Entrepreneurship

15 Lessons Attendees Learned About Owned Marketing At Klaviyo:BOS18 min read

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How can you use your own digital channels to gain more control over the customer experience and grow your business?

That was the theme of Klaviyo:BOS this year.

Industry experts, fast-growing brands, and expert product specialists shared real-world examples and actionable strategies with more than 800 ecommerce pros who came to Boston to learn how to own their marketing.

Missed the highlights from the first day of Klaviyo:BOS? Catch up here. Curious about what attendees learned about owned marketing at the event? Read on to learn more about some of the lessons they took home.

On the main stage and in the owned marketing track, industry experts and brand leaders shared insights about the importance of owned marketing to any brand that wants to grow.


1 | Owned marketing can help you avoid becoming a commodity on Amazon.

Thursday’s closing keynote came from Eric Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand—a men’s grooming company that’s on a mission to make men feel awesome. Eric shared how he and his business partners bootstrapped Beardbrand’s growth with just a $30 investment in their ecommerce platform. Eric spoke about how, in the early days when they had little money to spend, they used content marketing in lieu of paid advertising to grow their brand awareness and acquire new customers.

As the brand grew, the team dabbled with selling their products on Amazon and even thought about expanding its presence at one point. But they changed their minds. Eric talked about their decision to pull Beardbrand off Amazon and spoke about the power of growing your business on your own website:

“Your website is your baby. Here’s the power in your website: once people visit it, you can remarket to them. You can grow your email list. And you can sell products. I hear people say, ‘You should be on Amazon, it couldn’t hurt.’ It could hurt. Our numbers prove it. If you’re building a business, people are coming to your website—your baby—to learn about your products. But then they go to Amazon to buy them and Amazon recommends other products. When your customers stay on your site,  you can make recommendations and increase your average order value in your own store. On Amazon, we were a commodity.”

2 | Owned marketing and storytelling are critical components of your customer retention and marketing strategy.

The 2010s were the golden era of paid advertising. But as platforms like Facebook and Instagram have matured, paid ads have become an increasingly expensive way to acquire customers. Reza Khadjavi, CEO of Shoelace, shared how retention, storytelling, and brand equity are becoming critical components of any marketing strategy.

“Google and Facebook are like landlords. You may not have to pay rent in a brick-and-mortar store, but you’re paying rent in advertising dollars. Customer retention has never been more important and your customer retention strategy has an exponential impact on your long-term growth. It all starts with the brand experience. You can’t just be selling a product anymore. You have to be selling a narrative and storytelling is how you build brand equity. Many brands have an obsession with getting new customers, but don’t take for granted the site visitors you already have.”


3 | Owned marketing can help you create connections with customers through online and offline experiences. 

As customers become increasingly more discerning with how they spend their dollars, they’re expecting brands to provide more personalized experiences—both online and offline. Jamie Levy, head of merchant engagement at Shopify Plus, shared how industry-disrupting direct to consumer (DTC) brands are using their owned marketing channels to not only tell their brand stories, but to connect with customers and create personalized, memorable experiences that drive intrigue and loyalty.

“Today nothing is templated anymore like it used to be in shopping malls. You can’t simply rely on the sales posters we used to see in store windows. With new brands coming to market every day, brands are competing for the same attention. To stand out, we have to be incredibly authentic. When we think of amazing experiences we’ve had with brands, we think of the ones that made us feel like they were anticipating our needs before we had them or the ones that made us feel like we were part of a community. As brands, we need to be absolutely everywhere. And we need to make the experiences we create for our customers authentic, genuine, and, most importantly, fun. While we’ve moved passed shopping malls, we can experiment with and invest in our owned marketing channels to create conditions that help our customers have personal relationships with us.”

4 | Owned marketing can help you overcome the paradoxes of success in the Age of the Customer.

We’re experiencing one of the most innovative eras in consumer history. This boom is driving opportunity for brands and buyers alike. And yet, Forrester’s research shows the very facets of making companies successful today are also causing their greatest challenges. Brigitte Majewski, vice president, and research director at Forrester Research shared three paradoxes taking place in ecommerce today.

The first paradox is what she calls hyper adoption which can lead to hyper abandonment. The easier it is to buy more, the easier it is to abandon your purchase. The second paradox is hyperinnovation which can lead to hyper expectations. The more you offer, the more customers expect. And the third paradox is hyper customer obsession which can lead to hyper dissatisfaction. The more you obsess over your customers, the more opportunities there are to deliver a bad experience. “Automation has been a godsend for marketing, but sometimes we can leave common sense behind,” Brigitte said.

Brands can find a balance, though, and Brigitte offered attendees some ways to battle these paradoxes:

“First, balance your long and short term goals. Most brands aren’t looking at things like customer lifetime value, they’re too focused on the here and now. Second, put humanity back into customer acquisition. A prospect isn’t yet a customer, so you can’t treat them the same. Finally, drive emotional loyalty. Emotion helps to fight abandonment. Seventy-five percent of people are ok with some type of personalization, but 25 percent are not—don’t forget about them.”


5 | A cohesive marketing tech stack helps you own your customer experience.

On Thursday, Lindsay Murray, vice president of marketing services at Blue Acorn iCi moderated a lively panel discussion about the role your marketing tech stack plays in helping you to better identify your customer’s needs, manage their entire experience, and drive purchases at just the right time.

At one point, she asked panelists from Klaviyo, Nosto, Octane AI, and YOTPO their opinions on the types of questions people could ask that would be helpful when vetting different technologies in order to help them get the right integrations.

Steve Wietrecki, chief revenue officer at Klaviyo, said:

“It’s really important to make sure, whoever you work with, can get access to data. First, ask yourself, ‘What are the experiences you want to build?’ Then, ask where the data lives. From there, ask the people you’re working with, ‘How can we get to the data to make it work well for what we need to do.’ We know you don’t have a lot of free time and we want to make this really easy for you, so that’s why we tend to work with partners who have very open mechanisms for getting at the data and making it useful. I’d say the number one thing to keep in mind is that it’s less about the technology itself, but what’s more important is finding partners that are focused on your growth. Do they have the same passion for taking your customers on the journey you want to take them on?”

In the brand spotlight track, entrepreneurs and brand builders shared examples of how they’re using their own digital channels to gain more control over the customer experience.


6 | With owned marketing, you can get creative and come up with fresh email content to engage your customers all year long.

Writing pithy, click-worthy, compelling email subject lines and content is no small feat. But for the team at Chubbies, crafting humor-filled content has proven to be the lifeblood of a successful email marketing strategy. Erich Hellstrom, digital marketing strategist at Chubbies and Kevin Page, senior manager of media strategy and measurement spoke about how the brand engages its subscribers with really weird subject lines and targets email sends to non-openers.

Erich offered some advice on how to come up with clever emails:

“Pretend that you don’t know anything and go test it. The best ideas come from people who don’t know anything about email marketing, so go ask them for some ideas. And make the content you’d engage with. One thing we often do is change who the sender is and create a truth or dare style email.”

Kevin added some insight on what to look for in terms of performance:

“January produces the highest unsubscribe rates of the year, which is something really important to be aware of. If you don’t have a really good message, don’t force it. Always check yourself to manage your unsubscribe rates. On slow weeks, we ease off the gas a bit. And I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to test different emails and see what works and what doesn’t.”

7 | Owned marketing can help you continually (and efficiently) innovate and improve your performance.

Brands are constantly looking to measure and improve performance, whether they’re tracking open rates, click rates, or conversion metrics. Jessica Hutchinson, head of email marketing – Europe at PURELEI GmbH, shared her approach towards identifying what to do next when campaigns go just okay and how to use past successes to innovate for the future.

“When you send a campaign, it’s either successful or it’s not. The first thing to figure out after you send it is why it was successful or why it wasn’t. First, look at your open rate. A good open rate means we had a good subject line and our segmentation was effective. Second, look at your clickthrough rate. A strong CTR means our call to action was simple, clear, and effective. When a campaign doesn’t go well, dive into why! We stay away from, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ It’s important to focus on growth and potential to improve, and to prioritize what will give you the biggest bang for your buck.”

8 | The data you collect through owned marketing can help you create more impactful messages for your customers.

What makes a really great newsletter? Will Critcher, head of direct marketing at Death Wish Coffee, shared how the brand used its data to realize its newsletter content had become stagnant, and how the team used data to uncover an opportunity to grow customer loyalty and increase campaign revenue—all while flexing their creative muscle.

“We sell coffee, so we have to be exceptionally different to stand out. It’s proven that there two ways to change human behavior: applying pressure and removing obstacles. We needed to apply those principles to our emails so we used coupons, urgency, a clean and user-friendly design, and a clear call-to-action which increased our revenue per email by 32 percent.”

When it came to finding the best time to send the brand’s newsletter, Will said:

“When you create loyalty, you create a happier customer without directly selling a product. We chose to send our newsletter out on Monday morning based on our customer base. Most of our customers work in an office, so we hope to make them laugh on Monday morning with our newsletters.”

9 | Owned marketing can help you drive more revenue for your business. 

What started as a do-it-yourself (DIY) kit for women with naturally curly hair has transformed into a haircare line with four steps and a cult following of women who are just learning to let their curly hair down for the first time. Kim Lewis, founder of CurlMix and Alicia Ferguson, marketing director, spoke about how the brand is using a weekly livestream event to increase sales, scale relationships, and foster a community.

Kim, a previous Klaviyo:BOS attendee, recounted her experience at the event last year.

“Just one year ago, I was in your seats as a Klaviyo:BOS attendee! I had just signed up for Klaviyo the month before and I wrote down everything from every presenter. And over the past year, we’ve experienced a tremendous amount of growth. Without spending any money on ads, the business was growing because people just really loved the product. But we threw gasoline on the fire by starting to use Klaviyo and our company growth literally exploded.”

On the topic of the brand’s weekly livestream event, Kim added:

“You have to figure out how to create a human connection with your customers. Going live on Facebook is one of the ways we do that.”

Alicia spoke about the impact the brand’s weekly livestream series is having on the connections they create with customers.

“We keep it simple and direct the messaging to the specific person. We always throw Kim’s name in there so it feels super personal and we humanize things, even in a text message. We’re creating raving fans and ambassadors for our brand. If you see something is working… lean in!”

10 | Owned marketing helps you create revenue-driving email campaigns.

John Merris, CEO of Solo Stove, spoke about the brand’s path from a successful Kickstarter campaign to becoming a robust ecommerce business using world-class solutions including BigCommerce and Klaviyo. Joined by MaryAnn Bekkedahl, senior vice president of global business development at BigCommerce, the two discussed Solo Stove’s growth marketing strategies and how they use their technology stack to grow their brand.

In talking about how Solo stove gets people interested in its brand, John spoke about the importance of owned marketing as part of the brand’s strategy:

“You can’t just invent website traffic. It’s hard. For us, in the beginning, Amazon was a necessary evil. But we have had a very deliberate strategy to shift the balance away from Amazon and into owned channels over time. We just like to be in control and we feel like we know our brand more than anyone else. We actually just switched to Klaviyo earlier this year and we’ve seen incredible results.”

MaryAnn asked John about the decision to move away from Amazon and how the brand is shifting traffic to their own site. John added:

“When your customers believe you, they become passionate about your brand. There’s power in authenticity. If you’ve bought three of the same firepits from me (with a lifetime warranty), I know you’re gifting it. So I segment you into a gifting category to deliver more relevant messages. We almost consider ourselves more of a content media company than a product company, believe it or not.”


11 | Owned marketing can quickly become the top marketing channel for your brand.

Connecting with and inspiring new and returning customers isn’t easy, but Homage has cracked the code by using storytelling, authenticity, and data. Robert Jacko, vice president of digital ecommerce and marketing and Justin Nottke, associate director of digital design shared how the brand uses Klaviyo to take an aggressive approach to email and how this strategy has made email marketing the top marketing channel for this brand.

Justin shared some examples of how the brand engages customers:

“We embrace historic events and iconic figures while celebrating fandom. Telling stories and producing desirable content enriches consumers and it increases their receptiveness, so it’s extremely valuable to us to take a data-driven approach with our email marketing. We have an 85 percent capture rate at the point of sale. When customers are checking out, we simply ask, ‘Are you on our email list?’”

Robert added insight into why email has become the top-performing marketing channel for Homage:

“There are a few keys elements to connecting and inspiring customers with email: invoke emotion and storytelling, be in the moment, and send timely, relevant content.”

12 | Owned marketing can help you create a seamless customer experience and maximize your revenue at the right time.

Every business has data and customer-facing communications, like emails, that are siloed. From what’s happening with your ecommerce platform to your business intelligence tools to your loyalty programs and more, it can be challenging to get full visibility into what’s going on across your business. Jon Palmer, marketing director at HYLETE, spoke about how you can not only send your communications with Klaviyo, but how you can also map your complete customer journey and create a seamless customer experience that helps you build your brand and maximize your revenue at the right time.

Jon spoke about how why he’s using Klaviyo as HYLETE’s marketing CRM.

“Imagine you want to build a house, but you live in a town where no one can build the whole house for you. That’s not the best way to build a house—the kitchen doesn’t match the other rooms and the quality is all over the place. This is the challenge that owned marketing has when multiple systems interact with customers. Klaviyo has allowed us to build a solid structure from the ground up by importing data and leveraging APIs.”

13 | Owned marketing can help you do more with less.

Can my marketing be more sustainable? How can I scale delight in my customer lifecycle campaigns? Was it okay that I flushed that work down the toilet? Mike Altman, retention marketing manager at Who Gives A Crap shared how the brand scales its best-performing marketing while creating personal and delightful experiences for its audience that ultimately drive results.

Mike spoke about how how the brand creates evergreen content fuel future marketing needs.

“What can you do to cut your marketing waste? Compostable content is the idea of using the same content to be consistent and add evergreen campaigns into future flows. For example, we created a quiz called ‘Which endangered tree are you?’ and added a content element that could be referenced in future emails to that customer. For example, ‘You’re a Baobab tree that’s now in bloom. Did you need to reorder more toilet paper?’’

14 | Owned marketing can help you collect robust data about your customers to help drive marketing and product decisions. 

Gathering data and analyzing it is key in helping to drive future marketing and product decisions. Connie Kim, vice president of technology strategy and business development at Unilever Prestige shared how Unilever uses data to more fully understand its customers.

Connie spoke about how Unilver began using its customer data to deliver more personalized content:

“One of the biggest challenges we had was that we didn’t really know our customers very well. We were sending concealer emails to someone who didn’t want concealer. We needed to figure out how to combat this. Instead of categorizing emails by products, we looked at spending and engagement behavior. You don’t have to hyper personalize every campaign to every customer. Start by breaking things down into segments.”

She also spoke about how the brand uses data from all of its brands to create more relevant experiences for customers, as well:

“We take our ecommerce data and integrate it with our email service platform as the sole place of customer information. We use Klaviyo to do this and I like Klaviyo best because of, hands down, the user interface. Klaviyo keeps the user in mind and it’s the best I’ve ever seen. We want all eight of our brands to sit in one database so we can compare customer behaviors between our different brands. We want to use all of that information to be able to cater specifically to you.”


15 | Owned marketing can help you build relationships and community with customers while simultaneously learning about decisions you need to make.

Dan Weisman, vice president of marketing at Ministry of Supply, shared how this brand that makes scientifically better dress clothes develops two-way communication with customers and how it thinks about when to automate versus when to simply connect.

Dan shared that the brand uses a concept called quantified empathy to connect with customers and make product decisions.

“Quantified empathy is how we gather qualitative data from our customers and track it in one database. We don’t just look at purchase data. We look at the content of product reviews and NPS surveys. Every team member at Ministry of Supply can access this data and use it to report and analyze what’s happening with our customers. For example, we can look at feedback from customers who want a better fit or more diverse styles, and see how many people had similar issues or gave that type of feedback to decide what updates or changes we need to make to our product line. We rely on data, not hunches.”


Klaviyo:BOS is a truly special event where brands big and small, and entrepreneurs and brand builders new and seasoned, come together to learn how to take their ecommerce businesses to the next level. They learn from experts and network with each other to talk about the various challenges they’re dealing with and share ideas and tips on how to overcome them to continue growing thriving, sustainable businesses—fast. Registered attendees will soon have access to Klavioy:BOS content, including the Klaviyo-specific strategies and advice shared by the product experts at the event. In the meantime, try the advice above as you build your owned marketing strategy and use #KBOS19 to share how you’re owning your marketing.

Can’t wait for Klaviyo:BOS 2020? Subscribe for updates and be among the first to get the scoop on next year’s event. 

This article was originally published by our friends at Klaviyo.

About the author

Steve Hutt

I'm obsessed with entrepreneurship, commerce, and Shopify. If you have the desire to implement what's working today for direct-to-consumer brands on Shopify, I'm excited you're here! Get the Shopify help you need. This industry blog and podcast is my digital brain where my guests and I share cutting-edge marketing strategy, must-have Shopify apps, and marketing platforms that will help you build and scale lifetime customer loyalty. To do this, I'm part of the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus and host of the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast.

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