Episode 1: Featuring Co-Founder and COO of Golfroots - Jake Hoffman



In this first episode of the Experiment Zone podcast, dive into a strategic conversation with Jake Hoffman from GolfRoots, hosted by AJ Davis.

Together, we’ll unravel the story behind GolfRoots’ mission and their impressive strides in the world of golf. From their dedication to repurposing golf clubs for players of all levels to their savvy social media growth strategies, Jake shares insights that are bound to resonate with you.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  1. How GolfRoots is revolutionizing golf by making it more affordable and sustainable.
  2. Insights into their target audience and operational challenges, including shipping logistics.
  3. Strategies for growing social media presence, including success stories on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
  4. The importance of a conversion audit for optimizing website design and user experience.
  5. Actionable digital marketing insights to enhance visibility, navigation, value proposition, and brand storytelling on GolfRoots’ website.

Have a great online business that you’d like to have featured on our podcast? Apply to be a guest here.

Podcast Highlights

00:56 Meet Jake Hoffman: Co-founder and COO of GolfRoots
00:53 Diving Deep into GolfRoots: Mission, Audience, and Challenges
03:36 Conversion Goals and Digital Marketing Strategies Unveiled
06:11 Live Audit: Enhancing GolfRoots’ Website for Better Conversion
22:33 Insights and Actionable Takeaways from the Audit
24:08 Wrapping Up: How to Connect with GolfRoots



AJ Davis 0:46

Hi! Welcome to this episode of the Experiment Zone Podcast. We’re here today with Jake Hoffman from GolfRoots, to hear more about the GolfRoots company and to provide a free conversion audit. Nice to have you on today. [Excited to be here.] Thanks for being on. Tell us a little bit about yourself and GolfRoots.

Jake Hoffman 1:11

Absolutely! So I am the co-founder and COO of GolfRoots, and our mission is to make golf more affordable, more accessible, and more sustainable. We do that by upcycling our preowned clubs, we have some new clubs as well, but we’re making it easy for people to access those cheaper, affordable options online direct to consumer (DTC). [And who is your target audience?] Our target audience is quite large, we have a very even distribution from 18 to 60 years old, which has surprised us. But it’s mostly men right now, that’s just because it’s harder to find pre-owned women’s clubs. We try to skew that kind of 18 to 35-year-old, those kind of young professionals, people that are starting to play golf for the first time who don’t want to spend $2,000 or $3,000 on a set of brand new clubs.

AJ Davis 2:10

When you talk to prospects or when you hear from them through your site, what are some questions or confusion they currently have about how the product works and how they receive it and things like that?

Jake Hoffman 2:21

I think the confusion is, we have a starter set called the ‘Just the Roots set.’ The goal of this is to provide customers and new golfers with the bare essentials for golf, it’s four clubs, and five balls, kind of the basics you need to start swinging and see if you like it and test it out. And so a lot of times people will read the description and be confused as to what exactly it includes. And they’ll also be wondering how they can redeem this set for credit, which is something else we provide, we say we’ll give you a refund towards a full set. So they are sometimes confused about how that works operationally. And then we also have full sets that also include everything you’d need to play. It’s 14 clubs driven through putter, which for even non-golfers, you might sense is kind of exactly what you need, you could buy it in one place and not do anything else. They are just confused about how we pick those sets, how we design them, how we put them together, they’re quite large, and how we ship them sometimes.

AJ Davis 3:35

What are some of your goals for conversion this year?

Jake Hoffman 3:38

So our conversion rate historically has been hovering between 0.5% and 0.6%, which is quite low. It’s been a major issue of struggle for us, I would say so. I think we would love to get that up even as we grow. We know that it’s hard to do that with more cold traffic coming in. But, getting that somewhere closer to the industry average or at least .75 to 1% would be awesome. Just doing everything we can to make sure that we’re taking action and increasing that and testing what works and what doesn’t work as well.

Right! And a big factor for conversion rates, at least for a baseline is where you’re getting traffic from. So can you tell us a little bit about your digital marketing strategy?

Absolutely! We have, you know, a big, organic and non-organic strategy. So we spend about 80% of our paid budget right now on Facebook, then we spend about the remaining 20% on Google ads, search ads, and then some of the other types that they have, but mostly on search. I would say the other third comes from organic content we posted about a year ago. We decided to go very heavy on TikTok and Instagram. And it’s worked well for us, we went from about 2000 total followers to 130,000 and 140,000 now, and that’s been huge for us. Over the summer, I think it led to about 40% of our sales, we got that from Google Analytics and some post-purchase surveys. So those are the two big channels that we get it through and break it down between organic and paid.

AJ Davis 5:39

Fantastic! Well, congratulations on that success so far, that sounds like a successful campaign. Before we jump into the audit, typically we see there are some kinds of businesses that are mobile, only mobile-first, and some companies split depending on the product. What do you find for your visitors? Are you getting most people on mobile these days?

Jake Hoffman 5:58

Most people are on mobile these days! And I think that’s exactly right. It’s about 5:1, mobile to the desktop.

AJ Davis 6:05

Okay, great! All right. We will go ahead and jump right in then, let me get my screen shared. For those first-time listeners, in the next section of this podcast, we’re going to do a live audit of golfroots.com. I’ll have my screen shared, so you can follow along to see what the website looks like. today. We’ll go screen by screen, I’ll give some thoughts about some challenges or questions that visitors might have as they’re here, especially first-time visitors. What we find is that for our audience, not only do the golfers get to walk away with some specific improvements today but also some specific things to A/B test. The other thing is we’re just talking about big concepts that matter for conversion, so get your pen out and take some notes, we’re ready to jump in. So tell us a little bit about your homepage, we’re looking at golfroots.com, give us a little sense of how you thought about this page, and then we’ll dive in with some feedback.

Jake Hoffman 7:03

So we think a lot about the story-brand concept. I’m trying to remember the author’s name. But basically, we wanted to make this page as clear as possible about exactly who we are, and exactly what we do. And so you can see, in the middle of this page, it says ‘affordable, preowned clubs for every level.’ Our idea and hope is that anybody could come on to this site and immediately know who we are and what we do. We want to prioritize the experience, we don’t want the clubs to overshadow the actual love of the game, you can play with 30-year-old clubs, if you want to, which is why we have that kind of subtext. We wanted to make it abundantly clear, with no kind of confusion about who we are and what we’re providing.

AJ Davis 7:55

Fantastic. Yeah, and that would be my positive feedback on this page. What I love about this page is that it addresses that direct brand message. As you said, at affordable pre-owned clubs for every level, it answers the ‘what’ and the ‘who.’ And then your next sampling also speaks a bit to the ‘why.’ Why would golfers just spend less on clubs and more on the experience? Those are the three elements that we see a lot of brands forget about when they build their homepage, a lot of the templates include promoting new products or things that you might see on amazon.com or nike.com, where people already know what the brand is all about. I love that you’re starting there. I love that you’ve had the ‘build your bag’ CTA, low-hanging fruit here. I’m going to divide my feedback between fixes just to go ahead and do, then we’ll also talk about some A/B tests, which are things that I feel confident in. But we’d want to validate in the real world by giving 50% of people one experience and 50% of the current experience. So for a fix, ‘build your bag’ on mobile, we have a nice button here. It is action-oriented but I’d love to see it be bigger on this screen, so it’s an easier click target and more visible.

A quick test you can do that is not scientific but helps understand design elements is, to sit back in your chair and squint your eyes, I call it my ‘squint test.’ If the CTA is different from what stands out when you do that, it could be a better contrast and scale. So this is one I think you’re close on, but I would bump that up and increase the size here. [Right.] I like that we’re seeing the reviews and social proof validation right away. That’s nice to see. And I suspect I can go through there to see more. There are some dots here. Ah, there’s some more information back here, I suspect most people don’t interact with that element. And so I would, instead of having it be separate on mobile like this little slider, I would just stack the two. So you can see both of these at the same time. And it doesn’t require that additional interaction.

Jake Hoffman 10:00

Gotcha. Yeah, that’s something that I think is likely on the desktop, they’re next to each other. And I think that’s probably something on mobile, we missed.

AJ Davis 10:07

Absolutely, and that happens to everyone, right? A lot of us sit at our desktops to design the website, but we need to go back and go, Oh, that’s right! That’s how that should work on mobile. So perfect, little little fixes, here and there. I see that you’ve got a shop-by-club type here, so we can now scroll through and see some of these. Generally, what we find in A/B testing, this may be an A/B test for you is that instead of these big sliders with big click targets, exposing maybe button size targets like drivers, woods, etc, in a stacked list here gives a comparison right away. So you mentioned that you’re helping new golfers get their first set of clubs. And so for them, they may not know all these different categories and where to go. You might include best sellers here, so they can jump right into the shortcut of “here’s what I should probably look at first.” And then for a little bit more experienced people or people working with someone else, they can get into the specific subtypes. All right, and then you’ve got your Instagram, tell us a little bit about your Instagram, and the content that we’re seeing here.

Jake Hoffman 11:18

Absolutely! Our Instagram is aimed to be that educational component for newer golfers. And then also highlighting weird, specific funny golf clubs, for people who are already in that community. So we’re trying to make the game more approachable for those newer people. And then for the people that are already into the game. For example, you can see, there’s a head cover on the screen that has a bunch of colored dots. We were asking each other what’s the coolest headcover we have in our warehouse. And so it’s just a lot of the documenting vs. creating. That was how we started off doing this. I’m from a computer science and economics background, my co-founder is a history in Spanish major, so we are not necessarily the digital Instagram influencer types. And so documenting what we were doing and how we were thinking about our business was how we started creating these videos. And it’s kind of turned into this educational, informational type of profile.

AJ Davis 12:27

That’s great. And I like the personal touch that we’re seeing here too, we’re seeing a real person alongside the products. So a fix here for clarity because you’re speaking to that playful education piece, in addition to the ‘follow us’ maybe there’s something around like ‘learn more’ or ‘learn’, ‘get more information’ about how we think about clubs or something here to nudge what kind of content they’re gonna get. We’ve generally done some testing around, do we want people to leave our sites to go to Instagram? Or do we want them to stay and browse, because you’re working with new consumers to golf, it may be very important. And so it would be something I’d A/B test kind of the placement of this information, how it leaves into the brand story on the homepage and elsewhere on the site. We may not want them to leave, but at the same time, this might reinforce their confidence to get started for the first time.

Jake Hoffman 13:22

I was gonna ask actually, we added this for social proof and also to show more of who you are. But how do you reconcile those two things? Not wanting them to leave, but also wanting to show that you do have a profile, you are real people, etc

AJ Davis 13:40

Yeah, that’s a great question. So generally, the hierarchy of a homepage should include what you have in that first block, right, the homepage hero, who you are, what you’re doing, and why they should buy from you because that’s that first moment of capturing attention. Then you want to introduce some social proof and validation, which you also have around some of those reviews. One of the things that is missing is the idea of specific products being shown on your homepage. So when we did our introduction today, you mentioned two sets are commonly sold, I haven’t seen that yet. And so I’d expect to see that either second or third on the homepage, diving right into specific products, and I don’t have to navigate through categories and different details.

I generally find in testing the fastest path we can give people to a product page, the faster they’re going to convert or the more likely they are to convert because some people want to browse. You can imagine someone running into a target and they’re gonna run through every single aisle and just kind of take their time and see what inspires them. That’s analogous to someone who’s going through your category pages. You can imagine somebody walking into a physical store and it’s like, ‘Here’s the product I want,’ and they go through a search. That’s asking an associate, where do I find this item?

The third kind of person is someone who’s looking at those end caps and they’re not going down the aisles. And that’s the most common way we see in physical store shopping that also holds up on the web, so we want to promote certain products on the homepage. So to come back to your question around, well, how do we balance that brand story and being personal? I think that having it further down the page is one way to do it, if they’ve gotten to this point after seeing products, social proof, etc, they’re still researching and understanding the brand. And then there’s a question of, can I interact here versus do I need to go somewhere else? The other intersection is being able to put Instagram at the secondary action while still leveraging the content on the site. So maybe there are a couple of posts that you think effectively communicate the brand, maybe highlight and spotlight one of those videos, and then have a scene war at the bottom. So you can keep them on their site, get them interacting with some of that content, but keep them in the context of the website. [Gotcha, that makes a lot of sense.]

And then I think the other side is like the human behind the brand, and that’s always a tough balance. Some brands are founder-driven and do need that narrative behind them, others are so product-driven, that people are never going to ask, ‘Who built this?’ ‘Why did they build it?’ And so that, again, is a testing subject of that spotlight on the founder story talking about the challenges you’ve had so it’s relatable, and balancing that with your own customer stories? Like why have your customers benefited? Why have they decided to go this way for their first goals?

Jake Hoffman 16:33

Right. Yeah. And that’s something we have tested a little bit historically, although probably not enough, definitely not enough, we started out doing these very authentic, just cameras on, let’s start talking style videos. And people seem to think that we are no BS, just some young guys who love golf, and we are, but it’s stuck with us a little bit to the point where people will say ‘You’re just as dorky in person as you are online.’ And well, it’s funny it speaks to what we’ve created, but I do think you’re right, we don’t want to be dependent on one or two people. And at least, we need to test if we are dependent right now.

AJ Davis 17:20

And maybe you want to be, maybe the story is we’re a bunch of dorky golf nerds, trust us to find your first club set for you. [Exactly.] Right. That could be exactly it, and maybe there’s a spotlight on the homepage that speaks to that or something on a product page that reinforces that as you move through the journey. So don’t be afraid of your story. But following us on Instagram isn’t clear, clear enough of an action or motivator for why someone should interact with this content and how that’s going to help them with their purchase. We want to avoid just plugging in a video or plugging in some social posts on a page. And we want to tell people what we want them to do with that information. The more explicit we can be, the easier it is for people to interact or convert. [That makes sense.] All right, well, let’s jump in. I’m going to follow the primary CTA on the top, which takes me to this category page. This listing page seems to align with a pretty standard approach, so we’ve got search filters, this looks like a sort-by drop-down. And golf, I imagine there’s quite a lot of filtering that can be required, so you don’t have to look at everything. These all look like a good start here. Um, how have you decided on the filter categories?

Jake Hoffman 18:37

So that’s a good point, a lot of the feedback we’ve gotten has been about adding different aspects. At the start, it was shaft flex. For example, for the non-golfers out there, you have essentially five or six major types of shaft flex going from women’s, which, in theory, is kind of very bendy, to extra stiff, which is more like a pencil or it’s not bending at all. So that is dependent on the type of golfer and we included that originally, but this would be a great example of somebody saying, ‘Hey, you know, I want to search by extra stiff’ so it wouldn’t be helpful to show them a women’s, or maybe a senior flex again, where it’s very bendy. And it’s come from a lot of customer feedback after we intuitively had broken down things based on handedness or gender. We had a few basic ones to start and then as we launched it continued to grow. We’ll get emails from people saying, “Hey, can you guys add this?” That happened with conditions fairly recently, I think it’s just an iterative process, and we try to listen to our customers.

AJ Davis 19:59

I think that’s a great starting place for filters as well as navigation, I think those are two categories where we should listen to what our customers are asking for. A nice complement to that would be to add some analytics tracking on it to see what people are clicking on and interacting with here. And then, generally, the higher up something is, the more they’re going to interact with it. So when we see exceptions to it, maybe the shaft flex is the most popular, or maybe it’s the third most popular, maybe that means we need to move it up on the list. That’s a nice way to balance the ‘data drivenness’ of making some nice decisions, vs. an A/B test where maybe you have to overhaul it all to play with some of the interaction or introduce some more conversion focus things like price, or reviews or things like that. [Right.] Great. All right, I do want to look at the nav while we’re here. So you’ve got men’s clubs, women’s clubs, clearance, and take a look here. This looks like it’s aligned to categories. I think one of the things I would recommend here as well, and brand new clubs is not used clubs. Is that right?

Jake Hoffman 21:04

That’s correct. So I would say 95% of what we have are preowned clubs, and that the brand new clubs, we have a decent amount of literally in the wrapper clubs that we’ve gotten as well.

AJ Davis 21:18

Okay, great. Yeah, that’s something that I think makes sense. There are two kinds of groups above these categories that we often think about, which is best selling, which may or may not be as relevant. Although you did mention there’s kind of two sets, those might be under our best sellers. And then new, which yours are a mix of new products that are brand new versus products that are new to the website. And so that might be a category that you would do some experimentation around, if there’s something that’s kind of shown, like trending or brand new things to the site that someone who has been shopping here wants to see. And we generally find in testing that adding it at the level above these categories, here is analogous to these.

Best sellers are new or going to be shortcuts, navigation paths can be very effective. But overall, this looks like a clear structure that aligns with the brand that you mentioned, like the way that you guys position your brand and the products is pretty intuitive, it aligns with some of the other golf brands we’ve worked with. So I understand intuitively how to start there. And we are quickly running through our 15-minute audit, so I want to turn it back to you. Because we’ve run through a couple of things here today, what are three things as a result of this conversation you’re going to bring back to improve conversion?

Jake Hoffman 22:40

I think the first thing would be right on the homepage, right away that squint test. I thought that was a neat way of thinking about it. So expanding that button to build your bag seems like an easy place to start for us. I think that moving just the root set, which is that beginner set, is actually on the homepage, we didn’t get to it, but it’s at the very bottom. And so the fact that we didn’t even address it shows me that we pretty clearly need to move it up. And then I think one other big takeaway that we addressed closer to the end was the need for some sort of best sellers, category, and navigation. And I think that’s going to be important for us, but also challenging, because, as you alluded to, we only have a couple of big products that we can sell consistently, right, we have one of every product. And so I think it’s a great idea for us to put our heads together and think about how we can cater that experience to the customers, whether that’s showing the new 2024 Callaway driver, or whether that’s showing the kind of our best deals or most popular clubs that we see regularly. So I think those would be the three things that I would immediately take away. And then obviously there are a bunch more things that I’ll go into as well.

AJ Davis 24:06

Fantastic. Thanks for recapping that for us. And so my last question is for folks listening along today, how can they get in touch? How can they learn more?

Jake Hoffman 24:14

Yeah, absolutely. You could google ‘golfroots’ and we should pop up. If you want to follow us on social media, we’re @golf.roots, or on Tiktok, we’re just Golfroots. So yeah, it’s easy, just search for us online. And follow along if you’re interested in golf, or if you’re already a major golfer check us out. But yeah, I appreciate the time today. Thanks, AJ.

AJ Davis 24:39

Yeah, and it sounds like you’ve got some great videos on Instagram, so I’m going to check that out after our call today. Those sound like great entry points to get to know you and the brand as well. Thanks for being on. We appreciate it. And thanks for sharing your journey to improving your conversion rates.

Jake Hoffman 24:54

Absolutely. Thank you.

AJ Davis 24:56

Thank you for tuning in to The Experiment Zone Podcast. You can check out more episodes on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, and Spotif in your favorite podcast apps. Check out the show notes for any website linked to this episode, including where to connect with us on social media. We appreciate you tuning in. Remember to Like, subscribe, and turn on your notifications, you’ll be updated on each episode release, and visit us at experimentzone.com for all podcast updates as well. Appreciate you dropping by!