An Inside Look at Pura Vida’s Ecommerce Tools: How Two Entrepreneurs Turned a Graduation Trip into a Multimillion-Dollar Ecommerce Empire With These Eight Apps

An Inside Look at Pura Vida’s Ecommerce Tools: How Two Entrepreneurs Turned a Graduation Trip into a Multimillion-Dollar Ecommerce Empire With These Eight Apps

Consider this your invitation.

The one entrepreneurs often hope for but rarely receive.

It’s an invitation to go behind the scenes of a multimillion-dollar ecommerce company growing 50% year over year and didn’t even exist six years ago.

  • It makes products guaranteed to sell
  • It monetizes new sales channels & routinely sells out
  • It boasts of conversion rates 5-10X the industry average

For a pair of merchants this successful to peel back the curtain and show others exactly how they created a business of this magnitude before the age of thirty is rare. In fact, some top-performing ecommerce merchants do all they can to keep secret the tools they use to power their businesses.

This piece breaks one of the unspoken rules the ultra-successful often abide by and lets you in on part of the secret to success.

It’s your invitation to inspect the inner workings of a model ecommerce machine. Not only will you discover the tools that make it run, but more importantly how those tools work together to create value in excess of the sum of their parts.

Your invitation awaits. But first, you should hear about the impoverished Costa Rican artisans who inspired it all …

Simple String

That’s what Pura Vida Bracelets look like on the surface.

But underneath, the bracelets represent an appreciation for living a simple life and tell a story about a chance encounter that wound up turning into a life-changing partnership.

Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman, co-founders of Pura Vida Bracelets, were on a college graduation trip to Costa Rica six years ago when they came upon two artisans, Jorge and Joaquin, who made beautiful string bracelets. Jorge and Joaquin, according to Pura Vida, crammed themselves into a single room home with their families and lived in poverty.

Thall and Goodman each had a hundred dollars in their pockets and paid the talented but poor artisans to make them four hundred bracelets.

When Thall and Goodman returned home to San Diego, they put their bracelets in a bowl and sold them at a local boutique. In just a few days the bowl was empty and Thall and Goodman knew they had the beginning of a business.

Since then, Pura Vida has earned Thall and Goodman spots on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List as well as …

  • 807,000 Instagram followers
  • 974,000 Facebook fans
  • 130+ full-time jobs for Costa Rican artisans
  • More than $1,114,700 donated to various charities

After learning of his spot on the 30 Under 30 List, Thall marveled:

    “We were just blown away, my mom was crying and the staff was super excited. I’m running a multimillion dollar company, staring out my window at the ocean, and loving life.”

    Pura Vida's accelerated growth is due, in part, to the collection of applications it uses to creatively and interactively co-create products with its customers that drive engagement, loyalty, and growth.

    Specifically, Pura Vida personalizes the user experience which endears customers and triggers the creation of user-generated content (UGC), which converts fellow shoppers in ways traditional top-down marketing speak generally does not.

    Here then is a look inside Pura Vida’s toolbox at the collection of applications the company uses and the performance results they’ve recently produced:

    Ecommerce Tool #1: Yotpo

    Pura Vida uses Yotpo to earn authentic customer reviews, turn trust into sales, and leverage UGC to market smarter.

    In addition to helping Pura Vida improve its search ranking and convert more shoppers into customers, Yotpo also assists in customer retention which is a hallmark of top-performing ecommerce merchants.

    To generate reviews for Pura Vida, Yotpo uses what it calls Mail After Purchase (MAP) to automatically email customers after a purchase and request they make a review.

    Besides making upsell recommendations based on the customer’s purchase, the MAP is customizable, mobile-first, and allows customers to write a review right there within the MAP itself. This one-step submission, according to Yotpo, removes the friction that can come with asking a person to visit a separate site to leave a review and results in 9X more customer reviews.

    When a customer leaves a review, it automatically appears on Pura Vida’s site beneath the product being reviewed:

    In addition to reviews, customers can also ask questions which can be answered by verified buyers:

    Since partnering with Yotpo, Pura Vida reports the following:

    Reviews

    • 89,796 reviews
    • Average star rating is 4.77
    • 89.4% of reviews are 5 stars

    Engagement Over Last 365 Days

    • 26% of site visitors engage with reviews
    • The conversion rate of customers on-site who engage with reviews is 11.4% which is over 400% higher than customers who don't engage with reviews
    • The average order value of customers who engage with reviews is $34, which is about 11% higher than customers who don't engage with reviews.
    • A majority of customers, 64%, who purchased engaged with the reviews widget on the product page

    Traffic & Sales Over Last 365 Days

    • Yotpo channels have directly driven more than 400,000 customers to the Pura Vida store via Facebook integrations, social sharing, couponing, review request emails, and promoted products. For example, after the transactional email, Pura Vida follows up with a coupon code which customers can redeem through a second purchase

    As Thall says:

    “Since we started our partnership with Yotpo, we’ve been able to easily connect with and leverage relationships with new and existing customers like never before.”

    “Yotpo is continuing to lead the user-generated-content vertical, helping us to drive higher engagement, interest, and conversions on and off site for our business.”

    Ecommerce Tool #2: Bounce Exchange

    Pura Vida relies on Bounce Exchange, which makes behavioral automation tools for ecommerce merchants and others to:

    • Capture visitor emails
    • Provide exit offers to visitors about to leave
    • Increase conversion rates across multiple points on the site

    For instance, visitors landing on the Pura Vida site might see a gamified version of the company’s email capture tool that asks visitors to spin a wheel to win one of several “mystery offers” that include discounts and free shipping among others:

    After a visitor spins the wheel, the offer is revealed and visitors must provide their email to activate the offer:

    How has the “Spin to Win” wheel performed?

    • The submission rate is 24.10% across devices
    • This is a 21% lift over the other overlay opt-in variation
    • Conversion rate lift is 34.76%

    As of this writing, Bounce Exchange has helped Pura Vida capture 798,870 email addresses between July 1, 2014 and Feb. 27, 2017.

    Similarly, if a visitor appears to be leaving without making a purchase they may see an exit pop-up like this:

    How effective are these exit pop-ups?

    Pura Vida provided the following KPIs for two campaigns:

    Top Performing On Exit Campaign: BFCM Early Access

    • Submit rate: 7.14%
    • Conversion rate: 26.63%
    • Date range: November 21-24, 2016
    • Note: Incentive was 15% Off

    Top Performing On Exit Campaign in Pura Vida’s History

    • Submit rate: 18.44%
    • Conversion rate: 20.98%
    • Date range: June 9-25, 2015
    • Note: Incentive was 30% Off

    “Bounce Exchange interrupts customers who look like they may be leaving the site. The exit pop-up offers are for a limited time only which laces the experience with urgency and lifts conversions 2-3X.”

    NOTE: The submit and conversion rates highlighted here are heavily impacted by the discount being offered. For some perspective, Pura Vida’s current 15% On Exit campaign (without the BFCM urgency) is gathering a 7.38% submit rate and resulting in a 9.12% conversion rate.

    “Bounce Exchange is by far the most advanced email collection and multi-point conversion rate lifter on the market,” Thall says. “Critics might say pop-ups annoy customers but more than 798,000 people have opted-in through our pop-ups and that’s a number that speaks for itself.”

    Ecommerce Tool #3: Talkable

    Pura Vida partners with Talkable, which helps ecommerce merchants acquire new customers and increase sales through a robust referral marketing program.

    The key differentiator for Talkable is that it prevents referral fraud which can negatively impact a merchant’s bottom line.

    In Pura Vida’s case, it originally partnered with another referral marketing vendor that claimed it was driving 10% of their sales via referrals. The Pura Vida team suspected the number was inflated due to unauthorized transactions (i.e., not real customers) and was hesitant to run new referral campaigns out of fear they may become too costly.

    To see if its hunch was correct, Pura Vida partnered with Talkable and offered the same two-sided referral offer:

    • Friends get 50% off first purchase
    • Advocates get $10 off future purchase

    Turns out Pura Vida’s suspicions were founded.

    Talkable says it analyzed historical data provided by Pura Vida and determined that the prior vendor’s 10% revenue contribution claim was exaggerated:

    Image via: Talkable

    According to Talkable:

    “Talkable was able to dramatically increase performance, while keeping the offer constant by introducing better creative, increasing campaign visibility, and optimizing with A/B testing.”

    “By leveraging the Talkable platform, Pura Vida is able to drive 12% of total sales revenue from referrals, while preventing unauthorized purchases.”

    Pura Vida’s current referral offer looks like this:

    Between Jan 2015 and Feb 2017, Pura Vida, reports the following:

    • 438,032 advocate shares
    • 6,234 ad coupons redeemed

    NOTE: Pura Vida only attributes advocate sales based on advocate coupon codes redeemed. Pura Vida rewards an advocate if their friend is a new customer & makes a purchase of more than $20.

    “Fraud is so rampant in the referral space and we take solace knowing that Talkable is the authority on preventing it from happening,” explains Thall. “When we see a report that shows stellar results, we know it’s true! We couldn’t imagine a better partner in helping us be successful.”

    Ecommerce Tool #4: Fomo

    It’s an acronym for fear of missing out ...

    But Fomo is much more, providing Pura Vida and more than three thousand other ecommerce merchants with a unique form of social proof designed to lift conversions.

    It’s a one-click plugin that attempts to create urgency by displaying key customer behaviors in real time.

    The idea is to make a merchant’s store feel “busy” by alerting visitors that other visitors on the site just completed a desired action like:

    • Someone just made a purchase
    • Someone just left a 5-star review
    • Someone just signed up for a newsletter

    It’s instant social proof and allows merchants to, according to the company, get the credit they deserve and use recent conversions to convert others currently on the site.

    Here’s what Fomo looks like on Pura Vida’s home page:

    The alert bubbles up from the bottom of a page and, in this case, lets users currently on the site know that a Pura Vida customer named Sarah in Washington just purchased a Silver Wave Ring.

    Here’s another from Pura Vida’s collections page:

    In this case, the Fomo alert tells shoppers that a customer named Maria in Illinois just joined Pura Vida’s monthly subscription club.

    Since installing Fomo, Pura Vida’s reports that visitors who see a Fomo alert:

    • Convert at a rate of 13.97%, which is 203% higher than the site’s average
    • Check out with an average order size (AOV) of $32.81, which is 11% higher than the store’s average

    “Fomo makes it feel like our store is really busy by showing real time purchases. Visitors who see others making purchases are really influenced by that and are more likely to become customers themselves.”

    Ecommerce Tool #5: Foursixty

    Pura Vida is a company Thall proudly says has been built on social media.

    The company engages in social commerce by using Foursixty, a tool that allows merchants to turn their brand and user-generated Instagram content into shoppable galleries that live in multiple locations within their online store. It’s a shoppable Instagram app that was built with an organic Instagram ecommerce strategy in mind.

    Foursixty galleries live in five places on Pura Vida’s site:

    1 & 2. On the footer of the homepage & collection pages

      3. As a dedicated “Shop Our Instagram” page

        4. Within product detail pages. These “Styled on Insta” showcase product-specific Instagram posts

          5. Foursixty's dynamic cart-page gallery decreases abandoned carts by showcasing a personalized feed of Instagram photos that feature items contained within the customer's cart. At this crucial stage of the customer's shopping journey, these personalized Instagram galleries help to support the purchase decision and drive conversion.

          Why is this app so valuable?

          Quite often, an Instagram post features multiple items. In the case of Pura Vida, that might mean an image contains multiple bracelets or a swim suit. Foursixty allows Pura Vida’s social media team to “tag” multiple products within a post which empower customers to shop for exactly what they want and nothing more.

          Further, Foursixty’s feature set allows customers to add items to cart right away, enabling them to buy in the moment that their purchase desire is at its highest.

          In the example below, this Foursixty post allows a customer to identify exactly which bracelet is being worn in the image, see whether it is in stock, and then add it to her cart right away, removing the need for unnecessary clicks to product pages.

          Since partnering with Foursixty, Pura Vida reports:

          • Foursixty conversions have contributed to ~17% of online revenue
          • After engaging with an image in a Foursixty shoppable Instagram gallery, 11% of sessions will click through to the point of sale
          • 5% will add item(s) directly to their carts

          “Foursixty is by far the best shoppable Instagram app on the market.”

          “I’ve tried just about all of them and Foursixty does it just right. Foursixty’s customer service was second to none and made it easy to get everything set up and off the ground. I would highly recommend this app for any brand. Just install it- you’ll be more than satisfied.”

          Ecommerce Tool #6: Refersion

          Pura Vida customers often want to become Pura Vida representatives otherwise known as super customers

          Beyond sales, super customers help as influence followers and bring real personality to the Pura Vida brand. Additionally, they also help to increase the brand’s overall reach and engagement across all channels.

          To leverage these super fans, Pura Vida partners with Refersion, which offers ecommerce merchants real-time tracking software to better manage and grow their advocate programs.

          The application helps merchants easily track sales commissions owed to influencers, ambassadors, or anyone else helping sell a merchant’s offerings.

          Most importantly, Refersion integrates natively with the Pura Vida’s Shopify Plus account, creating a seamless experience from sign-up to promotion:

          Pura Vida’s super customers are kept engaged via their Refersion account. Using traceable coupon codes, ambassadors are able to promote and see their sales, payments, and progress all in real time. 

          Since partnering with Refersion, Pura Vida reports the following:

          • Pura Vida’s average commission is 10% on each order.
          • Pura Vida’s average order value from ambassadors is approximately 11% higher than non-ambassador orders
          • In 2016, Pura Vida ambassadors generated approximately 1,450 new customers per month or roughly 48 per day

          “Refersion made it super easy for us to set up a campus rep program. It allows your best customers to market your brand for you which is really valuable for everyone.”

          Ecommerce Tool #7: Nosto

          Much of Pura Vida’s success is due to the way it personalizes the customer experience.

          To scale personalization, Pura Vida relies on Nosto, which analyzes customer behavior, learns their likes and dislikes, and enables merchants to deliver automated, personalized recommendations in real time.

          For example, Nosto’s work on the Pura Vida site has been highlighted below in red. Notice how it personalizes the experience based on customer browsing history and geolocation:

          You can also see Nosto’s work on Pura Vida’s product pages by way of recommendations highlighting products other customers are interested in as well as products a customer has recently viewed:

          Pura Vida has been using Nosto more than a year and includes the following results:

          • 24 million recommendations generated and more than 1.6MM clicks attracted
          • 7.9% average recommendation conversion rate
          • CTR on homepage across the board at >10%
          • A steady average of more than >10% of overall revenue generated through Nosto
          • First to launch geotargeted bestsellers with Nosto. First to launch fallback recommendations. First client to use Yotpo-Nosto integration

          "Nosto is all about connecting customers with products that matter to them. It acts just like a good in-store sales associate would — but powered by super smart algorithms.”

          “At the same time, personalization also lifts a huge burden from our merchandising team by automating homepage recommendations and product page cross-sells"

          Ecommerce Tool #8: InstantSearch+

          With an ever growing number of SKUs, Pura Vida relies on InstantSearch+, a powerful on-site search tool, to help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for instantly. 

          Importantly, InstantSearch+ also helps Pura Vida boost conversion rates by making real-time product recommendations as visitors are searching for items.

          Here’s what InstantSearch+ looks like on Pura Vida’s site; notice the visitor hasn’t finished typing, yet InstantSearch+ is already making multiple recommendations:

          InstantSearch+ helps Pura Vida make smart recommendations by leveraging its search algorithm that analyzes user search behavior over time to auto-complete user searches and suggest more relevant searches and products.

          Besides making what it calls “Amazon-like” site search recommendations, InstantSearch+’s drop-down menu also allows users to filter their searches or select “popular searches” to see items others have recently looked for.

          Between January and March 2017, visitors to Pura Vida’s site have conducted more than 182,000 searches that have yielded the following results:

          • The average conversion rate since installing InstantSearch+ from search users is 18.11%, more than double that of non-search users (7.75%)
          • Shoppers who use search on the site are more than twice as likely to make a purchase
          • Search is responsible for more than 24% of the store’s revenue

          “Having used other site search solutions in the past, the move to InstantSearch+ gives visitors to my site a super fast autocomplete experience and a results page that not only has the right items but also any blog posts associated with what they’re looking for.”

          “I have to say the service I get is epic! We had very specific style requirements such as color swatches as a refinement and the Support team delivered in days. Quite impressive!”

          What’s In Your Toolbox?

          The apps in the Pura Vida toolbox work in tandem to create a personalized user experience underpinned by UGC that allows verified buyers and loyal customers to do the marketing on behalf of Pura Vida.

          Additionally, Pura Vida makes it easy and seamless to check out from social sales channels like Instagram making the user experience one that is authentic, organic, and free of traditional marketing speak.

          1. Yotpo
          2. Bounce Exchange
          3. Talkable
          4. Fomo
          5. Foursixty
          6. Refersion
          7. Nosto
          8. InstantSearch+

          The unique way these apps combine UGC and social to power the user experience differentiates Pura Vida Bracelets from its peers.

          It allows the company to forge relationships with consumers based on trust rather than shallow marketing and positions Pura Vida to offer new products to a customer base eager to give the company more of its attention and treasure.

          “It’s a lot like the ingredients to a great recipe. Each of the ingredients might taste great on their own but when you blend them together they combine to create a much more delicious dish and ultimately a better experience for everyone.”

          About the Author

          Nick Winkler is a contributor to the Shopify Plus blog & founder of The Winkler Group, a strategic communications firm that provides content marketing services to the world's best know brands, businesses, and marketers. Get more from Nick here.