This is a place for thinking out loud, reflecting, and sharing ideas. Notes are a window into my process, thoughts, inspiration, and experiments. Explore visual gallery.

Over the weekend, I was thinking about Dana's growing appreciation for the brand Cuyana. Last year, I gifted her a personalized wallet for her birthday (bought in NYC) and this year, a new purse for Mother's Day—both of which she adores. However, Cuyana sees me as the customer, aka the one using these items.

After my first purchase, I started receiving emails from Cuyana, and after the recent purse purchase, they've been sending me frequent SMS messages. The latest message was refreshing; they asked me about my content preferences:

While this is a step in the right direction, Cuyana would get more value by inquiring at checkout whether the item was for me or someone else. They could then better cater the messaging to me (less frequent, focus on gifting) and perhaps even include a note in the package for Dana that offers her an incentive to join their newsletter.

I'm a ghost to Magic Spoon, and Dana is a ghost to Cuyana.

I enjoyed my time with the Recharge team and other partners in San Diego this week for ChargeX24. See my recap on LinkedIn here.

Recharge Partner Manager, Casey Coughlin (Left), Recharge VP of Revenue Development & Partnerships, Lindy Crea (Right)

Recharge has spent a decade powering subscriptions for 20,000+ brands, boasting over 100 million subscribers on their platform, which means they have access to a plethora of data. I'm happy to see them leverage their unique position to build products that better serve merchants through access to data insights, enriched customer experiences, robust analytics, and tools to guide strategic planning.

One of the highlights at ChargeX was Recharge’s announcement of Retain, a suite of products that, "work together to keep customers coming back at each stage of their subscription journeys—and, when they choose not to, to gather data on why and inform business decisions upstream." (Source)

Features include:

  • Personalized cancellation prevention, like unique product suggestions tailored to customer profiles, subscription preferences, number of orders, etc.
  • Flexible rewards and incentives (like credits, progressive discounts, and milestone gifts) to build long-term customer loyalty and repeat purchases.
  • Failed payment recovery using AI to proactively detect, diagnose, and resolve failed payments, reducing financial losses from passive churn.
  • Dynamic winbacks (coming soon) to re-engage churned subscribers with personalized offers and unique subscription perks on customized landing pages.

Beyond the announcements from Recharge, here are some additional takeaways:

  • Recharge's new SVP of Marketing, Jen Gray, introduced the concept of brands that are bought vs. kept. I loved this—everyone is always so focused on conversion, but that's just the beginning of the story. Are we adding tangible value? Is the unboxing memorable? Are customers guided on how to use the products effectively? The most successful brands seamlessly integrate their products into the customer's daily routine.
  • Author Erik Qualman pointed out that a lack of pushback often means you're not innovating. This was a powerful reminder to embrace risks and not shy away from potential failures.
  • I picked up on a subtle theme around subscription skips among merchant speakers. For some, like scent brand, Pura, they found that allowing customers to skip shipments was healthy for their business, despite the short-term drop in sales. It allowed customers to lean into seasonal preferences and they subscribed longer as a result. For others, skips signal a need for better customer education. One brand is currently embarking on a survey to understand why customers are skipping.
  • Love Wellness VP of Customer Experience, Amanda Kwasniewicz, talked through the journey of redesigning packaging for omnichannel success. It's interesting—brands who launch in DTC can control the full customer experience, but as soon as they enter other channels, the packaging has to work harder to tell the same story.
  • Amazon continues to be a topic in the DTC conversation (and I don't see this changing). Kwasniewicz spoke about how effective Amazon has been for Love Wellness. Many customers treat Amazon as a search engine and discover the brand there. The good news is most find the website later and subscribe.
  • OPositiv CMO, Martin Ye, shared how understanding customer behavior early on can be predictive of long-term engagement patterns. This is a great mindset for marketers—analyze cohorts, identify behavioral trends, and make more proactive, strategic decisions about your customer experience.


This post originally appeared in #78 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

Had to laugh at this post last week about how marketers think people buy and what really happens.

The truth is we often try to dream up the perfect sales funnel, imagining the ideal path from ad to purchase. But when we take off our marketer hat and think about how we actually shop, we know it's a whole different ball game. We discover brands in a blur of daily noise, and sometimes can't even pinpoint what led us to buy. This is especially true in the CPG world, where you can find products just about anywhere.

Let's take a look at some sample customer journey scenarios across channels:

Scenario 1: In-Store Discovery

  1. Customer visits a local retail store to pick something up.
  2. Customer notices a new product on shelf with eye-catching packaging.
  3. Customer scans QR code on packaging to read more about the product online. They join the mailing list for a coupon, but it doesn't come immediately.
  4. Customer adds the product to their cart but hesitates at checkout.
  5. Customer leaves the store without the product.
  6. Customer receives the coupon via email.
  7. Customer returns to store and purchases product with coupon.

Scenario 2: Amazon Browsing

  1. Customer visits Amazon to re-order household items.
  2. Customer stumbles upon a CPG product through 'Customers Also Bought' section.
  3. Customer reads positive reviews.
  4. Customer forgets about it for a week.
  5. Amazon sends a reminder email about the item on sale.
  6. Customer purchases the product during the sale.

Scenario 3: Social Media Influence

  1. Customer watches an influencer mention a CPG product in a story.
  2. Customer likes the post but takes no action.
  3. Customer sees a friend post about the same product a few days later.
  4. Customer comments asking for the friend's opinion.
  5. Convinced by the friend’s positive review, customer searches for the product online.
  6. Customer follows the product’s Instagram page and uses a promo code to purchase via social.

Scenario 4: Targeted Advertising

  1. Customer initially sees a video ad for a CPG product on YouTube but skips it.
  2. The ad follows the customer to Facebook and Instagram.
  3. Customer finally watches the full ad on Facebook.
  4. Customer visits the brand’s website but leaves without buying.
  5. Customer receives a targeted ad while reading a food blog.
  6. Customer clicks the ad, returns to the site, and ends up buying a starter bundle.

Scenario 5: Email Marketing

  1. Customer turns to Google for dinner ideas.
  2. Customer gets lost in a sea of interesting recipes on a blog and signs up for the newsletter. They happen to be on a blog by a CPG brand.
  3. Customer receives welcome flow but doesn't take action.
  4. Over several weeks, the customer receives emails highlighting product benefits and customer stories.
  5. Customer receives an email with a limited-time offer for free cooking tools.
  6. Customer decides to make a purchase using the promo.


This post originally appeared in #77 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

We recently onboarded a client with a Sanity x Hydrogen e-commerce architecture (aka headless); meanwhile, over the last few weeks, we've been fielding more questions from prospects about a headless approach to Shopify.

All this talk about headless reminded me of a client we began working with a few years back. At the time, 'headless' seemed to be a topic of discussion everywhere in e-commerce.

The client was pre-revenue with big ambitions. Our key point of contact was firm on a headless build. Unfortunately, the brand didn't see the initial sales they expected after launch. We had identified several opportunities for conversion rate optimization; however, much of our retainer time was consumed by simple tasks—like configuring Google Tag Manager and implementing subscriptions—that should have been quick but were complicated by the headless architecture.

After some strategic conversations with leadership, they decided to invest in consolidating the website under Shopify Plus; the project cost them more than a third of the initial website build budget a year before.

This experience reinforced what we recommended to this client from the start: Shopify Plus can handle most of a brand's needs. Rather than lead with a headless approach, identify what specific requirements make it worthwhile, then weigh the tradeoffs. Often, headless adds unnecessary complexity and cost.

All that said, headless can be a good investment for certain businesses, especially those with extensive large-scale operations or complex product catalogs. It decouples the website's front-end from the backend logistics, offering more flexibility. In essence, brands can leverage Shopify to manage products, inventory, customers, and orders, without having to work around the URL path and page template constraints. It can also offer performance enhancements by sidestepping the impact of Shopify and third-party app scripts.

Shopify continues to improve the platform to offer merchants more and more flexibility, like allowing for content modules to be re-ordered across templates and improving how product variants are managed on the front and backend. While it may not be possible to accomplish all that a headless approach offers, it can get you pretty far and in the long run, save significant costs on maintenance and support, allowing you to reallocate those funds to optimization and enhancements.


This post originally appeared in #76 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

Magic Spoon was all the rage in the DTC bubble when it launched in 2019, but it took a trip to Costco for me to finally pay attention.

About a month ago, the colorful, illustrated Magic Spoon packaging caught my wife Dana’s eye at Costco. She had been searching for a new cereal option after a salmonella scare with her usual go-to Quaker Oats cinnamon oatmeal squares. Although we both knew about Magic Spoon, we hadn't seen it in person before.

Dana scanned the box with Yuka, an app we use to assess the health impact of products we buy. For cereal, it scored well, so she decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, the next morning, Dana was unimpressed with the fruity flavor—the only one Costco sells.

I don't eat cereal, but with a barely touched box of two bags languishing in our pantry, I decided to give it a shot rather than let it go to waste. I was pretty blown away by the macronutrient breakdown—high protein, no sugar, and around 150 calories per serving—and I actually liked the taste, especially when mixed with some slices of bananas and fresh berries.

Over the next few weeks, I went back for more and quickly became a fan.

Feeling bad that Dana still hadn’t found a new cereal she enjoyed, I was motivated to get her on board with Magic Spoon. They have to have better flavors, I thought.

As an Amazon Prime member, the first place I looked was Amazon.

I learned more about the other flavors available, but all Amazon offered were packs of four. I could either get a pre-made bundle, which included the unwanted fruity flavor or commit entirely to one flavor. Neither option was appealing. I was also confused by the pricing, which listed the unit price for five boxes, although the description and imagery showed four.

Next, I checked the Magic Spoon website and was surprised to find they offered more than just cereal. But I was a man on a mission and went straight to ‘Shop Cereal.'

I was pleased to see more flavors than what was available on Amazon. It took me a while to find the ‘Custom Bundle’ option, buried in the dropdown, but it was a welcome discovery. It wasn't clear if I had to pay for shipping, so I added some flavors to the bundle and went to checkout, sad to find shipping was not free like it would have been on Amazon.

I couldn't easily find a store locator (it's in tiny text in the footer), so I turned to a Google search, whose product listings led me to Target where the price per box was significantly lower than elsewhere.

By the way, I did all of this searching on my phone while lying in bed.

I clicked the Target listing and popped over to their app, which showed a 20% off Target Circle cereal deal. As a Target Circle member and credit card holder, I was thrilled.

I browsed the flavors, cross-checking each with Yuka, and excitedly shared them with Dana as she got ready for bed.

She was excited and told me which ones she preferred. We bought four boxes of different flavors for pickup at my nearby Target.

After checking out, I thought to myself how fascinating it is that I’m becoming a Magic Spoon brand advocate, and yet they have no idea who I am or why I love their product. Chances are, I'll continue to buy from Target (or Costco if they expand their flavor options), and the cycle will continue.

So, what could Magic Spoon do?

For starters, instead of a small line of text on their box to check out their website, they could highlight a cool-looking branded QR code with a callout to learn more about their impressive nutritional profile. Maybe play off the nostalgic essence of the brand and throw in a free zebra bowl set via their loyalty program.

The QR code could drive traffic to a landing page that details what goes into the product and why it’s great, then offer an incentive—perhaps the zebra bowl set or free shipping might be more enticing than the $5 off they offer today.

After someone subscribes to their list, they could ask why they’re interested in Magic Spoon. What drew them in?

They could build a drip campaign via email/SMS that eventually drives customers to shop in retail if they don’t purchase online, even offering a coupon.

The website should highlight the store locator more prominently. Sure, Magic Spoon likely wants to drive DTC sales, but in reality, people like me will explore all available options. Instead of creating friction, they should make it easy to find products where it’s most convenient.

The big differentiator of shopping DTC is the build-a-bundle option, which is currently buried. Make it sing from the homepage! If they want to drive sales of their cereal bars, I'd also integrate them into the build-a-bundle option.

Instead of upselling bars in the DTC mini-cart, they could discount them with a cereal purchase or provide a sample to add to an order. If they believe in their product, people will love it and come back to buy more.

This is just the beginning of what's possible.

As a CPG food and beverage brand in 2024, it's enough to ensure your brand is appealing across all channels, but to understand how customers behave and connect the dots between those touchpoints. Failing to engage with and understand customers is a missed opportunity for growth, learning, and impact.


This post originally appeared in #75 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

Someone recently asked me what sets the e-commerce teams of successful brands apart. Reflecting on my experience at Barrel over the last 11 years, here are some qualities I've observed among the strongest teams:

They're committed to continuous website improvement. Whether with an in-house team, consultant, or agency, they prioritize making their websites user-friendly and fast, from baseline e-commerce best practices to mobile UX to site navigation to checkout.

They pay attention to key metrics and dig in to identify trends. They seek out the 'why' behind every 'what' vs. making impulsive, reactive decisions.

They don't try to reinvent the wheel. They leverage Shopify and its ecosystem of apps and tools to minimize operational costs while maximizing efficiency and creating the best brand and customer experience.

They understand there's no end to understanding their customers. They regularly engage in interviews and surveys to gather customer feedback and gather insights to improve their products and services.

They make all customers feel heard and appreciated. Whether through high-touch customer service interactions, personalized experiences, loyalty, referral programs, and the like.

They recognize the importance of a robust email/SMS strategy. They prioritize segmentation to create communications that resonate with customers' preferences and interests.

They think strategically about where they drive marketing traffic, leveraging insights to create target landing pages and experiences for campaigns.

They consider every channel where customers might find their products, ensuring there's a cohesive connection between these experiences. They make sure there's always a path back to their website to engage and learn more.

They know who they are as a brand but are never afraid to challenge this notion. They lead with an open mind and are always open to experiment. They continually explore their place in the market and how they can deliver value to their customers, always willing to adapt and learn.

All in all, the secret to their success isn't just what they do but how they approach their entire operation with a mindset that embraces continuous learning, efficiency, and a deep commitment to customer engagement and satisfaction.


This post originally appeared in #74 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

Many clients come to us after scaling down or pausing their marketing efforts completely. Restarting those efforts without a solid foundation is risky, a move that can cost more than expected.

Even in scenarios where marketing seems to be hitting its stride—think high click-through rates and a surge in traffic—the reality is that these efforts are futile if your website isn't ready to make the most of these visits.

I was on a call this week with a friend and marketer, Peter Fusco, who put it something like this:

The quality of the invitation (your marketing) to the party (your website) means nothing if the party fails to meet expectations. Guests (potential customers) will exit as swiftly as they enter.

If you find yourself in party planning mode (or, in our world, website optimization), here are some suggestions on where to start:

Ad > Website Synergy: The destination (homepage, landing pages, etc.) you're driving traffic to should nicely align with your ad's messaging, content, and strategy that captured a user's attention in the first place. Otherwise, it's like walking into a sushi restaurant and finding the menu is full of tacos and burritos.

Optimize for Product Storytelling: Ensure the narrative around your product is clear and compelling across all pages—be it the homepage, landing pages, or product pages. Communicate the unique value your product offers and how it delivers on the specific needs of your customers.

Compelling Incentive: Avoid defaulting to an email pop-up immediately upon site arrival. Instead, look at time spent on the site and navigation patterns to identify when might be most effective, such as upon exit intent. Offer something genuinely enticing to encourage newsletter sign-ups (discount, free sample, e-book, etc), and don't hesitate to gather additional information like user interests.

Navigation: Don't neglect your navigation. Keep it simple and focus on what jumping-off points make the most sense for visitors. Time and time again, we see folks land on a website and open the navigation within seconds. It's a quick way (or should be) for visitors to get familiar with the brand and what they offer. If your focus is e-commerce, don't fluff up the top nav items with brand storytelling pages, events, or a neglected blog. We've seen it all.

Automation: Set up at least a basic welcome email/SMS flow for new sign-ups. For a more refined approach, segment users based on interests, location, etc., and tailor a more personalized flow. Ensuring you have essential retargeting flows like Abandoned Cart in place is also essential.

Upselling/Cross-Selling: New visitors will want to familiarize themselves with your offerings. Facilitate that exploration! Show them complementary products and the broader catalog through dynamic upsells and cross-sells throughout the site—from product detail pages to the cart and checkout. Don't forget to include a module for Recently Viewed, as well. Make it easy for them to shop!

Mobile Optimization: Prioritize a clean, simple mobile experience that's easy to navigate and doesn't bury information behind endless scrolling and giant spacing.

Speed: Site speed is non-negotiable. A common pitfall affecting speed is oversized images, alongside the clutter of unused apps. A streamlined, lightning-fast website is essential.

Once you have a good foundation in place, make sure you have a straightforward system for tracking key metrics. We embrace simplicity, often leveraging a basic Google sheet that compiles data from platforms like Shopify, Google Analytics, and relevant third-party apps. This approach allows us to monitor how traffic navigates through our clients’ sites, pinpoint where drop-offs happen, observe conversion rates, and whatever else is important for the client's business. Tools like Microsoft Clarity are invaluable for deeper dives into user behavior, such as scroll depth and heatmap analysis.

Skipping these basics and jumping straight into marketing can be like setting money on fire. Remember, just because the invite is incredible doesn't mean the party will be a hit. Ensure your foundation is solid, so when you do invest in marketing, it leads to real, measurable growth.


This post originally appeared in #73 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Oren Epstein this week, the founder and CEO of BIO RAW, a fresh, organic meal delivery service based in Canada. They also offer other products like dressings and bite-sized fresh snacks.

What struck me from my conversation with Oren was not only his passion but also his dedication to improvement and commitment to understanding and learning from his customers.

For starters, when Oren launched BIO RAW in 2017, he attended over 300 events in the first year, using it as a means to learn as much as he could from customers first-hand. Talk about hustle.

When the pandemic hit, he didn't let the obstacles slow him down. He used the time to go deeper, asking questions like, what value am I bringing my customer? How else could BIO RAW serve them? He didn't hire a strategy firm or conduct a focus group, though.

Oren reached out to the top 50 customers to engage in real, meaningful conversations. He sent them products and spent an hour on calls with every one of them, unpacking their wants, needs, lifestyles, and where BIO RAW fits in.

The insights that emerged from these conversations were more valuable in shaping Oren's strategy than any market research report could offer. For their customers, BIO RAW's offerings are not about eating a strictly vegan diet but more a mark of health and quality. Oren refers to it as a "healthy checkmark" in their weekly meals.

He also learned about the versatility of the meals, appreciated by brides-to-be and busy moms alike, who loved the convenience and nutritional value. With the generous portion size of meals, many customers even chose to integrate them across several meals or found other uses like making a stir-fry. Especially for parents, the nut-free and gluten-free options were a hit, offering peace of mind and simplicity in meal prep.

Funny enough, only one of the customers Oren spoke to was vegan, and very few seemed concerned about the organic label. Both were critical for Oren when building the brand. It reminded me of how I felt sharing my music as a songwriter. Every song might have a deep meaning for me, but for the listener, it's about their story.

In the end, Oren learned that BIO RAW's value is in its convenience, quality, and a low-stress, nutritious solution to the eternal question, "What's for dinner?"

My conversation with Oren was a powerful reminder of what happens when you take the time to talk to your customers. Not just surveys or feedback forms, but actual conversations


It's easy to get caught up in what we think our customers want or need. I guess sometimes it takes a crisis to remind us of the simple truth that our customers can and will tell us everything we need to know if we're willing to listen.

Whether you're a marketer, running CX, or leading e-commerce, when was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with your customers? You might be surprised by what you learn.


This post originally appeared in #72 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

Many of our clients have continually seen a rise in customers browsing from mobile. If you look at the statistics, you'll find that something like 60% of consumers shop on mobile devices these days. Myself included! However, it's important not to generalize. Statistics and anecdotes don't account for the unique behaviors of every brand's customer base.

A good example is a brand we work with in the supplement space. Their demographic skews older, and they're happy with that, but that also means that desktop and table-sized devices are all the rage. Our deep dive into their analytics told the same story. It wasn't that the mobile experience should be ignored; however, it wasn't core for their audience.

While the foundational elements of e-commerce best practices—engaging content, effective conversion tactics, strategic cross-selling/upselling, and brand storytelling—were still important, there were other aspects of the website we had to tailor to this audience's needs.

Our design team typically takes a mobile-first approach, but instead, they began with tablet sizing, ensuring special attention to all aspects of the website at this screen size before designing the rest of the experience. Other considerations included avoiding common UX iconography for key actions, increasing font and button sizes, and fine-tuning copy to leave nothing to interpretation.

The primary lesson from this experience? It's critical to understand the habits and preferences of your audience and be open to how these insights might impact your approach. Success in e-commerce comes from meeting your customers exactly where they are, ensuring their online shopping experience is comfortable and satisfying.


This post originally appeared in #71 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

In my presentation for The Food Institute webinar, I shared a framework on how food and beverage brands can maximize their online presence and drive growth across channels.

A core component of this strategy is ensuring the brand's website adds value for the customer. Whether or not the brand sells online, their website is a platform to engage, inform, and connect with their customers.

Seven Questions

If you're working in food and bev, here are seven essential questions your brand's website should answer:

1) Product USPs: "What makes this product unique?"

It seems like every day, there's a new brand entering the space, claiming to be the best. While customers may be on the lookout for a new favorite, navigating the options is arduous.

Your website should clearly articulate the unique selling propositions that make your product stand out, distinguishing what makes it special compared to others. Is it the innovative blend of flavors, the health benefits, or the meticulous craft behind its creation? Highlight how your product not only meets the standard but sets a new one.

2) Ingredient 101: "How do you source ingredients?"

Customers are increasingly mindful of what they consume. The story of how and where you source your ingredients can be as compelling as the flavors themselves.

Customers are not just asking "What's in this product?" but "What makes it healthier and better for me?" Address these questions head-on. If your ingredients are safer, your sourcing more ethical, or your nutritional profile more beneficial, these details are not mere facts - they are the narrative that elevates your product from a commodity to a lifestyle choice.

Use your website to reassure customers about the quality and safety of the ingredients, giving them confidence in the choices they make for themselves and their loved ones.

3) Recipes: "Looks delicious, but what do I do with it?"

Despite how straightforward you might think your product usage is, there are always creative ways to spice it up and inspire customers. A seltzer may make the perfect cocktail, a cookie dough the perfect brownie.

Your website should provide innovative recipes and usage ideas that show the versatility of your products. Encourage and feature user-generated content to celebrate how customers enjoy your products, encourage repeat buying, and inspire a community of like-minded food explorers.

4) Store Locator: "Can I buy this at my local grocery store?"

When it comes to food and beverage, customers aren't always willing to wait for a delivery. Or maybe they can't—they have a dinner party coming up, or are craving a treat.

Your website should cater to this need with a store locator that's easy to use and up-to-date, providing a fast solution for those last-minute purchases. Whether they first found your product through Amazon or word-of-mouth, customers will appreciate a straightforward way to find out where they can buy your products locally - especially when time is of the essence.

5) Customer Reviews: "They seem healthier, but do they taste any good?"

Flavor is king in the food industry. Potential customers are looking for confirmation that your product taste as good as it looks when they can't confirm themselves. What better way to guide them to hear from those who have tried it?

Including customer reviews on your website provides authenticity and can sway those who are undecided. If you gather details from customers, like food allergy or dietary preferences, these insights will be that much more helpful to future customers.

6) Brand Storytelling: "I've never heard of this brand, are they legit?"

Your website should go beyond your products and take your customer's on a journey through your origin story. New customers might stumble upon your products and wonder about your credibility.

In a choice between a familiar brand and a newcomer, your story can be the deciding factor. Whether your packaging caught their eye or they're intrigued by your product's features, your brand story can turn curiosity into confidence and, ultimately, loyalty.

Your website is your chance to share your origin, mission, and values, and to highlight all that's brought you to today.

7) Product Finder: "They offer a lot of options, which is right for me?"

Help customers navigate through your product range with a product finder feature. It’s an engaging way to guide them to the ideal product that suits their needs, whether it’s based on flavor preference, dietary restrictions, or intended use.

The product finder is more than a utility; it's a personalized shopping experience. By helping customers pinpoint exactly what they need, you're not just selling them a product; you're providing an experience that adds value by making their choices easier.

The way I see it...

Imagine a customer standing in the grocery aisle, debating between the comfort of a familiar brand and the intrigue of yours. They Google your brand and end up scrolling through your website.

Their decision rests on your ability to make an impact and add value. A website that fails to answer their lingering questions may leave them reluctant to break from habit. But a comprehensive digital presence can be the gentle nudge they need to take a chance with you.


This post originally appeared in #70 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

Getting to the heart of why and when people cancel their subscriptions is key to keeping your customers around longer. Sure, no one loves to see a subscriber go, but each cancellation is a chance to tweak your model and make your subscription even better for everyone.

Here are three simple ways to get started:

1) Conduct a Cohort Analysis

First, conduct a cohort analysis, breaking your subscribers into groups based on their subscription start date. Look at what was happening around those times and consider how it might have influenced their decision to sign up.

For instance, running a big promotion for first-time subscribers may have brought a lot in, but if they're bailing after a couple of months, it might not be the win you thought it was. Keeping an eye on different cohorts and how they behave over time can help you understand what keeps people engaged and subscribed.

2) Figure Out Why People are Leaving

Next, look at the top reasons people are hitting the cancel button (and double-check that the reasons presented to subscribers make sense with what you're offering). Brainstorm ways to tackle each issue head-on.

Say you're a beauty brand and you notice a lot of folks are dropping out because they ended up with too much product. This could be your cue to introduce more flexibility in subscription management and cadence but also highlight an opportunity to reinforce proper product usage recommendations to customers.

Subscription platforms like Recharge allow you to create cancellation flows that map to different use cases and work to keep subscribers engaged. Churn Buster helps create more sophisticated cancellation flows by introducing more opportunities for automation and testing different offers in the same flow.

3) Talk to Your Customers

Never underestimate the power of a good chat. Maybe it's target outreach via email or even jumping on a call. Making regular customer interviews part of what your customer service team does is a fantastic way to continually gather useful insights about your brand. But when it comes to customer who've already decided to leave, talking to them can be even more enlightening.

Finding out why and when a customer decided to cancel—maybe they were planning to all along, or a friend tipped them off about another brand—can give you clues you'd never get from just a cancellation form. Reaching out shows you care about keeping customers happy and can lead you to new ideas on how to make your subscription even better.


This post originally appeared in #69 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

It's no secret that video content is a powerful tool for brand engagement. The Vine era taught us many things. For one, it taught us that even 6 seconds of video is enough to capture someone's attention and inspire them to take action.

While we're seeing social platforms creeping into the world of e-commerce (and thriving), we've also seen success with helping our clients bring video experience to e-commerce with platforms like Tolstoy.

Tolstoy began with a simple pop-up on an e-commerce website homepage that let brands share an interactive video experience. It seemed simple, and yet it quickly made an impact, keeping users more engaged for longer sessions. For founder-led brands, it became a unique way to invite customers into the brand, letting them hear directly from the founder and feel more connected to the brand.

Since its inception, Tolstoy has evolved to provide brands with numerous opportunities for engaging with customers through video, both on their shopping journey on-site and beyond.

Here are a few examples of how we've helped our clients get value out of Tolstoy:

Sweet Loren’s founder, Loren Castle's battle with cancer is central to the brand's origin, ethos, and product. Tolstoy’s interactive video module was instrumental in bringing her story to customers, offering them a chance to directly hear from Loren, pose questions, and gain deeper insights.

We also used Tolstoy’s embedded stories feature to integrate recipes and baking tips into product pages, offering shoppers inspiration as they explore products.

For Pavise, a new skincare brand, demonstrating community engagement and product efficacy was critical for launch. Through Tolstoy’s video quizzes and shoppable UGC (User Generated Content) embeds, we were able to capture the brand's community on their website, allowing customer to learn, discover more about the brand, and hear directly from other customers.

Two Blind Brothers, a not-for-profit fashion brand dedicated to finding a cure for blindness by donating 100% of their profits to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, offers a 'Reserve Collection' exclusive to customers who have purchased the Shop Blind box. This collection's allure lies in the quality and fit of each item. Their mission has cultivated a passionate community eager to share their brand experiences on social media. Tolstoy’s embedded videos across product detail pages and landing pages have been instrumental in bringing these customer stories to life, showcasing product details without compromising site speed or performance.

See here for more on how we help clients implement Tolstoy, or check out Tolstoy's website for their full suite of products.


This post originally appeared in #68 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

I recently had a conversation with a prospective food and beverage client that sparked some ideas I thought worth sharing. They started their journey on Amazon several years ago and have been doing incredibly well. Yet, despite their success, they're struggling to figure out the next step for growth. They have an e-commerce presence that makes up a small portion of their business, and they've set their sights on retail.

While growing their e-commerce channel may not be realistic in the short term, or desirable for that matter, it can be an incredible tool for fueling growth across all channels. Even for brands with no e-commerce, their website can serve the same purpose.

In my discussions with this client, I shared some thoughts on building a foundation outside of Amazon to help them grow as a brand and expand into new channels. There's a lot more to this, but it's a good place to start.

1) Deepen Customer Connections

The first opportunity is to transform one-time Amazon buyers into loyal brand advocates. The challenge? Amazon shares no information with you about your customers! A way around this is to create a direct line from unboxing to your website—think inserts or QR codes that offer incentives like a loyalty program, gifts, trials, or future discounts. Sometimes, it can be enough to just ask for feedback!

Whichever path you choose, the path should lead customers to a personalized landing page that mirrors the messaging and imagery of the incentive, provide more content, and prompt them to give you more information (email, of course, but perhaps other questions like, what are your favorite flavors?).

As you build this list of customers, setting up automated email and SMS campaigns can turn a one-time visit into a series of engagements, all while helping you better understand your actual customers beyond demographics.

For brands like the one mentioned above, integrating tools like Buy with Prime—which allows customers to buy with their Prime accounts on other platforms such as Shopify—could simplify direct purchases from your site while providing you valuable customer data that normally isn't available via Amazon.

2) Elevate the Website Experience

As you develop new customer connections, your website traffic will gradually get more traffic. With more insight into your customers, this is a good time to re-assess how your website communicates your brand story, educates customers, and showcases your product.

Improving your website could involve several different initiatives. Some areas we often help clients with are refining UX and design patterns, enhancing product detail pages, improving recipe content, and implementing a store locator for those interested in shopping in person. The goal is to make your website a destination that effectively reflects your brand and appeals to your customer's wants and needs.

3) Looking Ahead: Strategic Growth

With a solid base of loyal customers and an optimized website, you're well-positioned to start thinking about the future. Whether it's investing in paid marketing campaigns that drive retail velocity, launching a subscription service for hassle-free repeat purchases, or designing interactive quizzes that help customers find the perfect product, there are all sorts of possibilities. The key is to keep evolving.

The advantage now is having an engaged audience at your disposal. These folks are a direct market for targeted campaigns but can also be a valuable source of feedback and input for future product development and brand direction.

This ongoing engagement can ensure your brand keeps up with the pace of change and stays ahead in the competitive landscape, continuously adapting to fresh insights, trends, and opportunities.


This post originally appeared in #67 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

You've probably heard that collecting zero-party and first-party data is critical for growing a brand's e-commerce channel, but depending on who you talk to, it can seem like these terms are interchangeable. One and the same!

But are they? What's the difference?

Zero-Party Data

An easy way to think about zero-party data is that there's no one at the party but the user. In other words, zero-party data is any information a user shares with a company voluntarily.

In practice

  • Quizzes: These come in all shapes and sizes. In e-commerce, they're often used to guide users to products, while in the background, the brand can gather more information on its customers. We built a quiz for our client and children's food brand, Once Upon A Farm, that guides customers to products based on their children's needs and preferences.
  • Email/SMS Forms: Any time you've given your email or phone number to a brand in return for exclusive access, a discount, a free gift, or to stay in the know, you've shared zero-party data!
  • Post-Purchase Surveys: Following a purchase, some brands will ask customers why they purchased or other questions about their preferences. These surveys are zero-party all the way.

Why does it matter?

Zero-party data is a powerful asset for brands for several reasons. It gives them insights into their customers to better understand who buys their products vs. making assumptions about their target demographic. In addition, they can use this information to create more personalized experiences, whether on the website or through channels like email.

For example, an active lifestyle brand can segment its email list based on customers' activity preferences and only send communication with content and products they're likely to enjoy.

All in all, zero-party data is core to how a brand can build more meaningful customer relationships.

First-Party Data

Unlike zero-party data, companies collect first-party data without users necessarily being aware. It's typically collected via a pixel or piece of code on the company's website and gathers information about them, such as IP address, and their interactions.

In practice

  • Abandoned Cart: I'm sure we've all bought something we left in our carts because the brand followed up via email to remind us. If we're lucky, they sweetened the deal with a discount. First-party data at its best!
  • Smart Product Recommendations: A must-have for most brands selling online is smart upsells and cross-sells. This means showing customers relevant products throughout their shopping journey. Whether in the cart, a product page, or even post-purchase, tools like Rebuy use first-party data to show customers products they're most likely to be interested in buying.
  • Personalized Web Experiences: If you've ever returned to a website to find it's evolved to fit your interests, first-party data is likely how they made it happen, using a mix of your past browsing behavior, location, and demographic information. Nosto is a solid option for brands looking to personalize their e-commerce site in this way.
  • Retargeting: When you visit a website once, look at a product, and then feel like the brand is following you across every social channel, we call that retargeting. Retargeting is made possible via first-party data gathered from various snippets of code placed on brand's website from the relevant social channel.

Why does it matter?

It's probably clear from the examples above why first-party data is invaluable for brands. It not only enables brands to personalize their experiences for users, it also keeps the conversation going after they've moved on to another channel.

Go to Both Parties!

While there's clear benefits to both zero-party and first-party data, the real magic happens when they work together. With the correct systems set up, brands can gather all of this customer data into one central platform, like Klaviyo. From there, they can get smarter about meeting customer's needs while also creating more personalized and engaging experiences that will resonate.

In practice

Originally built as a review platform, Okendo has expanded its offering to help brands turn customers into what they call superfans. Their products leverage both zero-party and first-party data to make this happen. Check out my post "The Power of Customer Data With Okendo" on how this comes to life in practice.


This post originally appeared in #66 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

Shopify is back with another release of over 100 product releases and announcements in their Winter 2024 Edition. Updates range from improved merchandising to streamlined business ops, and enhanced marketing and development.

Aptly entitled Foundations, this release is a good representation of Shopify's continued commitment to developing a scalable platform built for businesses at all growth stages, from first-time entrepreneurs to the largest brands in the world.

Rather than attempt to turn 100+ updates into a short list of 10, I'll do my best to summarize each section within the Shopify 2024 Winter Edition—hopefully giving you a digestible overview that makes it easy to jump into areas of interest.


  • The first pool of updates focuses on making it easier for merchants to create a seamless shopping and discovery experience for customers.
  • With the new Combined Listings app, merchants can better showcase product variants without complex dev work. Each product variant can have its own description, photo gallery, and URL within a single product listing.
  • In addition, Shopify will now support up to 2,000 variants per product (finally!). They've also improved variant management, making it easy to create/organize products, upload variant swatches, and showcase front-end filters.
  • Shopify Plus merchants will also gain access to a new AI-powered storefront search app built to understand customer intent and show relevant results.
  • Other updates include new discount types, higher limits on bundles, an improved performance dashboard, schedulable gift cards, new checkout APIs, and full access to Shopify subscriptions.

View all 'Conversion' updates.


  • Shopify's focus on B2B and POS is alive and well, with updates across both channels and more.
  • On the POS side, updates include new hardware, expanded availability of POS Go, and enhanced management features for retail operations. A favorite of mine is the new POS full-featured display, allowing merchants to create a more branded POS experience.
  • For B2B merchants, enhanced permissions, a new theme optimized for wholesale, and headless commerce capabilities underscore Shopify's effort to streamline operations and create a B2B customer experience with the same intentionality as DTC.
  • I look forward to seeing these worlds emerge more and more in the coming years. I recently shared some thoughts on the possibilities here.

View all 'Channels' updates.


  • At a high level, the marketing updates focus on leveraging Shopify data for improved retargeting capabilities and new tools for measuring ad performance.
  • I'm often surprised how many brands are unaware of the power of Shopify Audiences, helping brands target relevant customers. With new advancements in its retargeting and performance capabilities, I hope to see it become more embedded in brand marketing efforts.
  • Shop Cash (available in the Shop app) is now Shop Campaigns, and Shopify is investing in it as a tool for brands to attract buyers. For now, brands can leverage campaigns via the Shop app, but Meta and Google are next.
  • The Shop app experience is also improved, from shoppable videos to lead capture. Check out my post for more details on the power of the Shop app.
  • For brands leveraging Shopify Collabs, a creator platform, there are several improvements in how brands identify and work with creators.
  • Other updates include more integrated reviews across Shopify platforms (app/collective), improved customer cohort reporting (thank you!), and customer data syncs from third-party marketing channels like Klaviyo.

View all 'Marketing' updates.


  • Operations updates cover a wide range, all focused on creating efficiencies for merchants.
  • One feature I'm sure we'll be hearing more about in the coming months is photo editing capabilities housed under Shopify's AI suite, Shopify Magic. When it's live, merchants will have the power to clean up product photography and even manipulate backgrounds within the Shopify backend.
  • Beyond photo editing, Shopify Magic can also help write everything from entire pages of copy to SEO-optimized product descriptions.
  • Sidekick promises to be a meaningful advisor for everything from business advice to e-commerce insights, but it still hasn't arrived. You can sign up for early access on the Winter Edition landing page.
  • Shopify Capital introduces new financing options like Capital Loans, Cash Advances, and Lines of Credit, along with Shopify Balance's annual yields on idle cash—all designed to support the financial needs of Shopify merchants.
  • Other updates include improved bulk data management to populate new stores and expand faster, turnkey tax filing tools, and an iOS widget for the Shopify app that showcases commerce insights. I use the app occasionally to access client storefronts and can imagine this will be a welcome upgrade for e-commerce managers.

View all 'Operations' updates.


  • For developers, there are a bunch of updates across storefronts, extensibility, apps, and the developer experience—all aimed at improving store customization and development efficiency.
  • Enhancements include reusing theme blocks without redundant work, nesting blocks for deeper design customization, and a set of new block presets to start building with a stronger foundation.
  • Hydrogen updates focus on improved performance insights and testing practices along with a streamlined deployment process.
  • New checkout and customer account extensibility features provide expanded styling options, validation functions, and the ability to build more personalized shopping experiences, now with the support for building extensions directly into customer accounts. This last feature could prove to be pretty powerful, turning a customer's account into an experience in and of itself. I recommend watching this video if you're curious to learn more.
  • Other updates include more complex discounting options via Shopify Functions and a new store credit API enabling merchants to issue, track, and report accurately on store credit.
  • Lots more in this section! If you're a Shopify dev, you'll enjoy digging in.

View all 'Developer' updates.

As an agency working in e-commerce and on the Shopify ecosystem for almost 15 years, we're constantly evolving to help clients keep up with customer needs and succeed. This release is, yet again, a lot to digest, but it feels good to see Shopify keeping up the pace of innovation. As always, I'm eager to see what the future brings.

This post originally appeared in #64 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.