How CROSSNET Built a Flexible Brand to Withstand Consumer Data Privacy Changes

Industry: Toys and HobbiesPlatform: Shopify Plus
Crossnet game

You may have seen CROSSNET in one of 2,500+ retail locations nationwide or in their recent spot on “Good Morning America.” Or maybe you’ve seen this four square volleyball game on a passing billboard or scrolling through TikTok.

In fact, CROSSNET is seemingly everywhere, which is exactly Chris Meade’s intention as the brand’s co-founder and chief marketing office (CMO).

But despite his many accomplishments building CROSSNET over the last four years, Chris isn’t immune to the potential impact that Apple’s iOS 14.5 privacy changes and Google’s third-party cookie restrictions may have on his business. 

As Chris aspires to make CROSSNET a household name, these consumer data privacy have already caused concern over how effectively he’ll be able to reach his consumers who have still yet to hear of the brand.

Our biggest challenge right now is getting people to continue seeing our ads. The messaging for the prompt that asks people to opt into tracking on these channels isn’t easy to understand. Opting in should allow us to see better ads that are more relevant. If I wasn’t familiar with digital marketing, I’d click ‘No’ 100 percent of the time because I don’t want anybody tracking me and following me.

Chris Meade
, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET
opt in messaging for apple

He’s right—the opt-in messaging isn’t favorable to most consumers and has caused 96 percent of iPhone users in the United States to opt out of tracking on iOS 14.5.

But these limitations aren’t stopping Chris from continuing to build the CROSSNET brand, or from getting in front of current and potential customers alike on as many channels as possible.

four people playing the game Crossnet

What brands can do today to increase ROAS

As customer acquisition costs (CACs) and costs per impression (CPMs) continue to increase on Facebook, Chris encourages marketers to consider how they can increase their average order value (AOV) through ads and therefore increase the profit margin of each purchase. 

If you have a lower AOV and CPMs are rising on Facebook, you have less of a margin. And if your acquisition costs are increasing to match the price of your product, you may break even but not make enough to keep the lights on. It used to be more challenging to market a higher-priced product, but brands with a higher AOV are actually seeing better returns because each conversion results in more profit.

Chris Meade, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET
social ad for CROSSNET

Building trust online

As Apple and Google’s data privacy changes are likely to result in an influx of less qualified web traffic, Chris is getting ahead of this concern by considering what he can do to instill trust in the CROSSNET brand and increase onsite conversions.

For this reason, Chris stressed the importance of collecting and featuring reviews online to create social proof around CROSSNET. Using Okendo and Klaviyo, he’s created a post-purchase email automation that includes a review request 14 days after a customer makes a purchase and a reminder five days later if they don’t submit one.

This simple email automation powers the five-star reviews shoppers find across CROSSNET’s suite of products, and helps to drive conversions with new shoppers who may be more unfamiliar with the brand and the quality of the products.

Chris is also excited to use Okendo’s integration with Klaviyo to run email campaigns targeted at past purchasers and collect reviews from customers who have yet to provide their feedback.

With any customer from 2020 who hasn’t left a review, I can send them an email and say, ‘We’re looking to get better. Our products are about to be on ESPN. We want to make the best possible company. Please give us your honest feedback.’ If I send that out to a segment of past purchasers, we’ll get a ton of reviews in one day.

Chris Meade, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET
an email from CROSSNET and image of their flow built out in Klaviyo

Chris believes a large part of building trust with consumers is validating your brand through the information you convey on your home page or the landing page you direct shoppers to in your advertisements.

This is why, besides reviews, CROSSNET’s home page also showcases press they’ve been featured in, testimonials from professional athletes, user-generated content (UGC) from Instagram, and the retail partners that sell the brand.

Any brand can advertise on Facebook, but not everybody can say that they’re sold at Walmart or DICK’S Sporting Goods, so we promote that in a lot of our messaging. It helps legitimize the brand. You see DICK’S selling CROSSNET, you see us on a billboard, you see us in Barstool Sports, you see us on ‘Good Morning America,’ and it’s no longer Chris’s volleyball net he made in his backyard—it’s a legitimate company.

Chris Meade, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET
a boxed up CROSSNET game sitting on a ledge near a beach

Get creative with collecting and using Customer-First Data™

As third-party data becomes less accessible, Chris emphasized it’s going to be more important than ever to collect and leverage zero-party data (information that someone gives to you, like their email address or phone number) and first-party data (information observed by a brand about someone on their owned properties), otherwise known as Customer-First Data.

I’m very fortunate that I’ve prioritized collecting Customer-First Data throughout my time building CROSSNET. We can always go back to those 200,000 customers and those 25,000 phone numbers, and leverage them—that’s not going away.

Chris Meade, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET

As Customer-First Data becomes more essential for brands, Chris expects more marketers will begin experimenting with text message marketing—and for brands that haven’t started collecting phone numbers, there’s no time like the present.

SMS has become a predictable revenue stream, similar to email. Sometimes it may not be profitable to drive somebody to a landing page and hope that they convert, but it may be scalable to get a thousand phone numbers, then send them a discount, and convert them that way.

Chris Meade, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET

Chris has found the more places you can gather an email or phone number from a shopper, the better. That’s why, besides having a signup form on CROSSNET’s website, he also collects zero-party data through social media ads on platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok.

We had an ongoing Snapchat campaign that had a simple swipe-up to enter your phone number in order to win a CROSSNET. Sometimes we’ll have a contest where people can enter to win a $1,000 Amazon gift card. I’ve seen some brands offer a three-day vacation to Barbados in exchange for phone numbers.

Chris Meade, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET

Chris emphasizes that these contests and giveaways are an incredibly effective way to grow CROSSNET’s email and SMS lists and encourages ecommerce marketers to think about what they can offer their audience in a similar campaign.

Figure out what’s relevant to your brand and create an offer to get people into the top of the funnel. If you sell hair and makeup products, for example, maybe you offer a spa trip. From there, send out an email or text message to take them further through the funnel. Analyze how much the campaign costs versus how many phone numbers or email addresses you received and how many people make a purchase to figure out if it’s profitable. If you find that it is, double down and do it again.

Chris Meade, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET

Chris emphasized that there’s still a lot of potential to uncover with text message marketing, but during a time when marketers are losing out on personalization across third-party advertising platforms, SMS can effectively fill the void.

Recently, we experimented with geo-targeting on SMS. For example, the Golden State Warriors lost in the NBA playoffs a few weeks ago, so we sent a text message to subscribers in the San Francisco area and we said, ‘Sorry about your loss, Warriors fans. Make it better by taking $50 off of CROSSNET.’ I see so many opportunities to use SMS more in that way, and as a marketer, it’s really fun to think about all the innovative campaigns you can run like that.

Chris Meade, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET
an image of the three co-founders of CROSSNET standing on a beach

Build a brand for the future

As ecommerce marketers seek to navigate Apple and Google’s data privacy changes, Chris stressed the importance of building a brand that prioritizes consistency, value, and trust despite obstacles that may arise—both now and in the future.

Consider creating campaigns without the goal of a one-off transaction. As a marketer, you’re conversion-focused—you want to make sales right away. You want to go back to your boss and say, ‘Look how much money we made,’ but that’s how a lot of brands die. You need to build your brand for the future and not just rely on transactions.

Chris Meade, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET

Chris acknowledged that it’s difficult to focus on scaling sustainably over making quick sales, especially for small businesses and first-time founders, but it’s key to creating a brand that outlasts any curve balls that come their way.

When we started CROSSNET, it was all about how much money we could make and how quick we could scale. Now, it’s how do we build a brand that people trust, so the next time someone goes on a vacation, they stop at the local Walmart or order a CROSSNET online because they know it’s going to make their trip better. Focus less on individual transactions and more brand-building. It’s tough to do, especially if you’re just starting up, but find the balance between making money versus growing the future.

Chris Meade, co-founder and CMO, CROSSNET

Find out more about the data privacy changes and what it means to be customer-first.