Agency X Podcast: Engaging Customers using UGC with Luis Espinal, Agency Partner Manager at Okendo

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6 min read
by: John Surdakowski07/29/2021

Quick Summary John Surdakowski and Luis Espinal sit down to discuss how user-generated content, such as reviews and photos, can help build a community for DTC brands.


Luis is the Agency Partner Manager at Okendo, a Shopify Plus Certified App for customer product reviews and user-generated content. He’s a native New Yorker based in Brooklyn and a martial arts enthusiast. 

Luis has been in the e-commerce industry for over 6 years, working from both a digital agency and brand standpoint. He’s helped multiple brands assess and implement technology stacks for their digital channels and has created strategic partnership programs to foster collaboration between e-commerce agencies & technology partners.

Read the highlights from episode 28 of Agency X below. John and Luis cover customer loyalty tips, site speed optimization, and general DTC trends. 

If you’d rather listen to the episode, click here.

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What is Okendo?

Luis 2:21 - 2:58 So Okendo is a customer marketing platform, with a variety of tools for collecting and showcasing customer product reviews and user-generated content on site. That helps enable brands to really use this content to build shopper trust, drive conversions, and maximize customer lifetime value.

In terms of my role, I'm part of the partnerships team, so I work with agencies like Avex to not only support their merchants who leverage Okendo, but also identify new opportunities and co-market together so that we can help increase our exposure.

Luis 3:29 - 4:24 What's really great about Okendo is we have a lot of flexibility with our technology. Even startups can use it, enterprise-level merchants can use it as well. We see a lot of successful folks in that emerging enterprise bucket so anyone making one to 20 or even 30 million in GMV. 

What I will say in terms of what merchants should consider using Okendo is anyone who's a direct-to-consumer brand who's really focused on conveying their brand narrative and tapping into/engaging their community base is a great fit for Okendo. 

Some folks who are maybe a larger holding company with 40 brands, depending on what their goal is for that brand, if it’s to tap into that loyalty and engaged base then for sure, but if it's more so a dropshipping type deal with less of that community engagement, they wouldn't be the best.

Issues that Arise with Enterprise Businesses

John 7:24 - 8:18 We deal with some enterprise brands like Hugo Boss and Simmons Bedding, and these are corporations where it's super thrilling to be working with them, and we do some amazing work with them, but they are a lot slower to make decisions and to move on certain things. A brand that's digitally native DTC, they're looking to do things fast.

Some of these bigger companies, even though they know it's good, they might just not have the resources to be able to implement it. So the bigger you get (which is great) the harder it is to move on certain things. This is a common problem and I think a lot of brands are starting to notice that the bigger brands are looking at the DTC brands being like, Hey, we got to move fast, because they're eating all our food.

Tips for Increasing Customer Loyalty

Learning Through Your Customer’s Communities

Luis 10:00 - 11:05 I think it's key for brands to actually reach out to their customers or provide a way for their customers to self-identify, and actually pick what community are they in. We have one client here at Okendo called Born Primitive, and they're a fitness lifestyle brand. As part of their review capture or UGC capture process, they're figuring out what types of activities/what their customers like to do with their product. Do you like to do yoga, hike, do MMA? Having their customer self identify makes it so much easier to segment your marketing base, and actually curate specific campaigns for that customer. 

If there is a customer who self identifies as a yogi and loves yoga, you can create a yoga event and invite them to it, and be like, Hey, we're also going to have a pop-up shop, it's going to be 25% off at the pop shop, and it's going to be personalized for yoga enthusiasts. So reaching out to your customers who are already engaged, and figuring out what groups they are in is huge.

Overlapping Promotions

Luis 11:29 - 12:12 I think one other tactic brands might be able to use to really engage that customer base is letting them tap into different incentives that you're already offering or different promotions. So we can be like, if they got a referral discount from their friend, let them overlay that with the discount code that they got for signing up for the newsletter. It's really going to increase their loyalty and their likelihood to convert. You can even then tap them into leaving user-generated content after that, or for referrals, or to beta test the products, or just engaging that customer by giving them a bit more value will help you increase your overall lifetime value.

Creating a Slack or Discord Channel for VIP Customers

John 12:29 - 13:55 I think it was Glossier who did this first—maybe they're not the first, but I've heard of them doing it—and I wish more brands would do this, I swear I tell like every single one of our clients about this and I feel like no one does it, but putting together a Slack channel or Discord channel for VIP customers. 

Invite them using your loyalty program or just reach out to them. You can actually like insert Shopify Plus, when somebody reaches a certain purchase quantity or order amount they bought from you certain times, there could be an automatic tag, you can even use Klaviyo which I know integrates really well into Okendo, and you have something in there that sends them an alert to sign up for this VIP Slack channel where they just get invited. 

Then you could ask them things, send out surveys, give them special discount codes for answering questions, or maybe get product feedback from them. They're your most loyal customers, so engage with them one on one. You could get an insane amount of basically free feedback from almost like a focus group. These are people who are fans of your brands. Instead of just looking at data and analytics or sending, like you said, mass emails out all the time, really engage with them one on one a bit. 

See how we launch & scale brands on Shopify Plus with a data-backed approach

Third-Party Apps Best Practices

Monitoring Site Speed

Luis 17:47 - 19:44 One of the priorities that they should consider is the type of performance impact that third-party applications could have on your site speed optimization. Site speed has a huge, huge impact on your conversion rate. You can build the most beautiful, engaging website, but if it doesn't load, or people are going to bounce.

A company called Yottaa is really great. They put up this report once a year, it's called the performance index, where they review all types of third-party applications, and they rate their performance impact. For example, Okendo is just 14.4 kilobytes, so little to no performance impact. So using those resources out there, like that Yottaa report, asking your technology partner what their package size is, and have they had any issues with the performance impact is huge. 

Asking Your Tech Partner the Right Questions

Some other tips are understanding what type of resources you would get from a technology partner, like, do they have live support? Or is it just like an email center? Do they have a dedicated success manager? What are the protocols if there's an emergency or a red flag? In terms of timeline, how long would it take to integrate the technology? 

We would see this a lot when we were scoping out projects over at One Rockwell. Brands were willing to pay 1000s of dollars to custom-build something, and we'll just let them know our partner's roadmap for the next quarter, you can save 10, 15,  even 20 grand if you just wait a couple of months. It's really just asking technology for what features do you have coming up and can it help you save money by not customizing? Or maybe you don't need to purchase a separate third-party app because it's a feature that will be covered.

John 19:54 - 20:51 A lot of times we'll get a company that just grew from a start-up to now they're doing 3 to 5 million, and they are surviving with a premade theme. And they have like 50 apps installed. They're like, my site is so slow, we need to redesign. I’m like, Well, I can tell you why.  Sometimes brands are just a smaller team, and they need these quick solutions, and they're just installing apps like crazy. 

Just being intentional with what you're adding to your store, and understanding that everything that you add is going to impact load time. Even when you uninstall something, it leaves behind some code, which can get bloated and decrease performance. It's really important that you do that research and try to be mindful of who created the app, what the reviews are for it, and if it's going to impact load time.

Getting Creative with UGC Incentives

Increasing Discounts for Certain Actions

Luis 23:32 - 24:20 We've seen a lot of merchants leveraging rewards in the form of coupons or loyalty points in order to incentivize folks. So you can envision with that review request email that gets fired up, it would be like, hey, if you leave this review, you can get a 10% discount for a certain amount of loyalty points, etc. 

What we'll do at Okendo is we'll actually dynamically increase that incentivization based on what step they're in that review process. So step one, where they're writing the review itself, leaving a star rating, etc., it might be 10%. You will kind of entice that customer to leave a picture or leave a video by offering a larger discount to having it dynamically increase incentivization to keep the customer engaged and keep them moving along the process.

Offering More Than a Discount

Luis 24:45 - 25:33 Figuring out ways to reward your customers outside of the standard incentivization is key. Offer to give them free beta test access to a product and then leave a review on that, rather than just UGC on what they purchase. 

Saying Hey, we know you bought our joggers, we're actually beta testing shorts using the same fabric would like to send you a free pair. Then, if you can, leave user-generated content. It's really great for micro-influencers as well who have that type of audience base under that. Really just engaging with the customer figuring out what will incentivize them, offering variety, and then dynamically increasing the reward to keep them engaged, and to keep them moving along the process.

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