Ciara Fanlo: Justin, thank you so much for joining us. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and Madluvv?
Justin Thompson: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Thanks for having me. Madluvv, we were founded in 2016 as primarily a professional beauty business where we sold and created products for microblading artists and had a training program where we trained people on how to do microblading. And we really evolved. In 2018, we started wanting to really tap into just the cosmetic space and continue to have a larger market to market to. And so we came out. We started developing the Brow Stamp. In 2018 we thought of the idea. And that was launched February, 2020. So it took us about a year and a half to refine all of that. And the rest has been kind of history the last couple of years, I guess.
Ciara Fanlo: So you started as a professional makeup product company, but you guys are now known worldwide for this Brow Stamp kit. So how did that come to be the main product?
Justin Thompson: And still one of our top sellers today is our stencils. We tried to take the guesswork out of women, and at first microblading artists being able to map out a client's brow shape. That seems to be like one of the most difficult things to do still today for women to do their brows. Whether they go to have them waxed or threaded, it seems like they're always needing help to get the brows done and to get that right shape. And so we took our stencil. We were in Shanghai, I think it was May, 2018, and we were looking for more products in the professional space. And we came across this company that was selling this stamper. And at the time, ours also can be used for like hairline. Like, if you're having some like hair loss, whether it's for males or females to help fill in some hair loss like around their forehead.
Justin Thompson: My wife saw the stamper, and we had stencils with us because that was the only product we were selling at the time, and she took my arm with the stencil and the stamper that was at their booth and put a brow shape right on my forearm. And she's like, "Let's sell millions of these." And then from point forward, we just went for it. You know? We took the risk. We had already taken lots of risks. We were sitting in Shanghai at the time, didn't know Chinese or know anyone else, and we were just going for it. And we continue to just go for it every day with our brand now. We don't know what the future holds. We just try to innovate and come out with good quality products that we feel will help people in their everyday makeup routine. And it's bode really well for us.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. When you say... It sounded like it took you guys a couple years to refine the product. What was that process like?
Justin Thompson: Well, we're very new. We had never really sourced products and done R&D and design of packaging and components. Our manufacturer, we feel, is the best in the world. They do a lot of the manufacturing for the top beauty brands in the world. And I'm grateful that they were dealing with us. We were a bootstrapped company. We didn't quite know what we were doing. And so it was a lot of learning on the fly, even small terms that we did. Oh, obviously when they're doodling, we're like, "Oh, that's what that means."
Ciara Fanlo: Research and development? Yeah. No. I had to Google that too.
Justin Thompson: I knew of R&D, man. But there's some other ones still to this day where I'm like... The POA. I'm like, "Well, what's the POA?"
Ciara Fanlo: ROI? Like, what is this? Yeah. You need like a dictionary. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: But it just took us some time. You know? We wanted to get it right. And so we... It's not like we had this huge community to test. And so my wife, Maddie, she's constantly like... In her closet at home, we have just... She has so much stuff that we'll probably be rolling out in November of this year or January of next year, that we're always... She's finding the best products and we're sourcing the best products that we can, that we feel we have to continue to build our brand.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. I'm kind of curious because I was looking at your website and you have quite a few different products. Of all of the elements that go into creating a product, like you mentioned the packaging, the actual materials, what was the thing that took the longest to get right? What was the thing that you guys really had to refine and nail down?
Justin Thompson: So for the Brow Stamp, there's two things. So we put a few hundred thousand people now through a quiz to find the shapes. Right? I think that's one of the biggest kickers, and I think it's the most skeptic part of the purchase for the customer is like, "Well, is one of these shapes going to work for me? And then if they don't, then I'm out of the money." Right? So we've continued to use data points from customers to continue to refine our shapes. And we may or may not have another shape coming out soon.
Ciara Fanlo: Wow.
Justin Thompson: And so we use that data based on returns. And we are obsessed with looking at customer reviews, [inaudible 00:06:10] our customers, and not being afraid of that negative data. A lot of entrepreneurs are. You only want to look at the positive all the time. You don't learn anything by someone telling you how great you are. It might give you a little 10 minute boost of serotonin levels, but you can't create actual items and changes out of someone telling you you're great.
Ciara Fanlo: Absolutely. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: All the negative feedback. Where can we get better in our retentions going up? Are repeat [inaudible 00:06:46] going up? Are lifetime value of a customer's going up? Are order values going up? And I think that's all just by listening to our customers and we're very grateful for that.
Ciara Fanlo: That's so interesting. I was thinking that too because I obviously have looked at your website and your products. And I was wondering how you came up with those brow shapes. And that makes a lot of sense that if people aren't finding the right fit, you're not going to know that unless they're sending them back or telling you. And then you can tap into additional customers by creating a product that is more for them. So where do you usually go to get this feedback? Is this mostly in reviews? Or how do you find people's feedback about the products?
Justin Thompson: Yeah. So reviews is big. But with the quiz I was talking about, "Is it more this shape or this shape, is it more this shape or this shape," and so we've continued to refine that down based on those answers of the different sizes and the different shapes. And so, [inaudible 00:07:55] are the most popular now. And you know [inaudible 00:07:59] same thing? Is it changes by color. We've seen the darker the brow, the bigger. And that's just a data point. I'm not saying anything about anything. I'm just saying the result of what the datas say. And so it's interesting. So there's just different trends that happen. And so whether we need to increase the size or shrink the size or elongate the shape... Yeah. So we look at that. So the quiz and then reviews. And we're starting to send out product surveys as well.
Ciara Fanlo: What kinds of questions are you asking the product surveys?
Justin Thompson: Basically around like a bunch of different satisfaction. And then we're tying that to age as well. I think that [inaudible 00:08:52] those play in because different demographics and different age groups and genders care about different things. So one cool thing that we are meeting about is I'm thinking that, here's a world nugget, that we're going to start segmenting customers and flows and Klaviyo based on age too, because we think that people that are 20 years old might care about something different than someone that's 45. At the end of the day, they, I think, have the same common goal that they just want help putting their brows on. But different blog posts or different upsell products or add-on products, we feel, and the data is telling us it's different based on age.
Ciara Fanlo: Okay. So what kinds of things are you seeing your younger customers care about for example? Are you looking at what they visit on the site and the kinds of things they add in and then concluding, "Oh, they seem to care more about product durability versus the packaging or something?
Justin Thompson: Yeah, but the opposite there. [inaudible 00:10:03]-
Ciara Fanlo: Oh really? Okay. I don't know the younger generation clearly.
Justin Thompson: No, no. We're saying that they care a lot more about the aesthetic. They care about the bag, the look.
Ciara Fanlo: Right, right
Justin Thompson: Though, this is generally speaking, right? The product doesn't have to be as much as the packaging.
Ciara Fanlo: Okay. They're really sold by like the aesthetics of it?
Justin Thompson: Yes, yes.
Ciara Fanlo: Okay. Okay.
Justin Thompson: Exclusivity of it. We're seeing that a lot too, of the scarcity type mindset in the sense of like, "Oh, I want this because nobody else can have it or has it." Our older demographics, they don't care about that as much, that thing, but they want good quality. Right? They want to make sure that it's going to last and it has the quality. Younger consumers, I think we are seeing care more about that community. But our blog posts do better in the older demographics of data, of facts, of [inaudible 00:11:10] are actionable things that they can do and take. Graphics more community. And so we're starting to look at how are we rolling out our loyalty program around keeping that in mind.
Ciara Fanlo: Okay. So it sounds like you have kind of met all of these needs in a way because you have the blog, but I know that you also have a really robust social media following, which I'm assuming is an aspect of the community. So you're finding ways to meet all of your customer's needs. And how is that informing how you're going to roll out the loyalty program, if you can share about that? I don't know if it's not launched yet. But yeah.
Justin Thompson: No, that's fine. It's not like too specific, but like the way in which a consumer can gain points.
Ciara Fanlo: Okay. Okay.
Justin Thompson: Or just around that, and what will drive that repurchase rate based on they're going to [inaudible 00:12:03].
Ciara Fanlo: Okay. So maybe for younger customers, it would be sharing on social media or things like that? Okay, cool.
Justin Thompson: And maybe the older customers sharing on the broadcast.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. That totally makes sense.
Justin Thompson: Because they care more about that than TikTok video.
Ciara Fanlo: Right. Right. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: And I feel like I'm really... I hope I'm not aging anyone.
Ciara Fanlo: Right. Right.
Justin Thompson: I'm almost 40. So heck. I'm this old demographic I'm talking about. Right? I'm not old, but you know. So I just want to throw that out as just clean.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. But I think there's a lot of truth to that because my parents consume media and information differently than I do. And my younger brother does differently than I do. And so certain approaches from brands are just going to be more effective based on our habits for sharing things with people.
Justin Thompson: Yeah. Before we were even on TikTok or I was, my father-in-law told me about TikTok. I understand there's outliers, but we're looking at data. We drive our business by data. Right? And of course feeling. There's that gut that you can't ever discount as an entrepreneur, especially an entrepreneur that's bootstrapping their business. You are gut feeling, I think, is sometimes all you have. Right? Because you don't have... Like on our subscription that we rolled out in December of this year, that was all gut. We didn't have any insight into how it would perform really. I'm grateful we did because iOS 14 and GDPR has put a kind of a bomb on new customer acquisition. And I'm very grateful that we are extending the lifetime value of our customer, increasing that order value. And we started working on that this time last year before our Facebook acquisition numbers took a dive. You know?
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. I think that's very... I mean, I'm not an entrepreneur, but you're not,... Before you do something new, as you said, if you're starting a business, you're not going to have data yet because it's a brand new venture or project, but you might just have a feeling that it's the right move for you. So you guys launched subscriptions December 2021, right? It's pretty recent?
Justin Thompson: Yeah. Very recent. Yeah.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. So you tell me. Can I hear more about the gut feeling? Why did you decide to do subscriptions? What were you hoping to create with them?
Justin Thompson: Yeah. So two things. I guess I said that we weren't doing enough data, but we saw a lot of people were coming back and repurchasing just the [inaudible 00:14:48].
Ciara Fanlo: Right, right.
Justin Thompson: Hey, we might as well make that easier for consumers, make that experience simple. So with that, always customer-centered, customer-first focus that we have at Madluvv. I come from this space for eight years. I was with a business that all we are were a monthly reoccurring revenue business. And that business sold for 2.2 billion bucks. So I knew from a bootstrap position that if I was ever going to get acquired one day, then that's going to increase my multiple for acquisition. So kind of both, right? I think the best smartest play for the customer to help them and a plug for like Recharge SMS, that's helped immensely as well. And then at the same time, the sustainability of Madluvv and the value of Madluvv, it is driving us up in multiples, I think, in the marketplace.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. I think brands that have starter kits or just tools for people to effectively use the products are really successful because you're setting people up with everything they need to create a routine around it. And for people who do their brows, it becomes part of their everyday routine. And then they have the stencils and the little brush spooly. And all they really need after that is to just get the stamp every month.
Justin Thompson: Exactly. So, I mean, Recharge was really the only place I could find that we could do that what I then didn't know. A convertible subscription. I didn't know that term convertible subscription, where we take them from $39 the first month to $19 as their first purchase after on their renewal. That's been a challenge to communicate that to the consumer too. But when we were creating our model, I wanted to get down into that Netflix, Hulu type price point because consumers are used to that. Netflix already paid a ton of money in educating consumers that they can fit that bill into their monthly back. And so we're just piggybacking off that, I think.
Ciara Fanlo: How do you communicate that to consumers? Is it really clearly expressed on the site somewhere?
Justin Thompson: Yeah. We-
Ciara Fanlo: How you... Yeah.
Justin Thompson: We're in the process of improving that like [inaudible 00:17:16] like on the landing pages. A cart ships today future shipments. And it really delineates the two. We learned and used some great tools that some other merchants use, not directly in our space that we compete with at all, but some, what I thought I saw some best practices going on of other big brands. I've obviously invested a lot in their research on things like Amazon. Right?
Ciara Fanlo: Totally. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: I copied some of the... Not copy, but whatever.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Inspirational. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Inspirational, best practices that Amazon does. And we tried to implement them.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Was there anything that happened when you rolled out subscriptions that surprised you?
Justin Thompson: Yeah. There's some data now that we're getting that it's surprising both negative and positive. I was shocked at one end of some things. And then on the other things, I'm like, "Oh, I thought that might have been a little bit better." And so yeah. But it's looking very positive and bright. We're excited for it.
Ciara Fanlo: That's great.
Justin Thompson: Yeah.
Ciara Fanlo: So to go back a little bit to the quiz, did you bring that in at the beginning? Was that something that you brought in when you were rolling out subscriptions? What was the evolution story of the quiz? Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Yeah. So it was a dynamic one and it happened overnight. So one month in or -ish of launching our Brow Stamp, the Today Show contacted us and said, "Can we have a couple of samples?" We were like, "Here." You know? So we sent them. There wasn't much more communication. And then one morning, we woke up, and there were thousands of people on our website. That is a little bit older of a demographic. We didn't used to have a quiz. We didn't even sell them in sets of five. We only sold two at a time then. And they would have to choose their length, their shape, their color.
Justin Thompson: And so we had consumers buying microblading ink thinking it was the stamp they were looking at on the TV show. And so I started searching in the Shopify backend store, came across this company, that overnight we put up a quiz. Like, boom, boom, boom, boom. And then we've just continued to refine that where now we do it all internally. We don't use the third-party app to push any of that anymore. We built that all out on our site. And so that was kind of the evolution of the quiz. So it happened. We created it based on customer need to help them make the best decision. And then that helps Madluvv not have a bunch of orders of microblading ink to a 55-year-old woman that's not a microblading artist. [inaudible 00:20:21]-
Ciara Fanlo: Mm-hmm. Totally. Yeah. It's going to help them make sure that they're getting what the correct color, the right shape. And then also you're not going to be getting a bunch of returns. And you're mentioning that it gives you guys useful data about your demographics.
Justin Thompson: Yeah, absolutely.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Yeah.
Ciara Fanlo: Do you guys also do... I feel like you had said something about doing Zoom calls to help people as well with getting the right match. Do you do that sometimes?
Justin Thompson: We don't go all the way to Zoom calls? Yeah. We have the shade finder quiz and then we also encourage... We have a full... Our support team is awesome that whether they chat in, text us, or email us a copy or a picture of their brows and we help fit them. So yeah, we do that as well. What I think on the Zoom stuff is, in this day and age where there are a lot of Zoom calls, people are worried about just like kind of here up. And so our [inaudible 00:21:23] help that look real quick, and then they can carry on with their day. And so I think has a little bit to do with the lift of sales through COVID, I think.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that makes sense. People were much more focused on the top half of their bodies than their pants. So you've talked a few times about being a consumer-first brand. What does that mean to you?
Justin Thompson: Yeah. We're obsessed with our customer. Without our customers, we don't have anything. We have taglines up in our office around different ways and phrases to not mess with the customer. Our customers are everything to us. And so, if there's ever a problem with anything with a customer, our support staff kind of has full reign to be able to just take care of that. Whatever, kind of... And so I think in this space where it's so competitive, you got to control what you can control. And one thing you can control is how you treat your customer. You can control that. You can't control if something gets lost in the mail. You can't control if it shows up broken. I mean, there's something [inaudible 00:22:46] it doesn't. But you can control the complaint that comes in. You can control how fast you respond, you control how you respond, and you can control what your resolution is to their issue. And so that's all we care about. And we are seeing that our repeat customer purchase rate is just going up.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. I love that because if it arrives damaged, that's kind of out of your hands, but then you can send them a new one at no charge or whatever it has to be done to make it right so that they have a good experience.
Justin Thompson: Right. Or you ordered soft brown. It's just not dark enough. "Oh, great. Keep the soft brown. That's fine. You maybe can use it like on the days you're going to the... because you're not just one color, but we'll send you medium brown. We just ask that you help cover the cost of shipping."
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah, totally.
Justin Thompson: That and the whole return. That return. And then they now have two products. We just ask them to cover, I think it's like four bucks, and we cover the cost of the product. We just ask them to cover the cost of shipping. That's something we rolled out too really early on. And if you're merchant, a business owner listening to this, it really, really decreases your returns. We call it our satisfaction policy. And we found that customers don't abuse it. You're always going to have those people that will abuse anything in life. But for the most part, we lead with our customers are being honest and that most are and don't take advantage of businesses that are trying to also do good to them.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. I feel like that there's some quote. I mean, it's not about businesses, but it's about if you treat people as a certain way, then they will be that way. But if you treat them at... like, if you treat customers like they're going to be disingenuous and take advantage of something, then they probably will. But if you come to it with like-
Justin Thompson: Yeah, yeah. Do to others what you want done to you.
Ciara Fanlo: Yes. Okay. Yeah, that's exactly... That's the quote. That's the quote. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Yeah, yeah. Tell them they're great, and then they'll show you how great they are. Right?
Ciara Fanlo: Exactly. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Tell them that they're a liar and they'll really get down and they'll do chargebacks. And our chargeback percent is so low. And for a consumer beauty brand, our returns are so low. We're talking less on 1%. Something like that. And I think a lot of it has to do with just being upfront and honest with the customer on every touchpoint, whether it's pulling it out of Facebook really quickly and turning... Because I have this line that you're either creating brand ambassadors or brand destroyers. There's really no... Someone's either going to destroy your brand or they're going to absolutely love it when they're making the comment. It's never really like, "Meh." It's either like, "I love this place" or "Let me tell you how bad they screwed me." The other 2% that are just cool with it don't ever make a comment. Right? So in that space, what are you creating and how are you changing that and controlling what you can control?
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. That's a really powerful insight. And that's true. Like, people who feel neutral about something, they're not going to take the time out of their day to be like, "This was mediocre." They're only going to write something if it was incredible or horrible. And as a consumer myself, I've been in that position where I didn't like the product. And whenever the company was like, "You can just keep this," I instantly liked them more. I recommended it to my friends. And in most cases, I've actually written a positive review because I just appreciated it so much. And I'm thinking about, you were talking about community building. Like, I feel like, especially with beauty products, that's such a word of mouth thing. Like people recommended to their friends or on social media. So people having a positive experience with your brand, even if maybe you might lose the original cost of that soft brown, you're probably going to gain more customers in the long run because they're going to be more likely to share your brand with people.
Justin Thompson: Yeah. That's what we're hoping for. You know? Like we have another line like, "A high tide raises all ships." Right? So like you do right to customer A over here, customer L six months later might be a derivative of that. You know? We just kind of put our best foot forward all the time and it's always done well for us. So we can look back and say like, "Oh, those are some actionable quantitative things I think that came from that system and let's manage that process. And continue to get the result [inaudible 00:27:38] back depending on that."
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. It sounds like the data is proving your point. I just want to go back to social media for a minute because you guys have just such an impressive following on there. What are your main intents with social media? Is it community building? Is it a marketing channel? Is it for collaborating with people? All the above? What is that engine for you?
Justin Thompson: I think the main engine is educating the customer, telling the customer more about what Madluvv is and what we're doing, and at a point or a place that you can come to figure that out about us. Within that, with education, I think people and humans love education. New ideas, innovation, collaborating within that. And so we hope that the comments in our posts are driving that, whether it's about our product or some other product. I think that we never operate from a scarcity mindset in the sense of like... I don't expect that our consumers are only buying our makeup products and nobody else's. Right? Like, look at any person's makeup drawer. There's probably... And I mean, I wish there was a study on this of how many different brands are sitting in there. But my guess is it's 10 plus, right?
Justin Thompson: So allowing free and open communication in the marketplace about maybe there's a brow gel that does really well with our Brow Stamp from another brand. Like, "Great. I'm happy for you. I'm happy that works for you. And I don't care if you tell other customers on our social media pages that this one's great from XYZ brand. Cool. Good for them." So that's kind of it, like creating that type of education first type community, and then just have cool, innovative content. I mean, content's keen, right? So whatever we can do to do that in a cool, aesthetic way, innovative way as much as you can. Like, we have a lot of different posts that have gone viral that literally were done in the parking lot of our office. Right? Where it was, one of the biggest ones is the swatch colors on like the forearm.
Ciara Fanlo: The forearm. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: And we poured water down it. And TikTok loved that.
Ciara Fanlo: Oh, because they didn't run with the water?
Justin Thompson: Yeah, yeah. So-
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: [inaudible 00:30:28] great with how it was water-resistant and smudge-proof. And so that's education; educating our customer about our product in an innovative way. People will probably fire back and like, "There's nothing innovative about that." Well, okay. I can understand that too, but TikTok liked it.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. I haven't seen that, but I can definitely imagine that would do really well on TikTok. Sometimes it's just those simple things of like someone's beauty routine in the morning, or just as you were saying, like with the brow gel, like, "Here's how I do my brows in five minutes." But it just makes it seem so much more personable and relatable.
Justin Thompson: Yeah.
Ciara Fanlo: Okay. So what advice would you give to a subscription brand just launching? What's something that you wish you knew at the beginning of this journey?
Justin Thompson: I wish we would've started the SMS right up front.
Ciara Fanlo: Okay.
Justin Thompson: One of the biggest complaints was... And I think there is a little pain point there about customers being able to cancel and Recharge talks to the customer portal and how Shopify does it. I don't like it to where they actually have to have an account and like the whole like, "Well, do I have an account? How do I log into that account so that I can [inaudible 00:31:44] subscription?" And if they just use their phone number, it just makes it very difficult. And so that's the first thing I would...
Justin Thompson: The Recharge SMS has changed all that because they don't have to have an account. They can manage and control their whole subscription right from their phone. And what we're seeing is people aren't canceling. They're just skipping their charge. They're totally pushing it out. So that would be the first thing that I think that we would've done maybe differently, perhaps we'd done differently. That's honestly really it. Well, I'm sure there's other things that we-
Ciara Fanlo: It's been perfect besides that.
Justin Thompson: Yeah. No.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah.
Justin Thompson: We started like we do a lot of things. We gave ourselves a lot of margin. So I know we can go from $19 a month. We can probably drop that to $16 or $14, but we're just starting there. We only offer as the incentive free shipping. So of course we can go to save 15%, save 20%, whatever. We've given ourself that leeway because I like the negative news. I want to know worst case how sustainable. Worst case. Right? Like not really heavily incentivizing customers, letting them cancel easily with no, like right there, they can cancel for any reason. We're not going to push back on them and try to save them yet. We always have the opportunity to do that.
Justin Thompson: And so, can this dog hunt on its own? We're seeing it can, right? Like, we're not... We're very... So the piece of advice I think I would give is you can always optimize, but put your best foot forward. But knowing that like, "Hey, this is worst case scenario." We're charging the most, we're not discounting, and we are allowing customers to cancel as quickly or as easily as they want.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Yeah. I have to imagine there's something freeing in that and knowing what the worst case scenario is and knowing we're equipped to handle this. So if everything goes horribly, we're going to be fine. We've already prepared for this. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: And one other thing, week over week, our retentions getting better just by little things that we've implemented like [inaudible 00:34:10]. We are so upfront with the customer. I think they get three notifications within the three days that product ships. So they have three... Like whether they might have just thought of it themselves to cancel, but then we almost like, not really try to get them to cancel, but we'll say like, "Look. It's coming," and [inaudible 00:34:31] positive way. Right? But yeah. And I think that goes with our overall theme of our customers-first centered brand, very upfront. We're very transparent about what it is. And honestly, we only want you if you want it. You're doing business with people that want to be in the room with you.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: And not always pulling to get someone whether it's in business or as a customer, like be in business with customers that want to be with you. And give them a reason to want to be with you. Don't be lazy. The days are long gone where you can just acquire a customer on Facebook for X and know you're getting Y. X is doubled, right? Like, your acquisition costs... Who knows what that X is? Now, it's really hard to quantify that with [inaudible 00:35:26]. But if you've been brand centered, focused on your brand, and giving the customer the reason to do business with you, the cheapest acquisition cost is organic. Right? For a referral, someone just coming straight to your site and signing up. Why not focus on that and really define what that is and how you get that because that's scalable. Right? So maybe a slow scale, but...
Ciara Fanlo: Mm-hmm. But it's much more sustainable because you said you're not dragging people to do business with you. It's people who want to be there of their own accord, who actually like your product and who know how to use it. They're set up for success. And it's just kind of like that human psychology thing again. People don't want to feel obligated into stuff. And if they do, then they're just going to leave because no one wants to feel trapped in something.
Justin Thompson: Yeah. And so I was really... That's why before we roll the subscription, [inaudible 00:36:36] of that. You know? Because I look at my competition as like Chanel, as really like big brand forward companies. And I was like, "Man, they're not doing a subscription model. How will that work against our brand?" Then I had to take some reality. I'm not Chanel. You know?
Ciara Fanlo: My competition is Chanel. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Right. Well, no I say [inaudible 00:37:04]-
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Our goal is to take market share from them. Right? And all of these large cosmetic companies, we are coming for all of them. But we're doing it in 2022 and trying to build all those different things we talked about at the beginning of the call. And so that's really why we didn't discount our product honestly. Like, for the subscription, we just give them free shipping just because we're trying to maintain that premium value brand.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Yeah. What advice would you give to a subscription brand that's trying to scale to the 10K mark so that if they've already started, maybe they have a little bit of time under their belts and they're ready to take it to the next level?
Justin Thompson: Like 10,000 subscribers or 10,000 [inaudible 00:37:57] -
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Subscribers.
Justin Thompson: Man, A/B testing; being intentional with the changes that you make, but not being afraid of making those changes; focusing on not tactics to retain customers, but giving a customer a reason to stay. You know? It's kind of like dating. You know? Don't worry about whether or not your partner's always leaving you. Focus your energy on ways and reasons that they want to stay with you. [inaudible 00:38:42] courting them. What are you doing for them? Not like always obsessed about them leaving and what are the little blocks that we can put in place to get tricky about making it difficult for them to leave. Because in this space where ecom's growing, you're getting the traffic, but can you imagine if none of your customers ever canceled, how much quicker you would grow?
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: It's rough. I'm speaking to myself. Like, we've had hundreds and hundreds of people cancel. I can only imagine where you can look at the data. And so that's what we're trying to put our focus around. And there's a lot of factors to that. Right? Price, consistency, quality of product. We're learning like how long does our Brow Stamp last? Right? We kind of know that, and that's a fine line of value, quality, but do you want it to last too long? You know?
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Yeah. That's a good question. I feel like that's a thread I've heard throughout this conversation about just focusing on the relationship and that it's like an active job to do that, like to continue to nurture the relationship with the customer and not take it for granted.
Justin Thompson: Yeah. No
Ciara Fanlo: You were saying like, "Focus about what you're bring to them instead of being like, 'Oh, don't buy other brow products.'" yeah.
Justin Thompson: I would hope that we're going to start doing some collabs actually. Like how helpful would that be? Like sign up for a subscription and get a free Glossier X? I don't know. [inaudible 00:40:24]-
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Well, because then also you'd be like tapping into... Because if you... I mean, you said this already. It's like a makeup drawer has 10 products. People do brows, but then they do face and lips and eyeshadow and all this other stuff. And so if you can find a way to bring your product into their larger look and routine, then it's going to be probably in their drawer much longer.
Justin Thompson: Absolutely. Yeah. So for example, I think on the third subscription, we send them a gift with that. So like, are you worried about your partner leaving or are you giving them flowers?
Ciara Fanlo: Right. Taking them for a date night. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Taking them to a date them and [inaudible 00:41:08] them, and continuing to court them even though you know are exclusive.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah.
Justin Thompson: And so none of this is new. Right?
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: All the things that we're doing, there's no more innovation like I kind of firmly believe. Like, people have been... I mean, you've been selling your mom on why you need food since day one. We have always been trying to court people and convince them why they need to be with us as humans. So how are we just peeling those layers back and just making it really simple, being like, "Hey, if I was the customer...." That's why we always ask like if you were the customer, how would you respond to this email?
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Who responds to us just charging your card without you knowing?
Ciara Fanlo: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. I really appreciate just like the interplay of... It's almost like a relationship podcast, an e-commerce podcast. But then it's like at the end of the day, your customers are people. You're a person, the people you work with are people, and you know, like, "What would I want?" Like, "I would appreciate a gift. That would make me feel better about continuing to spend my money with them." And just knowing at the end of the day you're working with human beings and that that is always an important thing to consider.
Justin Thompson: And I think it's very important to be into the reports, to be into the [inaudible 00:42:27]. Like, you got to know your business. But I think sometimes as entrepreneurs, we make it too complicated. Like, you are a human being selling to another human being. That's it. That's it. Make it simple, take all the guess work out of it, go value, and then people will sign. Right? Have trust. Right? The speed of trust, right? The quicker they trust you, the quicker they're going to give you the money. And so create that trust. And you do that just by putting yourself in their shoes of what would make them... How are we going to get their trust?
Justin Thompson: And that's what I tell our team all the time. We have hundreds and hundreds of people trusting us with their credit card. [inaudible 00:43:12]. What are we doing with that? Because I think as an entrepreneur, that is the biggest... That's the biggest thank you. That is the biggest compliment. You gave me your credit card information. Now it's my job to make sure that I can fulfill on everything and maintain that trust of yours.
Ciara Fanlo: That's beautiful. Yeah. No, it really is. It's like you've entrusted me with something, and so I want to deliver for you because that is like a... It's almost like a vulnerable thing to give someone that.
Justin Thompson: No. Tell me.
Ciara Fanlo: It really is. Yeah. And also, eyebrows are vulnerable. People really care about those. So. Okay. My final question to you. What physical products do you subscribe to?
Justin Thompson: Oh, what do I subscribe to? Air filters for our home.
Ciara Fanlo: Fun. So fun.
Justin Thompson: [inaudible 00:44:12]. Dog food, soaps. There's a few companies that I've really liked, that I've learned a lot from too that we've taken different ideas from and implemented. But honestly right now, to be honest with you, I think those are only two subscriptions I have going. I'm frugal. I'm a bootstrap entrepreneur, but that's... What about you? I'm going to ask you a question. What do you subscribe to?
Ciara Fanlo: I subscribe... I use Billie the razors, and smoothie cubes, and toothpaste bites. So razors, smoothie cubes and toothpaste bites.
Justin Thompson: [inaudible 00:45:08] that bag.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Mybillie, I have a subscription in my name to Mybillie.
Ciara Fanlo: Okay. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Now, if you look at our subscription flow and you look at their subscription flow, you'll [inaudible 00:45:22] similarities. But I don't use the product, but I do have a subscription from them.
Ciara Fanlo: They're really great. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Yeah. Honestly, the last thing. But as a merchant, as a business owner, [inaudible 00:45:33]. Learn from other merchants, especially if they're not in your same category. When I see someone that has done some similar stuff that we've done, that hopefully they're not like a direct competitor ripping us off, but that's a compliment. You know? If it's especially out. I want it to be, of course, out of the direct-to-consumer cosmetic space. But I'll just say upfront, we learned a ton from Mybillie.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah.
Justin Thompson: You know? They do a phenomenal job. Everything they do is so on point. And there's a lot of other beauty brands, but I don't really consider them like... I mean, we're not competing for the same product.
Ciara Fanlo: It's different. Yeah. People don't really shave their eyebrows. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: We don't have a shaving company.
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: So, yeah. Take... Because a lot of people have paid a lot of money for R&D like Amazon. Amazon, right? And so what are the best practices that Amazon's doing? Why would I not implement those into my business? How they collect reviews, they're the kings at collecting reviews. If you're running a review collection service, why are you not doing it somewhat the way that they're doing it? You don't need to get fancy with this and that, and the other. It's like you don't think that they haven't A/B tested that-
Ciara Fanlo: No. They've looked into that definitely. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They get more impressions of data than you're ever probably going to get in your business' lifetime. So their data's going to be a lot more on point than yours.
Ciara Fanlo: Mm-hmm. Yeah. No, that's really good advice. There's a lot of material already out there to start looking at to just get inspired from.
Justin Thompson: Right. Like even like nike.com. Right? I don't sell shoes, but I can learn a lot.
Ciara Fanlo: Learn a lot. Yeah.
Justin Thompson: I might not be paying subscriber to a lot of companies, but do you know how many campaign emails I get every single day? I [inaudible 00:47:36] separate email set up for it when I subscribe to whether it's anything, YETI or-
Ciara Fanlo: Yeah, yeah.
Justin Thompson: ... any brand like of Stance socks, or Bombas, or Tommy John, or any brands that I might purchase at one point in my life, like what are they doing? What are they're doing that we can then glean and then test ourself?
Ciara Fanlo: No, that's really good advice. Well, Justin, thank you so much for your time today. I really enjoyed this conversation. And we wish you and Madluvv all the best and the rest of the year.
Justin Thompson: Thank you so much. Keep your eyes open for some new product [inaudible 00:48:22].