Growth

Double Your Ecommerce Customer Aquisitions Via Your SuperFans

Learn how WooCommerce and Shopify stores can accelerate growth via their best customers!

Neil C. Hughes, the host of The Tech Talks Daily Podcast in conversation with our CEO, Jay Gibb, explores how a contact picker can be leveraged to acquire more e-commerce acquisitions via an optimized sharing workflow, and email personalization that gets you better email open rates.

Via anecdotal evidence from CloudSponge customers such as Stitch Fix, JustFab, and many more – discover just how a single button can be game-changing for any e-commerce customer acquisition campaign.

Double the performance of your referral programs in 3 easy steps Download our DIY Workbook today

Podcast Transcript

Welcome to The Tech Talks Daily Podcast, where you can learn and be inspired by real-world examples of how technology is transforming businesses and reshaping industries in a language everyone can understand. Here is your host Neil C. Hughes.

Neil C. Hughes:
Welcome back to The Tech Talks Daily Podcast. Now, as we approach 2000 interviews, over two million downloads, I just wanted to thank you all for listening to this podcast. I know I ask a lot of you because there are so many podcasts out there, and bombarding you with at least an episode a day can be a little bit overwhelming, but I’m going to push my luck and ask for a favor here. And that is, to help this podcast reach more people. Ratings and reviews help overcome those pesky algorithms that determine who finds a podcast and who doesn’t. So if you did leave a rating and review, please remember, send me a screenshot and I’ll give you a shout-out in a future episode.

Neil C. Hughes:
But enough of my rambling, let’s get on with today’s show. Now, after hearing about a company with an incredibly cool name called CloudSponge, my curious mind wanted to learn more about how they got the name. So, of course, I turned to Google. And from there, I learned how they’re also launching a new product for WordPress that aims to double the performance of any existing word of mouth features like referral programs or sharing features. But then, from there, I learned that they’re playing a critical role in the growth stories of some big household tech companies, such as Airbnb, Nextdoor, GoFundMe, Morning Brew, and Yelp. That was enough for me to close down my browser, open eye emails, and invite them on the podcast today. And thankfully, they said yes.

Neil C. Hughes:
So, buckle up and hold on tight, as I beam your ears all the way to California, where Jay Gibb from CloudSponge is going to join us in conversation today, share his story, and hopefully, we’ll learn a thing or two together, too. A massive warm welcome to the show, Jay. Can you tell the listeners a little about who you are and what you do?

Jay Gibb:
Hey, Neil. Thanks for having me today. I’m Jay, I’m the founder of a SAS company called CloudSponge. And we are in the business of helping eCommerce stores double the performance of their word of mouth programs. any of the features at a typical eCommerce store, like based on Woo Commerce or Shopify might have for improving their word of mouth. Things like referral programs or sharing features, wishlist features, things like that. Our software can be added to those types of features to double or even sometimes even triple their performance.

Neil C. Hughes:
Well, there’s so many questions I want to ask you today about CloudSponge, but before we do, I always like to learn a little bit more about my guests. Can you tell me how you got here, what your origin story is and that moment that put you on the path that you’re on right now?

Jay Gibb:
I guess it depends on how far back you want me to go, but just a high level, I’m from a middle-class family, grew up in Canada. Went to sort of a community college when I finished high school and got straight to work in the tech industry. I got straight to work as a software developer, for various companies, jumping around every couple of years. And then, eventually, became a partner in a dev shop, basically, like a software engineering agency.

Neil C. Hughes:
Yeah.

Jay Gibb:
We, as partners, at some point back in, I guess it was probably around 2009 or so, we had a couple great years, and we had some profits. We had some extra money in the bank and we decided to start investing our talent and our resources in some side hustles. Right? And so, building some software products so that we weren’t only just making money as a sort of guns for hire, but we sort of spread our risk a little bit and start to build some more passive income or passive revenue and some recurring and software businesses.

Jay Gibb:
That was sort of the genesis of the CloudSponge back in, like I said, 2009 or so. The good news is, at that time, because we had a talented team and we had been hired to solve lots of software problems, a really great vision for exactly what kinds of things would be marketable. Like what kinds of things would be problems? Software problems that people would happily pay us so that they didn’t have to solve them themselves. And so that was kind of the origin of what we’re calling CloudSponge today.

Neil C. Hughes:
I love how that path led you to CloudSponge. And it feels like tech has always been in your DNA, listening to your story there, but the question I’ve got to ask is… CloudSponge, where did the name come from? There’s got to be a story there. Can you also tell just a little bit more about the problems that you set out to solve? Because again, I feel like there’s a few stories there.

Jay Gibb:
Yeah. Where we are today is a little different from what we set out to do, which I think is also pretty common theme in the software business. CloudSponge, if you’re able to rewind your mind to 2009, at that point in time, the cloud or the concept of the cloud or basically storing things somewhere that’s not your own computer, right?

Neil C. Hughes:
Yeah.

Jay Gibb:
Was kind of new for consumers, right? As professionals, we were probably getting pretty comfortable with it, but it’s not something that my mom was used to or ordinary individuals or ordinary consumers were doing. Right? And so, our thesis at the time was that we could build a product that regular consumers would use and pay for, to keep a local copy of the things that they’re trusting the cloud to store. Because there was several years before people really started trusting the cloud and things like Dropbox and Google drive and box eventually came up and all the other places where now it’s normal for people to sort of trust their family photos there, right? Or their address book there or other things that are important pieces of data that we consider worthy of backing up and saving. Right?

Jay Gibb:
And so, the idea was CloudSponge was a way to suck things out of the cloud, and keep a copy of them, and make it so that you could back them up somewhere and you don’t necessarily have to trust that service that you just put all your contacts in is going to be there 10 years from now or 20 years from now. Right? You know that you’re going to have your own copy of it, if you need to.

Jay Gibb:
We went through lots of names, and in my experience, there’s two rules that my partner and I use when naming a company. One of them is, it has to pass the telephone test. Which means if I tell you the name of my company over the telephone, you should be able to spell it.

Neil C. Hughes:
I love it.

Jay Gibb:
Right? If I just tell you, “Hey, I work for CloudSponge.” And that’s the only thing I say, you’re going to know how to spell that. We’re not replacing e’s with y’s. We’re not dropping vowels. We’re not doing anything crazy like people were back then. We’re just saying, look, we will continue to search for a company name until we can find two dictionary words or one dictionary word or something that I can say to you over the phone that you’re going to be able to just type it out without me having to spell it for you, first of all. That’s the telephone test.

Jay Gibb:
And the second one has got to have a .com. Right? It took a lot, we had a long list. We did lots of bidding, lots of stuff. At some point, anybody who’s been through that, you sort of run out of time. It’s like, okay, we really need to get started. We really need a name for this thing. And we managed to have CloudSponge registered, it was in the list. And we all just said, you know what? That actually is pretty close. It’s what we like. It passes our two rules. It does have a pretty good visualization of what we do. We’re sponging data from the cloud, and then allowing you to ring out that sponge into your own local storage, kind of idea. That’s why we named it what we did back in the day.

Neil C. Hughes:
Wow. What a great story. Before you came on the episode today, I was doing a little bit of research on you guys, and I’ve read that many businesses are leaking sales from things like their Woo Commerce store because they don’t have a contact picker, but for people outside the industry, can you expand on that?

Jay Gibb:
Yeah. I think the first thing to do is to make sure that we’re on the same page with what a contact picker is.

Neil C. Hughes:
Yeah.

Jay Gibb:
Everybody’s seen it. It’s an interface that people have seen. Most people have seen them on their phone. When you go to view your contacts, to make a phone call or send somebody a message, and you start by searching for them in your contacts, that’s a contact picker. Right?

Neil C. Hughes:
Gotcha.

Jay Gibb:
Where you’ve got, basically, an alphabetized list of all your contacts and there’s a tappable alphabet in the right margins, so you can jump around bits of different letters of the alphabet. There’s a search field that searches basically all the different fields inside contact records. So, first name, last name, phone number, email address. Whatever it is that you know or whatever it is that you have memorized about the person that you’re searching for, you should be able to type that in. Right? If I just remember your area code, I should be able to type in your area code and just see sort of a shortened list of everybody I know that has that area code. Right? Or where that string appears in their record. That’s a Contact Picker.

Jay Gibb:
There’s not a lot of contact pickers. You don’t generally see a contact picker unless you’re on a site that uses CloudSponge. You don’t really see contact pickers in a desktop experience, and a browser-based experience. And so, that’s what we sell. Right? Our Contact Picker software makes it so that anybody who’s got sharing features, for example, a referral program where a user is expected or asked to type a comma-separated list of email addresses of all the people that they want to send a referral to. I’m sure that you and everybody listening has seen those types of forms before. Right?

Neil C. Hughes:
Yeah.

Jay Gibb:
The sad truth is nobody really does that. And anybody listening who as a referral form on their site, that is doing that, and asking their users to type a common separated list of email addresses, is probably pretty dismally performance. Probably, most people probably don’t do it, especially if they’re using your website from a mobile device. Typing in somebody’s email address from memory, if you have it, or flipping between windows, leaving the eCommerce site, to go look up somebody in your contacts, and find their email address, and copy it to your clipboard, and then go back to that field and paste it, and add a comment, and then do it again. Nobody does that. Right?

Neil C. Hughes:
Yeah.

Jay Gibb:
Whether you’re on desktop and you’re talking about different tabs in a Chrome browser or not. Right? What our software does is, it just adds a button. Right? You can add any button, any style you want, right beside that form field that says something like, “Add From Address Book”. Right? Or maybe it’s a Google contacts logo, or a Yahoo contacts logo, or outlook.com or AOL or iCloud or whatever logos you want. Or it just add from address book, which can go to a menu that is our Contact Picker will display a menu of options. And then, the user stays on your website, they authenticate to give you permission to read their contacts for a minute. We display them in a contact picker, just like the one I described, except it’s in a browser. And then, they can search for who they want and select all the people that they want to add to the comma-separated list or to whatever other HTML form you’ve got.

Double the performance of your referral programs in 3 easy steps Download our DIY Workbook today

Jay Gibb:
And when they’re done, and they exit the contact picker, everybody that they selected is basically gets pushed into that form field. And they didn’t have to type anything. They didn’t have to remember anything. They didn’t have to leave your website and go look it up somewhere else. Right? That’s the multiplier. Right? That’s the thing where, if you’ve got that refer friend form and you don’t have a contact picker, then we can easily multiply the performance of it with that one button.

Neil C. Hughes:
And for anyone listening to us today, anywhere in the world, just learned about contact pickers for the very first time or some of the insights that you shared there. And they may already have a referral program that doesn’t work for all the reasons that you just stated, how effective is one of those contact picker buttons? I’m curious on what you’ve been seeing there.

Jay Gibb:
Yeah. It’s anecdotal. Right?

Neil C. Hughes:
Yeah.

Jay Gibb:
Some companies do better than others. And really the big differentiator there is the rewards that they’re offering for the referrals, most of the time.

Neil C. Hughes:
Yeah.

Jay Gibb:
But if I look at all of our customers, the ones I know in the before and after, it basically will, like I said at the beginning of this conversation, it’ll double or triple the number of referrals that your company sends. Right? What’s interesting is, it’s a relatively small percentage of people that will choose to use their address book. It’s maybe five to 10% of people that use your referral form will use their address book. Not implying that everybody will use it. Right? Of course, some people will not be comfortable with that. Or some people just don’t use their address book that way, so it’s not something that they would even think to use. Right?

Neil C. Hughes:
Yeah.

Jay Gibb:
But that 5-10% of people that do use their address books will generally generate more than half of your referrals. It’s so much better that they will double your total number of referrals sent just with that small percentage of super fans that choose to use their address books instead of typing one or two email addresses that they have the patience to type.

Neil C. Hughes:
And what immediately stands out from what we’re talking about here is, we’ve just highlighted two areas that businesses are missing out on, and very simple fixes really. But do you have any use cases that would just help company to literally tick these boxes? You’ve probably seen good example, bad examples. And you mentioned, it depends on how good that offer is to the person, as well. But is there any use cases that stand out to you on good things to do around it?

Jay Gibb:
Yeah. I think the rewards is really, like I said before, very important. Right? And making a dump… Generally speaking, in the eCommerce use case, a double-sided reward is generally going to work the best in my experience, from what I’ve seen. What I mean by that is, the person who’s making the referral, isn’t just doing it to earn a discount, they’re also sending a discount. They’re also doing something for these individuals. Right? And you’ve seen that with some of the best referral programs out there. Famously, with like Dropbox, where you’re able to give people free gigabytes of storage and earn some for yourself or Airbnb’s referral program where you can send your friend a $75 discount on their first stay, and if they do that, then you get 75 bucks off your next stay, kind of thing. That’s a double set of referral program. Right? Those are a couple use cases that are like really successful, right.

Jay Gibb:
Probably the biggest one, lately anyway, the one that’s kind of right now has gone viral, is a company called Morning Brew. And then, they’re actually using the Contact Picker for their newsletter. Right. In their case, they’ve got what’s called a milestone referral program, where, as you hit milestones of the number of people that you’ve referred that have signed up for their newsletter, you earn better and better rewards. So when you refer five friends, you get maybe some stickers. When you refer 10 friends, maybe you get access to a private club, a private community. When you do 25, you might get a hoodie. Eventually, you’re getting something really exciting, like a laptop. Right?

Neil C. Hughes:
Yeah.

Jay Gibb:
And so, those milestone referral programs, another really strong use case, it’s worth exploring. And anybody interested can browse around the CloudSponge website for those customer examples.

Neil C. Hughes:
It feels like we’re just scratching the surface here of so many simple fixes out there that can make a big difference. I’m curious, are, are there any other Woo Commerce plugins that you could recommend that people might want to check out, too?

Jay Gibb:
Yeah, I think so. If somebody’s listening who uses Woo Commerce and they don’t already have a referral program they’re using, it makes sense to check out Automate Woo, which is a very popular plugin for Woo Commerce. And Automate Woo has an add-on, that’s a refer a friend plugin. Right. That allows you to sort of put those referral forms on your sites. \.

Jay Gibb:
And CloudSponge has an integration with that, that basically, makes it better. It’s called the Better Sharing plugin by CloudSponge, which takes their referral form and does exactly what I’ve been talking about. Right? They’ve got a referral form in the refer a friend add-on for the Automated Woo plugin from commerce, and by itself, it’s a pretty ordinary form that has the problems that we’re talking about. But then, if you add the Better Sharing plugin by CloudSponge, it’ll make it better. It’ll add that add from address book button to it. It’ll basically double its performance with this Contact Picker that I’ve been describing. I think anybody using Woo Commerce, who doesn’t have a referral program, can get one up and running pretty fast, like within a half a day, with a couple of extra plugins, and see how it works for them.

Neil C. Hughes:
And you mentioned, at very beginning of the podcast, that you’ve been involved in tech since your college days, tech’s in your DNA. And I imagine that you are always going to be looking at what that next big thing is going to be and got your finger on the pulse of the technology world. Are there any tech trends that you are monitoring closely? Anything that excites you right now?

Jay Gibb:
Yeah. It’s totally different topic, I guess, from the CloudSponge stuff, but I’ve been just very impressed and very interested in the lightning network for Bitcoin, lately. Seems to me like it’s going to dematerialize Visa and MasterCard eventually, and be like a very substantial instant, free, no disintermediated payment method for the internet that uses Bitcoin as a token. Right? But we’re starting to see Jack Dorsey and Cash App have now implemented the lightning network to everybody using Cash App. And Jack Mahlers and Strike using it in their app. I’m excited to see what happens with the lightning network and we’re all kind of geeking out on it, studying it, setting up nodes, playing around with it because it does feel like it’s imminent. It’s the future, in my opinion.

Neil C. Hughes:
It really does. But just to bring us back to CloudSponge, before I let you go, what’s next for you guys? Where do you go from here? Is there anything you can share about the road ahead for you guys?

Jay Gibb:
Yeah. We’re going to keep spreading out in terms of our software footprint. The Contact Picker is kind of the core, the center, of what we do. It’s the thing that everything else, everything has that in common. Right? As we want to provide more value, for less money or less effort, the way that we do that is by building add-ons and plugins and doing things like I just described, the add-ons for Automate Woo for Woo Commerce, and similar add-ons and plugins for Shopify and other eCommerce stores, and JavaScript libraries and other…

Jay Gibb:
Basically, just starting to spread out and expand those… Take those use cases that we see, and those problems that we see that are common issues, and start to make no-code solutions or plug and play kind of solutions that make it really trivial for business owners and website integrators and administrators to add that Contact Picker to any website that they’re using. We’ll be focusing on that for the foreseeable future.

Neil C. Hughes:
Awesome. And before I let you go, I always like to ask my guest to leave everybody listening with a personal touch of inspiration, by either sharing a book that has inspired them or their go-to song when they need to get their head in the zone or just a song that’s important to them for our Spotify playlist. What will you leave us with today? And is there a story to accompany your choice?

Jay Gibb:
Man, I think the book that I find myself recommending a lot lately to the people I work with, partners and staff, and so on, and is ‘Obviously Awesome by April Dunford‘. I’ve learned a lot from April Dunford over the years because she’s basically the best person, that I’m aware of anyway when it comes to positioning. Which is something that I think a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of tech companies, struggle with. It’s not really a tech problem, but it’s a problem that tech has. Right?

Jay Gibb:
She’s very eloquent and helpful when it comes to understanding why it’s important and how to do it. And she wrote this book, Obviously Awesome, which I feel summarizes precisely what to do. It’s a very tactical book that anybody who isn’t really sure what positioning is or if they should do it or how to do it. You could sit down out and read this book, in probably a few hours, and really level up quickly. I love it. It’s a really good one, and I learned a lot from it, and I refer back to it all the time.

Neil C. Hughes:
Awesome. I’m going to check that one out myself, and I’ll add it to our Amazon wish list. Well, anyway then, before I let you go, for anyone listening wanting to find out more information about CloudSponge, anything we talked about today or if they’ve got any questions, they want to contact your team. What’s the best starting point for it all? And hopefully, we won’t have to spell it. Right?

Jay Gibb:
That’s right. We’re going to make a page, so anybody that’s listening can just go to cloudsponge.com/techtalksdaily.

Neil C. Hughes:
Yeah.

Jay Gibb:
We’ll have a special landing page there for your audience and it’s got the contact information. You can put yourself on my calendar if you want to, and email our team, and ask questions. And we also have a PDF you can download just with an email address. We’ll send you this PDF, and it’s basically like a questionnaire that helps any eCommerce store owners take an inventory of the sharing functionality that they may or may not have on their website. And then, take a look, sort of do an audit of each of those things they have and make sure that it’s optimized. Right? And obviously, in there, we’ll ask, is a contact picker relevant? And if you already have one great, if you don’t, that’s the reason why we’re providing it. But that’ll be right there on cloudsponge.com/techtalksdaily.

Neil C. Hughes:
Well, thank you so much for coming on today, sharing your story, the story behind CloudSponge, as well. And I’d love to stay in touch with you, hopefully, get you back on later in the year, see how things are going. But more than anything, just thank you for sharing that story with me today.

Jay Gibb:
Yeah, man, just hit me up. I’d love to come back.

Neil C. Hughes:
One of the reasons I love recording this podcast every day is how something as simple as my curious mind, and a few Google searches later, results in me just hopping on a call and learning more about something. I think being able to share it all with you listening in 165 countries, I mean, how cool is that? Proof, if it was needed, that technology works best when it brings people together, but on this journey of continuous learning, I want to learn more from your stories, experiences, insights, and everything in between. So remember, I’m the easiest guy in the world to get ahold of. Email me: techblogwriter@outlook.com. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn at Neil C. Hughes. And we’ll keep this conversation going.

Neil C. Hughes:
So, remember to leave a rating and review, send me a screenshot too, and I’ll give you a shout-out. But other than that, it’s time for me to get out of here, and exit your podcast feed stage left, but I’ll return again tomorrow with another guest. Thank you for listening, as always. And until next time, don’t be a stranger.

Thank you for listening to The Tech Talks Daily Podcast with Neil C. Hughes. Remember, technology works best when it brings people together.

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