Community: buzzword, or brand-builder?

Hello CX legends,

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Some real quick updates for this week:

I Had the incredible privilege of hanging out at Expo East, the Natural Foods show here in Philly. While I’m now at JRB and spend most of my days on the beauty side of CPG, a piece of my heart remains in food and bev. It was so lovely spending time with founders and tasting all the snacks!

Some of my favorite snacks from the ones I tried:

Dr. Perfy: Best Dr. Pepper dupe I've tried. It’s got only 4g sugar, 5g net carbs, 20 calories, and is enhanced with 50mg L-Theanine and 30mg of Ashwagandha.

Katie’s Pizza: I’ve never had frozen pizza this tasty. Every pizza is hand-stretched, wood-fired, and topped with local vegetables.

Snow Days: Healthier pizza bites! Grain-free, organic vegetables, grass-fed mozzarella, and olive oil.

Blackbird Seitan: They drenched it in buffalo sauce at the show, and it tasted like a delicious boneless wing. Vegan, plant-based, kosher, and non-GMO.

Second, I want to highlight one of my favorite e-commerce newsletters in the space right now.

Cody Plofker (CMO @ JRB) writes all about marketing and growth as we build Jones Road Beauty from 0 to a 9-figure brand.

Cody is one of the sharpest marketers I know and the reason I’m at Jones in the first place. His newsletter is a tactical and practical no-fluff guide to building a DTC brand.

Subscribe here.

This week’s newsie is part 2 to last week’s, where we chatted about loyalty programs. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.

Before we get into it, a brief shoutout to Gorgias, our sponsor for this week’s newsie.

Gorgias is my CX helpdesk of choice and what I’ve used at both OLIPOP and JRB. If you have been here for a bit, you know how much I love Gorgias and why I think it’s an absolute must-have for any Shopify business. More on my fav Gorgias use cases here.

It’s our one-stop-shop for all things customer. If you have any questions about how we use Gorgias or why we chose Gorgias, feel free to email me anytime.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

We ended last week’s newsie talking about unlocking “real loyalty” with community. Before we dive into my plan for JRB and our community, let’s zoom out for a minute. In true newsie-fashion, I’ll break this down into three sections.

  1. The space

  2. Communi-tea

  3. My JRB game plan

1. The space:

“Community” has become a buzzword over the last few years, with brands big and small touting “community” as their moat in a tight market of blanding and copycats.

What started as carefully cultivated and thought-out strategies has been reduced to tossing some folks in a FB group or slack server and calling it a community.

“Community” is broadly defined as a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Over the last few years, we've seen a slew of brands launching community-first, but why?

How did brands revert to this as the mechanism to get folks to spend more money?

And, does it work?

If you loved Domino’s pizza, would you be okay being tossed on to a Discord server with other Domino lovers to chat all about Domino’s? How about a Domino’s convention? Too much?

2. Communi-tea:

The smart people over at Harvard Business Review identify three forms of community affiliation, all of which are important to learn, one of which we will focus on in this newsletter:

A. Pools: People have strong associations with a shared activity or goal or shared values, and loose associations with one another.

The shared activity, goal, or values are the key to this community affiliation.


  • Apple enthusiasts

  • Republicans or Democrats

  • Ironman triathletes

B. Webs: People have one-to-one solid relationships with others with similar or complementary needs.

Personal relationships are the key to this community affiliation.


  • FacebookCancer

  • Survivors Network

C. Hubs: People have strong connections to a central figure and weaker associations with one another.

A charismatic figure is a key to this community affiliation.


  • Deepak Chopra

  • Hannah Montana

  • Oprah

Pools deliver only limited community benefits—people share a set of abstract beliefs but build few interpersonal relationships.

Further, the ordinary meaning that holds members together often becomes diluted if the brand attempts to grow.

Unless the affiliation to a brand idea is supplemented with human connections, community members are at risk of dropping out. The solution lies in using webs and hubs to strengthen and expand the community.

When I started looking at brands in our space doing wonders with community, some that stuck out were House of Wise, Obvi, and Liquid Death.

When chatting with Amanda on our podcast a few months ago, we spoke about House of Wise situating itself higher on the hierarchy of needs. Their community focused on a more profound and elevated aspirational idea of who you want to be.

Yes, they are a CBD gummy company with gummies for sleep, sex, etc., but on the aspirational side, their community centers around empowering women to take time and space for themselves, giving them permission to fit it all into their life and be present.

The House of Wise community rallies women around these core concepts and values, and that’s a community that many of their customers believe is worth being a part of.

Obvi’s community is 57k and growing, and the core of their community is folks looking to look better and feel better with the help of collagen. A community of folks aligned towards similar goals with the use of your products is a very effective way to build together.

That, coupled with early access and group exclusives, makes the Obvi community something most customers are excited to join. In chatting with Ron from Obvi, here’s what he said about their community:

“We envision a place where members are joining the community purely for the value it brings, not necessarily because they bought Obvi products.

Our mission has always been to become the obvious choice for women’s health, starting with hair, skin, nails, and joints. The community allows us to connect and educate while still providing an exclusive fostering of a relationship with our customers.

Together the community makes a bigger difference than our product alone. Obvi’s community is the first step to a healthier you, and its organic and sales-free aspect helps maintain the authenticity.”

Communities focusing on connecting humans with a larger mission than just “buy our sh*t” resonate more with folks and builds a sustainable brand.It's imperative that you find your brand's deeper "why" before just popping open FB/Discord/Slack/Geneva to create yet another community.

3. My JRB game plan:

Now, let’s talk about the nitty-gritty details of building community at JRB. Bobbi’s mission of instilling beauty from the inside out spans decades, and people having confidence in their own skin is something that she has always been about.

When we took that and decided to build a community around it, there were three questions:

  1. Who should we be targeting for the beta group?

  2. How do we moderate the group?

  3. What tools should we use?

A. Targeting:

When it comes to target audiences, here was the #1 question we had:

Are there any recognizable traits of potential super-fans that we can see pretty early in their customer journey so that we can nourish super-fans and turn them into evangelists?

For example, can we:

  • Find customers that love their experience with JRB (good review, NPS promoter, etc.)

  • Give them the ability to share with a friend and gain from doing so

  • Keep them engaged with the brand through continuous educational messaging

  • Cultivate a community of people with similar interests and goals

Zooming out, the broader business goal was this: 

I wanted to give those early customers “permission to obsess.”

When you walk into a (metaphorical) room of JRB lovers talking about their fav products and sharing their unfiltered thoughts on what they’d like to see next, and those people share those same values around beauty, that’s a place that feels like home.

Community: a group of people with values and mission you align with, centered around products you are excited about.

To get started, we took a cohort of folks that have ordered 5+ times over last two years and invited them to the group with a simple premise. Instead of telling you about it, let me show you!

The goal: get as many JRB-obsessed folks in there before we bring in the normies. 😏

When you check out a group like Obvi, you’ll see folks posting shelfies full of every product Obvi has released within the moment of joining. That makes a new-ish customer go, “Woah, this is a brand people obsess over,” and puts them even further down the rabbit hole.

B. Moderation:  

If you’ve got 69 brands, you’ll have 69 opinions on community moderation.

In our case, I love our CX squad and wanted them to all be part of this community. Sydney, our CX lead, is managing this community and posts prompts for conversation a few times a week, but truth be told, within a few weeks, this community was thriving on its own.

Regarding anything insensitive or out of line, we do have some basic rules, but we do our best to let conversations flow.

C. Tools:

I spent way too much time agonizing over this one. Facebook is where folks post dropping their daughters off at college, but hey, it’s where our customer is.

Only hard and fast rule: don’t make your customers jump through too many hoops to be part of your community. Make it a low lift, high impact opportunity for them. In our case:

  • It’s where you’re already spending time

  • You can connect with like-minded people

  • You are part of our R&D process with surveys etc

  • You gain access to new products before anyone else

  • You can spend as much or as little time there as you wish

  • You are part of an intimate group with Bobbi (she’s part of the group!)

Keep it simple. Low lift, high impact.

That’s it for this week!

Any topics you’d love to see me cover? Drop a reply!

Appreciate you more than you know,

Eli 💛

For this week's CX Chronicles, I’m stoked to be joined this week by Julie Ozlek, E-commerce manager at Soom Foods, a sister-owned purveyor of tahini & tahini products used by award-winning chefs and home cooks.

Soom holds a special place in my heart for two reasons. 1. Philly-based!2. I love tahini!

1. What is your CX Philosophy?

Soom is a family founded and run company. Since we’re so community-focused, our customer experience philosophy has a foundation in treating our customers like family.

We have real people helping out every step of the way, ensuring Soom is in stock and available at the places our customers like to shop, fulfilling orders in-house by caring Soom Crew Members, providing a plethora of ideas for how to use and enjoy Soom, and having a super responsive Customer Support team to immediately solve any issues.

We take pride in supporting our aweSOOM customers and building long-lasting relationships!

2. Your favorite Soom CX story?

It’s so hard to pick just one because we’re literally sharing customer feedback and emails with each other every day! Our customers are so excited to share their experiences with Soom and we know many of them by name as a result.

Our Customer Support team shared one story about a customer in Canada who was unable to purchase our Dark Chocolate Tahini with Sea Salt when our only Canadian eCommerce account was out of stock.

The customer emailed us directly and explained how much she adored the chocolate tahini because it reminded her so much of the halva (a confection made with tahini and sugar) when she was traveling overseas. Instead of an automated or matter-of-fact response, our incredible Customer Service team shared their own love of the flavor and Soom’s initial inspiration for its creation.

Without hesitation, the customer let us know how much our reply meant to her and how the personal touch in our response made all the difference!

Since the initial interaction, the relationship with this customer continued to grow. We’ve shared our favorite recipes from our extensive free recipe library and let her know our personal ways to enjoy chocolate tahini. In turn, she has purchased additional Soom flavors, was encouraged to bake more with her family using Soom, and even sends Soom as gifts to her friends!

These are the types of connections we love the most… bringing people together through the power of good food!

Brought to you by Gorgias