From Concept to Fulfillment: Holistic Product Development with Doris Dev’s Justin Seidenfeld and Michael De Santis
Chances are you’ve bought from (or at least seen) a brand built by the Doris Dev team—Gravity Blankets, By Humankind, Canopy, and Pattern Brands’Equal Parts and Open Spaces, to name a few. We sat down with Michael De Santis (Chief of Staff) and Justin Seidenfeld (CEO) to learn more about the Doris Dev product development process.
How to Go From Concept to Fulfillment: Holistic Product Development with Doris Dev’s Justin Seidenfeld and Michael De Santis
How do products go from an idea to a consumer staple?
We asked Doris Dev, a NYC-based product development firm, about the brand-building process—from industrial design to fulfillment support. Chances are you’ve bought from (or at least seen) a brand built by their incredible team—Gravity Blankets, By Humankind, Canopy, and Pattern Brands’ Equal Parts and Open Spaces, to name a few.
The Tydo team recently sat down with Michael De Santis (Chief of Staff) and Justin Seidenfeld (CEO) to learn more about the product development space as well as how Doris Dev navigates major supply chain constraints facing brands today.
From Supply Chain to Full Product Development Solutions
In the early days, Doris Dev solely focused on supply chain setup. As De Santis and Seidenfeld got deeper into the DTC space, they noticed the sheer number of outside agencies brands partner with to get a product off the ground.
That’s when the Doris Dev team saw value in offering support from concept through fulfillment—and everything in between. It made sense to build a solution and a team that could streamline the DTC product development process—in an efficient and cost-effective way.
Now, Doris Dev does the following:
- Ensures brands have a clearly defined problem and solution
- Figures out industrial design and/or engineering solutions
- Designs and engineers the product
- Connects with sourcing and manufacturing teams
- Sets up a supply chain to accommodate the brand’s needs
- Coordinates the fulfillment process and works with 3PL teams
“We’re all about helping people end-to-end—from the concept phase to fulfillment and delivery, and everything in between.”
The Doris Dev Difference
So, what makes Doris Dev different from other firms?
Seidenfeld says, “Doris Dev uses a full-stack, holistic product development process, which touches on design to engineering, sourcing to operations. That holistic point of view is really helpful for getting a product across the finish line, both on time and on budget.”
It’s especially useful because most brands get lost in the weeds of product development, he remarks.
That’s because the product design and development processes tend to operate in a vacuum. Then, it’s handed off to the next team. In some cases, it’s not until much later in the process that a founder realizes the product he or she imagined can’t be manufactured or fulfilled as they hoped.
By zooming out and connecting teams from the start, Doris Dev helps clients see the big picture.
“I think that's an important part of how we approach development in general. We see it all the way through,” says Seidenfeld.
Plus, they prioritize product innovation. Seidenfeld adds, “We gravitate towards clients and programs where we can innovate on experience, on utility, or on aesthetics. We want to move into a white space and do something different that hasn't been done before.”
“We're not looking to recreate or copy. We’re always moving towards something new. Innovation is a key pillar.”
Roadblocks & Challenges
Doris Dev isn’t immune to Murphy’s Law.
Anything that can go wrong, probably will. There are still plenty of challenges that keep De Santis and Seidenfeld on their toes.
It’s all part of the job, Seidenfeld says. He drops this nugget of truth: “If you’re truly creating something new, you’re marrying that with real-world constraints and variables that are out of your control.”
In other words, sh*t happens.
Whether it’s Covid, supply chain issues, or freight mishaps, Doris Dev is constantly looking for ways to navigate whatever roadblock is thrown their way. As a service provider and brand owner, they’ve dealt with it all. They just keep moving forward.
Take Canopy for example. Earlier this year, there were multiple shipping containers filled with Canopy’s humidifiers sitting off LA’s coast for five weeks. Week after week, Doris Dev would get updates from the carriers, telling them to wait another week. There was nothing they could do except communicate that to waiting customers.
It’s important to remember: Everybody’s doing their best to provide up-to-date, reliable, accurate information, but we all get it wrong from time to time, including Doris Dev and their partners.
To avoid those issues, they prioritize proactive communication and instilling a level of mutual understanding into brand partners and customers.
“As a brand owner, we’ve learned that people are understanding as long as you set expectations and you’re a proactive communicator. Now, we translate that into our client relationships.”
Key Learnings from Launching Canopy
De Santis and Seidenfeld have been on both sides of the table: service providers and brand owners. They learned a ton from launching and scaling Canopy, the first-ever Doris Dev brand.
“Before working with a client, we always spend time upfront to make sure there’s a budget (time and money) to support efforts around launch and scale. A lot of first-time entrepreneurs spend all their money on product development and then have no money to properly launch their product,” Seidenfeld explains.
He adds, “We help clients recognize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’re going to help them get across the finish line, but we want to make sure they have enough gunpowder to go beyond that.”
Proactive communication has been incredibly helpful. Decision-making with both investors and partners trickles down to setting expectations, and that’s where upfront communication comes into play.
In addition to proactive communication, De Santis shares, “It’s important to pay attention to operational implications on product decisions—whether it’s fulfilling finished goods in a warehouse or building out packaging—all of which impact the business down the line.”
He explains, “It’s one thing for us to be focused on standing up a supply chain and managing that process. It’s another thing for us to think about the operational challenges that come with setting up a supply chain. We think through the short term and the long term.”
The key: Build a strong network of service providers, including a product development firm like Doris Dev. That’s how brands can set themselves up for success.
“Build out your network and gain insight into the best partners to pull your growth levers.”
- 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.
OrderlyEmails is our go-to tool for transactional emails. It helps us level up our brands’ email aesthetics with customizable, quick-to-implement Shopify templates.
Lately, I’ve been really interested in Smile.io’s loyalty platform. Their UX is fantastic for teams with low bandwidth!
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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Report Cards is a customized glimpse into your business, delivered to your inbox for free.
Report Cards consolidates all your key metrics across platforms for an at-a-glance pulse of your business.
Discover metrics for every team member so they can stay updated with the right data on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
It's free because we believe everyone should have access to the basics.
Portfolio is a hub for analytics across multiple Shopify stores. The perfect tool for agencies.
See an aggregate view of all your data for all your stores in one place.
Make real time assessments on marketing initiatives across every storefront you manage.
Analyze the performance of one store versus another in seconds.
More about the project
Here at Tydo, we try to highlight DTC founders who run their business in various ways. And, that's because there's no "right" way to run a DTC brand.
This project illustrates exactly that. Whether it's how a founder supports their team or how they talk about mental health in the workplace, every founder has a different approach. How do they discover these different approaches? One way: reading. Discover the greatest books that have changed the way 15+ founders think about or operate their business.
You can also listen to these book picks on Spotify or Anchor.fm.