Charlie Gower and Jules Miller founded The Nue Co. to create the change they want see within the supplements industry. The Nue Co. formulates without chemicals, fillers, and sweeteners by merging science and natural solutions to create the supplements the team envisioned. In this episode of Shopify Masters, we chat with Charlie Gower on the importance of data and customer feedback for growing a new brand.
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How discomfort fosters growth for startups
Felix: You founded the company because you looked in the space and you did not like the ingredients that most supplements were using. What were some issues that you were finding?
Charlie: It’s probably worth taking a step back to what we’re trying to do as a business. If you look at our company in simple terms, we are a health and wellness business that sells supplements. But before we get to the ingredients, for us as a company, it was thinking about how we help people reconnect with what good health actually means in such a fast-moving world. There’s started to become a disconnect of what it actually means to be in good health. For us, it was looking at how do we create that connection between mind and body and help customers on that journey get into a place where they understand where potentially they have issues that are leading to maybe not such good health and how they can then create and develop a lifestyle that allows them to fix those issues. Through that, we of course provide targeted solutions to those issues through the supplements that we create.
Felix: What’s your background? Why did you choose the focus on health specifically?
Charlie: I probably don’t have an atypical background for most entrepreneurs. I started my career as a professional sportsman. I was a professional rugby player at London Irish, which is a team in the UK, in London. Quite a lot of people ask me, was that the right decision coming out of high school to take that route rather than going into a more traditional career? I think that the exposure that it gives you, to professionals that are right at the top of their industry, at the pinnacle of their careers, is something you wouldn’t get in the corporate environment at an early stage. You’re thrust into a very professional environment, surrounded by brilliant leaders. That’s actually what’s set me up for success as an entrepreneur. You’re put in difficult environments where you have to find solutions. Most entrepreneurs listening can vouch for the fact that no day’s the same. At an early age being exposed to that environment, set me up for success. Then unfortunately that came to an end. I have a biblically long list of injuries, broken bones, hundreds of stitches. And if you’re in the US, obviously rugby is a very similar sport to the NFL. So as a result, I had to retire at a pretty young age. I was 22, 23, but with that background, I launched my first venture. I was very set on becoming an entrepreneur and making that my career. I launched a technology business at the age of 24. The business allowed software engineers to find new career opportunities. And for those that are more technical, it helps give visibility to open-source software. We did that Bootstrap, we raised no funding. The business had to get to the place very quickly where it was generating sales, generating an income that could sustain the business, the employees that we wanted to hire. And we were able to do that. And in the second year, we turned a seven-figure profit, which is fantastic. I think that the business was probably a little bit too niche. So building it from there became challenging, but it’s still running today with offices in the UK and the US. But obviously coming from a sporting background, my real passion has always been fitness, health, and wellness. And reverting to how could I, as an entrepreneur, make an impact on people’s health and wellbeing? And that’s really where The Nue Co. came from. My co-founder and the CEO is actually my other half as well. She’d been a long term IBS sufferer and failed to find an existing solution through the more traditional medicines. And actually, when you go to the doctor, there isn’t anything they can prescribe for IBS. So she sat down with her grandfather who was a chemist at the University of Cambridge and started to look at potential ingredients and things that she could put together to try and create a cure on her own. And that was really where the Nue Co. came from. And the first product that was launched was a product called Debloat Food. And since then she no longer suffers from IBS.
Felix: You mentioned that one of the most valuable transferable skills between sports and entrepreneurship was leadership. What does good leadership in an ecommerce startup look like?
Charlie: It goes to what I said in terms of no day is the same, particularly in ecommerce. Every day you’re coming into the business, thinking about, “Okay, how do we be more innovative? How are we challenging what is expected of an ecommerce platform? How are we acquiring more customers? How are we thinking of reaching outside our existing core customer group?” It takes a very specific set of skills, in my opinion, that is driven by good leadership skills to be able to do that. To come in, one, and motivate the team in an environment that is very agile, fast-moving, decisions are made quickly and things change quickly. So the leadership abilities that you have as an individual really help keep people focused, even though all the potential chaos that people have. I’m sure again, the listeners can vouch for as an ecommerce founder that you face every day.
Felix: Any recommendations on how to become a better leader?
Charlie: That’s a fantastic question. I think most leaders learn on the job. You put yourself in an environment where you’re being challenged. And someone said something to me when I actually finished playing rugby, they said, “Put yourself in a position at least two or three times a week where you feel nervous because that’s really when you grow and you develop.” Within entrepreneurship, if you’re feeling nervous it’s probably where you’re going to learn the most and develop those skills as a leader. We’re very fortunate the business has got to where it is today, again with the 22 people, hopefully, 25, in the next few weeks across the US and UK. So there are lots of different people involved, there are lots of different personalities. So putting yourself in a position where you’re learning as fast as possible. Marketing and developing good leadership skills is what sets us up to success.
Felix: Sometimes we think that discomfort or feeling overwhelmed means something is wrong, but you’re saying that’s where growth happens, especially as a leader.
Charlie: Often those are the situations that we proactively in our professional careers try to avoid. As an entrepreneur, the more you can do to put yourself in that position, the more you will learn, and the faster you become better as an entrepreneur. There’s not really a very straight route into becoming an ecommerce entrepreneur or an ecommerce professional. Most people find a product that they want to sell and the obvious route is through your own channels and ecommerce, so there’s so much that most ecommerce professionals don’t know when they take that first step into launching a website. By thinking with this mindset of like, “Okay, how can I develop my own skills and learn as fast as possible?” In my opinion, if you put yourself in a place where you might not have all the answers, you’re going to have to force yourself to find them.
Felix: At what point did you transition into The Nue Co?
Charlie: That business was running for about three or four years. At the start of that business, I’d met Jules and we were together, and she obviously evolved the idea of The Nue Co. and got it to a place where it was ready to launch. And then I joined her and started to support her after the first few months post-launch.
Felix: So where did the idea come from and when did it start becoming more okay, “This is a business that we should run with”?
Charlie: It was very much around the relationship that I had with supplements as a professional athlete. The supplements you take are very much about performance and the outcome that they have in influencing a better performance. When I finished playing rugby it became less really about performance and more about being in both a physical and mental state that is allowing me to be as productive and as successful as possible through my career. Very few supplements speak to that specifically. Fundamentally, the idea came from the fact that I wanted to create a brand and a business that would give me those types of products that I could relate to. And from Jules’ perspective, she had an issue. There was not a solution to that issue in the market. She couldn’t find anything that would give her relief from her IBS. So like any good entrepreneur, you start to explore and you start to develop a product that can do that. And that’s where The Nue Co. is born from. And she was fortunate that her grandfather, a chemist at Cambridge and a professor at Cambridge University, was able to support her in the early development of products.
Felix: Talk to us about the technical skills involved in creating your first product, Debloat Food.
Charlie: That’s still one of our hero SKU’s today. The reason why we feel it was successful, there was a very clear narrative about why the products were created and they drove a result specifically to the need that Jules had. I think that if you can build a solution that speaks to a problem as an individual, going out and being able to then market that, create a brand around it becomes far more real. And people are far more engaged in the fact that you’ve then developed a product for your own problems that could potentially also solve problems for them. That creates that buy-in that’s given us the good narrative, the brand story and all that stuff that people are really actually interested in writing about. And often as entrepreneurs, we forget to really consider a lot of people that I’m sort of helping and advising at the moment on launching our own ecommerce brands. They forget about the narrative before the products came to existence and what was their problem and why was this the solution? And why did this solution work again to what already exists in the market? So for us, it has been very clear on that narrative and that story that Jules created.
Felix: So you’re talking about needing to start off with a narrative, like what was the origin of this business, this idea? You have to be able to identify the problem, the solution, and why the solution works?
Charlie: Yeah. You look at Debloat Food as a product and the ingredients in that. They are not going to sell that product to a consumer. And I know that sounds slightly foreign, but it’s actually the narrative behind the results that product delivers that it’s going to be successful. And if you think about that as our first product and one of the hero products today, even the name in itself is slightly peculiar, but it speaks exactly to that problem. So the product is called Debloat Food. And if you’re on the website, you can see the design on that product that says, “Relax.” I think it says, “Relax a bloated stomach.” Right on the front of the jar. We were speaking very specifically to a problem that people have. It isn’t the ingredients that sell the product. It’s the narrative and the brand, but then it’s the ingredients that drive success and the results and the retention of our customers. It’s just thinking about it as a whole picture and being very clear on what gets the customer engaged, what drives them to convert, and what keeps them as customers. And they’re actually very different things.
Balancing branding and customer education
Felix: How do you balance this way of speaking directly to a problem and also branding? Some people think that these two conflicts, if you’re coming out and saying, “Hey, this solves this very specific problem.” You take away from your ability to brand. What are your thoughts?
Charlie: It’s a great question. And something that a lot of people can say to us, they’re like, “Wow, your branding is very nice. It looks great. And that must be the reason why people buy it.” That is part of it and it’s part of the narrative, but for supplements, in particular, everybody’s interested, but potentially not that educated in what they need. If you came to us and said, “Right, Nue Co. I’ve got bloating issues. I eat certain foods and I have real bloating problems.” If you then came to our website and it just said, “This product is Jerusalem Artichoke Root.” You’re not going to have a clue what that really means and if that speaks to the problem that you have. As an ecommerce brand that’s new to the market, you have to be very clear in the solution you’re providing. So by humanizing it, helping customers educate themselves on which product’s right for them, then you have to be very clear and direct with the solution that you’re offering. And that’s why we took the route. If you look at most of our products, all of the logos and the narrative behind them is very clearly speaking about specific problems. Because if we purely spoke about the ingredients, we’d probably confuse, intimidate people, and probably lose them as customers. And don’t get me wrong, the ingredients are absolutely paramount to everything that we do. And when we talk internally, we talk about being a product first business, because the products fundamentally have to work. And then the brand, the packaging, the logo, the identity is built around that to be able to deliver it in the right way.
Felix: You mentioned your cofounder’s grandfather was a chemist at the University of Cambridge. Walk us through the product development process when you first came out with it, how did you know what to start with, and was there testing involved with the target market?
Charlie: Absolutely. So as a sort of hero, the Debloat product was our first product. And because it was built to cure Jules’ specific problem, we were able to iterate, we were able to test certain combinations of ingredients, test different formulas, test different ingredients sizes, and get to a place where it was really starting to deliver the results that she wanted. There was a huge amount of trial and error. Because nothing really like it exists in the market, we weren’t able to find anything that delivered the results she wanted. We had to be willing to test, create formulas, and develop things that we were hoping would work, but might not give us what we wanted. We were really happy with where we got to, obviously, the results were that when she felt bloated, it would disappear. We were able to then develop the product off the back of that. So as again, I’ve said at the start, the story is far more real because we developed a product that spoke to the problem that we had. We probably get to it, but we’re very fortunate to have a lot of very good investors around the business. So we get access to huge amounts of insight research. We worked with some of the best labs in the world, which has allowed us to develop the products that we have. From a product perspective, when we look to develop products, we take clinically studied ingredients. So the ingredients that have been studied, they have all of the information around the results they give you and combine that with more holistic based ingredients, to create products that we believe deliver the results that we want.
Felix: How long did this process take to come out with the very first product, the Debloat product?
Charlie: It took around 12 to 15 months. Jules quit her job, and then in terms of getting the business live in January 2018 it was about 12 months. It’s a long process. With product development now we currently run about a 12 month cadence from ideation through to finished good in the warehouse. There’s a long process. We want to make sure we develop the best products. We’re a product-first business. We have a fantastic VP of the product who spends all day speaking to labs, doing research, looking at potential trends and ingredients that we can use. It’s a fascinating process. If you look again at the way our site’s structured, each product fits in a particular need state. Within sleep, let’s say people who have sleep issues. There’s no one fit solution for someone with a sleep problem. You could struggle to fall asleep and I could struggle to stay asleep. And the product that you need to develop to speak to those problems is different. So we focus on these new states. Gut health, sleep, stress, and drive personalization through more granular categories within each of those verticals in the products that we develop.
Felix: As you go through this process what have you found to be the most challenging parts of this 12 plus month product development process?
Charlie: It’s evolved since we first launched. At an early stage, it was around forecasting the cost to produce that good based on what you’re anticipating selling. It’s a challenge, whether you’re selling supplements, or t-shirts, or trainers or anything online. It’s forecasting against the expected sales and then driving a margin or a cost to produce that good based on that. So in the early days, that was definitely an issue. Supplements have a shelf life, so you have to get that stuff right. Otherwise, you get product buildup, and potentially you’re not being as efficient with your spending and the dollars that you have. So early on, that was certainly the challenge with product development. At the moment as we’ve grown, being more aware of all of the different components, the different teams within the organization need. So what does our wholesale team need? What does the ecommerce team need? What does the marketing team need to be able to successfully launch a product? When you spend 12 months and invest a lot of money in that R&D in the research stage, you want to make sure when a product comes to market you do it right. As we’ve grown, a lot of people have a lot of different needs within that go to market phase and as we’re going through the product development.
Felix: When you are sitting down with the team and deciding what to focus on in the next 12 months, how do you determine what direction to focus on what problems you solve next?
Charlie: We have great engagement with our customers. We send out a twice-yearly survey just to find out if there’s any shift in terms of potential issues people have, in terms of even the delivery mechanism of our products. Are they being consumed in the right ways? Are people comfortable taking pills, do they prefer topicals, do they prefer powders? Always engaging our existing customer base to understand where they’re at. And then developing products off the back of that. But of course, they have to fit into those particular needs states so that when people come to us. We’re helping them on that journey. We’re helping them understand, right? If I have sleep issues, which is the right Nue Co. product for us? And they might get to a place when actually, we don’t have a product that quite fits that particular need. So that will drive our internal need to then create a product that fits that.
Felix: During those 12 months when you’re developing a new product, are there checkpoints along the way to make sure that you’re still heading in the right direction?
Charlie: We do trials internally and we then bring in consumer trials as we get closer towards launch to make sure that the product resonates, to make sure that it’s getting the results that we want. Those are critical moments through the new product development (NPD) process. Fundamentally, most of the labs that we work with need a significant amount of lead time to then produce these products based on the scale we get into. So there are continuous checkpoints with them. If you look at our products, and you can see online, there’s a lot of components. We’re moving components all over the world to get there. There’s a lot of different things and elements that can potentially go wrong. A good example of that is COVID. We print the labels on the glass jars in a lab or in a factory on the West coast. And they actually closed for three months. We were suddenly put in a place where we couldn’t create any new components or jars. So there was a checkpoint where actually, it pushed the live date of those orders or the replenishment. We had to think of another solution to get those jars printed. So it’s very important to stay on top of that NPD process, particularly with a product like ours.
Employing traditional marketing strategies as an ecommerce brand
Felix: When you first launched what was the launch process like? How did you get your first customers?
Charlie: I know I’m speaking on an ecommerce podcast, but actually we’re quite untraditional in that sense. We launched through another retailer. We launched with Net-a-Porter, which is a fashion retailer. They were moving into this category, looking at how wellness products fit into their existing consumers’ habits. We were able to sign an agreement where they launched us exclusively for the first couple of months, which gave us as a new business, huge amounts of credibility. It gave us instant brand awareness. That meant that when we turned on our website or indirect consumer channels – we were able to launch with an article in Vogue, which had Jules on the front, which is fantastic. But it wasn’t a typical route for an ecommerce business who would go through the paid social media channels or organic social media channels. We actually thought because of the product, because of the category is quite new at the time, we wanted to leverage Net-a-Porter again to give us that awareness. But also hugely important, it was the credibility in the products because they were already a trusted retailer with a huge consumer base, always shopping online.
Felix: How were you able to land in a retailer with a brand new product, as a brand new company?
Charlie: It’s something that a lot of people come and ask me like, how do we do it? We think everyone and the stars aligned. Net-a-Porter was looking to launch this category. They knew what resonated with their consumer, and it didn’t really exist on the market. If you look at that Debloat product, it’s packaged in very luxury packaging. It’s very nice looking and aesthetically pleasing when you receive it. But it does say Debloat on it twice in big letters. So I think the way that we crafted the brand. We obviously had conversations ongoing with people at Net-a-Porter about some of the design as we went through that process. The stars aligned and we fit very much with what they were looking to do with this category. And it made sense for them to help us launch it.
Felix: What about the ongoing launches. How are new products introduced to the market?
Charlie: It’s a big part of what we do. So new products we’d expect to account for around 20% of our revenues across the course of the year. And we build some moments through the year where we launch new products. Typically we aim for about four product launches. And within those product launches, you can have a collection of products through the year. We build a lot of our marketing and a lot of our planning into those moments. It works really nicely because you can give the products the air time and the visibility that they need to have an impact on launching them.
Felix: You mentioned that one of the best marketing strategies was the “how are you really” campaign. What was the idea behind that campaign?
Charlie: Health and wellness is not just body, it’s mind as well. Through the “how are you really” campaign we wanted to help people connect with their mind and the impact that that was then having on their body. There are fascinating statistics about the impact of stress on the body and what it can do to you. If you look at that as a problem within particularly the US at the moment, those highly concentrated cities and everything we’ve gone through with COVID, the campaign was really there to help people feel comfortable with having that conversation and asking that question, how are you? That’s pretty much today and still is what we stand for as a brand. We want our customers to ask themselves how they are. When I said at the start, we’re helping people reconnect with their bodies to understand good health, that all has to start with you asking yourself that question, “Am I sleeping well enough? Do I have gut issues? Why am I breaking out with acne?” All those questions start with, how am I, how are you? What we did, it just resonated really nicely with the customers that saw those campaigns. We did tie it into one of our products that speaks to stress. But to be honest, that was not about selling products. That was about our vision and mission as a business of helping people reconnect with themselves and be more healthy.
Felix: Part of that campaign was these out of home billboards that you had purchased in inexpensive advertising real estate cities, right? New York, Brooklyn, LA. It’s an area that most entrepreneurs, especially ecommerce entrepreneurs have not considered. Tell us more about the experience of running ads on there.
Charlie: As an early-stage business, it’s not the typical route to go down, but we like to think we don’t follow the typical route. That campaign was all about impact and message. Something that is quite reassuring that we got it right is that the billboard on Mercer street is still up today. We paid for that for a month and it’s been up for nearly 12 months. So maybe no one’s buying the space, but we’ve benefited from that hugely. The company that helped put us up are obviously benefiting from it because people take lots of photos of it. It wasn’t really a typical route, but we’ve never really gone down the typical routes in terms of our marketing strategy. And with that campaign, in particular, we wanted people to stop, have a moment, look at the billboards and ask themselves that question. If you’re serving those on traditional paid media ads, is it really getting that message across in the right way? Probably not. So in terms of measuring an ROI as you would in the DC business through your marketing channels out of home is very difficult. There was no connection to the product. There are no discount codes mentioned or anything like that. It was because as a brand we knew how important of a message it was. And we just wanted, as I said, people to stop, have a moment, ask themselves that question.
Felix: One interesting thing that you mentioned was that for out of home billboards, they do not replace yours until someone else purchases that space?
Charlie: That’s typically how it works. I’m sure someone that works in that industry could give you a better answer, but ours has been up for much longer than we paid for it. We’re hugely grateful for them keeping it up, but I’m sure it’s not typical.
Raising funds for your business: when and how to pursue that avenue
Felix: You mentioned earlier about raising funds for your business. Tell us more about that. When did this happen?
Charlie: I was fortunate that I sort of came from a business that Bootstrapped and learned entrepreneurship in the hardest and the rawest sense. We knew from developing the products and the early signals that Jules was getting interest from investors in conversations that she was having, that it made sense to raise some initial capital. So the first round of funding we did was relatively small. It was a traditional friends and family round. And very quickly Jules was able to go out and raise a seed round and actually at that point, even bring in some institutional-based investors. We were fortunate to have Unilever Ventures as an investor, the Morningside Group. They came in at that stage wasn’t actually that typical for them either. That spoke to the category that we were going after in the brand that we’d created. Since then, we’ve done another round of funding, a Series A round of funding, brought some more great partners into the business. AF Ventures, a fund in New York who are absolutely brilliant, and also REDO Ventures who are part of the family office of the Lots of Tan skincare brand.
Felix: When should an ecommerce brand consider raising funds for their business?
Charlie: That’s a difficult question. There’s no perfect answer to that. It’s case by case. If I’m totally honest with ourselves, I don’t think we went out to raise the amount of money that we did. That obviously was beneficial in a way that we then discussed the product with investors and we were communicating with them. When it becomes all about raising money, and that’s the goal even early on, or at series A stage, I don’t think it becomes this credible as a business. So it’s a super difficult question and one I probably don’t have a very good answer for. But if I was launching any ecommerce brand again, I would be very cautious of preserving equity at the early stages because when you get it right, things go well. You can have a lot of success through selling online. You want to preserve that equity. You absolutely fundamentally need to preserve that control. Jules was paramount in that, in going into any investor conversations that investment great. If it comes, it comes, but fundamentally she wants to control the business. She wants us to be able to be the decision-makers for the foreseeable future and craft a business that we want. I would say that if you can raise money, great. If you can’t, don’t let it detract you from what you’re trying to do because it will come if you get it right. Obviously, some businesses, you need some capital to get you up and running. If it all becomes about raising money, then it’s unlikely to be the successful business you’d want.
Felix: So if you don’t necessarily need the money, it becomes easier or would you say you’re in a better position to get what you need and what you want?
Charlie: I have firsthand experience with that. If I was to look at my other business and say should we have raised some money? I’d now probably say, “Yeah, we probably should have.” But at the time we were generating cash, it felt like we didn’t need to. But now if you can get some cash into the business, it gives you that ability to trial and test acquisition strategies, marketing strategies, and give you some breathing room to feel competent in executing on your mission. It’s going to help your business. It shouldn’t be the end goal. If you want to do it without that, then it absolutely can be done without that. But I don’t want to sit here and say, “It doesn’t help to bring in some cash to the business.” Because it does. But it doesn’t necessarily mean success or failure if you do or don’t bring it in.
Felix: You mentioned that one of the keys to your success is being able to focus on data and track all the data from day one. When you wake up in the morning, what are some of the KPIs or data points that are most important to you?
Charlie: It reverts back to what I mentioned earlier, being a product first business. Our goal is to create products that become habitual and part of people’s lifestyles. So repeat purchase rate is absolutely fundamental to seeing success. If we’re developing products that people are coming back to buy, that means we are developing products that work. You don’t buy these products again if you don’t feel like they’ve worked. So at the moment, we have a 70% repeat purchase rate across the site, which is a huge testament to the quality of the product. That is a huge metric for us. And one we hang our hat on, based on the quality of the products that we’ve been able to develop. In terms of actually more granular metrics that we look at alongside that repeat purchase rate, we’re very focused on AOV (average order value) because it’s a really clear signal of us being able to communicate the benefits of taking multiple products in the right way. So if we’re seeing that trend in the right way, basket size, all those things are really strong indications that your technology and your website’s improving because you’re able to make better suggestions, give more confidence in the consumer purchasing multiple products.
Felix: Is it all about the product that has gotten you this result, or have there been other ways that you’ve found to encourage repeat purchases?
Charlie: Yeah, think about if you had sleep issues and I sold you a product that helped you sleep. You’re going to become a loyal customer. That’s why I keep saying we’re a product-first business. It’s fundamental that we were because if they don’t you’re not coming back. Again, it’s a testament to the quality of the products that we’ve created.
Felix: So the key to the average order value is the technology that acts almost like a recommendation engine for suggestions when people purchase a product?
Charlie: It’s helping the customers understand what’s right for them through the home experience and communicating that in a way that it’s easy to understand. So if you’re on our site, you can see through the top section, we have a consultation that asks questions about sleep patterns, gut health issues, stress issues. And off the back of that, we make recommendations of which products are right to the consumer. It’s part of the website that we’ve continued to evolve to get better, that then feeds down into the data that we’re capturing. So if a customer is completing that survey and they don’t convert at that point, we’re collecting huge amounts of insight, huge amounts of data on who they are as a consumer. Then we can use that to remarket, retarget about specific products based on what they’ve told us. So with the category that we’re in, there may be a moment in your life where you suddenly need a product like this. Let’s say you’ve just had a newborn child and you’re not able to sleep, for example. That’s a change in your current lifestyle. If we are there, and we’re talking to you, and we’re helping educate you on how to sleep better before you’ve had a child, you’re probably going to come back to us and try the product if that’s something that you want to use and test.
Felix: Have you refined the consultation questions over time?
Charlie: It’s ever evolving. That’s the beauty of Shopify. You can test things really easily. It’s something that we continue to refine. Obviously, we’ve launched new categories, we’ve launched new products. As part of that, we’ve had to update the consultation. And as I mentioned, we have this consumer survey that we send out that also feeds into the consultation, and are we actually asking the right questions to make the right recommendations? It’s a fascinating thing to look at when you see all the data that we have and the impact that has on everything we do from product development to marketing, to communication, to education, our blogs. If you’re an early-stage ecommerce business and you can start to capture data in an innovative way, it’s really going to help you as you build and you scale. We’ve obviously benefited from that hugely in the consultation that we have. And as part of that with continuing to have to iterate, continue to have to update it to be asking the right questions.
Felix: Can you give an example of how you use this almost hidden survey for marketing purposes?
Charlie: If you think about the data that we capture through that survey. Again, just using the sleep example, if you tell me that you have issues getting to sleep, and then you don’t convert, we have a very specific problem that we can then speak to through our marketing. We can also use that through our performance marketing channels to say, “This is an audience set that has issues sleeping, let’s serve them ads about sleep products or let’s serve them journal content about sleep products because we know they’ve told us that they have a problem sleeping. They’ve not yet tried one of our sleep products.” We can use that data and multiple different ways to market to them. And in what we believe is the right way. Instead of me serving you an advert on Instagram, not knowing anything about you, we’re focused on obviously getting people to the site and learning about them to then speak to them in the right way about their particular problems.
Felix: So this consultation, is this an app, or did you build this in-house? How was this done?
Charlie: Yeah, we built that in-house. As I said, it’s an ever-evolving part of our website. We’re actually going through a bit of an evolution of the site – of the brand – at the moment. So looking at launching some new features, new functionality within the next four to six weeks, which is super exciting. That will then reverse your question about KPIs. Everything we do from an ecommerce perspective is relayed back to those, does it improve our repeat purchase rate? Does it increase our conversion rate? Is it increasing the time spent on-site? All those really interesting metrics that everything you do should relate back up to because if you’re iterating on your site and those things are going down, you’re probably making some wrong decisions. If you iterate on the site and they’re going in the right direction, then you’re heading in the right direction. The hierarchy of how you do things all starts with what are your goals? What are your KPIs? And then you build your site around that. Obviously, as a very new and early business. You have to get something up. Getting a site up, you’ll just learn huge amounts about where people engage, where people click, is that button in the right place very, very quickly. And then you can build from there. When I speak to the entrepreneurs who spend huge amounts of time getting their website up, over and over in a day discussing which button should go where that you don’t actually know until it goes live how someone’s going to interact with it. The joy of Shopify is that you can iterate. You don’t even need to be that technical to move stuff around. Our marketing team can move images, they can move buttons, they can change things around, they can test things, they can trial things. As an early-stage business, you’re never going to get any more real data than the data that the customers give you. So you can test it internally as much as you want, but getting it live and testing and iterating based on that is definitely the way to go.
Felix: What’s been the biggest lesson that you’ve learned as a company or you yourself recently, or over the last year, that’s leading to changes that you’re working on moving forward?
Charlie: It’s probably quite timely that in February, March, when the Coronavirus hit businesses had to adapt quickly. There were huge amounts of uncertainty in what was potentially coming and how the economy would do, how would people still be spending, would consumers still be interested in these types of products? Obviously, our product was in a good category, so we were super fortunate. But that period of time forced us as a business to reevaluate, look at ourselves over a very short period of time and make decisions with clarity, knowing where we want it to be, but with the mindset of a lot of uncertainty. That’s been a huge challenge this year and one that we’ve learned a lot from with being able to implement a lot of efficiencies.