Notes

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.

Our team at Barrel has been working with Recharge for years now, back when it took custom code to do anything unique outside of a traditional subscription program.

Since then, Recharge has taken the time to listen to customers and gather feedback to evolve the platform to address their business needs more effectively.

While their core offering still revolves around subscriptions, Recharge offers more of a complete retention platform aimed at increasing LTV than ever before.

Let's look at an example:

A merchant uses Recharge to design a subscription program where customers can build a bundle to mix and match flavors.

Customers can seamlessly update their subscriptions via the Recharge Affinity portal, swapping out flavors as they want.

The merchant can spin up changes and modify the portal experience in minutes vs. weeks.

While subscriptions are gaining steam, the merchant sees an opportunity to engage their best customers with an exclusive offering. They use Recharge to launch membership, giving customers access to exclusive content, monthly products, and an online community.

As membership takes off, the merchant notices bundle subscribers tend to churn around three months. The merchant needs a way to keep subscribers engaged until month five. They know customers who subscribe for this long tend to stick around.

The merchant taps into Recharge Flows to design a series of automations that recognize the subscriber's place in their journey and keep them engaged, starting with these areas:

They differentiate between subscribers canceling at months two, three, and four with different messaging and incentives to continue subscribing.

They surprise customers with a gift at month three and thank them for subscribing.

They run an A/B test to see if customers prefer the gift or store credit to spend more.

The credit wins out, so they pair it with a targeted upsell, further driving LTV and loyalty.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 162 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

Remember when your cell phone felt sacred? A private little world in the palm of your hand. You only gave your number to your inner circle of friends and family.

Times have changed, though. Yes, you get robocalls, but your inner circle now includes the brands you love. You welcome them into your world until they abuse your invitation. They mean well but often come off more like a friend who wants you to know what they're doing every second of every day.

Maybe unlike your friend, there’s still hope for brands. If used and not abused, SMS can be lucrative for brands and valuable for customers.

Here is some SMS automation inspiration to get things rolling, build trust with your customers, and most importantly, maintain a spot in their contact list.

  1. Welcome Series: When someone joins your list, send them something to say thanks. Reinforce your story or mission, value prop, and/or hook them up with an exclusive offer.
  2. Order Confirmation: Give customers peace of mind with an order confirmation, letting them know they're good to go. Don't try to sell them more stuff.
  3. Abandoned Cart: Remind customers about what they were interested in but left behind. Send one within an hour of abandonment. Depending on the brand, you might follow up with a discount or alternative product later via email if the abandoned cart message doesn't do the trick.
  4. Upcoming Subscription Order: Let customers know they'll be charged for another order. Some brands shy away from this, worried it will create churn. It actually does the opposite. Give customers a chance to make changes like delaying or pausing. You'll gain their trust, and they'll stick around longer.
  5. Order Tracking: Don't make customers search through their email to find their order status. Use a tool like Wonderment to keep them up to speed throughout the entire post-purchase experience.
  6. Order Delivered: Once the order is delivered, help customers get the most out of their purchase with how-to videos. Or make them feel good with content about how it was made or something similar.
  7. Cross-Sell: I don't recommend asking customers to buy more immediately after their purchase unless it's discounted and/or complementary. Otherwise, wait a few days before you suggest they buy again.

One more thing. Yes, most people love a good discount, but not every. single. day!!! If you want to let SMS subscribers in on exclusive promos or give them early access to new releases, that’s fine. But please, stay chill. Let them miss you.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 160 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

In 2023, product upsells and cross-sells are considered table stakes for e-commerce websites. While most of our clients recognize this, they're not always aware of the many placements available across the website and how to use them effectively.

Before we dig into some placement opportunities, let's align on what we mean by upselling and cross-selling. Both tactics aim to increase AOV and drive revenue while providing more value to the customer.

Upselling: encouraging customers to purchase a higher-end or upgraded version of the product they are considering or have chosen. Example: A customer is looking for a new coffee maker. Upselling techniques drive them to a more advanced model that can make cold brew and tea.

Cross-selling: suggesting related, alternative, or complementary products to customers based on their interests or the product they're considering or have chosen. Example: A customer is interested in buying a new bike. Cross-selling leads them to include a pair of cycling shoes, a bike pump, and a spare set of tires with their purchase.

Top Upselling/Cross-Selling Placements

  1. Product Page, Under 'Add to Cart': This is a prime location to suggest complementary or upgraded products to the one the customer is considering. These are often special offers for bundling other products or similar alternative products.
  2. Product Page Module: It's typically wise to have a couple of different product modules on the product page. One can show related products (usually at the top), the other can show recently viewed products.
  3. Mini Cart: The mini-cart should have upselling and cross-selling placements under the product in the cart. Don't overdo it, though! Keep it to 2-3 relevant recommendations. Also be sure to include some popular products when the cart is empty. A bonus is including a slide-in or pop-up with add-ons when a customer adds a product to cart.
  4. Cart Page: Even if you have a mini-cart, the cart page can be good to include for cart abandonment email/SMS. Don't forget to give this page the same love as the mini-cart.
  5. Checkout: On the checkout page, display last-minute offers or discounts to encourage impulse buys before finalizing the purchase.
  6. Order Confirmation Page: Once a customer makes a purchase, suggest related products or add-ons that complement their order. Even better, offer a discount. It's an excellent opportunity to keep the customer engaged even after the sale and drive AOV. Discounted gift cards are also a great tactic here.
  7. Order Tracking Page: These pages are among the most trafficked on an e-commerce website. Platforms like Wonderment can help make these pages look great while displaying personalized recommendations based on their purchase history or browsing behavior to spark their interest in additional products.
  8. Email/SMS Follow-ups: Send targeted follow-up emails post-purchase, recommending products related to the ones bought or highlighting popular products in the same category. After a customer has had time to use the purchased item, send a follow-up email suggesting related products based on their purchase and usage patterns.
  9. Category Pages: Within each category, use similar modules to the product page to show related or recommended products to guide customers to discover additional items within their area of interest.
  10. Search Results Page: Display suggested products that closely match the search query, helping customers find what they're looking for and potentially discover more.
  11. "Hello" Banner: Use the banner at the top of the page to your advantage! Promote special offers, bundled deals, or related products to entice customers to explore further on the pages with the most traffic.

Level Up with Personalization

Years ago, we'd use code and tagging to create product recommendations. These days, platforms like Rebuy and Dynamic Yield can use a user's past purchase history, on-site behavior, and other inputs to generate personalized recommendations that will resonate with the customer that much more.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 159 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

I too often see brands overlook the potential of customer data at every touchpoint. This is where Okendo shines.

It was nice to spend time with the Okendo team recently in NYC. I've been continually impressed with how they've grown the platform with features and products that just make sense, all driving toward helping brands build robust customer profiles. More on that soon.

For those curious, here's a common customer journey where Okendo could play a role at every step.

  • Customer sees an ad on Instagram. The brand targeted them using data gathered via Okendo.
  • Customer visits the website. They love the products but can't decide what to buy, so they take an Okendo Quiz. Brand begins building their customer profile within Klaviyo, capturing their preferences.
  • They narrow it down to two products and decide to purchase. They fill out an Okendo Survey post-purchase about their experience. Their customer profile now includes why they bought.
  • Once the product arrives, they receive an email prompting them to leave a review. They usually don't make the time, but with Okendo Loyalty (coming soon), they appreciate feeling valued for their purchase and time.
  • When they write their Okendo Review, they provide more details about who they are so other customers can relate with them. They even share a photo of them with the product. All of these attributes feed into their customer profile.
  • Over the next few weeks, the customer receives Klaviyo automated flows that share content and product recommendations that speak to their interests and preferences.
  • The customer becomes hooked. They not only buy more complementary products, they use Okendo Referrals to refer all of their friends to earn cash to buy more.

With every new customer who interacts with the brand, Okendo helps them understand each at a deeper level. All of these inputs helps them fuel more impactful brand, marketing, and product strategy.

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Originally published on LinkedIn. View post here.

Rebuy has been effective for many of our clients, helping them roll out dynamic product suggestions, smart upsells/cross-sells, and post-purchase offers, among other features.

I was chatting with the Rebuy team last week and was excited to learn about their new free plan and use of Shopify checkout extensions.

New free plan: This is a big win for smaller merchants and really any merchant getting started on the platform. Merchants won’t see a bill until Rebuy has generated over $1,000 in revenue. It's nice to see Rebuy standing behind their product with this update.

Unlimited, free use of Checkout Extensions: An effective strategy for upselling and cross-selling is to include relevant products during checkout. Customers are engaged, ready to complete their order, then see a discounted add-on. With one click, their AOV goes up!

Rebuy has made this feature available at no cost via Checkout Extensions to Shopify brands using Plus. Regardless of how much revenue it drives, it's free.

Check out the Rebuy pricing page to calculate estimated ROI and find more details on pricing and other features.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 158 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

Throughout my years of designing websites, one issue I see time and time again is that brands often overlook the importance of their website navigation.

Whether you're using a phone or a computer, our research consistently shows that users land on a website, look at the menu, and then move on.

Instead of immediately trying to optimize the content and pages better, we always start work with new clients by thinking about the menu and overall structure of the website. It's not just a tool for users to find their way around; it's a chance for a brand to show them what they're all about and what they offer.

Here's a simple example, if you're a clothing company that cares about being environmentally friendly, make sure your menu highlights what you sell and why you're unique. Here's a simple example: "Bottoms, Tops, Accessories, Sustainability" instead of "Shop, Collections, About, Blog."

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 157 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

Early this year, I met with Amazon's Buy with Prime team in person at NRF in NYC. They outlined why Buy with Prime could be a game-changer for our clients. For those unfamiliar, Buy with Prime allows customers to checkout with their Amazon Prime account on a merchant's e-commerce website. While I was intrigued by the potential, it seemed too good to be true for brand selling on Amazon. At the time, it also seemed like setting up Buy with Prime on Shopify websites would be a risk in violating Shopify's terms. One we weren't willing to take.

Buy with Prime shopper experience. Source: Amazon BwP deck.


Despite concerns, we continued conversations with Buy with Prime and even mentioned it to a couple of clients who could be a good fit. Many of these clients raised the same concerns as me. Amazon assured us there hadn't been issues with other Shopify merchants, but this wasn't enough to take the risk.

A few months ago, more Buy with Prime use cases kept coming up while chatting with prospective clients. Eager to see how Buy with Prime could help these merchants succeed, I contacted our Buy with Prime partner manager for an update on the Shopify relationship. This time, he let me in on the exciting news Shopify President Harley Finkelstein announced last week: Buy with Prime was coming to the Shopify app store.

What this means:

  • Shopify merchants will be able to install Buy with Prime with a few clicks
  • Buy with Prime will be handled through Shopify's checkout
  • Buy with Prime transactions will be processed through Shopify Payments

Since hearing the news, I've enjoyed working with Buy with Prime (BwP) on potential implementation for new and current clients. Here are some reasons I'm bullish about Buy with Prime:

  1. Amazon Prime trust factor: As a Prime member, I'd be lying if I said I didn't often opt for Amazon over DTC when discovering new products. BwP can encourage shoppers like me to stay on the brand's website to complete their purchase. Amazon order history will even capture BwP purchases, reducing any time spent on customer service inquiries for these orders.
  2. Fast, free shipping: Besides the trust factor, I like to shop with Amazon Prime for the fast and free shipping. BwP claims that 55% of shoppers say free shipping is most important when purchasing online. With that in mind, they promise merchants will convert more shoppers by extending this benefit to their customers via their website, lifting conversion by as much as 25%.
  3. Customer relationships: It's still hard to believe Amazon is handing over customer data for transactions made via BwP. This opportunity will be huge for nurturing relationships with customers that merchants may have never been able to reach.
  4. Customer reviews: Amazon is often a go-to destination for learning what customers think of a product. With BwP, merchants can bring those reviews to their websites to further unify these channels.
  5. A/B testing: For those interested, BwP is partnering with VWO to help merchants test the impact of BwP. Key success metrics are conversion % impact, revenue per shopper, average order value, and % of orders through Buy with Prime.
  6. Select assortment and pricing: A question that's come up a lot already is around product assortment and pricing and if these have to be the same between Amazon and BwP. The answer is no—merchants can fully own their store offerings without constraints or guidelines from Amazon.

Use Cases

BwP isn't the right move for every merchant. For now, I see the most opportunity for:

  • Brands of all sizes who have built their business on Amazon but have struggled to build out DTC
  • Brands that primarily sell in retail and on Amazon but have no interest in DTC for several reasons, like the cost of shipping (think: CPG brands) or brands that sell on both but want to grow DTC

Building out DTC: Countless merchants have excelled on Amazon but have been unable to crack the direct-to-consumer channel. There's, of course, a financial motivation to build out DTC, but another is better understanding their customers. Buy with Prime is a game-changer for these merchants. They can launch their e-commerce store and offer customers the same trust and benefits of shopping with Amazon Prime. With full access to customer data, these merchants will have more insight than ever into their customers and the ability to build meaningful relationships through channels like email/SMS. Merchants may launch with all or select products on Buy with Prime but can gradually drive customers to purchase DTC as they build trust.

Unified branded shopping: Amazon made several improvements to its platform over the years, allowing merchants to offer customers more branded experiences; however, it still doesn't come close to what's possible with Shopify. Until now, merchants who opt to sell on Amazon will try to get around this by building a brand experience on a platform like Shopify but still drive traffic to Amazon, even if they offer DTC. We've built experiences like this for countless brands, often in the CPG space. Buy with Prime will help merchants bridge this gap and create one unified shopping experience.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 156 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

E-commerce teams are often fixated on conversion rate. While conversion is, of course, an important metric, don’t miss out on opportunities to drive revenue with engaged customers.

Here are 3 low-hanging fruit opportunities I see brands often miss:

1) Not getting to know the customer

While most brands assume they know their audience, do they really understand them? Assumptions are not enough.

Regular customer calls, "Jobs To Be Done" interviews, and post-purchase surveys aid in understanding customers' wants, needs, and aspirations. The insights from these interactions can help inform targeted improvements.

A good starting point for gathering input is through post-purchase surveys. Fairing offers an effective solution. For those already on Okendo, their survey tool is also a great option.

2) Not cross-selling and upselling dynamically

Upsells and cross-sells may seem like a no-brainer but if they’re not dynamic, the juice may not be worth the squeeze. Upsells and cross-sells should show up throughout the shopping experience, primarily on the product page & cart.

Using tools like Rebuy makes it easy to show dynamic, personalized, and relevant products that the customer will actually be interested in.

Bundling is another strategy for effective upselling. Craft bundles that cater to specific customer interests, such as first-time customers exploring multiple flavors. The better you understand your customer, the more effective bundles can be. Happy customer? Increased AOV? Win-win.

3) Neglecting the post-purchase phase

One of the biggest missed opportunities is post-purchase. The order confirmation page is a prime spot for upsells and cross-sells, enticing customers with limited-time offers. This may be the third time they’ve considered adding the item to the cart, but a discount often seals the deal.

It’s not just the Order Confirmation page that has opportunities. Did you know order tracking pages are among the top five most popular pages on Shopify sites? Elevating order tracking with an on-brand, personalized experience can go a long way with customers and notably increase AOV. We love Wonderment for this.

Don’t lose hope if a customer initiates a return! Again, make this experience feel great and on-brand. Make the return easy, but also re-introduce similar or complementary products for an exchange. Loop simplifies this process.

There’s too much to say about email/SMS to fit in here, but with more data around your customers, you have the power to create robust, automated flows that will keep your customers engaged and deepen your relationship with them.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 155 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

Here are some e-commerce trends we're seeing with our clients at Barrel and are working with them to improve on:

1/ Personalization

If you truly understand who your customer is, you can create personalized experiences for them, which will make them more loyal to your company.

For personalization to work, you have to consider what questions you’re asking the customer and what channels you’re using to learn about them:

• Product finders
• Quizzes
• Reviews
• Emails

etc.

This will help you tell the difference between someone buying a ring for their partner and someone buying a ring for themselves.

These are two different customer types. And they’ll need different personalized experiences.

2/ Website speed & performance

Everyone wants things quickly. People are impatient.

If your website is crawling along, they’ll move on. And your conversion rate and AOV will fall.

At Barrel, we test our clients’ websites and analyze how they load scripts, handle third-party apps, etc. to make sure they’re snappy.

3/ Accessibility

It’s amazing how many websites are difficult to navigate or have buttons that are hard to find.

This isn’t just a matter of compliance and following guidelines. Designing your websites to be more accessible makes the buying process easier for your customers.

4/ Reduced environmental footprint

Customers care (or want to care) about the environment — and companies are listening.

Offering customers a discount when they send old products back for recycling is a good example.

Another one is offering a re-sale program where customers can buy and sell used merchandise. Treet makes this pretty turnkey.

Overall, I think these are all good places for businesses to focus their e-commerce efforts — and Barrel is investing in helping our clients do so daily.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 154 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

No matter how well a product works, there will always be some dissatisfied customers. But understanding what's causing the dissatisfaction can be illuminating. Sometimes, the very qualities that make a product unique might not resonate with specific customers. In such cases, it's less about refining the product; and more about focusing on the right customers.

I've been a Naked Nutrition customer on and off for several years. What I love about their protein powders is their low-to-no sugar, minimal ingredient labels. Sure, there are better-tasting protein powders out there, but you buy Naked Nutrition because it's well... naked.

I appreciated this email newsletter they sent the other day, leaning into what many probably see as poor customer feedback:

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 153 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

Shopify is back with its 2023 Summer Edition, full of new features, announcements, and long-awaited developments (did someone say Bundles?). I shared some thoughts on LinkedIn last week, but here's a more comprehensive look at the release.

With 100s of product updates that range from helping SMBs launch e-commerce to amplifying enterprise businesses' growth, Shopify's focus on empowering merchants of all sizes comes through in this edition.

Integrated AI

Shopify is investing in AI in a big way. They announced Shopify Magic in Winter Editions, but now, it represents a suite of AI products geared at helping merchants work smarter and faster. Some highlights were the AI-generated FAQs and long-form blog content. These will be game-changers for businesses looking to get up and running quickly or looking for opportunities to optimize.

Founder/CEO Tobi Lutke's announcement of their new AI-enabled e-commerce assistant, Sidekick, also made a big splash this month. Sidekick will make everyone's lives easier, allowing for more efficient workflows and easier access to data.

The Best Checkout

In a study shared earlier this year, Shopify was named the highest-converting checkout in the world, performing 15% better on average than other platforms, like Salesforce, Magento, and BigCommerce. It's no surprise checkout is a highlight again in this Summer's edition, building on the release of Checkout Extensibility with features like subscription up-sells and the cart transform function, making it easy to merge and expand line items in checkout.

One-page checkout will finally be possible within Shopify without any apps or custom solutions. According to Shopify, beta merchants have increased conversion by up to 7% with a one-page checkout. To be considered for early rollout, merchants:

  • Need to be on Checkout Extensibility
  • Cannot be using any apps that make use of the checkout validation function
  • Using Shopify Plus

Total Commerce

Shopify continues to evolve into a total commerce solution for omnichannel growth. Within the last year, B2B functionality became accessible within the DTC admin. Now, Shopify is taking lessons from DTC and applying them to B2B with features like localized B2B storefronts with Shopify Markets, volume pricing, Shopify flow automation, and vaulted payments.

Shopify Marketplace Connect is a new offering allowing merchants to simplify product listing management across top marketplaces like Amazon and eBay all within their Shopify admin.

POS is also a focus for Shopify that doesn't seem to be going away any time soon, continuing to close the gap between online and in-store functionality. Customers can now take advantage of Shop Pay Installments even when shopping in-store. They've also rolled out other enhanced management tools to improve POS for the retail setting.

Shopify Network

Compared to competitors, Shopify is uniquely positioned as a network offering merchants value beyond the platform, especially for customer acquisition.

With Summer Edition, enterprise retailers not on Shopify will have access to Shop Pay, further growing Shopify's reach. With over 100 million Shop Pay customers, this move is said to give merchants a 5% lift in conversion.

Shopify Collective is a new way for Shopify brands to sell complementary products from like-minded Shopify brands without the hassle of managing, storing, and shipping inventory. Consider a coffee brand that wants to offer customers accessories or a mattress brand looking to provide bedding. Shopify Collective is a great, simple way to increase AOV and drive retention. See how Drake used Shopify Collective to collab with other brands.

The Shop app isn't top of mind for most merchants, but Shopify hasn't stopped investing here. What started as a tool for order tracking has become a destination for shopping and discovery. If you ask me, leveraging it is a no-brainer for customer acquisition. The latest updates include more customized storefronts, AI personalized shopping, post-purchase upsells, and Shop Cash.

Platform Improvements

Beyond all the innovation and new features, Shopify continues to evolve its core product. Here are a few of the exciting advances coming out of the Summer edition:

  • Updated UI giving merchants more control over reporting (check out this post from Shopify Senior Staff Designer José Torre on Shopify's evolved design system, Polaris)
  • Preview section content and draft PDPs/blogs/pages
  • New APIs are in development to (finally) increase Shopify's 100 variant limit, especially important Shopify is currently working on new APIs that will allow support for complex products that come in a variety of colors, sizes, etc. Eyewear is a great example.
  • The Bundles app is finally available right within Shopify.
  • Offer subscriptions without a third party. Like Shopify Email, we see this as a great way for merchants to get a turnkey subscription offering in place but don't expect the advanced functionality you get with platforms like Recharge.

Explore

We couldn't possibly touch on all of the Summer Edition updates, so feel free to explore the full experience here. Fun fact: The website was built on Shopify leveraging Hydrogen and meta-objects, showing just how flexible Shopify can be.

Lastly, make sure to check out the "Search" button at the bottom right to explore Shopify's AI chatbot.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 151 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

I hate to say it but Black Friday will be here before we know it and for brands, now is the time to start planning. Here's a tip I've been excited about lately and can be powerful during the holidays:

Amidst the frenzy of Black Friday/Cyber Monday, when many shoppers are in gift-giving mode, brands have a unique chance to connect with both customers and their gift recipients through post-purchase gift cards. Yes, gift cards. Gift cards can be more than just a gift during the holidays.

The post-purchase phase is a critical part of the customer journey. One of my favorite tactics is to offer a discounted gift card immediately after checkout, accompanied by a timer to create a sense of urgency. A strategy we often see and love in our local restaurants.

By presenting customers with this exclusive time-sensitive offer, brands can tap into customer FOMO, prompting them to take action swiftly and add the discounted gift card to their cart.

This strategy not only boosts the average order value (AOV) during the initial purchase but also plants the seed for a subsequent visit. Customers feel a sense of exclusivity, knowing they have access to this limited-time offer, while the brand can plan for future sales beyond the height of BFCM.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 149 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

I'm always surprised by how often I talk to brands who haven't explored the power of landing pages. In this context, I'm referring to the page a customer lands on after clicking an ad. These brands are focused on acquiring new customers, but they're banking on their homepage or product pages connecting with everyone and their unique needs.

For brands already spending money on marketing, chances are they have a good idea of their audience and what type of message/imagery resonates with these groups. The key is leveraging these insights to create dedicated landing pages, serving as targeted entry points designed to align with audience expectations and guide them toward conversions.

Here are some common types of landing pages we've seen be effective for brands:

  1. Content-Driven Landing Pages: Provide valuable and informative content that addresses your target audience's pain points and interests, establishing credibility and building trust. The conversion here may be a newsletter sign-up vs. driving to purchase.
  2. Category/Product Landing Pages: Highlight a specific category of products, showcasing the breadth and benefits of the collection, much like Apple's approach to launching new products. These landing pages create a more immersive browsing experience, educating customers on the key value props and guiding them toward purchase.
  3. Promotional Landing Pages: Dedicated to promoting special offers, discounts, or limited-time campaigns, these landing pages create a sense of urgency and exclusivity, persuading visitors to take advantage of the offer and convert into customers.
  4. Customer Persona Landing Pages: Tailor landing pages to specific customer segments. These landing pages can be one template, duplicated with unique messaging and imagery catered to each group. These landing pages can drive to newsletter sign-up or toward a purchase.
  5. Use Case Landing Pages: Demonstrate how a product or service solves specific problems or fulfills particular needs, showcasing real-life scenarios and illustrating the value of your offering to visitors seeking solutions. When experimenting with use case landing pages, it's critical to map out each customer segment and highlight which use cases are relevant for each.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 148 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

Last week, we launched a new website for the vegan cookie brand Sweet Loren's. We helped them re-platform from Magento to Shopify with a fresh look and feel meant to capture the brand's essence while educating customers on what makes their cookies unique.

I'm especially excited about this launch for a few reasons.

  • Before Sweet Loren's contacted us, I was already a fan. A couple of years ago, I went all-in on a vegan diet and immersed myself in vegan recipes and alternatives. I found Sweet Loren's cookies and fell in love.
  • Sweet Loren's was one of the first projects where we decided to make significant adjustments to our proposal format and experiment with three unique approach options. The positive feedback on our new proposal format provided momentum for future evolutions.
  • We had our eye on Tolstoy for some time, looking for the right client to put it into action. After Founder Loren Castle survived cancer in her early twenties, she made it her mission to eliminate processed foods from her diet and went on to create Sweet Loren's. For founder-led brands like Sweet Loren's, we want customers to feel connected to the founder's story. This project was the perfect opportunity for Tolstoy to shine.

I remember early talks with Sweet Loren's SVP of Marketing, Robyn, about the potential for the new Sweet Loren's website. It feels great to see it live. I look forward to continuing our work with the brand, helping them better connect with their customers from web to retail.

You can check out the new website at sweetlorens.com.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 147 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

I have to assume that no one ever wants to make a return. Customers appreciate the option, especially when it's free, but besides the old buy two sizes trick, they don't buy a product with the plan to return it. Even when it is free, it requires effort. Effort we'd rather not have to take.

So... that's good news because I've yet to meet a merchant who loves returns. But unfortunately, they're inevitable.

There are two sides to analyzing returns: the impetus for the return and the return experience.

The impetus for the return

If you aren't collecting feedback from customers to understand why they're making a return, start doing that now. The only way to prevent returns is to know why customers aren't satisfied enough to keep your product.

To take it a step further, spend time every month getting on the phone (remember these?) with customers who made a return to understand their thought process and how you can make it right. I don't have a study to quote, but we all know how costly it is to acquire new customers while winning them back can generate more profit and turn them into brand advocates.

In your quest to understand customer returns, here are some thought starters to consider when reviewing your website. The goal is to ensure your website is doing everything possible to set expectations with the customer before they click Complete Checkout.

  • Does product imagery accurately showcase the product?
  • Can customers assess the item's physical size through product imagery, if relevant?
  • For clothing and accessories, is sizing guidance accurate and easy for customers to understand? Do you feel confident they can decide on size without trying on the item?
  • Are product descriptions detailed enough? What content might be missing?
  • Do product specifications provide details on materials, dimensions, and other relevant content that customers would look for if shopping in person?
  • Have you provided enough content from real customers? Can customers see reviews from people like them?
  • Are you showcasing user-generated content to help customers get a feel for the product in "real life"?
  • For products available in-store, is it clear to customers this is an option?
  • For brands with several similar products, is it straightforward for customers to compare features?
  • If you were a customer, what hesitations might you have before purchasing?

The return experience

If a customer chooses to return your product, it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Rather than making the situation worse for the customer by charging them to send the product back or requiring them to jump through hoops, invest in a seamless return experience. Remember, they don't want to return the product either!

When customers feel some sense of delight in an otherwise frustrating situation, you're already on the path to winning them back. Sure, sending them a free shipping label is nice of you, but it's a bit like receiving an unwrapped gift at Christmas—you don't feel the magic.

Instead, create an experience that allows customers to share what went wrong. Then, guide them to finding a solution, whether that's a discount on another purchase, a replacement item, or some other perk—it will leave them feeling satisfied (and you more whole). After all, a return for the customer probably means they'll have to continue shopping for a replacement with a similar brand. Again, more effort they don't want to take.

Getting started

  • Returns: We love Loop's focus on turning what's typically a loss center into a profit center through a thoughtfully designed return experience, including upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Imagine increasing AOV with a return?!
  • Try before you buy: For brands with products whose website will never do them justice (think: fragrances), TryNow is a turnkey option for rolling out a Try Before You Buy experience on your e-commerce store.
  • Reviews: Okendo is our go-to for reviews because they focus on making reviews as helpful as possible for the end customer. They make it simple for customers to review products while simultaneously collecting and displaying customer attributes that give context to future customers. This data can feed into Klaviyo (or other ESP) to create more personalized marketing, driving customers to the right products.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 146 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.