The Easy Hack to Growing Your ECommerce Store!

Using a Contact Picker can double the growth rate of your e-commerce store. Learn how here.


Jon Tucker, the host of Ecommerce Townhall podcastย 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

Hey guys, this is Jon Tucker from, and today on the episode I’ve got Jay Gibb from CloudSponge. What we dig into is how to use viral marketing or share-with-your-friend type of marketing in really specific ways on an e-commerce store.

We dig into where to actually ask people to share with their friends throughout the e-commerce funnel, but more specifically, we go into really how to do the user experience side of it. What should the experience feel like for the visitor and how to really make it super, super seamless, and easy so that they end up sharing it with their friends. Jay’s got a ton of experience doing that.

We also go into how to baseline where you’re currently at and then how to measure the impact, which is obviously important to have data for. Jay has done this for big brands like Dollar Shave Club, Reebok, and a whole bunch of other ones, and so we go into really deep detail in the episode.

And so if you’re focused on driving traffic and conversions, which everybody is in e-commerce, but you’re not really clear on how to leverage that for viral growth, how to really leverage the traffic and the conversions you already have, I think you’re going to get a ton of ideas from this episode It’s super, super tactical. Let us know what. You end up implementing. Dig in, and I hope you get a lot of value from this.

Welcome to Ecommerce Town Hall where six, seven, and eight-figure e-commerce store leaders learn how to scale and streamline to get to the next level. In each episode, you’ll see strategies from the industry experts behind successful stores that you can take back and apply with your teams right away.

The show is brought to you by Help Flow provides 24/7 live chat teams to over a hundred e-commerce stores and can help you drive more sales while providing an awesome customer experience through their live chat agents. Check them out at But for now, let’s dive into today’s episode.

Jon Tucker:
Hey guys, welcome back to the show. Super excited for today’s topic because we’re going to dig into something we haven’t really covered before, which is basically word-of-mouth marketing, viral marketing, and really how to leverage the people that you already have coming to your store to get more people to the store. And we’ve talked about advertising, obviously, in the e-commerce game, ads are a massive part of how you drive revenue.

But you’re spending so much money to get people to the store and then you’re investing a lot of resources to get them to convert. But you can really start to supercharge your growth if you get people to the store and you get them to convert, and you get them to bring more people to the store, make buyers bring more buyers, or even visitors bring buyers. And the way to do that is with an effective word-of-mouth strategy, not simply like, Oh, tell your friends or forward this email or something like that.

There’s a process to this to make it work really well and you also got to get the tech right. And so today I got Jay Gibb and he has a ton of experience in this space. He’s the founder of CloudSponge, and basically, what they do is they make it really, really easy to have that share with your friends functionality really built into the whole experience on your site.

They make it so that it’s integrated in different aspects of the process, but more importantly, it makes it so it’s effective for the actual visitors. It’s not like you click a link and then it takes you to some weird offsite page that’s super clunky where you’d never put in someone’s email. It’s very visitor friendly. It connects to having the visitor actually do it.

And so what we’re going to talk through is basically all the places where this can fit into the business. We’re going to talk through how to measure it, and some of the mistakes that stores make along the way. And obviously, you’ll understand how CloudSponge makes that easier to do.

So even if you don’t end up using CloudSponge, you’re going to get a ton of insight on how to do this well. And this is something that big brands when they get it right, can really supercharge results. So I’m excited to dig in. Jay, thank you so much for coming to the show. I appreciate it.

Jay Gibb:
Thanks for having me, Jon.

Jon Tucker:
Awesome. So I want to start off with a little more of a non-obvious way that word-of-mouth marketing and viral marketing fits in. What’s something that you’ve seen with some of your clients are in the e-com space that’s a good way to integrate this that might not be intuitive to a listener of a referral program or something like that? What’s a non-obvious way that people can use this in e-com?

Jay Gibb: :
I think one of the ones that’s come up recently that still seems like a new idea for the e-commerce, like sales call that I do and the people that I talk to help them understand the value of a Contact Picker, is newsletter referral programs. I think a lot of people in e-commerce under natively naturally understand referral programs.

They understand you refer people to earn a discount or send a discount to your friends to earn a discount on your next purchase, which is very close to the transaction. It’s really close to the shopping cart or to the product. But I think it’s true from most e-commerce sites that they depend pretty heavily on their mailing lists, on their newsletters. The ones that I speak to anyway, can often send out that email to their list and immediately see the corresponding sales uptick.

So they’re obviously very scientific, very measured about how they use that list and when they send something and what they send there. And one of those things that I think is not obvious is that, rather than the trigger for a reward being a discount or a reward on as far as a financial transaction inside the shopping cart, you can actually make the subscription to the mailing lists the trigger.

So now you’re encouraging your friends not necessarily to buy something from the store, but you’re encouraging them to join the mailing list. Because we know that there’s a pretty direct relationship between the mailing list and the sales of the store.

Then it’s another thing that you can give them to do to say, “Listen, we’ve got this really great mailing list, I love this thing, you’re going to love it. Get on the mailing list.” We started to see over the last few years these what’s called a milestone referral program, where rewards are earned not for referring a friend who makes a purchase but for referring a friend who just simply gets on the list.

Jon Tucker:
Got it. So I think that fits in with a lot of our clients because a lot of them are focused on driving email signups, even in ads of basically get the sale if you can. But a newsletter subscriber is super, super valuable. And so a lot of our stores, they have processes in place.

If somebody is on the site, and looks like they’re not going to convert, they’ll change their Klaviyo or whatever system they’re using for email marketing, they’ll change those calls to action based on that cohort of visitors to start to really push the newsletter or push an email often rather than a sale. So I could see how that would happen on referrals too.

Jay Gibb: :
The way the milestone works there would be, let’s say, you’re a store that sells some apparel, for example, and maybe you already have something that when somebody makes a minimum order size, maybe you throw a gift in the box that you [inaudible 00:07:22], like a scarf or an extra pair of socks or something in there. It’s like a thank you. You can start to do that kind of thing as your milestone rewards.

So in other words, when you refer five people to the mailing list, you get some socks. When you refer 25 people to the mailing list, you’ll get this reward, and you can make it part of the product offering and create those milestones as a part of just the newsletter, the mailing list referral, and that can, at the end of the day, it adds up. It can have a huge impact.

Jon Tucker:
Do you see customers, so if they’re doing product-based rewards for hitting milestones, do they tend to email the client or email the customer and say, “Hey, you’ve earned this reward. Choose what sock you want,” in the sock example? Or do they just send them the actual product? Because I almost think that the wow factor of the product just appears at your door, thanks for the referral to 25 people. I would imagine that that would have a really big impact. Do you see a difference between those?

Jay Gibb: :
I haven’t seen that level of depth on it, so I’m not sure if I’ve got, it because I don’t always see that level, but the ones I have seen have just been surprise packages. So I’m not sure about the other option, but it’s pretty much, and I think that’s probably a lot easier where they can just ship their overflow stock or they can ship it on their own schedule when it’s convenient. And so I think they can find ways to make it operationally efficient if they do it that way. And then you say, get the wow factor of just surprising somebody with something in the mail.

Jon Tucker:
I love that. I think that’s a good idea. What are some of the other ways as you look at an entire e-commerce business, where are some of the other places? The newsletter makes sense for sure, and I think you could use that newsletter approach in a lot of different places I guess. But where are some of the places that a store should be thinking about integrating this viral aspect?

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Jay Gibb: :
Well, anybody who’s already got a referral program, it should take a really close look at how well it’s doing in terms of the rewards that they’re giving, but also the way that their users are inputting those email addresses. So, that’s where we come in.

And so I think that’s really the center of the bullseye when it comes to the virality of the e-commerce store is going to be, first of all, having a referral program if you don’t already. And then if you do, making sure that it’s a super delightful experience for your super fan, for the person that you’re asking them to send emails to their friends about your store. You have to make that experience amazing and easy, and you have to make those emails very well personalized.

Jon Tucker:
And I know we talked a little bit on our other call about levels of personalization and that side of things. What are some of the best practices you see around the personalization part of what to personalize? What moves the needle a lot? What do stores get wrong when it comes to personalization?

Jay Gibb:
Well, I think the thing that most stores get wrong with this type of email is not personalizing them actually. What I see pretty often is it’s an email that goes out, let’s just walk through a sales story here. Imagine that I’m a customer of an e-commerce store and I want to send a referral to you, and I type in your email address into the referral field.

That’s already a miracle that I did that. Just appreciate that it’s a miracle that I either had your
email address memorized or I went and I looked it up and copied and pasted it into that field and then I hit send to send you a referral. And the minimum that you should do is make sure that the email that Jon receives has my name in it, at the very least, because at this point, you should know my name if I’m on your site, if I’ve purchased something from you before, if I’ve got an
account on your site, should know my name is Jay.

And the email that Jon receives must say my name somewhere in either the from field or the subject. And the from field is the superpower, the from field is the move that is going to make the open rate go through the roof. Where if you can say, just imagine that email that Jon receives and I’m just looking at my inbox, a bunch of unread messages, and the from field is e-commerce store, or it’s Jay Gibb via e-commerce store, which one are you going to… It’s an e-commerce store that Jon doesn’t recognize. He’s never heard of this store before. It’s just his friend Jay is sending in an email about a discount or something. And if you can put my name, my full name in ‘From’ name of the email address, the email address is still going to be or whatever inside the angle brackets, but the name that shows up in the Gmail or the email client history should say Jay Gibb via store name, rather than just store name.

And you don’t have to have an address book from CloudSponge to do that. Anybody can do that if you just put in the engineering effort to make sure you’re personalizing it that way. And just doing that alone is going to double or triple your open rate for that email. So, that’s like the first no-brainer that anybody who’s not doing that should definitely do that.

The next thing is if, our customers, people that are using the CloudSponge Contact Picker, and therefore they get, I guess we should probably talk about that, but they get basically the full payload of somebody’s address book. Now, rather than just having Jon’s email address, the personalization can also include Jon’s first name and last name. So now you have the ability to add those fields to your email without the user having the extra friction of being asked to type in his first name and last name, because it just came out of the address book.

And so the best performing emails that we’ve seen will put my name in from field like I described, and Jon’s first name in the subject line. So it’s like Jay Gibb vinyl store in the from and then it says, “Jon, you’re going to love this,” or, “You’re going to love these socks,” in the subject. And people are going to be compelled to open that email, because it’s got your name as a recipient, and it’s got a person that you recognize in the from field.

Jon Tucker:
Totally makes sense. How else are people, I want to shift it a little more to CloudSponge now, and I’ll go back and forth, but how else are people using CloudSponge to do this at a big scale? Because I know what we talked about before is they can select multiple people, it’ll batch send it to them, essentially. You didn’t say that, but I was making some assumptions about the way the tech works.

I envision it where basically you’re selecting the address book, you’re check marking a number of people, it’s configuring the personalization and it sends it personalized to all 15 people I wanted to share it from for my address book. What are some other aspects that using CloudSponge integrated into the program enables you to do that would otherwise just be a nightmare to try to code?

Jay Gibb:
So what you just described is a little farther than we go.

Jon Tucker:
The multi-select part too?

Jay Gibb:
No, we do all that. The thing that we don’t do is we don’t send any emails for you. So the CloudSponge product is, we call the Contact Picker.

Jon Tucker:
I know that part.

Jay Gibb:
The first part of the product gives you a menu of all the different places where people keep their contacts. So Google Contacts, Yahoo,, Office 365, iCloud, AOL, and about 40 more of them, lots of them. Gives you a menu, a configurable menu there. Then the user clicks on whichever one they recognize and does an authentication, basically gives permission to read their contacts.

Then they see the alphabetized list of their address book and they can search through it and sort it and select the people that they want to include. And then when they submit that, that contact picker, that’s the place where the CloudSponge product stops. So what we’re doing is we’re taking that payload of selected contacts that they chose and we’re doing whatever you tell us to do with it.

So we’re going to stuff it into a comma-separated list, into a viral loops field, or we’re going to put it into a list in the AutomateWoo, like WooCommerce refer-a-friend plugin, or we’re going to loop through it and trigger a Zap in Zapier that’s connected to Klaviyo, and Klaviyo sends the emails.

For us, the end of our responsibility is taking that list of payloads, of name, first name, last name, email address, maybe social media handles, phone numbers, whatever is in the person’s address book, and we do whatever you’ve configured our system to do with it. But we’re not actually the system that’s going to be sending out those emails and doing that personalization. Our consultants and our team can help you configure it to do whatever you want.

But I think it’s important to understand our job here, our priority, what we’re experts at, is making it so that you maximize the number of people that actually input those email addresses into that list. And you’re not making users, breaking them out into a mail=to link and losing them completely and losing all personalization possibilities, or losing them to switching between tabs and windows to go look up people’s email addresses. Nobody does that, especially on a mobile phone.

When was the last time you had to type in a comma-separated list of email addresses while you were using your iPhone? Did you do it?

Jon Tucker:
I’m laughing because I’m thinking of a very specific situation with a client where they had a Frankenstein mail-to link of basically the Mailto and a subject line pre-populated. And they were very excited about it, but I was like, this is not going to actually cause a lot of people to do it because this is still too clunky. And I think what I was getting at, which I think you kind of answered it, but in a different way.

To me, I’m fairly technical. The hard part is the part that you guys do, making it work with every single address book, making it simple, keeping it on the site experience, not going off to some other system. That’s super, super hard to do in a way that most of your visitors would be able to use it, and the other part of sending the email, every e-commerce store already uses something.
They don’t use the same thing, but it’s like they’re on Klaviyo, or they’re on MailChimp, they’re on all these different things. And so I would say the Contact Picker part to me is the most important part. And then it’s flexible where those emails are sent. So what I’m really hearing from you is the importance of getting the visitors to use it, and that’s the contact picker’s problem, that’s not where the email comes from.

Jay Gibb:
And as an entrepreneur, I don’t want to compete in those markets. Those are supersaturated markets, and those are solved problems, transactional email, email service providers, stuff like Zapper exists. And I don’t want to try to prescribe what the person is doing with the contacts.
If they just want to put it onto a list in MailChimp, they can do that. If they want to make a spreadsheet in Google Sheets, they can do that too. Whatever makes sense for them is what I want to deliver. So we’ve been really prescriptive about where we stop, specifically so that small merchants or small e-commerce sites, like smaller companies can use us, but also Yelp and Airbnb. and NextDoor and Lyft and all these, GoFundMe, all these big companies also use us, because we didn’t take it too far because we stopped just at the right spot. And we give the flexibility necessary to do what you need to do and integrate with your existing systems rather than us trying to be too prescriptive.

Jon Tucker:
I think that’s a powerful business lesson in general, maybe for another day, but just being super mindful on where you start and stop. I think it’s, as entrepreneurs, we can get too close to it and customers are always asking for stuff and oh, we could do that. You could do a lot of things, but what can you be the best in the world at?

I want to dig into one last piece is the measurement. So a lot of our clients are going to want to understand how exactly is this measured. I understand that having the user experience part very well thought out, which we just talked about, is important. But what are the metrics to know if this whole viral marketing word-of-mouth aspect is working, what do you recommend looking at as far as the metrics to measure? So I know it depends on exactly where you’re using it, but at a high level, walk me through the number side of how this should be watched.

Jay Gibb:
There’s a slightly different answer for each person, but I’ll give you the one thing that I always hope somebody brings with them to a call, like a consultation call. The one thing that I hope for that I’m begging your audience to go and collect for themselves is a simple formula where the denominator is the total number of people who input it at least one email address into their existing referral form.

So I don’t care about the page views, how many people saw this thing, I just want to know what’s the total, for any period of time, let’s say for a month, how many people input it at least one email address into that field? That’s the denominator, and the numerator is how many emails were sent in that period.

Jon Tucker:
So it’s conversion of the invite. They put it in, versus how many actually sent the referral? Is that what you’re saying?

Jay Gibb:
Right. So it’s a number that’s going to be greater than one. So imagine over a month, if every single person put one email address in, then you would have that number of people, divided by that number of emails got sent out. It would be 50 divided by 50, it’d be one. Some people will type in two email addresses, then the numerator’s going to be bigger than the denominator.
And that number gives you a sense for how motivated are your customers to do this? How motivated are they to go and type in more and more and more email addresses and to create a longer list of email addresses in that field? If the result of that formula is one, then they’re just motivated enough to do it. And you can just measure the denominator to see your growth trajectory.

The math there, it allows you to track a number that’s hopefully going up, especially if you add something like CloudSponge, that’s what we can look at, and we can tell you, “Look, for your entire life up to the moment where you decided to add a contact picker, this number was 1.3 or 1.2 or 1.7, because you’re smart and you’ve been tracking that we know that number. And then as soon as you added something like CloudSponge, it went from 1.7 to six or five or 3.5 or something that’s much bigger.” So the same number of people are doing it, but each of them is being three times more effective or four times or way more effective because of the presence of the Contact Picker.

Jon Tucker:
What do you typically see, and I know it’s going to vary depending on a ton of things, but you could do this for the whole client base. If the e-com ones, that’d be awesome, but I’m kind of curious, what do you typically see as the lift in that, we’ll call it, ratio, share ratio or something. If they start at one, typically, is it six or is it three or is it 12? Roughly, what do you see?

Jay Gibb:
So for the e-commerce use case, it’ll usually do… Those numbers I gave you, they were pretty close. You usually start from something in the low, somewhere between one and one. Let’s call it one point [inaudible 00:23:58]. With a contact picker, it’ll get up to about three and a half for e-commerce. And that depends heavily on the reward, double-sided.

A lot of guys will do an occasional gigantic reward. It’ll be the regular baseline reward structure, but then every six months they’ll give away something crazy for the winner of a contest or whatever. And then it’ll just shoot up, and it’ll go through the roof and people will actually dig deep and select 20 or 30 or 50 friends instead of just two or three.

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So the rewards have a big impact on the answer to your question. And obviously each, for us, each of the different use cases for the Contact Picker outside of e-commerce, they have a different answer. Obviously, somebody who’s using the Contact Picker to send wedding invitations is more motivated to do it than somebody that’s using a contact picker to just tell a friend about a product. You know what I mean?

Jon Tucker:
It’s very different.

Jay Gibb:
The different use cases have different answers, but generally in e-commerce, we can usually see a lift from about 1.3 to about three and a half, easily.

Jon Tucker:
That’s wild because I’m thinking of that from a cost per emails perspective. I know what a lot of ad-driven businesses are spending on a cost per opt-in and that would drop it massively. And I know it’s only for a certain part of the customer base or email base. That’s powerful.

I know we’re coming up on time. Is there anything else you think is super important for listeners to be aware of when it comes to how to basically integrate this and leverage it? I think there’s a lot here to digest. I’ll summarize, but is anything else you think is important that we didn’t touch on?

Jay Gibb:
You mean how to integrate my product or just to, can you elaborate on the question?

Jon Tucker:
Just in general of either how to use this in an e-com business effectively or also aspects of CloudSponge that we haven’t really touched on. Because I think we’ve hit a couple of different pieces, but just anything else for listeners that make it this far. They get it, they understand it.
Anything else you think is super important for them to be aware of on either how to use the strategy in general or what Cloud Fund enables them to accomplish? I think the CloudSponge’s part is a no-brainer. It’s going to happen anyway. Nobody wants to code that form.

Jay Gibb:
So I think that my answer answers both of those. And I think it really goes into taking the time to do the branding, the customization, because by default, out of the box, a product like CloudSponge or any other products that you can choose to plug into your e-commerce store. They all come with some style and you always have to put energy into them to make them match, like fonts and colors and corner radiuses and gradient formulas and drop shadows or no drop shadows, all those little things, that matter.

And so in the CloudSponge case, obviously we’re talking about style, which matters, but it’s just style sheet stuff. But the other part that matters is those the API credentials that you get from the third parties. So Google and Yahoo and Microsoft, in particular, when you’re a user, goes to manipulate their contacts, you want them to see your store’s brand name inside the Google permission window.

You’re giving this store permission to read your contacts. You don’t want to show them the CloudSponge logo, you don’t want to show them any logo but yours. And that’s going to increase your conversion rate. And so we provide service to our customers to help them get those credentials and integrate them into the CloudSponge account and everything. But I think it’s not to be overlooked.

I think that the amount of energy that you put into customizing products like ours and not just ours, but all of them, has a massive impact in terms of it feeling native. Your site should feel like you made it, even though maybe it’s a collection of third party tools and vendors and plugins and stuff. It can’t be overstated how important it is, in my opinion, to put in that time to really customize it to make it look like you made it, and just basically only choose those white-label products to allow you to do that.

Jon Tucker:
So I can completely see why that would matter to just make sure that whole user experience is native. And the authentication part, even myself, unless you tested the entire flow of referring somebody, you wouldn’t know about that authentication piece. And I would also even imagine once the authentication is done, you don’t have to authenticate every single time, I’m assuming that. But myself, I would probably test it first.

I’d say, “Yes, authenticate, just be done.” And then I would never see that screen again, and then I would not know to make it fully native. So I think the lesson here for everybody is pay attention to the entire user experience of the entire process. We talked about a lot of different things today, but I think the key takeaway that I’m really hearing is make sure that you’re leveraging all that money and all that traffic that you’re getting to basically get more exposure for the brand.

For an e-commerce store, you’re heavily invested in ads. You’re driving a lot of traffic, you’re spending a lot on email, you’re focused on getting people onto the email campaigns and onto your list. And there’s a lot of ways that you can leverage all of those audiences to drive more. And so with CloudSponge specifically, it’s just going to make it way, way more effective to be able to do that in a native way, directly on the site, in a way that is going to cause people to share more of their friends and to share you with more of their friends.

So I hope that you guys have learned a lot from this episode. Jay, as we wrap up here, what is the best way for people to continue their conversation with you? See any other resources you guys have, obviously check out CloudSponge. Where should we be directing people?

Jay Gibb:
Why not go to, and what we’ll do there will make a nice little homepage for your listeners. And on there, one of the things we’ll put is what we call the ultimate better sharing checklist or workbook. And it’s a place where, it’s a PDF, I think it’s maybe six or eight pages long, and it’s just basically a questionnaire, like a self-audit of all the different places on your e-commerce store where sharing could exist or does already.
And then just a little bit of homework to go through them and score them in terms of how optimized are they. And then a worksheet for figuring out if you’re not already measuring those different areas, to fill out a worksheet to start measuring them and to start logging that stuff and consider that stuff critically important and measure those conversion rates. So that’s just a free PDF.

Jon Tucker:

Jay Gibb:
You’ll have to give us an email address and we’ll email it to you.

Jon Tucker:
Awesome. We will definitely send people to that. Again, it’ll be in the show notes guys, but it’s We’ll have that resource there. And Jay, thank you so much for digging in. This has been really insightful to really see where this fits in, and I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone implements. So Jay, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Jay Gibb:
Cool. Thanks, Jon.

Jon Tucker:
Thanks for tuning in to Ecommerce Town Hall. For more resources related to today’s episode, visit

And don’t forget to check out Help Flow. Help Flow provides 24/7 live chat teams to over a hundred e-commerce stores and can drive more sales while providing an awesome customer experience through their live chat agents Help Flow’s done for you 24/7 live chat team can predict and save abandon directly on your website by engaging with chat.
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