S3 E6: How social media and first party data informs our approach with Nate Hodge (Raaka Chocolates)


On this episode of Retention Chronicles, we’re joined by Nate Hodge, Co-Founder and CEO of Raaka Chocolate. Raaka is a bean-to-bar, transparently traded Cocoa based product that emphasizes taste, quality, and authenticity. We chat through:

  • the founder story of Raaka,
  • how far consumers can be from the production of their food,
  • Raaka’s transparent trade model,
  • branding centered around real people behind the product,
  • first party research and data,
  • segmented post-purchase email and SMS flows,
  • and learning about the lifecycle of social media.

Be sure to subscribe to our pod to stay up-to-date and checkout Malomo, the leading order tracking platform for Shopify brands.

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This transcript was completed by an automated system, please forgive any grammatical errors.


brand, people, customers, chocolate, products, farmer, white chocolate, emails, talking, purchase, business, cacao, sms, retention, year, transparency, social media, question, market, cocoa


Nate Hodge, Mariah Parsons

Mariah Parsons 00:04

Hi there, I'm Mariah Parsons, your host of retention Chronicles, ecommerce brands are starting to shift their strategy to focus on retention in the customer experience. And so we've decided to reach out to top DC brands and dive deeper into their tactics and challenges. But here's the thing, we love going on tangents. And so with our guests, you'll often find us talking about the latest trends, as well as any and all things in the Shopify ecosystem. So go ahead and start that workout or go on that walk and tune in as we chat with the leading minds in the space retention Chronicles is sponsored by Malomo. A shipment in order tracking platform, improving the post purchase experience, be sure to subscribe and check out all of our other episodes at go. malomo.com. All righty, well, welcome back, everyone. Today we have a very special guest. Nate, thank you so much for taking the time today joining us. I know we were just talking about before we hit record, how it's like a very busy week, Super Bowls this Sunday at the time that we're recording. And Valentine's Day is following up shortly, which you mentioned is your Super Bowl week. So thank you for joining. I'm gonna have you do a quick quick intro just of yourself. And then we'll get into everything. Strategy for Rocher chocolates.

Nate Hodge 01:31

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Mara. Yeah, mate Hodge, I'm the co founder and CEO of rocker chocolate, we make chocolate from being the bar out of a small but growing facility in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and one of the more industrial sort of off the map parts in New York City.

Mariah Parsons 01:53

Wonderful. Thank you. Um, you have that down pact. I was so so great. Tell us the can you tell us about like your background, why you wanted to start a company? Like being to bar what was kind of the inspiration behind Raka?

Nate Hodge 02:08

Sure. So personally, I'm always someone who's been very interested in food, like my background is pretty basic, millennial liberal arts direction race. But always interested in food, worked at a brewery and college, sold some homemade sauces, various other things on the side. I met the other co founder Ryan Cheney, in New York City in 2010. And he was already sort of down the rabbit hole with this business, but had a lot less of like culinary background interests, like his interest was primarily in like social initiatives and building businesses, that that treat people better at every every step of the process. And so we sort of bonded over that this idea that, you know, business in coming out of the 2008 recession, business was sort of seen as a very unknowable profession compared to some other professions. Yeah, yeah. Um, you know, so we, we sort of saw that as an opportunity to be like, Okay, well, what if we build a company, specifically in CPG, specifically, in a segment of CPG, that, that has a supply chain that like, it's to put it nicely is opaque. And to put it more bluntly, is like downright exploitive in in some not so rare instances. So, in addition to that, you know, I think chocolate is just one of those things that is so fascinating, given its history, given the the geography of it, given how little consumers especially ourselves, but everyone we talked to, given how little is known about how it's made, where it's come come from, like the bigger sort of geopolitical ramifications of like the cocoa trade and how it ties to all these other other important pieces of history and global economics. So yeah, that's a long winded way of saying like, there was sort of a lot there. Yeah. We, when we started to like put You're back the onion, so to speak.

Mariah Parsons 05:03

Yeah, yeah, no, that's awesome. You just give like an awesome synopsis of what I want to dive into, like, all those different topics? Um, yeah, I have to admit. So I, of course was looking through your guys's website familiar with it, and with your brand. And I have to tell you that the first time I looked on the website, I was like, I don't think I've ever seen the fruit that chocolate, like, cocoa comes from, like, for someone who eats it a lot. And I spoke to this, like, I'm a chocolate lover, I've spoken to it before on the podcast, like, I think that just goes to show you really like me picturing the whole process. It's admittedly so like, naive to the whole thing, right? So I found myself like reading all your articles. And like just diving into it. I was like, wow, yeah, there's just so many different aspects that I just don't know, just from not being in like the CPG business. But just like, from a consumer standpoint, like, I'm the same way with, like willows, oat milk, and we had board cow. They're a animal free dairy milk. And so like, just the industry in general, and how it's changing and being and having a more sustainable approach and all these wonderful things. I'm like, Wow, that really, it's just, it's, it's switched my perspective on like, from the consumer standpoint, which is so interesting.

Nate Hodge 06:25

Yeah, no, I mean, it's such a fascinating, you know, it's, it's one of the things that like, are, how far we are from our food is one of the things that makes that's, like, beneficial to the US economy in some ways, but also what makes it like, so terrifying. To store and try to, like, grocery shop without like, having all this anxiety about like, what's in the products that we consume? You know, I mean, it's something that really does feel like distinctly if not North American, like definitely distinctly something. In the US, that is not necessarily true in a lot of other places in the world, you know, where there's, there is more connection to, to your food. So I think that's I mean, that's, that's one of the things that drives me for sure. It's like, it is like having this connection to the ingredient, this connection to the process, and like trying to be as authentic about that as possible in the way that we like, communicate with our customers.

Mariah Parsons 07:38

Yes, yeah. Well, I think it shines through in your brand, and I want to talk about that in a little bit. But I know just I think there's also like an awareness or wanting to know more about your food, like it's becoming socially. I don't want to say like, it's a social trend, because it sounds like it's gonna go away. But it's becoming way more of a normal process to like, go through and be like, Okay, what is it? What isn't? How is our food being processed? And I know, I've seen just through social media, of whether it's an influencer or just like, through word of mouth, someone saying, like, Hey, I went to Europe for like, six months or six weeks, and their food is just of better quality and like, my, you know, whatever health issue they were struggling with before, like, seems to basically be gone. And then when I came back to the US, it was here again. So just just really interesting. And I want to get into the process. I know, you had said that. Ryan, the other co founder, was just very interested in like, the actual process of food and like those, like from a strategy standpoint, but from a sustainability student standpoint, as well. So can you go into more detail for our listeners around like, you know, the bean to bar process and like the transparent trade that you all commit? Rocca to

Nate Hodge 09:00

Yeah, absolutely. So yeah. So our the trade model that we use is one that we sort of, we've been sort of key in developing which is transparent trade model. And it was the key proposition of transparent trade is like sort of freedom from the market, in a sense, right. So like when you look at other certifications, like Fairtrade, or Rainforest Alliance, those premiums that are paid on those do a good job at raising the floor for farmers, but it's still a mechanism of commodity trading. So you know, cocoa might be $2.75 A kilo one year and a farmer is getting paid. You know, $3.25 with a Fairtrade premium, right. But if the market goes down their premium also in most instances would go down because it's still a function of the market. And so with our trade model, like the thing that we try, that are trying to do, like sort of separate from certifications is say, like, Okay, we know that we want to work with this group in Tanzania, like for the long term. And we know that in order for those farmers to be able to continue the lifestyle, for it to be something they want to pass on to their children, etc, etc. Like, there needs to be an understanding that the income coming into the household is going to be the same, or greater, year after year, you know, obviously, there's cataclysmic events that can happen with weather and whatnot. But so if that's one of the things that like we're trying to educate our consumers about, right, like, if any of us went to our job, our performance review in January of 2023, and our boss told us, well, you did a great job this year, but we're going to have to cut your salary by 20%. Most of us would be like, alright, well, I'm gonna get on whatever and try to find myself a new job. So for a subsistence farmer that is growing cash crop in order to take care of education, health care what other other basic needs or family needs, they really don't have much of a choice other than to just make less money that year. Right. Yeah, and then in certain regions, there's like, there's also an environmental impacts that can take place, when the price goes down, right, so a farmer can choose to cut down their cacao to plant something else like pineapple, right? Pineapple is going to turn the soil super acidic and imbalanced within under five years, and then they're gonna have to regenerate that soil to grow more pineapple or to do whatever. Whereas like in a, in, in a, on a farm that grows cacao, that's managing a canopy, you can have really balanced soil and grow cacao for years and years and years. So it's not just like the farmers environmental impact, it's like the loss of forest that's coupled with the farmer not being able to grow the, to grow stuff. So it's like, there's a lot of things downstream of like, sort of economic sustainability of growing, of growing cacao, or there's environmental impact that's downstream from the economic sustainability. So what our model really is about is, okay, let's build these long term relationships. And let's make a commitment to stabilize the cacao market, in the in the regions that we're purchasing from.

Mariah Parsons 13:01

Yes, yeah, yeah. Thank you for walking us through it. So is part of the is like one goal of the model to have others in the space also adopt that model. So that it's like not just stabilizing the companies or the farmers that you're working with, but that like it becomes a normal process or a normal approach to the cacao industry? Or is it? Like, just, we want to commit to this? And we hope, like, if others did, it'd be great. What kind of a thought there? Yeah,

Nate Hodge 13:36

I mean, we definitely want to commit to it. I mean, it's, it's, it's and grow and realize that the biggest impact we can have is growing business. So that we can, so we can stabilize more of that income for more farmers. And mostly for us, like, it's, you know, you don't want to be naive in saying that, like, oh, yeah, we're gonna have like, globally disrupt, like, what the ramifications of that, like, actually look like and the amount of impact that that has, but, you know, I think a part of us and part of the thing that we really like, and part of where the transparency comes in is like, being both transparent about what you know, and what you don't know. Yeah, we know that in like some specific instances, like this has a really positive impact. And we want to continue to do that. And also like, we also want to share the knowledge that we have and the knowledge that we've gained about how this specific market like functions, so that you can think about that in terms of like, not only cocoa and the chocolate you consume, but for anyone who's interested like asking those questions of brands and other sectors, because what happens in like, commodity agriculture is not specific to pick out, you know, like, that's where we're doing our learning in, but there's so many other products and materials that are affected by commodities. And in a lot of cases, like, it's, it's unfair to the people that are working at like, the very basic level of getting those the very first step and getting those commodities to market, you know.

Mariah Parsons 15:35

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So also another question around the model as well. Because I like the little you have, like a little infographic on your site, which is so detailed, but like, they're you're trying to say above, basically, like the fluctuation in the market, right? And so is part of that as well, like, it kind of protects the consumer because you're like, as a consumer, you wouldn't be expecting the same prices not like have a have one of your chocolate bars, like you wouldn't necessarily see, like one year if cacao was really expensive versus another year is it is part of the model to like, protect against that. So it's like the consumer knows what to expect for like the prices?

Nate Hodge 16:14

Um, no, not so much. I mean, our products are more expensive than the other products. For sure. There's no getting around that part of that is quality. One of the things that's also missing from something like Fairtrade are incentives for quality and paying for paying for what the farmer earned, right. So like, one of the one of the things we've been tossing around is like an idea that we want to like propagate. So we're marketing is the idea of like, Merit over market, right? Like this farmer made, this farmer or this group of farmers made this amount of improvement to their post harvest process, which is a big part of chocolate that we can get into, but it's like, the ferment, the fermenting of the fruit has so much of an impact on the flavor. And it's one of the reasons why we don't roast. So like there's, there's there's that aspect to that like in paying more, where we're paying more not just not only because we think it's right to pay more, but also because we're getting a superior product, and we're paying more for a higher quality. And like that's more of like what we want the customer to come away with, than like any sort of like protection against price fluctuation doesn't mean our prices aren't going to change, like cacao was only one of many things, you know, shipping was learned so much about that in the last two years, the price of cardboard for all of our cases and boxes that we use to ship the job, you know, like all of these things fluctuate. So it's more the message is really about like, in paying more, we're also paying for higher quality and our commitment is to make you a higher quality and chocolate products. Yeah,

Mariah Parsons 18:07

yes. Yeah. Yeah, that totally makes sense. Yeah, with the quality of the product of why it's a higher price on the on rocket itself. I wish I might not have said this correctly. But I meant more like between year to year for like the rocket products itself. So but it Yeah, like you said, there's just so

Nate Hodge 18:28

many thanks so much above market anyway. Right. So like, yeah, in like the lowest case, we're paying like 25% above market. So yeah, I mean, our prices are going to be relatively stable within the year, but it's still going to be higher than what you know, if you were to if you were to grab a

Mariah Parsons 18:55

cheap, cheaper one. Yeah, yeah. Yes, that makes sense. Okay, also a little bit of a tangent here. But I and I realized I could look this up, but I'm assuming people like me probably don't know the difference. So, um, cacao versus cocoa. Is there like a specific difference? This is more just like a fun little factoid between the two and when do you use them? Because I've heard you say both and I've definitely said both just on this call.

Nate Hodge 19:25

Yeah, so cacao is a is an agricultural products, okay. And then cocoa is, in most cases, like, processed in some way, whether that whether you want to refer to cocoa beans, as like the fermented cacao seeds, or if you want to refer to cocoa powder, or cocoa butter, which has gone through some light processing in order to get those materials. It's really a matter of like, agriculture versus versus commodity. Yeah,

Mariah Parsons 20:01

okay, okay, that's what I could have guessed. But I was like, you know, I might as well ask you while you we have you on? Cool. Okay, so now let's talk about branding. I know we've mentioned it just with the importance of transparency and authenticity. I think we we personally, just in, in the Malomo team and in E commerce in general have seen the importance of transparency and authenticity. So can you walk us through, you know, someone lands on your website? Or someone's interacting with your brand? What messages? Are you hoping that they're taking away?

Nate Hodge 20:35

Yeah, that's a great question. Like, obviously, we want to exude quality, we want to exude transparency. But I think the other thing that's become really key for us, in terms of connecting with our customers, in terms of people understanding how the business is different is like, getting people to understand as quickly as possible that like, it's like real people that run this business, right? It's not some like, big opaque Corporation, where they're not, they're not 100% Sure, like how to trace their product back to the, like, manufacture took place and where those ingredients came from the Godfather manufacturer. But like, it's, it's, it's a relatively small group of like, a real people. So we really want to communicate that in our website, and our social media, in our email marketing, and get people to like, sort of engage with us. As early as possible in the, in the journey, like in the last, in the last year, like we've we've done a lot of our own, like sort of first party research into into talking with our customers, you know, with a spike in a lot in like some changes to third party changes to Google and changes to apple to the iOS stuff and meta all, that's all everything. Last year, third party data, right? We're like, alright, well, then let's go back to the basics and just call up, call up our top customers and talk to them. Right. And one of the, like, analog old school, like pick up the phone, literally. So one of the things that we were learning, and doing so is that like, oh, people, people choose us because they like the product, obviously. Because they think that the because they associate it with whole ingredients and those whole ingredients being better for you and transparency, making them feel good about their purchase, but also because they feel like they're purchasing from like, people. Yeah, so like, we've we've, like, integrated some email flows, like after someone's first purchase, they get an email from our fulfillment manager, letting them know that she's there for any questions and giving them some facts about the company. And then their second purchase, they get an email from me telling telling them about like, sort of the mission of the company and what our team hopes that they like, learn and take away from their experience buying traffic from us and like that's gone. Like, we get more people than we ever expected that engage with those emails. Right. And yeah, I mean, that's like, that's like the key thing for us. It's like, we're, we're real people who have real questions about this supply chain, who want to make products that resonate with that hopefully resonate with you, because they resonate with us, you know?

Mariah Parsons 23:41

Yes. So I love that there's so many different things that I was talking about, and what you just said, I have to commend i or the the Yeah, I guess, commend you and your team, because I do see that like, come through in the website. And I remember so when I think of brands that are like people first really, really, really doing a great job of conveying that to the end consumer. The first that comes to mind is Pura Vida bracelets, and like just how they like I remember when I was like 14, right? My like first interaction or first connection with the brand was that they had all these artisans across the world and like their founders came back with a couple of those bracelets sold them like very quickly. And they were like, Oh, wow, like we could make a business out of this. But it was always going back to the original artisans who are making those bracelets. And that was the like when I clicked through your website, that was the impression I was left with where it's like, you can see the farmer or the the person behind the people behind the brand. So that was one thing I wanted to share. And I also think it's really interesting that you brought up the getting the first party data, I have to ask did you actually just like call people up or did

Nate Hodge 24:58

we identify I have like, what we went through like a series of criteria, like, who we felt our group of like 1% of customer or top 1% of customers were, and we emailed them back. And then from their responses, we called up a group of those customers that responded and yeah, just like that a chat with them.

Mariah Parsons 25:22

Yeah, that's so fun. If you if

Nate Hodge 25:25

you're choosing to spend this many hundreds of dollars every year on top of like, how do we get other people? $100 worth of chocolate per year here. And so we learned a lot like, yeah, we learned we learned a lot about not only like what people are looking for from us, but like, what motivates them in in decisions they make about purchasing? And you know, why it is the resume by the wizard brand resonates with with them so much? What we, you know, we learned that like, yeah, they they really admire that it's real people that they're talking to, when they have a question. And they sort of like, the other thing that was sort of a point of learning, it's like, it's sort of like figuring out how to distill the differentiation of our brands, there's so much chocolate out there, you know, we learned that like, people like us, because we check like a lot of boxes for them, right? It's like, the transparency resonates. Because they know that that means that, you know, the supply chain is fairer than other supply chains. And it's allergen friendly. And it's whole organic ingredients that don't contain a lot of fillers. And they like telling their friends about it, because the flavors are interesting. And and it's plant, it's plant based, but it's still like reminds them of things they used to, like, eat as kids. So it's like, it's checking all these boxes with people. It's like, oh, okay, that's really interesting. Like to think about, like the idea of, like, having to compromise values or compromise need for certain products. And the idea of like, oh, yeah, we we, we're not compromising, so you don't have to compromise, you know, and that's like, sort of something that we're trying to work into more of our communications with prospective customers.

Mariah Parsons 27:39

Yeah, it's a win win. Right? Like, no one has to compromise. Yeah. So are there any I know, you just shared, like, feedback that you all got with that with those calls? Were there any, like, funny or interesting stories that like stuck out of why like someone is a top purchaser? Like, are they in a specific, like profession or something where they're buying a lot of chocolate, or any any fun? Interesting factoids there?

Nate Hodge 28:04

Oh, man. Yeah, I mean, it really ran the gamut, was, I think, the biggest takeaway for us, it's like, our perception of who our customer was, and like, sort of the diversity of of who they actually are. was was really surprising. I mean, a lot of people. There's, there was a lot of people who had like, really strict, that had dietary restrictions around like sugar sensitivity, or gluten sensitivity. That was sort of like the most, the biggest takeaway, that's something that we've long like, sort of considered is like, how much is like, the health aspect right of choice of like, a sweet, like, really matter? And if it feels like it felt like there's a lot more people that choose the brand, or like, or like whether or not we want to, like drop some, like allergen allergy restrictions in order to appeal to a broader set of people, but it seems that like, oh, no, like, this is really important to our top customers, the fact that there's options that are low sugar, the fact that there's no gluten or dairy, the fact that there's really not nuts in the product, so all those things like sort of mattered, and that was something that like, we always kind of wondered. Yeah, I guess it wasn't anything to like, funny.

Mariah Parsons 29:40

That happened. Totally fair. Yeah.

Nate Hodge 29:43

Everyone, that anyone who's like trying to scale a direct consumer business, like there's so much value in taking the time to like, find a way to like really connect with with with at least some small percentage Have your have your customers on a much deeper basis. Because it's so much, there's so much more you can gain from that than like relying entirely on third party data or relying on simple surveys, like really talking to the customers just can can provide a lot of insights.

Mariah Parsons 30:17

Right. I love that piece of advice for other founders or leadership teams. Was there any incentive for like, for your top customers to take? Or more like tactically, okay, just in case. So we

Nate Hodge 30:31

gave people a. So we have like, our subscription program gave like a three month subscription that either they could if they were already subscriber, they could gift it to somebody, or they could use it for themselves. And then we also gave them like, I forget what the coupon was, but another coupon if they were gifting it that they could also buy something for themselves. Okay. Yeah.

Mariah Parsons 30:55

Awesome. Yeah. I like to throw in those tactical questions every now and then just just in case someone's looking

Nate Hodge 31:03

for some kind of incentive to get enough responses for you to be able to Yeah,

Mariah Parsons 31:10

good question. Yeah. Just calling up people randomly, you know, that. People on the phone, right, yeah. Oh, that's great. Um, okay. And then another question, which I think we'll go into some other questions that I had, but the, the emails that you mentioned after first time purchaser, and then like, after a second purchase, what about just like from your what was it the fulfillment manager saying, like, Hey, I'm here for you, here are some facts about the brand, or about the product you bought? And then the second one coming from you? Are those? How does that work with like subscribers? Do you know do you normally find like someone throughout the customer experience is like, a first time buyer, they try out the product and then subscribe, or is it like some people just go in headfirst? And like start subscribing?

Nate Hodge 31:59

No, most most people subscribe, like pretty much right away. Okay. Yeah.

Mariah Parsons 32:05

Awesome. So then knowing that, is it like you're sending those two emails? Whether or not someone's a subscriber, or

Nate Hodge 32:14

just a post purchase? Email that shows up like after the tracking? Yeah.

Mariah Parsons 32:20

Right. Yeah. Yeah. Makes sense. Okay, we'll talk about post purchase and a little bit, but before we do that, I wanted to ask, so we've talked about branding a little bit, and getting that first party data. So what how are you approaching? Like social media? Can you walk us through that a little bit? Also, we had mentioned it before getting on the call, and I mentioned it in the intro, but can you walk us through like your busy season right now? Are the things that you're changing for Valentine's Day? If you're allowed to tell us this will, if you're allowed to tell us before, you know, it'll this will be published after or right before Valentine's Day on the 13th So can you tell us any any details around that? I would love to hear.

Nate Hodge 33:09

Yeah, so we definitely like we ran for ad spend like a lot this time of year and it's such a big, such a big time for us. And like the you know, we have all kinds of exclusive products for Valentine's Day and a lot of those products like are like huge drivers for return on spend just because like they're there's there's like an appeal to it this time of year with the all the red and like, much Hank and then just like a brown a brown chocolate bar spend a lot this time of year on on ads on digital ads. In terms of social media, it's such an interesting question. Insofar as like, it's, it's so important to building brand, but in terms of like, driving purchase, it seems like it's it's a it doesn't seem like it has like a huge amount of impact. And then like, the other thing that we're learning is like how many of our social media followers are like international people internationally that are really interested in they're just interested in chocolate that like, aren't really prospective customers because the cost of shipping is so like prohibitive to them, right? So it's a great place to so like Instagram specifically, right? It's a great place to interact with other brands. They're great place to like To giveaways and small collaborations, and it's a great way to, you know, our brand manager, like, takes pride in, like responding to tons of comments. So it's also another way in which to, like, interact with people that are engaged in the brand. But in terms of like driving purchase, think that's sort of like the interesting. Yeah, like, and where we spend our, our time and money, it remains like a moving target, right? Because also social media, like the site, like, we're only now starting to learn about, like, the lifecycle of social media platforms, right?

Mariah Parsons 35:52


Nate Hodge 35:53

we're in this this, this, like, this, like the first wave of like, learning about the lifecycle, right. So that's, that's been really interesting. And then you know, we're doing a lot more like chocolate and like, white chocolate that naturally dyed with raspberries or blue spirulina or purple yams. And we're finding that like, those that stuff is like really important for Instagram but also like, like great for tick tock to like that, like, brightly colored white chocolates is like prime content. For tick tock so I mean, it has sort of the evolution of social media has sort of like, in some ways changed the way that we approach products and think about products as a means of acquisition. As opposed to oh, well, we we're only going to make dark chocolate because that's what's best tells the story of transparent trade and the supply chain to being like, Okay, well, maybe we can get people in the door with colored this Daljit like plant based sweets so that they then want to learn more about the supply chain and engage with the brand in a more in a more deeper in a deeper way. Yeah. That's super interesting.

Mariah Parsons 37:39

I would never have thought of the use case of white chocolate.

Nate Hodge 37:46

White chocolate is great for tick tock, you know,

Mariah Parsons 37:49

there's one landing on taking away from this it is that yeah. Yeah, that's wonderful. And I do think like this has come up time and time again with and I'm I love tick tock like I say it all the time. But, um, the aesthetic videos and content that is created on those brands of it, especially for like, CPG brands, where it's just like pouring something in a cup and like making it look beautiful, like the drinks, right? Like, or, and I'm like, I am such the target. I am the target market for like these things. But like, cake decorating, and all of those, they're just pretty to watch, right? Like, and I grew up watching all these baking shows, but I think it like taps into that just a little bit. But

Nate Hodge 38:34

like, like stone wheels, like moving with, like, chocolate like that's

Mariah Parsons 38:42

like that. That is exactly me. I shouldn't be learning like chocolate that's colored. would appeal. Yeah. So that that makes a lot of sense. And so a question for you is, when you're, when you're looking at like, how are you basically? So you mentioned social media, changing your approach to like products, right with the white chocolate example. And so how are you? Is there any like, is there any point of where it's like, okay, we can tune out this maybe as like noise or like, this is not going to be something that we take into account like this isn't going to change the product because of this thing that we're seeing on social media, whatever trend or data that you're looking at, but like this, like the white chocolate example, could actually change the way that you're approaching the product. Do you have any, like, any ideas we're talking about? Like, just even learning the lifecycle of social media as to where like those boundaries are?

Nate Hodge 39:40

Yeah, I mean, like, you don't want to lose what's important to the brand, right? And so like, in doing more of these white chocolates, right, we found that we sort of were emboldened to do that by going back to our first party data, right, going back to our first party data and here hearing from customers that like that, that they really like, the fact that, like, all of our products are plant based and that like that was that that was really important to them. It's like, okay, well also there's, there's probably a need in the market and it's also within the framework of our brand, to like embrace, to embrace white chocolate as a plant based alternative to something that people are familiar with. Right? Like, like people always bring up like the Hershey's like cookies and cream bar, right? Yeah. Like, it's, it's, it's, they're so gross. Like, they're gross, but everyone has like, these nostalgic feelings for them.

Mariah Parsons 40:50

I was gonna say, like, when I got those as a kid on Halloween, I was like, Yes. Amazing.

Nate Hodge 40:55

Yeah, absolutely. So like, there's still the salvage of for some of these things that are that are that are that are that haven't sort of moved into the 21st century, right. And you might, you might not reach for that product for a variety of reasons. Now, dietary, like just the types of things you want to put in your body, like,

Mariah Parsons 41:29

after listening to this podcast,

Nate Hodge 41:32

palette, like be more advanced, but if a brand like ours, that you already trust as being like, high quality, using whole ingredients, not using a lot of fillers and stabilizers, like that might be like a fun experience for you. And so that's like, sort of how we're approaching it is like, okay, yeah, we can choose to, it goes back to the issue of compromise, right? Like, you don't want to buy a chocolate bar and not enjoy it. Because it's, like, healthier for you, right?

Mariah Parsons 42:10

Like, why are you eating it if you don't like

Nate Hodge 42:14

sort of embracing that aspect of being a chocolate company and being like, yeah, we're, it's inherently a, it's inherently sweets, right. And if it can still be like, better for you sweets by using, by using whole ingredients by being plant based, etc, then, then then it makes sense for us to pursue that if it also helps us acquire new customers on Tik Tok by like, helping us have more colorful, vibrant images and videos to work with. And it also like, you know, for us, it fits into the whole, like, sort of scheme of a brand and that everything is really bright, brightly colored. To begin with. Imagine that's like the key thing is as long as whatever it is you pursue to to, to get higher engagement on social media still feels like it's authentic to the brand and fits within the like, vision of where you want to go as a brand and pursue it but if it feels like you're, you know, you know,

Mariah Parsons 43:33

like compromising or giving promisingly, your values

Nate Hodge 43:35

or chasing a trend or, or chasing a shiny object, right? Like that's something we talk about all the time, like, just organizationally, like okay, is this really something we want to pursue? Or are we chasing a trending object? Right? Then you probably should rethink it to make sure it's not going to segregate your brand or distract from like, what your goals are as a company.

Mariah Parsons 43:57

Yeah, that makes sense. I also think Well, you were speaking I realized, like I my sister, she does not like dark chocolate, milk chocolate, anything except for white chocolate. So it's like also some customers might just not have a palate for darker milk chocolate. And just like white chocolate. I don't know what it is. I got the opposite of her where it's like any chocolate love but yeah, that makes a lot of sense of like staying true to your brand and being able to have those checks and balances and like having your team all work together to say like, Hey, is this something that we're chasing because of XYZ or is it something that you know we can still hold true to our brand and can pursue like this new avenue? So is it was it for the white chocolate example was it like hot just higher engagement when like as compared to videos? Darker chocolate? Is it like night and day?

Nate Hodge 44:52

It's crazy engagement. It's like

Mariah Parsons 44:59

yeah, I'm gonna Um, I'm gonna have to go and completely just scroll and see, oh my gosh, that's what my afternoon will be. I'll say it's part of my part of my job. Okay, so we've talked about, like marketing, branding everything, why chocolate a lot, and I love it. So let's go back to the customer experience post purchase. I know we talked about the two emails that your new customers get. Are you coupling those with like SMS? Or do you have an SMS strategy that you roll out what's your opinion on like, email versus SMS? Are they used together in tandem everything really just

Nate Hodge 45:39

started to to SMS like in the last eight months or so we like SMS has been super valuable for like back in stock notifications for us, like that's, that's been huge, that's been like, the best way to like sort of acquire SMS subscribers is through back in stock. Also, like incentives for like getting early access to sales, or early access to product to new products, like, that's also like, proven to be a pretty good way to get to get people to subscribe to SMS. So, you know, we're sort of at the beginning of the journey in terms of like, seeing how we can get subscribers to SMS. But those those those couple of ways have been really have been really helpful thus far. And then the other thing that's been like, on a post purchase, or like a SMS, email marketing thing, like strategy, like the, the biggest thing for us has been like segmentation. And not sending the same number or same types of emails to our most engaged customers that we're sending to people that we want to reengage with. So that we get less unsubscribes to our list by like, sort of tailoring it to the, to the customer and, and how much they're interacting with our emails to begin with. Yes, we've gotten a lot, we've got a lot more engagement. Bye, bye, sort of like segmenting our list into several buckets and being like, Okay, this is a good message for these different buckets to get them to engage with emails. Okay,

Mariah Parsons 47:34

is that something you're revisiting? Like, all the time of like, those different buckets that you're segmenting people into? And like the message that you're sending them?

Nate Hodge 47:43

Absolutely. I mean, that's the biggest, like, testing, testing those segments is like, absolutely essential to keeping engagement high. So I mean, yeah.

Mariah Parsons 47:55

Are you What are you like, can you go? Can you go more into the specifics around like, what you're testing what you've kind of seen, like work, if there's trends across like different tests, it's like, okay, this, this copy, or like, this creative normally works really well, for us and these different avenues?

Nate Hodge 48:11

Yeah, a lot of it's like, okay, well, yeah, it's like, like, if we run a sale, right, that goes to most of the email lists. And then like, what we were doing before is we were sending our subscription, like flavor announcements to everybody. But now it's like, okay, this is only going to our fully engaged customers, and our, and our, our, our first IPs are subscription subscribers. And then everyone else is gonna get another email, maybe something with the rest of a maybe something with a coupon, maybe something about a new product coming up. And then there's like super unengaged people that we don't want to unsubscribe when we do want them to know when there's a sale. And we're literally only sending them emails when there is a sale. And if they start to reengage with those emails, then moving them along in the bucket, so that hopefully we get them back to tier one, which is they get every email, but like, sort of tracking that and moving people into different areas so that we can judge what kind of engagement they want to have so that they don't unsubscribe, and stop keeping tabs on the brand altogether, you know?

Mariah Parsons 49:29

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. In some ways, it's like it's like not a guessing game, but you're just trying to use all the different things that you have all the data and just being like are they gonna answer those guys? Yeah, that's great. Okay, um, well, we're coming up on time here. One of the last questions that we always love to round out each episode with is what is one piece of have advice that you would like to share with our listeners something that's, you know, you go to, if you're, if you need to, like reground yourself, or just like business advice that has helped you get to where you are today.

Nate Hodge 50:14

Oh, man,

Mariah Parsons 50:15

I know it's a big hitter.

Nate Hodge 50:18

I should have. I should have considered this a bit more. I mean, I again, I'm just gonna go back to what I was talking about before, like, wishes like, yeah, pick up the phone and talk to a customer. Yeah, exactly. I mean, if you're, if you're having trouble, like trying to crack on acquisition, you're seeing an acquisition rates slow, or you're like finding that your AdSense ad sets are hitting? Yeah, like Kosovo. Talk,

Mariah Parsons 50:59

figure out what do you like your support system? Like your mother? Yeah.

Nate Hodge 51:03

You're just talking about guessing right? Like, yeah, don't guess when it comes to when it comes to acquisition, like talks, figure out how how people are how your actual customers are engaging with the brand. And what that can tell you about how prospective customers might want to be approached? And how how they might, how they might have their journey to acquisition might look, based on the information you the best information that you have, which is your current customers. Yeah, it was really eye opening for us, for sure. Because it really sort of helped us in the post. iOS, what it wasn't until I was 13. Yeah. So in the post iOS 13. Era world, like, figuring out like, how to tailor our assets. Yeah,

Mariah Parsons 52:08

yeah. Yeah, that's great. I hope to since this is retention Chronicles. I feel like I have to say it. You said Don't guess for acquisition. I hope you'd also say don't guess for retention.

Nate Hodge 52:17

Don't guess for retention, either. Yeah. I mean, that's another that's that's like another thing that I think like, you know, we this, this brand has been around 12 years, our our, our web business has really been sort of like, big or growing like the last five or six. And I think like early on, like, it was very much like, oh, well, we'll hope that like the product quality is enough to get people to come back. And like, we're confident in the product quality, we enjoy the product here. We know that we're buying the highest quality ingredients, we know that we're taking care and the way that we handle those ingredients. That's, that's like what the brand is all about. But there's so many products out there that are vying for people's attention. And so little attention, that little little attention that's left for people to give, like a new to give a new brand that they're that they come to face with that like yeah, like learning what it is you want those customers to know about the take away about their first interaction with the brand, their second interaction with the brand, like that's so important in terms of how you craft your retention strategy, and I think that's the thing that, you know, we've really been learning a lot about in the last 12 months. In order to better like, Lan. What happens after we acquire customers? It's so sexy to acquire. It's so sexy to acquire customers. And it's a lot less exciting to talk about. Talk about retention.

Mariah Parsons 54:19

Yeah, we're hoping to flip that script, right. Yes. Brand loyalty so important. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's awesome. I love ending on that note. Thank you so much, Nate for making the time today. It's been wonderful talking to you. I know our listeners are going to absolutely love this episode. So thank you.

Nate Hodge 54:40

Absolutely. I had a blast. Thanks so much.

Mariah Parsons 54:42

Oh, good. I'm glad to hear it.