I Mustache You a Question

Over here at commerce tea, we love folks who are doing things that no one else is. Today we are joined by Jon Shanahan, the CMO of Stryx- a pioneer in the men's cosmetics industry.

We'll be talking about how Stryx chose and developed this market opportunity, how they brought their product to market, and how to leverage social media.

Let's dig in!



Jon Shanahan 

Jon Shanahan is an entrepreneur, a men’s style enthusiast, and the Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer at Stryx.

After successful careers in technology and the retail industry, Jon turned his passion and knowledge of men’s fashion into a menswear review website and YouTube channel dedicated to helping guys look better, feel better, and live better called The Kavalier.

Then in 2019 he co-founded Stryx – a pioneer in the men’s cosmetics industry available nationwide in CVS


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show notes.

  • [02:52] Who is Jon Shanahan 
  • [03:47] What is Stryx
  • [07:30] Stryx is in CVS (whoa)
  • [11:36] How to manage hyper growth
  • [13:24] What tech stack do you use on your store?
  • [17:10] You probably need brow gel
  • [18:35] YouTube as an acquisition channel
  • [20:05] TikTok as an acquisition channel 
  • [21:44] How to "make it" on TikTok
  • [32:45] What is the future of commerce?
  • [36:58] Advice to new merchants
  • [38:00] Jon's on the internet



Rhian (00:00):
Over here at Commerce Tea, we love folks who are doing things that no one else is. Today, we are joined by Jon Shanahan. The CMO of Stryx, a pioneer in the men's cosmetics industry. We'll be talking about how Stryx chose and developed this market opportunity, how they brought their product to market, and how to leverage social media. Let's dig in. [Music playing 00:00:23]. Welcome to Commerce Tea, a podcast to help you succeed on Shopify. I'm Rhian.

Kelly (00:31):
And I'm Kelly. Grab a mug and join us as we talk about all things commerce.

Rhian (00:41):
Hey Kelly, let's say I can't write code, but I want to create workflows that carry out repetitive tasks automatically, so that way I can focus on my business and create great customer experiences. What would I use?

Kelly (00:54):
I recommend Mesa, a no-code workflow builder for any action your customer takes. You can use Mesa's built-in features to extend your connected apps, set up email notifications, receive forms, schedule tasks, delay workflows, and much more. Developers like me also love Mesa because we can lift the hood on any automation to customize for total control.

Rhian (01:15):
I'm in. How do I start?

Kelly (01:17):
Go to getmesa.com. That's G-E-T-M-E-S-A.com and their team of automation experts will support you on your journey 24/7.

Rhian (01:25):
Buying online is fun, but you know what isn't? Waiting days for your package to arrive. Once a purchase is made, customers track their shipment four to five times per order. That means they're visiting order tracking pages a lot. Why not use that time with excited customers to drive sales and build your brand? How? With a tool like Malomo. Malomo helps you turn shipping from a cost center, into a profitable marketing channel by using branded shipment emails and order tracking pages to drive additional purchases by showing new products, upcoming sales, subscription options, and other engaging content.

Rhian (02:06):
Plus, it cuts support tickets down by 50% by proactively managing delivery communications with customers. The best part is it really works. Malomo merchants see a two to 3% repeat purchase rate from customers while they're waiting for their current order to arrive. Post-Purchase experiences are the new frontier in marketing. What are you doing to tap in? Hello, hello, John. How are you today?

Jon Shanahan (02:40):
Great. Thanks for having me ladies.

Kelly (02:42):
Thanks so much for joining us. Let's kick things off with an easy, potentially, easy question. Tell us about yourself.

Rhian (02:50):
What if it's not an easy question?

Kelly (02:51):
I know, that's why I said potentially just in case.

Jon Shanahan (02:54):
I think people that don't want to answer the question, find it a hard question. I'll put myself in that category. My name is John. I am the co-founder of Stryx, and I also prior to that, I spent six years building a YouTube channel in the men's style and fashion space, and then before that I was a technology company. I worked for Apple for a few years, and then before that I was getting my diaper changed by my mom. Day-to-day-

Kelly (03:21):
I'm curious what this age transition is?

Jon Shanahan (03:25):
It was all very sudden. All of a sudden I was a fully formed adult, and I was getting mistaken for a 30-year-old. Now, it's funny, now I used to be mistaken. People were like, "Oh, you're 29." I was like, "No, I'm actually 22." Now they're like, "Oh, you're like 30." I'm like, "Yeah, 30."

Kelly (03:43):
Yeah, I now look my age and I don't know how to feel about it.

Jon Shanahan (03:47):
Yeah. That's why we're here with some cosmetics, so you can really put on your best face. Anyway. My day to day, I'm mostly spending time making a fool of myself on TikTok for Stryx. We are a men's cosmetics brands, so we're like you say, we're doing things that aren't really done out in the market, but we're trying to really lead just by unique differentiated product, and doing it in a really cool way.

Kelly (04:12):
I think this is really, really great. It just busts down the top, like that toxic masculinity, like I'm not going to wear makeup. I don't wash my face. I use a Irish spring bar on my face. That kind of vibe, and you’re building a brand that's opposite of that.

Jon Shanahan (04:32):
Yeah. I think we’re very intentional about that. There's a fine line between toxic masculinity and fragile masculinity, and we're between those two. There is a big move in the industry to go gender neutral, but we so strongly know how much of a stigma there is around men using these products. We have to first get to a point where they're acceptable before we can go beyond the gender roles, and it's like every category, deodorant, razors, shampoo, soaps, they all have a men's variant, there just hasn't been one for cosmetics, so that’s our premise.

Kelly (05:05):
I love that.

Rhian (05:05):
I think it's smart.

Kelly (05:07):
What was the catalyst that really started the company?

Jon Shanahan (05:11):
It was my co-founder, his wedding day he had a pimple and it ended up being in every wedding photo, and it was a whole thing. But that experience and actually what's crazy is separately, we weren't getting married. On my wedding day, I will never forget going to bed hoping I didn't have a breakout the next morning, I did, and I had actually forgotten about that because I Photoshop all my own photos so that it wouldn't be in there. And it's like every guy has experience, whether it's their wedding day, or now it's a zoom call or a first date, or a big meeting, every guy has the experience where they want to have clear and perfect skin, but there was not a go-to easy solution for guys out there.

Jon Shanahan (05:49):
That was his catalyst to start it, I joined later on as a co-founder because of my background in YouTube, and really a huge component of what we have to do is education and normalization. That's really where my skillset could really fit in. Now it's every product we're building now is at that intersection of skincare, but then a cosmetic element to it, to make it really approachable.

Kelly (06:11):
I'm actually a really, really big fan of this. I used to be a makeup artist back in the olden days of my life, but we would have men come in, and it would always be this, “Hey, I need this," It was like that really taboo moment, so I'm such a big fan that you're saying this shouldn't be taboo. It's okay to want to look your best. It doesn't matter what gender you are, and there's a product for you. I'm really amped up on that.

Jon Shanahan (06:45):
That's actually one of the things, we have Tom Sandoval from Vanderpump rules, joined as a partner, and that was his thing, is when he started modeling in the ‘90s, he would go to the makeup artist and they're like, "We're not going to do anything for you, you do your own makeup." That was when he started to use it, and a big part of what we have to do is education, but when we talk about omni-channel, the reason ... We're in CVS stores. The reason we did that is to show that these products, we literally sit in the shelf next to Harry's razors. To show that these products can be used alongside other everyday products, and normalizing and making it more accessible, is one of our key components of the brand. Whichever one of those you want to hit on first, yeah, we can dig into any of them.

Kelly (07:30):
I'm pretty pumped up that you're in CVS next to Harry's. Can you talk to us a bit about going omni-channel, and what that looks like?

Jon Shanahan (07:39):
We always knew we would have to, we wanted to be in retail, and initially, our concealer tour hero product was $29, and our premise of retail was going to be Nordstrom, Sephora, Blue mercury, but the more that you dig into those channels, the more you see that guys don't shop those channels. Guys aren't going to Nordstrom, especially to look for skincare, but guys are going there for those, or say it for Ulta or Sephora. We did a pilot with CVS, and we tested in their stores in Rhode Island, and we were outselling every other category that we tested with. That was enough signal for them to say, “Okay, full store rollout." It was also important for us in the category that we sit in, because we don't want to be at women's cosmetics.

Jon Shanahan (08:26):
These guys definitely aren't shopping there, but for us to be in the shave aisle was the critical way of positioning it, so that we can show that these products are normalized. We did a 2000 store rollout, and we did it alongside two other men's brands, and it's been really reassuring to see that we're on a shelf with a haircare brand and we're selling on pace if not beating them each week in sales. We're showing that you can put a men's concealer on a shelf. The products they carry, they carry our concealer tool in the shades and the gel cleanser, our face wash. Our concealer tool is selling as well as the shampoo, which is really cool to see.

Kelly (09:04):
I think the idea of getting into retail can be terrifying for a lot of brands when they're just trying to step into that first, they’re considering getting into retail, but it can be an overwhelming process. What advice might you have to a brand who is looking to make that step?

Jon Shanahan (09:19):
It is definitely daunting. I'll never forget when that first PO came in and we were like, "Oh, we have to fulfill this now." There's even the steps in the backend of your EDI system and compliance, and it becomes a full-time job to manage a retailer, whether you're doing 50 doors at Nordstrom, or you're doing a couple thousand doors at a major retailer, there's compliance and there's the right bar codes. You have to have GS1 bar codes, not the cheap ones that you can get online. Just having the expectation that it's going to be work, but then also being able to communicate to a retailer is going to tell them where you sit in the category.

Jon Shanahan (10:01):
We were very clear to CVS. We were like, we are a grooming essential. We are a face product, not XYZ other product. Being able to communicate that I think is important as well. For them, it's who, what are the customers? What are you bringing to the table for them? It's the reason that CVS brought in a cool upstart men's cosmetics brand, is because we have a customer that they might not be hitting, and we're going to end up driving store traffic because guys are looking for our products.

Kelly (10:29):
Hey Ryan, what can I do to help my support team be more efficient?

Rhian (10:32):
I recommend Gorgias. Gorgias combines all your communications channels, including email, SMS, social media, live chat and phone, into one platform that gives you an organized view of all help requests. This saves your support team hours per day. It makes managing customer orders a breeze.

Kelly (10:51):
Sounds great. What else can it do?

Rhian (10:53):
With Gorgias, you can pre-write and save responses to your most frequently asked questions. You even have access to the customer's order information, so you can personalize responses with things like an order or tracking number. This then frees up your time, so your support team can focus on complex questions.

Kelly (11:11):
This sounds like a great way to also increase sales and brand loyalty. Where can I learn more?

Rhian (11:15):
To request a demo, visit Commercetea.com/gorgias. That's Commercetea.com/G-O-R-G-I-A-S.

Kelly (11:26):
When you were getting into CVS, I imagine that was rapid scale, very quickly. Is that correct?

Jon Shanahan (11:36):

Kelly (11:37):
How did you do that?

Jon Shanahan (11:39):
It is very important to have great relationships with your manufacturers because we, at the time, we made the decision to go forward with CVS in February of 2020, so we were like, "Oh, it's going to be great. What a big year?" Then COVID hit, and we actually, I'll never forget, we wrote the check for the inventory for CVS on March 20th, right as everything was just completely insane. Part of that was we have a, our great finance, all that stuff is set, and then the manufacturers were like, "All right, cool.' I think it's slowed down a little bit because they had pivoted to hand sanitizer, but it was like, we knew the date we're going to start hitting stores, so working backwards from there.

Jon Shanahan (12:25):
We had enough inventory on hand to do, I can't remember. it was like 75% of the rollout that we could just ship to CVS, but then we also redesigned our boxes for retail, so that next PO that we put in March of last year, we were like, all right, we need a ton of units, but then also, we're going to redesign the boxes because we needed to have them sit on shelf properly. Our original packaging was very signature D to C high-end, really cool unboxing experience, but that doesn't translate to all the shelf, so we also rapidly changed our packaging, because CVS's thing is they want it to stand up on shelf vertically. If you see our packaging, there's a big gap in it.

Jon Shanahan (13:06):
We couldn't just make it the size of the concealer tool, we had to put it like a gap, so that it could stand in there. I think all of that just comes in the ability for a smaller brand to be nimble, but then also to be able to scale with your manufacturer. Now our manufacturers are waiting for us to get off of [inaudible 00:13:22], and we're like, "We'll get there, we'll get there eventually."

Kelly (13:24):
I have a slightly unrelated question, but as a developer, I love to see the tech stack of people's websites, what they're using. On your website, what do you think in terms of the apps and the tools that you're currently using, what do you think have made the biggest impact on your online sales?

Jon Shanahan (13:44):
The online sales, we actually just redid our entire website, last week it launched, so you're seeing it very fresh right now.

Kelly (13:50):
It's beautiful by the way.

Rhian (13:51):
Yeah, gorg.

Jon Shanahan (13:52):
Thank you. That was a lot of work to get that up and going.

Rhian (13:55):
I'm sure it was, I'm sure it was.

Jon Shanahan (13:58):
There's a lot of stuff that runs and fires in the background. The one that I think I ended up engaging with the most though, is the post-purchase survey. At the end, it'll say, we can ask a question at the end. Then that is what is directly informing our product development roadmap, the way that we position our brand and really understand our customers, because that'll also inform when we do customer interviews, and we talk to guys on the phone, those questions will then, you'll either reaffirm those or ask questions around it, and dig a little bit more in. Everything's built on Shopify, and your good old DSE ramp.

Jon Shanahan (14:34):
The post purchase surveys I think have been huge for us just to understand our customer better, because like our eye tool that we launched, came directly out of so much customer feedback, and that ended up, it became our best-selling product. Anything that helps us get closer to the customer.

Rhian (14:48):
That post-purchase survey, I assume you probably have been testing different questions over time to see what generates not only the more responses, but also actually useful responses. As you've iterated over these questions, I guess I can ask, what are you asking now that seems to have the best impact?

Jon Shanahan (15:08):
Honestly, we just switch it out, almost every thousand responses for whatever question we might have internally. We have a list and we'll say, "All right, this is the next one." For a while, we were trying to figure out how many guys had ever purchased a cosmetic, or what other brands are guys shopping. Then recently when we had a meeting with a major retailer, we were like, all right, let's ask the question to our customers to figure out if they're actually shopping in some of these stores, and we were able to go to them and say, “Look, 46% of our customers are already shopping in your store.

Jon Shanahan (15:35):
So we already have a really good crossover, and then also here's the guys that we could also bring in." It's not as much that we're asking every customer the same thing, but it's constantly reiterating to say, all right, what other brands are out there? We ask lifestyle questions. The thing that we know now after asking this multiple times is, our guy is the guy that cares about his appearance. They usually go to the gym, they usually go outside and they hike. They may have a skincare routine. What we do know is, out of all the testing, 70% of our customers have never purchased a cosmetic before.

Jon Shanahan (16:11):
That's the one statistic we always come back to, to show that we're just growing a market essentially, but then okay then, what are the next, the psychographics behind the guys that we're actually converting, because then that ends up informing the Ads that we run, or the way that we message and position it. It's just constantly trying to figure out who's buying, and what are they buying for?

Rhian (16:31):
That's really cool, that statistic in particular, because you're tapping into a new market that's never done anything like this before, and you're having this opportunity to build trust in a way that no other company has actually tried to build trust with these people. I love that.

Jon Shanahan (16:48):
I think I said this in a TikTok recently is, we win if more guys wear a cosmetic product. It doesn't have to be ours, but we win as a brand if just more guys start to wash their face, put a SPF moisturizer on, and maybe put on a concealer. That is our broader mission, and then we're also just building the best products within that category, and accessible price.

Rhian (17:10):
I have to tell you, I sent your line to my husband, and he said, and this is a direct quote. "I could F with a brow gel to be honest. My brows needs some control." I just thought that you would think that was funny, but also it's about that education piece and just putting it out there. Which is exactly what you do on TikTok, and you do it on your website really, really well. A lot of people in my opinion, struggle getting this piece right. They've got a good product, in theory it works, but they struggle in making it make sense to the consumer. Can you walk us through your TikTok education strategy, that whole thing?

Jon Shanahan (17:57):
That's great to hear about the brow gel. The brow gel we launched last week, too. It was like, the website was two weeks ago, last week was a brown gel, and part of that is also to make like Stryx more accessible, because it’s pretty easy for your husband to grasp what an eyebrow gel is, or an eye tool, whereas the tinted moisturizer is a way higher level of education, and we really have to get guys familiarize with that. The concealer, a concealer tool is a little bit easier. It's like, oh, you got a pimple. You get a raised burn, cover them up. That then informs everything we're talking about. But as far as the content strategy, when I started at Stryx, my background was in YouTube, so my thing was, all right, I'm going to come in.

Jon Shanahan (18:35):
I'm going to build out a YouTube channel, we're going to build a community. I also take a ton of inspiration from Eric at Beard brand. He's a good friend, and he's built a community over there. When I started to post more, it's really hard to grow on YouTube now. It was hard when I joined in 2015, it’s very hard now. I had lunch with a friend who was describing TikTok to me at the time, because in November of '19, I was like, okay, it's for teenagers dancing. Which I think it's still pretty prevalent to be the thought of it. But he described it to me, the way he described it as a powerful editing platform, with a music base. The thing he hit on was it's a lot like Vine. When Vine shut down, I had tens of thousands of followers.

Jon Shanahan (19:21):
I loved that platform. That was before YouTube or anything else. The way that it's now panned out is YouTube is like our content library. All the videos on that channel are directly from customer questions, so there's an FAQ series, a tutorial series. We have an education flow in there, so it's like, if you've never used a concealer before, here's how you use it. That's always referenceable, and then it helps with search, and it's just like, it's always there. Instagram has become as it should. It's the museum. Our products look really nice in there, we'll put customers up there as we get things. I think everybody is expected to have an Instagram account. We also get a lot of DMs from guys. We don't get as many comments publicly, I think because of the taboo nature of what we're doing.

Jon Shanahan (20:05):
We get a lot of DMs from guys now, send us a picture, and they be like, "What's my shade?" Or they send us a picture with a question about a skin issue. That's become more of a private channel, even more so than email, I think. Then TikTok is this like top of funnel awareness, just like totally loud section where we can do tutorials, we can do things there, but that's just become the way that we're reaching a whole different audience, because the way that people engage with TikTok is so different than Instagram and YouTube, that makes it such a unique platform, and also very exciting. You can scroll all the way back my very first post on TikTok, I was showing how to cover up razor burn.

Jon Shanahan (20:46):
I didn't even know how to use the app. That video is half finished. It is so bad, but I remember I posted that video and within three hours it had 100,000 views, and I was like, "There's something here." Then it's been constant iteration of figuring out what is working, what doesn't, the messaging. TikTok has now become the platform where we'll test messaging, test communication, and test different things, and then that will permeate all the other channels.

Rhian (21:13):
I see you've got one video that has 1.2 million views, and it's interesting. This is the thing about TikTok I don't understand, and maybe you can help us understand, because we don't get TikTok. Right Kelly, I would say.

Kelly (21:27):
We're still trying to figure it out. I'm more of a consumer of TikTok than a creator.

Rhian (21:32):
I'm an appreciator of TikTok. your pimples video that has 1.2 million viewers, how do you know what's going to stick? Or is it you just don't?

Jon Shanahan (21:44):
That's the magic slot machine of TikTok is like, I know what videos have performed well in the past, I will do those videos again and they will perform well again. I'll try something new, that'll hit too. I just did one on beards. The other video with a million views was I did one on beards. I just showed how to trim your beard and this beard, your neck line and their cheek line, and I mentioned the concealer in that video and that one blew up. You never really know what's going to hit, and I actually, I have a new thesis on, because I don't know if you also saw it, but Patrick from supply, I was on his case for months to join TikTok. I was like, "Come on, like shave talk is going to be great for you. You got to do it."

Jon Shanahan (22:24):
Then within like a month now, he's 200,000 followers and he's had 30 million organic views, or something. Some crazy number. He did it, he nailed it. Which has been really cool to see people iterate on the platform. But, I guess the thing to know about TikTok is, unlike any other platform, a creator has the ability to get so much reach, you just can't on any other platform. The metric that is most, I would say notable on TikTok is the number of likes. Followers mean virtually nothing. I have 58,000 followers on our account. Some of my most recent videos are getting five and 6,000 views, but I can post a video and get a million views, or a person with zero followers can post and get 10 million views. One of Patrick's first videos I think did 3 million views, and he had literally zero followers.

Jon Shanahan (23:14):
That's the power of the platform, and the ability just to reach people is so much different than Instagram. You're never going to get those numbers on Instagram. Its reels are pretty close. Reels, we've been repurposing a lot of our stuff from TikTok to reels and YouTube shorts, and you'll get some success there, but there's still just no engagement like you get on TikTok.

Rhian (23:32):
On that same note, line for the engagement and attribution in particular, for these videos that people are highly engaged in everything, how does that actually convert into sales? How easy is it to track that attribution from TikTok over to your store?

Jon Shanahan (23:51):
We're testing that a lot. We have a custom landing page from TikTok right now, which we didn't at first, but we can directly see a correlation. If I have a month where I do five or 6 million views, you can see our traffic is just through the roof. People are definitely finding things that way, especially if you're talking about it in the right way. I'll come across brands that they'll do educational content, but they don't have a call to action. Then I guess you're not always seeing that translate, but we can see direct correlations with traffic in sales and on videos where they'll have a hit.

Jon Shanahan (24:24):
Some of the videos will do a million views, within a day or two, it's like traffic would just be through the roof and then we're tracking with the TikTok code, so that's getting uses, and then we're also just custom landing pages for whether it's the new product launch or something else, we're always trying to track on there, but I wouldn't be spending so much of my day on TikTok if it wasn't, if it wasn't actually panning out.

Rhian (24:46):
I have what is probably just a ridiculous question. It's not a how do you TikTok question, but it's also a how do you TikTok question, and what I mean by that is are you using, and I feel like this is such an elementary question, so I apologize. Are you using the tools that are native to TikTok to do your video editing, or do you do it off of TikTok and bring it on?

Jon Shanahan (25:11):
I think if I was more organized, I would do it off of the app, but I literally shoot everything with my front facing camera, and there's something wrong with my phone, if I record without the microphone, it's very hollow, so I use the wired Apple, lightning headphone thing, which is why you see them in a lot of videos. A ton of creators do. That's what's interesting too, as you know from consuming the platform, is there’s this language and vibe in TikTok, which is what I tell a lot of brands. If you want to succeed on TikTok, you have to speak the language of TikTok. You have to speak to the camera in a certain way. There's a very comfortable feeling on TikTok, you have to use captions, usually help, but just the fact that you'll see, I love what's her name, Tinks?

Jon Shanahan (25:50):
She uses the tiny microphone, she'll hold it up to her mouth, and it's like, that's just normal. TikTok it's very running gun, very amateur, but that's what makes it so interesting, versus the bar on YouTube for having a good looking video is very high now, because it's such a mature platform. Whereas TikTok it's like, make whatever you want, post it. Everybody has an equal chance of succeeding. I've seen people say, "Oh, you got to have more refined videos now." That is not the case. the videos today look the same way they did as when I joined the platform 18 months ago.

Rhian (26:23):
I feel like I've seen similar style videos from when I first joined early on, February 2020 or so, so yeah, I'd agree there. I feel it makes it more accessible for new brands and lower. The barrier to entry is so much lower for brands to just jump in and try something on TikTok, if it doesn't pan out, but you don't have to invest so much of your time and resources into just giving it a shot.

Jon Shanahan (26:49):
Yeah. Patrick has done this. He brought in external video and it looked really beautiful, but I think the higher production quality on a TikTok, it never really translates or correlates with success. It's like one of my, it was a stupid video. I was in the lows, and I talked about a monkey wrench, and that video did half a million views. I shot it in 12 seconds in the isle of lows. Meanwhile, I'll sit here and edit together shots from, I went into an Ulta beauty and I was showing this, and that video didn't go anywhere. It's almost like the lower effort, lower thought, the better the video will do.

Kelly (27:23):
I have one more TikTok question, and again, it's how to TikTok thing.

Rhian (27:27):
We also have vested interest in this, sorry, Kelly, because we're trying to make a TikTok, and we have the account name reserved.

Kelly (27:35):
That's as far as we've gotten.

Rhian (27:36):
Yeah, that's where we're at. Sorry, Kelly, over to you.

Kelly (27:39):
The music component, because I know it's an important piece for TikTok in particular. How do you select what music?

Jon Shanahan (27:45):
I would be willing to say, the music selection is more important to virality than any other single component of the TikTok, besides whoever's on camera. Like hashtags, they get you somewhere, but not really, but it's the music that ends up propelling. That's what I've been testing a lot now is I think in the last, let's say the last five videos I posted, two of them I'm doing no hashtags, just music, two of them I'm doing hashtags and music. The other one just hashtags, no music. I'm constantly trying to figure out quantify it for myself too. The thing is, a lot of these sounds, and you only get this from consuming a lot of TikTok is, a lot of these sounds will have some theme associated with it. The one that's really big now is the one where people are flaring out their butts.

Jon Shanahan (28:34):
That has a certain video to it, but then there's that monkey sound, you know the monkey sound where it's, those are usually in the background of some explanation video. The sounds will end up having themes or trends to them, and that's what you want to slot your own stuff into. For me, the beard one, I think I might've used the monkey sound, no, no. I used a different sound that usually goes with an explainer, and you basically just put the sound down at two or 3% behind it, so it's somewhat of a background soundtrack, but that's enough of a signal for TikTok to show, all right, people who watched this video with the sound, liked it. Then that's how you end up getting slotted better in the for you page.

Kelly (29:19):
In other words, I need to spend a lot more time on TikTok, studying the music?

Jon Shanahan (29:26):
You pick up on it pretty quickly, but yeah, it is really just about figuring out what is going on in the platform. It all moves really fast too. That sound with a butt flaring thing, I heard that and I was like, this seems like it's going to go somewhere. I didn't do a video, and then three days later I was like, I missed it, whatever. I'll wait for the next one. The nice thing though is there's always next one's.

Kelly (29:44):
There's always next one's yeah.

Jon Shanahan (29:47):
It just keeps happening, the platform moves faster. I think what's great about is just how much creativity is always happening on the platform. Then there's also [inaudible 00:29:55] what they're really good about curating themes and trends and hashtags. the best time to start TikTok was yesterday, but the next best time is now, because it's only going to continue. It's just growing at this point. It's really fascinating.

Kelly (30:08):
I think we all needed to hear that. Our listeners needed to hear that, we needed to hear that, because you can still start now. Whereas, I do think there are some markets that, like you mentioned, YouTube is everyone's cameras professional now, if you're going to make it. Everyone has the fancy stuff. Whereas this feels like that barrier of entry is just there, and all of our listeners and our merchants will be able to do something with that. But would you say perfection is the enemy of progress. This is me thinking out loud, but I know before I post things, I'm always obsessed with making sure it's perfect. Would you say not to do that on TikTok apps? Absolutely categorically not to do that on TikTok?

Jon Shanahan (30:57):
I would say do it, because if you have a typo in your caption, someone's going to comment on it. Then the other person is going to call them an idiot for commenting on the typo, and then the algorithm's going to say, “There's engagement here. We should boost this video." Because I was just talking to another brand the other day, and I said, it's like, when you create these two, you almost have to leave out a detail that someone's going to say "Dummy, you should've said this," or call you out on something, because that's what ends up getting engagement. Whether you're explicitly saying, I don't think that saying comment on this, is going to drive a lot of comments, but if you make a mistake, or if you drop the camera, TikTok loves that stuff.

Jon Shanahan (31:39):
I would say post it faster than ever. What I think about too is, when I joined YouTube in 2015 for my channel, I thought I was late. I was like, "Oh, I'm so late. This is never going to work." Now, I'm an elder statesman of my niche of men style and grooming people, because I've been doing it for so long at this point. I thought, I was like TikTok is interesting in November, 2019, and now it's same thing where I'm glad I started when I did, but right now I've just watched accounts in the past few months go from zero to a half a million. Patrick is a great example. He started in maybe late February, early March. The time is now, it's great.

Kelly (32:19):
I'm excited. We're going to make a TikTok today. You watch.

Jon Shanahan (32:25):
I want to see it. You got to follow me so I can ... Listen, I message. I constantly am looking for great examples of brands that are doing cool things on TikTok, and I'll message it to a few people. Anybody that follows me on. You have to send me a message. I can keep trying.

Kelly (32:41):
No, we're going to wait until you discover us on the for you page. That's how it works.

Jon Shanahan (32:45):
That happens too. It's really cool.

Rhian (32:45):
We're going to wait till you go viral. As things start opening up, and as we see a shift now towards IRL moments, or not right now, not today, but three, six, nine months, what are your predictions for the future of commerce?

Jon Shanahan (33:09):
It’s going to continue to go online, and I think what I can't tell about subscriptions ... I really built a lot of my channel, my YouTube channel on the men's style subscriptions at the time, and then I got fatigued on either too many subscriptions or too much stuff, so I think subscriptions will be important, but there's be a smarter element of the subscription. I've seen a lot of interesting things around there, like Harry's does this really well where I think I pay Harry's $5 every month, but then some months I'll throw in extra products, and it'll be 20 this month, but I'm still a Harry's subscriber. I think subscriptions will continue to slowly grow depending on the product category, especially for consumables. I think we're all fans of Olipop. I think I just got their orange, the orange creamsicle gets here tomorrow.

Kelly (33:58):
I'm so jealous. I haven't ordered yet.

Jon Shanahan (34:00):
I was on the early texts there, shout out to Eli Weiss, and those guys. But then I think there’s just a desire to get back and see physical things. I was never much of a in-store shopper because I had done so much on e-com, but I do want to have experiences in the stores, and that's the reason that we are going to ... Pre COVID, we had a bunch of leads into barbershops that we wanted to get placement in, and then we just let that all slow down because barbershops were just trying to stay open, let alone add to their assortment.

Jon Shanahan (34:34):
As people get back out in the world, I agree with Webb's premonitions of the roaring twenties and everything, and you're going to want to be where the customers are at, and people are going to want to get into stores, whether that is a Soho style, lots of brands in one place, giving the opportunity to have DTC experiences over there, or some re-imagining of the department store. I've followed those, I worked with some of those retailers at my old job, and I find that really fascinating. It's retail continue to be important, but just online, amazing customer experiences are still going to, that's going to be the most critical thing you can do as a smaller brand.

Kelly (35:15):
I'm really excited to see what happens. I feel like we’re definitely at a pivot point here, and COVID has provided an opportunity to re-imagine how we're approaching retail in particular. I'm really excited to see what happens.

Jon Shanahan (35:31):
I think it's exciting for other upstart brands, is that retailers are going to want to get customers in, and if it's a really cool brand that's bringing something new to the table, that's going to be their opportunity to get that bigger exposure, bigger attention, if you can handle the big account.

Rhian (35:45):
As we wrap up today, we do want to ask you a couple more questions. What has been your biggest learning lesson period in business, ever?

Jon Shanahan (36:00):
That I actually don't know anything, and neither does anybody else.

Kelly (36:02):
It's so true.

Jon Shanahan (36:06):
Nobody else knows what's going on. We're all just making it up. I actually just sent, there's a Steve Jobs video where he's explaining the secrets of life, and he said like, "As soon as you find out you can poke the world and something else happens over here, and it wasn't built by anybody smarter than you, then that's when you're really going to start to have some excitement and success and that thing." When I was at my previous tech startup, I remember thinking, these guys actually don't know what's going on, but they've built a cool company. I can go be a YouTuber and it's all going to work out. I quit my full-time job to be a YouTuber for a year, and that was really cool. The biggest learning is just that, not only do I know anything, nobody else does, it's just a matter of who could figure it out first.

Kelly (36:52):
Which leads me to my next question, what is one piece of advice you'd give to new merchants?

Jon Shanahan (36:58):
New merchants is just continually talk to customers. That's not only the beginning of your company, and the core of what you're building, but also the community. We have a WhatsApp group with 60 guys of our customers, and that has become so much inspiration around what we're building, what we're doing. We'll hype them up, they'll hype us up, and there's always this conversation like the discord. It's like that is really important. But then also for new merchants, is what I found so valuable building my YouTube channel, was just talking to other guys building YouTube channels, because they were all really nice. It's shocking how cordial it's all been.

Jon Shanahan (37:35):
That's the way that we connected to is in the discord, just surround yourself with other people building cool shit, and it's going to make the days better because it's really hard to relate to people that aren't doing that in your life. To be surrounded by others that are just pushing forward has just been a really powerful.

Kelly (37:52):
Customers and network.

Rhian (37:55):
Very last question, where can we find you on the internet?

Jon Shanahan (38:00):
You can find mes shirtless on my TikTok, that's Stryx_official. Stryx.com has links to everything. I've been working now with more influencers to get other guys on our page to make it not so much about me, that's ultimately the goal is to really diversify the guys, the body types, skin tones, all that stuff. Then, if you Google me, I just pushed out the other guy that has my name from a first page of Google results. That's been my big win.

Rhian (38:32):
Congratulations. Mazel tov.

Jon Shanahan (38:35):
If you message me on LinkedIn, don't tell me you're going to grow my six figure business to nine figures or anything, or connect you on you there. Then on YouTube, my number one video is me reviewing underwear. You can find anything you want about me on the internet. YouTube, the cavalier, Stryx.com. We're always working on new stuff, so very exciting.

Kelly (38:56):
Awesome. John, thank you so, so much for spending some time with us today. Really, really enjoyed talking with you, and really appreciate your insights.

Rhian (39:08):
This was awesome. This was great. This was great.

Jon Shanahan (39:09):
I'm going to find you on TikTok. I hope to see some things.

Kelly (39:13):
I posted a video, or I've hosted a TikTok last week, and somebody commented on it. This is a total side note. Saying that I was basically like my camera set up, because I have a nice camera set up, and they said, I don't need a particular piece of it anymore, and I knew I didn't need it any more, but I included it in there anyway. Somebody commented saying I didn't need it. I replied to the comment. Then I suddenly started getting more likes on my video, but this was a week later. I don't know how that works for the algorithm.

Jon Shanahan (39:41):
There you go, engage.

Kelly (39:42):
Pretty cool. Love it.

Jon Shanahan (39:46):
They say up to 90 days for a video. They'll push it out.

Kelly (39:49):
Sweet. There's still hope then. Wonderful.

Rhian (39:52):
I can't wait. We're making Commerce Tea videos, not sure about what yet. It's just us talking into microphones. [inaudible 00:39:58].

Kelly (39:59):
We'll figure it out.

Rhian (40:00):
We'll figure it out.

Kelly (40:02):
Awesome. Thanks so much for tuning in and thanks again to our sponsors for supporting this episode. We have a YouTube channel, visit at youtube.com/Commerce Tea. If you like our podcast, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts, reviews makes us really happy. You can subscribe to Commerce Tea on your favorite podcasting service. We post new episodes every Wednesday, so grab your mug and join us then. We'll see you next week.

Rhian (40:22):

Rhian (40:23):
[Music playing 00:40:23].


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