S5 E8: Increasing post-purchase revenue via repeat purchases with James Van Erck (Co-Founder/COO, Rebuy)


With his extensive background in ecommerce, James has a lot of experience to share with Shopify brand founders, operators, and marketers. A lot of brands focus on how to acquire their customers, but enough aren’t focusing on how to retain them after they make a first purchase. This is what James, Noah, and Mariah discuss. How do ecommerce brands retain their customers?

There are a lot of ways to increase customer retention, but James shares one of the most crucial ways, and that’s by increasing post-purchase upsells and cross sells with dynamic product recommendations. This is why the Malomo and Rebuy software work so well together, and to hear more about that, you’ll want to tune into this episode.

Episode timeline:

  • 2:24 Building software for e-commerce merchants.

  • 6:36 Ecommerce strategies and retention tactics for Shopify brands.

  • 10:50 Post-purchase offers and gift card upsells.

  • 18:40 Personalized product recommendations and gift cards.

  • 23:36 Personalization platform Rebuy and its benefits for Shopify brands.

  • 27:35 Post-purchase experiences and personalized product recommendations.

Did you know that 20% of your website traffic hits the order tracking experience? Turn all of that customer engagement into customer loyalty. Malomo helps you get ahead of shipping issues, brand your order tracking experience, and reconvert shoppers while they wait for their package to arrive.

To see what your custom mockup of branded order tracking and transactional email/SMS would look like, fill out this form & we’ll send your custom design right to your inbox!

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

Subscribe to Retention Chronicles on Apple Podcasts


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


ribeye, rebuy, merchants, brands, discount, shopify, purchase, customers, product, gift card, offer, order, episode, e commerce, today, james, cart, discount codes, great, experience


Mariah Parsons, James Van Erck, Noah Rahimzadeh

Mariah Parsons 00:04

Greetings and welcome to retention Chronicles podcast with learnings from expert e commerce, brands and partners. I'm Mariah Parsons,

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:12

and I'm no Rahim today, if you're here, you're either on a quest for E commerce enlightenment, or you accidentally click the wrong link. Either way, we're thrilled you stumbled into our corner of the internet.

Mariah Parsons 00:22

And hey, even if you're not on the E commerce hype train, stick around. We promise it'll be worth your while. We've got pearls of wisdom for everyone, whether you're running a business or just trying to keep your house plans a lot. Exactly.

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:33

So before we unleash the brilliance of today's episode, let's give a shout out to our fantastic sponsor Malomo.

Mariah Parsons 00:40

They're the wizards behind the curtain, making the post purchase experience smoother than a jazz solo,

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:45

hit that subscribe button like it will increase LTV overnight, and check out our other episodes go malomo.com That's GOMALO mo.com yet

Mariah Parsons 00:55

ready for insights chuckles and possibly a profound realization or two. Here's our newest episode of retention Chronicles.

Noah Rahimzadeh 01:08

Welcome, everybody, third ecosystem ecosystem episode 2024. This is a crazy week for Mariah and I were recording three this week and one next for four recordings over the next five business days. But super, super excited. For today's episode, we've got one of our unequivocally favorite partners joining us today. And actually, for the second time, we haven't had very many guests or partners on for for a second time. Last year, we had airing Aaron dunka, who's your VP of Customer Success. And today we've got James, co founder and CEO at rebuy. So super, super excited. Revise one of our favorite partners. And I think more importantly, probably one of our merchants favorite integrations to leverage. So always a treat not only when we get to hang out on the pod, but when we get to hang out in person. And when we get to provide those awesome experiences for our shared merchants. I think we've gotten about 100. Now merchants using the integration. So definitely one of our most adopted integrations. And like I said, definitely a fan favorite. So with that, welcome, James. Thanks so much for joining.

James Van Erck 02:24

Thanks. Yeah, thanks. No, thanks, Mariah. I'm really excited to be here. So thank you for the opportunity. And like you said, yeah, the partnership between ribeye and Malomo is fantastic partnership. And the biggest one, there's of course, our merchants.

Noah Rahimzadeh 02:40

Yes, yes, merchant first all the way. That's what we love about it. If you could just give us a quick intro and a little background on yourself, and then we like to start our episodes with one thing you're excited about in your personal life. So let's let's start there. Dope.

James Van Erck 02:57

Sounds good. Well, I'm James Van. Er, I am one of the co founders of ribeye, the other co founder is John Urk. So John and myself are brothers. We've been working together for a very long time now, in the E commerce ecosystem for over a decade working together first as an agency boutique agency called above market where we got to work with some really cool DTC brands early in the Shopify days. So about 2012, I think is when we kind of got started. And so we got to work with brands like movement, watches, primal kitchen, Rive market and a bunch of really cool brands off Shark Tank, help building their ecommerce sites and building these digital experiences. And so John and I are both longtime e Commerce Guys really believe in E commerce direct to consumer, it's a lot of fun. And so all along the way, John, and I knew we really wanted to build software as a service product. So we kind of balanced half of our time working with brands building their sites, and then the other half of the time, we kind of reserved building products. So we built and grew a couple of different ecommerce apps on the way and Shopify 2017, Shopify unite. They announced a new discounts API. And so John and I were chatting, it's like, well, we got to make use of this. So if anybody's familiar prior to the discount API, creating discount codes in Shopify was very challenging. pretty painful. You'd have to upload spreadsheets to create discount codes. And so this new API allows you to create discount codes on the fly just by pinging an API. So John and I worked with a lot of CPG companies, consumable companies. As at and we're like Man, this is perfect. So the first way that we're going to utilize this is just going to be so simple, we're going to wait till an order is processed. And then 30 days after a customer places that order, we're going to send an email to that customer asking if they'd like to rebuy their order, hence the name of the company. And we're gonna sweeten it with a personalized discount code based on this new discounts API, so we went to work built that built that product, launched on some of our contracting clients and ended up getting really, really good results getting over $1. Dollar in emails, pretty good benchmark for successful campaign, we're getting four to $5 in email, and the merchants are like, Hey, this is great. I love it. But instead of asking people, if they want to buy the same items again, can we ask, do you want to buy new items based on what was in your previous order? And generally like ding, ding, ding, you know, this is what you kind of see on Amazon, you know, customers who bought this also bought. And so John, and I got to work building a recommendation algorithm and decided, instead of bringing it to email, let's bring it to the product page. We felt like that's where all this traffic is going. And so we built a recommendation box and put that on product pages, measure the results, got fantastic results, and have since continued to develop a bunch of merchandising features that allow you to really optimize traffic and drive more revenue and profit.

Noah Rahimzadeh 06:36

Amazing. I actually did not know that. Yeah,

Mariah Parsons 06:38

neither did I for how much we work together. I would have thought we would have gotten all the background.

James Van Erck 06:44

Yeah, it's been a wild ride. A lot of fun. That's

Noah Rahimzadeh 06:48

amazing. Yeah. And I didn't know that the agency origins because I think you and I have talked about this James, but yeah, Malomo Wow. Jaco on the brain, I guess. Malomo was founding story is very similar. Yeah. And Anthony started Malomo Out of the agency that they had, which was a dev agency working with Shopify brands. And they kind of ran into the problem of order tracking and how sort of antiquated the Shopify experiences and how little control merchants had over it multiple times for a few of their merchants, they saw the ad hoc and then they were like, Shit, this is probably a problem for every single Shopify merchant. Shut down the agency. They were already dev guys similar to you, and you and John. And so they they built the product from there. So very similar origin stories. I think that's probably another reason why our companies are, are so close, very aligned with values and all that stuff. So very cool to get the ribeye story. I had no idea that it was off the back of that that one API changed everything.

James Van Erck 07:57

Yeah. is pretty incredible. Absolutely.

Noah Rahimzadeh 08:01

All right. One thing you you miss, but you're not getting off the hook. One thing you're excited about in your personal life. Oh,

James Van Erck 08:07

yeah. So I have two wonderful kids. I have a son named William. He's six years old, and a daughter named Sophia who is four. Prior to having kids, my wife and I were really into rock climbing, we would climb all the time, mostly at the gym, but some outdoor climbing as well. And so recently, our kids have gotten into rock climbing, which is so exciting for me and my wife. So we now routine where we get to go rock climbing as a family every week, and sometimes on the weekends as well. So that has been a lot of fun getting back into climbing and getting to share that with our kids. Very

Noah Rahimzadeh 08:47

cool. That's awesome. Yeah. Normally guests have something to say about their kids. That's always like part of the good, good personal news. That's a really unique one. And very cool. Very cool. Yeah. It's been fun that are you guys doing that all inside of the gym? Or? Yeah,

James Van Erck 09:04

yeah, we're doing the in the gym, starting with top roping. And eventually, yeah, the little guys will get good. And we can do some elite climbing. But we got a couple of years before that. So

Noah Rahimzadeh 09:16

very cool, man. That's okay, let's bust right into it. So this year, we're changing the format. Again, this is just our third episode. So we're kind of tinkering around a little bit, but we really have liked it so far. And I think our guests have to or sorry, our listeners have to. So while we want to ask you, James is to provide one sort of like practical ecommerce strategy or even more specific tactic. They use Shopify brands implement with success and think that they should in 2024, given the current environment in E commerce. Yeah,

James Van Erck 09:54

this is well, it's a great question. I have lots of answers to this, this question There's a lot of really great tactics that I think, you know, ecommerce and DTC brands should be leveraging. But one that we've seen a lot of success with, and a lot of brands have really enjoyed running is this focus on retention is, you know, obviously pretty pertinent in q1 here. So a lot of brands working hard paying a lot of money to acquire a bunch of holiday traffic. And so for brands, you know, switching over into the new year, it's really hard and a top top of mind is to keep those customers engaged. So how do you retain all that holiday traffic and get them to come back and make another purchase. And so you can do this throughout the year, definitely super powerful during holiday season. But what we've seen is a lot of brands will leverage post purchase offers to offer a discounted gift card. So basically, these brands will frame a discounted gift card as Hey, thanks for your purchase, why don't you invest in your next purchase and save, and so they might want a 20% discount. So it's a $50 gift card, they sell it for $40. And the customer is like yes, I obviously they're super ecstatic about the purchase they just made, this gets them thinking about their next purchase. And it helps incentivize that next purchase through a little bit of a discount. Now the cool part is, in order to redeem this, obviously, the customer has to come back and utilize this gift card. And most times customers are going to spend more than the gift card value. So if you sold them a $50 gift card, they're probably going to be spending 60 $70 to maximize the gift card purchase. So you can kind of run some numbers and figure out you know, what, what works for your business in terms of you know, discounting and what your ARV is and the amount you should be offering or the size of the cart is typically you'll want this to be you know, after above your your ao V. But a lot of brands have seen great success with that. And that helps get customers to make their second purchase or third purchase. And they always say you know, the the first purchase is definitely the hardest, but as a customer becomes more acquainted with making a second or third purchase, you know, the fourth, fifth, sixth seventh purchase becomes that much easier.

Noah Rahimzadeh 12:31

Awesome. Okay, so many questions, one back to the maintenance. And you're probably the perfect person to ask this because I know rebuy sort of specializes in the post purchase offer, can you find post purchase? Because I think for a lot of our merchants, we talk about post purchase, I think a little bit differently than than you are right now. Right? We talk about post purchase as order tracking. So once order confirmation email (one type of ecommerce email) is sent all the way until the time that an order is delivered. And even through returns and exchanges as well. I think that there's this little area in between, you know, the pre purchase side and what we define as post purchase, which is what you're talking about. So I just want to make sure that we first have a baseline of definitions. Yes,

James Van Erck 13:15

that's that's a great call. And there is yeah to two different words or two different meanings of post purchase. And so these post purchase offers what I mean is Shopify has an extra step in the checkout process. This is optional, you don't have to use it. But if you are a merchant leveraging, you know rebuy or other apps that offer post purchase offers, the customer will, you know, shop the site, they'll start their checkout process, they'll edge you know, shipping payment information. So when they hit the submit button on the payment information, their card is actually processed, that order is created. And then they are shown an optional page in which you can have them add an item to the order that they just placed. And so this is an extra step between the credit card or payment step and the thank you page. So there's this new opportunity for merchants to offer you know gift cards or other add on items to that order. And it's a single click opt in. So you know you're tokenizing the credit card so you don't have to go through the payment process again, you just add whatever items you want to that order. Shopify combines it all into a single order object and then gets fulfilled like normal. Yep.

Noah Rahimzadeh 14:36

So to just be clear there it does append it to the existing order, you're not creating a separate order right. And which is awesome and then obviously want to focus on the gift card thing. I've got a lot of more specific questions there. But what are some other common things that you see there? I imagine like not only product upsells there giftcard upsells. Right. But also probably things like maybe subscription subscription signups? Is that in line and anything else?

James Van Erck 15:09

Yeah, it's a great opportunity. I mean, there's lots of different tactics and things to offer customers on that post purchase step, I think the really neat part about the post purchase offer as you've already secured the order. So these offers don't impact conversion rate. Really, the only thing that you can do is increase your average order value or profitability on this order, which is typically what most merchants want. But yeah, things that work really well are items that were actually in the original order. So let's say you sell protein powder, and I just bought a bag of chocolate protein powder, offering to add another bag of protein powder and the 20% discount crushes, that works really, really well. You know, the customer likes chocolate protein, they just bought it. So that's a great opportunity. Subscriptions are another option. So you know, selling a subscription to the chocolate protein powder is another great opportunity. Some brands will have membership programs that they can sell, as well as in post purchase. So lots of different opportunities. Other like beauty brands will actually leverage it for product discovery. And so you can offer samples of products free gifts.

Noah Rahimzadeh 16:34

So it'll be like add, add the eyelash, the sample eyeliner to the order not high wear eyeliner but Yep,

James Van Erck 16:39

exactly. Yeah.

Mariah Parsons 16:41

That's one of them. Good job.

Noah Rahimzadeh 16:47

That's awesome. Okay, great stuff there. Before we move back to the gift card piece specifically Mariah any other questions about post purchase overall?

Mariah Parsons 16:55

About overall? No, but about the Yeah, about the gift card piece? For sure. Yeah, I was because I know you said that, like you typically want. Like, just depending on your ao v you want to adjust. But you typically see that the 20% discount is standard depending on that ao V. Or like, if if it's a certain time of year, like I know today, when we're recording, it's Valentine's Day. So like trying to win customers or maybe expecting or during Black Friday, Cyber Monday when they're expecting maybe like a bigger sale? Do you see merchants kind of increase that discount? Or is it always just in this specific use case keeping it the same throughout the year? Yeah,

James Van Erck 17:43

I mean, I think that's the fun part is you can kind of play with the discounting. rebuy supports AV testing, so you can actually run a test and chips run a 10% discount versus 15% versus 20%. And see which, you know, which converts better. So I think psychologically, you know, the customer is getting money, and they're getting money at a discount. And so I don't think you have to do deep discounting. So it's more a psychological thing and getting customers to reinvest, you know, in the brand. And getting them excited about that second purchase. And so, yeah, you can play with the numbers and find what works for your brand. But yeah, we've seen, you know, even 5% discount is enough.

Mariah Parsons 18:36

So interesting. Yeah, thanks.

Noah Rahimzadeh 18:40

Okay, then another question I thought of is, you talked about like, first, purchase the second purchase first, second purchase to third. And I'm wondering if along the same lines of testing, are you able to target based on how many times a customer has purchased so only so for example, only surface this 20% Gift Card discount to second time purchasers? Yeah,

James Van Erck 19:08

yeah, definitely. So yeah, with rebuy, you can create segments, we have a rules based engine that allows you to target first purchasers. So you can segment this to only target first purchasers. or second or third, or you can you know, step the discount down first time. Maybe they see a 20% discount. Second time, maybe it's 10%. Third time, maybe something else.

Noah Rahimzadeh 19:30

That's amazing. It's like, I think what ribeye reminds me a lot of is like and brings this experience to the web, which I think you talked about a little bit earlier, right? Which is like how do we bring this experience that we're powering trigger messages from an ESP to the website experience? And I'm thinking is a lot of the rules engine that you just talked about is similar to how you would do segmentation or personalization in a clay VO for example, and you're just bringing that That level of personalization to the site, which is super, super powerful, would you?

James Van Erck 20:04

Yeah, yeah, a little bit. I think Clavius power is yeah, they're they're very good at segmentation specifically for marketing messages to ensure customers are getting the right message. And ultimately, that's kind of what you know, rebuy is focused on, we focus on the online store and the merchandising layer. So these are product offers and recommendations and things of that nature. But yeah, there that's the goal of rebuy as a personalization platform is to offer the right products to the right customers to help increase conversion rate product discovery, just create intelligent and intuitive engaging shopping experiences.

Noah Rahimzadeh 20:45

Yes, yeah. That's amazing. I didn't realize that you had that level of like, targeting control on the website. So that's super, super cool. I'm trying to think if I have anything else I that, you know, the other thing that's interesting to me is I had no idea that ribeye touched gift cards. So do you I'm curious, more of a personal question, probably. But I'm just curious, like, do you partner with a gift card? Another? Is there another third party gift card solution? Or is that something that you you all power through? And through? Like how does that work? Yeah,

James Van Erck 21:18

so we do not offer gift cards per se. So rebuy allows you to surface products in your product catalog. And so those products can be digital products, or digital gift cards. And so Shopify has gift card support. And so you can create gift cards, different types, different denominations in and you can then surface you know, one or two or all of those in your rebuy offers. But there are also a number of third parties to offer, like physical gift cards and things of that nature as well.

Mariah Parsons 21:59

Yeah. Okay, I have a question around gift cards. And we'll just give discounts in general, way back, I can't even remember when it was no way that we had the gift note team on, but one of the things that they spoke to was trying to delineate between when someone is buying for themselves versus buying for someone else. So is that something you all have thought about in this specific realm in terms of, you know, I don't know if there's a way to break it down by you know, like, just knowing customer demographics, like who's buying and then what they're purchasing and making assumptions or, you know, break broken down by industry or anything like that.

James Van Erck 22:43

Um, so we have Smart Cart and Smart Cart supports, like gift notes. And we work with a number of third party apps to bring their technology into the cart. So work with some great brands that do you know, gift wrapping gift messages gifting? I guess at the end of the day, though, that like flag of is this a gift? Is this not a gift is not something that's incorporated into rebuys rule engine today, but that's a really unique scenario that I think you could tap into segment and then have really targeted messaging. You know, specifically around like, Hey, give yourself a gift. That either was a yes. Yeah. Exactly.

Noah Rahimzadeh 23:36

I love that. And even I'm sure it's very similar use case but like, being able to send the discounted gift card to a friend or like, or like you know, this is your third time purchasing you obviously love us send this you know, $50 to a friend for 40 bucks or something that's, that's an interesting use case as well then you're capturing an email as a new email as a result, because I'd have to resend it so a lot of really unique things you could do there which is awesome. And this is a this is like exactly why we did it the episodes this way this season. James because we wanted these unique sort of use cases that we weren't. We weren't like the other episodes are great. previous episodes, seasons were fantastic. But we wanted to be a little bit more tactical and have our have our guests leave our listeners leave with something that they can actually implement after listening. So we love this. Let's just wrap up with a little bit more information about ribeye in case people are interested in, you know, ribeye as a whole so obviously, this is just one little thing that ribeye helps out with although it does make a big difference for our brand. So is there anything else you want to talk about in terms of you know, value that merchants are regularly getting out of ribeye and then if you could talk us through like what types of merchants are best fit to get The most bang for their buck with ribeye.

James Van Erck 25:01

Yeah, great question. And so ribeye is a personalization platform. Our mission is to create intelligent shopping experiences. And so we work with direct to consumer brands running on Shopify. We really work with all sorts of brands, you know, these can be brands that are just getting started. Or these can be, you know, pretty significant. You know, extremely large brands, some of the largest brands or brands on Shopify. As long as you sell a product, I think rebuy can typically help you sell more of your product or products. And so I think most of our customers are typically Shopify Plus brands. We have a very deep team of merchant success managers that work with our larger brands and help them maximize the value of ribeye ideate strategize, so budget ecommerce experts on our team. And end of the day, our goal is to help merchants run better businesses and do so more profitably increase the revenue, average order value conversion rates. So yeah, a lot of the different ways to merchandise your site, I like to like and what we do is very similar to walking into a retail store like Target. And so as you're walking down the aisles, the aisles are very curated. And that's what ribeye helps you do. So you can put items on your end cap, you can promote certain items. And then Smart Cart. And these dynamic recommendations are kind of like a magical aisle, you can be shopping, walking down the cereal aisle, and grab a box of cereal, put it in your cart. And when you look up the store shelves ever rearranged. And all of a sudden, the milk is right there on on the shelf. And you're like, yes, that's exactly what I wanted to grab. And you grab that, put that in your cart and you look up, there's a new bowl set with some matching spoons. And next thing you know, you've spent a lot more than you probably should have. But you are quite the happy customer with the whole cereal setup. So we help brands drive a lot more revenue through product recommendations cross selling upselling. And we are releasing a ribeye Smart Search in about a month. So really excited about that. So we'll help merchants drive more revenue through search and merchandise their search as well. Amazing.

Noah Rahimzadeh 27:34


Mariah Parsons 27:36

I love that analogy of the grocery store. One. Yeah. Hopefully great one. And if it's by end of the month, then by the time this episode comes out, it will be. Yeah, it'll be out that search. Yeah, cool.

Noah Rahimzadeh 27:48

Awesome. Really quick, just on ribeye and Malomo. And why so many merchants have adopted it all I'll kind of give a high level overview and then James fill in any gaps if you want to add but so typically, obviously, you know, very similar to what James just walked through our post purchase experience, which is the order tracking experience is a great way to not only provide a brand and experience throughout tracking but actually drive LTV as a result. So a lot of merchants especially when we started will add a generic product feed and some still do add a generic product feed to their tracking page. So you gotta track your order, they might pull in a featured collection, or some brands who are a little bit more sophisticated might segment men and women and for men tracking their packets they might drop in there top men sellers for women, Top Women sellers, our most sophisticated and most successful brands at driving repeat purchases are dropping a rebuy widget on their tracking page. And what that's doing or enabling is every time a person tracks their package that individuals getting personalized product recommendations served to them based on the products, product or products that they have on the way so you can just imagine that level of targeting and how influential it is to driving repeat purchases on the tracking experience as a result of the Malomo rebuy, integration. So those that's what our most successful merchants are doing. That's why our partnership is so strong or integration is so powerful. James, anything you add to that? Yeah,

James Van Erck 29:24

no, that was a perfect recap. And I think you know, peanut butter and jelly Malama and ribeye we go together really well. Like you said you guys help have branded post purchase experiences, and ribeye can help offer the right products and the right discounting and the right. The right offers to customers through language or products are discounting lots of different ways to incentivize your customers to come back learn about new products and continue the journey with that brand.

Noah Rahimzadeh 29:59

In a butter and jelly Love it.

Mariah Parsons 30:00

I just make that the episode title. No context.

Noah Rahimzadeh 30:06

James, thank you so much, man. Now your time is super valuable. This is very valuable to our guests. So good use of time, I hope and I really appreciate you being here and spending a few minutes with us.

James Van Erck 30:17

Yeah, well thank thank you guys know and Mariah. It was really great to chat with you guys. So thank you for having me on. This has been a lot of fun and yeah, I hope our merchants can learn something loud to hear