Hi Blok! So XCJ started off as a restaurant right? How did you get into the DTC game?
The founders, Caleb Wang and Jen Liao, started Xiao Chi Jie (小吃街) (“XCJ”) as a Chinese restaurant in Downtown Seattle. Together they were passionate about bringing equally authentic and innovative Chinese food into the modern Chinese food ecosystem.
But in the past 2 years, the restaurant business has been hit extremely hard, forcing our team to make a meaningful pivot. That’s the genesis of our journey into DTC. Our soup dumplings were the flagship product at the restaurant so that naturally became the first product we launched online.
And today, DTC has become our primary focus - we quickly saw product-market-fit, and now we’re excited to hyper-grow that side of our business!.
Congrats! What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced in the pivot?
One of the biggest challenges was keeping our soup dumplings frozen during transit. Regular ice in transit doesn't work out so well, so we’ve had to conduct a ton of R&D around dry ice frozen logistics, which is extremely expensive.
The next challenge was developing a robust supply chain network. We’ve grown significantly in this area and now have delivery centers that we can rely on for nationwide delivery, which isn’t easy to set up when you’re dealing with perishable and fragile goods.
Once you had the logistics figured out, how did you succeed on the acquisition front?
Facebook and Instagram has been a really good channel for us, and we’ve explored everything from Google to TikTok, SEO, email campaigns and SMS. Frankly - I think one of our biggest superpowers was the product. It’s genuinely loved across our customers and the community, so that, paired with really high caliber customer service has been a real asset in terms of our rapid growth in D2C.
What makes you so good at customer service?
When we say that we are a customer first, just know we're not blowing smoke. We genuinely care about our customer’s experience to the point where we run our own frozen delivery analysis - collating data from multiple sources including UPS, Aftership and Narvar to identify exactly how much time an order takes to get to the customer.
For instance - we know that our product can be in transit anywhere between 60-72 hours. Anything past that point, the dumplings risk arriving melted. So to prevent any unhappy experiences - we proactively mail any customers who experience a shipping delay, a fresh order of dumplings on the house, even before they reach about the delay from their first order. That type of gesture has been appreciated greatly by our customers.
Tell me about Storetasker: How have you worked with us? What’s your experience been like?
We got connected via Builder.io: They provide great Low Code landing page software. We learned that devs should be involved if we wanted to design the best landing page experience possible.
We then got connected to Logan who has been absolutely been crushing it. I’ve really enjoyed the experience with StoreTasker. We’ll definitely be working more alongside Logan and you again.
One last question: What sets you guys apart from the rest in D2C?
It's going to sound really cliché, but our team is so passionate about this mission to bring accessible and high quality Chinese food to the world. Our core team consists of first and second generation Asian Americans - so we all care deeply about Asian American representation in the food ecosystem and showing the world that there is a definitive place in food culture for people who look and eat like us.
And on top of that, it’s interesting – many of us come from more “traditional” corporate backgrounds like investment banking, private equity, and Silicon Valley startups, - so I think we bring a fresh perspective and deeply analytical set of eyes to this world of D2C. I think that’s helped us out a lot too.
Blok! Thank you for sharing your insights. So thrilled to have you with us & happy to be a part of your journey.