Catch-Up with 3 Previous Guests: Navigating The Impacts of COVID-19
by Felix Thea Podcasts Jun 5, 2020 26 minute read Leave a comment Email Pinterest Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
In this episode of Shopify Masters, we catch-up with three previous guests on their business and how they are adapting to the impacts of the current COVID-19 outbreak. We chat with Katherine Gaskin from The Content Planner on creating workshops online, Jimmy Findlay Hickey from Findlay Hats on leveraging various capital and lending programs, and Patrick Coddou from Supply on how they turned around their business from a drop in sales.
In the spirit of catching up, the team at Shopify recently put together Reunite, a free streamed event where the company’s leadership team shared new and upcoming ecommerce products and provided insights about the future of commerce. You can watch recaps of key announcements plus find resources on how to put new tools into action for your business by visiting www.shopify.com/stream.
For the full transcript of this episode, click here.Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to Shopify Masters.
The Content Planner
Store: The Content PlannerSocial Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, InstagramFindlay Hats
Store: Findlay HatsSocial Profiles: Facebook, Twiiter, InstagramSupply
Store: SupplySocial Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Online workshops with Katherine Gaskin from The Content Planner
Felix: Kat, can you describe your business and what you were selling before the pandemic happened?
Katherine: My business is called The Content Planner and it is a physical product. It is the first and only physical planner. So it’s a paper book and agenda. It’s not a digital spreadsheet. And it’s dedicated just for planning your online content. So I sell that through Shopify and before the pandemic happened, I was still selling my physical products, but I was also offering in-person workshops for all of my customers and my online community. Where they would learn in person over the course of one day, how to plan their content and how to maximize The Content Planner as well as how they’re showing up online. And those were my two biggest offers and I was just getting ready to launch the in-person workshops and take them across North America before March 2020.
Felix: What was the breakdown of how much of your business was this in-person workshop versus the physical planner?
Katherine: So to give you an idea of percentages and revenue with The Content Planner, right now, it retails for $59.99 US, and to attend the in-person workshops. So you could either do a retreat, which was more of accommodations like private chefs, and it was a very intensive experience as a brand. So that was a high-ticket offer. It was priced between $1400 to $1,600 USD and then to attend the standalone, which was one day that was between $400 to $800 US. So as you can see, compared to a $60 planner, it was a huge revenue-generating product for me that I could now offer in person. So the workshops for me were huge.
Felix: Once things kind of started escalating pretty quickly with the pandemic, hitting North America, the lockdown happening, obviously had an impact on your business, but at the time, what was your immediate reaction?
Katherine: I saw things coming every day. There were new developments and changes and new policies and rules. And I had to act really quickly because one of my workshops was in Calgary on March 28th and 29th. So around the beginning of March, I was like, “Okay, let’s see how it’s going to go. Maybe we can still go, but we’ll have to postpone the future workshops, which were scheduled for Vancouver, Toronto, Miami, and New York for the rest of 2020.” And so for me, it was within a 48-hour period. It was really fast. And I think as entrepreneurs, the pivot is not really anything new to us because every day we dealt with different challenges and obstacles. So I would obviously like to say I was stressed and I was anxious and I was kind of scrambling, but there was another side of me that felt very equipped for the oncoming change and kind of everything turning upside down because as an entrepreneur, you’re so used to that feeling already. And so within a matter of two days, so I initially posted about the workshop on my Instagram and I said, “Hey everyone, what would you think about taking the in-person workshops that I’ve been doing and transferring them online? Here is how long it would be. Here’s where you could access it. What do you think?” And I actually put it into an Instagram poll and I said, “If I get more than 100 votes for yes, then I’ll do it.” Because with me with my community, I’m mindful of asking them for feedback, asking them questions, really listening to them and figuring out, okay, if I know this is what they want if this is what I know their problem is, my job as a business owner is to simply create some product or offer or solution to their problems. And so I received over 100 votes on that story within 24 hours. From that time within a 48-hour period, I launched the sales page. I taught myself Zoom. I’ve never actually done a virtual webinar that was paid for. So I taught myself everything in terms of creating a sales page, registration, the workflow of what emails would get triggered. And that happened all within a 48-hour period. I launched it on March 20th. And since then I’ve been doing workshops pretty much biweekly.
Felix: How did it go? What are some things that you’ve improved in the subsequent seminars?
Katherine: Of course, things always go wrong. And even with Zoom, there are technical issues, but for the most part, the virtual workshops have been insanely easier than doing an in-person event and traveling to other places. The overhead alone, my profit margins on these virtual workshops are over 90% because my only expenses really are a Zoom moderator who I found on Instagram. Whatever subscription fees I need for Zoom and my sales pages and everything else other than the PayPal fees and the transaction fees, that’s cash in my pocket. So for the return on the effort that I’m putting out, it makes so much financial sense for me as a business. Now I’m going to look back at the pandemic and say, this was such an unprecedented time. And it was so unexpected, but I just had my biggest sales month of the entire year. And I’m now able to reach business owners from around the world because, with my in-person workshops, they were just limited to one particular city.
Felix: How did you figure out the prices? Were you able to keep the same price point for the online versions?
Katherine: So that’s a really great question because the in-person workshops are more intensive and they get fed and coffee and tea, it’s such a different experience of my brand. So I knew that one, it was obviously a less concentrated version of the in-person. It was scaled down from a two-day, six-hour experience each. And even with the retreats, those are four days. So having it be this day experience condensed down into four hours. I knew that I couldn’t charge the same price, which was, as I told you, $500 to $800 US. So the current price for it is 134 for early birds. And then 180 for if you want to attend the workshop as a regular ticket. So the price is discounted obviously, and I took into account, okay, what kind of value am I bringing to the table? If I know that they’re interested, and if I can fill a workshop that has 100 people each time, then I’m making more than enough profit. And I knew that I couldn’t charge $500 and I knew that I couldn’t necessarily charge the prices I was charging. And I came up with the price because I didn’t want it to be too low, that people wouldn’t find value in it. But I knew that if I pushed past the $200 or $300 mark, I would be missing out on a lot of my customers.
Felix: Are there kinds of ways to address this fear that customers have about spending money at this time?
Katherine: A really important question to address because at the end of the day, we’re all business owners and we’re charging a price for our product. And I think for me, from a content aspect and from a marketing aspect, I was so clear on the value that they would receive from investing in this training because I’m teaching you how to show up online so that you can sell whatever it is, whether it’s products or services and whether it’s you transitioning your business to an online maybe ecommerce store. So when it comes to that, there’s the whole mindset of it. So marketing it more as an investment, because again, as you said, we’re going to be in this maybe until the end of the year. And I think a lot has changed in terms of the marketing world. So if you can offer value to your community, then you need to be very clear and straightforward about that, as opposed to saying, okay, here’s the price tag. This is how much you’re going to pay. Instead of talking from a price standpoint, you can say, “This is how you’re going to benefit. You’re going to show up with your online content and be really confident. You’re going to create conversions because you’re serving your community, et cetera, et cetera.” And then from a technical aspect, I think it’s important to understand and emphasize that people work really hard for their money and you have to show up and create value and give them really high-quality experiences, whether it’s a product or a service. So if you’re going to gift them something, or if they buy your product and you ship them a little extra something, or you include a free gift, or you include a handwritten note, something that makes them feel special and kind of celebrating the fact that they bought from you. I mean, you should be doing this regardless as an eCommerce business owner, but especially now adding that little special touch, recognizing them as a customer, and then empathizing with the fact that they might not have the funds right now. So maybe it’s offering a payment plan or maybe it’s offering them a discount, which is a case by case basis.
Felix: How do you identify what you should be teaching?
Katherine: Yeah, my go-to for this is always community feedback, let your customers and your followers, your email list and all the people that follow you and who are fans of you, let them simply tell you what they need, what they want to see from you, what kind of problems they’re struggling with, what they want more information about. Because you could be launching your own product or a new training or a new online course and completely miss the mark when it comes to delivering to your community. So I always start with my community and I do it on Instagram because that’s for me, my most engaging platform. That’s where I do a lot of my marketing and a lot of my content and training.
Felix: Do you have a plan on how you want to either adapt the business more or plans on how to survive or in your case, thrive in this new environment?
Katherine: Yeah, so it has been a really great time for my business and I’m so blessed and grateful for the skills that I have in my community. And with these live workshops, I’m now working on offering them as an on-demand course and they’ll be able to access there are four lessons in the workshop and I’m going to chop them up. They can either purchase each lesson, they can purchase all of the lessons together and watch it on their own time. So that’s the first phase of what I’m working on right now. And then from that, which I didn’t even realize was an opportunity from these workshops, especially looking through the chat and talking to all the attendees, they now want a group coaching, accountability program. So more time with me where we can sit in on a Zoom call and I can see their faces. And it’s more of a conversational type environment because, with Zoom webinars, it’s very much a one-way conversation. There’s a chat on the right-hand side, but with those training, you’re still the teacher and the students are there and they’re listening. And in my workshop, we do a few hands-on activities, but for the most part, I don’t really see their faces and from what the community has said and requested again, listening to your community is that they want further accountability from this. And so that’s going to be phase two of this brand-new offering for my business.
Accessing capital funding with Jimmy Findlay Hickey from Findlay Hats
Felix: Tell us more about Findlay Hats, what was the business like before the pandemic?
Jimmy: So we sell hats built for good times. So when the pandemic first started, we saw a major drop in sales and our advertising was horrible and traffic was down. And obviously people were kind of freaking out and panic buying toilet paper and not necessarily buying little luxuries like a hat, and we expected that trend to continue downwards. So we actually secured a loan through PayPal to kind of help float us through the next couple months in case we did see a major drop in sales or that trend continued. But to our surprise after the initial couple of weeks of down sales, the market completely changed for us. And we started seeing unprecedented sales through our website.
Felix: At what point did you realize that you needed to strengthen your financial foothold?
Jimmy: Do you remember the day that the NBA was canceled? And that was kind of, it felt like the big wake up call for nationwide? I’d say within three or four days, we secured the PayPal loan to keep us afloat at least in theory.
Felix: Was this specifically for businesses hit by the pandemic or was this like a typical PayPal loan that they would give out at any other time?
Jimmy: It was the regular PayPal capital loan, which we’ve done a handful of times in the past to help invest in some infrastructure for the business. And it’s a pretty simple process where they just take a portion of sales through PayPal, which is, I think our third, most used payment processor. So we don’t really see a major effect.
Felix: Do you have to qualify any way for anyone? Do you recommend going with PayPal?
Jimmy: I think it’s PayPal capital. And then they do have PayPal credit as well, which I think is a slightly different program. But we just get PayPal Capital in the past with no problems. Basically they look at your daily volume, or maybe your monthly volume through your PayPal account. And then will just give you offers based on whatever you are making through that account. It’s very similar to the Shopify capital, except with PayPal it’s just taking a portion of every PayPal sale until you payback. There’s a fee to use it. And it’s generally fairly competitive with banks. Maybe be a little bit higher rate, but it’s a lot easier than getting a loan through a bank or any traditional lender. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely helped us in the past and secured our future after this.
Felix: When did you start seeing things change and did you do anything? What was happening that you think led to the change?
Jimmy: I’d say mid to late March it started to turn around and we started seeing about a normal level of orders through our website. And then April is when it really started to pick up. I think that the biggest thing that was noticeable, a visible thing that we could see was that our Facebook advertising that was simply working at an all-time high, about as good as it ever has. And this is back to 2017 or so when we were seeing some explosive growth through Facebook advertising. Basically fewer people competing out there, fewer businesses trying to get in front of people, made it your CPMs, your cost to reach people go significantly down. And our advertising was just giving us a huge return that we just haven’t seen in a long time. So we really tried to capitalize on that and keep scaling it.
Felix: Did you change your messaging when it came to the marketing that you’re doing through Facebook ads?
Jimmy: Not on the advertising end, we have a handful of working funnels and strategies that we run daily and we didn’t make any major changes on the front-facing ads. The changes we did make are on the engagement and views and both on an advertising end of just getting strictly engagement campaigns and awareness campaigns, but also just on the general content that we were putting out for our community. We were from the very beginning, we took a pretty strong stance on spreading positivity, being there for our community, being there for our team, having unlimited sick pay. We took a very firm stance a little bit before other brands kind of jumped on the train of what they were doing to be proactive about the COVID-19 situation. So we were very vocal early on about how we were trying to be positive, how we were trying to contribute, how we were trying to give back not just to our team, but to our community. So our messaging on the direct to consumer actual posts was what really changed, not necessarily our ads for sales which stayed pretty consistent to this day.
Felix: Did you find the type of sales you’re getting, were they coming more from new customers or existing customers, did that kind of mix change during this time?
Jimmy: Both our existing customers, we have a lot of repeat customers. We’re super lucky to have such a strong and engaged community called the Findlay Force. And we launched weekly hats usually five to 10 each week that are limited edition anywhere from one of 10 to one of 60, to sometimes 100 plus. In this period we’ve been selling out within an hour or two, a lot of days. So we’re getting a lot of repeat customers, but because the advertising is so much more effective right now, we’re actually bringing in probably just a significant increase in new customers every day, which is amazing. And something that years ago in our advertising was working as well as is today. We didn’t take full advantage of. And so we’re seeing a major spike in new customers right now.
Felix: The way that you guys create your products, the manufacturers are all in-house?
Jimmy: The majority of it. So we, as far as we start with a blank hat, and then we do all the finishing decoration to it, and the parts that make it a Findlay hat. So we had the embroidery, we do leather patches, all of our hats have these stampede laces on the front of them, which I know I went into detail in our last podcast. But they’re basically laces that go on the brim of the hat that can be brought down around your chin and also worn as an accent tied in different styles, colors. So we had those in house and then they also have a hidden pocket inside. So we sublimate that and attach pockets as well. So we do a lot of, I think it’s 12 to 15 steps per hat are done in house. And the only thing we’re not doing right now that we’re outsourcing is the actual build of the hat which is done by a manufacturer.
Felix: So now the surgical mass project, or at least the ventilators, which is where it started and then also the medical shield project, those are all attempts at using your current manufacturing kind of capacity to create those new projects, those new products?
Jimmy: Exactly. And it’s not just using our infrastructure and machines to do that, but also the sourcing and just finding the stuff, because there’s a shortage worldwide, just spending time to find the right manufacturer or supplier of the plastic of the materials that we need for this, was an amazingly in-depth test of my sourcing abilities. And I’ve been doing this for six years now. And that alone was a big piece of it that I think was a pretty big bottleneck for other people.
Felix: Did you learn something about the techniques to get to the right person, any learnings from this experience?
Jimmy: Honestly, nothing short of, as you said, there’s a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails, not much door-knocking, because most of the suppliers are not local. We luckily did find one local supplier that was just South of Portland for two of the main components we needed. But really it was just a numbers game. It just took a lot of research and reaching out. Because there is a very unified effort of people trying to do these medical projects, there is a pretty good source of data for people that are contributing. So luckily I found the master list and just kind of started at the top with the people who had the largest supply and kind of went down from there.
Felix: How did you find ways to manage the balance of running your business while essentially just trying to start up another business at the same time?
Jimmy: Early on when we started the medical project, we pretty much told the team we were going to stop doing our hat production for the next couple of weeks and just focus on medical stuff. And while we were fulfilling old orders, the balance wasn’t really there, we just assumed orders would be down, it wouldn’t need all hands on deck for hats. So we could shift focus to the medical stuff. So there really wasn’t much of a balance from the beginning in that we didn’t expect hat orders to come through. And as the orders kept coming through and we didn’t want to slow that down. We were actually, we just had to hire on additional help to just do the shield projects.
Felix: Were people buying hats because more people are at home with no haircuts?
Jimmy: I think that would be a worthwhile thing to dive into. My assumption is our hats people buy them for a handful of reasons. A lot of people aren’t leaving the house, it’s less of a fashion statement if you can’t really go out and about. But I think it’s something that people look to as a comfort purchase. It’s a little piece of the norm, it’s something that is a unique identifier, it’s something that people can relate to. For all the reasons people consume brands, I think now more than ever people want something that kind of they can feel a part of something bigger. We really push our community, the Findlay Force hard. We had a lot of people who just said, “Hey, I see all the projects you’re doing. You’re very vocal about the medical projects. I want to find a way to help you guys. I want to support you guys.” And then even the more surface-level. “That’s a really cool design and I want it because it’s a one of one or one of 60 limited edition.”
Felix: So let’s talk about the medical shield project. What did you guys create and how were you able to get to the hands of people that need it?
Jimmy: We started with respirators first and we realized that was insanely tough to do. And in the process of that, we realized that shields were just much easier. So we shifted all of our focus to just making the shields. There are about 1000 different ways to make a little plastic piece to cover your full face. And we experimented with probably 888 of them. We had our laser tech Oliver and 3D, our mad scientist, just running different samples and styles. And really configuring all these different styles to figure out what would print the fastest, what would be the easiest to make and most cost-effective. We finally landed on a couple that we found online that were open-source, that we were able to kind of make our own and modify to be even a little bit better. So we made a bunch of different styles. We found some that worked best for us, and we actually posted on Instagram, and amazing enough, we had probably five to 10 people that were representatives of or they worked in the medical world reach out to us for samples. So that was one that went out, just a simple Instagram post. Two, we have family and friends that work in the medical world and through them, they have connections and we were able to get connected with a hospital in Tacoma, a medical group that’s local and in Seattle. We emailed general supply chain directors through places that are available on the websites. And the first order we got was just a small 30-piece order of shields for that Tacoma based hospital. We printed them using a 3D printer and submitted them, everything went smooth. And then a couple of days later we sent samples to another local medical group and they got them and they said, okay, these are great, but what about this style? It was just so off our radar, but it was 1000 times easier than the ones we’ve been making. It didn’t require 3D printing. It just required the face shield component, the plastic part that covers the face, a piece of foam and elastic stapled to it. So simple. You can make five a minute almost, and maybe three a minute, I don’t want to exaggerate too hard, but you can make them pretty quick. And with 3D printing we could make one every 45 minutes with a 3D printer. With a laser cutter, it was tough to find ones that would be strong enough to actually withhold heavy use. So finding something that we could bulk produce this easily was insane. We made our own physical samples, submitted it to them. They picked it up, and the next day we had an order for 15,000 of them.
Felix: Are there any legal logistics involved here when you’re producing basically medical equipment for hospitals?
Jimmy: To be fair, there could be stuff that’s on another level that we haven’t encountered. So far the logistics and supply chain teams, they’ve sent over their vendor compliance guidelines. It’s a pretty simple process because the product of a shield is a pretty basic straightforward object. They have standardized requirements for them and that’s more or less it. So there’s really no major hoops to jump through on that end of things. And because the supplies were so short and desperate to whatever degree that that is, there might’ve been red tape that was avoided prior to contacting us. I know talking to the supply chain people, they said that there was red tape to get to the point where they can request this style of shield. But it had already been approved and already tested. So as long as we could provide that exact style, which is the three pieces total, it works.
Felix: What’s your plan for adjusting the effects of COVID?
Jimmy: So one thing from the very beginning, we didn’t want to roll over and die. We would have done whatever we can to stay in business. That’s why we got the loan. That’s why, when we saw sales were continuing to trend up, we’ve added fuel to the fire. We’ve added on three new employees just to help with production. We’re trying to take full advantage of this while we can, and just try to secure our cash reserves in case a large recession comes and the glory days of Facebook ads disappear again. So I mean, we’re doing everything we can to take full advantage of it, where we can. From a financial standpoint, we’re doing everything we can to give back to our communities. So not only we’re doing these large orders, we’re still donating to free clinics. We’re donating to ENTs. We’re trying to do our part to give back, but we’re also trying to do our part to stay in motion and keep the ship afloat through the potentially murky waters ahead.
Turning things around with Patrick Coddou from Supply
Felix: What you sell before the pandemic happened and of course now?
Patrick: Our company is called Supply. We sell premium high-end men’s shaving products. Our flagship product is a stainless steel, single blade razor, and the reasons our customers buy it is it gives a close and comfortable shave, but without the irritation and ingrown hairs, that multi-blade razors cause for a lot of users.
Felix: What was your immediate reaction after the lockdowns started happening?
Patrick: I think we all remember around mid-March. Our sales basically went off a cliff when everybody woke up and realized that things were getting worse. And so we spent a good five days trying to get our heads on straight and figure out what exactly we were dealing with. And it’s been a little bit of a roller coaster since then, but we went through a few bad ideas about how to respond. And finally got to a good idea and have seen a lot of success since then.
Felix: When you say, fell off a cliff, how drastic of a drop were you seeing?
Patrick: At the time we were seeing at least a 50% drop in daily sales, it may have been more like 60 to 70. We were losing organic sales and then our advertising just wasn’t working anymore. So when that’s not working, we just stopped spending. Things slowed down pretty considerably when everything hit the fan.
Felix: Talk to us through that kind of iterations? What was the goal of these ideas?
Patrick: It took me personally probably longer than I’d like to admit, probably maybe five days to really understand the depth of what the impact of what was coming at us. At first, we were like, “Maybe it’s just a couple bad days.” And then after a while, we realized something was going on and we needed to respond accordingly. So being a brand and I’m sure a lot of your listeners have seen like just I’ve personally been inundated with sale promotions and almost desperate tactics from brands that you can tell they’re kind of hurting and 30% off, 50% off. And we didn’t want to go there. Just start offering discounts to entice people. We’ve never been that brand. We never will be that brand. So we spent a lot of time trying to brainstorm not only how will we respond as a brand through communication, but also what’s going to be our kind of pricing and or promotion strategies to kind of face what we’re going through? Because my hypothesis at the time was buying behaviors are going to be very, very different now than they were two weeks ago. So how do we present an offer that actually speaks to people in this circumstance? Because at the time people were spending all kinds of money on toilet paper and Lysol and wipes. So it’s not like people were closing their wallets, they were just operating in different ways. So there’s an opportunity for everything and there’s a message for every situation. And so anyways, we tested my first idea, which I thought was super clever at the time, in retrospect, I hate it, but we tested this one promotion where at the time the stock market was really turbulent. We were seeing what, like 20% increases some days and 20% decreases other days. So I tested a promotion that was the short of it was we would essentially offer a discount to customers based on the amount that the stock market was down compared to the previous high.
We called it Market Watch March. It was like, you never know what the next day’s discount’s going to be. So you might lock in today because tomorrow might be worse or it might be better. Or we thought it was kind of clever. And we tried it for a little while and the response was very not impressive. And we sat on it for three or four days. It just didn’t feel good as a brand because at one point we were offering a 30% discount, which we had never done in the history of the company. So we threw that out the window after maybe four or five days. And then we launched the second promotion, which we felt spoke a lot better to time and the circumstance. And we offered if you bought our razor, which is $75 you’ll get a free one-year supply of blades. And you can obviously off the bat, see why that would be such an enticing offer kind of in the moment. Because people were hoarding products. And so that took off on day one and it didn’t stop until we had to turn it off because we ran out of blades. So that really that promotion in and of itself took us from, as I said, March 16th was a kind of yearly low, that date was the lowest day of sales we had had all year too, I think maybe two-ish, weeks later we did a weekend that was bigger than… It was our biggest weekend since Black Friday, Cyber Monday. So complete turnaround and we just kind of rode that wave as long as we could.
Felix. How do you roll out a new idea that you want to test?
Patrick: It’s pretty simple when you’re as small as we are, we’ve got five employees and a couple of external agencies that we rely on so we can move pretty fast. This is a new world we’re living in. And the old rules don’t apply. And so that’s what I’ve told the team immediately was the old rules were, we don’t really do these kinds of fancy, cute promotions. It’s like you buy our stuff or you don’t. That’s kind of how we’ve always been and this is a new world we’re living in and all rules out the window, let’s test everything. And, but the specifics and the mechanics of a test I mean, it’s pretty simple. We use Facebook ads to test any kind of hypothesis like these because you can get very clear, quick answers on whether people purchase within a day or two, you can get results. You set up the ads to run to either a landing page or a page where a popup triggers. For us, we would run popups. So the popup would trigger and say, “Hey, here’s the promotion, sign up for the promotion.” They could enter their email address and get the promotion to where it automatically applies in the cart. And then typically we like to run things like this as automatic as possible. So we’ll always use apps that allow the promotion to automatically apply on the cart or in the case of the free year supply of blades. There was a pop up that said, “Hey, you got your free year supply blades. Add this to your cart now.”
Felix: A year’s worth of razors, is that a big disruption to your fulfillment process?
Patrick: No, it’s just a little bit on the back end. So we’re actually with Shopify Fulfillment Network. So it’s pretty seamless. We just, all we had to do was create a new product that was a year supply of blades. And I tell Shopify what that product is. And it’s essentially three extra packs of blades and it’s really simple. They just box it up and ship it out. So no issues there at all.
Felix: You said that you eventually turned that promotion off because you guys ran out of blades, it did that well. What are you doing now?
Patrick: To be clear, we’re still testing and we’re making this up as we go. So once we ran out of blades for that promotion, we started to… It’s actually interesting because it opened my eyes to how well that promotion did. And I thought, okay, there’s something here. Let’s try to test this in other ways. And so we ended up launching what is going to be a permanent membership program right after that program. Our membership program is if you buy our razor, you’re automatically a member of the club and you will get a free shipment of our razor blades every quarter for the rest of your life, as long as you want them. And there are some specifics about that. You got to pay for shipping if you’re a basic member and if you’re a pro member, which is 20 bucks a year. We’ll cover shipping for you. But the point is as soon as we moved on from that previous promotion, we took those learnings and rolled it into this whole new membership program that is now kind of defining who we are as a brand moving forward. And we’ll continue to test new things. We always prefer to give more product than take money off when we’re offering more value to our customers. So we love doing a gift with purchase, buy X, get Y or buy this bundle, separately it would be 200 bucks, but together it’s 150. That sort of thing is the sort of thing that we love to do because we feel that’s more in line with the brand that we’re trying to build.
Felix: What did you learn about the way people are buying today?
Patrick: It’s specific to us, but I’m sure there are other applications out there, but it was obviously the combination of hoarding. People were buying a year supply of toilet paper, why not buy a year supply of blades? But then at the same time, I have this personal hypothesis that I’m going to go to the grave with testing until I’m proved wrong, that people are tired of these monthly subscriptions in a lot of ways. And so the more value you can offer people in bigger chunks, that’s what I want to do. So we’re going to do quarterly shipments moving forward, this was obviously a yearly shipment that people really jumped on, but I feel like people have subscriptions fatigue when it’s on a monthly basis. And so I think the promotion really spoke to them in the fact that like, it’s one transaction. I get everything I need for a year. I don’t have to think about it, worry about it, get over shipped, get under shipped. And for us, the products are so small that they take up no room. So I don’t know if that’s helpful to other merchants, but that’s kind of my hypothesis and what we’re going to continue to test moving forward.
About the author
Felix Thea is the host of the Shopify Masters podcast, the ecommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. Got something to share with Shopify Masters listeners? You can submit your story for consideration.