How to Bridge the Gap Between the Online and In-Person Shopper With Aisle's Founder Chris Tiffin
Today, your pantry is a status symbol.
Food and beverage brands are emerging left and right—Surreal (Jan 2022), Barbet (Dec 2021), Goodles (Nov 2021), Rootless (Nov 2021), TBH (Nov 2021). And, consumers are eager and ready to explore new products and find the next DTC darling. But, when it comes to the in-person shopper, brands have no clue where customers are coming from, who’s buying their product, and why they’re buying it.
Since its founding, Aisle has pivoted more than a few times, but they’ve always been laser-focused on one goal: connecting the online and in-person shopper. Most recently, they landed on a killer, white-labeled B2B solution that helps brands boost retail sales velocities and collect first-party data.
Partnering with Onda and launching with Gooey, Feltman’s, Actual Veggies, and Cleveland Kitchen in the coming weeks, Aisle is a game changer for retail marketing. We caught up Aisle’s founder Tiffin to learn more about his vision for Aisle and how he’s bridging that gap between the online and in-person shopper.
From Super Coffee to Aisle
Chris Tiffin—who you most likely know as Tiffin—started his career at Super Coffee. He worked his way up from intern to director of growth, playing a key role in the business as it grew from $700K to $5 million in revenue in a year.
At Super Coffee, DTC was only a small chunk of the pie. As the brand started to enter larger retailers, such as Kroger and Target, Tiffin realized he had no insight into the IRL Super Coffee shopper—who they were, why they were buying Super Coffee, and what would get them to rebuy.
Tiffin wanted to understand:
- How can we connect retail and DTC sales and marketing?
- How can we connect in-store and online shoppers?
That gap between in-person and online purchasing behaviors inspired him to build Aisle. To start Aisle, Tiffin threw together the Postscript shortcode and a unique keyword (i.e. “Text ‘MYCOFFEE’ to 29071”) with the hopes of understanding where the shopper was coming from and where they picked up a product.
Early last year, Aisle launched as a consumer app, scaling from zero to 50K users and 65+ brands in six months. Then, Aisle pivoted to a membership program.
While it was fun to send customers new, emerging snack brands, Tiffin realized—like many first-time founders—that they pivoted to the wrong business. Brands were asking them to go back to the original business, and they already had the tech and processes set up from the consumer-facing version of Aisle. Plus, they raised VC money, and with that, they’re working towards product-market fit and growing as quickly as possible.
So, now they’re back to the OG solution.
What problem is Aisle solving? Where is Aisle heading? Tiffin told us more below.
“When you pick up a product in-store, brands don’t know who you are and why you picked up the product in the first place. No one knows how to combine the in-store and online purchaser. At Aisle, we’re fixing that.”
A Next-Gen Retail Marketing Solution
Tiffin believes in three things: “Death, taxes, and no one has the space on their iPhone for another app.” So, he built Aisle entirely through text.
Consumers take a picture of their receipt, text it to Aisle, and then, if a brand partner is featured on the receipt, Aisle instantly Venmos the customer.
Aisle partners with brands looking to boost retail sales velocities. So many brands spend their ad budgets on store locator ads, but they’re completely untrackable. The same can be said about other marketing channels:
- Sampling: It’s not trackable. It’s expensive and hard to scale.
- Facebook Ads: It’s not trackable and “a waste of money,” according to Tiffin.
- Ibotta/Fetch: These bots are helpful as it relates to boosting velocities, but they’re expensive, and they don’t provide any customer data.
- Other rebate tools: They rely on website forms and don’t provide the best UX.
- Coupons: They’re outdated and expire before customers know it.
Starting his career during the DTC growth marketing era and as a Gen Zer who wants everything to be easy and fast, Tiffin realized the power in the dynamic duo that is text and Venmo. It’s the most effective UX to support in-store sales.
How does it work?
Customers see an ad and enter their phone number (or perhaps scan a QR code at a sampling event). They legally opt-in and send a picture of their receipt with the product on it. Then, they get a Venmo within minutes of submitting the receipt.
Aisle handles everything—the receipt processing, fraud, Venmo payment, and CX.
How Tiffin sees it: Higher velocities mean more shelf space and placements, resulting in more units sold.
With Aisle, brands finally have a marketing solution that’s:
- 100% trackable
- A 10/10 user experience
- Infinitely scalable
- Providing clear, actionable customer data
- Never expires
Plus, it works incredibly well. One plant-based meat company recently partnered with Aisle and as a result, moved 1500+ units in one weekend. A majority of those customers were purchasing multi-units per receipt. Now, that brand is scaling up their Aisle partnership.
It’s not all about velocity reports. Aisle also gives power to the player aka DTC brands. That includes the legally-acquired contact info of individual shoppers and their entire receipt data.
“Whether you’re a national brand that wants to dominate or an emerging brand that needs to show key retailer success or pump volume before category resets, Aisle can help.”
First-Party Data FTW
Aisle partners with practically any brand looking to boost retail velocities.
They help brands in two major ways:
- They increase the number of products rung up at full price at the register.
- They provide actionable customer data: name, email, phone number, and receipt data.
In terms of metrics, Aisle cares about one metric and one metric only: redemption #/%.
They prioritize—and quite frankly, only make money from—in-store purchases.
Most retail sales reports are bi-weekly or sometimes even monthly. They’re simple, Excel files that show sales velocity. They don’t track repeat purchase rate by SKU or customer type (new vs. repeat).
Aisle brings advanced DTC level insights to the grocery store by providing the following:
- Real-time sales data (i.e. total units moved)
- Conversion rate
- Receipt data
“Aisle allows you to pump volume through the register while acquiring all of the first-party data.”
Tiffin’s Advice: How to Leverage Personalization in CPG
In CPG, personalization wins.
When Tiffin worked at Super Coffee, he would send every new follower a personalized DM welcoming them to the brand. And, sometimes he would even send them a discount code. It made every new follower feel welcomed and special.
“Consumers tend to associate brands with people,” says Tiffin.
With that in mind, he recommends that CPG brands leverage the people behind the brand in marketing campaigns. At Super Coffee, Tiffin created tons of ads featuring the founding brothers. And if the brothers didn’t resonate with consumers, he threw himself into an ad.
Tiffin’s advice: Just be authentic and shameless. Consumers will appreciate it.
“Be yourself and humanize the brand before anything else. People are going to buy the product for you, not the offering.”
- What to pledge
- How to improve
- Which tools will set you up for success
I think the most important thing brands can do in 2023 is to better manage their customer data—both ethically and effectively. There’s an opportunity for brands to know their customers better than ever before—a clear benefit for both the customer and the brand. When you manage your data correctly, you’ll create stronger and more personalized ads, creative, site experiences, and so much more.
This is a classic: Let the data guide you. Go where the buyers for your products are and communicate with them on a personal level (i.e. by persona and funnel position) and nurture those relationships (past, present, and future customers). It’s possible—all through data.
We recommend that Shopify brands analyze and update their websites using data-driven decisions. Using analytics tools such as heatmaps and scrollmaps can help brands better understand how customers are interacting with their store.
Store owners tend to make assumptions about the way customers interact with their website. Most never go back and analyze their design choices to find pain points or areas of opportunity. By using heatmaps and scrollmaps, they can see where real customers are clicking and concentrating their attention. Leveraging this data, brands can start to iterate on design and make their online store experience streamlined and intuitive.
Hotjar provides a simple way to implement heatmaps, scrollmaps, and recorded user sessions on your site, helping you acquire incredibly informative user data. Additionally, it gives you the ability to create on-site surveys, which allows you to obtain direct and often critical feedback from users about their experience.
Test various attribution models and analyze the impact on your business. At Fifty Six, we are always here to help our clients identify and optimize their approach—a critical step in any successful marketing strategy.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times–Customer Lifetime Value. And even more importantly, Future Lifetime Value (FLTV). With the ever-growing importance of first-party data, it is crucial that brands take a good look at their CRM and FLTV metrics.
Stop allocating budgets to low-hanging fruit that doesn’t move the needle on conversion. Think about what’s really going to improve your CX and the return of undertaking different initiatives—not just on what’s top on your list of bugbears on the site!
One of the best ways to understand your customer behavior is by using HotJar. Their heat-mapping and screen recording tools shine a light on where customers are navigating to and from on your site, where they're rage clicking and experiencing frustration, and where conversion is dropping off within real life customer journeys and flows!
Understanding your customers’ pain points via data and analytics , will allow you to work with your CRO/CX Agency to solve customer frustrations and improve conversion.
Rewind backs up all product, customer, and order data for Shopify sites—essential since Shopify itself doesn’t provide this solution. It's saved so many of our clients time and money from administrative accidents.
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33% of customer service inquiries are pre-sale questions. What does this mean? If you’re not investing in customer service, you’re missing out on revenue-generating opportunities.
The benefits of elevating your customer experience:
- 10% to 25% increase in AOV for customers who engage with live chat pre-purchase
- 21x higher conversion rate for customers who reach out via Live Chat or SMS compared to other site visitors
- 87% of customers who have a great customer experience will make another purchase
- 72% of customers share positive experiences with 6 or more individuals
Gorgias is our favorite Helpdesk platform. They can reduce costs by 35%, primarily by decreasing the average ticket handle time. Their machine learning algorithms are trained on millions of ecommerce-related interactions across Gorgias’ customer base and provide accurate, automated replies for the most common ecommerce inquiries. This helps our agents resolve tickets faster, which provides the customer a seamless experience.
Trust your agency! Agencies do the same things across multiple brands and niches, so we see the trends and have the practice and experience!
Don't be afraid of data and insights. If customers aren't clicking on your emails, try a new CTA. If your ads are driving good metrics at a small spend, start scaling. If your customers are complaining about a product, look into QA! If the data tells you something isn't working, let it go and try something else!
I'm supposed to say Tydo, right? 😉
Double down on differentiation. There will be a lot of headwinds this year and standing out from the crowd will set you apart.
A picture is worth 1,000 words. A video? Probably millions. In ecommerce that value translates into engagement, acquisition, and retention—everything you need to impact your bottom line.
At soona, we've seen the we've seen the impact of creative and the continuous split testing of it yield results. Our resolution is to challenge ourselves and double down on innovation and creative optionality so that each brand we work with can distinguish themselves in a crowded sea of D2C ecomm. We'd love to see our brands share this resolution and keep pushing the creative limits.
Klaviyo. We're using it to power our email and newsletter at soona too!
Optimize your returns strategy! This can lead to valuable customer insights, enhanced user experiences, and increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Brands need to dive deeper into understanding their customers to set themselves up for success. Conduct research to gain insights into customer needs, preferences, and behaviors. By doing so, you can develop targeted strategies that will enhance customer experience and boost overall retention.
Right now I would say Gorgias. Having a good customer service tool is crucial to building strong customer relationships.
Start paying heavy attention to data, specifically around retention. We see a lot of effort put towards acquisition with the assumption that once someone buys, they are your customer forever. Instead, get to know your customer, understand their needs, and analyze their behaviors once they are on-site and judge their sentiment after they have visited. Work with a retention focused and data-driven agency to implement tools that contribute to repeat business and customer delight. It will pay dividends.
When surveyed, about 80% of ecommerce merchants think that they are delivering a great experience to their customers. However, when the same customers are surveyed, only 8% of those customers think that they are getting a great experience from the merchant. Now, more than ever, retaining loyal customers is an essential part of any online business and you should spend time with your customers to judge their experience with your website and products and offer improvements based on that feedback.
Tydo's report cards are an essential tool, along with Klaviyo for email and SMS, Recharge for subscriptions and memberships, Okendo for reviews and surveys, Rebuy for AI driven collections and upsells, Loop for self service returns... each tool is great on their own, but their strength as the ultimate tool comes from when they are used together!
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