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Lindsay Sakraida
Director of Content Marketing @ Yotpo
June 22nd, 2022

Q&A with Ally Shapiro: Using Subscriptions to Solve a Retention Problem

We chatted with the Jill & Ally founder to see how subscriptions are helping the brand bring customers back to buy again.

When Real Housewives of New York City stars Jill Zarin and Ally Shapiro first started their brand, Jill & Ally, it was focused on selling masks during the pandemic. As the demand for masks subsided, they needed to pivot and find a way to bring customers back to buy again and again.

At the launch of Yotpo Subscriptions, our very own Judith Zhu sat down with Ally, CMO and founder of Jill & Ally, to talk about the transition from masks to candles and how the recurring nature of subscriptions has filled a gap in their retention.

Judith: Thanks for joining me Ally! Maybe you can start by telling us a little bit about your brand. You launched at a really interesting time.

Ally Shapiro: My name is Ally, from Jill & Ally, and my mom is the Jill. We were on the Housewives of New York, and since then my mom has had a bunch of different brands, but we never really worked together until the pandemic.

I was laid off from my job, and we had an opportunity to start selling face masks, and I literally was taking orders from a Google doc from Instagram followers and was putting stamps on envelopes and was sending them all over the country. And we thought, why don’t we just put it on Shopify?

So we had one SKU, it was like five masks for a hundred dollars, and you get whatever colored tie dye mask you get. And it exploded. We had our first order from TJ Maxx, and we really used our wholesale accounts to leverage our minimums, and we built the Jill & Ally brand.

It kind of developed from there and candles became our next big adventure, because it was very similar to masks and it was unisex, one size fits all, genderless, no returns. That’s kind of where Jill & Ally began.

Speaking of the pandemic, it’s been a crazy two years in eCommerce, and 2022 has been pretty unpredictable so far. So I’m curious to know, what challenges have you been facing so far?

Ally: Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting because we were the opposite of most brands. We started as a mask brand, and masks are virtually done. So we had to figure out something else, and instead we pivoted to candles.

One of our biggest challenges is retaining customers because with masks, you would have them come back once, twice, 10 times over the course of the two years, and now they’re done with us. So trying to get them to stay with us has been difficult. We really needed a subscription company when we came out with masks because of how many times people came back to reorder. And now with candles we are really lucky that we found Yotpo.

So how did you decide to add subscriptions, and how has that helped you so far in your journey to build a candle business?

Ally: We first found Yotpo because we really wanted to emphasize our reviews because we had so many amazing ones. So we had Yotpo for reviews, and then our loyalty program because we have repeat purchasers. And to be honest, when I heard of loyalty, I thought of subscriptions, and we wanted a mask of the month club.

So it was our web dev team that thought of subscriptions, but the options out there at the time were too expensive and time consuming, and we thought masks were gonna be done in a week or in a month.

Yotpo came around with Subscriptions and masks were kind of done at that point, but it’s been really taking off for candles. And now we’re kind of leaning on Yotpo to see how we can target our existing customers to get them into the club, but also new customers. 

Because our candles are more than just a regular candle. You try a scent but also all of our candles have crystals with them. So you might not even care about the scent as much as collecting all the different crystals. So as we get more crystals and candles, hopefully that’ll help grow our subscription business.

So right now you have the candle club, and it’s been getting a lot of wonderful reviews. I also hear that you’re giving a little surprise perk with each month’s subscription. Can you tell us a little bit more about the candle club?

Ally: Yeah, actually Yotpo was faster in creating the subscriptions program than we thought it would be because it kind of beat us to the punch in terms of like, how can we make this subscription program so amazing? Instead we were just like, let’s just do it, see what happens, see who signs up. And now we’re kind of working backwards and like, okay, now that it’s live, how can we really leverage it and create this candle club?

So as we get more scents and more stones throughout the next few months, maybe we’ll do it coordinated to the seasons. The new candle initiative for club members is going to be called Lit, and we have a matchbox in every box. We have a beautiful packaging that it comes in, but again, we’re all self-funded, we have no funding side, so it’s hard for us to invest in packaging when the minimums are so high, logistics, lead times.

So knowing that subscriptions are working and that it’s a longer-term thing, we thought now we can invest more in packaging and making a beautiful box. Maybe that includes the lighter, more stones, maybe somewhere to hold the stones, who knows. But we’re excited to see what comes of it.

I love how the subscriptions experience for you has been so agile, you can test out adding new products, adding new lines. Typically people assume that subscriptions are for only perishable consumables, but this is a great case study on how even a lifestyle brand can make it into a really wonderful club. I’m curious to know what the responses have been on your side.

Ally: The reviews have been great. I think we should also create ads around this subscription program using the reviews. They’ve been wonderful and I think people are really excited to try the scent and the stones every month. It’s more of a surprise because you don’t know what you’re getting. The longer this continues, maybe we will make it more curated. Like each month has a specific scent, but I think people like the surprise factor.

Because we’re just a small company, we don’t have samples to give out, but right now we have the matchbox and we’ll see what else we can do in terms of rewards and adding on to the program for our customers to really thank them for their loyalty.

So obviously everybody wants to know what is next for Jill & Ally. What’s in the pipeline?

Ally: We just launched beauty tools on our website and a bag line, and lots more candles. We have another 30 candles coming out this year and it’s really based on what our customers tell us they want. So our subscribers will be more incentivized to keep staying in the program. And hopefully that helps us get more subscribers as well.

 

To watch the interview with Ally, check out the full recording of the Yotpo Subscriptions live event below.

Want to add subscriptions to your store in under 10 minutes? Click here to get Yotpo Subscriptions on Shopify.

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