I was recently involved in the migration of a DTC brand from ReCharge to Swell. As many of you know, ReCharge is a billion-dollar payments platform built around subscription businesses. This is the second time I’ve used ReCharge in a DTC startup. Anyone who has worked with ReCharge knows how unaccommodating their support is. Although much of our core business was stable, our business was really limited in terms of functionality and freedom to manage subscriptions.
ReCharge was used for our checkout experience whereas the core WWW was based on Shopify. After talking with some of our affiliates who run large campaigns, it seems to be of general consensus that Shopify is slow and not ideal for brands looking for that extra edge in terms of CVR. So we decided to move this brand from Shopify/ReCharge to Sanity/Swell.
Sanity is a CMS platform used by some large brands. I wouldn’t say the platform is perfect, but it’s not awful. There are bugs you expect when moving from an established eCommerce CMS to a newer CMS. They’re not totally unequipped however, as they did recently raised another $39 million.
After careful consideration, Swell was our choice for a payment gateway that allowed plenty of flexibility around managing subscriptions. It wasn’t until a few days into the migration that we realized it wasn’t as ideal as we thought. Swell has led to a number of issues, some of which I rather not publish to world on the internet as its embarrassing. Here are a few.
Before we get into the bad, let’s talk about the things I love about Swell.
Every Monday our team syncs with Swell’s and we review our ongoing needs and blockers. This is not something you get from ReCharge.
Live chat support is always online
Whenever I need a quick answer, live chat is often available to chat immediately. They are really helpful with simple onboarding problems when our team was learning some of the basic operations within the dashboard. Shout out to Steven!
Here are some of the struggles we run into with Swell. I’ll update these as their platform improves. So any of these listed below are current issues you likely also experience with Swell.
Lack of tracking capabilities
Performance marketing, specifically tracking, is of the utmost importance when it comes to growing a DTC brand enough to move it from seed to series A. Things like GTM, GA and the Facebook pixel are essential for any DTC brand. Essential cannot be emphasized enough. I don’t think there’s a single eCom brand that can operate without analytics. Swell presently does not implement checkout scripts correctly, causing marketing campaign attribution in Google Analytics to be incorrect.
If you run Facebook ads, you could run into serious complications. Unlike Shopify, where Conversion API is just a matter of updating your settings, Swell doesn’t offer an implementation for Conversion API. With iOS 14 adopted in full-force, you need Conversion API. The workaround is to use Zapier, but sadly they don’t pass essential information from the order which Facebook needs for matching events to users. These data fields include:
- The customer’s email (yes, the email address)
- Facebook browser id
- Facebook click id
- User agent
- IP address
Slow bug fixes
Most of our bug reports are normally well-received by the Swell team but they are not implemented quickly. The smallest of fixes, regardless of how badly they impact workflow take about 2 weeks at minimum to deploy. This is really hard to base a business around.
Reporting is incorrect
If your company cares about KPIs at all, they’ll be incorrect. This is due to an ongoing timezone issue. So for example, if you report weekly KPIs, the stats for purchases for the week December 1-7 may actually include purchases from November 30 or December 8. This means our KPIs every week are out 1-10%.
Overall Rating: 3/5
After bringing up a lot of these complications to the Swell team, we learned most customers don’t use their self-hosted checkout but rather custom build their own checkout. Little did we know.
This post will be updated to stay relevant and accurate to our current experience as a DTC brand using Swell.