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Shopify October Meetup: Overcoming difficulties in D2C marketing.

Last Modified: January 31, 2023


On October 3, 2019, Refersion and its sponsors, EasyShipP3 Media, and Shopify welcomed first-time sponsor Littledata to our quarterly meetups in Hoboken, NJ. Though we focus on digital networking, there’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned fellowship, not to mention the free food and refreshments offered to all of our great attendees. The meeting lasted from 6:30 to 8:30 pm and featured two presenters to discuss how to overcome the challenges to customer acquisition that can arise in direct-to-consumer marketing.

Our first presenter, Zel Crampton, is the CEO and co-founder of Diggs, a startup that makes stylish, modern dog crates for the safety and comfort of your canine companions. Zel has earned a Mechanical Engineering degree from McGill University, as well as an MBA from Columbia University. He’s worked for Deloitte, McKinsey, and Vanguard, bringing a lot of eCommerce experience to the table. And yet, Diggs still had marketing issues.

speaking up

Diggs had a lot that set them apart from the competition, such as design innovation, quality design innovation, safety features and the latest in engineering technology, as well as having solid branding, aesthetics, and safety features. But they faced some serious challenges when attempting to connect with their customers. Most of their limitations stemmed from structural inadequacies — only having a single size for their crates, spreading their small team too thin trying to cover both design research and marketing, and not having the experience to manage all of these efforts simultaneously. The results were a low conversion rate and not knowing the right ways to reach their customers.

The solution: a three-pronged approach that focused on product improvements, digital advertising, and website redesign. By adding a new, medium-sized Revol crate to their product line, as well as a PDF training guide to explain the hows and whys of crate training, Diggs has broadened their appeal to puppy parents of bigger dogs, and explains why a crate isn’t the prison some people may think it is, but rather, a private bedroom for your dog to call his own.

Diggs also stepped up its digital advertising game, improving long-tail search response, utilizing Facebook algorithms, and testing new channels to reach potential consumers. That, along with a website makeover to test and optimize CRO, spruce up their landing pages, and integrate with Yotpo customer reviews and loyalty software, took their webstore presence to the next level. Of course, with Refersion’s expert assistance, they launched an amazing affiliate program to help spread the word. These solutions have resulted in steady sales growth from the last quarter of 2018 through the third quarter of ’19. That’s quite the success story!

Next up were the co-founders of The Vegan Warehouse, Carl and Ewelina Augustin. Carl, who is the CEO, has a background in Internet Marketing, while Ewelina, the COO, comes from a background in fashion and has been a vegan for 9 years. Together, they’ve launched the first online vegan marketplace with over 400 affordable, cruelty-free products in the food, fashion, beauty, and home categories.

collective meet up

The Vegan Warehouse faced the challenge of low brand awareness, struggling to acquire customer loyalty, and pushing the limits of what Facebook and Instagram ads could do for their sales. Their standard methods of social media advertising resulted mostly in one-time sales that didn’t do much to raise their brand recognition. On a tight start-up budget, they felt pinched by limited options but knew they had to do something if they wanted to reach success.

So, they launched a full-scale brand awareness, loyalty-building program based that included value-adding content, such as Instagram videos, free PDF downloads, product information, and vegan lifestyle tips. Diversifying their traffic avenues, The Vegan Warehouse launched an email campaign (with Refersion) and changed up their lead flows with Klaviyo. With an ambassador program up and running, they launched incentives to get their affiliates motivated for success. They also focused on blog efforts and SEO — outsourced via Upwork — and utilized a greater diversity of paid traffic sources like Snapchat and Pinterest.

The result: from February to September of 2019, mail & SMS went from 5% to 20% of total revenue, and they more than doubled their Instagram followers — going from 10 to 22 thousand! They now have 40 active brand ambassadors, and sales are seeing a steady improvement.

refersion items

With all this positive news and actionable strategy, the meet-up mood stayed chipper as everyone took note of the key takeaways: you can’t build too strong of a customer base, don’t be overly dependent on outside platforms (such as social media) for your customer outreach, and keep that brand identity going until you’re a household name!

Attendees mingled afterward for Q&A with the presenters, as chronicled by our wonderful photographer from previous events, Philicia Montgomery of Philmont Photography. As usual, she took some great photos of the event, as you can see throughout this article and on our Facebook page.

All in all, the meetup was a great success. If you’d love to join in our next meetup and get the juicy tidbits right from the source, sign up to join in next time we get together in March.

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Written by

Ruthie Carey
Ruthie Carey