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April 8, 2021

[Step by Step] How Can I Turn Customer Segments into Personal Connections?

🎶Let’s get personal, personal...🎶 But seriously, we have this bad habit in eCommerce to turn customers into segments and numbers and forget that they’re people. Ben Parr, President and Co-Founder of Octane AI and Jason Wong, of Doe Lashes & Wonghaus Ventures join the show to talk about making segments personal, organic, and engaging for the customer. Listen Now!

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Brian: [00:00:37] Hello and welcome to Step by Step, a podcast by FutureCommerce presented by Route. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:43] And I'm Phillip. And this is Season 5 of Step by Step. And this is Episode 4 of 5. If you're just jumping in to this series here right toward the end, what are you doing? You need to go back. You've got to listen right from the beginning. It's the best way to experience Step by Step because these episodes and concepts build on each other. And you know what else builds on itself, Brian? Customers expectations of you and your brand. Isn't it the truth?

Brian: [00:01:10] I feel like it's been exponential, that they're just stacking upon... It stacks and stacks upon stacks of expectations.

Phillip: [00:01:15] And stacks on stacks on stacks on... It's exactly. It's exactly right. And you didn't set those expectations with your customers. Amazon and Walmart did. The best in the business that have billions, billions and billions of dollars to spend. They're the ones setting the new levels of expectations. But you can actually rise to the occasion. And that's what we're teaching you on this season of Step by Step.

Brian: [00:01:41] Yeah. So if you're a small or medium sized business, you're a DTC startup... You're a brand that's on Shopify or even Shopify plus or even a different eCommerce platform... If you're an independent retailer... If you're a lifestyle eCommerce business... This is your opportunity to learn about what you need to do about Amazon and what they've done to your customers. Because let me tell you, they did something to them.

Phillip: [00:02:11] {laughter} They're actually, they did something to them. Amazon standing the corner looking real good tonight. That's what's happening.

Brian: [00:02:19] Exactly right.

Phillip: [00:02:20] Amazon's doing all the right things.

Brian: [00:02:22] Fifty percent of the time it works every time. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:02:26] Here's the skinny. We have been talking about amazing, amazing technologies that I didn't even, some of these I didn't even know existed that are allowing brands of all sizes to actually compete with those like the really Whiz-Bang pieces of the Amazon experience from live, how many stops away your your packages from you, a live shipping preview, to shipping insurance, easy package-less returns, and like one and two days shipping. These are all things that your brand can deliver on. And we've been teaching you how to do that this season. But I'm really personally invested in what we're going to talk about next. You know me, I am a huge fan of guided selling. And we are going to answer the question in this episode, how can I turn customer segments into personal connections? And there's this thing that we do in eCommerce where we sort of like remove the personhood of the customer. We talk about them as segments, and we talk about them as consumers. They're people. And the thing that we could be doing so much better is having real direct connections with people. And finding ways to do that at scale is actually quite difficult. And today we're going to sit down with two people who have actually been solving this, both with technology and with just like really brilliant execution on both product and personalization.

Brian: [00:04:01] So without further ado, please welcome Ben Parr, President and Co-Founder of Octane AI, and Jason Wong, CEO and Co-Founder of Doe Lashes and Wonghaus Ventures.

Phillip: [00:04:19] Today, we are right in the middle of our Step by Step series, and we have two guests with us to tell us how we meet the expectations our customers have of us, the ones that were set by a little company you might have heard of called Amazon. With us today and telling us how we're going to do that is Ben Parr, President and Co-Founder of Octane AI. Say, hi, Ben.

Ben: [00:04:41] Hello. I am just the real life hands up in the air emoji waving hands.

Phillip: [00:04:47] That's the high energy I'm looking for, Ben. And also with us is Jason Wong from Doe Lashes and Wonghaus Ventures. Welcome, Jason.

Jason: [00:04:55] Hello. Thanks for having me.

Phillip: [00:04:57] Absolutely. And I'm going to get some lashes before the show is over. I just want you to know. Do you have LED lashes? That's the question that my kids need to know.

Jason: [00:05:08] That it's on the roadmap.

Phillip: [00:05:10] Hey, that's the right answer.

Brian: [00:05:13] That's cool.

Phillip: [00:05:14] Customer expectations...

Jason: [00:05:14] I will put some of those on.

Phillip: [00:05:16] We're all going to put them on. Are you kidding me? It's great. Maybe we can I mean, Jason, we've got at least 30, 40 minutes maybe. Maybe you could spin out a coupon code by the end of this thing, so people maybe could have a little something to fill their baskets with. I'd love to hear about that, but I don't want to put anybody on the spot, and I don't want to take anything for granted. Let's each take a quick turn. Jason, tell us about Doe Lashes and how you got started and what you guys do.

Jason: [00:05:43] So Doe Lashes is a brand of eye care products. We focus on lashes, contact lenses eventually and basically anything that makes your eye experience overall more enjoyable. And one of the problems that we felt like in the industry today is that things are really pretty, but they are not that nice to wear throughout the day. So we really want to focus on a comfort aspect of it. And so we designed an entire product line just to service this. And so far we have launched our lash collection. We've launched some pimple patches. But eventually down the road we're going to make lash serums. We're going to make contact lenses. Basically anything that can really make it enjoyable to wear throughout the day.

Phillip: [00:06:27] Awesome, and Ben, how does Octane fit into this equation, both in the overarching theme and maybe how you guys are helping Doe Lashes?

Ben: [00:06:37] So, Octane AI, for those who don't know, is a conversational commerce and personalization platform for eCommerce brands. In particular, thousands of Shopify brands use us to connect with their customers and to retain them. And so to do that, we have a set of products that were really well known for that work together to both like learn more about your customer, recommend products, and then use that information to personalize the rest of the customer journey. Our newest product and our hottest product, because we just had so much demand for it, is our Shop Quiz, which allows you to put a conversational experience on your site. It is like the concierge that you would get in the store asking you questions, recommending products. We found that thousands of stores that we talked to had a real difficulty putting these kinds of quizes, these guided shopping experiences together on their site. We made it super simple to create these, to go and make it super customized to your brand, to recommend products, which drives increased average order value, increase of sales, all the fun numbers. But the secret sauce is now that you have that information, you can actually leverage it to do personalization of raw across the rest of the customer journey to our products and through products we integrate with. So Facebook Messenger was our original product when we first started the company. You could do all the same kinds of things you do with SMS or email market with our Facebook Messenger product, but now it connects to our Shop Quiz and that personalization journey to send more personalized messages, so that instead of sending the same blast to everyone, you could personalize it. Or as another quick example, like Doe Lashes utilizes the Shop Quiz to learn about their customers and then they can do email segmentation in Klaviyo, so that instead of sending the same sale to everybody, they can actually do deeper segmentation. And we're like one percent of the way there towards like a really, really personalized customer experience, which is what we're going for.

Brian: [00:08:35] This is super exciting. I'm so happy to be talking with both of you in regard to this conversation. And Octane seems like such an important part of the solution. As Philip mentioned, the series is about competing with Amazon. But really, you're not competing with Amazon. Amazon really has created the Prime problem, if you will, for a lot of customers or for a lot of merchants out there. The customer expectations are changing as a result of Amazon. The Amazon affect is real sort of every level. And so in this particular episode, we're going to be focusing on the importance of personal connection, something that Amazon does or doesn't do very well. They have a lot of data, and they suggest a lot of products, and they have a lot of things going on, but I think there's a huge opportunity here. This is an area where merchants can really set themselves apart. And so there's a lot of new brands launching. You've got all these powerful tools that we talked about on the show. And we will continue to talk about. New brands are popping up all the time. And they're building a direct connection to audience. They're owning their channel. But this is a really important part of this journey, building that connection with those customers. So Jason, maybe we can start with you. What is the importance of building a personal connection mean for you at Doe Lashes?

Jason: [00:10:03] For sure. A lot of our customers really come to us because they want to experience our brand, our site, and our overall product all together. So Amazon really only makes up three percent of our revenue. Most of the people, even though they have the option for Prime shipping, they actually still go through our site because they enjoy the experience of shopping on our site. And so for us, we recognize that. And so we try to do our best to make the on site experience better for them with personalized quizzes. We're building AR lenses for them to try on lashes. So we know that people still want to shop on websites, even though there are marketplaces that offer them really fast shipping. And for some people that is very important. But I would say for the most part, people like the retail shopping experience. So they come on to our websites to see what we can offer.

Brian: [00:10:57] I love this because what you're speaking to is, you know, Amazon has all of this infrastructure and all of the scale and all the things that would make them as popular as they are, let's give them credit.

Phillip: [00:11:08] Are they very popular? I haven't really of them.

Brian: [00:11:12] You know, just 50 percent of transactions on the Web in the US.

Phillip: [00:11:18] Is that all? Oh ok.

Brian: [00:11:20] But I think what just blew me away, Jason, about what you said is that you're only doing three percent of your transactions on Amazon. Once people establish a connection with your brand, they want to shop with you. And so using tools like Octane is a great way to do that. Ben, what is building a personal connection with your customers mean to Octane? And how do you think it helps them compete with changing consumer expectations?

Ben: [00:11:48] So I had this interesting conversation with a merchant where they're like, "There's been changes recently with iOS and privacy. It's going to make it harder to do more targeted ads. It's harder to go and doing scraping kinds of things because of GDPR and things like that." And those are like honestly good things for the consumer in terms of better privacy protection. But now you don't have this data maybe you relied on for retargeting ads. So what do you need to be doing? And the answer has been and always will be, you need to have a direct relationship with the customer to learn more about your customer, which is the data side, and to get their explicit opt in to go and do things. And so one interesting thing about the quiz in particular is it's like the most direct way to ask the question you actually want to know. Like with the quiz, not only is Doe Lashes learning about what kind of styles and things like that, but they're understanding things like whether it might be like an age or it might be a skin tone or something for a beauty brand or they might be learning... Just depends on the brand. There's this information that's really, really important to understand. In the same way, again, like if you go into the store to buy, say, a ring, you're going to ask a lot of questions, especially if it's expensive. You're going to be asking about the style, the size, about colors, all sorts of things. And that's really important to that buying process in retail and part of why retail is still like the majority of sales, but it's never been replicated at all in eCommerce. You can't do that at all on Amazon. It's just like type and search or whatever kind of thing. You don't really have that much confidence in purchase beyond maybe there's like a review here or there. Versus like I need to go and find a specific style based on like who I am. I need to get some confidence. I want to like, actually get some feedback.  [00:13:40]That's why you need that direct connection. That's why you need to have something like a quiz or a way to build that direct information exchange, because then the next time the customer comes back, you can actually recommend the things they're looking for. And instead of like spamming them with these things that they are not going to ever buy, now you actually know what they're looking for. You can actually just make a better experience for the customer. I think one unique thing about Octane AI is, unlike maybe a lot of other things, it's actually much better for both the store and the end customer. It makes for a better experience for both. [00:14:15]

Phillip: [00:14:19] I'm dumbfounded there. That's why the silence happened. It's so interesting knowing how product managers work at a company like Amazon. Well, Brian, you're an ex-Amazonian, by the way. Is your non disparagement... Has that expired? Are we good to talk on this episode?

Brian: [00:14:39] That's a great question. I think so.

Phillip: [00:14:43] {laughter} Let's find out for sure. Yeah, there's just knowing how product management works and knowing that your experience as a consumer with Amazon is singular and you seamlessly find a product that's recommended to you. You purchase it, it gets delivered to your house. To you that's one experience. In reality, it's 17 teams who are working in concert. I find it so fascinating that the modern eCommerce operating system is effectively the same thing. It's a lot of really well integrated tools that are effectively independent pieces of software, but they've all decided to work in concert together. Earlier in the span of this whole series that we're doing, we'll talk to Happy Returns and how they can facilitate package free label free returns. We'll talk to Shipbob and how they're getting products to the door in a day or two. So they're fulfilling on all these needs. The other side of the equation is the pre purchase, not just post purchase. Route has all that post purchase stuff, too, but the pre purchase, like how did you get the product? How did you seed into the customer's mind in the first place that this product would meet a need that they had? And having a conversation with them is, I think, the most slept on way of understanding who they are and having them tell you in plain English what it is they're looking for. I don't want to discount, like, that's something that Amazon does extremely well. It's something that small and medium sized brands, I don't think are well enough invested in yet. Jason, I would ask you. What are some of the data points that you're finding in some of the customer segments that you're trying to tease out here in your communications with your customer, both on and off of Octane?

Jason: [00:16:31] The quiz really helped us understand that our audience really doesn't know anything about lashes. We realized that we created this quiz, and we didn't recognize a lot of the people that were going to take the quiz had absolutely no idea the concept of false lashes. Like they're so new to make up that they didn't even know that was a part of the routine. And so we were starting to discover that the quiz that we're making can actually be segmented into different stages of the funnel. So like the people who are complete newbies, people who understand lashes already, and people who wear lashes every single day. And we're starting to create different variations of the quiz to cater to these stages of the funnel. And we're realizing that it's a lot more effective because it's a lot more personalized that way. And we thought that a quiz is personalized already, but we realized that you actually have to be even more narrow in the specific buckets of people that you're talking to. And what I really like about the quiz is it's like going to your barber. You talked to your barber a few years ago. You tell them what you like and ever since then, they just know exactly what you like. And for us, that's kind of the quiz for us. We get all this audience data. We put them into Klaviyo. We'll put them into Facebook. We have different attributes that we assign into their profiles. And ever since then, we send personalized emails, SMS, personalized Facebook ads specific to their eye shape, to their preference. And it just really allows us to be there for a customer. It allows us to essentially mirror the experience that they would get if they go in through a Sephora or Ulta and they go to a beauty counter and they ask someone what's their recommendation. We're able to effectively offer the same type of experience without the face to face interaction, of course, but really give the shopper something to come to a website for.

Brian: [00:18:24] Cross-channel. Leveraging one party data across channels. That's so powerful. You think about what all the data that Amazon has and all their enterprise tools that they've built to push relevant products. But I think a lot of it for me, like practically, ends up just being like you may also lack at the bottom of your product detail page. And so what you're telling me is you're able to build one to one connections that feel like your barber connection. That's off the hook. That is the next generation of consumer experiences. I love the strategy. What kind of results are you seeing from this?

Jason: [00:19:08] So compared to an email pop up, which is the pop star shows up five seconds or 10 seconds after your time on a website, the collection of leads, either email or SMS, it's roughly three times more.

Brian: [00:19:26] Wow.

Jason: [00:19:26] Yeah, it's it's crazy. And the thing is, everyone is so committed throughout the quiz that they just want to get the results. So they put in their email. So we're definitely seeing a lot of action driven by that. But overall, people just they know that they get personalized results. They know that you now have built a profile of their attributes and they want to sign up to have that profile safe because beauty in particular, people are very sensitive to what they put on their face. So they want to make sure that whatever they put on their face and what they purchase is exactly for them. So they're actually incentivized to make a profile with our store, whereas for a lot of other brands, they might be a little bit hesitant because they're like, why does a bike company need my information? But for beauty in particular it's super, super effective.

Phillip: [00:20:14] Well, there's something really interesting there, Brian. It reminds me of the conversation we had with Jackson Jeyanayagam about around you, on you, and in you as being levels of intimacy. On my eyeball is something that sounds extremely intimate. I don't know. That's just me.

Brian: [00:20:32] That's basically in. I mean, that's...

Phillip: [00:20:36] Something I can see in my periphery every waking second. Yeah. That's kind of an important choice. I have to trust that brand. I'm curious, Jason, when you're thinking about ways that you use this data elsewhere, there are trends that come up in beauty all the time. A couple of months ago, there was a TikTok trend for cow makeup. Just a couple of days ago, I saw in a newsletter that there was animal crossing makeup as a whole thing. How do you take what traditionally might have been content marketing and make that more personal based on some of these factors that you've already outlined?

Jason: [00:21:18] For sure. For the most part, we're very observant of what's going on in social. Our team is growing through the dashboard, whether for business or for the personal pleasure. But overall, we watch, we're always watching. And whenever we see content like this, we try to integrate it into a marketing campaign. I'm, of course, doing it and a balance so that it's not overdoing it. In a lot of sense, we use a lot of these content that creators make for us following these trends in our content marketing strategy and then try to put them in to paid marketing too. And we actually use a lot of the data that we get from Octane to push our paid acquisitions in that way, too.

Brian: [00:24:26] That's a really good segue. Ben, I was just thinking about this in context of acting and what you can accomplish. Thinking about how to compete with Amazon or not really compete with Amazon, but build that stack that sort of represents the same level of service and total experience that you get from purchasing on Amazon. And the role that Octane plays in all of this, this idea of trust being earned. And the zero factor, you know, any set of numbers time zero still equals zero. And so we think about frequency of repurchasing, the types of recommendations, subscriptions. But loyalty, loyalty is so much more than just this. Talk about customer lifetime value and how this personal connection plays into the role of ongoing customer relationship for not just the single time purchase, but their purchases into the future.

Ben: [00:25:34] So I want to hit on a point, and you were talking about like Amazon competing with them. [00:25:40] So this is something we talk a lot about internally and with our customers, which is like we believe that every merchant should have access to the same kind of technology that Amazon has because the advantage Amazon has had is the technology and the data. And so Amazon has tens of thousands of engineers building all sorts of things to recommend products. But merchants don't have tens of thousands of engineers. They don't have the ability to go and build the same tech. But we at Octane AI do. We're venture backed. We have the capability. All we're doing is hiring engineers to go do all these different things. And we have crazy things on the roadmap to go and do it. And so, like everything is just like we want to arm everyone that's not named to Amazon or Netflix with like this same technological stack and the same AI, and the same capability to collect data that Amazon does to even that playing field. [00:26:33] And I think when you like to do that, then that's where you get to like that long term value in that long term relationship with the customer. Because most of the long term upgrade is a lot about like the relationship with those customers. It's much easier to keep or retain customers. We all know these things. Right? But like, you can't do that properly and build that relationship if they're not building a connection with you, and you build a connection by actually personalizing some way. If you're sending a bunch of emails to somebody... Doe Lashes as an example, if you're sending a bunch of emails to a customer about advanced tactics, and they're a first time ever lash owner, they're going to probably churn. They're probably not going to come back because they might be intimidated. It's not speaking to them. But by even simply having that information and being able to connect it to the rest of your stack, your email, your ads, whatever it is, now you can actually, like, walk them through that longer customer journey over time. Now, you know, they're a beginner, I can start at that point. I can have the right sequences like Jason at Doe Lashes do, and go over time more and more advanced and it's a journey. But we're not the technology to actually personalize that customer journey and the technology to actually collect that data just has not been in the hands of all of the merchants and all of the stores that are not named Amazon. And so that's always been the big difference, I think, until super recently.

Brian: [00:28:00] That's so good. Yeah, I wrote an article called The Enthusiast Economy about the different places in the funnel that customers are at and being able to meet them where they are, so they can step their way into like total nerdom. {laughter} Because they're nerds for everything. And certain people are going to nerd out about things, sort of as they step into different things in their life. And so if you can meet them where they're at and like you said, give people the right resources at the right time, they could become incredible long term customers that obsess over your product and over beauty. And it's going to allow for a better relationship in the long term by not overselling to them up front. I love that.

Ben: [00:28:48] I'll just even say, it's as simple as like you don't need to or should send fifty emails or fifty text messages. It's much more effective if you could send one or two. But they're actually like the thing that the person is looking for. We're actually trying to decrease the amount we have to send, not increase them.

Brian: [00:29:06] I love that.

Phillip: [00:29:08] Now that's not something you hear every day on this podcast. Do less, but do it better. I think that that's good advice for life. Gosh, Jason, any reactions to that? How has it been over the journey of Doe Lashes? Like, do you find yourself having to come up with less creative and shove more down more people's throats? And are you being more targeted and more thinking more one to one rather than mass communicating?

Jason: [00:29:46] Yeah, we actually, [00:29:48] compared to everyone else in the market, send a lot less direct communications through email or SMS. We're very intentional with every campaign that we send, and we focus a lot on segmenting. So our open rates are higher than industry average because we send campaigns with a purpose. And that means that we send to the people who we think have the most benefit from reading that campaign. It caters to them most, and it's within the right audience. [00:30:17] So a lot of brands send emails every other day. They send text and they spam you and then eventually you unsubscribe. But we actually text our customers maybe four or five times a month. We send maybe five emails a month too. Yeah, we actually don't sound a lot, but when we do send it's very impactful because we try to make it as intentional as possible. We know exactly who we're going after, with the data that we have, and catering the creative and the offer around that.

Brian: [00:30:50] Four or five times a month. I wish there were some brands that land in my inbox that took a cue from that. Some brands email me like a few times a day. It's over the top.

Phillip: [00:31:04] It's sad because I think that, you know, if you were to look at a certain number response rate and ROAS on a particular campaign or like there is a certain metric that might prove that that's efficacious. Is that the word I'm looking for? There's some number that does incentivize some customers to purchase from you based on those kinds of high frequency touch. Unfortunately, the one that's negatively impacted that very few are looking at is the total lifetime value of the customer, which I know is in question in some circles. But when you own this first party relationship with a customer, I think it's something that you should be tracking, especially in that one particular channel. Ben, I'm curious, across all of your customers, what's your handle on the contribution of chat on the site and quizzes on the site, having a positive or some other impact on lifetime value for the customer?

Ben: [00:32:06] I mean, I think we've seen it definitely depend brand to brand, just like a couple of numbers. So like one obvious one is revenue in terms of for a bunch of our customers, maybe anywhere from 20 to well over a third of their revenue comes from the Octane AI suite, whether it comes from like their quiz, especially in a case of Doe Lashes. Or it comes from like our messenger or from our SMS product. But the other thing we see is actually across the board, the customers who go through a quiz, have higher average order value than the customers that don't. And some cases, we're seeing like 30 percent or more higher average order value, not just on the first purchase, but on the continuing purchases. I think in part like a quiz does help with like making sure you have the right recommended set of products and not just the right individual product, but also over time being able to now I understand this a lot more about my customer. I can actually recommend a better set of bundles, or I know when to actually reach out to them when they are going to be needing a replenishment or whatever it might be. And we have just seen like these double digit increases in conversions and pure revenue generated and in the overall average order value in that lifetime value of the customer.

Brian: [00:33:30] Average order value is something that we haven't really talked much about yet. I can imagine that that's something that's also spiked as a result of providing relevant suggestions and hitting customers with things that actually matter to them. Jason, how has the average order value been impacted as you've gotten to know your customers better?

Jason: [00:33:50] In terms of average order value, I would say there hasn't been a significant increase just because most of our product offerings are around the same price point. So making it personalized doesn't mean a higher priced item because all of our products are the same price. So I can truthfully say that didn't really make a huge dent there, but it did increase the conversion rate overall, which helps our revenue. So average order value stays the same, but the conversion rate definitely went up like a percentage point.

Ben: [00:34:22] This is definitely a business to business kind of thing. So like in the beauty business, like the pure, like you're selling cosmetics. We have consistently with like a pure cosmetics brands they are selling like a package of like here's the face cream and here is the toner, and here's like the other groups. That's where you can especially increase like the average order value versus like other product categories where it's not going to have the same kind of impact. And that's mostly about the type of business, especially if you're a business that does bundles, you should be doing a quiz.

Brian: [00:34:52] That makes so much sense.

Phillip: [00:34:55] You should be doing quizes no matter what. Three years ago, Ben, I was one of the folks that was part of your viral campaign because three years ago wrote an ebook... We started this... Let's rewind even further. Brian and I started podcasting based on the premise that conversational commerce was going to change the world. Little did we know it took this long to get to a place where it had some sort of like widespread adoption in a format that people understood instead of just shouting into thin air at your computer. But there was such an interesting evolution here, because I've written ebooks about this, about guided commerce and quizzes and how it allows you to talk with your customers. It's like a digital equivalent of what you would do in an analog conversation, what you would do in the real world. And bundling is something that happens naturally in every store that you walk into every day. It's that you're trying to minimize your number of trips. You're minimize your number of repeat in-store visits with highly considered purchases, and you're trying to maximize the value of the reason of what got you off the couch and into the store and to not look at your phone for 20 minutes, which God forbid, that's terrible. So I think it's really commendable to say something like Doe Lashes where you have you know, it seems like the average item runs about twelve dollars, but you have free shipping at 60, your capturing a number of... The average number of items in the basket per purchase is actually quite high. And the fact that you can help people decide how to mix and match that so that they're happy and satisfied and they keep coming back for more, and the way that you're engaging them to do it rather than just dropping them in the middle of a shoppable slice and dice catalog, I think is only possible and I don't say this just to beat the Octane drama. It's like it's only possible conversationally. I'd love a reaction, Ben and Jason on that.

Jason: [00:37:05] Yeah, no, for sure. I think I agree with Ben for sure that it's case by case basis just because our product offering is pretty much the same. It's just in a different style. So [00:37:17] we definitely help people make better and more informed decisions. So instead of them just picking a product because it looks good, they actually now know why that product is right for them. So we're definitely seeing more intentional purchases. We're seeing people pick a wide variety of items because they've taken the quiz and the quiz gave them the results of picking two or three different lashes. So we would definitely see people making better choices. And I think it also has indirect effects of people returning things to us because they now know that the first purchase that they have is the right purchase. So instead of [00:37:55] them buying things just to shoot in the dark, they now know what they're buying and so they are less likely to return things. But obviously, I don't have a lot of data to support that. But we've definitely seen that are returning rate has gone down a little bit over the past few months.

Brian: [00:38:09] That's so cool. Yeah, the bracketing purchases where you buy multiple things you think might work and then send back the ones that didn't work and keep the one that did. I think that's a really, really powerful and definitely saves a lot of money on those returns. I can imagine that that would be a really big additional savings. One last thing that I wanted to ask, and I know we're kind of coming up on time here, but I can imagine that the data that you're gathering through quizzes and through chat is also feeding back into your product development cycle. Jason, how have you been able to leverage this data and craft your roadmap for your products?

Jason: [00:38:51] Right. It definitely helps a lot. We draw data in the sense where we try to see their experience, like the amount of people that are coming onto our site and their level experience. And with that, we're able to create more tools to help them put things on easier. We see if people are... So one of the questions is like how often do you go out with lashes? And if they have if they do go out a lot more, we create bundles that pairs different applicators and tools together to make it easier for them to just take it on the go. So it definitely helps drive a lot of our product decisions. We create a lot of up sell products based on the data that we get from Octane.

Phillip: [00:39:32] Well, last words, Ben. Tell us a little bit about where, you know, the future of direct to consumer, small, medium sized brands, digitally native brands... Where are these headed and how does Octane fit into that future?

Ben: [00:39:50] I'm going to beat the same drum, which is personalized. Personalization.

Phillip: [00:39:56] Yeah.

Ben: [00:39:57] Right? So everything until now has been pretty minimal in terms of like real personalization. It's been based on maybe cookie clicks or like things like that or data that's been scraped. But we can do much better. That's not how you do it in a retail store. You ask questions, you really get to know your customer, you build a real relationship. When they come back, you already know these things about them. And so we believe the eCommerce experience should work in the same way. And we're starting off with the quiz and with our core set of products, Facebook Messenger and SMS and, you know, pop ups. And we're making them more and more personalized over time. And we have a set of new products based off of this where we're going to be doing some super, super cool things, leveraging this buyer profile data that our customers are collecting to do deeper personalization across the entire customer journey in places and in channels people don't expect and allowing others to go and leverage that data and like being able to connect it to everything from your support platform to your loyalty platform. And there's a ton more I'm not even mentioning. We are like tripling the team this year. You know, I'm going to hire like at least one hundred people this year.

Phillip: [00:41:14] I saw that.

Ben: [00:41:14] And we're just trying to get as many engineers as possible. Yeah, we're just trying to get as many engineers as possible to go and build this, because that's really the limiting factor for us right now, is like literally just have to go and hire more engineers to build this new future.

Phillip: [00:41:28] Oh, wow. Well, if you're looking right now, if you're looking at your old stodgy way of connecting with customers and you're wondering why aren't you doing it this way, I would implore... This whole series really covers how to build a modern eCommerce operating system. And I think the four technologies that we've outlined here, right here on this show Octane, Happy Returns, Shipbob and Route, I think really compete in the customer's mind and sets a new bar of expectation of what should be possible from every brand, rather than just giving your loyalty to one and having the default, having Amazon as a default because it's easy. We should all expect more because it's possible. We can do it. And I love it. Jason, I twisted your arm at the beginning. I can cut this section out. Tell me, do you have if you want to, could you throw down some sort of call to action, maybe some sort of a coupon code, something to get people to go pick up some Doe Lashes for themselves right now?

Jason: [00:42:36] I'll give you our biggest coupon offer, 20 percent site wide using the coupon code Future20. It will be available now.

Brian: [00:42:47] Yesss.

Phillip: [00:42:48] Love it, I love it, I love it. Go get it now, Future20, and I'm going to hold out for the LED lashes myself. I'll just tell you right now.

Ben: [00:42:58] Tweet a picture, everyone. If you get the lashes you put them on, tweet it at Jason and me, please.

Phillip: [00:43:04] We'll put your Twitter handles in the show notes. You guys get the last word. I love it. Thank you so much for listening to Step by Step, this series continues and you can find more series, more episodes, of both this current season of Step by Step and every other podcast that we've put out under the Step by Step brand and Future Commerce by subscribing over at And drop us a line. Let us know what you learned today and how you're going to put it to use in your business. You can do that by sending us an email, old, old fashioned email. It's still great. Send that over to Thank you for listening and thanks, Ben and Jason.

Ben: [00:43:44] Thanks for having us.

Phillip: [00:43:45] Hey, thank you so much for listening to this episode of Season 5 of Step by Step. And it was brought to you by the fine folks at Route and all of their partners who actually made this possible. And just remember, Route is the premiere post purchase experience platform. And that means that anything that you need from the click of the checkout button all the way to the package arriving safely inside the home, Route can have you covered. That's live package tracking updates. That's order protection that covers things from missing packages and broken items and slow deliveries and poor carrier communication and customer service automation. All of those things save you time and money, but it puts money back into your pockets because customers are going to come back and purchase again. You should check out Route. I'm a big fan and 8,000 other retailers all over the world are too. It's completely free for you. And even better, it could put money in your pocket today if you take a hundred dollar gift card when you sit down and take a demo and that's all you got to do. You can go get that demo. Go get it right now at Go get the demo today at Other episodes can be found at Drop us a line and email us. Tell us what you think at, and subscribe to our Insiders and The Senses newsletter that come out every Tuesday and every Friday. You can get that at Thank you so much for listening to Step by Step.

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