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208: The Power of Paid Social: How Blew Up

Posted by Austin Brawner on July 16, 2019


If you’ve been on Facebook in the past week, you’ve probably seen an ad from Buffy.

What started as an idea to disrupt the bedding industry has grown into a multi-million dollar business.

Today Buffy co-founder Shoaib Kabani joins us to cover a range of topics.

We talk about everything from product development, to the importance of testing, how landing pages can improve your funnel, and what performance KPIs you have to be thinking about as you scale.

Whether you’re a business owner or an ecommerce marketer, you’re going to get a lot out of this episode.


Episode Highlights

  • 4:49 How a desire to change the bedding industry led to the creation of Buffy.
  • 6:21 The training Shoaib got from his start in consulting that’s helped him as an entrepreneur.
  • 7:35 Developing the initial idea and concept for Buffy: providing value and values.
  • 9:31 The process of validating the concept online, on social, and in person before going all in.
  • 12:48 How do I make this a no brainer for the consumer?
  • 14:16 What’s worked for Buffy from a creative perspective and changes they’ve made as they’ve scaled.
  • 18:40 Some of the unintended consequences of having a free trial offer.
  • 19:56 Unique KPIs Shoaib looks at on a daily basis.
  • 22:00 A funnel analysis tool that’s been a game changer as Buffy’s scaled up.
  • 23:10 The materials and brand values that make Buffy stand out in the bedding industry.
  • 25:05 How Buffy uses landing pages to enhance its sales funnel.
  • 28:09 Addressing customer lifetime value when you have a limited number of products.
  • 32:08 Shoaib’s approach to launching into new ad channels, specifically with affiliates and podcasts.
  • 37:14 How the Buffy founders set their budget for testing new channels and concepts.
  • 39:10 What you, the ecommerce business owner, need to be thinking about to be successful.
  • 41:25 Exciting insight into what’s next for Buffy.

Links And Resources

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Austin Brawner: What's up, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the E-Commerce Influence Podcast. My name's Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. We have a really good guest this week. I'm very excited to bring onto the show the cofounder of Buffy, the wonderful comforter company that's out there on social media, and throughout the internet.

Austin Brawner: Yeah, I think this is going to be an episode you guys really get a lot out of. I was super excited to go into this episode because they're doing a lot of really cool stuff. If you're on paid social, if you're on social media, you've seen their paid social, most likely if you're based in the states.

Shoaib comes on and has a really in-depth interview. We talk about everything from product development, from user-generated content, the importance of landing pages, how he thinks about scaling up their business, what's worked for them.

He gets really nitty-gritty, and if you're an e-commerce business owner, or you're in the marketing side of building an e-commerce brand, I think you're really going to appreciate this episode.

Andrew Foxwell: Definitely. There's a lot of learning to be had from this. I mean, obviously, there's a lot of learning to be had from many of our podcast guests that we've had, but really like this one because it gets into everything, basically, from marketing, to thinking about landing pages, to thinking about sourcing, to thinking about operation, so there's just one thing after another that I feel like is incredibly powerful.

Austin Brawner: Super brilliant guy.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, definitely.

Austin Brawner: Really nice to have, and yeah, without further ado, let's bring him in.

Shoaib Kabani: Hey, hey. Thank you.

Andrew Foxwell: Well, thanks for being here, man. I'm really glad to be able to ... we're both really excited to interview you and talk to an illustrious cofounder like yourself, of Buffy.

But you know, before we really get into the interview, you know, I have to ask. I was doing some deep research on you, and wondered if you wanted to potentially comment on your tweet from June 19, 2010. You said, and I quote, "I've gained almost 20 pounds in the past year. Horrible. But I do love food!" Would you like to comment on that?

Shoaib Kabani: I mean, I feel like I fluctuate so much, so it's 20 pounds up, 20 pounds down, 20 pounds up, 20 pounds down. It's the cycle of life.

Andrew Foxwell: All right. Yeah, well, I love that...your Twitter stream was great, because it's like the last thing you tweeted, you actually retweeted a podcast episode that we did, that Austin and I did, and you were like, "You must listen to this." And then, it's like, basically, a tweet per year.

And then it goes back all the way to 2010, and that's only like 20 tweets down, so obviously it's not a medium that you use a lot, so I was just cracking up at some of the old ones. A lot of tweets about soccer, about football. Just a lot of stuff like that. It was pretty entertaining.

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. Back in college, I think.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, definitely. Well, let's go ahead and just get started with the first question of, you know, if you wouldn't mind giving us a little bit of your background and the history of Buffy, and how this came about? That'd be a great place to start.

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. Well, by background I spent almost four years in management consulting at McKenzie where I was working with a lot of telecom and consumer goods players, and was enjoying it but was really looking for something where I can get more hands on in, something where I can have a real impact.

And I actually met my cofounder, and Buffy's CEO, Leo, who's a really close friend of mine, and his family has been in bedding for the pasts 30 years, doing a lot of white labeling, they have a weaving mill in China. And he was really pitching me on a kernel of an idea back then, about two and a half years ago, which was really introducing new materials to bedding.

A lot of the materials today are either animal byproducts, like down or wool, or straight up virgin polyester, so really the goal was to say how can we bring a change to this industry, and really upend it from a materials perspective. And that really intrigued me, and of course leaving the grind of consulting, working with all those large companies, not having a huge impact, and being able to really get in and mold a direct to consumer company on my own was really exciting for me.

Austin Brawner: How do you feel your experience at McKenzie prepared you or didn't prepare you for hopping into this new role at a startup?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. I think it was a great training ground. I think how it helps a lot today is really structuring all of the problems and goals that we want to pursue, really helps me dissect and prioritize what I should be focusing on, how I should be approaching, whether there's an issue on sites and customers aren't converting, or we're thinking about a new channel and how to really break that down into decision trees on how to test and attack that channel.

I think a lot of that training that I got from McKenzie and the toolkit that I was able to build up really helps today and is actually essential for my role.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I mean, I think that makes a lot of sense. Right? It's like you have to go in as a consultant and really dive in, but I want to jump back to what you said earlier. So, Leo's family was in business and he was pitching you on this, so how did that process go?

He basically came to you and was like, "Hey, I think we should do this. Nobody's really doing this in the market." And when did you officially decide to kind of make a run at this, to really go for it?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah, yeah, so it's actually, the sequence of events are super interesting. So I think the goal was to pick and start with a category that people have ignored. Leo did some research upfront and then we did some research together, and what we noticed was the comforter market is not as large as sheets, mattresses, etc. It's a much smaller market, around $5 billion.

But through our work prior to launching, we noticed that the reviews on comforters were on average really low. People complained that they wanted more fluff, or something much softer in their comforters, or they weren't happy with animal options or animal byproducts like down, or they weren't happy with just virgin poly.

So we were able to learn this and start with a product that had a lot of headroom, that the average reviews were much lower than other bedding products, and what we believed many other direct to consumer bedding players were ignoring, the comforter is a core product.

So, by taking the approach of focusing on a product that has a lot of headroom, we were able to build, we believe, now, a relationship with customers, which is important for future launches. But really what we wanted to do was, in the product, not only bring value to customers on price, etc, but also bring what we call values. There are a wave of shoppers who not only want the best experience in their bedding, something very soft and comfortable, but want something in their homes and in their beds that are better for them and better for the Earth.

Our approach was, "Okay, how can we figure out the best materials, and bring the best materials to the comforter that's better for people when they sleep, and also better for the Earth?"

Austin Brawner: How did you guys ... ? So, once you decide, "Okay, this is a really interesting idea, we think we might have something." How did you go from that idea to actually validating the concept before going all in on Buffy?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. 100 percent. We spent almost half a year, a little over half a year trying to validate the concept. We did a lot of what we call customer development work and product development work, what really helped us hit the ground sprinting when we launched Buffy.

In that five months, what we did was we launched this basic website on Shopify, did a quick photo shoot, created a Facebook account, and took that messaging, and put it on our site, and as we started to try to sell, I noticed that things weren't working. Things weren't selling. We were running Facebook ads, maybe spending like $500 a day, and nothing was happening, because I thought interest groups would crush it, and obviously they didn't.

This is when we were introduced to Andrew, who taught us all about, "What are you focused on?" At that time, really much all about lookalike audiences, what to optimize for, what we need to do with creative, etc., and that really helped us understand what messaging points work in ads with customers. When they come to our site, what does the funnel experience need to look like. We optimized a lot on site, and what we also learned was just offering a risk-free trial, for example 100 nights to try the comforter, wasn't enough.

Through our customer development work, we would post up in popups and bring six or seven different types of comforters out to these popups so customers can come, and touch them, and feel them, and what we noticed was people would walk by and just put their hand on the comforter as they were walking and stop immediately, and say, "Wow, this is so soft." And they would grab the comforter, you know, put it against their body, and say, "Oh, I need to get this. This is amazing."

And we realized that we need to get the comforter in as many people's hands as possible. So we thought, "Why not just do a home trial program where we can send this comforter for free to our customers, and have them sleep with it for 30 nights, and if they love it they can keep it, if they don't, they could send it back?"

And that combined with running that offer, a free trial offer, on Facebook at that time, with our dinky little website and very cheap photo shoot, we were able to validate the idea that, "hey, there's a concept here." People want a comforter that's super soft and fluffy. They could use it and buy it with this free trial, and we can sell a comforter through Facebook, and understand what our CPAs would look like, and that really helped us validate that there's a concept out there and that we can build a brand around this, really invest around this.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I mean, that's like back in the day, as you said, when we started to work together. It was actually like an entirely other brand, right? It was a totally separate brand that you guys had just started, and basically kind of getting that minimum viable product out there. I mean in the true sense of that word or that phrase.

Shoaib Kabani: 100 percent. Yep.

Andrew Foxwell: It was very bare bones, and the thing to me that was really interesting was you started that to validate it, and we started to get more traffic, and I remember us talking about that offer, and I remember when we had that call and you brought it up and you were like, "Hey, we're going to do this. We're going to do a free trial. That's what we're really going to go off of, because we think that can convert it."

And I think that that's something that many brands don't do, you know, we could all do better at, I think, when we're consulting with those brands, which is like, "How do you make this a no brainer for the consumer?" Do you know what I'm saying? How do you make this like, "Yeah, I'll try it?" Like, a mattress is a huge off thing, right? It's like, you know, "Have it for 100 nights." That's a no brainer. If you don't like it, just send it back.

The other thing that was really interesting about you guys right out of the gate to me was, and working with the hundreds and thousands of brands we worked with, which is like you were very, very, I would say, even, obsessed, with the creative. You were very tuned in to what messaging resonated, not only what messaging, but what imagery resonated, how do we define that and refine that over time?

And I would say as somebody, I mean, if you're in the United States, I mean, you can't kind of go on Facebook and Instagram now without seeing one of your ads, I think, on a weekly basis, at least, and you're still leading that way.

So, can you talk about kind of your process of the differentiation that you saw within creative, and then talk a little about what's really working now? Is it UGC, is it your user-generated content? Is it kind of going through that? And even the cadence, too, would be interesting to know about.

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah, for sure. I think what, early on, what we really optimize for was the trial offer as you spoke about. We really played around with how to represent this trial offer. Do we say, "Hey, try this for free for 30 nights," or, "try this on us?" All these different variations of getting across a trial program. Instead of saying risk-free we would try to say, like, "Try before buying," and you know, "keep it only if you love it." These types of things, which we iterated on a lot and had to come to what was the best phrase to use.

But then on the actual creative side of things we, in the beginning, were a little lucky, where our studio shots were doing really well. They were studio shots of the comforter on either a bed or on various other furniture, and what worked really well was the studio shots that were on furniture, such as couches, that were super bright.

So the best shot that we had early on was where the comforter is styled on a pink couch, and for some reason that image just crushed it, and what we did was we took that learning and tried to get other funky, really cool objects, furniture objects, to put the comforter on. And that really allowed us to continue scaling from a creative perspective. That actually worked for us for almost three to four months where we would get various types of furniture, and test whether or not that would resonate with customers.

So, that was one area, but quickly just studio shots plateaued. We got to a point where we were scaling quite a bit, and it was just not enough to continue growing, so we realized we need to pull so many levers, and the levers on creative, what we learned was UGC images started helping us unlock a lot more efficiency on CPA. I think CPAs were about 20 percent cheaper when we introduced UGC.

I think UGC really, you know, obviously our customers are sending these in, influencers are sending these in, and I think it creates a more special connection with the customer, because it's not a studio shot. You can tell it's in someone's real home on their real bed. Many times, the bed is not even made. It's not a perfect bed, and I think that really resonates with our customers that you don't have to be in this perfect house, in this perfect room, with the perfect plants everywhere in the room. You know, you can have this comforter and our Buffy in a real room.

So, that really worked and helped us scale. Most recently what's really unlocked additional scale for us is video. I think without video we'd be spending half as much compared to only good studio shots or images. You know, those images can only withstand so much scale. So the ability to convert through video has been huge for us where some single videos can sustain like $25,000 in spend per day, and we really need to figure out the sequence of storytelling and what to show in the first three seconds of that video that work, and we spend a lot of time creating various assets and testing them. But video, for us, is where it's at now.

Austin Brawner: Andrew touched on something earlier that I want to go into a little bit because he mentioned, he was like, you know, "I think it's one thing people can do a better job of is just helping people devise better offers." Right? And I think you guys have done this free trial offer that you guys put out there, I give you guys a ton off credit. Because you have to have stones to put out a free trial offer, and a lot of people are scared to do that because they don't know what's going to happen by putting it out to their customer. Like, "Will people take advantage of it?" What are some of the unintended consequences that you have come across of having a free trial and offering that to your customers?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. Before we really got sophisticated with it, we did have a small percentage of sales that wouldn't go through. But over time we hired a sophisticated engineering shop to really help us figure out how can you limit fraud and non-bill throughs on this? So, we spent a ton of time building a custom payments app on our backend that connects with Shopify that allows us to, one, understand fraud levels for a particular customer. And there's a lot of tools out there that help you do that. Even Stripe has a tool for that.

Andrew Foxwell: That's very cool. Actually, I didn't know that, but it makes a ton of sense. I mean, I think one thing that also, in terms of the creative, when we're working together, and then even when we transitioned away from working together and you were working with a partner agency of ours, you know, you and Leo pay attention, in my opinion, pay attention to numbers and understand them very deeply.

I think that, obviously, that comes from your background, but could you walk us through some of the kind of KPIs that you're looking at, that you feel like are you unique to you guys that you are looking at on a daily basis? What are the things you're trying to understand every day?

I mean, CPA on Facebook is one thing, obviously. Web traffic's another thing, right? And I think everybody's kind of looking at that. But what are the things you feel are unique that you're kind of obsessed with from a data standpoint?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. There's so many numbers we look at, and you're right, I think CPAs, ROAs, etc, everyone looks at. I think we are super obsessed with funnel performance across various stages, and in a very deep way, so not only looking at homepage or landing page to PDP, PDP to add to cart, add to cart to checkout, etc, but we look at this across various starting points. We have various LPs that we run from our ads, and we meticulously follow, what LP did they start at? Which one is driving the highest percentage of conversion across each of our funnel points? Did they view multiple PDPs? Now that we have four products on our site, we try to look at the combination of PDPs that people have looked at, and the shopability journey they're taking, what funnel performance that causes.

And what we really try to do is help our customers, then, optimize or take those specific funnel journeys that maximize conversion at the latest stage. And we're not only after final conversion rate, right? We are after at every stage of the funnel, how do you increase conversion? So, if someone's in the add to cart, and we say, "Hey, there might be headroom here," because we saw that in another journey the add to cart rates are much higher, we will optimize that and ensure that, or try to ensure, that customers are going through certain landing pages because they optimize that add to cart percentage.

Austin Brawner: Have you found any interesting kind of tools or things that you tend to find yourself looking at? There's obviously, like, Google Analytics, but is there anything around optimization or analytics tools that you guys have found to be a game changer for you as you continue to grow and scale up?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah, so we use a tool called Heap which has been a really easy way for us to see these funnel journeys and funnel performance. I think GA is great, and you don't have to pay a ton of money to put in place something like Heap, or there's other data visualization tools that other companies have, but for us GA and Heap have been great, and we haven't had to invest a ton of money in anything else.

Austin Brawner: You've been on kind of a unique journey that's been growing really, really fast. Is there anything that you can look at that you feel like maybe, with your background, with Leo's background, that you have paid attention to that other people in the industry aren't really looking at?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah, yeah. I've talked about this materials approach a couple times, and I think that's really someplace that we really stand out. Just to give you guys an understanding, our first comforter, the Cloud Comforter, we call it, the shell is made from eucalyptus and the fill is made from recycled PET bottles. The reason we use eucalyptus is because it uses 10 percent of the water of cotton. It's hypoallergenic, it's much more biodegradable than other materials out there, and the fill that's made from recycled PET, those bottles would have ended up in landfills or oceans.

And through this process we're able to up-cycle 50 recycled bottles per comforter, and instead of using animal products, and, by using eucalyptus, we're able to save 12 geese from being live-plucked. And I know not everyone is a sustainability junkie or an eco-warrior as we call it, but I think we've been able to bring to the industry a different view of how to think about materials. And that's something we've paid attention to that I don't think other bedding companies have, which is how can you take natural materials, or recycled materials, or regenerated materials, and really turn that into a product that is of high quality? And I think that's been very valuable to us, and as we introduce new products, we bring the same brand values and brand ethos to our product development.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I mean, I think clearly the connection with Leo's family is good and obviously very helpful in that regard to making sure that the quality is incredibly high.

One thing I'm curious about, too, is I feel like a lot of people feel that the more complex the funnel is the better the results are going to be, and I feel like your site stands out from a simplicity standpoint. Right? I mean, there's obviously only a couple products, which I want to talk about in a minute, you build different landing page experiences based on where people are in the funnel? Do you send them to multiple places? Or do they all kind of go through the same flow so you have that data in one place? I'm just curious of how you view that.

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. About five or six months ago we started really implementing LPs, and that was game-changing for us. Prior to that, we would send all traffic to our homepage, and there was just pretty much one flow that people would take, but when we started introducing LPs we noticed that it was much more efficient on the ad side of things. I think what I really loved about it is that you can match the offer that we have on the ads to the message that we're showing on the landing page.

Even outside of the offer, the creative, the specific attributes of the product, or the key selling points that we're talking about in the ad, we can show, again, on the LP, and I think it allows for a lot more resonation with the customer, and doesn't have a disconnect for them, so creates a much lower chance for bounce.

We also use landing pages for a lot of testing. For example, when we launched our second comforter, we were trying to figure out which comforter should we be heroing? Right? Do we hero on our homepage the Breeze comforter? Which is our new temperature regulating comforter. Or do we continue heroing our Cloud comforter, the soft and fluffy one? Through LPs, we were able to understand what the sales mix dynamics would look like. We were able to test pricing for the Breeze product. Image testing, copy testing, which has all been helpful for us to continue iterating on our offer and the creative that we have for customers.

But going back to your point, we do use a ton of LPs, because we want to match the ad and what we show on the LP as well as for, you know, various affiliate plays that we have, whether it's with email partners, or whether that's with actual affiliate publication partners, we use LPs that make the funnel performance a lot better for us.

Austin Brawner: One thing that has been interesting to me is looking at ... Andrew talked about simplicity, right? And you guys deal with a lot of simplicity on your website. Part of that is because you only, you got two comforters, a duvet cover, and some sheets, so not very many SKUs.

How are you thinking about lifetime value and the ability to drive repeat purchases once you acquire a customer? How do you and Leo think about that at the current stage of your business, and how has that kind of changed over time, or how is that going to change for you guys as you continue to grow, and as we've seen obviously, CPAs continue to increase on paid social?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. We recently launched those additional products, the duvet cover, the sheet sets, and the second Breeze comforter, only about a month and a half ago, so up to that point, it was tough, LTV was tough. But I think what really is the key point is you have to have a really high quality product for people to want to come buy it again.

With the comforter, our reviews are great, and people really love it, but it's not a product that people come and buy all the time, so what we had to do was really, through messaging, post-purchase, primarily through email but also through some remarketing is how do you convince someone who's bought a comforter and really loves it to buy another one for another room in their house? Or for their children, or for their parents, or as a birthday gift, right?

So, we spent some time really trying to, if you left a great review for us, or even if you didn't, to convince you to come back and buy another one with a special offer, and whether that's for, like I said, another room in the house, or for a gift. But again, the key point there is you have to have a high quality product where people want to come back and buy another one.

But I think after that our product launch strategy is very important. We've been thinking about what products compliment the comforter, or what can you sell? How can you sell another type of comforter? That's what got us to launch the duvet cover. It's a complimentary product for the comforter. About 50 percent of people actually use a duvet cover. 50 percent of people don't. They just hopefully wash their comforter. So we thought we have to launch the duvet cover because it's a great complimentary product for our customers, and we do that through the nav, as you saw, but also through post-purchase, there's a post-purchase popup that comes up after you purchase the comforter that says, "Hey, get $10 off with this duvet cover." And then we also, at various points after the post-purchase point, send an email about the duvet cover.

Then alternatively, when you look at alternative products for people to purchase, we launched the Breeze comforter which is our temperature regulating comforter right before the summer. This was key for us because, again, people who really liked the quality of the cloud comforter, our original comforter, we thought would come back and buy a Breeze comforter because it's the summer. Temperature is changing, and we've been really messaging hard on, "This helps you sleep cool."

What we've seen come to life is, as the season has been changing, the customers the come and bought a Cloud comforter are now purchasing the temperature regulating Breeze comforter. And our play is, as the season changes again and it starts to get cooler, the people who purchased a Breeze comforter, we will present them with an offer to purchase the Cloud comforter which is much better for when it's colder.

That's kind of our new strategy now, with offering two comforters, and again we really spend a lot of time on product development and understanding what products we should launch to raise that lifetime value.

Andrew Foxwell: The way that you go about that is interesting and I think many people would see that as a limitation, and I really like the ways that you've optimized that quite a bit.

This goes, and is related, to kind of launching a new product, also thinking about launching into new channels. How do you set up due diligence on different channels before you go in? Because I know that you're on, obviously you have Google ads running, you have Facebook, Instagram ads running. You're also selling on Amazon, I think.

What other channels are you running and how do you kind of test that area and go into it in a smart way?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. We test everything and try to understand through that testing how much we can scale a channel, and I know it's a broken phrase and Andrew used to say this to me back in the day but it was, "You have to test everything." So, I really our due diligence process is really a testing process where we understand what is initial ROI, what does that look like, and how much headroom is there to scale this particular channel?

So, to give you some tangible examples, one around affiliate and one around podcast. What we did with affiliate is we partnered with one publication company and we said, "We'll just work solely with you to understand what affiliate offers through a publication can do for us." Instead of like, hiring an agency right away, and saying, "Hey, run our affiliate program, and help us scale this channel." We went directly to one publication company and said, "Hey guys, please help us with this. We have very strong conversion on our site and we can give you a high commission, a high affiliate percentage, if you run articles about our Buffy Cloud."

And we were able to work with a partner, and we saw right away that, actually, the return on spend was 4X what we see on Facebook. And that was incredible for us, but the next question was like, "Okay, how do you scale this?" So, what we did was, in the due diligence process, started reaching out to additional publications, but also agencies that can help us create affiliate partners and try to understand how much people would write about us, what the affiliate commission would look like, and how much can we grow. And we understood that, hey, you can't actually grow affiliate as competitively as Facebook, but actually we could probably grow it to 10 percent of sales, and at ROAs that are four times higher than Facebook, that is great. So we said, "Let's continue with affiliate."

And again, on affiliate, it all depends on the product. If you can have a great product that helps sell itself, and a great funnel optimized journey, then affiliate partners are willing to work with you.

And then on podcasts as an example because it's an old school buying channel, the question really is, "Can you trust the numbers that people are sharing with you, and the prices that they're quoting you? Are you really willing to pay that?" Because podcasts is a channel you just can't turn off, right? When you're testing, the bad tests are failures, and the good tests have outsized returns.

So what we did was we allocated a chunk of money and we said this is our test budget for podcasts. We're going to work with two or three different genres of podcasts that relate back to our audience, and two different types of readouts on our product. Either one that is like host read, or one that it's not the host reading out about our comforter. And through that process we were really able to understand what works for us, and understand, "Well, if it's the genre of, for example, 80 percent of our customers are women who are between the age of 25 and 45, are there other podcasts out there that target these types of demographics that, compared to what has really worked for us? The genre that's really worked for us." And that's how we've scaled up podcasts, and it's actually as efficient as Facebook and Instagram.

Austin Brawner: I want to dive in a little bit on what you said, because you mentioned the idea of testing everything. Right? And I think obviously that's a very common thing you hear all over the industry. Like, test, test, test. I think sometimes people can get a little hung up, especially when they're in the earlier stages of their business, around, "Oh, we want to," their business is still very small and they're trying to test everything. How do you guys think about testing, around budgets for a test?

I mean, I want to go back just because at the beginning you mentioned something. You said, even before, when you guys were just doing a test concept, you were spending $500 a day on Facebook. When you're thinking about running tests for a specific channel, what type of budget is your minimum allocation? Or how are you thinking about that to make sure that it's something that's statistically significant for you guys, or are you looking at it in a different way? What's your thought process on that?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. Early, we didn't have a lot of test budget. I think what we said was, early on, everything's a test for us. So, all of our budget, 100 percent of our budget we have will go towards testing, and it was, compared to today, a much more limited budget, and we said, "We don't need to grow like crazy early on. We will get there." Put 100 percent of our effort into testing and understanding what works. How we've transitioned over time is it's gone from 100 percent of the budget being a test budget to maybe three months later 50/50, to six months later, 25 percent of our budget was test budget.

And then to now, maybe like 10 percent, or not 10 percent, probably less than five percent of our budget is test budget. But for us, we always keep our 'business as usual' spend going, and that continues based on what's working, and we always allocate a portion of budget to test, because as you learn what works, then you can roll that into the 'business as usual' spend, and 'business as usual' budget. But really, early on, our goal was to say, "Let's just test everything and we will figure out what works."

I know not everyone has the luxury to do that, but I can't stress enough how important that was for us early on.

Andrew Foxwell: I think the key thing to me that you said there is that there's always budget set aside to test, and I think that many times it's kind of an afterthought for people. Like, "I need to test." How much should I set aside for that test, right? And you set it up from the beginning, which I think is really interesting.

Well, you know, kind of getting to our final question here, looking overall at direct to consumer, and particular ecommerce, of going through this, you've been speaking a lot at conferences lately. You know, I think you're becoming a thought leader in this area for sure, and already are.

What do you want to say that's necessary now as an ecommerce business owner that wasn't even necessary two years ago? You know, what do people need to be thinking about to leave the audience with that they may not be?

Shoaib Kabani: What's really important is thinking about how a business can grow, and what numbers we should be looking at, and what channels we should be testing on, and all that is very important and should be a key focus, but I think what other folks in the ecom space need to think about, particularly people who are just getting in, is that it's just not about the ads you put up or your growth strategy.

It's kind of the full view of the customer journey, and a customer lens. What I mean by that is, you have to, like I said earlier, have a high quality product that people really love. You have to think about your returns rate, right? We talked about LTV. If your returns rates are high, then that reduces your customer value over time, so think about how you can reduce your returns rates.

Think about customer insights outside of just learning from acquisition channels. What are customers saying about your product? What are they saying about your company and the brand that you have, and how can you then iterate or optimize on those insights to really make your company a much better company? There's so many things outside of just the growth realm that matter that actually then tie back into how you think about growth.

Like I said, everything from returns to customer insights, to even how you run operations and fulfillment, ensuring products get to customers on time. All of these things come back, and you have to be excelling in all of these areas, even outside of growth and customer acquisition. So what I would say is just look at things holistically. You can't just optimize for one area. You really have to balance all of the other aspects of growing a company together.

Austin Brawner: That's a really interesting take on it and something I think that people don't talk about enough, especially in the marketing side of it, because people just focus on advertising, and we can be guilty of it as well over here. It's easier to talk about that stuff.

You know, you've been growing this company for a couple years. You guys are at a certain point that, I don't know, in your view of how you looked at the company, how far along it is, but what are you personally, this could be either in business, or personally, what are you most excited about right now?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. I'm personally most excited about launching new products and how we can personally, on the Buffy side of things, not just be a bedding company but a home goods company. How we can bring the same brand values and brand ethos that we've done with our comforters to other home goods products. And I'm so excited that we're thinking about, at Buffy, how to introduce additional home products that come from natural or recycled materials that are better for our customers and also better for the Earth, and that's what really has been taking up a good amount of my time, and what I'm so excited about.

Austin Brawner: Awesome. Awesome. Shoaib, it's been a lot of fun, man. I really appreciated talking to you.

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. Thank you guys.

Austin Brawner: And good to chat with you for a good hour, here.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. Thank you, Shoaib. Thanks for your time, and if people have further questions, what's the best way to get a hold of you?

Shoaib Kabani: Yeah. Get a hold of me on Instagram, and it's just Shoaib Kabani, S-H-O-A-I-B, K-A-B-A-N-I.

Andrew Foxwell: Awesome.

Austin Brawner: It's been really impressive, just hearing the way you're thinking about growing the business, and I wish you a lot of luck and good fortune, and hope you guys can continue to grow the way you've been doing. It's impressive.

Shoaib Kabani: Thank you, guys. It was a true pleasure.

Austin Brawner: What's up, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the E-Commerce Influence Podcast. My name's Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. We have a really good guest this week. I'm very excited to bring onto the show the cofounder of Buffy, the wonderful comforter company th...

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