Telling your origin story is one way to set your business apart from your competitors.
But the stories happening around your business—about the people who help make your company a success—can also be used to engage new and existing customers alike.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from two entrepreneurs who market their store by not only talking about their products, but by sharing stories about their customers and vendors.
Kevin and Jen Long are the founders of Noble Carriage: organic and sustainably made baby clothes, toys, and gifts.
We’ll feature a few new moms each month and talk about their interesting stories and their interesting backgrounds and the challenges of motherhood.
Tune in to learn
- How to tell the story behind the products and brands you work with
- Why you should feature your customers
- What is a mood board and why you need one for your brand
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
- Store: Noble Carriage
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: Klaviyo, JustUno, Drift, Stamped.io, ShipStation, Signifyd, Xero
Mood board example:
Noble Carriage's pre-purchase email drip campaign:
- Initial offer: Email list sign-up offer for a 10% discount on first purchase
- Vendor stories: Pre-purchase story about how they choose the best products
- Reminder: Discount reminder and influencer reviews/endorsements
- Inspiration: Gifting preview (inspiration for gift-givers)
- Blog post: 8 Reasons to Choose Organic (company mission and video from founder)
- Final offer: 15% off limited time only
Felix: Today I’m joined by Jen and Kevin from Noble Carriage. Noble Carriage sells organic and sustainably made baby clothing, toys, and gifts and was started in 2013 and based out of San Diego, California. Welcome, Jen and Kevin.
Kevin: Hey. How it going?
Jen: Hey Felix.
Felix: Hey. So, yeah. Tell us a little bit more about your business and especially the what is organic and sustainably made products?
Jen: Yeah. So we did have to do a lot of educating on what organic clothing meant when we first started. So all of our clothing is free of any toxic chemicals that could be harmful to someone’s baby but also harmful to the planet. So we launched Nobel Carriage as a safe place to buy products for your baby. So we not only have clothing, toys, accessories, but we also have safe furniture. So that means, again, no chemicals are on any of our clothing, toys, or furniture, etc. Yeah. And so we have really high standards, and everything that’s on our site has to meet three out of the five sustainability standards, and those are certified organic, locally made, fair trade, handmade, and made in the USA. So I think those standards set us apart from pretty much any other baby shop on the web.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I mean, hearing you list these attributes certainly makes a lot of sense from a consumer and also soon to be first time father. So how did you know that others cared about these attributes in their products?
Jen: Yeah. Well, first off congratulations.
Felix: Thank you.
Jen: We’re expecting our first.
Jen: Yeah. So when I first started Noble Carriage, we were in San Francisco, and I just think that being in San Francisco everybody cares a lot about how products are made, where they come from, and when we started the company in 2013, that sustainable fashion movement just started to take place. So people were talking about things of, “Where does your clothing come from? What’s on it?” And so I saw an opportunity to help educate people on how their clothing is made, what it’s made of, and I thought the best place to start would be with the birth of a baby when you’re most concerned with what you’re putting onto your child’s body. A baby has thinner skin when they’re born, so they’re more susceptible to actually absorbing the chemicals that you’re putting onto them.
Felix: Now where did the name come from? How did you come up with the name Noble Carriage?
Jen: Well, Kevin and I argue about who actually thought of the name, because I think I thought of it, and he thinks he did. But we were trying to think of a vehicle for delivery. So delivering a message from one family to the next, and it, I mean, obviously a carriage, it relates to a baby, and all of our efforts we believe are noble. So that name seemed to make sense and, of course, it was available on Instagram. The URL was available. So all of those things, of course, are super important these days.
Kevin: Yeah. And to add to that, I think the cornerstone of our brand is built on values and really this social message that we’re trying to share with families. And so noble sort of is all encompassing for that, but I think without Noble Carriage together, it really doesn’t speak to baby products and our longer term mission of sharing and educating our customers about means to be sustainable.
Felix: Got it. So I think, Jen you mentioned earlier, that you wanted to spread this message and to educate the world about sustainability and organic products, and you wanted to first start with babies or new parents that wanted to buy products for their babies. Did you also consider other markets or other demographics to target?
Jen: Other than parents?
Felix: Yeah. Just when you were first starting out, it just sounded like you had obviously good reasons and it all makes sense for wanting to create first these organic and sustainably made products for babies, because that’s probably what people care about. Obviously, people care a lot about what products they expose their children to. Did you also have other, I guess, a short list of other demographics that you wanted to launch with?
Jen: Not when it comes to organic, because as far as being sustainable is concerned, it’s more sustainable for an adult to buy all used clothing and not necessarily go out and buy a new organic sweater. Any product you create is causing waste. So when it comes to organic, I think the best place to start is with the birth of a baby and for babies. So, no. I don’t think that I ever really wanted to take on a different demographic than parents.
Felix: Got it.
Kevin: [inaudible 00:06:17] and parents are much more sensitive about the details of the products that they’re putting on their babies and giving their babies and feeding their babies because of how fragile they are. So being able to talk about organic and sustainably made and having any kind of product that’s chemical-free is gonna resonate much more with a parent who’s thinking about what they’re giving their child. But, again, on a sustainability mission, we also know that babies grow out of clothes extremely fast. And if we could help educate our customers about focusing on quality instead of quantity and the reasons why maybe spending a little bit more money on a product that is gonna last longer and be better for your child and for the planet at the same time, I think those messages sink in a little bit easier in the baby market than with an adult who has already made their brand loyalty decisions already.
Felix: Makes sense. Now, I think you, what you were getting at earlier, too, was, I think, Jen, you mentioned that there was certainly a groundswell of talk about organic and sustainability over the last few years to the point where it seemed like anyone could slap this label on and it almost became, maybe it’s just some degree of mockery, right, where everyone could slap something on it and charge more for it. Did you experience this kind of, not necessarily backlash, but how do you get around that where everyone seems to just be able to slap organic or be able to slap sustainably made on their products? How do you differentiate yourself from the pack that is so easily or readily able to put those labels on their products?
Jen: Yeah. I mean, that’s a fantastic question, because I remember when we first started out I was at a friend’s house in San Francisco, and she goes, “Oh, I buy all organic clothing for my baby,” and she ran to her room to pull out the favorite onesie, and it was only 3% organic or something like that. So, again, it is a real problem. But I think the solution, again, is education and educating people on what they’re buying. And we’re seeing a huge shift from when we first started the company in how aware our audience was of what’s on their label, what’s actually the contents that are written on the label. There’s now, we don’t have to do as much education, because people already trust that. Like I said, we’re certified organic, handmade, locally made, made in the USA. We’re teaching people about our standards and telling them that they should adopt these standards for themselves as well, whether they’re shopping with us or shopping with somebody else.
So, yeah. Educating people about what sustainability really means, what organic means, and teaching them about what certified organic means. There’s GOTS certified standard. That’s pretty much is the highest standard for all organic clothing, and if something doesn’t have that on it, then you want to ask why, and you want to find out where it actually came from.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It sounds like the type of education that you needed to put out there changed as the market evolved and as the market became more educated. What kind of education or what methods did you use to educate the market earlier on when there was a little bit more ignorance or a little bit less education out there, and how has that changed over time now that the market has gotten a better understanding of organic and what that actually means?
Jen: Yeah. I think breaking it down, simplifying what you’re teaching people. So we started out teaching people about what our standards were and why we have them. So we did a blog post. We did a video explaining about how we developed these standards, how I worked with a sustainability consultant to create the standards. And then from there we walked through and did a blog post for each standard. So what is certified organic? What does a GOTS certified label look like? How do I find it? Next to like made in the USA. What is the value of made in the USA? So we didn’t throw this information at everybody at the same time. We broke it up into separate blog posts and ended it very organically step by step.
Kevin: And the other thing I would say is every time that we introduce a new brand to our store, we do an entire profile on the brand, on the owner and the designer on the story of the collection and how those products are made and why they fit into The Noble Carriage store. I think telling people, giving people more depth to the brands that we have on our site, has earned us the trust that we now have with so many of our customers, because they do feel more confident about they’re buying and feel much better about spending money on something that is made by somebody that they feel like they have some connection with or they feel like they’re doing better for the world with their baby, because they know about the products that they’re purchasing.
Felix: Right. I think that, I’ve heard this time and time again from other successful entrepreneurs, successful store owners is that they’re not just selling a product. They’re not just selling some commoditized product, they’re selling the story. They’re selling the story behind the product. So I think that’s a great point that you bring up that when you are introducing a new brand you make sure that you are telling their story, letting them tell their story to your audience rather than just launching with, “Hey, here’s a new product. Go out and buy it.” So tell us a little bit more about it. How do you approach telling a story about a new brand that you’re putting on to your store?
Jen: Yeah. We take a long time to vet the brand, to be honest, before we bring them on. We’ll usually have a phone call with them and talk through everything, all the details of where they get their fabric from to how it’s transported to them, then where they’re producing it. And then we tell that story. We break apart that story and tell the key benefits of the brand to our customers. And like Kevin said before, we take a lot of time with each of our brands. So we don’t have a ton of brands on our site. We’re very, very particular. So that allows us the opportunity to take the time to tell people why we chose this swaddle company or this crib. Because we don’t carry everything. We only carry the best of the best. So we’ll tell people why it’s the best and break down what it’s made of and where it came from.
Kevin: With shopping in general, there’s so many choices, and if it’s not hard enough to be a parent, especially a first time parent who doesn’t really know quite what they’re doing yet or what’s the best hasn’t had a chance to do all the research, we like to think of ourselves as the store that has done all the research for them, and they can come to our shop and trust that if they’re looking for a swaddle or they’re looking for sleepwear that we’ve already looked at all of the companies out there and found ones that are doing an exceptional job of making really high quality products that are safe for their child and good for the planet.
Felix: So you’re not just a retailer. You are becoming an advisor that they can trust, that you’ve already done the research for them, so that they don’t have to go out and do the research. And over time you build that trust with them. Now, you mentioned that you don’t stock everything, every brand that comes to you. They’re not going to make it on to the store. Can you tell us a little more about this vetting process or what are some important characteristics that you look for in each brand that you are considering?
Jen: Well, I think first and foremost it has to be cute and well-designed. I am actually in my previous life I was a designer and art director at an ad agency, so design is just like inherent in me. So I believe that good design will help to change the world. So it has to be well-designed, and then from that point it has to meet three out of five of our sustainability standards. So like I said before, certified organic, locally made, fair trade, handmade, and made in the USA. It has to meet at least three of those in order for us to bring it on.
Felix: Got it. So let’s say that you crafted a story or you figured out that the key benefits and why this product that you are stocking is the best, how do you make sure that this story, you make sure that the brand story gets out to your customers? What kind of channels do you use to get that message out?
Jen: Our blog post and email marketing is the easiest place for us to start. I think social media, I’ll usually share bits and pieces through Instagram stories or a post, but I’m able to add a little bit more substance and meat to the story through our blog post and email marketing.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kevin: Yeah. And I think we found that customers do a really good job of furthering our story. So a lot of times, we’ll also work with a select few customers and influencers to basically wear or try out our clothes and take beautiful pictures with them and share with their community about why they love this piece from whatever brand that we’re featuring at that point. And, I mean, the dialogue that happens between individuals on social media without us actually having to insert ourselves is fantastic.
Felix: It seems like a much more organic and trustworthy approach as well, because it’s not coming from a biased source like the retailer, you guys in this case. Do you do all of this work with influencers and sharing the brand story, is this all done prior to the product being available?
Jen: Yeah. I usually when we want to bring on a brand, I’ll usually send it to those influencers or moms that we have connections with to try out before we launch it to make sure it’s a product that people actually love and actually holds up, etc.
Felix: That’s interesting. So you almost have a panel that you work with that are your target customers that you get your products out to them, and they are essentially doing a good chunk of the vetting for you. How did you compile this group of people that are able to help you out in this way?
Jen: I think I’m just personally really into creating connections and creating a community of people through my brand. I think if you can’t enjoy your job and enjoy the people that you work with on a daily basis, then to me it’s not worth getting up in the morning. So I really take a lot of time with each of the people we work with. I would say I’m more about the quality of the ambassadors or moms we work with rather than the quantity. So it took a long time. We’re a little over three years old, and we built up this community week to week.
Felix: Got it. And how did you identify which customers or potential customers would be good ambassadors?
Jen: I mean, we have a lot of communication with our customers. So they’re shopping with us over and over again, and they’re the same people who are sharing on social media, so I get to learn all about them and their babies and kind of see that their kids grow up. I don’t know, there’s a lot of emotion. There’s a lot of emotion involved in selling baby goods.
Felix: I can imagine.
Jen: Yeah. I think it’s kind of like this organic cool process, I guess, that just this community built over time.
Felix: Got it. Now, what do you ask of them? Let’s say someone else out there wants to create something similar. They want to, obviously, they need to learn more about their target customers, so they have a captive audience a few that are willing to try out their products and give their feedback. What do you usually ask of them in return for trying out these products?
Jen: I mean, to be honest, I don’t tell them they have to do anything. I say, “If you like it, please, we’d appreciate if you tagged us and shared who we are, because we’re trying to grow.” I wouldn’t say that I’m very specific about, “You have to share this if I send you this.” We really do want their honest opinion and want it to feel like a natural relationship to them, too.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kevin: [inaudible 00:21:01] we also do what we call Noble Babe features, which we’ll basically feature a new mama or a few new moms each month and just kind of talk about the interesting stories and the interesting backgrounds and the challenges of motherhood in these features. And I think that when you get into some of the intimate details of a person’s life and the challenges they face, then we really do build a much closer, more personal connection. And I think that we don’t really have to ask a whole lot out of the people that we work with to promote our brand, because they’re doing it by participating in that.
And it’s really quite interesting to see some of the backgrounds and the different things that these women are talking about, the challenges that they face, whether it’s children with autism or having four kids or being a mom-preneur, or whatever it may be. There’s unique stories from each of these women that help build this community and help validate all of the things that we’re saying and trying to educate moms about.
Felix: Now, do you look for ambassadors or moms or parents that have a following online already? Or does that matter for you guys?
Jen: Yeah. I would say, I love [inaudible 00:22:36] with people who have a big following. That is important. But I wouldn’t say that it’s … I think the story is more important. So I think we do a mixture of making sure that we’re featuring people who may not have that many followers, but then also featuring people who do have a lot of followers but have a lot of engaged followers. There’s a lot of people out there that have tons of followers, but don’t have a ton of engagement. So I think that engagement, to me, is gold.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kevin: Yeah. Content is so important. Finding a way to relate with customers to the point where they will read something longer than the length of a tweet just because they’re interested in learning more about it. We really do have to find people and women who are willing to share unique and interesting stories so that our community can latch on to some of those topics and feel like they can be part of a discussion rather than on the opposite end of a marketing message.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So you guys are creating lots of content, and content is very important for you guys. I think you had mentioned blogs already, lots of presence on social media, and then also these features. And I’ve heard this technique used before, too, where a store owner features customer, features their story, features the customer’s background. Is that the most engaging type of content that you create? Or which one of the different pieces of content that you do create has been most successful in terms of engagement?
Jen: Yeah. I would say the Noble Babe features are huge, because not only are we sharing it on our blog, but they’re it with their audience, too. And then when we’re sharing it to Pinterest. We’re sharing it to Facebook. It’s the most successful and most engaging content that we see.
Felix: Yeah. I’m a big fan of them, too. I mean, this entire podcast is similar where we’re featuring other people’s stories, and it is, you know, you can go out there and create a lot of your content, but sometimes the stories are just already there that need [inaudible 00:24:50]. All you have to do is just make way for them. And I think that that makes content a lot easier and a lot more relatable, because these are stories from the people that are just like your target demographic, your target customers. Any business out there, you have people that are interested in hearing stories from people that are just like them. So I think it’s a great way to get pretty, you know, like I said, I guess [inaudible 00:25:15] speaking easy content that works well. Now, I want to learn a little bit more about the beginning of your business. You have a bunch of different categories of products that you sell now. What did you guys launch with? What kind of products did you launch with?
Jen: Yeah. I purposely launched with just onesies and dolls. The reason why was because every baby needs a onesie. It’s the most important, most practical item that you purchase. So I thought, “Let’s find the best onesies, the best organic onesies on the planet, and launch with those.” So, yeah, we started with just onesies and then the dolls, because they’re adorable and make a perfect gift with the onsie.
Felix: Yeah. I’ve heard warnings from many parents about the onesies fever where every onesie looks very cute to you that you want to buy as a new parent, so I can certainly see why you wanted to launch with that. Now, nowadays once you are vetting new products or vetting new brands, looking for new products, looking for new brands, how do you decide what to add next to the collection?
Jen: Yes. We test, but we have a roadmap kind of calendar laid out in our office that says which categories we’re gonna launch in which month. And we start small and see how it does. A lot of times, I mean, you just never know if people are gonna want to buy it from us or if they buy their, just buy it when they’re on Amazon or Target or something like that. So that’s the tricky part with launching [inaudible 00:26:59] new [inaudible 00:26:58].
Kevin: Our goal ultimately is to become the one stop shop for a parent to come and buy products for their baby. So we realize that we can’t go super wide and just start carrying new categories left and right, because won’t be able to really hone in a [inaudible 00:27:20] category and find the right products that people want. But to Jen’s point, we do like to focus on specific things. For instance, footwear. We just have launched a few different footwear brands that we think are really great. And it’s taken about three months for us to really identify what sizes make sense and what materials work for what ages.
Because when you’re talking about zero to six to six to 12, I mean, people are buying completely different things, because at six to 12, their baby might be start walking, and they need to think about the traction on the bottom of their feet. But they’re just infants, they’re not walking anywhere, but their feet may get cold. So there’s just different things and different considerations that we don’t really think about until we really dive in and invest the time in understanding more about each product category.
Felix: That’s a good point. I think that’s a unique challenge with an industry like yours where the same customer has different needs over even just a year where it changes so quickly. How does that affect your marketing if you’re marketing a shoe that’s meant just to keep the feet warm and all of a sudden your customer has a child that’s not old enough where they care more about traction? How do you align your marketing message with the needs of the customer as it evolves so quickly?
Kevin: That’s a really great question. I think the best answer is really in the photography that we do and the narrative that we build around each product. And what I mean by that is we, probably more than most retailers, emphasize the importance of lifestyle photography in our products, because we don’t carry thousands of skews, we really focus on a select few brands, we can do a photo shoot with somebody. In the example of babies, we can shoot them in the home or in the crib or somewhere that would be a natural place for an infant to be with their parents.
For older kids, we may shoot a pair of shoes out in the woods or walking on the street or getting groceries or at the pumpkin patch, because they’re walking. And being active with your 18-month-old is, I guess, an experience that’s more relatable for moms, and they do want to see shoes that can hold up at the pumpkin patch versus a cotton bootie that would just get thrashed and disgusting if they started walking around in hay.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So these kind of in the wild or in use product shots are very important for you to get the message out quickly rather than having your customer read text or something like that. You actually will try to show the benefits of the products in the photography itself?
Jen: Yeah. I think the important thing to remember is always that moms don’t have any time at all. And so usually they’re not reading the text on every single product. So being able to show it through photos is very helpful for them.
Felix: Is the photography done in-house? Or have you hired out for that?
Jen: Yeah. We hire for all of our lifestyle photography.
Felix: Now, when you work with a photographer to get these product photos or lifestyle shots, any recommendation on how you can work with them to make sure that your ideas are being manifested in the photography?
Jen: Yeah. I mean, I come from an art direction background, so I think that’s just kind of, I’m really good at communicating exactly what I want. But I would say maybe make sure you’re choosing the right photographer. Start with that. Make sure that you love their work, and it resonates with you and your brand. So the photographer that we use is a mom. She knows how these products are used. She actually shoots them on her son most of the time. So I think that that is super important that you feel a good connection with your photographer’s work.
Felix: So you look for photographers that have already worked in the industry?
Jen: Yeah. I couldn’t work with somebody who wasn’t a parent, to be honest. It’s so difficult to photograph babies and kids that it’s vital for me, at least.
Felix: Got it.
Kevin: I think it’s also important, in order to get the right shots, I think it’s important for you to be there. You know, Jen, we’re in San Diego, but we do photo shoots in LA and San Francisco and all over the place. And the majority of the time, Jen’s there, because she knows exactly what she wants. She wants to be able to create a better relationship with some of the people that we intend to share photos of their baby, right? And so having her there definitely helps create a more comfortable environment. It helps with her relationship building and certainly helps with direction of the photo shoot and the actual end product that we get back.
You can’t always be there. If you’re not there, I think communication is just really important. If you’re not gonna create an actual shot list, you definitely need to share with the photographer exactly what you’re looking for and even potentially share photos that you’ve done in the past or other photos that you like to give them an idea of what you’re looking for.
Jen: But number one piece of advice from me is invest in a good photographer.
Felix: Got it.
Jen: I think it’s well worth the money.
Felix: Now, obviously, this sounds like it’s all very natural for both of you, especially you, Jen, with your background. Let’s say that you were to send someone that worked for you out to work with a photographer for a day of shooting. What kind of direction, what kind of advice would you give them to make sure that they are getting the message across, essentially, to the photographer so that they are creating the messaging, the branding, the look that you’re looking for?
Jen: I mean, I would probably never not be there. [inaudible 00:34:04] if I really couldn’t control the situation myself, then I would start with, I mean, I would start with a mood board of the brand, of your brand, make sure that they’re clear on your brand messaging strategy, style guide.
Felix: I’m sorry. What’s a mood board and what goes on it?
Jen: So a mood board would just be a series of images. It could just be on Pinterest that you pin that resonate with your brand or capture the look and feel of your brand. So you literally could just spend hours and hours on Pinterest or magazines clipping out different things that are going to inspire the messaging for your brand or the look and feel for your brand.
Felix: Got it. Now, did you guys go in and hire a photographer, a professional photographer right away from the beginning? Did you do some of the photos yourselves to start with? When did you bring in the professional?
Jen: I started with a professional photographer. I just never, again, working at the ad agency we always worked with professionals. So it would have been difficult for me to say, “Oh, hey. I can do this myself.” I really value photographers for their work. So we started off hiring. Of course, I have lots of friends who are photographers, so that helped, too.
Kevin: Where we first started is with a friend who is a professional photographer, did mostly wedding photography, but he was having his first baby, and we told him that we would send him a monthly allotment of clothing and all he had to do was take pictures of his baby and let us use them. And for him, at least in the beginning, he liked it because it was a reason for him to take really great shots of his baby and kind of watch the baby grow up and build a cool style for his baby. For us it was amazing, because it took product for us to get it from him, and it was a commitment, and it was challenging early on, but we had some of the best content and the best visuals that the brand had on the internet. We were helping to create that look and style for a brand that wasn’t even ours but certainly it helped drive more traffic to our store for customers to purchase that particular piece.
Felix: Got it. Now, I want to go to a question that I had asked you guys prior to the interview, which was about what would you answered about how you are able to grow the business and one of the ways is to maximize the customer lifetime value is the automated email marketing. So can you a little bit more about this? What’s your strategy around email marketing?
Kevin: I think strategy is pretty simple. It costs a lot of money to acquire a customer, and early on when we were spending money to drive traffic, it was really, really hard to determine whether or not we were getting a return on our investment. And in fact when you look at the numbers, it’s really, you get discouraged when you see that, "My god, I made this much money on this sale, and it cost this much to acquire them. I’m literally making only a few dollars on this [inaudible 00:37:46] at the end of the day. And so if I can give advice to anybody, I would say that focus on how you’re going to get a customer to come back and buy it a second, third, or fourth time before you start pumping money into getting them to the site in the first place. Because without retention and loyalty, it costs too much money to get a customer for just one time.
So email marketing was that for us. We started investing in email marketing in the second year after we had spent a lot of money in just driving traffic. And we tried to do our best to automate the entire process. So what’s the flow gonna look like when a customer first signs up for our email list to get 10% off? What is the flow gonna look like after they make their first purchase? Or how a customer abandons cart. What are we going to be sending them automatically without us having to send each and every individual-
Felix: Yeah. I want to dig into this a little more, because I think this is, email marketing, everyone says that you should do it, but it’s daunting, right? Because there’s just so many things. It’s a blank canvas, and you have to figure out what’s the best way to do it, and the feedback loop might take a while from the time that you create the first kind of email flow, email drip campaign and then wait to see what happens. So I want to talk a little bit about what worked for you guys. You mentioned that before you spend more money on getting a new customer to come to your site, figure out how to get the people that already bought from you in the past to come back again. So in your experience and in your world, what’s worked for you guys to get them to come back to buy again, especially by using email marketing?
Kevin: Email marketing is the number one, because it is extremely cheap. I mean, you pay to use an email marketing platform like Klaviyo or MailChimp or whatever, but it’s not nearly as expensive as it costs to spend money in advertising. So email marketing is very efficient. Setting up flows is, you kind of just need to put yourself in the customer’s point of view and determine what cadence you’re gonna be sending each email. Do you really want to be sending somebody an email every single day? Probably not. That customer’s gonna get really annoyed. So thinking about the time between each email and the types of messages that you can send somebody so that you’re connecting them with valuable content or something that is engaging them to come back is really important. But email is really the key for that, because it’s an affordable way to do that, and it can be automated so that it just runs on autopilot.
Felix: Right. Can you describe some of the emails that are in the flows that you have created that have worked well in getting people to click and then come back and then potentially buy?
Kevin: Yeah. I think that having an offer for somebody that comes to your site to make their first purchase, whether that’s free shipping or 10% off or any kind of giveaway is really great. And they give you their email in exchange for something in return. And it’s a really great lead capture mechanism. And if they don’t make that purchase in the first interaction, then you should have some sort of email flow that reminds them that they have 10% off or free shipping at your store, and they should come back and purchase something. So that’s a really good one. Post purchase is really important, because you want to keep a customer engaged beyond their first purchase, so they come back and shop again.
And that could include anything from asking them for a product review to sending them a receipt to building a little bit more depth to your brand and telling them a little bit more about, in our case, Noble Carriage and our sustainability standards and why shopping sustainable is important. But also potentially offering discounts down the road, so that if they don’t come back in four months or six months that maybe you incent them to come back and check out some of the new products that you have.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So once a customer has bought from you guys and you’ve sent a confirmation email, the receipt already, what is the next email that you guys like to send out after a customer has bought already. I think this is another area where … I think it might be the very first step that a lot of store owners that don’t have email marketing set up should begin, right, after you send that automated confirmation email. What should be the next point of contact? Or what should be the kind of content that you should send a customer after they’ve bought from you for the first time?
Kevin: Well, I think that you, obviously, order confirmation is important. You can test all kinds of things, but in my opinion, you really need to be focused on having a good first interaction, so making sure that they get shipping notifications is really important. People want to be able to track their products and see that it went out in a timely manner. From there you really want to build product reviews. So we use a service called Stamped.io to send an automated message after our shipping confirmation so that once a customer gets whatever they bought they can come back and write a review and/or let you know if there were any issues. If there’s any issues you can work that out with them, but in more cases than not, they will write a good review. And that helps with SEO. That helps with on-page optimization when somebody’s looking for something, and they see four options, but one of them is five stars. They’re typically going to pick the one with five stars.
Felix: Now, one interesting thing that I noticed on your site that I’ve seen on plenty other stores as well is that there’s a full page takeover for an offer, I think it was 10% off in exchange for an email address. Now, this is an area where people are fully for, because you get lots of [inaudible 00:44:44] there this way. A lot of people are against it because of the balance rate. What have you guys found with running this? Has it paid off in the long run?
Jen: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, it’s also important to test out what works best for your audience and your shop, because we’ve spoken to other shop owners [inaudible 00:45:05] the full takeover to everybody doesn’t work well for them. But for us we’ve tested removing it, and noticed a huge drop off on email signups. So for us it really helped us out a lot to have that there.
Kevin: Also, our customer is thrifty. It really does help to offer, basically to grease the path to first purchase. We know that when moms are shopping, they’re looking for deals and they’re looking for ways to save a few dollars, because clothes are expensive, and they have to have a lot of them. So offering a little incentive in order to get somebody into our funnel is really important. When we took it off, we didn’t see a difference in balance rate. In fact, it was virtually identical when we had the full page takeover verse not having it. And the only difference was that we were capturing significantly less emails and not driving as many orders as a result.
Felix: Right. So I think that the point is that it really depends on the customers and what your customers value. And I’ve heard from store owners that sell more to people that are in tech who are very averse to things like popups and ads and their balance rates will go through the roof, and this isn’t worth for them. But in your case, you’ve identified that that discount is very valuable to your customers to the point that the balance rate doesn’t change because the popup, the full page takeover’s almost a value ad for them in this case. So you mentioned a couple of apps there throughout this episode so far. What other software, whether it be apps on Shopify or applications off of Shopify that you use to help run the business?
Jen: Yeah. We mentioned we use product reviews, Stamped.io that we love. We also use Shipstation for shipping, which is awesome. We use Signifyd, which is an insurance fraud app. So we have a lot of customers that shop with us all around the world, and it kind of takes the guesswork out of shipping something off and being afraid that it’s a fraudulent order. [inaudible 00:47:40] actually ensure the order. So Signifyd has been great for us. We use Xero for accounting. Email marketing we use Klaviyo and absolutely love it. Can’t say enough good things about Klaviyo. And then our popup is through Justuno.
And I think a new app that I really haven’t taken enough advantage of yet, but I’m really, really excited about is Drift, which is a chat app. I think that, again, with busy moms and being able to quickly chat with us rather than email us is really beneficial. We just don’t quite have the team in place to take full advantage of Drift. But that’s a new app that I’m really excited about.
Felix: Got it. Makes sense. So where do you guys want to see the business go this time next year?
Kevin: Up. Yeah. I think that or know that our focus has been on slow, profitable, sustainable growth. We’ve been bootstrapped since day one and all that really means is that we can’t spend a ton of money to acquire customers like some other venture-backed or investor-backed brands can. But I think that profitability is really important for us, and we’ll be profitable this year, and we’re looking to scale it. So we have a lot of the mechanisms in place now to spend money in acquiring customers faster and we have better terms and relationships with our vendors and a lot of exciting things coming in 2018 that we really hope to scale our business to new levels next year.
Felix: Awesome. Very exciting times ahead. So NobleCarriage.com is the website. N-O-B-L-E-C-A-R-R-I-A-G-E.com. Thank you so much again for your time, Jen and Kevin.
Kevin: Thank you.
Jen: Yeah. Thank you so much.
Felix: Here’s a sneak peak for what’s in store the next Shopify Masters episode.
Speaker 4: What really solidified our approach there was just seeing the various small companies out there that were selling a good product but not necessarily to our market.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the e-commerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit Shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30-day free trial. Also for this episode’s show notes, head over to Shopify.com/blog.