”—where they invite their customers out to an actual dinner in the retail locations they have across the country and really talk to their customers and connect with them one-on-one. They also bring product designers to those dinners to explain the benefits of their product, and really get feedback right there directly.


So, when Mark and I went to Facebook earlier this year, one phrase they said that was a little bit corny but so true was: “Feedback is a gift.”

We just talked about how expensive it is to reach your customers through Facebook Advertising and paid advertising-wise. So, for them to reach out to you and give you feedback—it’s invaluable. You can’t even put a price tag on it.


Mark: Yeah, I would say that if there’s one thing you’re going take from this episode, that probably a lot of people just brush over as unimportant, is to speak with your customers.


There’s more to that than you would think.


Jeremy: Yes.


Ben: Yeah.


Jeremy: From the effort and value.


Ben: And that leads me to one of my favorite phrases, is, “Advice: everyone loves to give it, but nobody loves to take it.”


So, what we want you to do is to listen to your customers and take that advice. Because they are the ones buying from you, and there are others like them who are buying from you as well. So, they do probably have a good ear to the ground on what you should be doing.


Jeremy: Definitely. So, for everyone who wasn’t able to make it to Klaviyo Boston, I hope that this was a super valuable episode, and a little bit of a different episode than probably a lot of other blogs and podcast you’ve been listening to.


I think the three major takeaways, just to bring them home:


Own Channels are where it’s at: bring the value in and also cross-pollinate your lists, try to get people’s contact information in every channel, and try to provide them value in every channel.


Two, Facebook Groups are going to be one of the next big platforms that all marketers are going to be excited about. It’s a great place to build a community and foster amazing interactions with your customers, and utilize Live as a part of that as well.


Third, source Customer Feedback from everywhere possible, and share it and think about it as much as possible, and listen to your customers as they are going to be the ones who determine your future, make sure that you’re always taking care of them.