Under The Hood: Connor from Ridge
Under The Hood with Connor, CMO of Ridge Wallets
Ridge Wallet started with a Kickstarter in 2013. We're now almost at the 10 year. Could you give me a sense of the growth since the beginning? Was it steady? Rocky? Hockey stick?
Ridge was launched in 2013 on Kickstarter. The founding team was a father & son duo.
Daniel Kane (the son & Chief Product Office) was very early in unlocking overseas manufacturing capabilities and also in unlocking online communities. He'd done that already with watches & sunglasses brand, generating several million dollars in sales - but in his senior year at UCSB - he launches a minimalist wallet with a “Dual Track” design (it’s equipped with metal plates and can expand and shrink).
And from 2013 to the end of 2016, Ridge was a small team. They had outsourced everything, from marketing to manufacturing and the team all lived together - shipping wallets from their home. In 2016, they did about $6-7m (mostly organic growth).
I then joined right at the beginning of 2017 with a few others, when the core team decided that they wanted to take growth more seriously. And in one year, we grew all the way to $15m in sales - which was phenomenal growth.
We turned on a bunch of switches and started spending money in smarter ways. The next year (2018), we ended up doing $20m. At that time, there were some growing pains from an inventory standpoint, and that’s when we really buttoned up the operations.
By 2019, we had grown to $30m in sales. In 2020, we did $50m, in 2021 we did $75m and we’re on track for $100m this year. So - to answer your question - the growth was steady organic growth, and then we saw an inflection point once we started putting real systems in place and pushing the pace on acquisition.
So tell me - what was the key to growth? What did you unlock when you came onboard in 2017?
So the Ridge business is very acquisition focused. We have a relatively high AOV (+$100), and the products are guaranteed for life - so that means that there's no natural repurchasing behavior. And with that: Growing the business has really required acquiring brand new customers.
And in 2017 we were obviously big spenders on Facebook (around 30% of our total spend which represents +$10m/year today) - but we always diversified a tone outside of that. We started doing things like influencer marketing and we were one of the first direct response advertisers on Snapchat at the end of 2017. We even got mentioned on their earnings call in 2018, as a star pupil.
Outside of those activities - we were doing native media buys with publications like “Dude I want that” and we’ve sponsored some big newsletters too.
We’ve been fortunate in how much we’ve been able to diversify our acquisition tactics - and that’s because we not only had product market fit, but also because we could go really wide on targeting since everyone owns a wallet.
You didn’t mention Tik Tok - Do you invest in that too?
Yeah - We’ve been on and off TikTok for a long time. We were a part of their beta ad network, trying to take advantage of cheap CPMs and new audiences early. And very recently (mid-2021 to today), the ad platform has significantly improved. So in the last 6-9 months, it’s become an always on channel for us.
The thing we realized about Tik Tok (and really all of our channels today) is that we need to go way deeper on content. We need to be churning out amazing content at a super fast clip. That helps with creative iteration and driving results. We have a system in place for that now.
Tell me more - What’s the structure? How have you structured your team? And how do you produce such a high volume of creative assets at pace?
We have channel leaders in place. We've got a director of paid social who oversees things like Snap, TikTok and Facebook allocating budget across those. We also have a “Growth Manager” who handles channels like Direct Mail and Linear TV.
And for a long time, our Paid Social Director was simply a really strong media buyer. They’d leverage assets handed from different agencies we worked with. We then added an in-house designer to help them create static ads; but the pressure always fell on the channel manager to deliver.
So now the big upgrade to all that is our “Performance Creative” & “Web” teams.
We have a performance creative director + a video editor who don’t actually create assets themselves, but they leverage a very powerful network of creators to create assets. This group consists of friends, customers and influencers - anyone who is willing to produce casual UGC-type videos for Ridge. That creative firepower relieves some of the pressure that comes onto the media buyers.
The “web team” is a CRO focused unit that makes sure that we're driving traffic to landing pages that convert, and that the website as a whole is always improving.
That horizontal team expansion across channels supported by deep vertical expertise in creative + CRO is really what’s enabled us to support such large growth initiatives..
Fascinating. Let’s jump into CRO then. Can you give me 2 huge wins you’ve unlocked through careful CRO testing?
One was back in early 2018: We were testing headlines and call to actions on our landing pages.
Most of the ad clicks were driving to the top section of our landing page, but the banners at the top had very low click-through-rates, but we also noticed that 20% of the traffic on the page was scrolling all the way down to the “How it works” section to learn more.
So we hypothesized that the cold traffic was skeptical of the functionality of the product - and needed to see it in action before anything else. We decided to change the CTA in the top banner to “See How it Works” - and low and behold, we saw a 15% lift in conversion rate across all traffic that landed on that page. That little change probably generated upwards of $10m in revenue, which is obviously immense for us.
And to expand on that a little - what that change made us all realize is that we offer an innovative product - so anything we can do “de-risk” the purchase for consumers who are only just learning about how this new wallet works, is a real win for us. Since then, we’ve added things like “45 day free trial” periods, free shipping, free returns, etc. All of that de-risks the purchase.
The second one was a very successful upsell test. One of the main concerns we get with Ridge wallets is that they can’t store coins & keys. It makes sense - people want the minimalist wallet, but still want a solution for their keys / coins.
But we’ve developed a separate product called the “cavity tray” which is an add-on to the wallet. This product is engineered specifically to address those concerns.
So we made this product the highlight in our cart upsell and the attachment rate of the “cavity tray” tripled, and the customers which added it converted at a higher rate than others. So we doubled down on that, further discounting the “cavity tray” - at upsell, and that further increased our conversion rates. That was huge.
And once again - the idea is the same: De-risk the purchase for the customer.
From an operation standpoint, any wins you’ve picked up along the way?
When I started at Ridge in 2017, our operations were very….. not optimised.
Even up until 2018/2019, we didn't really obsess over our COGS or our manufacturing contracts etc. But since then, that’s all changed. We’ve been a lot more structured and demanding as our volumes have scaled.
We’ve been able to get better deals, better payment terms, drop our cogs, expand margins etc. We've been operating under the assumption that acquisition is just going to get more expensive. And because we’re dependent on acquiring new customers, we need to find efficiencies operationally to maintain our healthy margins.
Have you raised any debt?
So far we’ve been able to fund our own growth. We’ve had such great years in terms of revenue performance, so we’ve never had to worry so much about cashflow. We might consider that at some point - but we didn’t consider it then.
In many ways I think we did the right thing in not raising extra capital in those first few years. I feel like good things take time. And had we accelerated our growth through external funds, we could have missed out on a lot of the learnings we gathered over the years.
Great. So now - let’s dive into the stack. What’s powering your business?
On the analytics front, we used Google Analytics for a very long time.
We set up custom events, and built out custom segments to help us isolate users when we were running our CRO experiments. So overall on the analytics front - it was never that sophisticated, but we always got the data that we needed to make certain calls.
More interestingly, we’ve always been careful in measuring performance across all channels via a consistent attribution model - and that’s historically been “last click CPA”. That really helped us decipher which buys performed better than others, comparing apples to apples. We captured all that data in google sheets, and via Supermetrics.
Today we use Northbeam for attribution. It helps us map out a first party, multi-touch attribution system. Similar idea to what we had, but much more sophisticated.
On the upsell side, we have our custom solution. For landing pages we use a mix of Shogun and Builder.io. For CRO testing, we use Google Optimize. EComm is via Shopify, emails are through Klaviyo - but we also leverage Wunderkind which helps us with some behavioural emails; they have cool identity resolution tech.
Last question from me: What’s been the biggest key to Ridge’s success so far?
So much of the success comes down to the product. We’ve done a good job marketing Ridge - but the reason I took on this position is because I genuinely loved the product and we had such solid business fundamentals to work with (high AOV, huge addressable market, good margins). Ridge is lightning in a bottle from a business standpoint.
We’re experiencing “genericization” with Ridge. Meaning customers are starting to associate our style of wallet with Ridge, regardless of whether the brand is actually “Ridge”. Kinda like Zippo, or Kleenex.
So yeah - the product rocks. And that’s helped a lot.
Thanks Connor! How can people stay in touch?
Twitter's a good place. And anybody can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.