Let's talk about the Fuel Made Growth Model

Article detail for Actionable insights for your store:

We’ve been Shopify partners since the earliest days of Shopify, and today our team takes on around 10 “large” (6+ months) projects per year. 

We’ve kept careful data on these projects over the years identifying in each case what has led to their growth. Our clients' impressive growth has taught us what works, and what doesn’t. We've taken this hard-earned knowledge and experience and used it to develop what we call the Fuel Made Growth Model

Today we apply this model with all of our client engagements. 

What leads to growth

In developing our growth model, we took a step back to evaluate our strongest growing brands and noticed a broader pattern amongst them.

The simple pattern we identified? 

Growing ecommerce brands relentlessly execute on optimizing the customer experience.

Every day, we have people tell us how much they envy brands like Allbirds and Glossier. And this is understandable! They're amazing.

To grow like them, however, one must pay the price that these brands have paid to achieve the success they have. These successful, enviable brands have optimized for customer experience. It’s the lens through which every decision they make is made. 

Laser focus on the customer experience is what sets a brand apart. It builds brand loyalty, which fuels growth.

What focus on customer experience looks like

To help you think about this, take a look at your store’s return policy as an example.

Is it focused on serving your customer and exceeding their expectations, or does it simply work to serve your internal mechanics and financials? Could it be improved further? For example, could you include resealable bags and a return shipping label to encourage people to make returns if they need to?

You might be thinking, “That’s not viable, costs go up!”

Yes, but the customer experience is improved, and with that comes brand loyalty, higher lifetime value, repurchase rate and word-of-mouth, among other things.

It comes back to you.

In our experience, investing in your customer experience can yield even better returns on investment than investing in advertising and marketing. And it’ll enhance those efforts. 

If you want to be able to charge more, retain longer, spread faster, and just have more fun, focus the way you do business around optimizing the customer experience. 

As you make decisions, simply ask yourself: Will this improve the customer experience?”

This approach is an investment upfront of time and money, but when customer optimization is the “why” behind your every move, you will grow and see results and a return. We see it every day.

The importance of creating the best possible customer experience might seem obvious, even easy to crack. But few people do it, because it's a lot of work.

So where to begin? 

How to optimize the customer experience

Let’s start by exploring the difference between a customer experience optimization mindset, and a conversion rate optimization (CRO) mindset. 

The practice of CRO is important and we do it all the time, but it often involves testing different elements on a webpage to encourage customers to take a specific action. A really simple example might be, “Let’s make this button bigger to see if more people click it.”

But customer experience optimization digs deeper. It asks: “How do we organize, populate and structure this page in a way that gives users everything they need to make a confident decision to add to their cart?”


“How do we carry that confidence through every step after that, including beyond the checkout to the very end when the product is in their hands?"


“How can we follow up with them after to ensure they're happy?” 

Your aim should be to optimize the entire experience with your brand—from start, to sale, to ongoing engagement.

Let’s take one of our clients as an example: Beardbrand. They implement this focus really well. 

Here is a real testimonial they received from one of their customers. Listen through the lens of customer experience:

Fuel Made Growth Model experience

Let’s learn from these customer centric elements that Beardbrand employs:

  1. The product is of exceptional quality
  2. His order arrived earlier than expected
  3. The order process is so inviting that the customer went ahead and bought 3
  4. They added a free gift in his package (and he thanks Beardbrand for trying to upsell him!)
  5. It had exceptional packaging
  6. They included a thank you kit (!) (that's simple, but powerful next-level customer focus)
  7. They sent a perfectly timed and targeted email to ensure he has an exceptional experience with the product. 

All of this combined to make Julian (in his words), “a fan and a customer for life.”

    By optimizing for the customer experience, you create something personal; something memorable. Something that leads to repeat business.

    Some things you can start doing today

    Customer experience optimization will look different for every store.  But here are 5 things you can start today that will work for nearly any brand:

    1. Commit to improving the content on your website:  Invest in high quality content and use it to educate your customers and answer all their questions and build that confidence we talked about earlier. Revisit the copy on all of your landing pages. Sell benefits and not just features. Invest in high quality content photography; work with a professional.

      Photography, product descriptions, blog content, ad copy, it all needs love. Iterate continually on it. Make sure someone on your team owns this (or we both know, it won’t get done).

    2. Review your policies: specifically return and shipping to make sure they are clearly communicated, and as friendly as possible. Take some risks here and test, if needed.

    3. Set up some automated email marketing flows: start with abandoned cart and a post purchase sequence. (Consider Klaviyo, they’re excellent).

    4. Focus on the post purchase experience: This is where the money is! You’ve already eaten the acquisition cost, work it. Make sure they’re happy. Use email to do most of this. The first sale should be the beginning of your relationship, not the end.

      And the single most powerful thing we see clients do...

    5. Create a daily and weekly routine (with an owner!): to update, improve, iterate and evolve your customer’s shopping experience and make consistent steady progress every day. If you do this for the next 3 years you’ll be unstoppable.

    Some things you should stop doing today

    Now that we’ve shared what you should start doing, here are the mistakes we see over and over (besides the inverse of what we recommend above). Stop doing these today:

    1. Acting based on what other websites/brands do: this is a reactive approach and shows an overall lack of strategy. Instead - figure out what your customers need, do user testing, customer surveys, talk to them, watch them, then decide what makes sense. Don’t outsource your strategic thinking to someone who isn’t you.

    2. Failing to trust partners: this is usually a result of starting with low cost partners and getting burned by them, so your shields go up and then you don’t trust anyone. But working with competent partners can and should work well. Invest in the right partners, and then trust them to help you. Work out the ROI before you engage with them.

    3. Serving yourself, not your customer: you must make decisions based on what your customer wants, not what you want. You have to look at the whole experience through their lens, not your own. For example, many companies make it difficult to get in touch with their customer service team, since it's a costly expense. But it's important to make it easy for visitors to find customer service help in multiple ways.

    4. Playing it safe: Fear and comfort are powerful and tempting forces, but they’ll hold you back. You didn’t get to where you are by being safe and comfortable, you’re not going to grow by playing it safe. Take some risks when it comes to taking care of your customers.

    Let the customer experience guide you 

    When you relentlessly optimize for the customer experience, customers become fans, and they come back. They buy again, they tell their friends, and it grows. Let this focus guide you, and we’re confident you’ll be pleased with the results.