How To Generate High Customer Engagement Like Birchbox & Bevel

At the end of the day, you’re not building an ecommerce company, you’re building a brand that has ecommerce as its core distribution channel.

Well said Mr. Dunn.

Bonobos, his company, definitely embodies this quote and underscores the importance of delivering a pleasurable experience and high quality product to its customers.

Now it’s time for you to do the same.

Before getting into this article, let’s look at some actual customer feedback on ecommerce brands, that just like Bonobos, are making their customers happy:


Love my birchbox so much! Get to try things at such a low cost and nothing is lost, if I like it I buy it 🙂 #everyonesawinner

— Tracy Klein (@TRK69OK) August 8, 2015


“I just bought a pair of shorts and a pair of leggings that I saw in my Forever21 receipt. I didn’t see them before while I was shopping and they were at the right price point.”


unboxing #bevel – wow! u can feel the care put into this product all the way down to the packaging #itsagoodlook ?? — trevtv (@trevorhsinclair) June 28, 2015

My Company Isn’t At That Level…Yet

OK: You’re not Birchbox, Forever21, or Bevel. The most challenging thing in your ecommerce business right now is keeping up with your customers’ demands that are becoming increasingly difficult to satisfy, thanks to big players like the above companies. They make things so easy! Once customers become accustomed to a certain experience in online shopping, they develop standards, demands and preferences.

The most challenging thing about an ecommerce business is keeping up w/customer demands.

When comparing yourself to bigger ecommerce companies, it may seem impossible to satisfy your customer as well as they do. They have more resources and more budget to allocate.

How can you achieve a level of customer satisfaction on par with the big dogs?

Relax. You’ve got to go step-by-step, and you must acknowledge you will not be Amazon overnight. Looking at these big players on a high-level, they have succeeded in one thing: producing a pleasurable experience for the customer through multiple channels.

Guess what? You can do that, too.

Let’s have a look at some practical ways for you to achieve a new level of customer happiness:

1. Take Advantage of the Checkout

Everyone knows that Birchbox is a great example of a successful ecommerce subscription business, and their checkout UX is a reflection of their solid strategy. The choices given to the shopper are easy: monthly or yearly. Once selected, the user is then presented with an “upgrade” opportunity (read: upsell) for a minimal amount more per month, just before they complete their checkout. As Birchbox normally includes sample-sized products in their boxes, they offer users an upgrade to receive two full-size products per month for just a bit more.

Birchbox UX upsell checkout strategy

The above image is a plausible add-on for the customer because the additional cost is minimal, convincing customers that tacking it on is no big deal.

How does this improve Birchbox’s overall customer experience? By upselling their customers at the checkout, they are increasing their sales and providing an added value to each box by including a couple of full-size products. This adds a bit of encouragement to the value proposition Birchbox is trying to achieve. By providing more value to the box with a couple of full-size products, the customer perceives the brand as caring more about their demands. Nobody can get through one month on sample size, right?

Related: Customer Retention: The Art of Turning New Customers into Repeat Buyers

If you’re not ready to introduce an upsell to your customers during their checkout process, then you should absolutely make sure that their checkout process is pain-free. Remember, the big dogs are producing pleasurable experiences through all operating channels. The least you can do is try and make your customer’s checkout as easy as possible. Nobody likes reentering information. Nobody likes creating an account in order to purchase. Require only necessary information. Keep these things in mind.

Ecommerce Checkout Strategy 6 Steps

According to a study done by Smashing Magazine, 6 steps seems to be the magic number during checkout. For more tips on making your checkout experience pain-free, check out the full article here.

6 is the magic number of steps in your #ecommerce checkout.

2. Personalize Receipts & Increase Sales

What’s your current receipt strategy? Do you add any additional “goodies” other than your necessary information of order, details and shipping information? If not, you’re missing out on an easy way to increase customer engagement and – even better – an easy way to increase sales.

You should be optimizing your ecommerce receipts. 

The logic behind optimizing your digital receipts is simple: the user has already purchased from you, so they are much easier to convert to an additional sale than a user that has not purchased from you. Here is a glimpse of the digital receipt from Forever 21 that inspired my quote in this post’s intro:


You can see the items that were suggested to me based on what Forever21 knows about me. The Cuffed Chino Shorts and leggings were both priced at a level that convinced me they were worth purchasing, so I did just that.

Regardless if you have the ability to track your customer’s purchase habits, you can always use the receipt to offer inventory you need to get rid of or products you have on sale. Worst case scenario: your customer doesn’t purchase anything – you haven’t lost anything. But, if your customer does purchase something from your receipt, that’s additional revenue created from an optimization of a channel that was previously for informational-purposes only.

An app we’ve been watching for optimizing your ecommerce receipts is Receiptful. Check out this stat from their founder, Adii:

.@Receiptful stats (last 24 hours): 5017 receipts sent & $4446 USD generated in *additional* revenue.

— adii (@adii) May 8, 2015

By optimizing your receipts, you can upsell already-qualified users with personal recommendations (like my Forever21 receipt), shipping discounts, or general discount codes. To learn more about how you can use Receiptful, check out their upselling overview of their product here.

Related: Double-Down on Free Shipping: Why It’s Your Most Powerful Marketing Tool

3. Surprise Your Customers

The argument made on why ecommerce will never, fully replace malls lies in the human desire to touch. In fact, most online stores neglect the first (and usually only) physical interaction they have with the customer – their shipping and unboxing experience. (source) Most online stores neglect the 1st physical interaction they have with the customer – their unboxing experience.  In the beginning of this post, I talked about the progression of customer demands. Before, packaging was solely a necessity of ecommerce. Now, it has become an opportunity for you to meet – and surpass – your customer demands or expectations. Let’s take a look at another personal example from our CEO, Allen. Recently, he received a Best Made Co. axe as a gift from a friend. To his surprise, when he opened the box, he saw this:

Best Made Co. creative shipping strategy for ecommerce growth
Image via Wonderlust

Those are real wood shavings, folks! Chances this type of packaging is necessary: pretty low. Chances Allen smiled or chuckled a bit when he opened this: 100%. 4/10 consumers would share an image of a delivery if it has unique packaging. The point is, there are small, practical things you can do to enhance your customer’s tactile interaction with their purchase. In this article, Shopify cites that 4 in 10 consumers would share an image of a delivery via social media if it came in a unique package. Imagine the social proof your brand can gain by those images circulating various social networks.

Look what I got today! Excited for my next shave. @bevel @tristanwalker — Jamar Smith (@gjsmiti3) August 7, 2015

One brand succeeding in this that we follow on Twitter is Bevel. The tweet from the introduction of this post is one of many complementing the product, as well as its design and packaging. Many customers are comparing it to “Apple quality” or “iPhone” packaging. They’re definitely knocking it out of the park with their customers sharing packaging images on Twitter. You can follow them here, too.

If doing a complete overhaul of your product design isn’t something you see on the board for your near future, a practical way to heighten your customer’s experience with their purchase is to include a personal hand-written note. That’s an evergreen gesture that people like. If you’d still like to cut down on that time, you can use a notecard service like Bond. We used them for our company Christmas cards last year and were very pleased with the product. Try to make a personal touch. It will make a difference.

Get Creative!

Now that you’ve seen some examples, it’s time to brainstorm and think how you can practically fit some of these tactics into your business strategy. Not creative? You know someone who is. Call them. Talk to them. Bounce ideas and get feedback from your peers. Once you get this ball rolling, a solution will appear.

Have any of these tactics worked for you? What other good personalization and upselling strategies have you used? Let me know in the comments.

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