Why is it that women have more personal hygiene products to choose from than men? Adam Hendle noticed that men’s nether regions were sorely neglected in the personal care space, so he set out to create a fun and effective product line, called Ballsy. Thanks to a combination of cheeky—pun intended—branding, paid advertising, and an optimized checkout system, Ballsy now enjoys more than 10,000 subscribers. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Adam shares with us the process of formulating products, learnings from logistical mishaps, and marketing a category you invented.
For the full transcript of this episode, click here.
- Store: Ballsy
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: Okendo (Shopify app), Klaviyo (Shopify app), Rebuy (Shopify app), Postscript (Shopify app)
From shower thought to success: how this company was born
Felix: Tell us more about how you came up with the idea for the company. What did you find out?
Adam: It was one of those shower moment ideas about a shower product. I had the original idea about four or five years ago now. I was literally in the shower and just so happened to notice on that day how many different personal care products my wife had. She had different products for every area of her body. Around that time, five years ago, there just wasn't a lot for men's personal care, it was like, "Here's your 4-in-1 or your 5-in-1 value wash." A lot of the brands that were higher quality just weren't anything I related with.
I had this moment in the shower, like "Could there be this bold, fun playful brand, that had high quality products that tackled an area of a guys body that had been overlooked?" Ballwash was the first idea. I literally jumped out of the shower, Google searched, and to my surprise and delight no one had ever created a product called Ballwash. I immediately thought to myself either I'm a genius and there's some white space here or I'm absolutely out of my mind. That was the start of the journey, to answer that question.
Felix: What made you take the fun and playful approach with a product that is sometimes taboo–personal care products?
Adam: It's really a balance. It's both fun and playful, but it's also backed up with high quality. Everything that we do from the product quality itself and what we actually put in the ingredients, to the way that we present the brand, is very top shelf. I knew early on that if I was going to have products with over the top names, like Ballwash and Nut Rub, we wanted to back it up with some quality behind it.
"We really believe in the products and I'm not here to make a novelty brand. I'm here to make a lasting men's brand."
I didn't want this to be a joke. While it is fun and playful and bold and attention getting, it's not a joke. It's not something that we just say, "Ha, ha. This is just something silly." We really believe in the products and I'm not here to make a novelty brand. I'm here to make a lasting men's brand. I knew that balancing the humor to get people's attention, to have fun and say, "Hey, we don't take ourselves seriously, but what we do is take our products seriously. This is something that guys should pay attention to." Everything we do is really about balance.
Felix: How did you achieve this balance in your marketing? Where you caught people’s attention, but then kept it with a high-quality product?
Adam: We lean forward with paid social. The top of funnel is the bold, playful aspect of the brand. Typically just our products on a plain white background are enough to get that attention and get that conversation going, because of the naming conventions themselves. We get a lot of people leaving comments, tagging friends, starting a conversation which leads to a lot of engagement. Once we get them in the door and they land on the site, we spend a lot of time making sure that everything looks very polished and non-gimmicky.
On the product pages, we spend a decent amount of time explaining to the customer what is in the product and what makes them suited for that area of a man's body. Whether that be essential oils or plant extracts or certain ingredients that help with irritation and chafing, we wanted to make sure that when a customer lands on that page, it's very clear that this is a solution that we have presented to them for a problem.
We've evolved our product pages over time. I started with little text and bullet points, and now we've really built out the PDP pages with icons and images that make it really easy for a customer to understand what's in the product, very quickly.
Felix: It sounds like you have fun with the marketing, but as the customer gets closer to purchasing, you make sure to take it seriously and give them all the information they might need.
Adam: Absolutely. We obviously lean into Ballsy and what makes us different, because it's really hard to stand out–especially in paid, when you're trying to get customers' attention and they're just being bombarded. That's definitely one side of the brand. It's really important that once we get them in the door, that they understand what these products are for and how they're going to benefit from them. Especially if you plan on keeping them around.
Finding the right manufacturer: Practice patience and persistence
Felix: After you did some research, what were the first steps you took when you realized there might be a potential business here?
Adam: My first step was to figure out how to make body wash. A bunch of YouTube videos and research later, I realized I'm a better marketer than a chemist and figured I should find somebody to do this for me. That led me down the long, hard path of finding a manufacturer who would do a very small run for me. I literally put aside $5,000 to start Ballsy. If you know anything about product manufacturing, that is a very small amount of money. Typically, minimum order quantities (MOQs) are 5,000 units. Right out of the gate it didn't make sense for a lot of manufacturers.
I called around for about six months and just kept knocking on doors. I found this amazing manufacturer based in Michigan, who is more family run and specialized in natural products. After about a 10 minute phone call and me explaining the brand, they're like, "We're completely in." They loved the idea. It felt like they were a perfect partner. They weren't just treating the brand as another customer, they were treating it as a partner that wanted to help develop great products and develop the brand with us.
They're still our main manufacturer to date. That definitely paid off. It was a long few months of trying to call people and wondering if I could ever get this off the ground, but I really wanted to stick to that budget. In the long run, just knocking on enough doors paid off.
Felix: It’s uncommon for a manufacturer to agree to such a low MOQ. I’m sure other entrepreneurs have faced this. What do you think that you said or did during these interactions that sold them on the business?
Adam: Absolutely. I want to clarify that we could have done off the shelf white label and just put a label on it and called it Ballwash. It was really important for us to find somebody who's going to custom formulate and take some of their experience and my ideas and bring them together. That’s really why I spent so much time on that, aside from the budget. That's really important when finding that first key partner for any business. You need to find that person that understands the brand, is excited about the brand, and is willing to work on it with you.
They’re used to getting pitched by a lot of personal care brands. They have a lot of great companies. I think what was exciting to them about us was, it was just different. We were taking a different approach to men's personal care, both in terms of brand and what we wanted to accomplish. They thought it'd be fun. It was something that excited them. It was really a matter of us talking to enough people to find that right person that was excited about the idea as much as we were.
Luckily, they were the right size. They could work quickly with us and didn't have to have huge budget requirements. It basically just came down to a matter of persistence. A lot of people give up after making a lot of first calls and it doesn't go their way. I know I was super frustrated after a few months and almost thought about not moving forward. You never know who's going to be on the line for the next call. That just happened to be the perfect partner for us.
"That's really important when finding that first key partner for any business. You need to find that person that understands the brand, is excited about the brand, and is willing to work on it with you."
Felix: You mentioned custom formulation. What was involved in the product development process?
Adam: For us, it starts with a product brief. What is the general idea of that product? Whether it's a wash or a lotion, a cologne, you name it. What is going to be different about this product? Maybe it's the form factor. For example, we have a solid cologne called Nut Rub. A lot of people have never heard of solid colognes. Traditional colognes are sprayed on. That's a differentiating factor there. Ball Guard is a lotion that dries as a powder. It's a powder. What makes that product different? What's going to make it exciting for a consumer and what's going to help it solve a pain point that they may be having.
Once you get that twist and edge to the product, then it's all about fine tuning. Looking at different ingredients and things that you think would help out. A lot of times we rely on the chemists because they know a lot more about individual ingredients and benefits than we do. But it's like, "Hey, we want these qualities in the product." Then the last thing is, "What do we want it to smell like?" We go through a ton of different fragrances. We have a fragrance house that sends us a bunch of different samples.
It's taking all of those things over the course of six months to almost a year on certain products and putting them all together and doing a lot of rounds of iteration and sampling. Typically it takes a little bit longer than what you'd like, but we found that the more effort and time that we put in upfront, the happier with the outcome on the backend we are.
Seek detailed feedback to inform product development
Felix: Talk to us about the amount of iterations it typically takes to create a product that’s ready for the market.
Adam: Ballwash took us about six months of iterations and going back and forth. You're your own worst enemy to where you could always say, "Could be a little bit better." Or, "Let's tweak one more thing." You could go nuts doing that. For me at the end, I think I had to ask myself, "Does it check all the boxes of the original product brief? Are other people outside of me excited?"
Testing with friends and family and showing them the product and getting real world feedback pretty early on is always something that we did out of the gate. It’s still something that we do, and it’s been really helpful. Otherwise, it's just hard to say, "When's this end point?" You really have to set up realistic guidelines, stick to your product briefs, and listen to your gut and the people around you.
Felix: Testing with friends and family is a big stage for a lot of entrepreneurs. Obviously, these people love you and want to support you. How do you make sure you’re getting the kind of feedback that will lead you in the right direction?
Adam: It's something you always got to be cognizant of. We just tested with a bunch of different friends and family members. It wasn't like one or two. We basically said, "Shoot it to us straight. We're starting a business and we really need your feedback. If it's not good, be specific about why you don't like it.” To that point, follow up with each person that tried it, to ask them specific questions. Did they like the way it lathered? Did they like the fragrance? If not, what did they not like about it?
It's about asking more pointed questions about what they did or did not like about the product instead of saying, "Here's Ballwash, what do you think?" And just hoping that they're going to give you honest feedback. We had friends and family that went both ways on it. "Is this serious, is this not serious? You guys are crazy. I love it." Getting as many people's feedback as possible is really important out at the gate.
Felix: I can imagine that led to some interesting conversations that you have never had before with family and friends.
Adam: One thing there too. I did run into some friends and family that didn't think it was the greatest idea. That's hard to take as somebody trying to start a business. I was glad that they gave me that feedback. That's when it comes down to your own conviction for the product and just wanting to keep going. That was something that was hard early on and I'm sure a lot of people face it. It's not friends and family saying, "Hey, this is great." Sometimes it's the other way. It's really that conviction of the product and making sure that you really want to launch the company that gets you to keep going.
An unexpected audience: Women
Felix: Can you recall some impactful changes to the product or even the marketing that came out of the feedback from friends and family?
Adam: My wife has been a huge sounding board for Ballsy, the whole way through. We have a huge female base of customers that buy the product for their guys–whether it be their husband, boyfriend. Going back to the balance thing, we want the brand to be very fun and approachable, but we never want it to be bro or macho or not inclusive. We want everyone to feel that the brand is a great unifier–the unifier being humor and fun. Just being ballsy in what you do in life.
My wife had been an amazing soundboard to get that female perspective, especially early on when we didn't have a lot of customers to talk to. To make sure I didn't have any blind spots when it came to the copy or just the way that the product looked.
Felix: Having a large female consumer base who are buying the product for the end user, a male, must have been interesting. How did that affect or inform your marketing strategy?
Adam: To be perfectly honest, I was very naive to the female customer base when we first launched. I figured we'd have some female customers, but it wasn't until we launched our first Facebook ads and we had a bunch of different ad sets set up, that the ad set targeting females blew up. It had a much higher ROAS and got me thinking more and more. There's a lot of females out there that buy personal care products for their guys or for their households. That was something that we had to really come to grips with quickly and pay attention to in our marketing.
Gifting is something we’ve done for that, that has really helped our business. We really lean into these gifting moments. For us that centers around Christmas, but also Valentine's Day. Again, going back to my wife and the female perspective, I was talking to her about Valentine's Day early on. How do you get a female to buy Ballwash and Nut Rub and Sack Spray for their guy for Valentine's Day. It doesn't seem like, "Here's these products, you have an issue?" It's more like, "Here are these products to help you." It shouldn't be like, "Hey, like you smell. Take care of yourself." It's like, "Hey, I got these really fun products for you."
The idea around that was to package all three of our products together in a giftable set. We use the slogan, "I'm nuts about you." It's this fun, gifting thing. She can give it to her guy and be like, "I'm nuts, about you." He laughs and he opens it up and then we explain why these products are so great. Around Christmas, we do another box that says, "Keep your jewels jolly." It's all about leading with the fun and getting people that have this excitement of like, "What is this?"
Inside the boxes–and this isn't something that we did out of the gate–but when you open up the flap of the box, it talks about each product and why they're great. Early on, people got this and they're like, "Oh, this is like a novelty or a gag." We quickly realized that we needed to do a really good job when that gift receiver gets it, by explaining to them, "Yeah, well this is fun, but here's why you need this, and here's why these are going to be great for you."
Optimizing on gifting to drive up sales
Felix: What else is involved when you’re gearing up for a gifting period?
Adam: Honestly, I would say the vast majority really is on these bundling and kitting, by using gift boxes that are very much themed for the holiday. For us, it's making this no brainer gift purchase of under $50. How can we package this up to where any customer can make this very quick decision and feel good about a gift? A lot of brands obviously lean into holidays and they put sales together and they'll maybe do a content shoot around products and it'd be themed that way.
We actually make a product in a box that is themed specifically for that holiday. It feels a bit more special and unique and something that you can only get during those holidays. Ever since we've done that, it has unlocked tremendous growth around those key gifting moments. The first holiday that we had it, we saw a lot of success not having this gift box or a holiday themed gift box. Since then, it's just been astronomical growth.
We've started to roll out holiday themed versions of our Ballwash. They'll have like limited edition sets. A Ballwash for Christmas basically is like a peppermint and pine scent. That's done really well. A step further down, is really just speaking to the female customer in the ad sets, in the ad copy. It's like, "Here's a gift for the both of you. We've solved Valentine's Day for you. Stop giving the same, lame gift." What's the problem that people usually have around gifting and how are you solving it for them? We speak very directly to that in those ads.
Felix: Are there other ways that you encourage gifting throughout the rest of the year?
Adam: Father's day specifically for a wife, giving it to her husband is another gifting moment for us. Outside of that, those are really the three key moments.
Felix: One thing I've heard works really well for products that are giftable, are these gift lists. Is that something that you focus your attention on?
Adam: We've organically shown up on a lot of just gift lists. That has worked pretty well. Since we've started to grow, we've got a PR team that tries to get us on a few of those. If you can end up on those lists it's definitely a net positive.
Felix: Speaking of Valentine's Day, you had mentioned one scary moment in your business where you had 1,000 packages go missing over Valentine's Day due to a distribution center losing power. Tell us more about what happened in that situation.
Adam: Absolutely. I'll say gifting is great for us, but the downside is if you get in the way of a customer receiving their Valentine's Day gift, it's a bad spot to be in. At Christmas consumers have a lot of gifts to give, but if it doesn't show up before Valentine's Day, typically they don't have another gift to send. It's a very stressful time for both customers and a brand trying to make sure that they get products in hand before that date.
Unfortunately, as a brand, as quickly as you can ship them out, sometimes things are just out of your hands. Mother nature is definitely one of those things. It was two years ago, we were leading up to Valentine's Day. We were about 10 days out and we were shipping out over 1,000 packages and we were getting closer and closer to Valentine's Day and we're getting more and more customer service emails saying, "Where's my package?" We're like, "It went out."
Basically we were looking at all of these tracking links and they would update once and they would just stop. We're just like, "Where are all these things going?" We didn't know if they were lost or what had happened to them. Our fulfillment center at the time couldn't really give us any answers. We just started trying to do right by the customer and we just started sending them another box. We sent out roughly 1,000 more boxes expedited shipping to people to get them there on time.
We come to find out that a USPS fulfillment or distribution center in Michigan lost power and somehow didn't relay that to anyone that would be privy to us. They sat in that distribution center for like three to four days, and then it got super backed up, obviously. All of those products got delayed. They didn't make it for Valentine's Day. Again, we did the right thing, we made sure everyone got it, but it was a very costly mistake to happen. It’s always the toughest when something like that happens outside of your hands as a business owner.
Felix: What happened with those packages? Did you get them back or did the customers receive two packages?
Adam: Most of the customers received two packages. A lot of them were super nice and said they could send them back or pay for them. We just let the customers have it and hope that that brand equity was built and then they’d come back for more, down the road.
Felix: You mentioned that you bootstrapped the business. Were there any scary moments early on relating to cash flow and managing finances?
Adam: As a bootstrapped business cash flow is always top of mind. Especially for us around Valentine's Day and Christmas, we go very hard during those moments. We basically take everything that we've made previously in the year, take out an inventory loan and then we put it all on red, and basically hope that it comes back in spades. We've been doing that now for about three years and it's done really well for us. We can really count on those gifting customers, we've proved out that segment of the business. It's always scary.
Is this going to be the year where it dries up and we've got all this money tied up in inventory? That's always scary. Honestly, thinking back to like our first POs, my first order was for 500 units. Then we sold out of that and then it was like, "All right, let's do 2,500." The POs just kept getting bigger. As they scaled up, so did the fear of, "What happens if these don't sell, and we're holding this big PO, to that invoice that we can't pay?" You just have to believe in the brand and continue to push forward. That's what we've done.
Felix: Are there ways that you've been able to be intelligent about what inventory to hold?
Adam: We basically use history. We looked back and said, "All right, we've sold out every single year, during these four months." We looked back on inventory, we looked back on what we've sold and we say, "How much do we think we can increase inventory based on what we saw in our cost per acquisition and remaining profitable on those purchases?" Add some to it, then we look at cash flow in general and say, "How much can we reasonably afford without putting everything at risk?" Somewhere in the middle is what we go with. Nothing that scientific to it, it's just using history and risk tolerance and using past market signals to forecast what we're going to do this year.
Listen to what your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) is telling you
Felix: You had mentioned different ad sets, different creative, different targeting. Talk to us about that. What's been your pait media strategy?
Adam: Paid media is a huge lever in our business. Facebook and Instagram, being the primary drivers. Really early on most of our ads were male focused and we had one female ad set. That one really seemed to pan out very quickly. It started to inform the rest of our ad sets and campaigns moving forward. That's a very small example of doing a bunch of tests, maybe some things that you didn't think about. You never know, you might get surprised and that becomes your main ad set. That's the way it's been for us.
We’ve used that as our first campaign example moving forward. Whether that's testing different copy, different types of creative such as static images, video, UGC and pairing that up with different copy, so different incentives in terms of different promotions to get customers in the door and get that first conversion. It's about having a decent library of both copy and creative content. It's trying different combinations of both of those and working on a test budget, then scaling up the ones that work and killing off the ones that don't.
We tried working with some Facebook agencies very early on and something that we were pretty frustrated with was the amount of time agencies would want just to continue to spend. "Just give it more time, the Facebook algorithm will figure it out." Myself and my partner, Brock, were pretty impatient with that. We'd give it a lot less time.
If we didn’t see success in the first three days of a campaign, we'd kill it off and move on to the next one. That's served us pretty well to date. Although over the years the Facebook algorithm has gotten better at figuring things out. That was something really early on that we paid a lot of attention to.
"It's about having a decent library of both copy and creative content. It's trying different combinations of both of those and working on a test budget, then scaling up the ones that work and killing off the ones that don't."
Felix: You’d look for success sooner than later, especially when you're bootstrapped and on tighter budgets.
Adam: Absolutely. The other thing that was important was that for the first year Brock and myself ran all of our Facebook ads in house. That gave us a lot of really good insight as to what performance baselines should be, what worked, and what didn't. An idea of some of the copy and creative that was successful. That way, when we did turn it over to an agency, we could really base what they were doing, versus what we had already done. If they weren't performing better than we were, and they're supposed to be specialized in this, it was very easy for us to make a decision regarding if it was working or not.
If you never ran your own Facebook ads and you're trusting solely an agency or somebody to run it for you, it's really hard for you to say what performance and success should look like.
Felix: What metrics do you pay attention to, that you recommend other people pay attention to, if you're running the advertising yourself?
Adam: We try to be profitable on first customer acquisition. Our return on ad spend (ROAS), is our key metric. We have an internal KPI of what the minimum or what our break even is on our ROAS. As long as it's hitting breakeven, we will spend and continue to scale it up as high as we can. Obviously, you're always looking to outperform, but for us it's always been about setting that baseline ROAS. If things are under it, then we will kill it off after giving it a little bit of time.
Felix: You mentioned this library of copy and creative that you like to pull from. How many assets did it take for you to get a good grasp of what's resonating?
Adam: We moved pretty quickly through different campaigns and ad sets, defining what would work. Then once we found a couple key ones that did work, it was all about scaling them up. Increasing budget, making sure that things are stable, where ROAS doesn't fall off, or your cost per acquisition spikes.
It was really that first year of internal key learnings. Brock and myself, we had run Facebook ads in the past, but we were by no means experts. To a lot of people that are launching their businesses for the first time, Facebook ads or Instagram ads can seem a bit scary. Honestly I was just going on YouTube and Skillshare and watching what other people were doing and learning as much as possible, so that I felt comfortable on Facebook to get that first year of learning in, while keeping costs down.
That's really important, especially for bootstrapped companies. Anyone that's starting their own company and has a limited budget should be doing some of these things out of the gate for themselves. There's so many tools out there now to get a good idea and at least get the ball rolling.
Marketing strategies to increase your AOV
Felix: When you have these campaigns, are you bringing them pretty much always to a product landing page? Where are you bringing them from the ad?
Adam: We test all. We test our homepage, product landing page and collections page. Around holidays, we do a gift bundles page. Traditionally, we found dropping people on our “Shop All” page has resulted in higher conversion rates and average order values (AOV). As they see, they take a few different products and add them to cart, it raises AOV, which then of course helps your return on ad spend.
I can't say that's the same for everyone. We have a lower price product, so we really need them to add a few products to their basket for the cost per acquisition to make sense. That's why the “Shop All” page has definitely worked for us. If you had a higher priced item, it probably makes more sense to drop them directly there. It's a product by product basis.
Felix: Are there any other things that you're doing along that customer journey on the way to check out that have helped increase the average order value?
Adam: Upsells all the way. First being product page upsell. If somebody adds our Ballwash, there'll be a popup that suggests two other products at a discount. One being our shower sponge, and then one being a cologne. Something that's a bit different than what they have in their cart. It wouldn't have been added to the cart though. On the cart page, we have a cart upsell. Again, one other supplemental item, typically at a discount, hoping that they'll add it there. We've also done a bit of testing with checkout upsells. So a post-purchase checkout upsell. We’re really trying to push that AOV every step of the way.
Felix: I think one of the concerns that people have regarding upselling prior to the purchase is that you might distract the customer, and they might end up reconsidering completing the purchase. Did you see that in your data?
Adam: We didn't. What I will say is we had three to four different kinds of upsells on the product page, and we scaled it back to two. It was a bit overwhelming for a customer to see so many things. It's just smart to be like, here's one product that makes a ton of sense as a cross sell to the product that's in the basket and then maybe one product that's a little bit different to get them going down a different avenue. Maybe they didn't realize that we had cologne.
We were always testing which products convert the best in the upsell. Immediately after implementing those upsells, our AOV increased. That's always been something that's worked well for us.
Creating a robust website: Subscriptions, demos and reviews
Felix: What about things like encouraging returning purchases. I also see that you have a subscription service. How has that worked for the business?
Adam: Subscription has been great. We've got over 10,000 “Ballscribers,” which is just fantastic because you can count on that revenue and you can see when it's coming in. That's a great baseline to know every month. We offer a discount and free shipping on that. We're always trying to drive first time customers, as well as past customers through email follow ups and flows, to get them to convert to a subscription.
Felix: I noticed on the product page that there's the one-time purchase and then also a savings if they decide to subscribe. Is that ongoing testing or has that proven to work, to get people to subscribe to the subscription service?
Adam: That's a really good call out. On the product page, we do have a one-time purchase and a subscribe and save option. We did not see any conversion drop-off by adding that there. The thing that I found interesting was, we tried first leading with the subscription as the default check, thinking that more people would leave it as a subscription and checkout as such. Then if they wanted to switch to a one-time purchase, they could.
We didn't see a huge uptick in subscriptions by going at it that way. What we saw was an increase in customer support tickets from people not realizing that they had added the subscription. It ultimately led to unhappy customers. We switched it back. We always lead with one-time purchases, but it's definitely there. It's very well called out that you get 20% off and free shipping to hopefully entice them to add it there.
The one thing that we found is, it's much easier to get somebody on their first purchase to subscribe, than it is to convert them down the road. We have a ton of customers that just like to buy when they want to buy. We've talked to some of them, and no matter how good the deal is, they just want to be able to purchase it when they want to. I view them as two separate types of customers. People that are open to subscriptions and people that aren't. There's some subscription burnout now with people that have had too many subscriptions in the past and they get these recurring charges that they're not happy with. That's why we decided to lead with the one-time purchase again.
Felix: I also noticed a video that looks somewhat like a product demo on your site. Have you seen results from adding that to your product page?
Adam: Yeah. At the end of last year, we added video to each product page. One, to kind of show how to use the product or again focus on what makes it special. Two, I think his video on shopping pages is just super engaging and it's not something like you said, a lot of people do. It's a differentiator. And three, I just think it makes the product feel more real. It's like, "Wow, this is actually how it works." Photos are obviously great and I've worked since the dawn of time, but video has just gives you a little bit more. We took the time to kind of shoot little product vignette videos for every page and it looks great. It seems to work well.
Felix: I also noticed tons of reviews. What's the process to collect and encourage people to leave reviews on the products?
Adam: It's literally just email follow-ups. We send an email two weeks after somebody has received the product. We give them enough time to try out the product and form an opinion. Then if they don't follow up on that email or send a review, we send a follow-up. Every request for review, has some sort of enticement for them to do so. If they just leave a review, they get 10% off. If they leave a video review, they get 15% off. Same thing with a photo. We're trying to get them to leave some user generated content (UGC), which is super powerful on review pages for other new customers to come on, land, and see other people that have gotten it, not just the brand. We entice customers to do that. It's a heavier lift on their end.
The tech stack that does it all
Felix: Do you use any specific apps to run that? In general what kind of apps do you use to help run the business?
Adam: We use Okendo for reviews. We had used stamped.io for a long time, and they were great as well. We moved over to Okendo because they've got a great Klaviyo integration, so we can track those review attributes directly to the customer in Klaviyo. If we want to follow up with them, whether they left a bad review or a good review, it's very easy to do that. We segment them very easily by those attributes. They've been a really good partner. The other thing I like about Okendo, is you can ask very specific questions about different attributes of your product. For us, it's like, "How does it smell? How long does it last? Overall value?" They do a really good job of capturing that.
For all the upsells and cross-sells that I was referring to, we use an app called Rebuy. We've used Rebuy and their team for the last year and they've been fantastic. If you're looking for cross-sells, upsells, I definitely recommend them. We also do some SMS messaging and we use a company called Postscript for that. They're great at just SMS campaign blasts. You want to do a promotion as well as abandoned cart campaigns or different just upsell flows or winbacks. We've got a lot set up there.
Then one that I'm really excited about–it's not really an app, it’s software that you can add onto your site, but it's not through the Shopify stores–is called Exit Intel. They are basically an email and SMS capture. We were using Privy for a long time. Privy's great, but they had promised some insane capture rates. I didn't believe them. I always get very apprehensive when people promise huge numbers in terms of anything.
We decided to give Exit Intel a shot and we were astounded with how well they have been able to increase our email and SMS capture rate on our homepage. We're seeing about just under 30% of visitors leave us their email or SMS, which is up from 10%, which we saw in Privy. I can't say enough good things about Exit Intel.
Felix: In these email follow-ups, once you've captured their email address or SMS, what do you typically send?
Adam: It's usually incentivized. We've got a wheel–a lot of people are using the spin to win feature. They've done a really good job of rebranding it and getting better engagement with it. It's a percentage off or free product, but it's typically a percentage off. Then the email follow-up on that has their coupon code. Then we've got an automated flow after that, like a welcome series.
Felix: Any other changes or any other tests or any other tweaks that you've made to the site over the years that have led to big changes or increases in conversions?
Adam: We have moved to a headless commerce site. We are on Shopify Plus for the transactions and backend. But we've moved to a headless build, which is basically if you think of a native app. Everything loads super quick. That's why we're able to do video. It might be harder for somebody just on the standard Shopify to have video load automatically. Same thing with the animated gifs on the product pages. The headless build has really helped us do that.
That said, it's very expensive out of the gate and not something that I would recommend anyone do immediately. You've got to build up the business quite a bit to want to move to that. But that’s really helped our site speed and overall conversion.
Felix: What would you say is going to be your biggest focus or goal for this year?
Adam: Our focus is turning our gift business or our gifting customers into recurring customers. We've got these massive tent poles, November through February. How do we get better and better about taking those gifting customers and turning them into lifelong Ballsy customers? That's our core focus