Working in South Asia is amazing for so many reasons, and one of them is getting to know a lot of innovators and entrepreneurs right where they are. We weren’t satisfied with the fact that there are so little information about those companies and entrepreneurs, because we know that there is so much to learn from Southeast Asian startups and their founders.

To start this quest to consolidate that knowledge, we thought it would be best if we got the information straight from the horse’s mouth. We spoke to David Fallarme, Inbound Marketing Director from ReferralCandy, and he shared with us good insights. Check it out![/vc_column_text]

Initial Stage

How did you get your first 1,000 users?

David: Since the very beginning, we had a strong focus on publishing regularly on our blog. Lots of quality posts on an active blog led to a lot of search traffic, which led to people signing up for ReferralCandy. As for specific tactics: we liberally used Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique for creating content. It’s a great framework for thinking about creating blog posts that get traffic.

What were the best performing acquisition channels?

David: Organic search has always been an important channel for us, hence our focus on producing content in our vertical and continually making SEO tweaks. Platform partnerships were also important in jumpstarting ReferralCandy’s growth. In our case, we got our app on the Shopify app store just as it was really taking off. When you see an opportunity to piggyback off a growing platform — jump on it, especially in the early days.

Growth Hacking Asia Startup Interview with ReferralCandy

Growth Stage

What were the biggest challenges you faced while scaling the company?

David: Finding new, sustainable channels is an interesting challenge. We’re past product-market fit and trying to profitably find as many people in our audience as possible. So most of our challenges center around either tweaking existing parts of our acquisition machine to make them more efficient, or running experiments to unlock new, unexplored channels.

Did your focus on user acquisition channels change over time or were your initial channels scalable enough?

David: Our acquisition strategy hasn’t changed, it’s more matured. For example, organic search was a key channel in the early stages, and it continues to be very important today. But we’re looking to diversify that; it’s always scary when Google announces any changes or even just sneezes in your general direction. So our acquisition channel strategy still has a heavy focus on search, but we’re also aware that we need to continually diversify.

(…)it’s always scary when Google announces any changes.

What was the split between paid and organically acquired users? How did this change over time?

David: We started with organic, with some marginal amount being spent on paid just to have a presence. But we’re doing more and more paid acquisition now. We have a much better handle on all of our funnels, and now that we’re bigger, we’ve got more budget to spend, which means we can run more and more experiments and learn faster.

What were the success metrics you focused on during your growth stage? Did they change over time?

David: We started with a focus on reliably generating website traffic and signups. We just wanted to get people in the door and learn along the way. As our growth ramps up, our spend also increases — so as we try to scale up we’re keeping a much closer eye on unit economics. Our metrics now are more centered on CAC, LTV, payback period and ROI per channel.

What is the biggest mistake you made and what did you learn from it?

David: Not prioritizing campaigns & data reporting. It’s hard to run growth experiments when you don’t have the measurement frameworks in place. Most people skip this step. For example, they install the plain Google Analytics code and they think it’s done. I would love to be able to go back in time and tell myself to be meticulous in setting up events, setting up funnels and goals, and ensuring that I’m regularly using UTM values for as many campaigns as possible.

Thanks, David, for sharing ReferralCandy’s story!

Growth Hacking Asia Startup Interview with ReferralCandy

If you’re a startup founder based in SEA looking for help with growing your business, let’s have a chat about growing your startup through an experiment and data-driven approach.

Contact us for more details!


luxola, interview, growth hacking

We couldn’t be more excited to kick off our growth hacking interview series with Luxola, South East Asia’s leading skincare and cosmetics e-commerce company.

adrien barthel - cmo at luxola

This week, we had the great opportunity to interview Adrien Barthel, CMO of Luxola. With a strong background in e-commerce and multichannel marketing, Adrien joined the company as Country Manager for Indonesia in early 2013, where he went from working alone in his apartment to running a team of 20 people within 8 months. He was then appointed CMO of Luxola in mid 2014 and joined the headquarters in Singapore.

Adrien shared with us fantastic insights into the early days of Luxola in Indonesia as well as the current growth strategy of the company. Read on and learn.


Stage 1 – The lean days


Understand your Customers

Luxola already had a few Indonesian customers when Adrien launched their office in Jakarta. Instead of rolling out major marketing campaigns from the beginning, he decided to focus on fully understanding these early users first. He invited them out for coffee to explore why they were buying from Luxola, how they experienced the purchasing process, what their consuming habits were and much more. It was thanks to these valuable first-hand insights that Adrien was able to understand which marketing channels to use to reach out to his target customers and what messages to communicate to them.


Develop Relationships with Bloggers and Influencers

For the first two months, Adrien worked alone from his apartment in Jakarta and focused on low-cost high-return tactics. During this time, he reached out to and developed strong relationships with bloggers and influencers. He provided them with vouchers and products so they could enjoy Luxola’s service and share the shopping experience with their readership.

Both in Indonesia and Singapore, Luxola focused on popular bloggers that were happy to write about their experience with the company without asking for a fee in return. Adrien stresses the importance of this approach, because it allowed them to focus exclusively on bloggers that were genuinely interested in the company. Adrien believes that the content of a blogger who is excited about trying out Luxola and writing about it is a lot more authentic and valuable to potential customers than content from a blogger who received a fee for writing it.


Authenticity of the experience of the blogger is super important cause then the message they deliver to their readers will be even more powerful.


Develop Partnerships with Related Businesses

In addition to developing relationships with bloggers, Adrien focused on developing partnerships with related businesses, such as e-commerce companies, Telcos, Banks, Airlines and Travel Agencies. He recommends early stage e-commerce startups to put a strong focus on partnerships with non-competing companies that target similar customer segments.


Create a “Branding Layer” with Social Media

Social Media is another low-cost channel Luxola focused on in the early days. Adrien explains that it is important to focus on brand and community building from the very beginning. He used social media channels to create what he calls a ”branding layer” so that people researching Luxola before placing a purchase were able to find the company’s social profiles with a strong following, which served as social proof and increased conversion rates.


Stage 2 -The lean days are over


Apply Gamification to Boost Engagement

Nowadays, Luxola is running highly successful engagement tactics such as contests, giveaways, Facebook apps, Facebook games and games on their own website. These tactics are not only great to boost engagement but also allow the company to collect quality leads and increase their pool of customer data.


Focus on Data Collection

According to Adrien, data plays a crucial role at Luxola and he recommends other startups to collect it from the very first day.

Data is fuelling your company. The more data you have the better because the better you can get to know your customers. Names, emails, location and gender are definitely something you need to think of when building such an operation

Before dealing with partner companies, Adrien asks for in-depth insights into their customer data to make sure that he is hitting the right audience.

Data also plays an important role in Luxola’s marketing optimisation efforts. For example, they continuously run sophisticated A/B tests and optimise their website and marketing campaigns based on the insights extracted from performance data.


Monetize your Database through Email Marketing

Adrien strongly believes in the power of email marketing and the importance of a segmentation strategy, which is why the team at Luxola exercises a highly segmented approach to email marketing. For example, Adrien shares that the company’s customers range from 18-60 years and an 18 year old has different expectations and is interested in different products than a 60 year old. Hence, the message Luxola communicates in email campaigns needs to be adjusted to each customer segment to maximise overall conversion and retention.


Email is great tool to play with if you want to monetize your database.


Use Content Marketing to Educate your Customers

Content Marketing plays an important role in Luxola’s overall marketing strategy. Adrien believes that every time someone places a purchase, that person knows exactly why she is buying and what she is buying. Adrien explains that they want to provide each potential customer with as much information as possible before buying a product because based on his experience, users tend to hesitate to buy cosmetic and skincare products they have never heard of before.

Therefore, Luxola’s content strategy focuses on educating customers about the brands the company carries, how to use the products and why you should purchase them. The goal of this strategy is to manage customer expectations by making sure they know exactly what they buy and how they can use it.


Promote a Customer Centric Organization

Adrien shares with us that Luxola is a highly customer centric organisation and believes that customers have to be prioritised over revenue. If you are able to make your customers happy, the revenue will follow. However, if you generate initial revenue but have unhappy customers, you won’t be able to succeed in the long run.

Following this mindset, Luxola collects customer feedback through their website, reviews, feedback emails, social networks and by calling up customers directly after making a purchase. This process allows them to react quickly to any issues their customers might be facing and build a strong relationship with them.


Suggestions for e-commerce companies in Asia


According to Adrien, it is absolutely crucial for e-commerce companies to fully understand their customers. Hence, before spending any marketing dollars, you need to speak with your target customers and develop a sense of who they are, what they are looking for, what their consuming habits are and through which marketing channels they can be reached.

Adrien also stresses the importance of understanding the difference in customer behaviour in different countries. Based on his experience, customers in Indonesia and Singapore are using Luxola for completely different reasons. When asking him what the difference was, he replied “Traffic jam… Let me explain”.

Singapore has a highly sophisticated public transportation system and an incredibly high concentration of shopping malls. Shoppers can conveniently reach the next mall in as little as 15 minutes, buy skincare and cosmetics products and go back home. The whole trip takes no longer than an hour.

In Indonesia, and Jakarta in particular, the situation couldn’t be more different. With a hardly-existent public transportation system, jammed roads and a significantly lower concentration of shopping malls than Singapore, reaching a mall can cost a lot of nerves and take easily 2 hours. Add another 2 hours to make your way through the shopping centre crowds before commencing a 2 hour drive back home and it takes you 6 hours to buy some mascara.
Based on these insights, Luxola’s value proposition in Singapore and Indonesia is fundamentally different. In Singapore, they are considered a company that introduces new skincare and cosmetics brands, products and styles. In Indonesia, Luxola offers its customers convenience and helps them save time.

Adrien also shared the different marketing channels he focuses on in Indonesia and Singapore. Social Media is a much more efficient channel in Indonesia where people are connected 24/7 and interacting with the company several times a day. In Singapore, the most efficient channels are partnerships and emails.


It was fantastic to speak with Adrien and gain insights into the early days of Luxola and the company’s growth tactics. What are some tactics you used to grow your e-commerce venture? What worked and what didn’t?

Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser doesn’t claim to know exactly why his startup has grown so fast so early.

Less than three year after launching, the site attracts roughly 30 million unique visitors per month and reached nearly 90 million people around the world during November of 2013.

While some founders attribute their success to what Pariser calls “the cult of the CEO,” meaning the success of a plan implemented from the top down, that’s not the story Pariser tells about how Upworthy found a large audience of readers in the fiercely competitive landscape of news websites.

Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser doesn’t claim to know exactly why his startup has grown so fast so early. Less than three year after launching, the site attracts roughly 30 million unique visitors per month and reached nearly 90 million people around the world during November of 2013.

While some founders attribute their success to what Pariser calls “the cult of the CEO,” meaning the success of a plan implemented from the top down, that’s not the story Pariser tells about how Upworthy found a large audience of readers in the fiercely competitive landscape of news websites.

“There is a storyline that’s always like, ‘We had this brilliant idea, and through great determination and our own strength of will, we made it happen,'” Pariser said in a recent roundtable Inc. hosted. “The reality of that success often is about tapping into something much broader than your ideas or your vision.”


For Upworthy, launching a news website in the middle of what is clearly a transitional period for online media has played a big role in the company’s success so far, according to Pariser.

“When the thing that you’re excited about meets history in a good way, then sometimes you’re able to get a lot of traction, so I think we were in the right place at the right time with a mission that hopefully resonates with a bunch of folks,” he said. “I think it’s as much the external stuff that’s made it happen.”

To hear more about how Upworthy gained traction quickly during it’s first two years as a company, watch the video here: Upworthy Co-Founder on the Truth Behind His Startup’s Success |