Hey everybody! And welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Closing out Season 4 is Beka Rice, Head of Product at Jilt! After an entire season about hearing about Jilt, Beka and I dig deep into how it was built, how to be effective with your abandoned cart emails, GDPR, and much much more. It’s a great way to close out the season…but first, a word from our sponsors.
Sponsors: This season of How I Built It is brought to you by two great sponsors. The first is Liquid Web. If you’re running a membership site, an online course, or even a real estate site on WordPress, you likely already discovered that many hosts have optimized their platforms for a logged out experience, where they cache everything. Sites on their hardware are great for your sales or landing pages but struggle when your users log in. At that point, your site is as slow as if you were on $3.00 hosting. Liquid Web built their managed WordPress platform, optimized for sites that want speed and performance regardless of whether a customer is logged in or logged out. Trust me on this. I’ve tried it out and it’s fast. Seriously fast. Now, with their single site plan, Liquid Web is a no brainer for anyone whose site is actually part of their business and not just a site promoting their business. Check out the rest of the features on their platform by visiting them at BuildPodcast.net.liquid. That’s BuildPodcast.net/liquid.
It’s also brought to you by Jilt. Jilt is the easiest way to recover abandoned shopping carts on WooCommerce, easy digital downloads, and Shopify. Your WooCommerce clients could me leaving literally thousands on the table and here’s why. 70% of all shopping carts are abandoned prior to checkout. Yes, you heard that right. 70% of shoppers never make it to check out. That’s why you need to introduce your clients to Jilt. Jilt uses proven recovery tactics to rescue that lost revenue. It’s an easy win that lets you boost your clients revenue by as much as 15% and it only takes 15 minutes of your time to set up. Jilt fully integrates with WooCommerce, EDD, and Shopify. You can completely customize the recovery emails that Jilt sends and match your clients branding using its powerful drag and drop editor, or you can dig into the HTML and CSS. Even better, Jilt’s fair pricing means your clients pay only for the customers that actually engage. You get to earn a cut of that through Jilt’s partner program. Whether you have clients that process one sale per month or 10,000 sales per month, be the hero and help them supercharge their revenue with Jilt. Check them out at BuildPodcast.net/Jilt. That’s BuildPodcast.net/Jilt.
Now, on with the show.
Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today, I’m very excited to have Beka Rice, who is head of product of Jilt, on the show today. Beka, how are you?
Beka: I’m doing great, and thanks, Joe, for having me. I really appreciate the chance to take an opportunity to talk a little bit about what we’ve done today.
Joe: Oh, absolutely. My pleasure. I should say right off the bat, I’m very excited to have you on the show because Jilt has been a season long sponsor. If you’ve been listening to Season 4, you’ve heard me talk about them at the top and bottom of each show. I’m also a Jilt user, and it’s helped recover income for me. So I am a user of this product as well, and I’m a big fan. So I’m excited to really dig into it and talk about how you guys built it.
Beka: Yeah. yeah. First of all, thank you so much for using it. I was excited when we talked about doing this sponsorship to have somebody who’s kind of been interested in the product. So it’s been pretty cool to get feedback and your thoughts on it. So thanks so much.
Joe: Oh, my pleasure. So why don’t we jump right into it. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and how you, as a group, came up with the idea for Jilt.
Beka: Sure. So in terms of my role, Jilt is built by SkyVerge, who if you’ve been WooCommerce space, you’ve probably recognize that name because we started out building WooCommerce extensions. So these days we have over 50 premium extensions on WooCommerce.com, and getting into that showed us a lot about what store owners really need and what is important to them. So while we were building WooCommerce, fewer people know that we also got into the Shopify space pretty early as well. Like six months or so after we had started getting involved in WooCommerce. So we had done that under a different brand name trying to kind of build up brand equity in both places and not get confusion between what works for Shopify and what works for WooCommerce.
Beka: So as we were really digging into those spaces really deeply, we were doing as much customer development as we could. So we did a lot of interviews. We were doing some client work at that time, and just trying to learn what are people’s biggest struggles when they’re starting a store. Kind of out of that came the concept of people A, don’t have time to set up the tools that are available to them, and B, also have trouble with marketing and they’re not sure how to do it or what best practices are because they know their product a lot of times and not too many store owners are coming to their store with a lot of marketing experience. So kind of out of that was our idea we want to do something that’s really easy to use that can do automation for marketing and that also builds in best practices so that people can get set up and not have to think about what they’re doing too much. They can customize it if they want to so we want to have power but really under the surface. So that’s kind of the idea of Jilt came. So it was originally actually only for Shopify, and then we sort of re-architected it and brought it in the WordPress space as well.
Joe: Wow. That’s fantastic. The part you said about marketing rings a 100% true. I just moved into the product space more or less full-time in June of last year, and I honestly thought it would be the same as selling services but I quickly learned that I could sell a $5,000 website to one person a lot easier than I could sell $50-$100 courses. So the marketing aspect of it has been very difficult for me in the product space. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned about cart abandonment in October when I went to CaboPress.
Well, that’s not actually true. I learned more about it but we actually met at Post Status Publish where you guys were promoting Jilt. So I had heard the term but I wasn’t keen on the value of it until I talked to a bunch of people running products who were like, “Yeah, you should do this.” I’m like, “Man. Well, Jilt does that. So I’m going to get Jilt.”
Beka: Awesome. It’s something that is interesting to me because the reason we started in cart abandonment and we’ve kind of started to expand from there, which we’ll talk about a little bit. But the reason we started in cart abandonment was because there’s so much money that is just sitting there from it, and it tends to be the number one revenue driver for stores whose customers are coming in. Everybody has kind of heard that metric there’s 68% of your carts are abandoned. Our data supports that. We have like 65% or 66% among our customers. So it’s a ton of revenue that people are leaving, and we find that just by sending recover emails, out about those abandoned carts, 15% to 20% of them can be recovered. So it ends up being a huge revenue boaster for small stores, especially to optimize existing traffic, the traffic you’re not paying more money to acquire. It’s already there. So it ends up being super powerful for these small merchants and then amazingly powerful for really large merchants too.
Joe: Man, that’s fantastic. So when you were kind of getting into cart abandonment and building out Jilt, was there a lot of research that went into it, or was it mostly the interviews that you were having, the services and the other plugins? I didn’t realize that you guys had a bunch more extensions on the WooCommerce platform. You said 50 I think, 50 plus?
Beka: Over 50.
Joe: Over 50. Yeah.
Beka: I don’t know the exact count these days, but it’s a lot.
Joe: Yeah, that is a lot more than I thought you had. So what kind of research went into building out Jilt?
Beka: Well, the research component has always been a strong function for us, and so having built a lot of those extensions, one of our most popular ones being memberships, right? We kind of go through the same process for all of those where it’s a lot of customer interviews, development, and validating the space with existing competitors and what they’re doing, and kind of looking at what we need to address those needs and where we can fill a gap that we feel lik exists. So with Jilt, when we were doing the research for it, it seemed like it was a problem that Shopify merchants were more aware of than WooCommerce merchants at the time. So what we found is actually acquired an existing customer list in the name Jilt. So it wasn’t trademarked when we acquired it. There was an app developer in the Shopify space who had shut it down completely. We were sort of looking for an opportunity in that space. Actually kind of had Jilt as one of the names we were interested in. So he had shut the app down a while back. We’re like, “Hey, you don’t have a lot of customers, and you’re not running this anymore, but we’re interested in just kind of acquiring this customer list so we can talk to them and then we want to bring this app back.”
Beka: So we ended up buying that to get started and do a lot more research with those customers who were already doing this. We didn’t have a huge success rate, obviously, in talking to those people. But it was enough to say, “Yes, this is an awesome idea. We should revive this.” Rebuilt the entire thing from scratch, brought it back on to the Shopify platform, and then expanded into other platforms from there, understanding that merchants that were already doing it were having huge success rates, and merchants that weren’t doing it were interested in it once they understood the problem. So we knew that both getting the product out there to address this need first as well as also start getting some education around it would be a really powerful combination.
Joe: Yeah. Wow. That’s great. I’ve learned recently that you should try to piggyback off of other audiences is maybe not the best way to say it, but the fact that you’re working with an established audience of something that was called Jilt that people were definitely interested in, I’m sure was hugely helpful, as you said. So that’s a very cool kind of avenue, not really the answer I was expecting.
Beka: I mean, it’s sort of an interesting thing for us because we were mostly trying to see if we could buy our way into more customer development and then we’d always planned on building it. So the app that we have now is something our team built from scratch, but the name really grew on us and we were like, “Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s trademark it. Let’s actually use this, and continue with it.” So it was sort of not our typical path for building things where we do everything from scratch, but it was kind of faithful moment to find a customer base that we could talk to and acquire essentially. Then spend something back up for this.
Joe: Awesome. So I think that a lot of people could probably visualize the abandoning carts themselves, right? You click through, you add a bunch of things, you go, “Ah. I’m not ready to pull the trigger,” or you’re on a website that doesn’t have that one click like Amazon has so you put in your address and then you’re like, “Do I really want to do this,” then you put in your credit card, and you’re like, “Do I really, really want to do this?” So there’s a lot of steps in between to kind of … There’s a lot of opportunity to abandon cart if you don’t make check out as easy as possible, and I bring this up because part of the abandoned cart process is sending emails to people who have volunteered that information. I know that you guys, around the time of this recording, released a feature, and we’ll get in to kind of building the whole thing in a minute. But I’m just really curious about this. What do you find is the best way to collect that initial email to make sure that those abandoned cart emails are going out, right? Because if someone’s not putting in an email address and then you can’t send that email to somebody.
Beka: Exactly. With the concept of abandoned carts, we break that down internally into recoverable and nonrecoverable carts, and you have to have an email address for something to be recoverable. If it’s not recoverable, you could look at retargeting and stuff like that, but I find that that tends to be way less effective than email does. So with recoverable carts, the key is, as you said to get the email address whenever you can. So we do that on checkout or if we have a registered user, we’re golden there because we already associate everything in that cart with that user as early as possible. But then it comes into kind of the area where you have guest users and you don’t know their email address. What are ways you could do that?
Beka: So what you mentioned is we added a feature that you can enable where when someone adds something to the cart, we’ll do a pop over that says, “Hey, would you like to reserve this item in your cart? Your email will save this for you.” Then we can capture that email earlier, the first time someone tries to add something to the cart. If they opt not to do it then, it’s a little difficult, right? We encourage people to stay, get people into the cart, get people into checkout. With our plugin we move the email field up to the first field in checkout so that it’s right there and hopefully people fill it out first. We’re trying to increase the number of carts that are recoverable. We’re also working on integrations with other forms so that you can say if someone’s opting into your mailing list, for example, we can capture that email and set it. So that’s a problem we’re constantly trying to address and constantly trying to expand the number of recoverable carts. But obviously in a way that’s respectful of your customers and makes sure that they’re explicitly entering that to opt into it.
Beka: Exactly, and on our end, we feel that the checkout is a little bit different of an email just because that shows intent to purchase. So we do capture email addresses there as someone’s feeling out the form, but other places on the site, I definitely agree with you, it can be unexpected for customers to have … Like, “Whoa. I didn’t submit that mailing list form. Hold on a second. That’s a little weird.” So we do try to tune down the sort of Big Brother like thing that can happen there, and we try to find ways that makes sense in the UI so we felt like that probably was a good way to do that. Even though on those shopping carts, your cart sessions would expire after a given time. We’ll store them forever on Jilt. So even though you can tell your customer, “We’re going to clear this cart out for you,” we make sure that it’s always recoverable so that cart can always been then regenerated later on to maximize the number of purchases you can save.
Joe: Great. Man, that’s fantastic. I mean, so we talked about the research. We talked about kind of talking to your customers. Are there people in the business space that you talk to? I always like to ask this question because this podcast kind of started as a mastermind I was having with other people that I’m like, “I should record these conversations.” Are there other kind of contemporaries that you talk to about adding features or what they’re doing and working with other people?
Beka: Absolutely. We’ve been very fortunate in that respect in having worked with a lot of companies in the WooCommerce space via our extensions that are all under SkyVerge there. So we have a lot of great conversations with partners as to how they do things and advice, which is awesome. A great example is we work with Avalara to build their Ava Tax Connector for WooCommerce. They’re team is awesome. So they are super generous with their time and what’s cool is we focus on building a great product for them. But they’re also really great resources for us. I can ask them, “Hey, how do you guys approach partnerships? How do you do this? How do you do that?” That mastermind concept is super powerful, right?
Beka: So we have an existing network that we try to leverage that we can and then also, selling a B2B product ends up being pretty cool because our customers are also business owners. So digging into that with customers is really insightful because they can give you feedback on a couple different levels being business owners themselves. So our customer development ends up being different than I think most people who are selling direct to consumer, but for us, every interview ends up being a gold mine of just cool concepts that merchants are doing and how they’re running their business. It helps us to build a product that really hits on needs of both them and their customers.
Joe: That’s great. Yeah, it’s almost like … I mean, as a programmer, I feel like if I’m giving feedback to another programmer, I need to bring my A game as far as that feedback goes because I hope for that when I get it from my users, right? I’m not just going to say this isn’t working. I’m going to say, “I tried it at this time right before this. Here’s a screenshot.” So that’s great. The other thing about a B2B product is I imagine that people will see the value a lot more quickly than just a regular, not regular consumer, but B2C, right? Especially in the WordPress space, I find it’s hard to convince people who are using a free open source product to pay for other good products, right? You see it in the Android space. You see it in the WordPress space where people want the free thing, but they’re not willing to pay for the paid thing even though it might save them hours of time.
Beka: Yeah, and it does make it way easier to sell because you set up this product and it makes you money. It’s pretty easy sales pitch for us where we can say, “What’s your revenue right now? How many orders do you have? This is what we think we’ll recover for you. That’s going to be more than what you’re paying every month.” You do certainly get people who are like, “Well, I could do this with a free plugin. Why should I pay for a service to do it instead?” Then we treat that as just an education opportunity. Say, “Well, there are certain things that WordPress is terrible at. Scheduling events is one of them and sending emails is another. These aren’t things you want to be doing on site.” So we do definitely see that, and it’s not necessarily systematic with open source but I think just kind of you get price anchored at things that are free. To be fair, we do offer a free plan just so we can support people who are getting started. But we look at it as an opportunity to open up a dialogue about education and why we do things the way we do.
Joe: Yeah, that’s a great approach. Not to make this like a complain fest are anything, but I hear the same thing. “Why should I buy your course when I can get it for free on YouTube?” I take that opportunity to say, “Sure. You can get it for free on YouTube, but you don’t get access to me as the instructor or you don’t get to ask your specific questions anywhere except for the YouTube comments, which are like a terrible place most of the time. Sure, you can get the content probably for free, but for $50 or whatever, you are also getting access to me and my 16 years of experience do this.” So yeah.
Beka: Yeah. We’ve definitely found that once people appreciate that opportunity then to ask questions and say, “Oh, well I didn’t know this. Can you explain that further to me?” So it ends up being kind of a cool opportunity to chat with people, and especially in our position, what I find powerful is we’ve built tons of plugins. So we can say, “Coming from what started as a plugin shop, there’s a reason we didn’t do it this way and here’s why.”
Joe: Right. Yeah. Absolutely. I think the most important lesson here is to kind of kill them with kindness, right? Don’t respond to their snark with more snark because you’re not going to make a customer out of that person. Where if you’re nice, you might make a customer out of that person.
Beka: Yeah. Exactly. That’s a great way of saying it.
Joe: So while we’re pretty well into this interview and I haven’t asked the title question yet so, and this one gets to rhyme. I’m really excited about this. We were talking about this before we started recording. So let’s talk about how you built Jilt.
Beka: There are tons and tons of layers that go into Jilt, and when we started, we knew that we did want to build this as an app. It’s something that was offsite, despite having had a ton of experience in WordPress. We’ve also had a lot of experience with hosted apps in the Shopify space. We know that trying to schedule events, WordPress plugin is just going to go poorly. So it was a pretty clear choice to us that this was something that we were going to build as a standalone service if we were going to do right, which is important our team. We want to try and do things the best way.
Beka: So we started out by building it in Ruby-On-Rails because that was what our main proficiency was as a team. We were building Shopify apps in Ruby. So it’s build with Ruby-on-Rails and Prospress. As we’ve kind of continued with Jilt, we’ve sort of started the brand a lot more components. Like we use Elastic Search under the hood now to determine campaign entry roles, and we’re starting to expose some of the Elastic Search abilities via segmentation, which we’re going to be rolling out in a couple weeks. So that you can target specific customers and orders instead of just general campaign rules. Like every carts that’s abandoned, it’s really important to us to let you say, “Nope, I want this cart that was abandoned with these characteristics.”
Beka: We also use Angular and UJS in a couple different parts of our app for customer facing features like the email editor and/or segmentation rules UI, which is been in progress for sometime and we’re getting pretty close to now, which I’m very excited for. Then we also use Intercom pretty heavily for in app messaging and support, which ends up being really powerful for a service like what we do to make sure that people can textually get help. “Yes, I’m in the email editor page, I want help with email. Can you help me get this set up?”
Joe: Very nice. Man, so there’s a lot of things here that I want to parse out. It sounds like in the … So first of all, I heard Angular and View, but what about React?
Sponsor: If you build WordPress websites, you should join your follow WordPress developers from around the word for WordSesh, a must attend, virtual conference on July 25th 2018. WordSesh has been highly curated to provide you with the absolute best possible experience. Every presenter has been hand picked for their experience and prospective. Each topic compliments and builds on the others. The virtual swag will be amazing and useful. You can see the full speaker line up and register for the live event and its recordings at WordSesh.com.
Beka: Yeah. Having been in the WooCommerce space and working really closely with Prospress who built WooCommerce subscriptions, they are probably most acutely aware of every downside of using WP-Cron. So we knew that was not an opinion for us at all because of the fact that when you’re scheduling that number of events, you’re not guaranteed reliability in when Cron is going to fire, and those events are going to happen. More importantly, every Cron event is stored in a single option, which if you’ve worked with Cron, you’re probably nodding along and like, “Yep. It’s terrible.” So that’s why the subscriptions plug in actually uses Cron to just trigger a runner with their own custom scheduling library, which stores every event as a separate post, which they’re also in progress in moving to a custom table instead.
Beka: So what happens then is when you get to scale and you got a lot of events scheduled, you end up basically exhausting the maximum size of that option to store events. So we knew as soon as we were getting started with this that trying to do this on site was totally out of the question for us with the amount of emails that we were going to be scheduling. Because if you think about the number of orders you have, right? You’ve got twice as many been in cart. So imagine tripling the size of that orders table and sending emails for two out of every three of those. It’s a lot of events. So we knew going into this that that was not going to be something that was even on the table.
Joe: Gotcha. Yeah. Again, that makes perfect sense. You also take out the unknowns of other people’s hosting environments, right? Liquid Web is a very good host, very friendly to WooCommerce especially. But if somebody’s running on … Well, I won’t call out any hosts, but if somebody’s running on a host that’s not as friendly to running just regular Cron or WP- Cron or handling a bunch of events, your product could fail due to the environment, which is not necessarily your fault or within your control.
Beka: Right. We do have a number of things that are sort of happening on site just because of the fact that we wanted to have the tightest integration we can, but definitely if we can eliminate some of those variables to improve liability, it’s a huge win for the people who are using our service.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. So for anybody who’s not using Jilt, you have the app that is off site, kind of your hosted thing, and then you have the plugin that gets installed on your WooCommerce site or the, is it an extension on Shopify? So you install these components mostly to have the right data to be sending information, right?
Beka: Yep. So we could look at things purely via the WooCommerce rest API. But there are components that are better managed on site for reliability. So we do have the integration plugin that kind of rests on site, gives you set up options on site, and does some of those mission critical functions also in integrating with other extensions so that we can try and make Jilt as seamless as possible with WooCommerce. So the plugin itself isn’t doing a ton of heavy lifting. We try to offload as much to the app as we can, but it makes it pretty easy for people to get set up, and a lot of people are also really used to that. For example, with WooCommerce you realize, “Okay. If I want payment processing, I’ve got to install a plugin that connects a payment processor.” So with Jilt we do that. We try to make it really simple so when you install Jilt for WooCommerce, there’s like a one click sign up that’s like, “Here, yep. Connect to Jilt. Create an account. Cool. Come back, you’re ready to go.” So the plugins are what we’re using to connect, and then in the Shopify space, it ends up being a little bit different. Our Jilt Shopify app is actually built into the core Jilt app itself because we are doing everything via the API there with it being hosted.
Beka: But it ends up looking the same where you’re in the app store and you click, “Yep, I want this app.” Connect, and then it connects to Jilt app.
Joe: Cool. Very cool. So I have one more followup question on building it, and it’s solely because this episode will be coming out around the time that this is happening, so I’m sorry I didn’t prep you for this. I just thought of it now. GDPR, do you have any thoughts on how that could affect shop owners or your people, if not we can totally edit this part out.
Beka: No, no, no. Yeah, it’s terrifying. I mean, not really terrifying, but it’s a lot. So the biggest thing that’s difficult for me with GDPR it’s a huge burden on both small merchants and small product builders like our company, right? We don’t have an in house equal team to refute EU regulations, nor do we know EU lawyers. We’re usually finding them through networks that we’ve built. So it’s a lot of compliance stuff, and I do worry how platforms themselves are going to handle it.
Beka: What we found on our end is that WooCommerce core has already added a couple PR’s in place to try to address this. By the time this airs, those might be merged, which lets your customers say, “I want you to delete my data from the site. I don’t want you to have my data anymore.” The problem being that you can’t just delete their orders, right? Because it’s illegal to delete those records for tax purposes. So you end up having this weird situation in which you have to anonymize some of the custom data but not all of it because we need to know where that customer was for tax ability purposes. So it ends up being a huge burden try and technically figure out how to do this. So WooCommerce core is working on it.
Beka: Liquid Web has a plugin actually already that you can install to do this for you. So they’ve been ahead of the curve there. Then there’s also the concept of opt in, which is the one that affects us most. So when a customer says, “I wan to reserve this item in my cart,” we have to say, “and here’s how we’re going to use your email address in this specific instance.” You have to explain what that opt in is going to do, and if you have an email list that you use or multiple purposes like marketing this and marketing this and marketing this, you have to lay out every single one of those opt ins when you’re opting the customer in, and they all have to be unchecked by default. So there’s a lot of maintenance burden that goes into it.
Beka: On our end, we’ve been sort of just watching what platforms are doing. So what WooCommerce is doing, what Shopify is doing. To see what we should be doing on site to piggyback that. On our end, that also affects us as a business owner who has EU customers to say, “Well, when our customers request to delete data, what do we have to do with our data?” Fortunately, we had already been in progress in making this simpler for ourselves to get the UK privacy shield certification done. So we can handle that on our side, but kind of helping our merchants me GDPR compliant has been our biggest focus right now. So it’s definitely pretty onerous for small business owners. I mean, just as much as the that moss regulations or for merchants in the EU a few years ago.
Joe: Right. Yeah. Because that’s the thing, right? This is an EU regulation that’s trying to be a kind of global regulation, and at this point, you can say, “Well, the EU doesn’t have jurisdiction in the United States, over the United States customers at least.” But we have to wait for like Google to sue the EU if they’re going to do that. Better safe than sorry.
Beka: For us, if we only had merchants based in the U.S., we probably wouldn’t be concerned with it. But we’ve got a significant user base in the EU whose in the same boat, right? We don’t want them to feel like, “Oh my gosh. This is overwhelming.” So if we can do something that helps them comply with that, we’re certainly keen on looking into it. But I can’t imagine being a merchant and being in this position and saying, “Oh my gosh. Now I’ve got … I can’t afford to hirer a developer to do all these things for me.” So fortunately, WooCommerce itself has been kind of looking into that and trying to give merchants tools they need to be compliant with it, but it’s a lot. It was definitely very, from what I saw, hasty. People didn’t know this existed until a month ago.
Joe: Right. That’s exactly … I was like, “When did this happen,” right? I mean, I have hear, “Oh, this thing passed today and in two years it’ll be a thing.” I feel like GDPR, which for those of you who don’t know, it’s like a data privacy act that … I guess, what’s the best way to describe it? It requires people who are collecting data on their websites to give their users an option to just get rid of all the data at its most basic level, right? I’ll have a link in the show notes to something that describes it more thoroughly. But I feel like it happened and now in May it’s happening.
Beka: Yeah. The first time I had heard of GDPR was, I mean, I think January. It was like, “Oh, okay. We’ll have to worry about that at some point,” and then it’s like, “Nope, you have to worry about it now.” It’s overwhelming. For a small team like ours, I mean, it certainly puts a big burden on us, which is not particularly welcome. But we can then empathize with the small merchants we work with who are in the same position.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great way to put it. That’s a very positive spin on that. So I really like that. We’ve talked a bit about the transformations of Jilt and how you acquired it and how you built it. What are your big plans for the future? This episode is dropping in May. So stuff that we’re talking about today that could be out by May, maybe. I don’t want to tie you to any of that. But the big things that you’re working on for the next few months.
Beka: Yeah. We have a ton in progress always. So right now our main focus has been getting segmentation UI available to people who are using our app so that when you send cart abandonment emails and post purchase followup emails, which we already do, that you can target those to your customers a bit better. So that’s the immediate focus. Longer term, it’s really important to us to be able to send emails that are going to make you more money. So we’re looking at other kinds of emails that are going to help you do that. So abandoned cart recovery emails make the most money on average, but there are tons of other emails that do that.
Beka: So for example, welcome emails. They don’t make a ton of money directly, but they make all your other emails more likely to be read. So we’re working on better welcome emails like, “Thanks for your first purchase,” or, “Thanks for registering as a customer on the site.” To get those other emails read, better post purchase follow ups, and win back emails. So we have the structure in place to do all of this now, which has been a pivot for us because Jilt doesn’t originally build to do what it’s doing now, and we’ve done a lot of infrastructure work. So I’m super excited over the next few months to start to put all the infrastructure we’ve refactored into play and say now we can make it easier to do welcome emails and then we can do win back emails. Let’s say after 60 days, someone hasn’t purchased.
Beka: We’re also looking at tighter integrations with other plugins given that we have a really unique skillset, a particular set of skills, right? That other companies don’t have. So working with things like memberships and subscriptions and other extensions. We want to get really granular there and give you a super seamless experience between your site and other extensions. That extends into things like other apps on Shopify that we can work together with and integration partnerships, other plugins and easy digital downloads as well because we think that space sort of gets ignored a little bit by bigger players and knowing that space very well, we can do the same thing there.
Beka: We’re very excited for more types of email sending that are onboarding and even more integrations, especially with the tools in a particular platform.
Joe: That’s great. I can definitely speak to the welcome, post purchase emails. I sell online courses. So LearnDash, my LMS, has an add on for that. So when somebody signs up for a course, I send them a welcome email. When they complete a certain module, I send them a follow up like, “Hey, how it’s going? You probably just took the hardest part of this course.” People are always surprised when they respond and I respond back. So adding that human element is really important and very difficult for an online shop. The things that you just said that you’re working on can really help bring that human element.
Beka: Oh, absolutely. Then that’s one of the things that I love about automation is people think of automation and they think it’s impersonal, right? You get this thing in your head about like automated call systems is always the thing that comes to mind for me. That’s not the case. It’s a way to get more personal because you can do things in a way that previously wouldn’t have scaled for you. When you have an online store 10 years ago, every customer looks the same to you. So you’re sending all of them the same emails. You’re sending all the same order receipts and things like that. That doesn’t have to be the case anymore. We can get more targeted and more granular.
Beka: Our goal is very long term that we want to be able to send every email in your customer’s life cycle for you eCommerce store. That means for stores that sell subscriptions we need to give you tools to say, “I want to send this to subscribers, but I want to send this to everybody else.” For membership stores that means, “I want to send these emails when new content is available. I want to send this information when you switch a membership.” All of these things that help you stay in contact with your customers and build a relationship. Building that relationship is essential for building loyalty and building repeat customers.
Beka: So it’s an ambitious goal but we’re definitely … We make progress towards it every single day.
Joe: Hugely helpful because right now in order for me to do that, I need to make sure that I tag customers in ConvertKit when they buy something so that I can then send them an email when they have that tag. If I don’t have to worry about … There’s a plugin that’s like customer email purchase list or something like that that gives me a list of all the emails, but, again, I want to make things as automatic as possible. I’m a one man band. So I don’t want to have to remember to send out these emails because they probably won’t get sent out, and then it seems impersonal, right? The automated email is something I don’t have to remember to do, and then when somebody responds, I get to respond to them. So, like you said, it does make things … It creates opportunities to be a lot more personal.
Beka: Yeah, exactly, and that’s what we’re looking to do is help you build those relationships with your customers and keeping instated communication with them is one of the best ways to do that.
Joe: Great. Great so we’ve gotten a lot of really good information here, and I want to end with my favorite question, which is do you have any trade secrets for us?
Beka: You know I thought about this one, and the one that came to mind was like send abandoned emails because as someone who builds an app for that, when we get leads who don’t convert, we’ll send them followups and stuff like that. So apply that to your business no matter what you do. But I guess more specifically to building products, both downloadable software and SAS products, the biggest thing that we found that has helped us be successful is to invest in your customers. So we try to spend a lot of time on customer education and helping them solve problems and talking to them and trying to understand what challenges their business faces. It’s a big time investment. It’s hard to do, right? But when we do that, we find that we learn so much about their journey and what they’re doing that it helps us big much better products and be more successful as a company as a result. So that kind of concept of investing in your customers has really benefited us in what we’ve been doing.
Joe: Yeah. Calling back to what you said earlier, it helps you empathize with your customers more, which is what we want. That’s excellent, excellent advice. Invest in your customers, and of course send abandonment emails. I can vouch for that definitely. It’s definitely … It’s worth the investment. You definitely make what you paid and more in that investment.
Joe: So Beka Rice, thanks for joining me today. I really appreciate the time.
Beka: Yeah, thanks so much, Joe. We’re both in Pennsylvania enjoying being snowed in right now. So we had nothing better to do, right?
Joe: Yeah, exactly. Hopefully by the time this comes out it’ll be nice and we’ll be able to spend time outside, but we’re snowed in right now. Where can people find you?
Beka: So you can find me on Twitter
@Beka_Rice. I also write on our Jilt.com blog on our SkyVerge.com blog and many times if you really want to get ahold of me, if you’re one of those contact forms, you say my name three times like Beetlejuice, I pop up. So feel free to reach out. I do love talking to people about what they’re doing. So you can always get ahold of me through either one of those sites.
Joe: Thanks again to Beka for joining me today! I’m a huge fan of Jilt and was honored to have their support for this season. I have an even bigger appreciation of it now that I know some of the under-the-hood stuff. If you do anything with ecommerce and carts, check them out (their blog is great too!)
And Thanks again to our sponsors – make sure to check out Liquid Web for managed WordPress hosting. I use them on all of my important sites – they are that good! They are at buildpodcast.net/liquid. They’ll give you 50% off your first 2 months just for being a listener! If you want to save your clients (or yourself) money through recovering abandoned carts, check out jilt. They are over at buildpodcast.net/jilt. Finally, be sure to check out WordSesh. An incredibly affordable, 12 hour online conference with some of the biggest thought leaders in WordPress. get your tickets at buildpodcast.net/wordsesh.
For all of the show notes, head over to howibuilt.it/81/. If you like the show, head over to Apple Podcasts and leaving us a rating and review. It helps people discover us! Finally, if you like the show and what to support it directly, head over to patreon.com/howibuiltit/. I’ll continue to push out content there even during the break. So if you can’t get enough of the show, Patreon’s your best bet to get even more great stuff!
Thanks so much for listening this Season – it’s been the best season so far! I have big plans for Season 5, so be sure to stay subscribed and keep an eye out for that, dropping in a few weeks. So until next season, get out there and build something.