To read part 1 of this series, click here.

In a Bay Area economy dominated by venture capitalism, Peak Design is unique. Unlike many of their San Francisco-based counterparts, they believe that crowdfunding is the best way to bring new products to life. And who can blame them? Since 2011 they’ve been able to funnel more than $13 million into making products that help adventurous people transport the everyday and creative gear they love the most. AdRoll sat down with Adam Saraceno and Elish Patel from Peak Design to see how they’re able to use digital marketing to enhance and grow their unique business. 

ADROLL: How do you measure success with your digital campaigns (click-through rates [CTRs], conversions, ROI)?

Adam: This is a great question. We work with many different digital marketing platforms and services—AdRoll being one of our biggest, most collaborative partners—and they all measure their effectiveness in slightly different ways. Ultimately, we get it. Not all digital marketing is doing the same thing. Sometimes you’re creating awareness, driving conversions, or even cross-selling products—all of those things should be measured accordingly.

But that’s not really an answer, is it? Shoot. Okay, here’s what ultimately matters to us: ROI. And here’s what’s important about measuring ROI: it needs to be done holistically. It’s not just ad spend versus attributable revenue. You have to factor in the variable costs it takes to make and ship the things you’re selling, otherwise known as the cost of goods sold (COGS). You have to factor in the overhead of running a business and having employees to manage product design, shipping, and marketing. You also have to factor in the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer who buys something from you. For us, we think it’s important to have a consistent revenue attribution model to measure the ROI of all the digital marketing you do. That way, at least you can compare them apples to apples, and see how things change over time, because it’s amazing how tough it can be to do that.

ADROLL: Can you describe a successful campaign? What went into the campaign? What were the goals? What were the results?

Elish: As Adam mentioned, this summer, we launched our sixth successful Kickstarter, raising over $6.5 million in just 60 days for our latest line of Everyday Bags. Marketing a crowdfunding campaign has some interesting challenges when it comes to digital marketing. Obtaining the data you need to make numerically backed decisions is one of them, and it also requires a serious shift of our marketing funnel strategy.

The campaign starts well before the launch date. We built effective content for hype building so we could create a primed audience who’s already on their way down the conversion funnel, even without fully understanding the future product. The early days of a crowdfunding are arguably the most important, where it’s crucial to have a successful day 1. The bigger your first day, the steeper your trajectory of revenue through the remainder of the campaign. It’s a sprint, not a marathon. We utilized a mix of email list building, retargeting, PR, and influencer strategy to make sure we came out of the gates fast.

The result was funding our project to the tune of $1 million on our first day. The rest of the marketing was all about driving new eyes to the campaign on a daily basis and pushing them towards conversion. You don’t have a lot of insight into the conversion metrics and user behavior, so you have to make a lot of changes based purely on your gut and previous knowledge.

We’ve built up a loyal following over the previous five campaigns, largely made up of a single persona type, with a minority percentage of outliers. With this new line, we built a suite of products that would appeal far outside the reach of our standard customer base. Experimenting with messaging and targeting was key. The result was the biggest campaign we’ve ever run, with the most diverse mix of customers we’ve ever had.

ADROLL: What do you think are key top trends transforming retail in 2016?

Elish: I’ll sum it up in one word: omnichannel. I know, buzzword that even your grandma knows by this point. But we can’t ignore it. We think about it a lot around the office. How do we bring the people who bought our product at brick-and-mortar retailers into the fold of our brand story as much as those who read about us on a blog and then skimmed through our About page and story? How do we maintain control of that brand story and drive someone to purchase online or in-store? Most importantly, how do we measure our effect of our offline efforts to our online world? The ability to collect data across all channels will continue to be a need and, hopefully, become far more sophisticated.

Mobile will continue to lead the way as it continues to grow and solidify as a point of direct conversion, and I think social plays one of the bigger roles in that. Removing and simplifying the payment process at the point of discovery, especially for in-store purchase, will change the game.

Adam: Well, firstly, there’s Amazon. It’s not really a new trend, it’s just one that continues—more and more folks are using it as their primary, if not sole, online shopping platform. Just recently, we surveyed over 20,000 of our customers, and they overwhelmingly told us that Amazon is their most important source of pre-purchase research. Whether or not they buy from Amazon, they usually go there first. That means that a brand like ours needs to, whether we like it or not, care about that channel and think about how it fits into the experience of our customers.

Secondly, storytelling. It’s how brands and smaller online retailers are differentiating from the Amazons and Best Buys of the world. Simply having products available isn’t enough to build the loyalty and trust of shoppers, and you’re never going to beat the fulfillment capabilities of a big-box store. So instead, there’s a new class of online retailers emerging who provide unique value in the form of storytelling. Huckberry and The Grommet are leaders here, and I expect to see these folks continue to flourish in the uber-competitive landscape.

ADROLL: What advice do you have for other retail marketers? How can marketers adapt to the transformative changes affecting the retail industry?

Elish: I might sound like a broken record here, but going back to basics is key in the face of the barrage of new tech, channels, and overhyped “growth marketing” hacks. It starts by having a great product and a well-planned and creative campaign. Execute that campaign in a data-first manner, implementing the appropriate promotion mix for the message you’re trying to convey.

Running your campaign with a data-driven strategy is extremely important, but sometimes you have to fly by the seat of your skinny jeans. It’s okay to sometimes use your instinct with something you know will work based on your experience. You’ll get more done, quicker. But of course, be ready to measure your tactics and back them up.

The biggest thing I’ve learned at Peak Design is that raw, unfiltered honesty works. Think hard about your message, how it lines up with your core customer base, and your product. If you treat your customers like one of the family, they’ll be loyal like one of the family.

Seek out partners who will work for you as if they are employees and have the same stake in the livelihood of your business as you do. The rate at which the industry is changing far outpaces most people’s ability to be experts in every area. Partners like AdRoll have the resources to increase your capabilities exponentially, so don’t do it all yourself.