an interview with RUBIES.
We’re all familiar with the basic strategies to acquire new customers - email marketing, Facebook ads, and the like. But how do you take it one step further to create a unique experience specifically for your audience?
This week on the podcast we’re talking about unique ways you can engage with your customers. The relationships you build are key to getting that second and third purchase, and happy customers tell their friends about your brand. We finish with an interview with Ruby and Jamie, the creators of RUBIES, about building a product and engaging with an audience in an untapped market.
Ruby Alexander is the inspiration behind RUBIES, the brand that sells form-fitting wear for transgender youths. (Caption courtesy of Shopify)
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- [02:10] Why go beyond basic customer engagement
- [02:43] Including a handwritten note with your order
- [08:32] Keeping track of significant days
- [11:28] Let your customers opt out of receiving Mother's Day & Father's Day marketing emails
- [13:52] Create a Facebook group
- [15:41] Facebook Lives
- [16:42] Commerce Tea Facebook group
- [17:10] Engage with customers via SMS
- [18:12] Emotive.io
- [20:07] Offer one-on-one or group calls
- [22:52] Introduction to Ruby and RUBIES
- [23:33] Ruby reads one of her postcards
- [24:57] Cool experiences Ruby has gotten to be a part of
- [26:38] What makes Ruby happy about being part of the LBGTQ+ community
- [27:59] Store shoutouts
- River Garza
- Commerce Tea Facebook Group
- Texas Isaiah
- Cara Romero
- Yasmine Kasem
- Bespoke Social Club
- Brandy Melville
- Wax Cabin Candle Company
- Bianca Designs
- RUBIES Dad Instagram (Jamie Alexander)
- RUBIES GoFundMe
We're all familiar with the basic strategies to acquire new customers, email marketing, Facebook ads, and the like, but how do you take it one step further to create a unique experience specifically for your audience? This week on the podcast, we're talking about unique ways you can engage with your customers. The relationships you build are key to getting that second and third purchase, and happy customers tell their friends about your brand. We finish with an interview with Ruby and Jamie, the creators of Rubies, about building a product and engaging with an audience in an untapped market. Let's dig in.
Welcome to Commerce Tea, a podcast to help you succeed on Shopify. I'm Rhian.
And I'm Kelly. Grab a mug and join us as we talk about all things commerce.
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Good morning, Rhian.
Good morning, Kelly. How are you today?
I am doing great. How are you?
I'm doing fantastically, if that's a word. And if not-
It is now.
Yeah, I'm going to write a letter to Oxford, saying [crosstalk 00:02:03].
Here's my one signature petition.
Yes, exactly. Exactly.
All right. So this week, we are talking all things customer engagement. I find this topic fun to talk about because it really allows brands to get creative and find unique ways that they can engage with their customers in a way that fits within their brand story and how they're trying to create those relationships. Because it varies so much from one merchant to the next, especially with your brand voice, so I'm saying all of this because I'm just excited to dig in.
Yeah, I'm really excited to talk about this, as well, because if there's one thing that I love, it's a handwritten note.
Okay. Well, let's start with handwritten notes.
From anybody, though. You can just mail me one, and I'll just be so excited.
Are you trying to tell me that I should probably mail you a letter? I used to have a pen pal when I was in high school, with somebody that I met online, just because we wanted to... not do handwritten letters. We both found typewriters in our houses, and we decided to use them.
How proto hipster of you. I love it.
I do what I can. But let's talk about handwritten notes because I feel like this is the easiest way that you can add a touch of personalization to every order that comes in.
Whenever I get a handwritten note, I'm elated. And I also keep them, and maybe that's just me and my tendencies, but I find them to be so exciting and happy. And honestly, even if it's not a truly handwritten note, and you know what kind of note I'm talking about.
Yeah. Okay. I don't keep those ones, but I'm also happy about those, because it's just that extra touch that can take the customer experience and that customer engagement piece to the next level, and it makes it extra special.
I completely agree, and I think it's especially important for smaller brands to take this into consideration. I understand that, as you scale, if you're starting to use a 3PL or another warehouse, it can be difficult to have all these handwritten notes to ship out because the more orders you get, the more notes you have to write, the more your hand cramps up. Having been through the whole writing out everyone's names and addresses for our wedding of almost five years ago, I feel like my hand is still cramped from that, so completely understand that it's a lot of work.
But especially when you're just starting out, every customer matters. I know as a merchant, you feel that appreciation for the fact that they're taking a chance in your product and on your store, so being able to provide that extra touch of just a handwritten thank you, I completely love it.
Yeah, 100%, 100%. Who is your most recent handwritten note from, that isn't a personal letter, that you-
I say that like personal letters are just really normal right now, and they are not.
I ordered a new heating pad because I still had the same heating pad that my mom grew up with, and it was still working, but we are hitting the point where the light wasn't coming on anymore. You could just feel it getting warm, and you're hoping for the best. So we're like, Probably should buy something a little safer and get something new.
Reduce the fire hazard in one's home.
Yeah. So there was a sort of handwritten note in that order, in a sense that they hand wrote the note, scanned it, and then printed it out on a postcard. So it was still his own handwriting and kind of explained we're a small business. We really appreciate every order that comes in. Every review we get helps us spread the word.
And I actually bought this off of Amazon, and I'm like, I'm going on to the website. I usually look at the reviews before I go in and make a purchase, just to see what others think. Obviously, reviews are great. It turns out that they had well over 6,000 reviews for this, so clearly, it worked. Just a little bit of, "We really need your help. Please write us a review," and people do it. I did it, and quite often, I don't write a... I always tell people that they should write reviews, especially when they're happy with a product, and I don't take my own advice.
Yeah, that's definitely something that I need to get better with as well, because oftentimes, you only review when it's negative. I try not to do that because as an app developer, we are the recipient of both positive and negative reviews, and I'm always really cognizant of... I'm not trying to put that negative energy out to the universe because I don't want it back.
But at the same time, it's important to also put forth that positive energy, or positive reviews, because that's... It's great for SEO. You know me. I'm like, Hold on a minute, let's talk about SEO. But it is great for SEO, and it's great to get found, but it's also just proves your authority and trustworthiness in the space, and that's critical to continuing to sell product.
Exactly. So you recently received a handwritten note from something you purchased. You want to talk about it?
I did. So I am an art collector, which sounds more pretentious than it should, but I do... I collect art, and I really enjoy art, and I recently bought a piece by River Garza, who is an LA based artist. And with the piece came another piece of art that he had done, a quick... Well, what probably for him, was a quick sketch, but would have taken me 48 hours and a dream to do. One side is a sketch, and then the other side is a really thoughtful note, and I just appreciated it so much. I put it up in my office. I put an art side up, obviously, but it was so thoughtful and so kind, and it's something that I remembered and I talk about frequently. So yeah.
I love that.
Yeah, yeah. Everyone should check his work out. He is phenomenal.
We will add a link in the show notes.
So let's talk about another one that's a fun way that you can engage with your audience, and this is keeping track of significant days. So I think that the easiest example that most brands pick up on is birthday. Everyone has a birthday; send them something special for their birthday, a discount code, a special email, whatever it might be, but you-
How do you capture that, though?
So I am a big fan of Klaviyo, and so I just say... You can include it on the sign-up form. You can include it on the customer profile. There are a lot of ways that you can capture that additional information. Yeah. I mean, that's probably would be my recommendation. There are other tools out there that you can do it with as well, but Klaviyo is my number one.
Okay. Okay. I love that. I actually didn't know the answer to that question, so that's good to know. So you can capture birthdays and anniversaries using Klaviyo?
So you can capture anything you want. That's the beauty of it because they're basically just customer properties that you can define on your own. So actually this brings... Another good example is a Brand Motherly. They're a content brand that recently opened up a shop. Full disclosure, they are our clients, and they're using Klaviyo to collect a lot of unique information specific to their brand.
So being that they have customers who are moms to be, or they already have kids, they can add in the birth dates of their children, including their names, and it is just month, day. You don't have to capture the year if you wanted to keep it a little bit more private. They also capture the dates of your due date as well, so they can send targeted emails based on you're 16 weeks along. Oh, you're 24 weeks along. Oh, you are now two weeks postpartum, whatever it might be. So they can really customize the email experience.
I think a really unique thing that they can do as well is if they uncheck... I hate to bring this up, but if the mom has a miscarriage, they are able to stop sending those emails, and if they wanted to send something else, they could, but that way, it doesn't get uncomfortable for the customer to be receiving targeted emails for when they had a miscarriage.
Obviously, it's awful when that happens, but it is good that the company has thought about ways to manage that, being in that type of industry, because that's not something that someone grieving wants to receive.
Exactly. I mean, it's very much the same. And another good example of collecting this information is Mother's Day and Father's Day are very difficult days for some people, and being able to send an email well in advance being like, "We understand that you might not want to be receiving marketing emails for Father's day or Mother's day, so if you don't, you can click this button to opt out."
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:11:44].
And you're just removed from that segment altogether.
And that just links back to customer experience, right, because you don't... Do you remember the first year that Facebook did the year... It was the year in review.
Oh, my gosh. It was awful. It was awful. And that previous year... Sorry, not to get heavy. We're all of a sudden super heavy. I had a friend pass away that year, and it was that year's Facebook review was just awful. All my friends, and I were like, "Well, that sucked." That was a terrible... I think they still do it, but I've never clicked on it since then.
They actually have changed some settings too, especially when they can tell when you are no longer in a relationship with somebody. They're able to show less content of the two of you together, which I think is that I think-
I think that's good. I don't know exactly how they handle things with death, but because they have the functionality built into Facebook to know whether or not a Facebook profile is of somebody who has passed, I feel like they'd be able to do it.
At least they should.
They should. They should. So speaking of Facebook...
Odd segue, but it works.
Odd segue. I mean, the idea of privacy with Facebook is nonexistent, I guess one could also say.
I think there's this joke right now, going around with Zoomers or gen Z, where they are just totally fine. They just have accepted the fact that the government and tech companies know everything about them.
I mean, I feel kind of bad because a lot of... Our generation, the kids basically were exposed on the internet since the day they were born with pictures of them and all of their personal achievements and not achievements, just the everyday things. And those are things that are going to be on the internet forever.
So the joke make sense.
Yes. 100%. So speaking of Facebook, you should create a Facebook group.
Kelly, don't talk more about... I feel like I'm in a bajillion Facebook groups, and that is an accurate number, and I stand by that.
No, it absolutely is. So Facebook groups are a really great opportunity for a brand to engage with their customers on a more personal level, so you can get to know exactly who your customers are. Your customers can engage with each other even, so they can make friendships and share ideas, whatever it might be, but it really gives you another space that's a little bit more intimate to have these conversations with your customers. You can talk about potential products that you want to carry and get ideas from them, and get their feedback.
I think they're a great idea. They're not for everybody. I mean, if your customer base is not on Facebook, creating a Facebook group might not be useful, but if you are especially serving audiences that are, I would say generally, 30-plus, they're on Facebook. At least some majority of your audience is actually still using Facebook, so that's a good place to be.
And I don't think I'm making up this data, but correct me if I'm wrong. I think that the majority, and we're going to exclude Instagram from this information, I think the majority of Facebook users now are using it Facebook groups first. Is that correct?
I think so. That makes sense. Yeah.
I mean, I spend more time in groups than I do on my feed. That's for sure.
Yeah. I don't really spend time on my feed at all, but I am in Facebook groups that I do actually pay attention to.
Yeah, exactly. I see this a lot in the boutique space specifically, so I see boutiques really love to engage with their customers. One of the things that they do is basically Facebook lives, or just showcasing what products they're going to be carrying, or... One thing that I've seen, that's really cool, is that if they're actually at a market buying for the store, they will hold up two options, be like, "Which of these two should we carry?"
Oh, I love that.
And this is live, so the customers are able to be like, "Oh, I want that one on the left. Oh, I want that one on the right."
And you know these customers are ready to buy it as soon as you stock it. I think that's such a genius idea.
Oh, yeah. As a buyer of a product, they're doing the work for you, really. You're just the one with the credit card at that point. Oh, well I used to have to pick out these things to buy that I think will be taste making, et cetera. And now you just have someone saying, "No, I will literally buy of that in every size and every color way." Let's go. That's amazing. I love that.
Yeah. I think this is also a good time to announce that Commerce Tea is also going to have a Facebook group now, because I feel if we're going to talk about having one, we should probably create one ourselves. So we will include a link to our Facebook group in the show notes, so please join us.
Please join us there. Kelly, I know there's another type of customer experience and customer support vertical that you're really passionate about. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Yes. So it's becoming more and more popular. I honestly don't know if it's going to stay popular. I have mixed feelings about this, but at the moment, SMS is a really, really, really great way to engage with your customers. And I'm not talking sending marketing blasts via SMS, which by the way, the open rates are through the roof compared to email.
SMS is text messages, just so we're...
I don't actually know what SMS stands for, but text messages.
No idea. Stext message service.
We're just making things up now. It's cool. We are experts. No, but I really think that SMS is a great option for customer support because you can actually text back and forth with your customers, and send them links to products that they want to buy, and answer their sizing questions. And if they have an issue with the product, you can help them find a replacement or... I mean, there's so many opportunities.
There's one tool in particular that I want to call out here, and that's called Emotive. So their website is emotive.io, and also, of course, we'll link it in the show notes. So this basically opens up the two-way communication channels, so you can market to your customers. You can have these customer support conversations with them, and they have this animation on their home page that they're giving an example of a conversation of, let's say, a personal stylist. You're selling dresses; you're selling boutique. You have a personal stylist "texted" as a marketing, being, "Hey, we noticed you're looking at our dresses. Are you looking for something to wear to an event?"
And the customer replies, "Yes. Going to a friend's birthday party. Nothing too silky." Nope. They said, "Need something silky." Got it backwards.
So they respond with, "Then you're going to love this fun dress," with a link to the dress.
So is this a real person or a bot?
Yeah, it's a real person. So you're actually having your customer support team text your customers. And I mean, there are tools so you can streamline the conversation. Gorgeous does the same way, Gorgeous being a customer support tool, to have some kind of formulaic responses to engage with the customers without having to type everything out freeform. But yeah, I mean, you're talking to a real human person, and that's what people really want. They know when they're communicating with a bot. When you ask them a question and it's, "Would you like to speak to our customer support representative? Type yes."
Right. Yeah. This sounds really cool. I'm going to play with this. I'm seeing that it has really great ROI, and I'm interested in seeing what this looks in real-time on one of my stores in their development environment.
So one of the other things that Kelly and I have talked a lot about is the benefits in terms of customer engagement and experience with one-on-one or group calls. As I mentioned earlier, I'm an art collector. I have been adding to my collection quite often in the past six months, and I have been able to speak to every artist that I've collected from via Zoom. Now, I understand that that's not a scalable tactic necessarily, but there are other ways that can be done.
So first I just want to shout out the artists that I have had the pleasure of Zooming with, and that's Texas Isaiah, Cara Romero, and Yasmeen Kasem. They're phenomenal artists, but understandably, those price points are higher, right? There is another group call that I'm aware of, and we met her through a Women in Shopify event, and that is an organization called Bespoke Social Club, which is group wine tastings. And Kelly, do you want to talk more about how that experience happened?
Yeah. So you can purchase a specific wine tasting that you want to do. They do private wine tastings and also just classes, and they will ship you small vials of each wine that you're going to taste. And then as a group, you go through, and you have a sommelier walking you through the flavor profile and all the things that you're supposed to know how to do when you're doing a wine tasting. I'm a very much a... This red wine tastes red wine. I love wine. I'm just learning what I like still. So don't ask me to tell you how to do it. That's why I do these classes.
That's how you learn. Right?
I just wanted to mention we should probably have her on the podcast.
We should probably have her on the podcast, and also Kelly and I keep talking about doing one of these wine tastings together, and we have yet to do it. So maybe today's the day we're going actually schedule that, to have that.
We should probably do that because it's been, I think, two, three months now.
Yeah. Yeah. And I'm actually legitimately excited about it, and so with that, in those different points of customer engagement, I want to bring on some people who excel at customer engagement.
Today, we are joined by Ruby and Jamie, the founder of Rubies. Hi, Ruby. How are you doing today?
I'm good. How are you?
I'm doing awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us. Can you do me a favor and tell us a little bit about you and a little bit about your brand?
Yes. Hi, I'm Ruby, and I'm here to talk to you about the business me and my dad are creating, to help trans kids like me feel comfortable swimming and doing other activities that they love. My dad wanted to design a bikini bottom that looks a nice normal bottom, but is designed just for trans. My dad needs my help shipping out packages, as we sold out of 150 bikini bottoms in just two weeks.
We also include a postcard in each package with a cool message from kids and teens in Toronto. I'd like to read you one the postcards that I wrote.
Hello there. My name is Ruby. I am a trans girl and can understand you. You are a star that shines bright in the sky. Don't let anyone dim that light. Ruby.
Unfortunately, there are many kids from families that cannot afford our products. With this in mind, we've set a goal giving away 1,000 bathing suits through the Every Girl Deserves to Shine campaign. So far, we have raised enough to give away 400 bottoms through tee-shirt sales in our Go Fund Me page. Thanks to Commerce Tea for inviting us here to this discussion. Thank you.
Well, thank you. And you know what, Ruby? I think it's so cool that you include that card in with your bathing suit. I think it's awesome that you have the bathing suit, that y'all created the bathing suit, and I love that you have that card because that's just a great personal touch. And you know what? We see lots of folks not doing that, and that's something that Kelly and I always talk about as being crucial to building that relationship with your customers. So I just love that, and also congratulations on your Go Fund Me. I know that it's been successful, and we're going to link to... Is it still live? Because we'll link to it in our show notes, so-
Rubie's Dad (24:46):
Absolutely. Please do, yeah.
Perfect. We are going to absolutely link to the Go Fund Me, as well as your website in our show notes, so everyone can see it.
So I have another question for you. What cool experiences have you gotten to be a part of because of Rubies?
Well, some experiences that were really nice. There is this one time where, for our website, we have this tick tock thing, where me and my friends are tick tock dancing, so that was really fun. We were behind a green screen, and my dad would play a song from tick tock, and we would dance to it. So that was really fun.
Another experience that I really like, I like helping my dad with writing the postcards. If he needs a few done in a day, then I kind of like doing them. And sometimes when I get tired, I like thinking to myself, Oh, think about all these other girls, or people, who are getting the bathing suit bottoms and who are getting this message. Think about how happy that would be. So when I'm tired, I kind of think about that.
You are helping so many people. You should really be so proud of yourself.
Yeah, I am so pumped on the work that you're doing. This is so, so great. And we're coming out of Pride Month, and happy Pride Month.
[crosstalk 00:26:19] why, but I wish every month was Pride Month.
You know what?
I have a friend, and she runs Passion Fruit, which is... Her argument is that Pride Month should be every month, so you should check it out because I think you would really like it, and her stuff is super cute.
So next question for you. What makes you happy about being part of the LGBTQ-plus community?
The thing that makes me really happy is that I know that I'm different, but I'm proud about it, and the reason why I'm proud is because there are so many other trans girls, or people who are part of the LGBTQ community, that when I go to different events that are for LGBTQ people, I can meet a bunch of new people who are just like me. And I'm really proud because I like expressing who I am, and I'm also... If I weren't trans, then I wouldn't be doing this with my father, and I'm just very grateful and really proud to be who I am.
I love that.
I love that so much. You're so awesome.
Rubie's Dad (27:30):
So do I.
I'm so very happy that you've come here and you're bringing a voice to so many girls across the world who maybe don't have one, like what you said in your postcard. I just want to send you the best fives from Southern California all the way to where you are, because what you're doing makes me so incredibly happy and is changing people's lives. So thank you so, so very much.
So Ruby, I have a fun question for you. We like to close out each of our episodes by shouting out a store that inspires us, a store that we like shopping from. And so I'm going to put you on the spot here, and I would love to know what store you love.
I love Brandy Melville. That's my go-to store. I hate the size thing. It gets really stupid, but I just feel like the clothes, they kind of compliment me, I guess. That's what a lot of people say. I guess it's just kind of my style, if you know I mean. But I don't support the one-size thing.
You know what? You can love a brand, or a part of a brand, and then not like part of a brand as well. I'm right there with you with some other brands right now, so I totally get it. [crosstalk 00:28:48]. Brandy Melville is super cute. We have a ton of Brandy Melville in my house as well. Now, I don't wear it. That might come as a surprise, but I... I'm not the one who wears it. My daughter is.
So Kelly, tell us what your story of the week is.
So my store of the week is called Wax Cabin Candle Company, and they're just super cute smelling candles that have a brunch smell candle. I don't know what that actually is, but they have peach ones, and I'm really into the design of the candles, the packaging and everything. I'm definitely going to be ordering some candles for our home. They also have a fried cabin set, which I think is really cool.
I love that. The problem when Kelly and I talk about all these stores is that we tend to order things immediately after we talk about them. So we have to be careful [crosstalk 00:29:45]. Yeah, it's becoming really expensive.
Rubie's Dad (29:50):
I think the store should send you the products for free.
I would that.
Rubie's Dad (29:52):
You're shouting them out here, so... [crosstalk 00:29:57]. I mean, you guys need a free pair of Rubies? No problem.
I would [crosstalk 00:30:01].
Rhian, what's your store?
So my store is biancadesigns.co, and it is an inclusive enamel and pin company from Queens, New York, and they have the cutest pride pins. And they've got a pin that says, "Community is home." They have an inclusive pride pin, which I love, and everyone should check it out. They've also got stickers and patches, so you can jazz up your denim or... Well, I love a pin because I wear so much denim, so I'm a pin queen. So everybody check it out. It's super cute.
Ruby, last question for you. Super important. Where can we find you on the internet?
You can find me on Instagram or on my website.
Rubie's Dad (30:51):
So yeah, so the Instagram is Rubies dad at the moment, and the URL for the store is rubyshines.com. And you can go there, and you can see Ruby's tick-tock dancing, and there's a little-
Rubie's Dad (31:08):
I don't know if you guys found; there's a little Easter egg on the homepage. See if you can find that.
I'm definitely going [crosstalk 00:31:15].
Or if you look at my Instagram, I have... In the link, it says rubyshines.com, so you can press on there too.
Perfect. Perfect. I love your website. I love everything about this. I know there's so many people who are going to want to hear this story because you have a success story, and you're changing people's lives, and we really are so honored to have you on our show, and we really are appreciative of your time. And I hope you have a really great rest of your summer and... Because you don't have school for a while, right? Do you have a little bit more time off?
A lot more time off.
Rubie's Dad (31:50):
I'm not sure we know how much time off [crosstalk 00:31:52] to be honest. It seems like it's been about five months so far.
Yeah, fair. Fair enough. Fair enough. I totally get that. Thank you again, and we really appreciate you coming on the show.
Thank you. [crosstalk 00:32:07].
Rubie's Dad (32:06):
All right, great. Thanks.
I hope you have a great summer too.
Thank you so much. Thank you.
Thanks for tuning in, and thanks again to our sponsors for supporting this episode. You can subscribe to Commerce Tea on your favorite podcasting service. We post new episodes every Tuesday, so grab your mug and join us. See you next week.
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