Retail

Interview: Kristen LaFrance on Customer Retention and the DTC World

The content marketer extraordinaire talks connection and good brand voice.

Welcome to Direct-to-Conversation, a recurring interview feature from DTC Magazine. These conversations will highlight insights, advice, and innovation strategies from leading thinkers in the DTC, eCommerce, and retail space. Our most recent interview was with Eli Blumstein, who is the co-founder and creative director at Twillory, the DTC menswear company.

In this Direct-to-Conversation, we catch up with Kristen LaFrance, who is a Senior Content Marketer at Shopify Retail. In addition to hosting the DTC-themed Playing for Keeps podcast, LaFrance also currently serves at the official Mayor of DTC Twitter. We talked to her about how the pandemic is shifting consumer habits as well as some of the not-so-secret secrets to good customer retention.

DTC Magazine: How did you find your way into the DTC world? Tell us a bit about what you do.

Kristen LaFrance: I’ve been in and around eCommerce for my entire career. I started as a social media manager handling all social channels for multiple CPG brands. From there, I spent a few years at a small eCommerce platform where I got deep into content— and more importantly— helping entrepreneurs grow their online stores. Then came Churn Buster, arguably the best step in my career. For two years, I worked deeply with DTC subscription brands on building remarkable customer experiences, increasing retention, and connecting with customers. My podcast, Playing for Keeps, allowed me to build a close-knit community within the DTC space. Now, I am working on the Shopify Retail team to bring a bit of this DTC magic to the retail world. Lots more to come, so stay tuned ;) 

DTC: What was your Aha moment when you realized that you'd stumbled into something meaningful?

KLF: Honestly, I think there were hundreds of AHA moments for me. From the first entrepreneur I ever interviewed in 2016 to my first day at Shopify, the magic really keeps coming. But the biggest one came when I decided to step out and post some DTC thoughts. 

My thread on Outdoor Voices gained a lot of attention from the community. But it wasn’t the attention that made the AHA. It was the number of real entrepreneurs who reached out and thanked me for the insight. The number of brand operators who said, “I sent this to my team and we just set a meeting to re-strategize.” It was the warm welcome I got on Twitter simply for sharing my thoughts. It was the realization that I had a fresh perspective that could truly help people accomplish their dreams.

And to me, that’s the most meaningful part of DTC- The people. From that moment on, I have been committed to helping as many people as I can while staying true to my passions. 

In the DTC industry, the brands who have a deep love for their customers (as people, not metrics) have been able to adjust to the changing tides and stay afloat despite everything 2020 is throwing at them.

DTC: We're obviously in the midst of a huge upheaval from a global pandemic as well as a huge shift online by countless new consumers. What have you learned about your work over the past few months?

KLF: I’m mainly known for my thoughts and exploration of customer retention. And what this pandemic has really taught me is how important those explorations really were (and continue to be). 

We saw right away that the brands who had developed deep customer relationships, who were providing real value to real people were able to survive (even thrive) in the midst of a global pandemic. We saw how these brands were able to adapt and adjust quickly to provide their customers with exactly what they wanted (and needed).

Everything that’s happened in 2020 has opened my eyes to so many things in the world, in our society, in our culture, in my personal life, and in commerce. The biggest thing I’ve learned (that can apply to just about any piece of the puzzle): When we care about human beings, as human beings, we succeed. 

In the DTC industry, the brands who have a deep love for their customers (as people, not metrics) have been able to adjust to the changing tides and stay afloat despite everything 2020 is throwing at them. There is nothing more powerful than true empathy and care in commerce. 

DTC: Relatedly, tell us about becoming the Mayor of DTC Twitter. Also, which brands do you think make particularly good use of social media?

KLF: Haha, what a fun question! Becoming the “Mayor of DTC Twitter” was not my plan at all! When I decided to dive all the way into DTC, I turned to Twitter for inspiration, connection, and to find all the badass people I could. I felt like a small fish in a big pond for a long time on Twitter. Scared to reach out to anyone, scared to share my thoughts, scared to be laughed out. 

Little by little, I let go of that fear and started to step up, speak up, and reach out to people in the space. And thank goodies I did! As I continued to do this, I started building a close-knit circle of incredible people who inspired and supported me. And those people carried me to where I am now.

I just kept sharing my perspective, learning from others, connecting with people, and posting pictures of my dogs until someone went ahead and called me Mayor. And here we are :) 

Some of my favorite brands on social media are: Not Pot on Twitter, UnboundBabes and Blume on Instagram, and Beardbrand on YouTube!

There are no shortcuts or trade secrets to customer loyalty (or DTC success for that matter). Oodles of money can’t even buy the perfect recipe (looking at you, Outdoor Voices, Casper, Away, etc.)

DTC: Without giving away any trade secrets, if you were to give one piece of advice to a company looking to boost customer loyalty, what would you tell them?

KLF: Talk to your customers. Like, actually talk to them. 

I’m not talking about automated surveys or reading through Instagram comments. I mean actually talking with the human beings who use your products. 

Learn about them as people: What they like, what they hate. What gets them up out of bed every morning, what brings them down. How they think, feel, love, and decide. 

There are no shortcuts or trade secrets to customer loyalty (or DTC success for that matter). Oodles of money can’t even buy the perfect recipe (looking at you, Outdoor Voices, Casper, Away, etc.)

Every single retention, growth, or loyalty tactic boils down to one truth: The people who buy your products are your greatest asset. Choose to serve them over a spreadsheet. Put their well being at the heart of your every decision and you’re on your way to DTC stardom. 

Relevant Links:

Twitter  

Instagram

Website

Email: kdlafrance.marketing@gmail.com