Nature or Nurture? For Long-Term Revenue, Do Both

Nature or nurture? For small ecommerce businesses that seek long-term revenue, nurture is all about using what feels natural to prospective customers and leading them toward buying. But not just any buying. We want long-term revenue as measured in average order value, customer lifetime value, repeat purchase rates, and improved cart recovery rates.

By nature, we mean marketing content, newsletters, emails, and social campaigns that consumers find credible and trustworthy. Authenticity really does matter.

“To win the hearts and business of your target customers, you have to convince them you are trustworthy and authentic,” writes Michael Fertik, founder and chairman of Reputation.com. “Being authentic means being accountable and upholding your brand promise. It requires transparency and a dash of vulnerability.”

How do you gain long-term value and revenue from your buyers? At CM Commerce, we’ve been closely studying our customer data to answer this question—and we’re going to dissect one of our customers closely here. But before we dive into that example, we’ll establish:

  • Why being authentic and trustworthy matters
  • Why using an indirect nurture strategy is vital
  • How our customer Pastreez realized long-term value from nurturing
  • Revenue metrics that help prove long-term value from email campaigns.

Why does being authentic and trustworthy matter?

The most obvious answer is this: People want it. But the other less obvious reason is that you can use it to nurture leads.

A 2019 Stackla study showed that 90% of consumers deem authenticity an important factor when deciding what brands they like and support. There is some fluctuation by generation, but an overwhelming majority of buyers are interested in authentic experiences.

Who wants authenticity? Per Stackla’s findings:

  • 90% of millennials
  • 85% of Generation Xers
  • 80% of baby boomers

So how do you use authenticity in your marketing to help move an interested prospect to become a buyer and product advocate? It’s all part of the nurturing process.

Why is using an indirect nurture strategy vital to ecommerce success?

Potential buyers are everywhere, and they review products and ask for advice from friends, family, and co-workers all the time. In fact, 88% of consumers do research online before buying a product online or from a brick-and-mortar store. And if you are a small business trying to attract millennial and Gen Y audiences, 49% of consumers trust small brands to do the right thing.

You need content that helps potential buyers find useful reviews of your products and that highlights your ethics. This can be published on your site’s blog or in other places. It’s just not enough to try to get consumers to buy your product directly anymore. Of course, you will do this and will continually tweak and test your email marketing campaigns.

Yet small businesses also have to stay on top of social interactions and reviews, and they must provide relevant and useful content that speaks to target audiences all the time. That relevant and useful content can and should be used in nurturing campaigns.

Naturally, when you nurture a prospect, it’s selling of course, but in an indirect way. It’s not a straight-up, “please buy this product right now” ask; it’s a soft sell. Here’s an example from custom framing startup Framebridge.

Framebridge email nurture campaign example

Source: Really Good Emails

This is educational content. It helps prospects understand the essentials of what people do with the product. It’s not really about Framebridge at all—but rather about how a person would use the product once it’s bought.

It’s a thoughtful gesture that says Framebridge understands there’s a complete experience going on. The email does not ask for anything in return. In email marketing terms, our sister email company Emma puts it this way:

“Lead nurture emails provide you an opportunity to connect and build trust with your contacts at all stages of their customer journey … These traits can come from being authentic about your products and services, as well as providing educational and insightful information that’s relevant and helpful to your audience.”

Here’s how our customer Pastreez realized long-term value from an email nurture campaign.

During our case study interview for CM Commerce customer Pastreez, an online shop selling French macarons, we discovered some insights about long-term revenue from direct and indirect sources.

Direct revenue is fairly simple. For example, if you sent 100 emails and made $500 from them, then $500 is the direct revenue. But when Pastreez added nurturing, the effect was a force multiplier.

The Pastreez lead magnet is simple and enticing. Customers sign up through the website pop-up and can receive seven macarons for free. Once they’ve received the voucher for the free macarons, they are then included in an email nurturing campaign to encourage sales over time.

Pastreez nurture email campaign example

After completing an online order, the team of French chefs gets to work on the macarons, putting together a personalized box that’s delivered fresh to a customer’s door within three days.

The campaign’s direct revenue appeared promising: an additional $10,000 for Pastreez, spread over the 2,500 email recipients in a three-part email campaign.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

A few revenue metrics help prove long-term value from email campaigns.

Pastreez saw three extra benefits from its email nurture campaign:

1. Higher average order value

Customers who went through the Pastreez email campaign using CM Commerce had a 23.57% higher average order value (AOV) compared with customers who didn’t experience the campaign.

AOV has legs. It can boost customer lifetime value and direct revenue. Imagine if your AOV is $300. That nearly 24% bump means an additional $70 in sales—for every customer.

2. Higher repeat purchase rate

Another hidden benefit of an indirect method is watching the repeat purchase rate increase. Pastreez customers who experienced this email campaign made 2.56% more purchases than the rest of the brand’s customers.

Repeat and loyal customers are the best. Here’s why: It’s easier to sell to engaged customers who purchase repeatedly. Also, repeat customers tend to spend 3% to 15% more than new ones.

3. Improved cart recovery rate

Our data shows that 10.7% of customers who receive cart recovery emails return to make a purchase. But Pastreez’s rate was off the charts. It had a 50% increase in the overall cart recovery rate, which means the email campaign was effective over the long run. This nurturing method had momentum that encouraged prospects to eventually buy from Pastreez, even though it took two to three emails to make it happen.

The overall value of nurturing and using ready-to-go tools can be best summed up by Pastreez’s co-founder:

“Before CM Commerce, we were paying for multiple Shopify apps to get the features we wanted,” says CEO Anthony Rosemond. “CM Commerce brings all the key offerings we need as a growing ecommerce business into one place. The traffic sent to our site by CM Commerce converts higher than any other traffic source, with a 23 times return on every dollar we spend.”

Wrap up

The benefits of email nurture campaigns that include relevant content and an abandoned cart recovery strategy are deep. They can be a force multiplier over time—especially given their positive effect on repeat customers.

Nurturing may be an indirect marketing and revenue method, but it should encourage you to look beyond more obvious sales metrics.

Remember:

  • Being authentic and trustworthy matters.
  • An indirect nurture strategy is vital.
  • Long-term revenue value can come from nurturing, in metrics such as average order value, repeat purchase rates, and improved cart recovery

From welcome emails to re-engagement campaigns and beyond, we seamlessly integrate with your ecommerce platforms—Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce—so you’ll have all the features you need to exceed your goals.

CM Commerce features:

  • Pre-made conversion campaigns to recover revenue from abandoned carts
  • Follow-up segmented and personalized emails for cross-selling
  • Product reviews that spotlight your happy customers and build trust (and sales)
  • Automated feedback to increase repeat revenue
  • Ready-to-go templates or custom versions, coupons, and rewards with your branding

Try CM Commerce today for free.

The post Nature or Nurture? For Long-Term Revenue, Do Both appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

Why You Should Bootstrap Your Ecommerce Business: Tales From A Battle-Tested Founder

In 2009, Michael Salguero and his co-founder Seth Rosen inked a deal to buy the website CustomMade.com for a whopping $150,000. For a business that hadn’t even launched yet.

CustomMade was one of many fledgling ecommerce startups looking to upend traditional retail and capitalize on what the industry believed to be consumers’ inherent need for individualization. In 2009, custom t-shirt company Spreadshirt earned approximately $30 million in revenue. NikeID sold $100 million worth of shoes that year too.

Without the full cash on hand, Salguero and Rosen negotiated terms that allowed them to put a modest deposit towards the purchase while they scrambled to source funding from investors to finance the website acquisition and launch their business.

They eventually raised $400,000 in seed capital to start CustomMade, a marketplace where shoppers could connect with woodworkers to handcraft one-of-a-kind household items such as tables, desks, cabinets, and shelves.

And, with the belief that CustomMade had brilliantly pioneered the future of furniture retail, investors from firms such as Google Ventures, Atlas Venture, First Round Capital, and NextView Ventures offered CustomMade $27 million over several rounds of funding.

However, the team behind CustomMade always knew that “raising money” was not synonymous with “success.”

The limitations of $27 million in funding

One of the major assets of the CustomMade.com acquisition was the website’s long history of dominating Google’s search engine rankings for keywords related to custom furniture, which the team harnessed and nurtured.

“CustomMade’s growth strategy was driven almost exclusively through SEO. It was a killer domain that was initially focused only on custom woodworking, and we expanded that into other crafts,” recalls Salguero. “By 2014, it ranked as the #1 search term for almost anything custom. There was a high volume of traffic and our efforts were centered around how we could convert those people into CustomMade customers.”

At one point, the domain generated one million visitors each month with three-fourths of that traffic coming purely through organic search. Despite all of those views, converting their audience into active—and paying—marketplace users was a challenge.

Among traditional ecommerce businesses, the sales conversion funnel is straightforward:

  • Visit the online store
  • Browse products
  • Add desired items to cart
  • Checkout

However, with CustomMade, the buying process was more cumbersome and less predictable:

  • First, shoppers have to describe the exact item they want made (a step that can include creating your own 3D model).
  • Second, you receive quotes from multiple makers (who you’ll have to personally vet).
  • Finally, after selecting one craftsman to work with, you have to wait however long it takes for that person to fulfill the order (and that uncertainty alone can be detrimental to conversions).

With $27 million from investors who were expecting dramatic growth, the obvious action for CustomMade was to pour cash into potential solutions to its conversion problem. For the business to work, one of two things had to happen:

  1. CustomMade had to further streamline the beginning-to-end buying process so that shopping in the marketplace felt as easy as buying sneakers from Zappos.
  2. CustomMade had to fundamentally change consumers’ behavior to want to completely design their products from scratch using sketches, 3D models, and the help of skilled craftsman.

But the business could never quite figure out how to do either.

By 2015, the company made the difficult decision to downsize, shedding nearly 20 of its 30 staffers. Around that same time, Salguero transitioned out of his day-to-day role at CustomMade with ambitions to build a completely different ecommerce business. This time, with his own money, on his own terms, and in a lean and bootstrapped manner to avoid the typical trappings of venture capital.

A calculated bet on the subscription-based business model

One of the toughest, yet most important metrics to grow among traditional ecommerce companies is customer lifetime value (CLV).

In transactional ecommerce, store owners have to make it their mission to persistently follow up with customers to encourage repeat purchases. This is even true when shoppers know they need a certain product; however, it’s common that buyers can’t find the time to place another order or they simply forget.

In an age where customers demand convenience, subscription-based businesses remove most of the friction that can deter repeat purchases. So, when Salguero decided he’d start a new company, he aimed to offer a product consumers wanted on a regular basis in order to generate consistent and recurring revenue.

Traditional ecommerce companies assume a majority of their customers will only purchase their products once unless they’re successful in hounding them every 30 days to reorder. By default, though, subscription-based businesses get new customers to commit to monthly packages, which means their average CLV is 12 times higher than other ecommerce stores.

From this mindset, ButcherBox was born. Salguero envisioned a monthly delivery service that would provide customers with grass-fed beef, organic and free-range chicken, and heritage breed pork. This was partly driven by Salguero’s personal desire to gain easy and regular access to quality meat.

ButcherBox’s subscription-style business follows the examples of popular brands like Blue Apron, a meal delivery service rumored to IPO at $3 billion next year, and Dollar Shave Club, a subscription service for men’s grooming products that was just acquired by Unilever for $1 billion. But, rather than pursue venture capital the same way he had with CustomMade, Salguero has so far decided to grow independently. After speaking with Salguero about his new company, Xconomy reporter Gregory T. Huang wrote:

And it speaks to a key lesson he learned from his previous company: Keep things tight and focused. At CustomMade, he says, “We raised a lot of money. At the time, we thought it was good, and we could turn the corner. But you start making decisions you wouldn’t otherwise.” He adds, “You end up doing so much stuff that’s not mission critical. We grew and got product-market fit, but not mass-market fit.”

So the goal with ButcherBox is to see if the team can get traction with the right product. They’re not looking for a mass market, just a dedicated one. And they’re not raising venture capital—at least, not yet.

And, so far, the bet Salguero made on himself has paid off.

Kickstarting ButcherBox with $210,000 from customers

Before he would officially introduce ButcherBox to the world, Salguero first wanted to validate demand for his product. Therefore, he created a Kickstarter campaign with the modest goal of raising $25,000, a sum he believed would be just enough to finance early operations.

But, to his surprise, the project received $210,000 worth of pledges, exceeding his funding goal more than seven times over.

How did he do it?

Salguero’s promotion strategy for the business was threefold:

  1. Facebook Advertising. “Prior to launching on Kickstarter, we advertised on Facebook, which helped drive email signups.” When ButcherBox’s Kickstarter campaign went live, Salguero already had a long list of interested customers who were ready to commit to the project. Additionally, because he’d already tested different advertising copy and images, he had winning formulas for creative assets he could use for further paid promotion campaigns.
  2. Linkedin Connections. “We also used LinkedIn, which allows you to scrub your contacts, and we tapped our family and friends network to provide a base of support.” With enough early pledges, ButcherBox was highlighted as a trending project on Kickstarter. Then, ButcherBox’s popularity caught the eye of Kickstarter employees and was featured as a “Staff Pick,” which meant the campaign received favorable promotion across the Kickstarter platform and on the company’s newsletter to backers.
  3. Co-Marketing. “There were co-promotions we worked on with other companies in parallel spaces and influencers who drove interest from their networks, which both proved successful and have been a valuable tool to this day.” Salguero knew that his team alone didn’t have the marketing manpower to make this crowdfunding campaign a breakout success. So he leveraged the audience and influence others already had to drive targeted awareness to and interest in ButcherBox.

Now ButcherBox is four years old, and the business has continued to grow rapidly since its inaugural Kickstarter campaign. Salguero discloses that the company, which offers boxes starting at $129 per month, has thousands of subscribers.

Best of all? “We’re profitable,” says Salguero.

Finding profitable and scalable marketing channels

Thinking back to his time at CustomMade, Salguero laments that he and his team were unable to solve the conversion funnel conundrum. To some extent, CustomMade users were paralyzed by the paradox of choice—when your purchase options are limitless, it can seem intimidating to decide on any one particular design. But, at ButcherBox, the customer journey is a lot clearer, which means marketing the business is a lot simpler and far more scalable.

Also, in contrast to his experience at CustomMade, Salguero now has a far more constricted budget for marketing ButcherBox. “We do not pursue any marketing campaigns unless we know they will be profitable in month one,” explains Salguero. Instead of making a big splash with a major round of funding from investors and aggressive six- or seven-figure advertising campaigns, Salguero claims, “Now we’re trying to just quietly build a smart business.”

And one of ButcherBox’s biggest revenue drivers is its pay-for-performance affiliate program, in which it partners with category influencers—fitness, health and wellness, and cooking bloggers—to promote its product. With this arrangement, affiliates receive a commission based on customers they refer to ButcherBox and ButcherBox avoids any upfront costs, ensuring that every affiliate relationship is profitable.

As the company grows, Salguero anticipates partnerships with like-minded brands to be their next big marketing channel. The hope here is that, perhaps one day, a major brand like Equinox might order a box for each of its gym members. Or Nike might hand out flyers on ButcherBox’s behalf at its training events. Even a small endorsement from a large fitness- or health-related company would be a huge boost for the ButcherBox brand.

Wrap up

Based on the stories of CustomMade and ButcherBox, ecommerce marketers can learn three important things from Salguero’s experience growing two very different ecommerce companies:

  1. Your definition of success may be different than other entrepreneurs. As a product of the Boston tech scene, Salguero had dreamt of turning CustomMade into a startup unicorn (a rarified private company worth an excess of $1 billion). But, after raising $27 million and living every new entrepreneur’s dream, he recognized that startup founders feel a lot of undue pressure to build a business that sets them—and their investors—up to have a massive exit (in other words, an acquisition or an initial public offering).
  2. Organic growth is the key to a sustainable business. Now Salguero champions growing a company organically, at a rate that feels natural to both the entrepreneur and the brand. The chances are you’ll have more fun doing it this way and you’ll be better equipped to develop a sustainable and long-lasting business.
  3. Reduce friction in the buying process. Also, after recognizing the relative ease at which he has grown ButcherBox, Salguero knows that success in ecommerce is only possible when built upon the foundation of a streamlined conversion funnel. Avoid, at all costs, convoluted purchasing processes that force customers to abandon any hopes they had of placing an order with you.

Are you an ecommerce marketer? We’d love to hear about your experience bootstrapping your business and what you’ve learned in the process of growing a brand online.

The post Why You Should Bootstrap Your Ecommerce Business: Tales From A Battle-Tested Founder appeared first on Campaign Monitor.