Building Your Retail Brand Through Customer Service

"Customer service really does bleed through into every part of your business."

Beyond the Cart Lightburn Podcast - Ecommerce
Graphic illustration of how to build your retail brand through customer service.

EPISODE 10: Building your retail brand through customer service

Today in the final episode of season one, Nora and Andy are talking all things customer service, and how small choices you make can have a big impact on your brand and customer loyalty. From product returns to nurturing campaigns, we touch on many topics that will be sure to get your own ideas flowing. Plus, we'll share a progress update on Bilberry West and what you can expect from season two of Beyond the Cart.

Today’s Topics:

  • Customer service at every step
  • Product Returns
  • Shipping and packaging
  • Discount programs
  • Customer nurturing campaigns
  • Customer notifications
  • Update on Bilberry West


The following is a transcript of the podcast, edited for clarity: 

Today, we have another episode where we're packing a bunch in. This is a jam pack. I think we could have a separate episode and maybe we will, on every single one of these topics. We are talking returns, we are talking about notifications, packaging, nurturing. We're talking about customer service and all these touch points outside of the website itself that are part of customer service.

I think it's something that a lot of people don't realize when they get started that they have to figure out. They're the little fiddly bits that you have to work out and it will take your customer experience from good to great. Andy, we have talked a lot about how customer service is going to be a key element for Bilberry West and I want to revisit, why is that? Let's remind people why have we decided to do that.

Why aren't we just bare bones site? You get it when you get it. I feel like it's one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to differentiate. Again, I'm an Amazon fan boy. You love and hate Amazon, I feel like.

Well, one of Jeff Bezos things was, he set out... Nobody ever said, "It'd take longer to ship it to me and charge me more." His philosophies for Amazon initially were, "We're going to ship it to you as fast as humanly possible and we're going to charge you the least amount of money." That's customer service to me. I think it's so easy to be tainted and turned off for life if you have a bad customer service experience. Yeah, absolutely. Can I tell you the terrible customer service experience I had in person yesterday, two days ago? Of course, I want to hear it. Rage on them. Let's do it.

We went to an outdoor food truck situation, which, we haven't been dining out very much and this was an exciting, we're going to go out. It's outside, it feels safe, blah, blah, blah. We've been there before. Great. The customer experience is great because they have QR Codes on all the tables. You scan it. It brings up all of the different food trucks in cash drop, which is a great app for restaurants. You can pick which one, place your order. You get a text when it's ready. You go up to the food truck and pick up your food. You're not waiting in line. You can sit at your table and enjoy yourself. Everybody can order what they want.

But they also have a bar. I did the exact same thing that I did at the restaurants. But apparently, I did not notice this as I was checking out, there is a field to put in your table number, because the bar only delivers the drinks to your table. You can't go pick it up. Well, I didn't notice that as I was ordering because I'm there with my family, I'm distracted. They let my drink sit there for 25 minutes without telling me that they were ready and that I hadn't put in a table number.

I had to go up and she was all shitty at me about it. I'm like, "Well, then make the field required, dude." That's all it would take. Or clarify the form. Yeah, I was mad at that form. Also, send the text out. The system sends texts to people, so I could have gotten a text that said it's ready. No. They didn't collect my table number, so I had no idea. I thought they were just too busy and I was trying to be quiet. I was so irritated, because not only was that a bad experience just from the technology side, but then when I went up to get the drink, she was snotty about it. Why?

I do have some empathy still. There's a grace period in my mind that will run through the end of this summer, with restaurants and technology. Oh, that's really generous of you. It's really interesting. I said this in a previous episode, I'm very interested to see what sticks, if we sort of consolidate for restaurant, for ordering apps, if those start to standardize a little bit more, because they're still all over the place. What order, you put in information, and that feels like something that's just starting. It's going to mature here in the next couple of years. There will be some best practices that we already see in E-commerce that I think restaurant ordering apps are going to start establishing as well. There won't be as much of a gap between different services. That's my hope. 

Customer service, it's so much more than just your customer service department. It really does bleed through into every department of your entire company. You're right. It's critical for Bilberry West because we don't have an established brand yet. How people think of us is going to be so influenced by the service that they get. We've got a few different areas that are really important for good customer service that we wanted to talk about today.

Managing product returns  

The first one that I wanted to get into and again, customer service is every touch point, I would say, for a customer, with your brand. From the moment that they even look at an ad, and click on it, and does it get them to the right page that they expect? That's an experience that they're having. That's part of establishing the relationship, but we're going to talk about a few more narrow topics that are part of customer service. One of the first ones is returns, which again, that's one of those things that is never fun for the retailer, right? Nobody wants to... It'd be great if you never had to accept another return. Right. Again, Zappos set the bar on that, right? They're not setting the bar. I have a pair of shoes right here. I believe in their philosophy. I subscribe to that, which is take back something, no matter what. Yeah. I totally understand creating some boundaries around that that maybe Zappos, scale-wise, can handle, that a small retailer can't.

Can't or won't though? Obviously. Well, there're costs associated, right? Yeah. I think there're some factors. Repeat business for Zappos is incredibly important. If I'm selling something that doesn't have as much possibility of the customer being a repeat- That earns you the right to be an asshole though? Or if it's harder to raise stock. I don't think it's an asshole to only accept returns for 60 days. Zappos accepts returns for a year.

Sure. Okay. A year. Fair enough. Fair enough. That's something that a small retailer just can't do. Can't pay for it, right? Yeah. You don't even have to pay for the shipping back and all their shipping is free. Again, I think that's a scale thing, right? It's worth it Zappos, because I guarantee you, I have shoes in my house that I meant to return and I never did after a year, which is on me, and that was worth it to them to have me order. I know Amy orders five shoes at a time. You've seen it get your name. My Amy? Yeah, your Amy.

The Amazon truck literally backs up my driveway when she's got a few. "We need to open the big door on this one." If she orders five pairs of something, or if not all five of them go back, more often than not, it's rare that she keeps. I think Zappos has definitely set a standard, but obviously, they had to make people trust buying shoes online. That's an ask. This chair that we're selling, these chairs, you don't have to try on to see if they're a good fit. Returns are not as critical. You don't think so? No. This is a chair. This is something you're going to sit in. I hope not.

You get it, you put it together, which hopefully will be four bolts, so it should be really easy. You sit down and you're like, "This sucks." I don't want to be like, "Yeah, sorry dude, you're on your own." It's like, "Nope. You're not happy. Send it back." That's my philosophy. I'll probably change my mind once I get the shipping bills. I also don't know if we should pay for that or not. That gets complicated, right? But I don't know. Yeah. I do think whether or not your product's re-stockable, how re-stockable it is, matters. If you had high seasonality, that might make a difference. I do think returns factor into your reputation as a brand. Yeah, totally. Being willing to accept a return on day 61, even if your policy states that you don't accept returns past 60 days, which is totally reasonable, but if somebody calls you up and it's been 61 days, you better accept that return. Come on. I think most retailers, it seems like, want to make it easy to do returns, but not too easy.

...Which drives me crazy. You don't want to promote... I get it though from a business standpoint. You're not like, "Make sure you return that." You're not going to send out an email reminding someone to return it. That's silly. Sure, but you shouldn't bury the information on- No! Hey, you know what? I've made a mistake. I don't like it. It's not what I expected, whatever. Something that we're doing on Bilberry West, which I'm really pleased with, is that we're going to have a return policy and there'll be some complex language around it, or maybe some legal terms with all of our policies, but we're going to use plain language. That's very important to us, to not make it hard to understand, for two reasons.

First, I think it's the right thing to do for any user to just be able to quickly read and understand the policy when they need to return something, make it easy. But second, if knowing that there're a returns policy is a barrier for someone to decide whether or not to make the purchase... Because I could totally see, I'm considering buying this chair, you might be comparing. It's not the cheapest thing ever. It's not $5 sunglasses. If you want to double check that you can return this thing, to make it so that someone can very quickly see yes, I can return it. Okay, good. I'm going to buy it. That is my goal, is that someone doesn't have to wonder if they're stuck with it for life if they don't like it.

Do you want to offer free shipping back? I would love to be there. I know we won't be able to do that day one. Yeah. That's a cost thing. Replacements are a different thing, I feel like, right? Well, damaged? If something's damaged or... Yeah. Totally.

Absolutely. That's no question. My ultimate goal is, I want to differentiate. I get asked this a lot. "Andy, you're starting this company. There's already people that do this. What are you guys doing to be different?" There's 20,000 shoe stores before Zappos got in, what are they doing different? Bigger selection and super easy to work with. I think it's one of those things that's so simple to do, it can be a little painful, that makes such a huge, massive difference. It's so simple, but so many people are resistant to it that it's very easy to differentiate yourself without.

It's really easy for return policies to smack of disdain for the customer. I've seen them before where it's like, "You have four days from the date that you receive it to return your item and it must be in all original packaging. If you don't put this special code in the box." The whole RMA number bullshit. It's like, "What?"That's definitely telegraphing a message that you do not want returns and you're not necessarily interested in making the customer happy. You're interested in the sale and that is it. Having a returns policy that's easy to read and understand is showing that you care about your customer.

Correct. What is the value that, I think it's really hard to measure, but you could have a customer that returns something, ultimately doesn't like the product, they talk highly of the experience and you get more. Yeah, that's relationship building. I believe in that philosophy and that's what I... as much as we can afford it.

Yeah, absolutely. I think if we're framing returns around good customer service, our brand about being welcoming and making people feel at home and easy. Making the return process easy is part of that brand experience and that it makes sense that even a policy like this, that hopefully not that many people have to use, we'll reinforce that brand. Everyone always goes to these edge cases, "Well, people are going to take advantage of it." Of course, you're going to have the asshole that takes advantage of it somehow-

But towards what end? No matter what. That doesn't mean you should wreck that experience for everyone else. Absolutely. That's my philosophy. We have a client who sells customized products. They're written on, they're one of a kind. If someone accidentally spells their kid's name wrong and it's the customer's fault, they'll replace it sometimes. They'd rather build that lifelong relationship then say, "Well, technically you spelled Casey with an E instead of an EY, so it's on you." They don't do that. It's worth it for them to build that relationship. I think that's a place where you can really reinforce good customer service.

Another area, well, I guess one other thing I'll say on returns is, you can keep it kind of low-fi to start. It is okay if you don't have a totally automated system for returns day one. So this is a place where getting Bilberry West off the ground, we might have a little bit of human interaction to make returns happen day one, before we have enough volume.

We had that with Cooper Safety, too. We had a very low, minuscule, it was one a month, maybe, somebody had something to return so we didn't have that big of an issue. I think apparel is a huge industry where that's very common. For us, to your point, Nora, it's not going to prevent us from going live, and selling these, that we don't have that component in place. It's definitely not worth investing infrastructure in. It's okay for it to be kind of manual to start. Hopefully it won't happen very often.

Using customer notification to stay connected

Nora: The next topic that we wanted to talk about when it comes to customer service is notifications. We talked about this in our episode when we were talking about shipping too, owning the notifications that your customers get. When I say notifications, I mean like emails typically, but also text messages are pretty popular these days too.

I personally love getting text messages. Oh, I know. Well, to a point. I have had some that have been overboard. I think it's important, when you can, to allow the user to customize that, whether or not they want- On notification.

Yes. Whether or not they get text messages. Shopify makes that really easy. You, as the customer, when you check out, you can check whether or not you want to receive text messages. That gives control to the end user, which is nice. That's one of my favorite things that I think online retailers miss sometimes, is getting your brand voice into your notifications and making them feel good and fun. We're always sharing those around the office when we can get a good one. I think we have a real opportunity with Bilberry West to make every single notification that we send customized and in our voice- Totally. ...To make somebody excited to get their order, especially if there is a little bit of a lead time, which hopefully there won't be, but we can really make somebody start to get excited about getting their product.

I'm just shocked. My point with notifications is I'm shocked by how many e-commerce companies still, they'll allow their shipping provider to handle that. To me, it's just like, why are you doing that? Because that whole customer experience is now outside of your control. 

With Bilberry, we have the opportunity, you place an order. We're going to send you an order confirmation for sure. It ships. We're going to send you a shipment confirmation for sure. We know that one of the first thing a customer has to do with our product is put it together. We could even now, hey, we know they're expecting this. We could send them another email and be like, "Bam. Here's"... You know. Here's the assembly video or whatever. Yes, absolutely. And get them prepared for this. We can control that experience while it's all lumped under that notification. "Hey, your chair's going to be"... The data's out there, for example, I'm not saying we're going to do this, but if we ship ups, for example, we could figure out 24 hours before a package is scheduled to be delivered, we have access to that information and we could send it there. "Hey, tomorrow your chairs are showing up."

Yeah. Go find your Phillips Head Screwdriver and make sure you've got a space about five by five to assemble. Get somebody ready. "Don't forget. We're here to help. Here's our customer service phone number. If you have any problems putting this thing together," which again, hopefully- Hopefully it won't... Having customer service will reduce the first thing that we talked about, which is returns in the first place. Absolutely. My take away from notifications, awesome opportunity that is. I've been beating this drum literally for 10 years. I lose more often than I win-

Only 10? Of people wanting... 10 plus years. What drum? Working with clients and prospects and friends even. They're like, "Oh, UPS, WorldShip can send that notification." Dude, have you actually gotten that thing? It's fucking horrible.

No, it's not warm. It's not anything that we want our brand to be. So obviously owning that. Right. It's UPS's brand or FedEx's brand and of course it's going to be the least common denominator. "Well, there's a field that you can put a custom message in." Great dude. Thanks.

That's one of the things I love about Shopify, how easy they make it to customize those notifications. You can set up every single one of those templates, add whatever texts you want. If you want to add links to video, you could have help text in there depending on what product was ordered even, so it's really cool. That's something I really love about Shopify. It really puts it in the hands of an administrative editor. You don't need a developer. If you want to do something really complex, maybe, but it's pretty easy for a person without coding experience to customize those messages, even weird one-off messages that you maybe don't realize the system would send.

Another thing that I've seen that I love is, if you do have something that's custom built or custom created, that has a little bit of lead time, like a check-in email once the order has been started, can be really cool to get somebody excited and remind them that it's coming. We haven't forgotten about you. We're excited to send you this product as well. I really love those notifications like that, that are a little unexpected, can really solidify a brand.

Yeah. Think about it. We could figure out the temperature of the location where the shit was delivered and you could tailor your message based on that. "Dude, it looks like it's going to be a great weekend to sit out by the fire." If it's snowy and rainy, then maybe not. I don't know. The opportunities are endless, I guess that's my point. Yeah. It really is. I think a lot of people will delegate that to the shipper provider, the carrier, because it's like, "We don't know how to do that." Well, they don't take the time to think about that as an opportunity where I think it's a huge opportunity. Dude, there're opportunities to upsell products, promote other products. Anytime you can talk to a customer in a warm way, meaning it's not a cold call email, ... to the email...

It's something that they're expecting. They're interested in opening it because it's information that they're expecting to get. Take advantage of it.

Choosing you packaging and swag correctly

Another thing, oh man, I'm full of segues today. Another area that I don't think enough people take advantage of, or when you do it's well worth it, is in the way that you package your shipment and what you're putting in it.Yeah. Don't package it like a turd because we've all gotten the package. Right. We've all gotten shipments and it's like...

Well, it's one of those areas where it's like, yes, you're investing a little bit more time and cost, but it's almost always worth it, that moment of delight. I would challenge anybody who listens to this, that they haven't had an experience where they got a product in the mail in a way that was nicely packaged and they weren't pleasantly surprised by that and it didn't make them happy. It always feels good to have a well put together package with either a little something extra or unexpected color or something that feels good in that moment. 

It's exciting. Getting mail, getting packages, is still fun. So making that as fun as possible, I think is going to be a really great opportunity for us. We're talking about different stuff that we can put in. I think I'm really excited about can Koozies. I think that's a perfect branded item that we can put in there. It feels like a little extra something. I don't know, Andy, have we decided on that? Is that a done deal?

No, I totally forgot that... I'm so- I just think it's such a cool... I'm so conscious. I'm so focused right now on actually getting the product. I'm thinking about, what's going to make somebody go, "Oh, cool, thanks," when they open it. I just ordered some clothes from a really small retailer. They only have four or five products, but I ordered these pants. I think I talked about these pants last time too. These pants are really important in my life, but they came with a canvas little garment bag that had their logo on it, of course, but then also a canvas shopping bag, which I totally didn't expect, just a free shopping bag. I actually ordered a second pair later because I really liked them, in a different color. I'm interested to see, do they send that tote bag in every single order, or do they do that with the first order? That'll be something kind of cool to find out. I'm curious.

I'm shouting them from the rooftops because I think they're such a cool company for a number of reasons, but including that bag in there is just such a nice gift to me as a customer. I think it's well worth investing in something like that.

Consider adding a discount program

Another thing that a lot of our clients do, which I highly recommend, is including some sort of discount for the next order in a shipment. 100%. Unless you're a retailer that's adamantly against discounts.

Even just free shipping on your next order, which obviously, like we've said before, offer free shipping whenever you can. But if you can't for some reason, free shipping is a good one. Just a 10% off, you're probably doing 10% off somewhere else. Come on. You're doing that discount somewhere at some time of year, so offering that. Some time of year. So offering that to a repeat customer is a great opportunity. Yeah. And we did that with Cooper Safety. We had a two sided postcard. So you had the packing list that went in the box. The product that you ordered went in the box, of course, packaging material, but there was always a postcard and we had it double-sided printed. So one side always had a discount and we would... We'd only print, I think it was like a thousand at a time. And then we'd changed the coupon code. Yeah. That makes sense. Because sometimes they do end up on coupon RetailMeNot, and crap like that, whatever. There's actually an argument for seeding coupon codes on RetailMeNot, so that there's always something there. For sure.

Yeah. Because sometimes people, this is a little bit divergent, but I think it's worth saying. Sometimes people are like, they have to have a coupon code to place an order. It's deep in their soul that they must get a discount, so they will go out looking for it. And if we can just offer it to them right where they're looking, like RetailMeNot, or an aggregator like that, then it closes the loop for them. They get their discount, they come back, they place the order, we're moving forward. So it's worth it sometimes. But yeah, to your point, if you want to keep track of those discount codes and make sure that they're actually being used by that person who placed a previous order rather than just some rando. Yeah. Reprinting smart.

But the other thing we did, so it was a double sided postcard, right? So once I'd had the 'Thank you for your order, here's a percentage off your next order.' And we didn't care if you order twice a month from us, you still got that. So we didn't take it out. But then on the opposite side of that postcard, it would be an ad basically for another product that we carried. And what we did is, I actually got ... 3M, for example, they went into safety glasses. So 3M, historically at the time we owned Cooper Safety did not sell safety glasses. They were more into respirators, as we all know now and they had a big presence in ear plugs, but never safety glasses and some other categories. So they came out with safety glasses and for example, we sold the back of that postcard to 3M to market their safety glass products, which we also carried and the money that we got from that paid for it. Covered it. The whole program. Yeah. Oh, that's cool. Yeah. That makes sense. Prospie and Thrifty was important and it was awesome. Our redemption rate on those coupons was way higher than I ever expected. Really? Yeah. I think you can't discount the value of a program like that.

Yeah. And I think, and I don't know, it's speculatio n, but I don't know because we separated that actual physical card from the packing list, which a lot of people throw away. It was easy to keep. I don't know if like... I don't know, but it worked and I recommend it.

This is a sidebar, but I don't remember. Did Cooper Safety have a strong brand do you feel like? I have no idea... You had loyal customers. We had very loyal customers. We had a very high repeat order volume. We had exceptional reviews on Bizrate, which was, I think they're still around, we don't use them very often anymore. So that was a third party customer satisfaction. I mean, we had, I think it was a 10 star rating. It was like a 9.9 and with thousands of reviews. So, I don't know. It's a good question. We were so small... Because I wasn't around long enough. And we had so few resources and we were growing so fast. I mean, there were so many other things to deal with that... Did we take time to figure out if our brand perception. Well, I should say you did have a brand, right? Yeah, it was a good one.

It sounds like it was a good one. It just wasn't one that you were like actively cultivating and keeping track of. But like that reliability was that, all that. I don't know if there was ever market confusion. I will never forget, I was doing customer service one day and I took a phone call from a gentleman who loved working with us. They had never placed an order, because I looked it up while they were talking on the phone and supposedly their cousin works for the company. I was like, "That's awesome." When I know they didn't right, because it was me and one other person and I know that other person, because my wife isn't your cousin. So I don't know. Great. And you were like, "Oh, I'll say hi to him. Yeah. We eat lunch together all the time."

Yeah. I ultimately, they were a Wisconsin person strangely enough. I think they were confusing Cooper Safety with Cooper Power, which was a company. Oh, maybe. So they... That makes sense. Yeah. So I don't know, whatever. It was funny though. I'll never forget that, because I was so taken, I didn't know what to do. Well, anywhere in customer service mode where you're just sort of like being pleasant and kind of agreeing and you're not going to argue, what's the point. So anything else on packaging?

I think that's one of the best examples, in my opinion, I think Lego is one of the best freaking examples of packaging. You know? You open that box and if it's a sizable kit, they have bags and they're all numbered and then the instructions. It's like, that's awesome. Where we've all gotten stuff that you have to assemble and it's like one big bag of parts and then you have to sort those parts.

Yeah. I think one example, they're not a client, but I've always respected their packaging and they're small. They were smaller, I'd say that without knowing how big they actually are. But is Amy's caramel apple. They were very early adopters of ecommerce. So their exterior box is a brown corrugated patchy box, it doesn't have their name on the side, if I'm not mistaken, but inside they put apples into this very amazing, I don't know what they spent on that box for the apple.  It's like a custom apple holding on it?

It's a box that the apple sits in with the stick that had a hole that came... I'm pretty sure they still do it. And I think people absolutely... Because it made it really easy to gift give them, it looked awesome. When you just spent 13 bucks on a single caramel apple, I think the expectation... Well you're paying for the experience, right? Yeah. The experience. That's part of it. Lived up to its location, but yeah.

Nurturing customer with campaigns

Okay. I got one more topic. I mean, we can talk about as much customer service stuff as you want. But the other one I wanted to touch on today was nurturing. So we talk about that a lot in marketing in other ways. But I think nurturing customers in a direct consumer area, there's some opportunities there that are, again, I see all this customer service stuff as fun. This is like, what can you do to make a connection with another human? Even though they're doing it all online and they may never associate an individual human with your brand. How do you make a connection? So I think nurturing is so important when you have anything that's consumable, right? Anything that can be a repeat order. It's really critical.

You know. Dick's Sporting Goods is kind of my shit list for lack of a better word.
I've ordered stuff from Dick's pretty good and I've done curbside pickup and they have one speed for their email. And it is like obnoxious only. It's like anywhere between one and two promotional emails every day, seven days a week. And like it's insane. It is the shotgun and maybe the numbers support it. You want to talk about fatigue? It's insane. And it's all like Nike sale, Under Armour sale, blah, blah, blah. It's all sale sale sale sale. And there's never any good content there. So Dick's is doing nothing to nurture my relationship. What would you do? If you were taking over for them, what would you do? Well, the first thing I would love to see their click through and actual... They probably have a huge list, right. They're a huge company. So they have a huge list. So their numbers are probably huge, but still I've been getting an email from them every day, literally for a year, at least. And I haven't done a single thing.

Unsubscribe bro, unsubscribe. I know I'm almost, I kind of... I'm intrigued by their campaign. Are you like testing them? Kind of. Well, my first thought is, it must be working for them.

That's volume. You're thinking of them. But I do think, I don't know, you would hope that it's working for them. If they're doing this, they're investing in this, that it's paying off. I think you'd be surprised at how there is that old school attitude of just like flood them with the coupons and that's all we're going to do. And I don't think that's enough to stand out anymore.

We did it at Cooper Safety, we did a flyer sales promotion email to the whole list and we had a pretty good size list. It was like 45 or 50,000 and they were all customers and you could count on sales. It was always mind-boggling you would send that out and all of a sudden you were watching your sales dashboard and it would almost instantly go up.

That's so fun. It was, it was super exciting. It's like, 'Oh, sales are down a little bit this week. Well, let's send an email." Yeah. I think it would be interesting to see which industries that works for and which it doesn't. What's your customer base?

Well, you mentioned consumables earlier. I think there's a huge opportunity to remind people and we'd started doing this on Cooper. We ended up selling the company before we fully executed it. But Scott and I started working on using our data. So we knew, we sold a lot of consumable stuff, especially on respirators, right. So we're all familiar with N95 respirators. We sold a ton of N95 back in the day. And a version of that, there was a version that you had a mask in the head, these cartridges and the cartridges they needed to be replaced after X amount of use.

So we would identify people who had purchased specific skews and then nurture them on, "Hey, just a reminder. It's been 30 days since you ordered these, don't forget they're only good for X number of hours." And that started to pay off because I think people forget stuff.

On Bilberry West, do we want to become, we're all about healthy living and enjoying the outdoors and so on and so forth? I don't know if it makes sense. Are we overstepping our expertise to like send how to start a campfire, how to roast a marshmallow around the fire email? I don't know I'm on the fence there.

Yeah, I think that's something that we want. We're working on this right now actually, because we're talking and this is where nurturing and content marketing kind of intersect, I would say, because it's a question of what do we want to do with this content? Is it relevant? And when? But we're definitely talking about putting together a blog and that kind of started from search engine optimization, obviously. Getting more content on the site is helpful, but what else can we do with that? Can we send it to people? Will it be relevant? I think that's an interesting question.

Yeah. And it's easy. I have no problem. If you want to, we'll probably have articles about roasting the best marshmallow and it'll be fun, because some people like them burnt other people like them golden, other people just like them warmed up. So I think there's some fun stuff that we can bring there.

It writes itself.I spent a lot of time thinking about marshmallow roasting. Marshmallows? Okay, wait, so Andy, hears about marshmallows... If somebody does a Google search for how to roast a marshmallow, I haven't done any keyword research, but whatever the terms are... I don't think like is a sale for us necessarily. Right? But if they proactively are searching for that content and they find our site. That's cool. We're not shoving that down their throat. No, exactly. It's a more passive, yeah. But you're saying, does someone who bought a chair from us, want our opinion on the best way to roast a marshmallow? Like, do they give a shit what we think, that's the question. Yeah. But I think there is an opportunity for styling a backyard that has this, there's other things adjacent to having one of these chairs. Some great fire pits that are great in small spaces, for instance. I think there are things that are closer maybe than the roasting a marshmallow example that would be worth it.

Do we provide guidance on how to build a fire pit?I built a fire pit with a friend of mine a couple of years ago. It was very fun. So yes, I would love to. And you know, I have a fire pit that is the opposite. It's a solo stove. So it just moves around my yard as needed, which is great. So we want to do like a what's your fire pit personality quiz. That'll be pick the right fire pit to... You bought a chair and now you got to outfit the rest of it. Right? Yeah. But then it also comes down to like, what's the return on all this, right? We can write all day about fire pits and roasting marshmallows, but is that actually selling chairs? How do you measure the value of that?

Especially on the email nurturing, which I'm a huge fan of. I definitely think you have to do it. I do think to your point, especially for Bilberry, we're not going to spend two days producing a kick-ass email and all the work that goes in there... Yeah, we can' send it out to 12 people. Well that's a good point. [crosstalk 01:52:40]. We got to build up that list... order a product that isn't consumable. So that is a challenge that we're going to have. We're going to have an email list and we obviously want to build that email list.

So what you're telling me... But if we don't talk to that email list right away and we wait a year, that's weird. Because it's always weird to like, " Why am I hearing from these guys now?" Yeah. Well, I think there's a couple things to consider. In this case we want it to be highly sharable, right? Because that's the value of that customer after they bought their chairs, they may not be buying more right away. Maybe some, maybe they're buying one as a try me and they're going to buy the rest of them next week. That's great. I think most of our customers aren't, we don't have a consumable, so they're going to stop being an active customer. So in that case, we got to have something that's maybe shareable so that we get the brand out there, so that we get total more traffic. Like that's the value in that nurturing.

To me though I see one way we'll be able to nurture is it's the have that content and we will be rolling out new products, right? Since we have such a small catalog... That's true. That's a really good point. We can announce new products, which is exciting. Then you tend to get pretty good click through rates on stuff like that. That's a good opportunity, I think, to deploy the preferred customer discount, which people respond pretty well to because it feels like a scarcity, "Oh, I'm a preferred customer. Not everybody is, I deserve this discount." So I think that's a really good opportunity, like giving somebody maybe a chance to pre-order things that are on a new product. Could be really nice.

Pre-orders are super enticing, limited runs are something I'm noodling. Yeah. Yeah. I'm down this sustainable fashion path. I've been really trying to reduce my consumption of clothing. So I try to buy only from sustainable brands. So pre-ordering is really huge in that space because part of sustainability in fashion is like not making more than you need. So it's very common to have pre-orders in that space. And it does create that scarcity, which is really compelling. Would you consider abandoned carts nurturing? Yes. Or do they get their own category? Yeah, I think abandoned carts are, you better be doing abandoned carts if you can, because it's... I think there's a lot of [crosstalk 01:55:37], I've gotten abandoned cart emails, like five minutes after I left the site,

Yeah, I know, right. It's like, dude, chill. Like I just answered a phone call, calm down. Right. And we know, we obviously want to do our part. We don't want to be aggressive, slimy salespeople, right. Or push people into buying something they don't really want. But we do want to make sure we're taking every opportunity to to close the deal. That's important. You can't survive without sales. And sometimes you have to ask for those sales. So in a perfect world, everyone would just agree that we're the best and buy it. But sometimes we do have to do, a little persuasion isn't a bad thing.

Well, and I think there's buying intent obviously because you have to have gotten to a certain point where we have your email address that we're sending that abandoned cart email. So you're close and you just need a little nudge. So abandoned cart emails, we always treat those as their own separate campaigns and we track them separately. We noodle with the timeline, like you were saying, Andy, don't send it five minutes later. 

A little discount a little later might be worth it. And sometimes that's another opportunity to bring home that brand. Hopefully you're using that brand voice, whether it's silly or warm and welcoming to invite somebody back. So it's not just a dry, "You left something in your cart", you want to do something that feels like you and get somebody excited about the product.

Totally. Yeah. This is a lot. Like any one of these could probably be a deeper dive. But these are some of the things that I think people overlook when they're thinking about customer service and customer experience and where you can really take it from good to great. And I would my recommendation... So if somebody came to me and it was a brand new startup or brand new e-commerce site...

They do come to you. They do that all the time. True. That's your job. Oh yeah. Anyways, it would be all these things, so returns, notifications, packaging, nurturing, super important, good customer service, super important, but still secondary to, you know that we keep saying that this on this podcast is, don't let these things stop you from launching. If your notifications suck and your packaging sucks and you're not nurturing and your returns policy's not the best. That's okay. Don't let all these things prevent you from launching. Because these are all good things that you can focus on once you get some momentum.

Yeah. That's a good point, Andy, because it can be really easy to get caught up in these. I started this by saying, this is so important, but at the same time are you selling anything today? If you aren't, start selling something and then start thinking about the next problem and the next problem and the next problem.

Right.  Which I know you get mad at me, because we're talking about Bilberry West and you're still working out, the timeline is off because we're publishing these podcasts a little later than we're recording. But as of this recording, we don't necessarily have products to sell. Right? Yeah. Sort of a problem, right? So I'm like, "Well, yeah, but what are we going to put in the pack? Are we going to do beer koozies? Are you going to do a bag? And you're like, "Nora, chill out. We're not there yet."So run before you walk. I think don't let perfection be the, what's the saying I'm losing it? I think the message is run before you walk. Something's better than nothing in any of these areas and keep tooling, keep bringing your brand through in all of these touch points. Yeah. I'm more of a ready fire aim. I think that's another way of saying it. That's why we're so perfect, Andy. You can always aim later. That's why we complement each other so well, because you push forward and I pull us back and it all works out just fine. Right. Perfect. 

And that’s a wrap on our first season of Beyond the Cart! We’re going to be taking a short break, for a couple reasons. First , Andy, do you have news for our friends who have been patiently awaiting their outdoor furniture? Unfortunately, I don’t have good news. Supply changes have still been really difficult to navigate. As a new manufacture, we’ve been put at the end of the line as far as materials. Yeah, I’m sure we’re not the first people who have had this happen as we get a new business of the ground. Luckily we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. Is there anything you’re doing to keep us moving? 

We’re actually shopping for some industrial space to get our equipment set up in a bigger area, which may seem like cart before the horse. But we’re going to start making prototypes with alternative materials so we can work out the bugs on shipping, assembly, and really then it will be a matter of materials being available and then we’ll be in a good shape to move forward quickly. 

So this was obviously not ideal, but it’s reality! We’re doing what we can. The team is moving forward on the website, which we’ll share more about later, and in the meantime we’ll continue to record Season 2 of Beyond the Cart. In the coming weeks, we’ll be doing a combination of short, deep dive episodes on tools and tactics, as well as more interviews with ecommerce professionals. We want to thank everyone who’s listened so far, and supported us as we do this first season. Please stay tuned for season two, coming later this fall.  
Beyond the Cart is produced by Lightburn.  Our episode today was produced and edited by Dave Myszewski. Our music is the song Let’s Go Go Go, by Tigerblood Jewel.
Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your audio.  You can always learn more about ecommerce at

We’ll see you next time on Beyond the Cart!

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