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Sustainability, scalability, and the post-purchase experience: A conversation with Fifty Six agency founder Katelyn Glass

We kicked off our newest interview series with the founder of Fifty Six eCommerce and Marketing agency, Katelyn Glass. In this conversation with Return Rabbit Sales and Business Manager Eric Mendez, Katelyn discusses everything from sustainability to scalability to the importance of the post-purchase experience.

Responses have been edited slightly for clarity.

Without giving away your secret sauce, what advice can you give to smaller mid-market companies to be able to drive sustainable growth without a big budget?

Katelyn: I don’t necessarily think there is a ‘secret sauce’. One of the things that’s made me so successful is that I recognize the process needs to be different for everyone. Each brand is different. They have different goals. They have different reasons for being and because of that, I’m able to adapt my toolkit to their needs.

A successful strategy depends on what a company’s goals are, what the team structure looks like, and what the purpose is for each activity.

A blanket approach doesn’t work for a lot of D2C companies. Each company has individual goals. One might want to build awareness and another might be trying to drive sales (or a combination or both). One single catch-all approach doesn’t cut it.

How do you leverage data to figure out what works and what didn’t work?

Katelynn: Every brand needs to be looking at their data, if not on a daily basis then on a weekly basis. One of the metrics that we don’t talk about enough in this space is the lifetime value of customers. Part of that is because the digital eCommerce space is a fairly new industry. 15 years ago when I went to college, a digital degree wasn’t an option. I didn’t go to school for eCommerce.

When you think about how to grow your eCommerce and marketing footprint, you have to understand what your customer(s) are going to be worth in 5 years and how to capitalize on that and optimize it.

How important is the post-purchase side of things when you work with your brands?

Katelyn: If it’s not as important as getting customers to make a first purchase it’s pretty close up there. These days, consumers have so many options and so many different places that they can go to that if you’re not nailing the entire customer experience and journey with them, then they’ll find someone else who does it better.

Unboxing is from the moment a customer makes a purchase to the actual unboxing to getting them to come back to make another purchase. Brands need to be focused on every part of the process including what packaging looks like and how to minimize returns.

With return platforms, you hope that you never have to use them—that your brand is so spot on that you never have returns. How do you do that? You have to make sure that everything about your point and post-purchase is seamless. But the reality is that you’ll always have returns.

Understanding how return logistics and return processes in general work post-purchase are critical to understanding the overall lifetime value of a customer. Contrary to popular belief, customers who continually interact with brands, even if they’re not necessarily making a purchase, have a huge impact on your overall business.

To minimize returns, brands need to focus on what their packaging looks like and what the customer experience is after they hit the buy button. You also need to have a better understanding of how your return process works and why customers are returning things before you can create a more seamless post-purchase experience.

What are your tips for brands that are looking to scale?

Katelyn: Don’t be afraid to get a lot of different opinions. I’m going to approach your business differently than someone else would. Understand what really works and makes sense for you and your business. Brands need to stay true to what they’re trying to do and who they are because the right eCommerce person exists for you, it’s just a matter of doing the work to find them. It’s all out there, you just have to be patient with it.

About Katelyn:

Katelyn Eng (née Glass), Founder and CEO of Fifty Six Advising, has spent the past 12+ years of her professional career leading the digital transformation for multiple firms serving in various change management roles for high-end retail and consumer brands. She was the first female C-Suite executive at Rowing Blazers scaling the lifestyle brand to #8 on SimilarWeb’s 15 fastest-growing DTC brands by web traffic in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is an expert in sustainable scalable global growth, cross border solutions, website migrations, data architecture and supply chain management. As a Marketing professional Katelyn believes in data driven decision making, with a focus on multi-path attribution, and strategic management across all channels of paid and organic acquisition; CRM, SEM/SEO, e-mail, social, PR, out of home and creative production.

In addition to her role within Fifty Six, Katelyn currently serves as a member of Chief, a private invite-only network built to drive more women into positions of power and keep them there, and volunteers in her local community in New York City through Send Chinatown Love and Rotary International in Chinatown (District 7230). She is also an MBA Candidate at University of Chicago Booth.

Outside of work, Glass enjoys spin class, traveling around the world, a great margarita on the rocks, true crime podcasts, and reading as much fiction she can get her hands on.

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