Brian Larsen is the founder of RestoraPet a pet supplement subscription eCommerce store. Launched in 2014 sales grew by over 500% in 2018 and they are on track for $10m this year. We chat about everything from email pop ups to split testing. AND he explains how they’re testing WooCommerce against Shopify.
RestoraPet was founder Brian’s first foray into the eCommerce world. Right away he knew that he wanted RestoraPet to be a Direct to Consumer brand and knew early on that it would work best as a subscription product.
Having the recurring revenue was a crucial factor for Brian. With a little bit of WordPress experience under his belt, Brian jumped right in and built the store out as a WP site, with WooCommerce as the commerce platform.
- Located just outside of Washington DC in the USA
- Ingredients sourced from the USA
- Manufacture and distributed from a single location
- Ships world-wide
- 15 people on the team including digital professionals and a CGO
- Uses automation where possible
- Testing WooCommerce vs Shopify
On Hiring a CGO, Chief Growth Officer
Not many people have a dedicated CGO, and many of those who do just give the title to their marketing guru. For Brian, having a Chief Growth Officer on the digital side was a critical decision for growing the business.
The CGO that he hired has very relevant experience having worked with BarkBox where he was instrumental in growing that business to a $100M+ company. A talented CGO is obsessed with the data and says that the RestoraPet CEO, Jordan is a true data scientist.
Since everything that a CGO does is focused on growth, there is a focus on all parts of the business. That belief in expertise runs right through their business and even though much of the team is in house, the one piece that
Brian does outsource is marketing. He knew early on that they would ultimately need more marketing expertise than they could sustain in house and wanted to leverage the expertise, breadth and richness that comes with a dedicated marketing agency.
Platform Face Off: WooCommerce vs. Shopify
They have put the platforms head to head by sending traffic to both and looking at things like cost of acquisition, marketing, advertising and customer LTV (lifetime valley). This scientific study—not gut preference—will be how Brian will make the decision.
The test is necessarily long, especially when considering LTV and they will be running it for another 3 or 4 months before making their final decision. Brian recognizes that there are fundamental differences between the two platforms that can’t be solved through optimization.
These include factors like load time and the checkout experience which will also be important to fully understand in order to make an informed decision.
Resource Based Content—The Surprising Reason it’s Necessary
At first glance, RestoraPet’s online presence seems resource heavy for an eCommerce brand and doesn’t reflect much of the elements that typical eCommerce solutions rely on. Brian says that this is largely because one of the products that RestoraPet offers has CBD in the ingredients.
Even though the product is now completely legal, there are significant barriers still in place to advertise the product. Because of this, the company has had to bury their product information within resources, content and an upsell that actually exists on the checkout page.
Brian points out that the way they created the journey ensures they receive payment for the initial product before asking the customer to consider their hemp based product as well.
This way, they have already processed payment for the original offering even if someone were to bounce from the site and conversely, can easily process payment if a customer decides to add the hemp product as well.
Split testing Advertising
WIth WordPress and Shopify both, Brian has been using plugins to do split testing for advertising. The plugins not only record and report all the data testing, but will, after a set time erase the losing ads.
In terms of the customer journey, Brian says they’ve cut the fat as much as possible and distilled the site down to it’s essence. They don’t, for instance, ask for city and state—just zip code, because they can glean all the information they need from that.
At RestoraPet, the lifetime value was so much higher for subscription customers that after initially offering the option to purchase one bottle at a time vs. a subscription, they quickly dropped one off sales.
Brian noticed that even with a higher customer acquisition cost, their subscription customers were a much better value for the business. He is currently testing this again and using the split test with the Shopify platform to do so.
The team has discussed at length the value of offering single bottles to people who might want to try the product before subscribing, but there is also the issue of losing potential subscription customers, especially in an age of distractibility.
Since RestoraPet’s CGO came from BarkBox, he has seen first hand the ability for subscription only businesses to thrive.
According to Brian, if you have a product that you and your customers believe in, the easiest way to go viral is a simple, automated email series simply asking people to tell their friends.
Early on, Brian noticed that many of his first customers came from the same street. After a little investigation, he found out that they had literally gleaned 13 subscribers from one customer who told all the neighbors what an amazing transformation her dog had gone through since she had started him on RestoraPet.
That personal testimonial converted the whole neighborhood into loyal customers. This product evangelism is by far one of the most effective ways to “Go Viral.”
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eCommerce Book Top Tip
- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
- Email Marketing — acquisition of new customers through multiple channels to get people to get to sign up to your newsletter.
- Split Testing
Tool Top Tip
Growth Top Tip
- Social Advertising. Use data to test every single thing you’re doing.
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- Linear sales funnels, affiliate marketing and LOTS of top tips – chatting with Nate Lind
- Influencer Marketing to grow a Subscription eCommerce business to $17m – Live Glam’s Dhar Mann
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