Trekking Toward Retention with Baboon to the Moon 🚀
Prioritizing customer retention is an incredibly important part of growing a sustainable D2C business.
Tune in to find out how content-driven tactics can drive 10x retention for brands of today 🙌🏼
Sneak Peak into B2TM’s Behind-The-Scenes
Welcome everyone, and thank you so much for joining us today for our D2C Multiverse session. My name is Sara and I'll be your host.
Today, we have Carolina Bushman, who is a D2C growth and retention marketing manager at BABOON TO THE MOON, a brand whose mission is to make the world more colorful with its versatile travel bag collection.
Carolina is also the founder of Jag + Papaya, an amazing data-driven marketing agency focused on women-led businesses and projects. Today, Carolina joins us to dive into what retention is in modern D2C and the kind of brand experiences customers love.
And, of course, maybe Carolina will share some travel tips, too.
So over to you Carolina. How did you end up in retention marketing?
Amazing. Thank you. Super excited to be here!
Retention has been my passion among D2C marketing for quite some time, though I've done—I would like to think—really every part of the full lifecycle of a customer with a D2C brand.
Holding onto them and keeping them invested and building a relationship with them is my favorite part.
So, though I love acquisition and I think there's a ton of strategy overlap between retention and every other element of ecommerce—It's the part that makes my heart feel full and is also a really cool overlap with all these other pieces of our business, like the CX team as well as the brand creative team, and—even though maybe less exciting outwardly—the finance and budgeting team, to really think about how we're using our community to keep building the brand, sharing our voice, and telling these stories.
And that's just really lovely and exciting to me.
So, done all those pieces over the years in a couple of different spots and roles and for different kinds of brands.
And over time I've learned that email and SMS, along with potentially loyalty, referral, push—lots of other channels—are just really great places to build a one-to-one relationship with a customer. And that's my favorite part of the brand journey.
So, that's where I spend most of my time.
That's fantastic. And as part of the brand journey, what makes BABOON TO THE MOON so special as a travel accessory brand?
I like to think that it feels more like you're talking to a friend than someone trying to sell you on something for a trip.
And hopefully we really want it to feel like a friend, like making a real referral—both from the kind of community and brand content that we pull in from partners and influencers, and people who are repeat purchasers and fans of the brand.
As well as the way we resolve if someone has a question or needs help. Understanding what the difference is in sizing or materials. We want it to feel like a real person who has your best interest at heart and wants you to have a really good experience that's technically appropriate for what you're looking for.
If you need all the pockets or not as many, if you need something that's waterproof or gonna be light for a day in the city, we wanna help someone find that right fit and feel like it's a bag that represents them. Hopefully it’s fun and colorful and exciting in ways that they're not seeing elsewhere.
And it's just a really good time and has a really unique community built around it as well.
I love that. And BABOON TO THE MOON website just screams fun. The Sophie Tukker collection, all the collaborations that you're doing—it's definitely interesting to see that not only across your website, but also the different channels for that whole channel experience.
So, what does retention look like for travel accessories?
Yeah, that's a great question.
Every kind of product is different, right?
And travel accessories predominantly—especially if we're talking about something as big as maybe like a six-day duffle that you're checking out for a long trek somewhere.
Those are purchases that, a lot of times, may not seem like people need to make more than once—especially with a product that's got a lifetime warranty and is made with really, really durable material.
We're very, very focused on the technicality and the durability of our materials and all of our fixtures. So, they should last a really long time.
But because of the new colors and prints, and like you mentioned, the kinds of collaborations we're able to do with visuals and all these really amazing artists, there's always something new coming out.
Our product designer is constantly pushing the boundaries of what's possible.
We really think that keeping it fresh and staying in touch with what people are looking for—beyond just travel and technicality, but also into fashion, into what's happening in the broader cultural sphere.
If we're able to tap back into that and bring those elements into these bags, it's not just something that you carry hopefully once, but something that you're using all the time.
I, of course, have some of my favorites and tons of use cases, but the hope is that everyone has an easy use case.
Whether it be a small tote or like I said, a large duffle backpack convertible—the hope is that because they love it and it fits so well into their life or their travel, there's an easy other usage hopefully for different situations, as well as tons of fun colors and patterns and new styles that are constantly pushing the boundaries to add to this collection over time.
Keeping Customers Engaged: Carolina’s Retention Tactics
That's so much fun. And then in terms of tactics—besides the brand being so magnetic itself—what type of retention tactics tend to work?
For BABOON specifically, and across the board, flows are a really underutilized tool both in SMS, email, push notifications for folks who use apps, and loyalty referral as well.
Those automated opportunities are huge. There's so many really unique touchpoints that we can have with somebody after they've purchased—talking about how to properly adjust the straps on a new bag, or how to share UGC, or how to follow along elsewhere.
And a lot of times, I've found that people think that they may be dropped off after that first purchase, or once they're nurtured into the funnel.
But it's the opposite.
Good retention focuses on keeping them there, right? And bringing them back around. So it's a lot of touchpoints at different times. It's frankly a lot of testing, a lot of data analysis of when those touchpoints are, what they include, to whom they're sending, and then segmentation based on that learning.
So, I think automations are a really great way to keep that running all the time and keep growing and learning about what people like and what they're responding to, and where we're seeing them drop off (potentially where we're losing them). So we can reach out and say, Hey, this moment—maybe it's three months after a purchase, for example—could be a time that a lot of folks tend to disappear.
That's a really great chance for an automation, either an SMS or an email (depending on someone's preferred channel). Just swoop in and say, “hey, maybe we can help you pick something.” Or, “what else can we bring around to bring you back into the fold?” And so I think there are a lot of opportunities there, beyond the initial purchase as well.
And then of course, things that move people through the funnel as well. So with acquisition channels, maybe we get someone to the site, get their phone number or email. And then they're not sure. There are so many opportunities there as well for curation. And again, that relationship building within retention.
That's another SMS and email opportunity campaigns and automations to reach out and say, “Hey, can we help you pick something? Is there curation that we can do? Do you have a question? Here's a use case. Here's an example.” Then we also use a lot of social proof in those retention channels. Reviews, comments, and a lot of social media content that show the bags in real use, in sometimes hilarious situations, but intended to answer those questions that can prevent people from either repeat purchasing or finishing that first conversion and fully becoming part of the community.
For sure. And before we deep dive into the questions, just a little bit more on what you were talking about.
So, we've talked about external tactics to get folks to stay with the business or make repeat purchases or even purchase the first time. What are internal processes like for you? How do you set up a team for success in retention?
Yeah, that's a great question, too.
I think there's no one perfect/easy answer. But I would say organization and clarity of reporting and testing is really critical.
I think understanding what we want to know about our audience and what we could do better to serve our audience and having a really clear shared goal means that across teams, across marketing functions, across brand functions, we're all working towards that same retention idea.
Which for us, BABOON, is largely building a one-to-one relationship customers—growing that feeling like a really unique, fashion-oriented choice in a lot of ways that's also conversational and hopefully doesn't feel too salesy.
And leaning towards that goal together helps us all create content goals, and from a more technical perspective, helps me create tests and reports to make sure that we're all constantly thinking back to the same focus.
That's so fantastic. Having a mission statement, or just something that joins a team internally, makes communications and marketing so much better and holistic and it feels consistent, whether you're dealing with one person or another.
That seamless experience really adds to the overall experience, in terms of retention. So I really like that answer. Thank you for sharing a bit about that.
Solving for the 98% Drop-off
I'm gonna dive into some of the questions and we're gonna start at the top of the funnel. So in D2C, 98% of visitors to an online store never end up buying.
This is a rapidly escalating problem and with ROAS for brands touching on an all-time low, it's getting harder for brands to sell online and grow. What are your thoughts on this?
Yeah, it's true, unfortunately. I mean, the industry's always changing though, right?
The landscape has changed even in the six, seven years that I've really been investing my time into retention.
So, my answer as a retention marketer is very much to lean into your existing audience where possible. Those are the folks who are:
- Gonna be the lowest cost to reacquire from a budget perspective
- But also are your brand champions in a lot of ways
So, I think that reaching back out—hyper-segmentation—to existing folks is a great way to keep your most-invested or most-interested or most-likely-to-repeat purchase folks coming through as well, which for brands is important.
And then as we're thinking top-of-funnel, that allows me to move some of my attention to these larger or maybe even more exploratory top-of-funnel tactics where I know my repeat purchasers are taken care of in a lot of ways.
I can try more unique campaigns, or unique flows, or different tests on that rapidly growing audience that's coming to site and maybe not, like you said, having that experience that I want for them. Allows me to test a lot more things there. I also think that, like you said, keeping something cohesive and having a brand experience be really unified all the way through is critical and language that matches to landing page language that matches to popup to welcome is really important.
And a lot of times, pieces can get disjointed—especially if there's a lot of different things going on. It's really easy to lose sight of that. But a super cohesive brand journey I find also definitely helps lower that rate and brings folks back a little bit easier or brings them into the fold more smoothly because they know what they're expecting and seeing that same journey or messaging.
The funnel there. It's also all about expectations, right? You're setting up expectations for, of course, the customers as soon as they visit your brand.
So it's really ideal for everything to set the same expectations so that you're either meeting or exceeding them and you're not disappointing anyone.
And on that, how can brands maintain this consistency to acquire and retain more customers?
I think similar to what I was mentioning about having a uniform team goal is really critical.
Again, making sure that every piece of the funnel, no matter who is owning it or what the intention or goal may be behind it, is uniform and like you said, matching those expectations for someone visiting whatever part of the funnel it may be.
I think it's really important to think about the customer journey from the customer's perspective.
It sounds obvious, but it's really easy once we get in the weeds to be thinking about all these extra elements or brand details or site locations that are totally in my head cause I'm in it every day.
But when I step back and think about: If I was to see this Instagram post or ad or reel for the first time, and I clicked on it, what would my experience be?
What would my takeaway be?
I think stepping back and thinking through that from the customer perspective is absolutely critical to making sure everything feels like it flows, and also constantly being willing to test expectations or what I think is the best way to do something.
Oftentimes I'll build a process. I think it's great, and then maybe in a couple months or a couple weeks need to revisit it. Cause there's always potential for improvement there.
So always asking: Why can this be done better? And does this make sense? And pulling back and thinking from the customer journey is just super important.
Definitely, and I love how you keep saying the word test because regardless of where a customer falls in the funnel, testing messaging, testing approaches to make sure that we're as personalized, as relevant as we can be with our customer journey—testing is extremely important.
And regardless of what your role is in a D2C business, testing will definitely be your best friend. I'm gonna pivot a little bit. So, in your podcast episode with Deb, you talked a bit about how TikTok has played a role in modern-age consumer retention.
How does that strategy play into BABOON's retention strategy (or even other folks that you've worked with previously)?
Yeah, definitely. We get a lot of questions about TikTok and talk about TikTok a lot because it's been a channel that's been really impactful for us and has also allowed us to really share the brand voice and nail it in a way that people really resonate with.
So our brand creative team is phenomenal. I cannot say enough about them. So of course they're making great content. That's the base level of success there.
And then what I do with that content, both as a growth marketer using it in ads placements, and also as a retention marketer, using it as a way to unify that customer journey.
That piece is where things get to be a little bit creative, right?
So a lot of folks come in through our TikTok or have seen it, are seeing ads, have some memory of an Instagram or a TikTok ad. So I like to incorporate those top performing elements into emails in a couple of different places.
Both top of the funnel—so if people feel like, this is the TikTok I saw, or this is the person that I saw, it's the same experience. It's the same brand voice. Again, it's just that uniformity and messaging to keep things aligned.
It's also a really fun way to get people to our socials from retention.
Though retention is often thought about as these owned channels where we have zero-party data about people, like email or SMS where they've opted in retention, on social channels is also kind of part of retention marketing in a lot of ways. Right? Retaining followers and audience and interest.
So I try to keep those audiences blended. There's a lot of overlap. Not everyone's on email, not everyone's on TikTok. So I try to think about if someone is on either or both, how are they gonna have the best experience?
So incorporating content, incorporating that voice, incorporating similar messaging, like matching up marketing calendars, even something as simple as that just to keep uniformity in the messaging that's seasonally appropriate or the products or the collection that we're really excited about right now, that's been really effective to keep our customers very up to date with what's happening. Where they feel, again, in step with the brand in a personal way.
It's been a great channel to share our voice.
And then I really love having that pull in of fun social proof as well, and retention, and then all kinds of campaigns. But sending a TikTok SMS always feels like texting your friend something funny you saw.
And I just love the way that feels to receive.
Mapping the Customer Journey: Collecting Data from Multiple Sources
I love what you mentioned there about how getting a TikTok is like getting a meme from a friend.
You know, you're expecting to open something exciting if they're sharing it. Right. I don't know about you, but whenever I see a TikTok link in my text messages, I'm really stoked to read it because you know it's a good one and someone thought of you. And not just TikTok.
There are all sorts of different channels popping up, like PinDuoDuo in China, which is a virtual bazaar, and a plethora of other channels around the world.
How do you accumulate all the data from your different sources to really map the customer journey and understand what that looks like from beginning to end?
Yeah, that's the bajillion dollar question I think we are all always trying to solve.
I wish I had the perfect solution, but I think really understanding a mix of attribution sources and taking everything with a grain of salt as well as again, constantly watching my own testing across channels, is probably my most effective way.
Google Analytics is a powerhouse in a lot of ways and we definitely rely on that for last-click information. I'm of course looking at engine data all the time, and generally I'm finding that some combination of these things is the most accurate indicator of what our general or average customer journey looks like.
So I'm usually pulling from a bunch of sources and then kind of unifying, comparing against each other to find where are the main trend lines and what are people often doing. And that's how I'm generally extrapolating out where people are coming from, where they're dropping off, and what's impacting them positively and/or negatively.
Totally a blend of reporting sources.
And again, I think challenging my beliefs or expectations or processes is important to that as well. Like you said, with new channels popping up, that also means new dashboards, new reporting tools.
There are constantly things coming back to challenge the way I think of doing things.
Being super flexible, being super open to try new platforms, to test things, to take the “L” if it's not the right option, or to learn how to scale and lean in if it is. I think that adaptability is really important to making sure your attribution is keeping up with the times.
For sure. And in terms of attribution, so lifetime value is probably one of the number one metrics in classic retention.
But what other types of metrics, either soft metrics that are channel related or harder, more like smart objective, relevant goals in metrics? What are some of the other metrics that brands usually miss or other signals that they could be looking at that could be a good indication that something is either positive or negative in terms of retention?
Yeah, that's a great question. Like you said, lifetime value and also I would say historic number of orders or even average order value are all important data points to understand about not only the channels and customers, but specifically cohorts of customers by when they came in, where they came in, what channel they're active on.
Understanding that is all very important to retention I would say. I think really understanding your list behavior is incredibly important. And I say list as someone who's often on email and SMS, but that also means audiences elsewhere on social channels, on even page channels and usage across.
Things like Google, even just understanding what search volume means for Facebook and what that means for an sms. All those things are interrelated, so having a really strong understanding of where your list is coming from, what those sources are, what your general list behavior is, what those main drop-off points are, and your engagement windows.
All of these much more specific subscriber data points, I think are really critical and often get overlooked.
I think email especially is a channel that people kind of write off in a lot of ways ‘cause it's been around for a long time. It's maybe not as shiny and new, but we actually have these really great data points that we're able to access through email but are able to be extrapolated across a broader customer journey as well.
So, things like engagement windows and general drop off points, for lack of a better word, I think are really, really important and things that people often overlook.
What B2TM Does Differently to Engage Customers
For sure. Talking about email, like you said, super old.
It's been around for a while, but it's probably one of my favorite channels because it just provides so much data and context. You get the demographics, the psychographics, and the behavior. And I think email’s really making a comeback, especially as zero-party data is becoming more important to ecommerce brands and owning your audience instead of just borrowing it from different social platforms.
So, I wholeheartedly agree with you there.
Are there any specific examples that you'd like to share of a retention campaign that performed well, that you'd like to share with our audience?
It could be one that you've heard of, it could be one that you ran. It could be a combination of both.
I am personally a really big fan of messages that feel like they're coming from a person. So I find whenever we lean into sharing an individual's perspective written in a slightly different tone, specifically in a plain text format (which I know isn't groundbreaking for email marketers), it's something that we pull in sometimes, but those guys really generally knock it out the park.
I think as long as they're genuine, they're authentic, they're truly written by the person. And then are segmented and formatted appropriately. I find that those are really impactful.
They're fantastic winback opportunities for people who feel maybe disengaged from the brand in some way and are really good opportunities to loop our CX team back in for, again, folks who might be ready for a winback touchpoint or have some kind of question or unanswered concern that they haven't brought to us yet.
So, I really like those because they both perform really well and then also spark a conversation whether from an actual reply or engagement elsewhere that leads to a comment on social that we can answer or a text back to the next campaign that we can reply with. I really love knowing that those are functioning in that way and as a multipurpose campaign.
So those are some of my favorites.
And then anytime we're able to do something that feels exciting and feels different, especially pulling in influencer content. Selfishly, I love doing those. I think they're really beautiful formats of emails and we have such a cool community all across the world that I really like getting to highlight truly how global the brand is.
Those are a blast. Also perform well.
And last I will say, anything travel oriented we have so much cool information that the team here has acquired over time that I love to get to tease out of them and share in some ways.
So, whether that be what the coolest art project is in London right now, or what's the neatest artist working in Stockholm or the music scene in Berlin, I guarantee you there's someone on the team who can tell us that. And so sharing that and being able to surface that in retention campaigns feels really fun. And it's like a brand-oriented, not product-driven campaign that we can send that helps people feel like there's real people behind this.
There's real intentionality.
We're not just making something to make it.
It's everybody really believes in what we're doing and wants to make the world a more like global, colorful place.
Cracking the Code with Modern-Day UGC
For sure. And how do you go about approaching influencers or even just general users for more user generated content outside of reviews left on the website?
Our influencer program has definitely grown and shifted quite a bit in the last year as I think many folks have. So luckily our brand team has a ton of great contacts and relationships that they've built over time with people. So a lot of times there's a lot of gifting that we're able to do, or even if there's artists that have been engaged in the past with us before, we're able to share new things with them or upcoming things with them that they're then able to share with their audience organically.
So that's always a really big help and people are generally really excited to receive that and that's been a great way for us to keep driving organic UGC.
And then from an influencer perspective, very similarly, we've tried different content over time and found that a lot of what works is when folks find us semi-naturally, or I've worked with the brand in some capacity before.
We'll often test a UGC-style asset from a creator. And then if that works well, we'll reach out to them again and say, “Hey, these were the learnings. Let's collaborate on something together that hits all these high points, and maybe we add this next time based on what people were asking for in the comments, or we would love to see it in this color if you could.”
And kind of keep iterating and building on top of that to build these relationships over time that hopefully, again, feel like relationships almost on people's screen.
And that's really exciting to be able to do, or people kind of recognize almost like characters in the BABOON TO THE MOON universe, and that feels pretty cool.
I love the way that you talked about a universe and, and it's not just building a brand, it's building community.
And it kind of ties into everything that we've been talking about, consistency, expectations, and I love the analogy of the universe. I think it's really cool if we think of ourselves as the sun. And what does our individual D2C universe look like? So I really, really like that analogy.
Do you have any other advice that you'd share for experts growing amazing D2C brands like BABOON TO THE MOON?
My biggest piece of advice is to listen to your customers.
I would say reading comments and reading emails, responses, reading, text responses, knowing what people are thinking, what they're feeling.
Not everyone's going to respond, but the people who are are incredibly valuable qualitative data points that though they may be more difficult to pull into a spreadsheet or a chart, I think they're really, really valuable for us as retention marketers, especially to understand what people are doing? What are they saying? What are they asking for? What are they looking for? What's resonating, what's not?
And then to iterate upon that and test it across different channels and different formats. But I think really listening to your audiences is critical to building a D2C business and again, thinking from their perspective—we may be super excited about a launch and send an email that I'm thrilled about and someone might not see it, but they might still love it.
And I need to think about that in my strategy of making sure that the right content's getting in front of the right folks at the right time—wherever they may be.
And on that, what you were speaking about listening to your customers and understanding their feedback, what kind of feedback loops do you build into your campaigns to try and encourage that collaborativeness?
We actually have several specifically post-purchase flows that request a reply back because we really do want that feedback.
They're really fun to see what people say.
And I love hearing travel stories and they're lovely for our team. And also it's a really helpful way to get feedback or pushback if people have it, or criticism or critique.
I really like specifically soliciting that feedback, not only using channels that could be two-way, but purposefully using them in that way.
On SMS, that can mean things like two-way flow automations or keyword automations or things that are triggered by keywords or different options as well to learn about people's preferences and to solicit that on email. It looks like, “Reply back and let us know, or if you have a question. Message us and we'll help you pick this out.”
We really see a lot of success with that. But I think just asking people really works.
They're generally really happy to share.
And Finally — Exploring the Role of AI ✨
That's awesome. And just speaking about that human tone and creating those conversations, I'm gonna pivot a little bit to AI and get your thoughts about what AI looks like in retention, because it's all about building those relationships, right?
But AI, AI allows D2C brands to scale exponentially fast in terms of the marketing that they're doing.
So what does that balance look like for you?
What's your opinion on AI and how is it changing the way you work?
Yeah, I definitely have been dipping the toe and testing things out a little bit, creating blocks of copy—specifically ad copy—is interesting to try to create snippets or SMS or email copy even.
We have a phenomenal in-house team, so I fully trust their brand voice much more than my own.
But, generally it's been helpful for me to build blocks of text or initial starting places to get working on and then really inject the brand voice. Which is always interesting.
I will say that I don't see AI drastically changing my workflow in a lot of ways just yet. But, as it's continued to be integrated into all these additional platforms, I do expect it to be a more and more central figure in these text-based campaigns like SMS and email and push notifications where there are endless possibilities of the perfect combination of words to drive an action.
And using AI where we can create tons of iterations pretty quickly is definitely very exciting and interesting. So right now, still learning how to figure that out in my flow, but I definitely see potential.
Some Ace-In-The-Hole Advice from Carolina
For sure. And I think it'll be like that for a lot of folks, too.
Experimenting with it, seeing what works, what sticks, how it helps you work fast or not replacing the work that you're doing.
So, we have about five minutes left and before we let you go, I have two questions for you. And they're not related to each other, but they're both fun, I think.
One is: What piece of advice would you share with D2C brands? We kind of talked about what you would recommend in terms of retention, but just in general, whether it's marketing, whether it's product pages, emails, SMS—what advice do you have for D2C brands?
And the second question is, what's your favorite travel tip? Or lesser known travel tip.
For D2C brands, I think really like knowing your customer and loving your product and being invested in your brand is really critical. Performance is obviously incredibly important. We're all driven by performance as marketers and D2C operators.
But longevity, I think, comes from more than just performance.
It comes from a brand that's fully built out, that has a community around it and that can scale in a sustainable way.
And I think that requires campaigns that maybe don't just drive performance directly in the ways that we're taught to expect. It means messages that are maybe linking to a TikTok where it's probably not a text that's gonna drive revenue, but is a text that's gonna drive that relationship.
Or, you know, an ad that maybe is a little bit less traditional, but has a really friendly tone just to try it. Or posts that are not product oriented, but that are about your creative process, like things that may seem away from the goal of performance are actually your best brand building opportunities.
And I think losing sight of that is a big risk. So I would say putting your brand first is one of my biggest tips after working with quite a few different brands over the years.
And for travel, I think just have an amazing time.
There's always a desire to take the perfect photo, or video, or best TikTok of a place or the most aesthetic meal.
I think being present is the absolute best thing you can do and just enjoying those moments.
All the pictures I have of the places I've gotten to go in my life and gotten to take my bags pale in comparison to the memories of really being there.
So be present and tag us on TikTok when you do go, but also be present in the moment.
Amazing. I love that. What a great way to end our session. Thank you so much, Carolina, for joining us today. Everyone who's joined us on the livestream or is watching the recording, feel free to give BABOON TO THE MOON a shout out on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
Definitely follow BABOON TO THE MOON. Give Carolina follow on LinkedIn. Check out mason, and we'll see you all next week. Thank you so much.