EPISODE
11

The Product Experience Strategy Athletic Greens Used to Double Sales (with Adam Trouncer)

with
Adam Trouncer

In the last episode of the Minds of Ecommerce Podcast, you heard from Abby Walker of Vivian Lou, who shared how she works with agencies, makes decisions, and runs a million-dollar ecommerce store with no employees.

In episode #11, Adam Trouncer, CEO of Athletic Greens, an 8-figure DTC ecommerce brand selling an all-in-one supplement, shares how they’ve doubled the business by focusing on creating a better brand and product experience for customers, how to calculate the ROI of customer experience activities, strategies to communicate to your different customer personas, and so much more.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Episode transcript:

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

All right, Adam, welcome to the show. So as you know, this podcast, Minds of eCommerce, is all about going deep and really understanding one key growth strategy that really helped move your business forward, right? So you're the CEO of Athletic Greens, and you were telling me that you more than doubled the business, right? This is an eight figure direct to consumer eCommerce business, and you've doubled it in how long - the past year or so?

Adam Trouncer:

Yeah, the past couple of years. So we've obviously been on the journey for a long time now, but we're continuing to have really strong growth, which is great. So it's been an exciting ride.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

That's amazing. While we were talking before the podcast, you said that really building a brand experience, fostering true client relationships and focusing on how the clients and customers interact with the product, is one of the key reasons why you were able to grow so much. So tell us a bit more about that.

Adam Trouncer:

For sure. Yeah, I think one of the major reasons for our growth, and it's all sort of blended in, I think it comes down to really, 'are we adding a huge amount of value to our customers and building a strong relationship with them?'

Adam Trouncer:

That's how I think about it. So for me that comes from the product, is it delivering on the promise that you've made in your marketing? Then subsequently, are there any interaction or touch points you have with them, whether it be pre-purchase or post? Are you continuing to foster and build that relationship in a way that really serves them and makes them feel connected to you as a brand?

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally.

Adam Trouncer:

So I think I'm very fortunate to be running a business where we've invested a lot in our product IP, and so we do have a differentiated product in a space that typically there's a lot of commodity based products. So a big part of our success is continuing to invest in the product, continuing to innovate on that, to make sure that we're giving way more value to customers than they could get anywhere else. That's what's really helped build the brand. I can dive into some details on that. But yeah, that's something that's been a big, big driver for us.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

That's awesome. Well, I'd love to know, let's say we look at what you've been doing on Athletic Greens. What are some concrete examples of how you've been able to do that?

Adam Trouncer:

For sure. So I think the interesting thing about Athletic Greens and why I love it as sort of a marketer and as a business person, is that we've actually blended a business model to what we want, it's actually all derived from the product itself. For example, the product is a daily consumable and so it's messaged that way. So as a customer experience, we have a subscription and we have people buying on a recurring basis. So, we're very incentivized in the entire kind of customer journey to make sure that we're not shooting ourselves in the foot by overselling, doing things that have sort of churn and burn customers, but instead setting up the relationship from day one, which means that the lifetime value will be really, really high. The team is always thinking around how do we make sure we continue to, not just message their product right pre-purchase, but also what else are we doing through that lifetime of the customer to increase that trust, increase that brand relationship that we have, the customer relationship we have, to increase retention? So a perfect example is we've just launched a new unboxing experience. That whole experience, you get a jar with your order, you get a shaker. But all of those insights came from customers, from problems that we saw. The reason why we did that was simply because we're trying to build a habit with them on a daily basis. We saw that this as another way in which, yes, we're adding value to them. They get a nice jar, they get a shaker, but it also improves the user experience of the product and helps them with the repeat purchases.

Adam Trouncer:

So that's just one example, but we really think around the entire lifecycle of the customer, not just the front end acquisition of what we're doing now.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally. Lifetime value being probably one of your most important metrics. So, I'm guessing now you have this crazy unboxing experience and I've seen photos from friends who received it. Now, what would we say to companies that are considering a similar unboxing experience, but they're looking at the upfront cost of doing that and they're like, "We just can't be doing that. I'm sure we can do something that's half as good that will have the same impact." How do you take people through that?

Adam Trouncer:

Yeah, it's really hard. I think the question you're answering is sort of what's the balance between sort of direct performance marketing versus brand marketing and where do you sit on that spectrum? So, the beauty about eCommerce businesses is that you know exactly where every dollar goes and you can measure return of impact. The tricky thing with kind of brand or things like that, is that it's harder to really associate where that's been going.

Adam Trouncer:

So look, we still look at that and go, "Well, we can measure that." So we need a split test first to say, we give it to 100 users, what was their NPS scores, what was their reaction to the unboxing experience, before we roll it out to our entire customer base. So with some pre-metrics we could get to say, "Is this going to roughly work? Do we think it's going to have an impact on retention?" But at the end of the day, we just had to pull the trigger to say, "Look, we're going to make this investment, because it's going to improve our relationship with our existing and future customers and we think it is going to have a real impact on lifetime value."So, I'd still look at it from a data numbers perspective, but then I put my hat on and go, if I'm a customer and I received this, am I going to be 20% or 30% more likely to reorder again? Yeah, I think so. And you just don't know.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally. That's awesome. How do you try to measure those reactions that you have from customers? Do you do surveys or customer interviews? What's your go-to?

Adam Trouncer:

Yeah, totally. So there's a lot we've done in the past and there's a lot we continue. I think those feedback loops and processes are critical for eCommerce businesses. So for us, we have sort of set NPS scores that get triggered at a certain point in time. So because our product is one way, you don't actually feel a tangible benefit until you use it for a couple of weeks. We trigger those NPS's after 30 or 60 days, rather than on day one. So NPS, we look at churn, you know, by cohort or by different areas. So where are we getting our best customers from, reasons for cancellation, we have onsite chat, we have all of those other kinds of contact points as well as our customer happiness team. So we're constantly sharing feedback internally around what are our customers saying, what are they asking for, why are they leaving us? Or what can we do to add more value to them.

Adam Trouncer:

And so that really, building that into the fabric of the business and the processes I think is critical. And so on company calls, we'll talk around what's some positive feedback, what's the most negative feedback we've had. I think it's just part of how you build the culture, production and the processes as you scale.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

That's so interesting and so important. Now, you gave us a great example .The unboxing experience really leaves people with a great emotional experience, right? When they're like, "Wow, this brand is not half-assing it. They're for real." So, now what are some other examples that are completely different in terms of how you foster that brand with customers?

Adam Trouncer:

Totally. A couple of different certain examples. One example is, you know, we kind of rebranded quite heavily over the last year or two as well, which I think has had an impact on our growth as well because we realized that although we had a great product that was serving a customer demographic, there was much bigger demographic that we weren't hitting because of how the product was actually positioned from a design a look, a feel from a logo perspective as well. So I think, you know, you get to create what brands you want to build.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Right.

Adam Trouncer:

I think that's the most exciting thing. So being really intentional about that I think is super critical. When Chris started the business we saw that, you know, maybe athletes would be the only ones have an interest in this product.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Right.

Adam Trouncer:

Very different to our customer base that we saw started buying it and buying it. Saying, "yes, we still have athletes, but we have 70 year old females, we have 20 year old males. You know, we have people from all different walks of life." And so decided to open up the brand more to make it more inclusive of everyone else. So I think making sure that you're intentional about the brand that you want to build and who you want to serve and add value to it, I think is critical. Another example of sort of what we've done recently, so we really changed the whole fabric of what the brand looks like and why for that reason, so that we could open up a bigger market as well.

And then separate to that, any touch point you have with customers I think is a way that you can add value. So whether that's putting a handwritten note in a box to say, 'Hey, thanks for joining, for being part of the community, 'whether that's having a Facebook group where people can ask questions and, kind of gather feedback, or we have a podcast, we have content as well that we send out. Just any way that we feel that we can deepen our relationship with customers and add value to them, we'll kind of do it because it'll build the brand.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Got it. Now I'm thinking, let's say I run a $5-10 million eCommerce brand and I'm realizing that maybe so far, we've been doing well, but we've been mostly getting by by just selling the product and the customer experience is a bit lacking. At what point, what would trigger businesses to decide, 'hey, now's the time to do it and it's not too late for that.'

Adam Trouncer:

It's a tricky question. I don't think there's ever a right moment for anything in life, so I'm cautious to say anything. Yeah, there are capital constraints, you've going to bootstrap your way through and there's nothing perfect. But I think it really comes down to what you are trying to achieve. What's your purpose as a business? Is it just to optimize for profitability? Is it to make sure that your business is around in 20 years, 30 years, or are you looking for a quick sale as well? Or do you have kind of more of a bigger purpose like we do, which is more attached to wanting to help inspire people to live healthier lives and the more over time that we can do to build relationships and spread the word and grow the brand, then we'll kind of do it.

Adam Trouncer:

So I think that's a really hard question to answer and there's no right one. What I would say is this though - if you are looking to build an online business, the beauty about the world today is you can have a direct access to customers and can build a direct relationship with them. And whether that's you create your own products or you sell products that other people make, you can build that relationship any way you want and you can determine how much value you provide on it, but either way it's there. So I think it's more around what are you optimizing for as a business and what's your purpose? And then from that, each of these decisions kind of become a little bit easier.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Right. That's good, and I love what you said about for you, one of those moments was when you started realizing that you had more than just athletes as customers, right? And now all those different touch points are customized and have messaging that will be meant for all of your segments. What are some ways that you customize your marketing or messaging for each of these segments? Because the name is Athletic Greens, and I know it's been a challenge for you guys to really see how to put it out there. So explain how you've been able to push through it and really find the solution.

Adam Trouncer:

For sure. It's a very tricky thing to do because as you expand segments, you don't want to dilute the core. So it's not an easy challenge because you want to still honour those that have got you to this point yet, make it inclusive in that way. So one thing to maybe note for your listeners is, the reason why it's extra challenging for us as a business is because we have one product and really anyone could take this product and get value from it and so we need to speak to different people depending on your lifestyle, your diet gets different benefits from the product as well. So it's sort of like one SKU, but in actual fact it's like multiple SKUs and it's got multiple audiences that you really don't. And that's one of the lucky things about our business model is that we've got one or two SKUs and that's about it.

Adam Trouncer:

So to answer your question, the way that I've been thinking about it is you can personalize the message and you can personalize the message of the product to different audiences easily. Whether that's targeting specific channels, different audiences on podcasts or on Facebook or wherever you want and tailoring the landing pages and obviously your site in order to better message their needs or their problem. And your product is a solution. That's what we do. We try to segment and message who we're talking to and the benefits they'll get on the front end. Subsequently then still create an open brand though. So some simple things that we did to try to deliteralize, the word athletic and greens is we added a product name, which is Ultimate Daily, which sounds more like a functional product name. And we created a tagline for the product, which is almost a complete supplement for a better you. So 'for a better you' really dictates to us what athletic is, it's like anyone who sweats, whereas greens is our interpretation of what is the most complete supplement. I figured Pottery Barn was able to do it. They didn't just sell pots in barns, so we should be able to do it. So yeah, that's how I think about it, you can still message things, the benefits and the customer experience. You can tailor your entire site, your entire email flow to specific segments. It gets very hard.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

For sure.

Adam Trouncer:

For a huge company, it's pretty much impossible. But that's sort of the way I think about it.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Yeah, that's super interesting. Now are there methods or things that you've done to find out how to communicate to each of these segments? Right? We could be guessing about our customers, but at the end of the day those are going to be guesses. So what are strategies that you've utilized to really know what messaging to use for each of these target audience?

Adam Trouncer:

Sure, that's a good question. So from our side, I think it's first understanding your customers. Over the years we've done more than 150 direct customer interviews in terms of how they talk about their product, what they do, looking through testimonials to pull out words in terms of how they talk around the benefits or how they articulate things. And internally now we have, we've had from the start, what we've continued to build on, on four or five kiosk customer avatars that we have. So there's a Bill and an Alison. We have real personas attached to them and so they continually get updated. As we grow and as we learn more and more about our different user bases, as a marketing team you can't have 50 different avatars that you kind of target because it becomes impossible. So to have three to five, maybe ,that we're focused on, is what we do to try to make sure that whenever we're creating some marketing collateral that we're always talking to the right audience.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Awesome.

Adam Trouncer:

I'm using their language.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

So constant surveying and talking with customers, looking at problem guessing, Facebook comments and what people are saying online and support chats and all of that.

Adam Trouncer:

Yeah.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

And once the aggregate that you'd get a pretty good value prop. Well not value proposition. Sorry. A pretty good persona.

Adam Trouncer:

Definitely.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

To build the value proposition.

Adam Trouncer:

Exactly. And then you evaluate properly and then you're addressing all marketing presence as well.

So I think that's an interesting thing. We're always on the lookout for what other audiences would use our product. So we have a product now, I think they should use it in space because where else can you get nutrition in one scoop? You know what I mean?

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Right.

Adam Trouncer:

So, and that's not like those customers haven't...and NASA hadn't come knocking on the door yet, but maybe that's something that we want to actively then go after because we go, well, we think we're actually adding value to someone in space or whatever...

Or other demographics in that way. So I think being constantly looking for opportunities as to...we know we're solving a specific problem and that problem for us is how do you get complete nutrition on a daily basis. And so who in this massive wide world has that problem? And what segments aren't we talking to right now? Or that we could expand into in that way. So not just in the U.S. But geographically. So whether that be in Europe or Asia or other where there's lots of opportunities to make sure people need to get the right nutrition if you're in a remote environment or no different.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

For sure. Now I've been talking with a lot of eCommerce executives, CEOs, founders, and some of them have told me that they were wondering at times if they should create a separate brand for some of their target audience instead of keeping it under one umbrella. Is that something you've ever considered and if not, when would you say are the right times to create a separate brand for different audience segments?

Adam Trouncer:

Yeah, that's a great question. Yes, we have, we thought at one stage do we leave Athletic Greens, Athletic Greens and create a new separate brand or something else. And brand is really, it's really an organization, what's the purpose of the brand and then the company that you've got and then what are you trying to achieve and who you're trying to talk to and add value to. So for us, we made the decision that Athletic Greens is just a name, you know what I mean? And the brand is much more than that and we can continue to build it in that way. So there's no easy answer is what I'm sort of saying. I think it really depends on what's the purpose that you're trying to achieve and what is that relationship that you're trying to foster with that audience. So for us it's the same whether you're an athlete, a 70 year old or a 20 year old, you're still trying to make sure that you feel great, you'll live a fulfilling life and you're happy. And nutrition is a key pillar in that.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Right.

Adam Trouncer:

So the purpose behind why they're taking the product and why they're connecting with the brand is all the same.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

It's the same.

Adam Trouncer:

And so for me it comes down to, is the vision of the business aligned with the brand or is there's something separate? Now if we had a sugary drink as an example that is completely opposite to the purpose and it's all about fun and happiness and enjoying the other things in life I'd say, "Well that's not congruent with our purposes, business and brand, so I'd better go create a different brand for that one right away."

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Right. Makes sense. That's a great answer. So far, so much gold in this interview. Thank you so much. I've got about two more questions that I'm really curious about.

So if we go back to brand experience and product experience with your customers, what are the biggest mistakes that companies trying to implement this usually make?

Adam Trouncer:

Sure. I've made a lot of mistakes myself so I can't speak for everyone else in terms of the biggest mistakes they've made. I think that the most critical thing is you've got to keep it a customer centric approach. So you've always got to be thinking customer first and putting them at the forefront of your decisions. Yes, there are financial elements to it. There are all the other things, but making sure that you're always thinking and empathizing with what the customer wants and needs is critical in that. And so I think that's the most important thing in terms of getting a very good sense of why you're doing it in terms of yes, there might be a financial hit, but you're doing it because you believe that you can build a better relationship in the longterm. So really getting clarity on why you're looking to do it.

Adam Trouncer:

Don't just roll out a fancy box if it's going to cost you more and no one's going to care about it, that's not putting the customer first. For us, we didn't do it purely for customer reasons. We did it because we thought that would help increase retention too and it would help serve their needs as a customer of being able to build a daily habit around our product. So everything we did was, you know, from feedback that their fingers get green when they try to use the scoop in the bag. Well, we better give them a nice scoop to use with it cause they were complaining about that. So keeping the customer first is one. And I think second is creating a team and culture that really does put the customer first and are looking to these issues and are thinking about complaints the customers have and looking to add more value too. Because without that, you can't be the founder or the CEO seeing everything that goes on with customers at all point in times so you need to be connected to it. But really you need the team and processes helping you to listen to that feedback, being empathetic to it and then changing strategy or plans accordingly.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Absolutely. Awesome. Now final question. If you would go back to being a seven figure eCommerce company trying to reach that eight figure mark, what would you do differently?

Adam Trouncer:

Hmm, that's a good question. So for businesses...oh I'm going to have to think about this. I think the most important thing is staying true to the vision of the Company and the founding vision of it. In terms of why are we in business and what is the problem we are solving and making sure that you never deviate from that. So knowing at the core why you're doing this, sort of, what problem are we solving for customers and ensuring that we're always building a brand that is aligned with it. That's what I do because if you keep doing that and you keep finding more people and adding values to the world, Hey Presto, you can generally capture some back as well.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Amazing. That's fantastic advice. Adam, thank you so much for being on the podcast. That was just fantastic. So many golden nuggets. Now if people want to connect with you or Athletic Greens, they want to learn more about the brand or what you're doing, where should they go?

Adam Trouncer:

Sure. Just jump on LinkedIn and add me there at Adam Trouncer. I'm the only one unfortunately, so everyone can find me anyway, so just shoot me a message there and more than happy to connect.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Awesome. Adam, thank you so much. I can't wait to get this episode live. That was great.

Adam Trouncer:

Awesome. Thank you so much buddy.

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