Dave Rodenbaugh is the founder of Recapture.io, an abandoned cart and SMS/email marketing service for WooCommerce, Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, Easy Digital Downloads, Restrict Content Pro and more.
Founded in 2015, Recapture has processed over 1.9 billion in gross merchant volume (GMV) and recovered over $190,000,000 for stores worldwide.
Email is Dave's middle name.
Dave is also the co-host of the RogueStartups podcast and the WP Minute Ecommerce show. He now works exclusively on ecommerce and has a passion for making merchants of all kinds more successful with their stores.
He truly loves email, dark beer, lifestyle businesses and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- [00:00] Intro
- [01:15] What is Recapture?
- [02:14] How Recapture recovered almost $200 million
- [03:10] The Ecommerce Email Playbook
- [05:14] No excuse to having no email strats
- [08:36] Biggest fear that merchants have about email
- [09:30] You’re not annoying your customers
- [11:01] Big brands are not perfect, especially in strategy
- [11:47] Why you should sign up on newsletters
- [12:48] Just send the emails
- [13:49] Dave’s Email Ladder Strategy
- [15:41] Solutions for “not knowing what to say”
- [16:19] Solutions for busy founders
- [17:11] Unsubscribes are actually a good thing
- [17:54] Start with default emails provided by platforms
- [18:49] When “good enough” is enough to send
- [19:51] Mistakes can work the best or be fun
- [20:17] Alternate ways to give value aside from discounts
- [24:04] Where to find Dave and Recapture
- Subscribe to Honest Ecommerce on Youtube
- Scale your business with electriceye.io
- Try out Recapture 60 days for free! recapture.io/honest-ecommerce-special
- Follow Dave on Twitter @daverodenbaugh
- If you want help with email strategy, email Dave firstname.lastname@example.org
- Get inspired with the best showcase of email design and resources on the web reallygoodemails.com
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Merchants that are doing really well are the ones that have a lot of different things set up. But the things that they set up are based on the size of their store.
Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, a podcast dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And I believe running a direct-to-consumer brand does not have to be complicated or a guessing game.
On this podcast, we interview founders and experts who are putting in the work and creating real results.
Let's get on with the show.
All right, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce.
Thank you so much for having me back again, Chase. We had such a great conversation last time. I've been looking forward to this one for a while now.
Yeah. We just had to press record because we were... We went off in the pre-show talking about nonsense already.
So just for the people that don't know who you are or what Recapture is, just give them a quick touch base on your history in the industry and why they should listen to you, I guess.
Sure, sure. So like Chase said, I'm the founder of Recapture. We've been around since 2015 at this point so we're a little OG.
And we've recovered almost $200 million for various merchants here of all different kinds of sizes. And I never thought that I was going to be like this nerdy about email, but here we are 6 years later.
And email jazz's me like (laughs) I really actually like talking about it quite a bit. Unreasonably so, actually,
Yeah, when you say now that you've helped recover almost $200 million, that's with a bunch of zeros, what does that mean?
So that means we've sent a variety of emails, primarily abandoned carts, because that's where our bread and butter started.
But what that means is that we've sent out emails, and as a result of the merchants sending out emails, they're getting back on average, about 10% of their gross revenue in a month, which for all the stores that are on Recapture, that's amounted to almost $200 million.
So we processed pretty close to $2 billion in gross merchant volume at this point.
Alright. So I would say the numbers support this statement: You know a thing or two about email.
(laughs) Well, I would hope so at this point. If I don't, then I've spent 6 years wasting a lot of time sending email.
No, no, no. You absolutely know things. So today, you wrote or brought some stuff to the table. So I'm super excited to dive in.
This idea of the ecommerce email playbook that 90% of stores aren't running. So where do we start with this?
Oh gosh. Well, so if you are a merchant and you're listening to this podcast, I would say you're in 1 of 2 buckets. You're either in bucket number 1 where you are very self aware.
You're managing your own emails, or you have an agency like Chase's here, doing all your stuff, and you're listening to the deep suggestions.
You've got customer segments all over the place, you're sending regular broadcasts depending on the size of your thing. But you've got all the flows dialed in, everything's sort of set up.
Sadly, there's only about 1 or 2 in 10 of merchants that are like that. So the rest of you probably fall into this bucket based on the thousands of merchants I've seen come through Recapture at this point.
And these merchants are either under sending email, or they're just not sending anything at all, or they're not sending enough. Any one of those things there. There's a timidity, a hesitation to sending stuff out to your customers who care about your products.
And one thing I've noticed over the last 6 years is that merchants that are doing really well are the ones that have a lot of different things set up. But the things that they set up are kind of based on the size of their store. You don't just lay it all out at once and have like...
You're not doing what SHEIN does. You're not sending out campaigns 3 times a week, plus the abandoned cart, plus the post purchase, plus this, plus that, plus that... That's too much. Not everybody is Shein size.
So you got to dial it in, according to where you're at on things.
Oh I also have this weird thing on here. My hands are falling apart (laughs). So if you see this random red thing on my hand here, it's a bandage. Sorry.
No worries on that. But yeah, so you hit the nail on the head. And it's funny, you said there's 2 buckets: You'll see people that have everything set up. And then there's just [people with] absolutely nothing. And it's the people in the absolutely nothing bucket they are...
It's not that they're lacking awareness. It's usually that they're like, "There's just more important things going on." And I challenge that statement so much, especially with the automation side of stuff.
It's like, if you can't do it, hire someone that can do it because it's... The automation aspect of your email marketing will pay for itself over and over, forever and ever.
It's the best investment you can make. And there are just so many people that just haven't "found the time" to get it done. And it is mind boggling.
Right. You probably quote these statistics to your clients all the time. But you have 4 billion people that are using email, most of them check it every single day, and people buy much more from their email than social media. Like 10x more.
And then of course, there's the famous "The ROI on email is like 42x". So for every dollar you spend on your email marketing, you're gonna get back $42.
With Recapture stores, I've actually seen numbers that are higher than that. And I think,,, I don't even actually know what the original source of that statistic is. It's so widely quoted.
And I see it go up or down a little bit, depending on who's quoting it. But one of my to-dos is to actually pull the actual number from Recapture, because my gut tells me it is actually bigger than that. So email marketing, you can't sleep on it.
Yeah, I think these days. They're also now that automations are at the forefront, you can get so specific with where the merchant is in their customer journey. And the cool stuff you can do with that, and the data that you can collect with first party data, and quizzes and all sorts of stuff.
They [are almost] 2 different buckets at this point. You've got the automated stuff that's happening, you still have to have a strategy behind it, and set those flows or automations up or whatever you want to call them. And then there's like the campaign-driven stuff, which I...
That's another funny thing that I don't often see. It's like there's... These people that are going to either have stuff or they don't, and sometimes people will just get the automation setup, and then never send the flows...
Oh sorry, I will never send a campaign after the fact.
It's like. "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa." After someone goes through your welcome series, and they never hear from you again, how do you expect that to work?
Yeah. It's interesting that you said that email marketing is something that there is a lot of awareness of. I would be hard pressed to find a merchant that had not heard that they should be doing email marketing.
And when I'm talking to merchants, the thing that I've discovered is that email marketing always sits in their top 5. It's like, "Oh, here's my things I have to absolutely do." And email marketing is always in the top 5. It rarely reaches number one.
And it seems like there's always something else to prioritize that [is] there, Whether it's customer support, or logistics, or shipping, or order processing, or product discovery, or product testing, or whatever it is. It doesn't matter.
All of those things tend to push merchants' awareness of the email thing down on the list and everything else to the top because those are their customers that are screaming at you.
Email is not screaming at you. It's something that you either have it dialed in and it's doing its work, but it's never hollering at you. So that's the thing. I think that is the struggle. Right?
Absolutely. So you have some questions here that I want to ask you. Softballs I would say, you got to knock them out apart.
So the first one here is, what do you think is the biggest fear that merchants have about email?
It always seems like, when I'm talking to them one on one, there's this fear of them bugging their customers, or that they're going to annoy them, or that they don't want to hear from them.
I'm like, "Why did you open a store if you think you're selling to people that don't want your stuff? That doesn't even make any sense, right?
Yeah. It's more like, if you think marketing is annoying, you're in the wrong business.
Or you're doing it wrong, right?
You can do marketing.You can be non-annoying, you can be persuasive. You can be fun.
All of these things are possible in marketing, but either people don't know how to do them or they just have these weird misgivings where they're like, "I don't want to send my customers email."
It's fun. I push this back on people and I try to get them to do it right there in the moment. As I go, "What's your favorite brand?" Are you on their email lists? And what email lists are you on?"
I finally get to one where I know they're on an email list. And then I say, "Stop. Don't open your email yet. How many times do you think they email you a week"? And I get them to guess.
And then like "Hey, go look that up." And they're always wrong. They always get more emails than they think that...
Sorry, they get less, they actually get more emails than they say they get. So they'll be like, "Oh they probably send me an email like once every other week."
And they're getting 3 a week or something like that. It's because you're not actually opening every email you're getting as a consumer, you're not registering every email that hits your inbox.
And it's when you do have the time to interact with the brands that you have favor with then you'll actually look and notice it. So it goes back to that. You're not annoying your customers.
Right. They're mostly tuned out like you are... Your inbox gets like this tiny little span of attention.
You're looking for the one thing in there that you want, you deal with it, and then you're out. And all the stuff that isn't part of that immediate-attention thing, you just put it in the back of your brain or you just delete it and move on, like, "Oh, I don't need to worry about this right now.”
I just had like a bunch of emails show up this morning, one from SHEIN, one from Crate & Barrel. I'm on a bunch of different lists just so I can see what's going on just like you right?
Yeah. Most email marketers have crazy filters in their inbox for inspiration.
Yeah. And it's fun. I like to see... It's interesting to see big brands that are like, "Oh man, you guys really could work on this a lot."
And then little brands that are killing it. They're knocking it out of the park. I love to see those 2 extremes in there.
Oh, you ask any indie freelancer email marketer that has some cool case studies under their belt like "Oh, what is this Fortune 500 big brand name doing wrong?"
And they're gonna be like "These 105 things…"
It's so funny. Don't drive your strategy by what the top dogs are doing. Or it's just, some of them are on strategies that are a little bit dated, especially...
Don't get me started on full picture emails.
(laughs) Yep. Yeah. Okay, we won't go that way. But yeah, If you're an email marketer out there, you're a merchant, and you want to know what other things, what other stores are actually doing.
Go sign up for like 2 or 3 brands. You don't have to go crazy. But sign up and just see what emails you get and I think you will be astounded. Especially go for some bigger ones.
SHEIN is one of my favorite ones to sign up for because I'm just constantly getting barraged about sale this and that.
And apparently, like another member of my family that is a distant relation signed up, but they use my email address for it. So I'm getting twice the level of email.
And it's interesting, because they're getting all this cross-sell upsell stuff that I'm not getting, because I didn't buy.
But then I get the regular promotion stuff. So I've seen like two sides of it. Yeah, I mean, it's good research. It's good to know what other people are doing out there.
There's also a really cool service out there. It's like a curated collection of emails. It's called Really Good Emails.
Oh, I love that.
Yeah. So if you're a merchant out there, or someone that works for a merchant, and you're like "I just don't know what to say, with my campaigns, you'll go get a bunch of inspiration from those emails and it's... I had Chase Dimond on the show a few months back.
He knows his stuff, too. And I think... The number one thing that he left the show with... He was just like, "Just send the email." It doesn't need to be perfect.
And it doesn't necessarily need to be the most poignant thing. It's just like, if you have enough to figure out where it's a unique message, or something you haven't talked about in enough time, just send the email. Because not sending a campaign means not making money from your list.
Yeah. I would even go one step further to say, even if you're feeling queasy about the whole thing, just send it. Get some data. Find out "Is this campaign just crap?"
If it's crap, you can learn from it. You can do better. But you're not going to know that if you can't send the email. You have no data. Right? Yeah.
Absolutely. So let's jump into this.... You've got this "email ladder" strategy. You want to let the listeners know about that?
Yeah, sure. So depending on the size of your store, in terms of the gross merchant volume --so what is your gross sales every month?-- There are certain emails that you should be sending in order to be more successful. And it definitely changes as you move up the ladder.
So I've broken it down. I got some notes here. So look at those, I broke it down into like zero to $100,000... And these are annual numbers.
So if you're making about $100,000 a year, this is what you should have. And then from $100,000 to $500,000. And from $500,000 to $1,000,000. And then $1,000,000 above.
And even above that, there's probably some strategies and subtleties that you could probably talk to because I bet you've worked with more million plus brands than I have.
But this is like the sweet spot of stores that tend to be on Recapture, the ones that hit these ranges. So I've seen a lot of this data. So I like to break it up into... We start with a simple strategy and then you add to that strategy as you move up the ladder.
And so what does that mean? It means that you add more email, so you're sending more stuff to your customer.
So the absolute bare minimum, if you are from zero to $100,000, you absolutely need to have a welcome series, you've got to have abandoned checkout, and you should have some kind of a basic post-purchase sequence.
And on top of that, you should be doing some kind of a promotional campaign. I would recommend weekly, but it depends on your store. If you're selling auto parts, a weekly thing might not be appropriate.
But if you're selling like supplements, or consumables, or something like beauty, weekly might totally be in that range. What would you say, Chase?
I think that getting brands to send an email once a week, even around that $1,000,000 a year range is like pulling teeth sometimes.
And it's because it comes back to fear. It's like "We don't have... We don't know what to say. We don't have enough content to support this."
And I'm like, "Between the number of made up holidays that are out there, whatever deal you're doing, the last piece of content you created, and whatever the heck your founder just did business-wise that we can talk about, there's... Right there. I just made up 8 emails, I could send in one month.”
But there's this fear that it won't be good enough. And that is just unfounded.
I think there's also a fear of "I just don't know what to say." Because you got these busy founders.
So maybe they have somebody who's doing their email marketing full-time or maybe they're the ones doing the email marketing. I have a lot of stores that are handling that themselves.
And they're so busy. They're like, "I don't have time to send a birthday email to talk about the company's birthday.
That's just not even on my radar right now. I'm trying to fill orders over here. What are you talking about?"
So I feel like there's some of that, and you'll have to prioritize it. Clearly, you're not going to be... If you're struggling to get your time to handle all the logistics of the business, sending a weekly email might be too much.
But start with a monthly email. Once a month. Just keep your brand in your customers mind because if you are not in there when they're ready to buy, you're gonna lose the sale. Right?
Absolutely. Start with a cadence that you can keep up and do. But another thing is most brands aren't sending as many emails as they should be sending because they fear that people are going to unsubscribe.
Unsubscribes are actually a good thing. Those people weren't going to buy again anyway. And I heard someone say, "If your unsubscribe rate from your marketing broadcasts or campaigns or whatever you want to call them is less than 1%, send more."
Yeah, I love unsubscribes for that exact reason because it tells me "Alright, I just got somebody off the list that was never gonna buy. So now let's hit everybody else that's left." My list just got better because of that. Right?
Yeah. And you know, the emails that I just talked about, so there were only four, if you're doing up to $100,000 a year. 3 of those are automated. You set them up and that's it. You don't have to think about them anymore. The week…
The monthly promotional one or the weekly promotional one, that's the only one that really changes. So in that low band, you literally have one email to think about on a regular basis. The rest of them are all set up and done.
And you can just pull some existing ones out of there from Really Good Emails. [At] Recapture, we set up some basic content for you, that's got best practices built in. Klaviyo does this, right? Everybody has some default content.
You can start with the default content. That is good enough to get started. You can always refine it later and you can always hire somebody else to tweak it and make it better and have your brand voice in there. But you don't need to get started with all that stuff. Just keep it simple.
Good enough. Just ship it.
That's the thing.
People will sit around. And there are some people in different positions on this. "It's gotta be perfect before you launch because that's what's gonna be the best for the brand." This, that, and the other.
But it's like 99% of you aren't building a groundbreaking, world-shattering brand. You're gonna make really awesome businesses to support your lifestyle and your family and hire some really cool people and build a cool business.
The "good enough" works for most of that. While I like to say we do things really well at the agency, sometimes just shipping it, getting it done, iterating upon it after that...
Because you can't get time back and it's a multiplier of the investment and how fast you're gonna get that investment back.
So if you're sitting around and every decision takes twice as long, it's going to take again, twice as long to get that ROI back.
Right. Right. Yeah, just you gotta put something out there. If you don't have anything out there, you're never gonna get a chance to improve it and make it better. It's as simple as that.
And the funny thing is sometimes the mistakes are the ones that work the best.
The mistakes can be fun. You can... Like you said, they'll either work the best or you'll have something to talk about.
I've seen where brands make mistakes and all of a sudden they get a splash on social media because of that mistake.
And then all of you, you've got all this additional buzz that comes around it. Any promotion is a good promotion there.
Oh, exactly. Awesome. So what would you say is your position on discounting on email?
Discounting on emails. This is such a double-edged sword. It is very much a scalpel, you should use it just as carefully as you would use a scalpel.
And I think that there are appropriate ways to discount and then there are basically the ways that everybody else tries.
So the way that I think discounting falls by the wayside for most people is that they throw it out there as the "Oh my god. Nobody's gonna buy from me if I don't give a discount." I don't agree with that.
I think if you haven't really established the value of your product, if they don't know you very well, then maybe you need some discounting to give them the incentive to start. But there's a lot of reasons why you wouldn't want to discount.
Let's say you're in a luxury brand, for example. You're selling high end watches or designer handbags.
Discounting puts a perception in your customers mind that "This is not something that is as valuable as you say it is and I have to get a discount to buy it." So you need to sell it with the value in mind.
And so for certain products, certain audiences, you really got to hit that value piece of it. Plus, I think that there are at least a half a dozen better ways to deal with discounts than just offering a straight percent off, because this is going to kill your margin.
So if you're throwing out a 15% discount, that means your margins are getting cut by at least that much. So you have either got to do some hella good math and a really good source for all of that stuff.
Or you're just making your profit smaller and smaller, which is going to make it harder for you to run your business.
And when things like inflation hit, or we get another COVID thing, and sales get wonky, and you need some runway there, all of these things get screwed up by discounting.
So here are like a handful of things that I like to use instead of just straight up discounts. So things like a free shipping upgrade.So after they put enough in their cart, they get an upgrade to free shipping there.
You could do giveaways. So you could say, "Alright, we want to give away one thing but [it's] pretty big." It could be like an Amazon gift card, or I've seen people do MacBook Airs, and then you get a bunch of people on your email list for that. So you could use that as a promotion.
You can do a VIP program.
You could do bundling of products. So if you know that three things are always sold together, then put those things together and put a decent price on it so that people are more likely to buy.
When I was doing digital downloads, our bundles were the best selling products that we had. It was obvious that there was so much more value in there, because of the bundle. It just made it easier to sell. So that stuff does well you know.
Buy one, gift one, Buy One, Get One, you can use those kinds of things.
Referral discounts, if you've got a strong social audience that you can promote to, that works pretty well. Things like that.
There's better and more creative ways to discount than just throwing out a straight code.
Absolutely. I couldn't agree more, especially with the email capture. Everyone's like, "You gotta incentivize the email capture."
And you are right, the default is a discount code. But when you can get more creative, and find a way to still give that value without basically taking money out of your pocket hurting your margin, you're always going to be a more profitable store.
So it's just gonna help you in the long run.
Yep, totally agree. Totally agree.
Awesome. Dave, if someone was picking up what you're putting down today, where did they go? Where do they find you? What are you up to?
Well, if you are interested in helping get that "ladder strategy" set up for your store, you can come to Recapture.io and we can hook you up. We're on all the major platforms.
We've got a lot of default content that's out there. If you're ever like, "Gosh, I have no idea what I should be doing."
You can actually contact me, the founder, and I'll help you get that strategy set up. So we're totally helpful in that regard.
I also tweet about email marketing and other random stuff like gardening and home brewing on Twitter. So you can follow me at @daverodenbaugh.
And yeah, feel free to just drop me an email as well. email@example.com.
Awesome. Dave, thank you so much for coming on today.
Thanks for having me. Chase. This was fun as usual. Look forward to coming back again sometime.
Alright. I can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey with us.
We've got a lot to think about and potentially add into our own business. You can find all the links in the show notes.