How Cuddle Clones Captured 150,000+ SMS Ecommerce Subscribers with a Triggered Popup
Cuddle Clones is an ecommerce brand with an amazing product that lets us memorialize our furry friends. Their popularity has even gained national attention on the likes of BuzzFeed, CNN, USA Today, The Huffington Post, and more.
But the Cuddle Clones team knows all this still isn't enough for consistent, long-term success.
That's why they're committed to taking action and investing in understanding their target customer, as well as implementing scalable marketing processes and a solid conversion strategy.
This post is a detailed breakdown of how Cuddle Clones executed on all of these in a big way. From idea, to finding a niche, to rolling out a plan.
- How the Cuddle Clones back story contributes to sales
- The triggered popup that captured 150,000+ email & SMS leads in one year
- How Cuddle Clones nurture these leads into paying customers via email
- What makes their product page so persuasive
- A look at the retargeting ads that bring abandoners back to the website
- Why giving is a critical part of their growth strategy
So keep reading if you want to see exactly what goes into a high-converting ecommerce machine like Cuddle Clones.
1. The Cuddle Clones back story
One lazy afternoon, while napping beside her beloved dog, Jennifer Williams got an idea that would change her life and the lives of pet lovers all over the world.
Lying next to Rufus, she wondered what it would be like to have a custom stuffed version of her furry companion.
“He was a Harlequin Great Dane with unique markings and two different colored eyes,” explains Jennifer. “And I knew I wouldn't be able to find a stuffed animal like him in the store.”
Busy with life, she put away her idea and didn't think about it again until Rufus got sick and passed. “At that moment, I just wanted to hug Rufus again and have a lasting and tangible memorial to honor that relationship—that's when Cuddle Clones was really born,” she recalls.
Carving out a business opportunity
After doing some initial research, Jennifer and her co-founder, Adam Greene, were pleasantly surprised to find there was a potentially large market for custom-stuffed animals.
Possible buyers for a custom-stuffed animal included:
- Students going off to college
- Military personnel leaving for deployment
- Seniors moving into assisted living facilities who can’t take their pets
And although these segments looked more than promising, it didn’t take long for the co-founders to make another pleasant discovery.
As Jennifer puts it, “Honestly, the biggest segment of all was the crazy pet lovers who bought our products as a super-cute way to celebrate the love for their pet.”
Eager to get their business off the ground, Jennifer and Adam formed Cuddle Clones, LLC in September of 2010. And soon after that, the duo created their first Cuddle Clone; a mixed-breed dog named Layla.
Like any fledgling ecommerce business, Cuddle Clones struggled to get people to their website and convert them into paying customers at first.
But the marketing team built a substantial subscriber and customer base over the years. With this foothold in the marketplace, improving conversions and driving more revenue was the next step.
Amping up on-site conversions
In their ongoing quest for better conversions, the Cuddle Clones team started using ConvertFlow and promptly took to the Popup Maker to launch a triggered popup on their website offering a 10% discount in exchange for the visitor’s email and phone number.
The results from adding that simple popup to their ecommerce site have been nothing less than amazing.
As Jay Vasse, Digital Marketing Manager at Cuddle Clones puts it, “ConvertFlow has been great for us and has helped us get over 150,000 email and SMS subscribers in the past year.”
Generating 150,000+ new subscribers who can be reached through email and SMS has really moved the needle for Cuddle Clones. After all, getting thousands of new subscribers would have a positive impact on just about any online business.
Let’s take a look at how they did it.
2. The popup behind 150k leads
When a visitor lands on Cuddle Clones’ homepage, they see a hero shot of a cute pet with a headline communicating the company’s primary value proposition, “A Custom Stuffed Animal of Your Pet.”
Note: At the time of this writing, the page also displays a sticky bar promoting their Labor Day sale—which offers a 20% discount along with a countdown timer to create a sense of urgency.
Moving down the page, you’ll also see strategically placed logos of well-known media outlets that have featured the Cuddle Clones brand. This, of course, helps to immediately establish credibility and social validation.
After scrolling about halfway down the page, a triggered popup appears offering visitors a 10% discount in exchange for their first name and email:
As ConvertFlow users, the company’s marketing team was able to quickly create a multi-step form that also captures visitors’ mobile phone numbers:
After entering a phone number and clicking the submit button, new subscribers are taken to a confirmation step asking them to check their messages:
Cuddle Clones then use ConvertFlow's HubSpot integration to pass the details into their CRM, and send a confirmation email complete with promised coupon code.
Note: HubSpot users can leverage ConvertFlow’s platform to rapidly create and launch lead generation forms, surveys, quizzes, landing pages, and popups—without writing a single line of code.
In this case, Cuddle Clones launched:
- A multi-step SMS popup;
- with a progressive form;
- that converts website visitors into email and SMS subscribers;
- who agree to receive the company’s future marketing communications.
It all adheres to solid popup design principles. And so far, they’re pleased with the results they’ve been getting.
3. Driving sales through email follow up
Conversion marketers know that capturing people’s emails and (when possible) their phone numbers, is just the initial step in turning website visitors into buyers.
To generate steady and predictable sales revenue, ecommerce companies need to craft effective email follow-up sequences that re-engage and nurture prospects while gently nudging them to place an order.
And the Cuddle Clones marketing team has done just that.
Let’s examine the first week of their email follow-up campaign from a conversion marketing standpoint.
Email follow-up #1
After completing the form in the popup on their homepage, Cuddle Clones sent us a confirmation email with a 10% discount code for our first order.
In the screenshot below, you’ll see that the email’s subject line tells us that our coupon has arrived and includes a CTA to redeem it now:
Also, note that the email comes from email@example.com.
This is a nice touch. Especially if the person knows the company’s startup story and that Jennifer’s dog Rufus was the inspiration for the business.
Assuming we were ready to buy that day, we could click the “Shop Now” button and place our order using the enclosed discount code.
Email follow-up #2
But we didn’t buy the first day, so Cuddle Clones smartly sent us a follow-up email the following day.
In the second email, they show their easy 3-step order process and once again offer a 10% discount while letting us know it will expire in eight days:
This, of course, creates a subtle sense of urgency.
They also let us know “What to Expect” when we place our order.
After explaining the company’s mission, “Helping customers celebrate the joy of pet ownership,” Cuddle Clones assures us that doing business with them will be a safe and pleasant experience.
The email copy does that by emphasizing the following key points:
- High-Quality. 100% custom work, so your product looks exactly like your pet.
- Full Refund. Money-back guarantee for any reason on our custom plush items.
- We Give Back. A portion of every purchase is donated to help animals in need.
- Easy Support. We are available by phone, email & chat to assist should you need it.
Reassuring first-time buyers is a smart move.
People can sometimes be apprehensive when buying from an online merchant for the first time. That’s why reducing any doubts new customers may have about doing business with you is wise.
Email follow-up #3
The next email in the follow-up sequence is designed to give prospective customers “10 Reasons to Buy a Cuddle Clone.”
Note: This email is from layla@CuddleClones.com.
In case you didn’t know, Layla was the name of the dog that inspired the first Cuddle Clone Jennifer and Adam made and sold back in 2010. That’s why this acts as an endearing tribute to the company’s first customer and her beloved dog, Layla.
In the email’s subject line and body copy, they leverage social proof by highlighting that the company has 50,000+ customers who are animal lovers (just like the prospect).
After that, they give ten reasons customers should invest in a Cuddle Clone. This is a subtle, yet effective way to inspire potential buyers to take action.
There’s an old adage that says, “Give me enough reasons why and you can convince me to do anything.”
And that’s exactly what the Cuddle Clones marketing team does in this follow-up email.
Email follow-up #4
The subject line of the next follow-up email tells people their pet is unique, and reminds them that their 10% coupon code expires in four days.
It also says that “Pets Are Worth Celebrating.” And that you can celebrate the love between you and your pet by turning their likeness into one of the company’s customized products.
After showing a “Shop Now” button, they display a variety of customizable products people can buy to celebrate the love they have for their pets.
Email follow-up #5
In the subject line of the next email, Cuddle Clones creates a sense of urgency and FOMO by reminding people they have, “Only 2 days left to join these happy pet lovers.”
Notice the copy also suggests that when people buy, they’ll belong to a group of happy pet lovers like themselves by saying: “Only 2 days left to join these happy pet lovers.”
In this email, Cuddle Clones once again uses social proof by saying they have over 50,000 customers followed by a button leading to a page with numerous verified reviews from happy customers.
They also feature reviews with actual pets posing beside plush clones made in their likeness. Below the pictures, you can see the number of “likes” and symbols like red hearts to create even more social validation.
(Sometimes I wonder how all these pets feel about posing beside their clone? I’m not sure how I would feel about seeing a life-like replica of myself 😜 I guess the pets don’t have much say in the matter... for now!)
Email follow-up #6
Here’s the final email in Cuddle Clones’ week-long follow-up series, and it simply loops back to the remind people their 10% coupon expires today:
The subject line again creates a sense of urgency by saying: “Don’t let it expire.”
And the email’s body copy offers people a chance to use the expiring discount on any item, along with an invitation to contact the company’s support team if they have any questions. This is followed by pictures of different products along with prominent buttons to “Shop Now” or “See All Products.”
It’s also worth mentioning that Cuddle Clones places social media icons at the bottom of all their emails.
Not only do these clickable icons give people a chance to follow the company and join their community of pet lovers, but they act as trust elements that subtly build more credibility for the brand.
5. A product page built to convert
Clicking-through on the company’s most popular product, The Original Plush Cuddle Clone, lands me on this product page.
Let’s take a look at how the company’s marketing team deploys various conversion elements throughout the page to increase online sales. We've broken down the page into three sections.
To start, in the critical "above the fold" section:
- They show a hero image reminding the buyer of Cuddle Clones’ value proposition. It’s a picture of a pet sitting beside a look-alike plush clone.
- They’ve also embedded a slider that lets people see more examples, along with a brief product description.
- On the right-hand side, they use an encapsulated box with the name of the product, the price, and trust elements such as the item’s star rating, number of reviews, etc.
- After that, they’ve added several bullet points for trust-building and risk reversal purposes. For example, “50,000 satisfied Cuddle Clone owners,” and “100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back.”
- They also show delivery times and a financing option/payment plan, followed by a buy button and CTA that says, “Get Your Cuddle Clone.”
- They also give an overview of their simple 3-step process showing buyers how easy it is to place their order.
Scroll a bit further, and there's a ton of social proof with examples of pets and their clones. They also display the number of likes along with brief testimonials:
The final section of the product page pushes additional items in a way that serves a couple of purposes.
It could act as a way to cross-sell other items that people can add to this order. Or acts as a strategic down-sell to showcase other, lower-cost options to people who aren’t ready or don’t have the money to invest $249 on a plush clone of their pet.
At the very bottom, Cuddle Clones also gives people a chance to sign up for the 10% discount again in case they didn't sign up previously.
Note: This could be an opportunity to use an embedded ConvertFlow form here instead. So rather than displaying this same form to everyone, people who've already signed up for the 10% discount could see something more personalized and relevant to the funnel stage they're in 😎
6. Using retargeting ads for a multi-channel approach
As you can see, the marketing team at Cuddle Clones does an excellent job capturing potential customers and following up until they become buyers.
They skillfully use a combination of on-site marketing and email follow-up to fuel the buying process.
But as any good conversion marketer knows, in today’s highly-competitive marketplace you’ll need to go beyond the website and email if you really want to create and sustain “top-of-the-mind” awareness. And that’s why fast-growing ecommerce companies like Cuddle Clones leverage advertising and social media networks to keep their brand in front of potential and existing customers.
Cuddle Clones is actively using retargeting ads to bring people back to their site, and make a purchase.
Here are a few examples of social retargeting ads they’re currently running:
And a banner ad too:
While the ads keep the Cuddle Clones brand and value prop in people’s minds, they also feature a variety of innovative and customizable items pet lovers can buy for themselves or as gifts for others.
Some examples are:
- Covers for golf clubs
- Doggie face masks
- Pet portraits
- Even plush slippers
Smart marketers know that making the first sale is more about acquiring a new customer. The real profit comes by growing that sweet customer lifetime value (CLTV) metric:
So after someone places their first order and trust is established, companies like Cuddle Clones can generate additional revenue and grow customer value through upsells, cross-sells, subscriptions, and more.
7. Giving when and where it counts
As you can see, Cuddle Clones is doing a lot right when it comes to growing their ecommerce business and taking care of customers.
But they don’t stop there.
They’re also doing important work when it comes to charitable giving. The founders and employees are doing their part to make the world a better, more compassionate place for animals (and for humans, too).
Here’s a good example of this philosophy in action:
The banner on their website shows how the company is helping animals in need and society as a whole.
Of course, this offer aligns with what’s happening with the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. And in a small, but significant, way, turns human adversity into a benefit for unfortunate animals in shelters.
Charitable initiatives like these help customers see that the people working at Cuddle Clones “walk their talk.” They demonstrate in a tangible way that the company truly cares about people and animals alike.
It’s worth noting that charitable giving is not just a one-off campaign that Cuddle Clones launched and plans to stop at some pre-determined date.
On the contrary, this conscious company has made charitable giving an integral part of their business model. And it shows that the founders and their team clearly embody the brand’s core values.
Summary and key takeaways
Now you’ve seen an excellent example of how a fast-growing ecommerce business leverages a well-thought-out conversion marketing strategy to grow their brand, audience, community, and revenue.
Here’s a quick summary of actionable steps you can take to improve your conversions and grow your business faster:
- Get to know your target market and be on the lookout for previously unseen and potentially profitable audience segments.
- Use your story to fuel your marketing efforts. Tell people why you do what you do and your messaging will connect with the right ones.
- Structure and optimize your website for better conversions.
- Launch and fine-tune your email funnel and follow-up.
- Deploy triggered popups, progressive forms, and embedded CTAs throughout your website and other online content.
- Clearly articulate the reasons why people should buy from you.
- Explain your process and communicate a clear vision of what people can expect when they’re doing business with you.
- Speak to potential customers on an emotional level, then use logic to help them justify their buying decision.
- Use retargeting ads to create and sustain top-of-the-mind awareness for your brand, while driving visitors back to your site and sales pages.
- Engage, educate, and nurture potential and existing customers across multiple channels.
- Leverage social proof on your website, emails, order pages and in other marketing communications (Examples: Testimonials, likes, reviews, logos, and other trust elements).
- Use urgency and scarcity when appropriate. Just don’t overdo it.
- Make strategic up-sell, cross-sell, and down-sell offers when possible.
- Use risk reversal. Give potential buyers money-back, satisfaction, or performance guarantees, free trials, demos, or whatever works best for your business.
- Create and promote a community vibe that offers customers a chance to “belong” to a group of people who share their values.
- Find ways to contribute to causes that are important to you, your team and your customers. Let everyone take part in the process.
- Be congruent: Attract people who share your values and make sure your marketing, customer support, and other actions consistently align with those values.
Bonus: Our personal Cuddle Clones story
If you’re an active ConvertFlow user, you may have been greeted by our in-app “Cookie Bot” when asking a product-related question.
In the image below, you’ll see that Cookie Bot is represented by a doggie avatar who’s always happy, eager, and ready to serve our users at any time, day or night. Even on weekends.
But did you know that Cookie Bot was inspired by a real-life dog?
Yes, the real Cookie belonged to ConvertFlow co-founder, Jonathan Denney, and his girlfriend Sasha.
And although Cookie recently transitioned to doggie heaven at the ripe old age of 13 (74 in human years!), she was blessed with a happy and fulfilling life. In fact, she traveled to every state in the US, except Hawaii and Alaska.
She even had her own Instagram following :)
Although Cookie was semi-retired, she was a valued member of the ConvertFlow team and served as the company’s mascot. She was even a regular at our Miami office, where she eagerly provided a delightful mix of joy, humor, and tranquility.
Cookie brought loads of love and joy into the lives of those who knew her, and that’s why Jonathan and Sasha chose to honor her life and memory with a customized plush Cuddle Clone.
These days, a plush replica of Cookie holds the space where Cookie enjoyed her afternoon naps (in between Instagram photo shoots) and while she was relaxing at home with her best friends, Sasha and Jonathan.
In fact, Cookie's clone was such a hit within ConvertFlow that our Customer Success lead, Mariana, decided to get one done for her own dog, Peggy 😍
We sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this story about Cuddle Clones and what they’re doing to improve the lives of pet lovers and animals everywhere.
There’s a classic 60s song that goes, “What the world needs now is love sweet love.” And we can all agree that anything that brings more love into this sometimes chaotic and divisive world has to be a good thing.
We believe that the Cuddle Clones founders and team are doing their part to make the world a more loving and compassionate place. And that’s why we’re honored to call them ConvertFlow customers.
This story was written and published in collaboration with StoryOps.