In this episode, Callum McKeefery show host and CEO of REVIEWS.io talks to Lisa Popovici, Co-founder and CMO at Cartloop
They discuss the importance of treating the SMS channel in the right way in order to delight the customer, achieve sustained growth, customer retention, and increase satisfaction. They talk about the unique approach to communications required with SMS, and if done correctly, how it can help to reduce support costs, cut backlogs, alleviate buying concerns and help turn support queries into sales.
They also discuss fundraising, how to balance product development via innovation v's customer feedback and the importance of having real conversations with real people.
Black Velvet Sydney
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Ep. 15: How to use SMS correctly to achieve sustained growth: Lisa Popovici
Callum: So today on the podcast we have Lisa Popovici. Lisa is the co-founder and COO at Cartloop. If you don't know Cartloop, they are a leading conversational SMS marketing platform that helps brands increase conversion via one on one conversations.
Does that pretty much cover what you do, Lisa?
Lisa: Yeah, that covers it.
Callum: Thank you so much.
It looks amazing where you are right now. Much better than where I currently am. So tell me where you are.
Lisa: I'm in Romania. I'm in my parent's backyard. Beautiful. I'm visiting them this week. I surprised my mom, uh, last Sunday, cuz it was her birthday.
Callum: Oh, amazing. Amazing. So you're normally based in Barcelona at the moment.
Lisa: Yes. I moved in Barcelona eight months ago.
Callum: Okay. Why Barcelona?
Lisa: It was very spontaneous, spontaneous out of, uh, Andre, my co-founder and I, we both moved there, and we feel like it's the [00:01:00] best way to describe it is as the California of Europe because you have the beach, you have the mountains, you have great people, great talent, especially in the tech space, which is super evolving, also great food. Yeah. Like the lifestyles is, is, is amazing.
Callum: It's very similar weather to California.
Callum: Barcelona it's really, you know, I, I spend a lot of time in California. My wife's from southern California. My son was born there and Barcelona has a very similar climate yeah. To, uh, Barcelona.
Yeah. Very cool. Yeah, exactly. Very cool. So how did you become a co-founder and CMO of Cartloop? How did Cartloop start? What was the journey?
Lisa: Yeah. Um, so Cartloop started two years ago, just at the beginning of the pandemic, April 2020. And there were two major reasons why Cartloop came to life. So one of them was the fact that Andre and I were Shopify merchants [00:02:00] before we started Cartloop
so we were dealing with, you know, everything that a merchant nowadays deals with. However, back then there were no, not so many tools, like conversational tools, and SMS tools like there are now not so many options. So you were just relying on the traditional ones. So one thing that we were doing, because we were frustrated with the amount of abandoned carts that we were getting is we were manually texting our abandoned shoppers, via, WhatsApp.
So just very friendly, very casually trying to have a conversation with them and they actually appreciate it. So that's one moment where, you know, we saw a huge opportunity in this approach and we, you. I thought, okay, how can we scale this? This is interesting. We should dive deeper. And then two years ago we saw.
That SMS space is getting more and more popular. Yeah. However, most players were fully focused, on, on the automation side of things. So we decided that [00:03:00] SMS, if it's not going to be treated correctly, it's going to become very, like a very interesting channel. And there's a very thin line between actually delighting your customers and annoying them.
Yeah. Very thin. We saw it exactly. We saw we saw that the human element was missing. So we decided, okay, let's just start very niche. Let's just, you know, gather a team of live shopping agents, train them very well and just, uh, do SMS marketing for brands. Basically, run, run the communication through text for brands.
Callum: Yeah. Yeah. , I love what you guys are doing. I'm a big fan of the solution and I love your, your latest site, you know, I got a lot of inspiration from it, to be honest, it, it was very, I love the design and the flow of it. So, likewise, you launched recently?
Um, Cartloop Pro. I don't know much about this, this new feature. A lot of people talking about it on Twitter, and I just wanna learn a bit more [00:04:00] about it. So what, what is Cartloop Pro?
Lisa: Cartloop Pro is actually a service, an additional service, right? That comes with our second plan, which is the pro plan. So, what's included in Cartloop Pro it's your own dedicated success team that goes above and beyond just to make you successful when it comes to SMS, marketing and Cartloop?
So, every single brand that chooses to go with Cartloop Pro gets assigned with their own success team. That manages their entire channel for them all the way from the setup to the strategy to monthly optimization calls to campaign management. So we basically, you know, even come up with creative text ideas, campaigns, and nurturing, flows, for our brands, keep their brand policies in mind, their tone of voice, We just, you know, propose them, we create strategies and then they just have to give us their green light and we will do it for them.
Lisa: So one of the reasons why we decided to add this service [00:05:00] is the fact that brands, most brands are, are doing SMS, marketing wrong. Even today.
Lisa: So we're all about educating merchants on how to treat SMS the right way. Keep the channel very personal, very intimate, and very friendly, in order to have sustainable growth and, you know, retain their customer, delight, their customers increase satisfaction, scores, and so on.
Callum: That's the thing delighting the customer. Uh, you know, SMS is a great channel when used, correct?
Callum: but I see so many brands, you know, use it incorrectly and kind of burn that relationship, I suppose, in a, in a, in a way you can't, you can't send too many SMS, it's not email. , it's such a fine line. It's such a personal communication channel. People are used to getting. You know, marketing emails and they're used to emails invading their inbox, but they're not.
Callum: SMS is more personal, it [00:06:00] has to be the tone of voice has to be correct. If not, you're gonna lose a customer. Um, yeah.
Lisa: I have an interesting story, cuz I was chatting with, a new customer recently who told me that they, before I was asking. Okay. So how does, how did your SMS marketing strategy look like before you joined us? And they said that they were sending like five campaigns per week and I was shocked just because receiving five texts just for one from one brand in a week.
Yeah. That. So bad. So, you know, this is why we, we launched Cartloop Pro.
Callum: So the space you're in is very, very busy. You know, it's a very competitive space. You've got Klarna. You, you know, you've got not Klarna, Klaviyo. Um, are obviously going into the space now more aggressively, you've got, uh, Yotpo with SMS bump.
You've got other smaller niche players in the market. How, how do you stand out? [00:07:00] Is it really on the way you look at it? What, what is it that makes you guys stand out differently and what are they doing that you are not doing and what are you doing that they're not doing?
Lisa: Yeah, exactly. So we're all about, you know, Providing a better customer experience.
And that's how we position ourselves because we supercharge support teams with our team of live shopping agents. Right. Uh, we reduce costs. We caught the backlog that most brands have, even during these. On certain times, you know, you're seeing downsizing, you are seeing people not investing that much, and putting resources into departments, such as customer support, which is super important.
So we try to automate the conversations for them, reduce support costs, and cut the backlog. Also we. Through the fact that we have real-time communication, we alleviate buying concerns. We detect buying intent. So we are able to address that directly and very fast. So we provide fast customer resolutions and I think the overall, success that we're seeing, [00:08:00] it's turning support into sales.
Callum: Yeah. Yeah. No, that makes, that makes a huge amount of sense. So what, what's your average customer? What do they look like? What's your target customer look like? Is it the smaller end or is it the bigger end? Where, where do you, if you said this is my perfect client, who is it?
Lisa: Yeah, I would say, um, small to medium brand. That's doing all the way in between five to 20 million in annual GMB. Yeah. We do have like a variety. We also have enterprise clients, smaller ones, but like, yeah, the ideal one would be yeah. Would be of that size.
Callum: And how many clients have you got at the moment?
Lisa: We have 600, clients.
Callum: That's amazing. So how many, how many team members have you got?
Lisa: 18 fully remote team members.
Callum: So you're fully, fully remote, fully remote. Yes. Yeah. How's that going? How are you finding that?
Lisa: It's very interesting. So [00:09:00] far it's been working very well for us. It's, it's very diverse and dynamic. I would say, I feel like every single team member at Cartloop adds to the culture and that's amazing, but of course like, like in the next five years we see ourself having like two or three hops around the world where people can get together connect and, you know, have that one to one experience. Cause we do believe a hybrid model is, uh, essential if you wanna really build a big company.
Lisa: And a big, strong culture.
Callum: So talking about big company, so what's the company set up? Are you bootstrapped or have you taken investment? Where are you on that?
Lisa: We are at pre-seed stage. So we, we got pre-seed investment.
We also were recently backed by Village Global. And, uh, yeah, preparing, for, for the seed ground.
Callum: Wow. Exciting, exciting. And it, it's, it's tough. I think out there at the minute to raise the seed round, I, I think it'll [00:10:00] be good for you guys because you've got a good product and you've already got that product market fit. You know what you're doing, you've already got, you know, good founders involved in the business. So I don't think it'll be too difficult for you guys, but I, I think the market. Raising capital at the moment is changing rapidly. So when are you looking to go out with your seed ramp?
Lisa: Cannot really disclose this yet we're strategizing, but, uh, yeah, this year.
Callum: Awesome. Awesome. Well, good. Let me know. Let me know, cuz we are active, you know, when, when you are ready, come, come and see us. Cause we'd love to, uh, get involved. , how are you finding recruiting at the moment? How's that? How's the recruiting process going? Are more people coming onto the market or is it, or is it still difficult?
Lisa: Recruiting is, yeah. I've. If you ask me, what's the biggest challenge, you know, when building a startup, definitely the top three is recruiting.
Lisa: Because everyone is fighting for talent. So, you know, [00:11:00] you just have to prove why, why you're better than the other company and, have, have a strong vision, a strong culture.
Lisa: But what I've seen is that more and more people, want to. That maybe work in huge corporations or huge companies, you know, they wanna come back to, to the smaller teams, the dynamic ones where they know they can have a bigger impact and they can see the results of their work, super fast, like not wait for, uh, you know, that recognition that can take months or years. So, yeah, that's, that's a good thing.
Callum: So culture's obviously massively important. Um, yeah, one thing that I've really struggled with at Reviews is, is keeping the culture, growing the culture, refining the culture
Callum: while everybody was fully remote, we're in a hybrid solution at the minute where we're in the office a couple of days a week. And, you know, you can choose when you're in and not in and everything else. Um, I really found it [00:12:00] difficult to, to keep the culture when everybody was fully remote. How, how do you do that?
Lisa: Yeah, so we have, of course, we have our set of values such as we value a lot, um, ownership and autonomy, and also the fact that we're always looking for people to come join Cartloop and tell us what to do, not the other way around.
Right. But. There's also some initiatives such as, you know, like getting together on virtual Hangouts, virtual nightouts, doing all kinds of, experiences.
Lisa: Uh, together just to, you know, go beyond that work environment and get to know each other at the human level, because I feel like it's super important to have both. Uh, the professional and the human element in the company. One thing that we recently introduced, which is super, super cool is, at once per month, we have this, kind of experiences where we use the Airbnb platform, and we get together on a zoom virtual, [00:13:00] meeting where, We choose one experience, for example, learn how to cook, croissants or like go on a virtual tour of Tokyo.
This is what we did last time. So there was a guy from Tokyo, literally filming himself, uh, with his selfie stick and going with his bike to tours around Tokyo. And we felt like we were there. So we were able to ask him questions, uh, during the, his tour. And he was answering while he was visiting amazing places. And we were such a cool bonding experience. So now we all wanna visit Tokyo.
Callum: Yeah, that that's so cool. I mean, yeah, I don't think about that one. That one's great. I'm gonna introduce that. sorry. Pinching it. That's a good tip. Um, one of my staff said to me earlier, he, he. I think I'm gonna move to Japan and he's in the UK the minute and he just I'm like, okay. Okay. um, so I'm gonna get him to run the thing with the stick and show his land. So all, all apps, [00:14:00] all solutions, Really struggle with the ever-changing needs of customers. You know, the thing that worked we're in such a fast industry, the thing that worked 12 months ago, doesn't work now. How do you deal with that everchanging needs and requirements of your customers?
Lisa: Yeah, that's a good question. To be able to keep up with the trends, but also be able to innovate and have a long-term vision, a long-term roadmap. It's important to have a balance between, uh, always listening to your customer's feedback, but also trying to find ways to innovate it. Maybe customers are not seeing yet, but they will need it, right? Yeah. They will need it like one year from now two years, five years from now. So I think it's just keeping a balance between the two. Knowing how to prioritize, even if, sometimes it's so challenging to say no to a customer, is just very difficult.
Better. Yeah. And just, just trust us. Wait. You know, like [00:15:00] we are always having this reactive, like, um, a mechanism where, you know, you see feedback, you see someone that needs that you want to build it, like on the spot, you want to finish it like 24 hours and just build it for them. But sometimes it's not the right decision.
So yeah, keeping a balance.
Callum: It's so difficult when you're a young company and you're founder-led and you you're still really deeply involved in it. When you get that customer goes, I'm leaving. If you don't do this yes. Or, or, you know, I need this feature and we have it. I mean, so we have one where one of our competitors has a form where they can leave a review in the email.
Callum: And we've tested it so many times and it, it has really low conversion. It doesn't work, but one of our competitors promotes this feature so much. We've had to add it and say, [00:16:00] it's there if you want to use it, but it's not good. And it really, it bothers me as a founder that we there's something in the solution that doesn't work as well as the other parts of the solution, just because, one of our competitors did, did you know, heavily promote that, that side of it.
Um, It's so difficult to say no, isn't it. I mean, I find it immensely difficult. , so you talking about it and saying, you know, you guys actively say no is, is, is good to hear. Um, good to hear from another app developer. so what's on the roadmap in the next 12 months?
Lisa: So we, uh, actually yes, I can, announce, today cuz , social media announcements are going out today actually.
So we're having our first official live event which is called the summer product drop. We're going to be introducing three major features. So I'm very excited about. Basically, we're presenting the new way of [00:17:00] communicating with customers and also were bringing very requested features, from, from our merchants.
That that they've been, you know, asking for a while, but with a twist, of course, like everything at Cartloop will always be conversational. We all about conversations and real-time communication. So yeah, combining, combining these two aspects, like, you know, the new way of communicating with customers, meeting them on their preferred channel, at the right moment, and, you know, ways to, to better the, the customer experience.
Lisa: Like this is the high level, but. Very exciting features on the roadmap.
Callum: I I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to it. So where are you doing the event? It's gonna be a virtual event or is it gonna be an in
Lisa: yeah. Virtual event. Virtual event. Where now? Yes. Awesome. It's a, it's going to be a, webinar, presented by, myself, our head of customer success and our growth, manager, Dean. So it's going to be very exciting.
Callum: So one of the things that I always see with [00:18:00] SMS and email marketing, I know what you do. Isn't the same as yeah. Standard SMS, where you're just sending a message and yours is a lot more conversational or lot more intimate. Um, but can you show how you impact revenue or do you show how you impact customer service? Cause obviously there's both plays within Cartloop. Isn't it?
Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We definitely show how we impact revenue because, you know, every single customer interaction ends with a, um, let's say a conversion event. Right. Okay. Yeah. Like with, with the, with converting the customer, either it's today or in seven or one month in seven days or one month, it still ends with that and then goes into another nurturing loop.
And then the loop, you know, it's a self-sustaining loop that we're trying to create. So, yeah, the way we attribute sales is if the customer, uses the link that we provide [00:19:00] through the conversation, maybe they want, you know, a personalized recommendation from a product, or maybe they just want their card link with discount added.
Or if they use the discount code that we provide. Okay. And we also have, we are attributing cells based on the engagement, window. So there's a seven-day window. If they engaged with us, maybe, you know, they, they haven't. Opened the, the product page or the, card link in the desktop, but maybe they've opened it on their mobile several days after, or from a friend's device.
So, you know, just trying to also prove the value of having those one-to-one conversations through this engagement window.
Callum: Yeah. Yeah. Cause that's, you know, that's always, the difficult thing is, you know, he's nailing down your ROI and, and showing look, yeah. Actually, this is, this is what revenue we are driving, and if you can do that, any solution can do it. You can win. What brand do you see? That's doing SMS really well at the.[00:20:00]
Lisa: Our brands?
Callum: No. Yeah. So, so who out, who out of your brands, who do you think, right, those guys are, are, have done great with SMS?
Lisa: So there's a, very cool one that we recently launched a case study. It's an Australian brand that sells cupcakes. So it's in the food industry.
It's called Black Velvet Sydney, and, they, they were new to SMS. They really wanted to, improve their customer experience because they also have an in-person location. So they are also selling, they have a store, but they also have a huge online presence. Cause people are ordering online, like, you know, and, and, delivering through their online, store.
So they wanted to combine both. So, you know, one thing that we propose is, you know, let's, let's try to. Leverage the offline presence, and bring it online. So basically add QR codes, when people are coming into your shop and they wanna purchase. Something like cupcakes, just add it to the packaging, to incentivize them to come back.
Lisa: Or maybe [00:21:00] offer, offer that, 10% discount for the next order to their friend and refer a friend and then increase word of mouth. So just very, I would say, innovative ways to, use SMS use texting, to create a strong community and also the fact that. Uh, have this conversational approach. So from every single interaction they have, maybe after they, someone abandons their cart, or maybe if they, you know, opt in through the popup or just, um, text with the keyword from social media, they can start a real conversation with a real human.
So all these initiatives really help improve the customer experience and they've been seeing great, great results in terms of ROI.
Callum: So are they, are they Shopify POS as well as. Shopify store or are they using a different POS system? Does it matter? ,
Lisa: I don't think it matters. Uh, they, I'm not really sure of this. Yeah. Um, just because they have,
Callum: are you guys Shopify?
Lisa: Only one, maybe more, yes. Shopify only right [00:22:00] now.
Callum: Okay. And are you gonna roll out to any other platforms?
Lisa: Yeah, that's the. But, uh, for now, we feel like, yeah, that's, there's a huge opportunity still in the Shopify ecosystem.
Callum: Yeah. Yeah. I, I ask because we are multiplatform now we are on Big Commerce we're on legacy things like Magento so, but obviously, Shopify is the thousand-pound gorilla in the room. But yeah, we have spread out now off, off Shopify.
We were in Magento app originally. We were, you know,
Lisa: oh, okay. Didn't know that.
Callum: Yeah. Back in the day, we started out really, our first app was mag on Magento. Then we rolled forward and, and still. We have an API solution that mm-hmm works really well for, some of those bigger enterprise clients where they're on their own legacy kind of solution. Um, but yeah, that's really been interesting
Lisa: are the majority of your customers on Shopify?
Callum: It's about [00:23:00] 50/50, new customers, probably 80/20. Um, new customers are definitely obviously a bigger spreader at Shopify now, than any other platform, Big Commerce we see as a, um, it's definitely a challenger, but nowhere near the size. But yeah, that's probably, our second biggest platform at the moment. Um, we have just done a deal with, Square.
That's why I was thinking about the POS. So we just did a deal with Square to bring reviews, to IO, to square, so awesome. And their POS. So, I think what you do would be great going into like Square because. Their customers are quite tech-savvy, and I think there's no SMS. It's Greenfield, you know, there's no SMS really solution in that space.
It'd be really interesting to see if you, you know, you could take the opportunity, you know, make an opportunity out of that. Um,
Callum: Do you have a mentor or do you no mentor?
Lisa: I do [00:24:00] not have a mentor yet. I would love a mentor, but. I think my biggest mentor is Andre. Just myself. I'm my biggest motivator.
Lisa: Sometimes. Yeah. I wish I, well, I wish there was someone motivating. I, but no, just so doing everything on our own right now.
Callum: No, well, there is nothing wrong with that, you know, like, yeah. When, when me and my wife started, we have no one to speak to. I mean, we were husband and wife, founders, and we'd just literally go at it. There was nobody out there we could even talk to when, when we first started. Um, so do you have a recent podcast, audio, audible book, or anything? Do you go back to anything you get your learnings from about the industry or do you just generally read everything?
Lisa: So,, the last book that I read and finished, like last month was the Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.
Callum: [00:25:00] Brilliant book.
Lisa: And, oh, I love it. Uh, I feel like it combines perfectly three aspects, so it's surprising as a book should be. So every single page was like, wow. Wow. Wow. It's. Motivating inspiring and also transparent. So I feel like, yeah, you can really, you know, when you look at Nike, you see such a successful business, you're like, oh, these guys are so cool.
They're crushing it they're oh, I wish I was them. Right. Yeah. But actually like what is behind, in all those years of like, almost failing and. Hitting rock bottom. And it's so like, you know, it's such a, you, you relate to those feelings, right? As a, as a hundred percent founder as a startup.
Callum: Yeah. I, I love that book and
Lisa: yeah, I love it. I've started now Radical Candor if you know it.
Callum: Yeah. Yeah. I've read Radical Candor. Brilliant book. She's um, Kim, I forget the Surname. Kim and Scott.
Lisa: Kim Scott, Kim Scott.
Callum: She's [00:26:00] so blunt and honest and to the point, um, brilliant book, yeah, love it. Love. Yeah. Yeah,
Lisa: Definitely helps a lot with, you know, creating a strong culture, managing people, like, uh, keeping that balance that, that I, recently said about challenging directly, but also, you know, caring personally. So I feel like I will learn a lot from it.
Callum: Yeah. So I, I loved it, it's definitely in my top five that you, you need to, listen to. So what about events-wise, do you get to go to many events? What's your kind of favourite event at the minute? Is it the smaller events or is it, you know, do you do the big events?
Lisa: So just because, you know, in the past two years it was the pandemic and the lockdown, we were mostly attending virtually.
With partners or from the Shopify space. Now I'm seeing, you know, more and more events, , coming up. So, which is super exciting, definitely on, our radar.
Callum: Have you done any speaking events before?
Lisa: [00:27:00] Just virtually, so just virtual. That will be a good challenge.
Callum: Oh my gosh. I I'm it's so out of my comfort zone to do the speaking events.
Lisa: Isn't it for all?
Callum: Yeah, I dunno, because some people seem natural to be able to just get up and
Lisa: I think practice,
Callum: be brilliant.
Lisa: Practice is key.
Callum: Yeah, I was, I was talking to a guy from Ah refs, the SEO solution, for the ranking
Callum: and, he goes around the world doing talking events and he probably does three or four a month. And he said to me, he goes, Callum, it's practice. I could do this in my, in my sleep. And I was like, I was, you. I said to him, do you still get nervous? No, just go on there. And you know.
Lisa: He gets bored, right?
Callum: And, and, and for me, I'm like, I get up there and I, I have a thing that I make other people nervous, so my wife goes, why do you make everybody in the room so I'm nervous when, and I'm like, I don't know. I don't know. Um, [00:28:00] so yeah, I kind of have a complex about my post.
Lisa: I don't feel that, like, you were great today.
Callum: So honestly, you've been such a great guest. I can't wait to meet up in person, I love what you're doing. I love how you look at the industry. I love how you're bringing something fresh and new to kind of a, space that has some real big players in it. It's a, you know, massively competitive space. You guys are looking at it in a way where you're trying to make it hyper-personalized. And, and you're just bringing a fresh outlook and I think that's gonna win. I think, you know, you've got a huge, huge opportunity in front of you. And I'm excited to see what happens for Cartloop. What's happening. I mean the space that you're in is changing fast. There's no doubt about that. And I, I think, you know, like I said, you guys have got some great opportunities for any of our listeners. I'm gonna drop all of Lisa's details. Lisa does a lot on Twitter, [00:29:00] and everything we spoke about today, I'll drop in the show notes, but yeah, really appreciate it.
Thank you for being on Lisa.
Lisa: Thank you so much was a pleasure.
Callum: Thank you for listening today. In reviews we trust is a bi-weekly podcast where I hope to be bringing you advice and insights from brands that are taking the e-commerce world by storm.