Ernest Capbert: Who Buys Your Stuff?

The head of the equity firm looks at me and asks straight up who our customer is. At the time, I tried to describe someone I hoped it was, or someone I actually thought it was. But it was just ABC1 bullsh*t.


How online SMEs don’t have a clue who buys their stuff. Ernie started with a photo of his mum and dad (to explain where he came from) before telling us his story of building the first cold water surf brand, Finisterre, and how this made him question everything he thought he knew about customer research.


Before Finisterre, surf brands were one of the same. But, far from the hot beaches of California, Ernie set up a company in Cornwall dedicated to cold water surfing. His mission was to make products that allowed people to live in a cold water environment. Finisterre went on disrupt the surf industry and achieve remarkable things, including a front-page spread in The Guardian.

So what’s this got to do with customer research? Well, Finisterre’s sales and marketing were great and people came to the website, but the bounce rate was waaay too high. The brand began to discount to attract sales before the uncomfortable realisation eventually set in that nobody in the company really had a clear idea of who their customer was … awkward or what.

So, after a rather uncomfortable Monday morning sales meeting, they decided that ‘25-45-year-olds’ was not a useful answer, nor was anything containing the first few letters of the alphabet. Since traditional customer research was so expensive, time-consuming and inaccessible to SMEs – not to mention impossible to act on – Ernie decided it was time to rip it up.  


He’s taken matters into his own hands. If you Google ‘web developer’ you get thousands of hits. But if you Google ‘customer research services’ there’s hardly anything available to smaller companies like e-commerce stores. The choice is limited, it’s expensive and it’s arduous. After honing his skills and turning Finisterre into the awesome brand it is today, he co-founded Who Buys Your Stuff? to offer other SMEs the tools do the same.

One of his success stories is the skate store, Flatspot. WBYS? found out who was heavily engaged with the brand and encouraged Flatspot to put all their efforts into talking to this person, rather than those on Twitter who were busy liking and interacting without buying. In some cases, the customer that is really driving your business ends up being so different that it impacts every area of the brand, including pricing and even product development.  

Most online SMEs don’t know who buys their stuff, but those that do are in an incredible position. WBYS? has taken a dull and antiquated industry and used technology to make an affordable tool that’s on par with the likes of MailChimp and Squarespace. WBYS? is about to make an enormous difference to thousands of online businesses all over the world. 


Asking difficult questions. The guys at WBYS? are running up and down the country asking online SMEs the same question: “Who buys your stuff?” After a few moments of silence, they come to the rescue with a demonstration of what is possibly the most accessible customer research tool ever made.