Retain: The Retention Chronicles 2020 Highlights


Eddie Cmehil

Head of Revenue

Ecommerce retention techniques

Nine sessions.

Eight of the top DTC brand leaders.

Eight of the leading tech platforms.

Two industry experts.

One topic - Retention.

Retain: The Retention Chronicles (Retain 2020) kicked off on Wednesday, June 24th. For five straight hours, the brightest industry leaders, fastest-growing brands, and expert product specialists shared real-world examples and actionable strategies to help ecommerce entrepreneurs and marketers own the entire customer experience and grow their brands with retention.

One core theme resonated through each of the nine different sessions of Retain 2020: how to drive retention for your ecommerce business in 2020.

Hundreds of attendees showed up to learn and the panelists did not disappoint.

There were endless takeaways from the day, but we’ve gathered a few of the highlights from the keynote, brand sessions, and more from Retain 2020.

How To Win The Retention Game: Three things you can (but probably won’t) do


Val Geisler, CEO of Fix My Churn

Web Smith, Founder of 2PM

Our keynote session and the first session started off with some absolute HEAT as the infamous Val Geisler and Web Smith took the stage to discuss the three things you can, but probably won’t do, to retain more customers.

It was incredible to hear the dialogue between Val & Web. Both of them work with some of the best brands out there, while also having to focus on retention for their own businesses. The insights in this session were numerous, so we’ll stick to just a few.

Val starts off the talk with some reassurance that you don’t have to have the silver bullet answer to your sales and marketing strategy. Instead, you must test everything out because what works for you will be very different from what works for other businesses.

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(Val’s three certainties of life)

She then continues to dive into the three things that you can do to retain more customers right now. They are:

At the heart of each of these strategies, Val and Web discuss how important it is sot treat your customers like they are humans….well, since they are. Val and Web both consider support as the key driver of retention. Who knew taking care of customers would lead to them loving your brand more and staying around longer?

“You can always do better support. They're not just tickets, they’re not just words written on a screen. Those words were written by a person, and we need to make people feel seen and heard. That's all human beings really want,” Val said.

When looking at companies that have an incredibly low churn rate, Amazon had to be discussed. Some may shy away from the behemoth ecommmerce monster, while some use it as their primary channel. Wherever you like on the matter, it’s probably certain you and your customers have or will buy from Amazon. Web is their biggest fan.

“The one thing I love about Amazon prime now is that it knows everything that I want to buy before I buy it. They make it very easy for me to mindlessly click 15 buttons for 15 products. That's my love language. I'm there for life. That's just an important example of how you can mechanize that at scale,” Web said.

Taking the time to learn from your customers is something that Val stresses constantly. When talking about her Jobs To Be Done exercise (JTBD), she mentioned that since you are making your product for the customer, it’s important that you are hearing their feedback, both positive and negative. It’s something she deems necessary for creating a better overall product and experience.

“So time and money are like the number one reasons that people cancel. And that's where I love to dig in because you are spending your time and your money on other things. So what are those other things that you're doing with your time and your money that are more important in your mind than this product,” Val said.

Overall, if you want to find ways to bump up retention right now, check out this full talk and have your mind blown. It’s like a MasterClass for ecommerce retention from two of the best and brightest in the space.

PS - if you don’t follow Val or Web on Twitter….well….you’re probably leaving some money on the table.

Why creating the best experiences for your customers is more important than ever


Jamie Sutton, GM - Americas at Omnisend

Taylor Sicard, Co-Founder of WIN Brands Group

Session two of Retain 2020 featured Jamie Sutton, the GM of Omnisend and Taylor Sicard, Co-Founder of WIN Brands Group. The combination of Taylor’s operating and investing experience leaves you on the edge of your seat wanting to hear more.

He discusses his methods, tactics, and certain metrics he looks at when looking to acquire a brand while also peppering in how he handles retention for the brands within the WIN Brands Group portfolio (some of the best in DTC).

If you’re curious how a potential buyer will look at your business before acquiring you and how important retention is in that decision, you have to give this a listen.

“Typically the brands that we're acquiring are doing in the ballpark of like five to $40 million in annual revenue. So at that point, the retention aspect of the business is so crucial because if you're spending so much money to acquire these customers, it's very important to understand both how many items are they purchasing with each order and how many times per year are they coming back to purchase?” Taylor said.

Jamie continues to ask Taylor some hard hitting questions about his retention strategy and why it’s some important to focus on retention. Taylor mentions a few times the importance of now just getting that customer back immediately to buy again (which is great...and probably preferred), but there are other factors that go into retention and ways to ensure customers feel the love from your brand at every interaction.

“If somebody is leaving a good review and they're doing all these things, ask them to share their experience, give them bonus points. If they shared on Facebook, Instagram, give them a referral bonus. If they can get a friend of theirs to come back and purchase something. If I’m friends with Jamie, who likes the product, and he tells me about it, I'm likely also going to enjoy it because Jamie liked it so much,” Taylor said.

Acknowledging your customers can go a long way in building a relationship Taylor explains.

“If someone gives you a five star then set up a simple automation from your ESP or SMS provider and just make it a simple plain text email from the founder, or the GM, or whoever is the voice of the business and just say ‘thank you’, it's such a small minute thing, but it makes somebody's day,” Taylor said.

Session two was an easy lesson where two friends dug into what they’ve seen as some of the most successful strategies and metrics for retention. With the backgrounds of these individuals, they’ve probably seen it all, so if you’re looking for some long lasting retention wisdom, this is the talk for you!

Increasing LTV by shifting refunds to exchanges


Dave Wardell, CFO of Chubbies

Jonathan Poma, CEO & President of Loop Returns

Session three began with some friendly competition on who could use the best Zoom background competition (we think Dave did it better...sorry Poma!).

The session overall took a look at the Chubbies and Loop partnership and how they were able to build out their initial application to automate their returns process. The talk mixed things up by chronologically walking through how Chubbies’ approach to their returns process has evolved over time and its impact on retention.

Dave begins with their realization early on that often refunded products are a detriment to business because they are refunded often for a reason. So by taking a look at what products are most refunded, you can understand what products you need to stop selling to your customers. Who knew returns data could help guide product development?

“The single simplest thing to fix and figure out is, are there any products that in particular just getting refunded, right? That means it's a bad product. That's something that we look at with every new product launch is we're looking at return rates and specifically within the return rates, the reasons and the refunds versus exchanges” Dave said.

Dave touches on how Loop has helped them change Returns into Exchanges to ensure the economics of the interaction with the customer makes sense.

Additionally, Jonathan stressed that in companies that since ecommerce companies dea with customers exclusively online, it can be easy to lose customers over one unpleasant experience. Since most of those experiences occur post purchase, it’s incredibly important to ensure that you’re putting in a ton of thought and intention into the post purchase experience.

“A high friction and high-risk experience, which is, a consumer has purchased a product from a brand that they potentially have only ever experienced online, and it hasn't met those expectations….that’s a really dangerous point for that customer and that relationship with that customer. If you treat them right in that moment, you're going to win their loyalty forever,” Jonathan said.

Dave continues to dig into why it’s important to treat new and old customers differently and create experiences that match where they are at with your brand. The interaction with each customer should be tailored to their history with your company.

The Loop & Chubbies story is a story of Loops product evolution from an automated return platform to a way to create tailored returns experiences for each individual customer.

“This is someone who's purchased from you before, so they should be interacting with an exchange in a different way than just shopping the fresh site with all the normal CPAs,” Dave said.

Once again, the beauty of Retain 2020 was that the discussions taking place were between two or three individuals that worked together and had a deep relationship - leading to humor and intricate questions that revealed shattering insights on how various parts of the customer experience affect retention.

This session showcased that perfectly.

Using conversational commerce to build long term relationships


Katie Krische, Strategic Partnerships and Marketing Manager at Octane AI

Jeremiah Curvers, Founder and CEO of PolySleep

Tina Fey, Ellen Degeneres, and the Polysleep brand….what do they have in common?

Well for Jeremiah Curvers, if you asked him how he would describe his brand, he would tell you that he emulates Tina and Ellen’s personality and reputation in everything they do.

“We really want someone who is humane and has this sense of humor while being respected and, and consider, you know, highly intelligent. In our product development, we do have the same approach.”

If that isn’t enough to get you to check out this wonderful talk between Katie Krische of Octane AI and Jeremiah Curvers, founder and CEO of PolySleep, these next few highlight should make it a no brainer.

Octane AI is a Facebook messenger and SMS marketing automation platform and has worked with PolySleep, a direct to consumer mattress and sleep product company to develop long term relationships with customers through conversational marketing. Conversational marketing is also known as two-way communication and helps ensure brands are there for their customers instantly when they need them.

Like most successful DTC founders, Jeremiah is a huge proponent of putting yourself in the customer’s shoes when creating products or creating new channels to reach customers. Jeremiah believes the latter is all about treating each channel as a new storefront and walking through the experience as you would as a customer.

“The best exercise is to ask yourself as a consumer, replacing your own product with something else. How would I like to navigate through this and what information is the most valuable firsthand, and then where you add these different layers of complexity to add and improve the experience, generally speaking that's really how our approach is, with messenger the best exercise is to ask yourself as a consumer, replacing your own product with something else. How would I like to navigate through this and what information is the most valuable firsthand, and then where you add these different layers of complexity to add and improve the experience, generally speaking that's really how our approach is with Messenger.” - Jeremiah

Jeremiah talks about his experience with Octane and how it’s not just about being there quickly for your customers and opening up a two way conversation, it’s also about ensuring your message and design match the tone of your brand.

“The format. We had to start working on responsive designs to fit a certain mobile screen. You have a limited amount of character before it becomes too much. So you really need to see that as a completely separate line of business, just like a marketplace. The best exercise is to ask yourself as a consumer, how would I like to navigate through this and what information is the most valuable firsthand, and then you add these different layers of complexity to add and improve the experience. it's just another way of creating a storefront, but this storefront lives off on messenger,” Jeremiah said.

It is important to consider when doing conversational marketing how to reward the customer for their participation Jeremiah says.

“Ultimately, well, when we look at hard metrics, such as conversion rates or return on ad spend, the one thing we tend to forget is that time itself is an investment coming from the consumer. And we need that in order to move the funnel along. So at every step of the process, we always ask them, would you like to have something in return? And that truly helps with conversion rates at the end,” Jeremiah said.

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Using last mile to create memorable first impressions


Yaw Aning, CEO & Co-Founder of Malomo

Liz Greeley, Digital Marketing Manager at Sol de Janeiro

Two questions:

When you buy online, what’s the most frustrating or uneasy part of the customer experience for you?

When you buy online, what’s also the most exciting part of the customer experience for you?

If you answered shipping, well, this talk is for you (and having listened to hundreds of marketers and thousands of consumers, if you answered shipping then you are not alone.)

Shipping is not usually seen as a “sexy” channel of retention and is usually in the hands of the logistics and fulfillment team, but in session five of Retain 2020, Liz Greeley from Sol de Janeiro and Yaw Aning, CEO of Malomo sat down to talk about how incredibly important and rewarding it can be to treat shipment tracking as a channel of communication with the customer and not a black box in the hands of carriers.

LIz begins to talk about the frustration that most modern marketers are experiencing - rising acquisition costs. She dives into how her goal at Sol de Janeiro is to find ways to combat this through retention channels - including email, loyalty programs, and now shipment tracking.

Liz’s primary goal is to find ways to build their brand with customers at every interaction and saw shipment tracing as a part of the experience that was left untouched and unbranded.

“We had these post-purchase emails that were just like everyone else's. We didn't realize that they were a huge part of the customer experience. Once the product and consumer leave, we realized that we lost a lot of control that went to FedEx or UPS or whoever is shipping our product,” said Liz

This session continuous with Liz discussing how shipment tracking plays into her retention marketing strategy. From promoting products for upsells to sharing the customers rewards points with them immediately after they buy through their transactional shipping emails, SDJ is taking full advantage of the remarkable engagement they see during shipment tracking with open rates as high as 58% - leading to them making $1.55 in revenue from each shipment they send out.

Liz wraps the session up with how Sol is setting expectations with customers amidst the logistical issues that have come up due to COVID.

If you’re curious how shipment tracking can be turned from a cost center to a way to make money, delight customers, and reduce customer frustrations and support tickets, I’d highly recommend listening to how Liz has utilized the channel alongside her other retention strategies.

Why a quiz funnel may be your biggest LTV play yet


Adrianne Verheyen, Head of Community at ADmission

Kohlman Verheyen, Director of Acquisitions at 4x400

Right from the start of session six, Adrianne Verheyen, Head of Community, ADmission at Common Thread Collective, and Kohlman Verheyen, Director of Acquisitions at 4x400, [btw, #PowerCouple] drilled down into why a quiz funnel might be your biggest LTV play yet in this conversation.

This session was by far the most tactic driven session with plenty of examples in the slideshow that they walked through together. I would highly recommend listening to this talk through video to see those slides while learning from two absolute DTC geniuses.

The two retention experts used the Quiz Funnel as a case study to exemplify how their use of a quiz funnel has dramatically increased every metric in the Growth Equation:

Visitors X Conversion Rate X Cash Multiplier (60 day LTV) = Revenue.

For some background, Bambu Earth was established by a woman named Amber in 2009 who wanted to reinvent the way consumers view beauty products by embracing and celebrating natural beauty. She founded Bambu Earth and she introduced clean, safe beauty products into the beauty market. When 4 x 400 acquired Bambu Earth, they knew they had to honor Bambu Earth’s key values.

‘It really comes down to Learning deeply about your customers and then communicating to your customers in a deep, unique and authentic way with the information that you learned about them and then using it to retain people,” said Kohlman. “An ounce of retention is worth a pound of acquisition.”

That’s when Bambu Earth introduced a skincare quiz for consumers to take right when they land on the front page of its website. The Quiz Landing Page to Quiz Results increased its onsite CR from 4.6% to 5.44% and ATC rate from 10.46% to 18.59%.

“The important thing to know is that a long quiz might not be right for every brand, but it's super important to test what works for your brand,” said Kohlman. “Bambu Earth’s 17 question long quiz makes it seem very tailored and personalized because the quiz says consumer’s name and it starts to incorporate what you mentioned in the quiz into the next questions.”

Personalization through the quiz funnel is also super important to Kohlman and Bambu Earth consumers because it strengthens the data Kohlman is able to collect - leading to more relevant flows for customers. Bambu Earth uses flows exclusively to drive revenue and this led to one of my personally favorite quotes of the day, “My flows just print money.”

Bambuearth is a great example of how to impress consumers with a unique purchasing experience that draws the customer into your brand by first asking about them, collecting data, and creating an experience that is truly tailored specifically to that customer.

There’s no doubt you’ll be checking out ways to create a quiz funnel on your store if you take the time to listen to this talk!

How a referral program increases customer retention


Samatha Samuels, Head of Customer Success at Friendbuy

Taylor Brereton, Senior Manager of Lifecycle Marketing at FIGS

In session seven, Taylor Brereton, the senior manager of life cycle marketing at Figs and Samatha Samuels, the head of customer success at Friendbuy discussed a variety of ways a referral program can help with retention. Taylor is session 2 mentioned that referrals are sort of a side step to retention, but in this talk Taylor & Sam provide a clear understanding of why a referral program should be a part of your retention strategy.

At the heart of the conversation, Taylor describes that passionate customers want to share the story of FIGS with friends and family, so it’s important to make it easy for them to do that and also ensure they are rewarded for their sharing of brand love. A great referral program starts where most strategies should start - the customer.

“We put the customer first in everything we do, but even more so, I'm always thinking about ways to acquire high-quality customers that will go on and advocate for a brand and rewarding our loyal customers for their advocacy and ultimately understanding our customer. So we are delivering on the best brand experience at every touchpoint in their life cycle,” Taylor said.

In times where customers are being bombarded with thousands of messages and ads a day, Taylor discusses that sending customers generic messaging at any point of the customer experience is just not going to cut it. That’s how she looks at her strategy for the referral experience she created for FIGS.

“I can sum it up in one word and that's personalization. We do this by delivering personalized, relevant, and engaging content that not only drive sales, but it will also drive brand affinity. We're connecting with our customers and engaging with them in a way that resonates personally,” Taylor said.

Having the right partner to power a referral program is essential. Taylor explains why Friendbuy was perfect for Figs.

“There are really two reasons we decided to use Friendbuy to power our referral program. One being the simple process to get the program set up and running, as well as the amount of creative control we had over the look and feel of the program; our brand is really important. So we want to make sure it a consistent brand look and feel for all of our channels. And, secondly, I'd say we really take our time to vet out the vendors we work with. We want to work with vendors that value our business that understand our main objectives, our KPIs, and become more like strategic partners than just a service platform,” Taylor said.

And the results?

Personalize the subscriber customer portal for long term retention and increased LTV


Chase Alderton, Marketing Manager at ReCharge

Rob Hoxie, Co-founder at Tiege Hanley

Jay Evans., Ecommerce Manager at Tiege Hanley

In this talk, Jay Evans, Ecommerce Manager for Tiege Hanley, Rob Hoxie, Co-Founder of Tiege Hanley, and Chase Alderton, Marketing Manager for Recharge, discuss all things subscription .

Rob and Jay emphasize that it’s important to not just have a subscription option for customers to sign up for, but also ensure that you’re creating one that is tailored to you customers and the products that you offer.

Right off the bat Rob, describes the importance of community was in shaping the entire Tiege Hanley business. Beginning from one of the co-foudners building a community through blogging about the actual creation of Tiege Hanley, customer feedback and opinions literally shaped the companies values and products through the community that they were building on various social media channels. From packaging, to product development, to the subscription portal, everything at Tiege is focused on their customers.

At Teige’s core, their retention strategy is simple: “We want to give guys what they want, when they want it. We've learned from some of our add on programs that the more consumers are involved in customizing and engaged with the brand and our products, the longer they stay with us. It's just clear.” - Jay

So what did their customers want?

LIke we said previously, it’s not just about offering a subscription, it’s about customizing it so that it stands out to your specific customers.

Customization has driven proven results for Tiege because it helps with the variance of how often and frequent men use their products.

Not everyone uses every product the same way, which is why customization on how customers can buy more, the frequency at which their products ship, and so much more is so important.

So how does a solid subscription experience and strategy help with retention? Incredibly enough, Tiege has found that customers that customize their subscription to include products to their specific tastes, there is almost a 50% uplift in retention. According to Rob, that’s what's called a “game changer.” (and we would definitely agree with you Rob!)

Problem solving is at the core of Tiege’s marketing strategy and that doesn’t stop with how they look at retention. When you're trying to solve an issue or a pain point in the consumer purchase experience, Jay argues you simply need to pick that issue, solve it, and then move on to the next.

“For retention, you can't take every problem on at the same time; It’s important to drill down on one issues and hone in on individual tasks and solve them one by one and listen to the data. Data tells you absolutely everything.”

Tiege Hanley’s business was built through the voice of their customers and that has not gone away since.

If you’re curious about how to build out the perfect subscription service for your customers or you need some new ideas and fresh viewpoints on how to get the most out of your subscription service, check this talk out in its entirety.

Stop bad customer support from flushing your customers down the drain


Hayden Wadsworth, CEO and cofounder of HydroJug

Lucas Walker, Marketing and Partnerships at Gorgias

Last, but not least, Hayden Wadsworth (CEO and Co-Founder of Hydrojug) sat down with Lucas Walker from Gorgias to discuss how customer support can actually improve your retention rates.

Makes sense, right? Happier customers mean more sales. For Hydrojug, retention is something that didn’t come easy since their main product isn’t something that customers typically come back and buy multiple times a year. Hayden digs into how he is strategizing for retention despite offering customers a non-repeat purchase item….

“So even if your main product isn't a repeat purchase item, you can build off of that main product and create items that people would buy. Customers feel perfectly fine purchasing two or three sleeves or accessories that have to do with your main product,” Hayden said.

Support is more than just answering customer questions. Just like the previous eight sessions, it’s not just the channel you pick, it’s about how you communicate with your customers through that channel. With customer support, sometimes customers are angry….but for Hydrojug and for Hayden that’s not a problem. It’s a massive opportunity.

“The biggest thing is creating a strong customer experience, and this is everything from how they interact with you on social to the website. To do this you take a step back and make sure your entire operation, from your product and to your employees, everything is customer-centric. Which is difficult to do in the startup stage because every penny counts. But since a dollar of retention is worth 10 of acquisition, it’s important to do,” Hayden said.

A happy customer is an invaluable sales tool for a company Hayden argues. Similar to what Val discussed in session 1, sometimes the best ways to grow are those deemed “scalable” or even measurable.

“Satisfied customers usually will come back and give you that positive review, which, I mean, I don't know if you can even put a price tag on that. if a customer is happy and then they come back on social and say, what a good experience they have that has an incredible ROI,” Hayden said.


So, is it obvious that Retain: The Retention Chronicles 2020 was an absolute Masterclass in retention?

Each brand, tech partner, and expert discussed a different channel of technique, but at the heart of it all are a few common themes.

  1. Understand your customers - if you don’t know what you’re customers want, you can’t create the experience that they need
  2. You can’t treat every channel the same. It’s not just about the channel, it’s about how you communicate with your customers through that channel. How you communicate with customers during shipment tracking should be different than how you communicate with them while they see a Facebook Ad or when they are on a Messenger chat.
  3. The best ways to retain customers are sometimes not the easiest to measure. How do you measure the feelings of love and loyalty?
  4. It’s never too early to focus on retention.

We hope you enjoyed the summary and you check out the sessions if you were unable to make it.

Good day, and we hope to catch you at Retain: The Retention Chronicles 2021 for even more great insights, speakers, and fun!

What were your favorite parts? Let us know by posting on Twitter and adding the hashtag #RetentionChronicles2020

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