Under The Hood: Jason & Connor from Hexclad
A strategic & tactical chat with the president of Hexclad, Jason Panzer & with Connor Rolain: Head of Growth at Hexclad
What’s been the growth of Hexclad since launch?
The company started in 2013. The two co-founders of Danny Winer and Cole Mecray had worked for a now defunct cookware company, and decided they wanted to start something on their own.
Danny was a really visionary thinker, and Cole was an incredible salesman and understood logistics and operations. So in early 2014, they dabbled with a couple of products - but their cookware only started selling in 2016.
And in 2017, the Hexclad cookware line took off. They got a deal with Costco which gave them an incredible presence. From that, the business doubled almost every year since then.
Today, I believe we’re one of the most successful Shopify sellers in the world, I still haven’t heard of anyone who sold more than us on Black Friday - I’m sure they are out there but we haven’t found them: Hexclad has exploded in popularity & sales. We’ve got 45 employees in the day to day operations, and a total of around 150 if you take into account our sales & fulfillment teams.
When did D2C become the focus for Hexclad?
Q4 of 2019 was the proving ground for D2C. Without a big push, we were driving decent sales.
And then in March 2020, our Costco relationship was paused to the pandemic - so we went all in on building out our D2C business.
Since that day, the business exploded online and flipped to be D2C first and retail second.
What did you change to prepare yourself to be a D2C first business?
First, we leveled up our branding & messaging.
We always saw Hexclad as the next-generation badass cookware brand - but our public facing messaging wasn’t clear enough. So we invested heavily in that.
Next, we ran polished TV campaigns during large baseball games to gain mass public credibility. We also developed an instrumental partnership with world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsey.
And lastly, we got really smart on customer acquisition.
Who helped you nail your identity? Any notable agencies?
For our strategic vision and to nail our brand messaging, we used this great agency called ‘Big Day’.
We interviewed a bunch of bigger agencies too, but they got us right away.
We then worked with the talented Vaan Group on the website redesign. They took that strategic vision of being “The badass cooking company” and brought it to life with our current website. They did an incredible job and we still work with them today.
What are some of the key components driving your conversion rate up on the site?
- The value prop and product differentiator POV is very explicit and clear: “The Hybrid revolution in cookware” is explained throughout and even has its own detailed technology page. We put “hybrid revolution” immediately in the hero section and that invites users to explore what that means in more detail.
- Social proof is very strong throughout too. With Gordon Ramsey’s signature featured across the site. We also include features from other celebrity chefs, like Paul Ainsworth, and have thousands of incredible reviews from our customers.
- We bundle well and push people to these bundles. We know which bundles our first time customers want and do a good job of guiding prospects towards them.
- On-going CRO. We’re running 3-4 CRO tests at any given time to improve our website CvR. I think we’re going to greatly improve our product page over the next quarter or two with consistent iterative testing.
When you launch a new site, you’re always worried about negatively impacting conversion rate. But luckily for us, we’ve increased ours + been able to strengthen our brand message.
Anything interesting on bundles and upsells?
We do a ton of pre and post checkout cross-selling. We use rebuy for this. I love their tech.
Generally speaking, we are giving people the an offer and the opportunity to increase their cart value at pretty much every step of the journey.
And finally - our entire business is heavily structured around bundles. So we play around a lot with those. Our best-seller is a $699 set of multiple pots / pans and it absolutely crushes it on our site. We test various sets very frequently.
What are some of the biggest ingredients of your success on the Facebook acquisition front?
Improving our meta and Instagram ad account was probably the #1 improvement we made in 2022. The improvements boiled down to 3 things:
- Landing pages
On the creative front - we launched thousands of new ads last year with different angles, hooks, asset types, etc. and have maintained that cadence of testing since then. We're launching 20-50 new ads per week, including both net new and iterative batches
We’re constantly exploring which new angles we can take. For example, ads making a comparison to ceramic pans was a huge success - and that’s opened up a lot more creative tests to run. There’s a lot more we can do here – comparisons to other cookware materials, alluding to specific outcomes (the perfectly seared steak), alluding to specific events (family dinners), and much much more.
We also started reporting manually on every individual creative test, comparing data to different comparison control metrics such as “the evergreen account prospecting CACs”. We even have multipliers that we've worked with Northbeam.
Who provides you with all this content?
We work with a number of different agencies including Sharma brands, Foodsteez & Homestead. But increasingly we’re looking to produce our content internally. We recently hired a Head of Content and we aspire to get on the same level as great brands like Yeti and Huckberry in terms of creative output.
Also - big shout out to Ben Kochavy who’s been consulting us on executing our aggressive creative targets and making us best in class in a bunch of other facets of the DTC business.
Let’s chat landing pages: What’s the magic there?
Any brand should be testing landing pages if they have the resources. I think brands can win without landing pages, but there are conversions being left on the table without them. Especially for brands that have a high AOV and longer consideration period like us (our most common amount of time from discovery to purchase is 1-3 months). To give you a sense of how meaningful they are to us: Our top two spending ads this year are both going to a landing page that focuses on a very expensive 13 piece set.
The way I see it: Your landing pages should educate, and your website should convert: Landing page is all education and pre-selling, and that makes sense because you’re sending top of funnel traffic to it. Most people aren’t ready to pull the trigger on $699 13pc set right way. We need to tell them why they should, and that’s what landers are all about.
And for those, we use a variety of tools including Replo which we quite like because it stays within the Shopify ecosystem.
And your 3rd point was about offers: Tell me more.
When I joined, I noticed we sent a lot of traffic to our homepage when instead, our best sellers were the 13 and 6 piece sets.
So immediately, I started building out more funnels centered around those bundle and we started to see better performance metrics in the ad account. I spend a good chunk of time playing around with price positioning to create the highest possible perceived value.
What’s your tech stack?
Landing pages: Replo
Post-purchase surveys: Kno
No Discount Code leak: Codeleak
Quiz: Octane AI
Connected TV: Tatari
Upsells / Cross-sells: Rebuy
Project Management: Monday
And a huge shout-out especially to Kno, Rebuy and Northbeam. Their tech is incredibly valuable to us, and their teams are fantastic.
We share Slack channels with them and work alongside them to optimize our value from their tech. We were on the phone with the founder of Kno last week to speak about connected TV. We also have bi-weeklies with a super smart CSM at Northbeam who’s helped us create custom “blended metric multipliers” for us which have been so so useful.
Last question: What’s your key to success on Hexclad?
It's a really simple answer. It's having a great product.
There are so many people working Angles in D2C, but when you have a great product, it gives you a lot of room to make mistakes. So product is #1.
And #2 is experience: Danny and Cole and I have been through multiple business cycles, so I do think we’re able to make better decisions having seen more activity over the years.