One of the first — and most important — decisions ecommerce store owners make on their journey to success is choosing which tools will support their business. The ecommerce landscape is flush with great options to help with everything from email and user messaging to core requirements like analytics and attribution tracking.
For many store owners, choosing the right tools can be a challenging process. Learning about how each tool stacks up against its competitors, identifying what tools you need at your current growth stage, and pushing past decision paralysis to pick the best one is no easy task.
Fortunately, there’s a new service the ecommerce industry can call on to make smart tooling decisions by learning from others in the industry — 1-800-D2C. In this installment of our Lunch with Littledata series, we chat with 1-800-D2C founder Tim Masek to learn how he launched the directory, see what SaaS tool strategies drive growth, and discuss what the future of ecommerce tooling and the industry as a whole has in store.
Greg from Littledata: Can you tell me the story of how 1-800-D2C started?
Tim Masek: 1-800-D2C came from a need. I was a growth marketer for a long time helping different ecommerce businesses, and a big part of the job is to always recommend the right tools to different merchants. Because tools are changing so fast, though, I’d struggle to keep up with what the best solutions out there were.
Instead of going on endless demo calls, I realized that by looking at the tool stacks of different brands I might be able to make a more informed decision on what the actual best tools to use would be. It clicked in my head that maybe there was a space on the internet for another DTC directory, but this time focused on tooling.
So, toward the end of 2019 through to early 2021, I put together this Airtable spreadsheet with lots and lots of records of direct-to-consumer brands. Then I added a bunch of information about them — their URL, image, description, the category therein — and paired that with data about the stacks that they were using.
That was my MVP, but I wanted to package it in a really nice way. So, I used Webflow to showcase it and my fiancee — the designer behind 1-800-D2C who has designed for a bunch of ecommerce brands — kindly helped me out on the presentation of the site. Her design gave the site a whole old-school feel of yellow pages. It gave something that could be seen as boring and stale when you're talking about essentially B2B SaaS and B2B software for e-commerce merchants a fun, fresh, and energetic feel.
We went live in February 2021 and launched on Product Hunt, then that's when the word started to spread organically. There's never been any paid promotion behind 1-800-D2C.
For me, now 10 months after launch, the biggest validation is people still sharing it amongst themselves and the community learning about it on their own.
Greg: The website design definitely makes it very unique and memorable. How has business been going since launch?
Tim: Thank you so much. Littledata is all over it because it's such an important tool for a lot of e-commerce brands on the directory. There are at least 50+ records of brands using Littledata, so it's great to have you guys on there.
The business has been going really well. The site's opened up a lot of doors to speak with people on both sides of the equation — merchants who want to share their story about how they built their devices and also tool creators like Littledata who want to make sure they're connecting to their audience and communicating the benefits of their solutions vs. others. I recently spoke at the Webflow No Code Conference event. I've got some sponsors on the site. So really, really fun and I’m still loving it.
Greg: Was the first time you heard about Littledata when you saw it in people's tech stacks? Or did you know about us before?
Tim: I knew about it before, probably about a year and a half ago when I was working with a DTC brand called Bower Collective. It's a website where you can buy plastic-free home goods.
They were using the first version of ReCharge and they didn't have much money to spend on software, so they weren't using anything crazy on the analytics front, just using Google Analytics. Because I was running the growth for that business when they were a part of Founders Factory, we took a look at some tools that would help us make sense of what was happening with discrepancies on the data side between Recharge and Shopify and Google Analytics. That's how I stumbled upon Littledata and was so excited. The product was super simple. The team was very nice, very switched on, and very operational. I didn't feel like I was talking to sales reps or anything like that. It felt like I was talking to geeks, which made us all feel comfortable. The data was flowing quite nicely and it helped us uncover a lot of insights.
Tip: Try Littledata free for 30 days and use better data to drive revenue for your store.
Greg: That's great to hear. I can vouch that our support team are definitely data nerds and not salespeople. They just love the ecommerce space.
Tim: Yeah, it's niche, man. It's niche. There are a few people that get excited about this whole DTC space, you and me included, and there are not too many of us on this Earth like that. So it was just fun to meet them.
Greg: Do you see any common problems ecommerce businesses face when they're building their tech stacks?
Tim: I'd say probably the biggest mistake I see is someone picking tools that don't work in sync with the other tools they've already purchased. That racks up a large SaaS bill every month without any synergy amongst their apps. It's easy to rectify because it's oftentimes quite easy to switch from one app to another.
But we're seeing a bunch of apps connecting the entire ecosystem together. For example, you're going to need somebody on the analytics and attribution front. That's where a tool like Littledata comes in, and Littledata works well with ReCharge and Shopify. So if you are already using ReCharge, it makes a lot of sense to be integrated that way.
"It would be a mistake to see apps as individual problem fixers when they could actually be leveraged as part of a larger strategy, a larger ecosystem."
Then you've got customer support. If you're using Gorgias, for example, that's going to sync very well with ReCharge because there's a native integration there. Then for reviews, Junip is super well integrated into the whole stack, and they might sync well with your texting solution. When the pieces start to come together, we've got really strong integrations across the board. It would be a mistake to see apps as individual problem fixers when they could actually be leveraged as part of a larger strategy, a larger ecosystem.
Greg: Do you think that ecommerce owners are starting to notice the native integrations that are out there as they use more tools?
Tim: Yeah, it's definitely catching on. The market's maturing very, very rapidly, and I could see how it becomes a no-brainer in the next year or two to have everything come together.
I think it perhaps starts with agencies who have to be educated on what works well together, and we started to see more of that about a year ago. I've worked with a lot of different agencies. They may be inclined to build everything custom themselves, and the merchants may be the ones saying, “OK, but I've seen my friend who runs this other e-commerce store crushing it with upsells because they're using Rebuy instead of doing it custom. Can we just use that solution instead?”
So there's got to be a bit of back and forth now between agencies and merchants to figure out what stack is recommended. But for sure, the whole ecosystem is becoming more and more aware of the right tools to recommend and how they all play together.
Greg: You have a lot of interesting roundups on the site. Do you have one that's the most popular?
Tim: There is one that I really liked, it’s a fun interview I did with Brandon Amoroso who runs an agency called electrIQ marketing. Brandon is a very young agency founder and a super impressive guy. That's the cool thing about what I do — getting to meet amazing individuals like that scattered around the web who I wouldn't have ever met otherwise.
In my interview with him, I got him to break down his stack and tooling decisions for a coffee subscription business called Amora Coffee that they put on ReCharge which does some crazy sales volume. He was talking to me about how he used Loyalty Lion for a specific scenario of rewarding customers who bought bundles then letting them redeem those directly in one click from a Klaviyo email. It's all super niche, but he breaks down exactly why he made those decisions. I thought it was a really insightful story — a storytelling way to learn more about different apps.
Greg: Are there any tools that you see DTC businesses using the most?
Tim: I actually put together a page on the website called “The top 5’s” and it breaks down the top five tools within each category across the entire directory. That's a nice way to get a sense of the top tools.
Other than that, one that comes to mind is Klaviyo because it’s used by, I think, 90% of the 1-800-D2C directory. Shopify, of course, because I love brands that are built on Shopify. For the most part, Shopify is number one, Klaviyo is number two. It’s absolutely crazy when you think about the value of Klaviyo and how unmatched it is. Some people talk about Omnisend or Drip or a few others that are in the conversation. But really, the go-to is Klaviyo, especially for young brands.
A lot of people are using heat-mapping tools like Hotjar, too. Those are quite easy to just quickly install on the website and get valuable insights. Fullstory falls a little bit behind after that — also a great tool. Then customer support comes right after reviews, so Okendo, Junip, Stamped, Gorgias, Zendesk. Really, those are the core types of tools, and they rank really high on our top 5 tools list.
Greg: We've seen the same thing as well with Klaviyo and Shopify. They’re the market leaders, so it makes sense that you'd see those in pretty much every stack.
Tim: Just a quick point on that because it really is crazy. We try and come up with our own predictions about what's going to happen in the future with ecommerce, the Shopify ecosystem, etc. I don't see a world where ecommerce stores don't send emails. It’s always going to be there as step number one or step number two.
So every store uses email, and Klaviyo just completely dominates that. It's just unbelievable. I hope there will be challenges to Klaviyo because it will keep pushing them to build a better product over time. But for now, they're just completely undefeated, sitting at the top, just enjoying it, crushing it.
Tip: Get advanced analytics tracking on your store's email performance with Littledata's integration for Klaviyo and Shopify.
Greg: Are there any trends in the DTC space you see that excite you the most?
Tim: I love what Blueprint is doing. They’re really cool because they're an SMS-focused DTC tool aimed at driving retention. There's lots of machine learning that happens on the backend of the tool to learn about your customers, find when are they likely to repurchase again, and what kind of cross-selling opportunities you can identify. So you're not just looking at a platform to send broad messages and be an extra layer on top of email. You're looking at something to build a long-lasting relationship with the customer.
It merges the world of marketing/communications with customer support because the whole philosophy behind Blueprint is to build one-to-one customer relationships. So, on the other end as a merchant, you can't wait for the moment when Greg decides, “I'm actually going to reply to this text and give some feedback.” Because then the person on the merchant side can start just talking to you and getting to know you a little bit more, which is a bit like customer support, but you’re not only chatting with them because you have an issue. It's a really nice trend in the world of SMBs.
Greg: What advice would you give to an e-commerce store owner who is just starting to build a true tech stack?
Tim: First, Start super slow. Don't overspend on tools, build up as you go. It's quite easy to graduate from one tool and get to the next. Then, do your research. Use 1-800-D2C, use whatever you can to find the best tools for you at your stage, and then build up from there.
What we did with Bower Collective was really fun. We didn't have much of a stack in the beginning. But over time we started adding. Littledata I think was one of the first tools we added because we needed to see the attribution done properly. That was pretty core for the stack and it was lightweight to do since there’s no huge yearly contract, just an easy implementation.
"Start (building a tech stack) slow and ramp up your app costs with your sales. Don't put too much burden on yourself in the beginning."
Then we were looking at referral marketing solutions due to customer requests, so we implemented Conjured referrals. There are expert referral platforms out there like Friend Buy and Talkable, but Conjured is the most lightweight one that looks really good, is easy to implement, and can really be your first entry into the world of referral marketing. And if it works to get you an uptick on referrals, you're two years ahead at that stage and can move to those other platforms.
Then we started looking at text messaging, then the next thing, and the next. So start slow and ramp up your app costs with your sales. Don't put too much burden on yourself in the beginning.
Greg: You guys have a very active social presence. Who runs your social accounts?
Tim: 1-800-D2C is really just me. I'm working with a really great intern called Emmy, she's based in New York and she helps me out a lot with Twitter. But for the most part, it's just me trying to stay not only top of mind, but also really provide value in the Twitter ecosystem. It's a great platform with great individuals who want to chat about ecommerce. I'm passionate about the space, so it's an easy way to communicate with the audience.
Greg: That’s impressive, props to you for taking it all on by yourself! You mentioned earlier that you actually bootstrapped 1-800-D2C pretty much with all no-code tools. What do you think the power of the no-code movement is for the DTC industry?
Tim: Good question, I don't know if I have a good answer for that. Shopify is your starting point in DTC and it's becoming more and more user-friendly, with fewer customizations to do on the coding side of things. So, in some ways, it's becoming more and more no-code-like.
But if you're serious about building a successful DTC brand, you want to know a thing or two about how Liquid works or at least have some resources on hand to help you with that. That's actually what I'm working on now with Stuart Tasker — making those resources more available to everyday merchants to put you in touch with the best developers on Shopify and help you move at the speed that you want to.
Greg: That’s a great service for store owners to tap into. Having just that one expert can be enough to solve a problem and help you bootstrap the rest of the way.
Tim: That's it, man, that's the creator economy in a nutshell. It's also what's happening with the whole remote work movement. We live in a world where you can get a lot done on your own by pulling in extra resources from different experts scattered around the world. I'm a big believer in that.
Greg: Are there any other brands that you look to in the DTC space for inspiration?
Tim: I actually was asked this question recently for the first time, and I didn't have an answer for it besides one kind of funky, odd one, which I'll say again. They're called Darn Good Yarn. It's the type of business I love because they just sell yarn online for people who are into knitting. And finding yarn in a physical store is probably not the easiest thing to do in the world nowadays. So you’ll likely look online for it, and they've become a home for that.
I also love it because the community is already so strong. People who frickin love knitting are going to go out of their way to find you online to shop from you. Those shoppers are going to not only be in a great position to love your brand because you're delivering directly on their needs, but then they're going to go out into the real world and create something beautiful that they can then share with you as a brand which you can repost on social and connect with the community. It's really nice ecosystem, and I imagine the yarn market's decently big. So if you can win that, then you’ve got something special.
Greg: What's on the horizon for 1-800-D2C?
Tim: I would like to do two things. First, I think there's a nice opportunity to create a job board for anybody in the world of ecommerce. Lots of the brands and tool owners that I speak with are trying to hire for a specific role on their teams. A lot of the people I interact with are hiring because the space is growing rapidly and they just need more people to work on interesting projects. There's a couple of resources on the internet that talk about ecommerce, but only a few that really specialize in ecommerce hiring. So I could see 1-800-D2C being a nice home for those types of opportunities.
The second bit is getting more contributors to write on the one 1-800-D2C website for me. Right now it's a lot of me putting in the work and talking about what I'm seeing out there, which I'm totally fine with. I love it and that's why I do it. But there are so many bright minds in the world of ecommerce, and I want them to have a platform to share their ideas and their thoughts. So hopefully I can find a scalable way to get them to contribute to the website.
Greg: Almost like an ecommerce clubhouse. That’s a great idea. We’d be happy to join you there!
Tim: Yeah, exactly. Just read at your convenience — whether it's the newsletter, the blog content, or the job board— or just browse different DTC brands and their tools.