How Top eCommerce Brands Maximize Their Customer Lifetime Value [Case Study]

Growth Channel
6 min readJun 22, 2020

Guest post by Casey Hill, Head of Growth at Bonjoro 🐻

There is a secret. It’s something that 99% of brands fail at. Take a moment and think about the brands in your life you truly love. What is it about them that gets you excited?

At a core level, it goes beyond just a great product. If a brand merely tries to win on pricing and product, there will always be another competitor waiting to reproduce it for cheaper. No, the best brands evolve beyond being a commodity. They become an experience.

They invite you in to be part of a community. Buying products from them stands to mean something about who you are and what you represent. They seek to surprise, delight and enthuse you as a customer.

I recently got an email from a health food product and I felt like there was a real story and soul behind the brand. I felt like if I bought this product, it was about being a part of something….

So how do you get there? How do you take a brand that sells a product and turn it into an experience? Let’s look at some examples…..

Birchbox: An online mystery beauty box service that each month delivers you something that surprises and delights.

Birchbox has over 2 million users and 200 million dollars a year in annual revenue. So how did Birchbox move from commodity to experience?

To start, they worked on a brand identity. Birchbox didn’t seek to fight against beauty heavyweights like Ulta or Sephora. Instead, they niched down and appealed to the non-expert, regular gal who was just looking to take better care of herself. They engaged heavily with their early customers, learned their wants, needs, insecurities and passions.

Once they had that understanding of their customer, they translated that into the product. They designed packaging and messaging to represent that target audience. They made each month a surprise, where the non-expert customer could rely on Birchbox delivering a high-end, curated experience.

Birchbox turned the receiving of their subscription boxes into an experience. As Shopify advises,

“Turn receiving a package into an event. The key to keeping your customers surprised, delighted, and coming back for more is a memorable unboxing experience. Put some extra love and care into how you ship your products with free gifts, personalized notes, and fun packaging.”

In addition, Business Insider talks about how a pivotal point for Birchbox was when they started embracing deeper personalization, in both their messaging and product, and how that allowed them to then raise their prices and increase revenues.

So the takeaways from Birchbox are to start with an investment in really understanding your customers and then move to incorporate surprises and mystery to keep them coming back. In addition, leaning in to personalization can help to give you some pricing power.

MeUndies: A subscription underwear service that takes personalization to a whole new level. The wildly successful underwear tycoons behind MeUndies have grown explosively on the back of best-in-class customer retention.

Part of the recipe behind MeUndies retention is constantly having new and trending underwear. Subscribers love when the company rolls out unique, just for them prints, often around a contemporary current event, like the hit TV show Game of Thrones. The exclusivity of the prints also makes subscribers feel valued and like they are part of a community.

In addition to staying “cutting edge”, MeUndies also gets personal. They write personal letters to their customers, they curate and customize the ordering process, their email branding is very custom tailored. Heck, they even personalize birthday letters to their customer’s dogs!!!

At a core level, Bluestout puts it best when they say, “It’s become commerce that doesn’t feel transactional. It’s relational.” I think that is a big part of how MeUndies makes their service an experience, not just a product. It’s that relational engagement.

So the takeaway with MeUndies is relate to your customers on a human level and never grow so large that you can’t afford to write a customer a letter or engage with them on social media. It was in fact that very personalization that led to a notable increase in CLTV and customer retention for MeUndies, causing them to cross over $75 million in valuation as a company.

Munkstore: A mens fashion company out of Denmark went from relative obscurity, to Denmark’s top reviewed mens clothing brand and a multi-million dollar operation in just a few years.

Their secret was gaining thousands of glowing 5 star reviews and creating a curated buying experience that felt personal, even when they were working to expand the eCommerce vs. retail side of the business.

One of Munkstore’s managers put it concisely, “Our philosophy, developed from our brick-and-mortar stores, is that the customer experience is all we care about,” Andreas Lodahl explains. “We wanted it to become so personal that the customer felt like they were buying in a physical store.”

To create this experience, Munkstore used personal video emails to thank new buyers, ask for reviews or showcase new products. Each video was individually recorded for a new customer so that they felt that authentic, 1:1 experience. Here is an example.

Bonjoro video example
Bonjoro video example

The result of these personal videos was a massive spike in consumer trust, engagement and referrals that pushed their revenue up to well over $5 million dollars a year. This engagement through personal video was seen across industries, with Harvard Business Review reporting nearly double the open rates with personal video emails compared to their text counterparts.

So the takeaway for Munkstore is we live in a consumer driven world where outside reviews are valuable. A great way to get more reviews is evolve beyond basic outreach and create a memorable experience where customers are eager to leave you a glowing review. A personal thank you message also doesn’t seem to hurt.

Now it’s your turn

We have looked at some remarkable examples of companies that are elevating their products beyond just commodities. For your eCommerce business, here are three actionable takeaways that I would roll out right away:

  • Add an element of mystery or surprise to the unboxing experience. Send your customers something extra that delights. This could be an additional product you are looking to promote, an accessory to the product they bought, or something exclusive and unique to just their order. Trust me, the benefits will be worth the initial investment.
  • Get engaged across your social channels. Be responsive and transparent. Ask your customers questions. These questions can be about specific product choices, “Do you like this logo redesign? Do you like red or blue? Etc” or they can be about their connection to your tribe, “Here at company X, we want to know what makes getting out into nature easier for you. Select one of the following options in the poll (or add your own!)”.
  • Get personal. Send a personal thank you video or a personal thank you note to each new customer. Tell them why their patronage matters and speak to the bigger picture of why your company exists. Ask for reviews in a way that feels personal and puts your customers as the focus,celebrate milestones with clients such as birthdays, anniversaries, engagements etc. Or just check in, and let them know they are valued. Make things less transactional and more relational.

How are you engaging with your customers? Tell us in the comments👇



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