The following guest post is from Nathan Rothstein, founder and president of Project Repat. Have an idea you want to share? Get in touch with at Hive@Boston.com and follow The Hive on Twitter at@HiveBoston.
There were a lot of conversations at SXSW Interactive that went something like this; ‘what do you do?’ and I would respond with one of the following, ‘we turn your t-shirts into blankets, or we make it fun and easy for people to upcycle their clothes.’ Humans have about five seconds to comprehend a new idea, and if it takes longer, our minds roll to other things, so it’s always a race against the waning attention span clock. (It was just as hard for me to pay attention when someone told me they were creating an app to help people make predictions about tv shows.) Regardless, for a lot of tech-focused people, our consumer good apparel business did not make the techies go gaga, but it did leave people scratching their heads, and asking, ‘why were we at interactive?
After enough people ask, it makes you wonder, yes, what am I doing here? Well, Ross was invited to speak on a panel on the Rise of Re-Commerce, so yes, we had a reason, but even though sending t-shirts and cutting and sewing them and then sending them through the Postal Service is as analog as it gets, our business relies heavily on the e-commerce platforms and apps that are available to any t-shirt blanket salesman out there.
Here are some of the technology applications we use to stay as lean as possible, which allows us to continue to prove out our business model before investing serious capital on technology:
Shopify What did early stage e-commerce companies do before shopify? I don’t know. At any moment I can look up a customer, see how many times they have ordered, generate a discount code, or add/delete a product. When we work with a flash sale site, I can generate thousands of discount codes in less than ten minutes, and most of apps below integrate smoothly into shopify
Livechat People still like to shop offline and talk to a real person and Livechat helps re-create that experience on our website. We can get a sense of what people are looking at, and if they are on our FAQ page, we know they probably have questions. We can also see what people have in their cart, and can help walk people through the buying process.
Helpscout When our first Groupon grassroots launched last August, we started to get dozens of emails sent to our contact email. Every time I would respond to a question, I would cc Ross, but just to make sure I would also ask him. Before any email went out, we had to double check if someone responded, until I remembered hearing about help scout at SOWA before our inbox was filled with t-shirt blanket requests. We can assign emails to each other, and respond at our own will, and any email with a response gets logged. It’s the perfect tool for a two-man customer service department.
Referral Candy I always wanted a feature on my website that could generate a unique link every time a customer bought that they could share with their network. It turns out- it exists! If a customer shares this link, their friends get a discount, and they get a cash reward when the referral makes a purchase. In a business where not many people even know your product exists, referrals is key.
Klaviyo We spent a lot of time scouring the Shopify app store for a system that can help manage our fulfillment process. When a customer buys, we use USPS three times- one for a blanket box going out, a pre-paid envelope with their t-shirts, and the finished upcycled product. Each step of the process must be tracked, and Klaviyo has helped us create a great order management system.
So yes, we rely a lot on technology, and so the next time you see a consumer good company at SXSWi, ask us— what apps are you using to attract and retain customers? You may hear the same problem enough to create a business.