In this episode, I talk with Phil Kyprianou, Founder and CEO at GothRider® Badass Coffee (gothrider.com) and hubbvee.com, about how to build a brand online.
On the Show Today You’ll Learn:
- The evolution of ecommerce over the last few years
- Gothrider's journey to becoming a brand
- The most critical skills for new ecommerce entrepreneurs
- What you need to know about selling consumable products online
- Why the customer persona / customer avatar is so important
- And more
Links & Resources
About Our Podcast Guest: Phil Kyprianou
Phil is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in ecommerce and digital marketing. He is also the founder of multiple 6-7 figures eCommerce stores incl. GothRider® Badass Coffee (gothrider.com).
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Claus Lauter: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the eCommerce coffee break. Today we are really talking about coffee and I have some internet royality with me. So somebody who is in the business for a very long time has tons of experience with eCommerce, with digital marketing. And we just pick his brain a little bit on what's happening right now and how he basically started got started and where he's now today's so just.
Not longer, keep it a secret. It's Phil Kyprianou. He's a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in eCommerce and digital marketing. He's also the founder of multiple six and seven figure eCommerce stores, including Gothrider bad ass coffee. So with that, hello, Phil. How are you today?
Phil Kyprianou: Hey. Hi, Claus. How are you?
Claus Lauter: I'm good. Thank you. Yeah. Thanks for being on the show. I was really looking forward to you having you here. So gimme a bit of a background you're in the business for a long time.
Phil Kyprianou: Absolutely. I started, doing business over 20 years ago now.
I went through multiple, ventures from recording studio, owning a recording label, signing artists also to major labels and internet radio back then doing. Multiple also kind of events. We, we did during that time. So seeing, a bunch of different ways of marketing owning also, by owning an internet radio by side back then we're owning also like kind of blog magazines.
So you know how to monetize that, how to monetize internet radio then later on, move to build a performance agency back in 2000. Eight where we started doing like lead generation for mortgage company insurance company car dealership and all this kind of thing up to, I would say 2015, where I really started to get my expertise, digital marketing expertise into eCommerce and that's where everything changed.
And I add a very big passion. First of all, for eCommerce selling online And basically that brought me from selling t-shirt online before 2015 with Teespring, like a lot of people out there learning the skills, and then, with drop shipping, when drop shipping became, very popular was just before the head of the curve. Add a chance note to to get I would say lucky back then, because, everything was much more easier than it is right now. Cost to acquire customers were cheap. It was easy to drop ship from China. And people also customers were new as well to that form of buying online, which is now very common.
Been in the golden days. and basically, through, through all those experience that's where also, Gothrider came, a bit like out of nowhere, I was drop shipping from a general store owning 10 stores at that time. And there was always one that was keeping up and, this one, always performs better, easier.
I have like right. Demographic, right products and all this kind of thing. And basically I turned that into a brand. It was not a brand at the beginning. We were also mostly selling jewelry, accessories for bikers and things like that. And short story. We in 2020, that's really where things change with COVID.
I, I had performance, agency, but based on growth for e-commerce where I was consulting much more consulting e-com businesses. And there was like that coffee brand that was there. Like for 15 years we became friends and I said, out of nowhere, it would be great.
Maybe, to see. I can test coffee to my niche to my brand and see if that works. And basically we, it took three weeks, to figure out, to see, how we would make the branding and, get it right. And we launched and it was it was a big deal actually.
It's what it's work right away and it's something that. We've seen like traction coming month over month and growing, like selling a lot of coffee every month. And and then we are, it's almost like over two years now. And we see, there's a lot of challenges.
Things have changed a lot again from COVID to now. And it's a constant evolution, as an entrepreneur, but also owning a brand and try to adjust yourself in. In changing environment, like nonstop changing environment. So that's the long story short ,
Claus Lauter: I'm a hundred percent with you.
I'm I have the same history, at least starting from 2015. I'm also started different businesses since 2001, but 2015, as you said, the golden era of Teespring. Was so easy was so cheap on Facebook. So everyone was happy and then also entering in Shopify. And since then with Shopify now, as you said, a lot of pivoting, a lot of changing, constant learning, never stops.
Google Facebook and all the others are changing the rules by the day. And then you have to comply and go from there. Now, I'm talking to a lot of smaller, medium enterprises entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and they're sometimes struggling with the speeds that things are changing. So they have problems keeping up last year, it was iOS 14.5, email marketing became more difficult and so on.
So forth. Now, your brand Gothrider. Incorporates all the learnings of 20 years, I reckon. So you had a bit of a good start there. Of course, with all the experience you have, which a lot of people do not have, what do you think are the most critical skills for someone in the business right now, or coming into the eCommerce business?
Now what they need to look for to get started or to have a head start?
Phil Kyprianou: I think that the, one of the, one of the most important thing now, and, when I compare to big brands, let's say that I've been there for a long time and they wanna start e-commerce versus the commerce. I think newcomers have.
More chances to succeed. And that's what we see also about new brands, disturbing, like the space is because they don't have boundaries actually, they, they're not stock to one thing. So I remember, last year we consulted a $40 million brand selling tea. They have been there like.
All over two decades at least. And they wanna like to start selling online, but they had all this misconception and all those things that they're too too much use to do in the traditional world. And they don't wanna change that for the digital work. And like new brands that never touch or never been in retail, let's say, and they're newcomers in the tea business and they're breaking everything and they have like good success.
And that's because, they're not living in boundaries and they're they try, they try nonstop new stuff without thinking, is this gonna hurt me or not? You just try it. And I think that's a bit the mindset actually, that. Either like old brands or new brands have to do is, it's a tall, total different world.
Being in retail is one thing being online is one thing and they are two from my perception, two different businesses that needs to be managed totally differently. Yeah. Yes. There's a bridge in between because of the brand, and the recognition from the customers and the experience that need to, to stay there.
But the rest it's, it has to be managed totally different
Claus Lauter: I see that sometimes from businesses will come from a brick and mortar perspective, moving over. And as you said, they're carrying over their mindset from their traditional retail business. And sometimes it's surprising because their online customer can be a completely different person than somebody who walks into our store.
So you might have a different audience actually. And so I think it takes a lot of openness to go that route. Now, when it comes to products like coffee, like tea, like perfume, like candles, all of these things are very difficult to sell online because you can't smell and taste them. How do you deal with that?
Phil Kyprianou: So that's totally true. I think that there's there's different kind of consumable products that will be more difficult and other less, I think like you, you mentioned one perfume. Perfume is. Personal is probably one of the most difficult product to sell online. And that's funny because I'm consulting a brand right now that they are in into perfume.
And the goal is really to find at first as much as information as possible about their persona and one thing I've. Thing. I always try to put myself as always in the customer's shoes, but to be in those customer's shoes, you have to survey, you have to have a very big and deep understanding.
So what you think might be good for you might not be good for. The customer that you think you're going to go after. So one as simple I would say work we are doing with them is to try to even like, if they have their own ID, they create like the formula, let's say for the per this kind of thing already because of their own based on their own taste.
The goal is to challenge them and say, Okay, this is your ID of your customer based on your own personal experience and your own taste, but it is the right customers. So the goal is to do surveys around. Those assumptions you have. And to try to validate it at first and to see, if this is this the right fit, then after that, take a sample of all those people, that survey and try to send samples and to see, okay.
From the survey we did. And the perception you add, and from the simple test you did, it is the right fit or not. Then after that, if you see that there's some correlation with all those answers, you can finally figure out who is your potential, real, personal, and customer set. Then after you're gonna be able to go after it now, again, The problem with perfume is so personal that the chance of missing the target is really big.
Now in coffee it's very different because coffee is a commodity and a, and as beer or wine, as it used to be like over 20 years ago, a lot of people don't make the difference, Are going to more be attached to what I would say. What's behind the brand, what's behind the values. Maybe the origin maybe I would say, but is not as strong as personal as as the perfume.
The coffee and like the tea or all this kind of thing are all about tasting. One thing we found out and that was a big mistake I did at first, because, we are always thinking when we are launching an e-com, to do an MVP, so we are looking to have a minimal viable product.
Very simple, probably one skew. And that was our case one skew. So we don't have to invest too much and do a test market. The good thing is we were, I would say like up to point lucky where with that one skew, we nailed it in terms of taste and flavor, and people love the product. Now, what I found out during.
Our, years now, two years of testing is we should have probably launched three different kind of taste slash roast. Let's say because. For some people, let's say in coffee, they like it much more co strong and others might not like this kind of taste. Some will probably like much more fruitful let's say and all this kind of thing.
So you, you need to have some sort of a range of taste where people can fits in because yes, they love the brand. Yes. They love the designs or all this kind of thing or the mission or whatsoever. If they don't like the taste at the end, they will not, they might buy it one time, but they will not buy it the second time.
And with coffee because of the margin, even if you have like big margin, the amount of that margin is so small, that. It's hard to make dollars or being like profitable on the first sale. So it's a game of LTV, lifetime value and repeat, so as much as you can get those buyers buy a second time, which most of the time will be where you start breaking even, or making money.
You got them a third time. So it's really a long term game because of the economic factor of diet kind of product. Now. There's other products where you might have more, I would say Mar not margin, but margin, but dollar value of those margin. Let's say shampoo, or I don't know, like some kind of cosmetics that are more in the IEN and other products where you can.
Be profitable on the first sale, but that's always a struggle in consumable projects. I'm looking at some people I've worked with, let's say that are in the hot sauce business. Hot sauce is a growing market in the United States is over like $5 billion value in terms of the market size and share.
and the biggest issue again, is like you're selling a hot sauce. I dunno like between nine and $14, but it's gonna cost you like probably $20 to get that first sale for that first customer. So how are you going to overcome that? And especially. Are you going to buy a hot sauce every month for a lot of people, cons consuming hot sauce, you might try a bunch and you're gonna put that in the fridge.
And it's gonna stay there like for a couple months, before you refill. So the frequency is very different. The lifetime is very different. And one thing I found, I. A lot of thought after, is there some models that just are not made for eCommerce they're just made for retails? Yes. E-com will be there as a support maybe for branding, but you will never be profitable or sustainable on the the e-com side because economically it doesn't make sense.
Doesn't work, even. Even if you remove the cost of acquiring customers and you say, we're building that whole strategy based on infants athletes and all this kind of thing, they will cost you money anyway, they will cost you money in terms of free products and all this kind of thing.
And even if you bring them in, There's Al there, there will always be a certain cost that will, make it barely profitable in that term. So it's why today it's more, it's important, more than ever than not only C that we are only D two C. We have to see all those channel that can give us like some support.
And ultimately, all those consumable products needs to be on retail because retail is not dead. A lot of people think it's dead, but it's not at all. It's there and it's there to stay probably longer than we think. So it's so that's the thing about, cons mobile products and.
The kind of category you are, there will be always a challenge there. That's for sure. .
Claus Lauter: Yeah, got of a lot of gold nuggets in there now you're quite right. I get clients that are coming from Amazon and want to go and Shopify cause Amazon doesn't give you all the data specifically, if you wanna build up your own customer list or your email list and all of this, and then obviously to the other way around, they have a good shop and then they wander over to Amazon to just reach a bigger audience.
And then the ones that are obviously, if they are big enough and if they become in. For Walmart, for instance, ING off into retail and then really going big. And I think you're quite right there. If you want to grow big with consumable products, then you need to be in brick mortar. You need to be in the retail space because otherwise online, it will be very difficult talking about your brand.
Obviously you have a very good branding. The value proposition is always is something that I have to start with. My clients is really from scratch because most of the time they don't have the value proposition. Now you have really built a brand here. We just wanna give a example for the listeners and viewers as go rider has a coffee, which called gasoline, Greece and Vista bunny.
So these are really like bad ass names. And I think that also identifies with your audience, what was the strategy when you started doing brand
Phil Kyprianou: building? So the strategy was probably a way the opposite way around of how people start. Usually people start with their products and they try to find the audience for we because of the origin of got fighter and the drop shipping and the data.
We got, and the time I spent into understanding that audience, I decided to do the opposite. So I said, I have that audience that I now know well and I still need to know more about it because there's some sort of things that, need to be figured out and. I think that's the thing is being is being obsessed with an audience first.
That's the first thing. And then once you're obsessed with an audience, it's where you start understanding what they like and what they need also. And in which I would say world they're living. And that's how we came in with, those names and also about, what people were looking for.
Now. There's some, I would say thing we taught and didn't work out or there's things that were not that at first. And we add to. After, but because of knowing that audience is easier to overcome those challenges. So one thing is, about God fighter is first of all, one of our mission is to educate now people around, coffee and other products that will come in later, but we always PO.
Ourself after we stop drop shipping as a lifestyle business. So being a lifestyle business is about. Not lifestyle for me, but a lifestyle for the customer actually is what they're doing in their day. So the morning, and that's one thing we have to try to identify when we're building a person is train, like taking 24 hours a day, what they're doing and seven days a week.
And then after all the whole year, what they're doing. So we know that our customers a good part of it, they start their day by drinking. , that's a no brainer. So we have coffee for them. Then after that, what they're doing, in the afternoon. So we have identified, a couple of products that can be fit that they're not available yet, but they will be in the future what they're doing during their day and what they're doing at night.
So another thing we found out is in the summer, especially our customers lost us to do barbecue stuff, outside. Definitely. This is something that we're working on and we'll come with a barbecue line. We started with odd sauce, barbecue sauce to test the market, getting like some feedback.
And also, after what they're doing during their weekend. So we know we have a lot of motor cyclists, so they're going for a ride. So our weekend. Help them during their ride to keep, let's say, wake up to have the good accessories for them during that ride where they can fulfill, in the future, I would see our goth rider, coffee or coffee ready to drink in convenience store, so when they're on the ride, This stop. I don't know, like the gas station they can grab, probably one of those product or any other site products that, make, fill them good for the continuing the ride, and that's all the mind. The mindset of the idea I have about the brand is how I can follow them in their journey, and through accessories t-shirt and all this kind of thing.
For sure. That's part of the Glo the global, I would say strategy. Either in terms of marketing, but either in terms of making them feel good about the brand. And on the other side, when I see a lot of people doing launching I would say a store or business they always come with, oh, I have this product ID.
And that's the hardest part because you have this product ID, you don't know if there's gonna be a fit or not, or you don't know enough. Your persona. So we ran a lot of surveys. I can tell you, we ran a lot of survey to know what they do what they are, what's their work, what they, what kind of game do you play?
Let's say, like a lot of people in our niche love to play poker. Let's say, some are, love video games as well. They like to drink whiskey all this kind of stuff we're trying to go. And we are doing surveys at least like three to four times a year where we try to gather as much information for, from past customer again and from new as well.
So we can always. Stay on the edge about understanding and see, what are the correlation with those information and what we're doing and how we can improve that in our products, in our offers, and even in customer experience and customer service as well. So that's our the key part.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Talking about coffee on the road, a motorcyclist. So I have to raise my hand. I just come, came back from 8,000 kilometers through African countries and my coffee was always with me, but that was a shitty instant coffee whatsoever. So please follow up on that. I will be one of your customers, but I really can.
Can see that with all the experience, the focus on data is very high. And I think with a lot of people it's not high enough, they're not going deep enough to find out who is really my customer and what other segments of the market can I attract now in the last year, the market has specifically when it comes to marketing platform, Facebook ads, Google ads, and so on the forth has really been turned upside down.
Always saying the good times are over for. They might come again, but it's not as easy. It was like one and a half, two years ago. What kind of marketing channels or marketing strategy do you have to get the word?
Phil Kyprianou: So the, so here's the reality at first reality is Facebook's still a platform of choice at first to try and test everything.
So forget about the noise out there, TikTok Snapchat whatsoever. Facebook's still number one in terms of understanding and gathering data. And as well start testing products is the most efficient way. Even if you don't have, let's say all the data because of iOS 14 and all this kind of thing, it's still the platform of choice and yeah, sure.
Google and others, which have a lot of data there now. One thing that we've seen is is because of that and because having lack of information, it's harder now to figure out, your what works actually and visually in terms of reporting, it's harder as well, because you're missing like probably 50% of the data that you can get.
Though that's one thing and one of the matrix we're looking. And we try to blend that and divide that I would say by the the old customers is what we call the N CPA or the new CAC actually, the new cost per acquisition. So which means that every new customers, that it is not in your database, you try to figure out the cost.
And this is a good indicator actually, of. The market is globally based on your ads. You're doing for sure. If you have like shitty ads and you don't, test often, I this will be highly impacted as well, but as long as you keep it, good, you don't have to be Excel, but good. That will be relevant.
And one thing we've seen is during this year, We went, at super, I would say like our cost at certain point was, over $60 to acquire one new customers. And as low as 28, when we started, like two years ago, acquiring a customers was about like 14 bucks. So you can imagine.
That curve, like for 14 to 60 it's four times more within like almost two years and now we are in the middle. So that's very hard. And I'm I'm blending all the I would say the data, the ad spend we have. So that's what I was saying at the beginning. It's very important to have a good understanding of your business and your product and where you are.
You are, are you a, if you're a consumable product, the game is on, RFM, which means like Uhe frequency and the VA the monetary value. And also, you have your lifetime into that. So that's the game, the name of the game. Now, if you are. Again a product where you can, you have much more dollar margin, it's it's feasible.
I see a lot of brands, either like selling wallets and all this kind of thing, they're able to scale and always be profitable on their first sale, which is great. Now in that space, that saying is. One thing we found out and now it's where I moved to TikTok because that's, all the crazies on TikTok now is TikTok winning demographic to sell online products.
I would say like winning demographic is anything that is related to woman first, so cosmetics, hair stuff, and all this kind of thing that I would say that is mainly where it is winning. Now TikTok is a great, I would say leverage into the brand. One, one of the things we, because we're testing more and more, and one thing we've seen is like a lot of people that are going to see our videos on TikTok.
They don't click on the Bo on the bottom to, to go to your page. And that's very problematic. And I know they're working on that. They came like with new kind of banners to enhance the visibility of that. But what, one thing we see, because it's so fast, it's so short in term of consuming the product the videos that people don't give too much time.
So that's why the hook is very important. The videos, and now you structure your videos. But now from there, for, from a Commerce's perspective, one thing we've seen is A lot of the traffic we've seen a direct correlation. So more, we spent ONT TikTok more. We have sales from Google brands, keyword.
Okay. And we did test actually we stopped all ads, fromt, TikTok, and we seen, oh, Cells are not coming anymore from Google ads, what's happening there. And we add like this burst and each time we got this burst, we're related to new videos who are launching on TikTok. And it's art, following that kind of tracking even if you have UTMs or all this kind of thing, all the attribution.
Set in Google analytics or third party software. It's very hard to figure this out, but the only way was to just switch on, switch off and see, what was happening on the other side. And that's where I see that. Okay. So TikTok is good really at. Leveraging your brand awareness, but not like the traditional awareness branding, like the billboards and all this kind of thing.
There's perfor real per performance attached to that, but it will not come directly yet from the ads itself now. Now there's more tests to do there, for sure. We, we, haven't tested all angles and all tricks and you know how we can enforce call to actions into videos and all this kind of thing you, or in inserting scarcity and all this kind of thing to to push people to buy.
But at the same time, my, when you look at the platform, you don't. You don't want to get into sales pitch too much in, in, in talk. It's all about education. So that's one thing we're trying to do is we're trying to find an angle with the latest video we did is it's a bit that it's we're trying to find an angle where we can answer the questions of people, what they have.
We can present the product and give like the values of properties and what they are. It's more in that angle than trying to sell. And one of our best seller actually, and video that we got the best impact is a content creator coming from a content creator. And it was like super lay down. Super cool.
Very, you feel like ease, very accessible. It was not those kind. Content creator where you feel like there's gonna be, they're going to try to sell you something, so that was another, a signal where I say, okay, we need to have those, you can have those very corporate, like kind of videos that shows the brand like you see on TV or even on YouTube.
That's okay. But that will never drive as much traffic than someone where you feel, him and you have a, almost a conversation, he is explaining, Hey, my friend, I just got that and look at this and oh, they're and they're taking care of me and, you have those kind of proximity actually, and and that's what I feel. Where you can get out. The most of TikTok is having that kind of feeling when you have like that kind of proximity with the content creator instead to having oh TikTok made me buy this and okay. We know it's gonna be a sales pitch and here we go.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Not just already that building up a brand is a long term game. So it's nothing that you can do overnight. You have to really work on that. You have to find your audience, and obviously you have to find the right voice and tone to talk to people. Always no one wants to be sold to, and then finding a way.
And that might be a multi-step process before, as you said, people are watching you on. On TikTok, but they're buying them from Google. So it's little it's coming around full circle, but obviously as a marketer, you need to take that into consideration our coffee break, coming to the end. Just one question, obviously with your brand, how do you structure your team?
Obviously, you're not doing everything on your own. I hope not. , , who's helping you. What kind of different parts do you have in
Phil Kyprianou: your business? So the truth is I do a lot by myself. But it's something I'm working to split the work. Now I have a team that takes care of creatives reaching out the content creators for me.
I would say that's where the most of the work comes from. We have a new email team that is coming. To ju to basically reinforce the flows also because we found, through the time we found also behaviors have changed, let's say only on the and cart, now people knows about the tricks and, you try to mimic a sales then after that, anyway, they're gonna get the discount.
So we, we are changing that also another thing So the production part. So the thing is I don't roast myself the coffee. Thanks God. So we have a roaster partner for that. I have a designer in my team that takes care of all that cold graphics designs there for our brand. I have a fulfillment.
We do fulfillment actually in S but I have an employee in S that takes care of all the fulfillment for that. So the team is lean still like very lean now until we break a certain I would say goal once we get that breaking goal, that's where I'm gonna start, putting like more people around to put myself in a different position where I can, you.
Do deals, especially like for retails and events as well, to be more on the field than inside the business. And that, I don't have a perfect timeline because it's a long game for me, but one thing I know is like more and more will be active here and there better.
It's gonna leverage also by itself. The thing about brand, when you think about building a brand is nothing is not the same mindset as thinking a brand to sell it as flipping business, or to have a business that just makes you your pay, your your daily paycheck. So it's really three different ways of seeing it.
And, I have a plan of, for 15 years from now, it's. That three years. Okay. I'm gonna sell and thank you. Bye. No, I'm here like for the next 15 years, and then we'll see, if I still there and I enjoy great, I will still there. If I don't, I I will find something else, definitely, but for now I enjoy and I love what I do.
Claus Lauter: sounds good. A couple of things there, obviously. Yes, you have to do everything in your business. In the beginning, on your own to understand the process. Yeah. And I always say, once you understand the process, then outsource give it to someone who's better than you. And for sure, you will find someone will be better than you.
Phil Kyprianou: That's the goal. Yeah, absolutely.
Claus Lauter: Yeah. I understand the principles, but there's someone who can do it better than me. And then obviously at some point you wanna start, as you said, building or working on your business and stopping, working in your business. So very good plan from your side, Phil. Thanks. For this, people have to listen like three times to this episode because there's so much good stuff in there.
Where can people find out more about.
Phil Kyprianou: Yeah, first of all, they can go on my Twitter count. So it's twitter.com/slash Phil Riano. They can follow me also on our, Google, our go writer brand page on Facebook. We do live often. We even do like giveaways and yeah, or, you can always try to reach me out through direct messenger.
I will be more than pleased to to get to, to get a chat with you.
Claus Lauter: excellent. I will put the links in the show notes that people can reach out directly. Sounds great, Phil all the best with your brand and I will continue following on that one.
Phil Kyprianou: Thank you very much.
Claus Lauter: Bye-bye.
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