The Subscription Business Model: Customer Retention Strategies with Grub Club’s Alessandro Di Trapani (episode 447)

Alessandro Di Trapani is the co-founder and CEO of Grub Club, an insect-based dog food brand. Alessandro reflects on his journey in building the startup and the importance of customer retention and community building.

Alessandro Di Trapani Grub Club on eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast

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Dive in:

[04:32] How the pandemic sparked a boom in the pet industry.
[09:21] The brand strives to be the obvious choice for customers by educating about the benefits of products and ingredients.
[14:21] Persistence and understanding are key for success.
[18:02] Tracking customer retention and lifetime value
[21:46] Maximise team performance through freedom, experimentation, and positive mindset.
[26:13] Optimise packaging, frequency, and customer needs.

Positioning Your Brand to Attract the Right Customers

Grub Club sells dog food for adult dogs and three functional dog treats. What sets their products apart is the use of insect protein instead of traditional sources like beef, lamb, chicken, or salmon. Insect protein has a lower environmental impact, using less land and water and producing significantly less CO2. The food is hypoallergenic, making it suitable for dogs with food allergies. 

However, even with these benefits, Grub Club faces challenges in convincing consumers to embrace the concept of insect-based pet food. Crafting the right message is a constant challenge. They invest heavily in building their brand and messaging to educate customers about the benefits of their products and create resonance with potential buyers while trying to strike a balance between promoting their unique ingredient and avoiding being solely seen as the “insect dog brand.” 

Tracking Results by Cohort

Analyzing results by cohort involves examining distinct customer groups, or cohorts. For Grub Club, this is based on when they first became customers. By observing their spending habits and retention rates over time, Ale says they gain valuable insights for comparing and evaluating various marketing or acquisition strategies deployed in different months.

Using cohort analysis, they’re also able to assess the long-term development of customers acquired through specific campaigns and determine the effectiveness of these strategies. Consequently, they can also identify successful campaigns and concentrate their efforts on what works well.

Retention Tips

Talking about their team, Ale shares that operations, organic marketing, and community management, including customer retention, are all handled in-house.

They recognized the importance of retention in scaling the business, particularly in the pet food industry, where acquiring new customers can be quite costly. Sustaining long-term customer relationships made perfect sense in this context. They’ve seen good outcomes from their efforts, so they made a deliberate decision to invest in that aspect of the business from the outset, aiming to establish a solid foundation.

2 Brilliant Tips for Getting Massive Wholesale Accounts

Ale has two tips for those wanting to get into wholesale. First, you must be persistent. He shares that reaching out to others multiple times, despite initial non-responsiveness, may feel uncomfortable, but he has seen that it eventually leads to replies and potential opportunities.

Second, thoroughly evaluate and understand how an opportunity like wholesale fits into your business from the outset, considering factors such as commercial viability, distribution feasibility, and scalability. In doing so, don’t waste mental capacity and time pursuing opportunities that may turn out to be unfeasible later on.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • For Ale, it’s both email and going out and interacting with the end customers. He says there should be a focus on the latter because learning from your customers is key.

Tool Top Tip

Carbon Top Tip

Ale has three tips:

  • Focus on your packaging and get the size of your boxes right.
  • Eliminate fillers as much as you can.
  • For subscription businesses, find the right balance between a customer’s need for your product and the frequency at which you can ship it to them.

Interview Links

*Thank you to Paul Finch from Growth Studio for the introduction to Ale!

Related episodes

  • Growing a subscription box to over €60k/m with’s Liam Brennan (episode 248)
  • Taking a mulit-niche-brand approach to 7-figures plus with Trevor Crotts from Buddy Brands (episode 338)
  • How to grow your DTC brand to over £12m with Guy Blaskey founder of Pooch and Mutt (episode 396)

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