While many businesses struggled amidst shelter-in-place orders this year, direct-to-consumer coffee service MistoBox received a surge in orders. Not only did new subscribers sign up to get artisan roasts delivered, but existing customers upped their delivery frequency as they drank more coffee while working from home.
Although the DTC company’s pandemic bump is normalizing with the reopening of stores, MistoBox Head of Growth Rhi Cook says it has not seen an increase in subscriber churn. Cook credits the customer loyalty to MistoBox’s strong product development over the past eight years in business.
“We built an experience our customers love and can use to discover new coffee as long as they’d like,” Cook says. “Not only are we adding new roasters to try, the coffees are always changing. It’s a way for people to explore the world at a time when they can’t physically do so.”
From the online subscriber quiz to the customized inner lid of the subscription box, Cook explains how MistoBox personalizes the product experience for each customer in the following Q&A. We also discuss how the brand’s packaging is designed to be a conversation starter, and why MistoBox recently partnered with Ballotpedia to deliver election information to subscribers.
In what key ways have you optimized the customer journey with MistoBox?
Rhi Cook: We spent the majority of our first years trying to perfect the user experience before aggressively pursuing growth channels. We started initially with a sample box sent to customers to try different types of coffees, but we listened and heard that people found the one they liked and the others were wasted. It wasn’t a positive experience for most of our users, so we changed our model to send a single bag of coffee to users that was picked out for them based on their preferences.
Getting to know these preferences has been a process we’ve optimized over the years as well. There are A LOT of factors that affect a person’s coffee tastes. Some people know exactly what they like, and others need help discovering it. Designing a quiz flow that’s involved enough for coffee experts, but not too intimidating for people who are just starting out was about balance. Ask too many questions and people lose interest, ask too few and people might think it’s not a truly personal experience. We’ve evolved over the years to ask a few of the questions in our quiz flow related to roast preference, grind, and coffee types as people sign up and afterwards send out additional questions for people to answer related to their brew method (which greatly affects the coffees we pick).
In 2018 we launched our Alexa app that allows subscribers to manage their subscriptions using the Amazon Echo. With Alexa, customers can see when their coffee is arriving, pause their subscription, or resume their subscription easily. We want to make it as easy as possible for customers to get the coffee they want when they need it.
How is the MistoBox packaging designed to enhance your customer’s in-home experience?
Rhi Cook: We’ve thought a lot about the packaging and every year or two, we re-evaluate it to ensure we’re giving our customers the best experience possible. Our box is small enough to ensure it can be delivered in most mailboxes, but it’s sturdy enough to protect the precious beans inside. When a customer receives a MistoBox and opens it they are greeted with the beautiful bag of coffee inside, along with a label printed for them on the lid of the box to tell them about the coffee they’re going to enjoy and the roaster it’s coming from. It’s a snapshot of everything they need to know about the coffee, including the contact information of the coffee curator to reach out to with questions or comments. Our packaging encourages them to start a conversation with us about the coffee.
Why is customization important for your brand?
Rhi Cook: Customization is not just important to us, but it’s vital. We on average have more than 600 coffees available in our shop at any given time and each of our customers has a unique taste profile they enjoy. We want to make sure that if someone enjoys bright light roast coffees, they’re getting something that will delight them. Selection is important, but over time we found people got more comfortable understanding their own preferences and occasionally wanted to select their own coffees to receive, which is why we launched the Brew Queue. It functions as a Netflix list where the user can log in to their own portal and browse all of our coffees to select which ones they want to get. We call out when we think a coffee is a match for them or top rated, but users have complete control over their own subscription and the coffees they get.
Additionally, customers personalize how often they get shipments. People go on vacation, have guests, or go on cleanses and need to modify how often they get coffee. This year we had many people working from home and needing coffee more frequently. Needs change and a MistoBox subscriber can get a new bag of coffee as often as every 5 days, as few as 45, or anything in between. That was important to us because there’s a lot of time between 7 days and 14 or 21 days. We want to empower customers to time it just right so that they don’t run out, and the new coffee that arrives isn’t sitting around for too long losing its flavors.
Each box calls out the customer’s name and their referral code as well to make it easy for customers to share with friends and family. People who get gift subscriptions have a custom note printed on each label as well from the gift giver. It’s a nice reminder of the person that gave you the gift and why.
Can you share the motivation behind your partnership with Ballotpedia, and what your subscribers received in their boxes?
Rhi Cook: The idea started organically back in January of 2020. A friend and colleague at Ballotpedia had the initial idea and we worked together to figure out what that would look like. Both MistoBox and Ballotpedia are in the same business of taking something that is intimidating and alienating for people and making it easier to understand and accessible. Specialty coffee has a reputation of being a niche product that is complicated and expensive, but we aim to make it easier for people to learn about and enjoy it. Ballotpedia does the same thing with politics, which is becoming more and more partisan and volatile. Going into an election year we knew Ballotpedia to be an amazing and unbiased resource for information related to the electoral process and we had an interest in using coffee to try to encourage more people to participate. We didn’t want to tell anyone how to vote (Ballotpedia is a balanced and unbiased resource for elections). We just wanted to take the process and make it easier to understand.
Every month when subscribers were sent an update on the shipping of their next coffee they were also sent information on the topic of the month. We covered how primaries worked, special elections, caucuses, state trifectas, and a number of other vitally important topics that most Americans don’t truly understand. As a person’s coffee arrived we encouraged them to sit down for a few minutes and learn about an important part of our political process that was relevant at the time. As the election approached we sent information on how to vote in various states and made sure they knew what was on their ballots. We wanted them to get a little more educated as they got a little caffeinated. It has been a privilege to partner with Ballotpedia on this project.
Check out BRAND United’s on-demand webinar Direct to Consumer Marketing Leadership to learn about top trends propelling the DTC market forward, and to hear how one bedding company uses packaging as an extension of its distinctive brand voice.