Takeaways from Internet Retailing Expo 2018 Brand Alley, Vodafone, SEO, B2B eCommerce (episode 150-5)

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This week our host Chloe Thomas was chairing the Internet Retailing Expo 2018. Here’s her takeaways of the key learnings for the smaller retailer.

internet retailing expo 2018 podcast
The Script

Earlier this week I attended the always marvellous IRX Internet Retailing Expo in Birmingham (UK, not Alabama). And I was lucky enough to be chairing the conference again this year (third year!) so these takeaways are mainly from the 2 conference streams I was looking after:

  • Marketing and Customer Obsession
  • B2B eCommerce

Yes, 2 of my favourite subjects!!

I have updates coming on:

  • How Brand Alley are putting the customer at the heart of their business
  • SEO – oh my word some awesome ideas here on how to rule the future SEO world
  • Monetising the traffic that doesn’t buy
  • B2B eCommerce

How Brand Alley are putting the customer at the heart of their business

For those of you not familiar with Brand Alley – they are the leading flash-sales retailer in the UK market, think Bicester Village online.

They run 4-8 day long sales each focused on a specific fashion or accessories brand, where the objective for the brand owner is usually to:

  • Reach new customers
  • Clear out old stock quickly
  • Sell full price product on their own website during the Brand Alley event

It’s a different style of eCommerce, and one we don’t often feature here on the podcast, so it’s nice to be able to share some insights on it with you all.

It’s a very successful business, key numbers:

  • 4m unique per month
  • AOV £100 / 2.2 products
  • C80m emails/m
  • Very mobile centric

They class 23% of their customers at VIPs, who are those customers who spend more than £500 per year.

Customer centricity is…. To create a holistic experience around the brand, not just to be a retailer of goods.

Which means they consider every single touch point.

Our speaker was Bruce MacInnes, the Chairman

To drive customer centricity through the business he started by changing the culture of the business – not just chiselling the values into the reception wall – but really getting the team to be fully embrace the idea of making everything and anything customer centric.

And that (of course) started with the vision – “to deliver great value and deliver well” – I paraphrase, but very simple and straight forward for a vision.

And therefore easy (er) to implement

Customer centric innovation – has to start with what the customer actually cares about –so Brand Alley have done a lot of research to find out what’s important to their customer.

And it was the simple stuff.

The number one thing the customer wanted – was to be able to trust the information on the website about the products.

39.4% of customers said the most important part of the clothes shopping experience was “a clear representation of the product”

[good delivery options was second at 13.7%]

So across teams they spend a lot of time focused on getting the information on the product pages 100% right before they launch each sale.

The second biggest issue was delivery (surprise surprise).

Because of the way their business works they couldn’t offer next day delivery (they don’t get the product from the brand owner until the sale is over). So instead they focused on what they could do – which was to make the delivery status really clear everywhere on the website.

The anticipated delivery dates are displayed next to every product and every sale.

Focusing on excellent delivery comms has had a big impact.

They have also worked to make the marketing more customer centric. Because they are a private deals site all customers are logged in as they browse the products – so they have a LOT of data.

This has included implementing machine learning send time optimisation, to send their automated emails (not broadcasts) at the best possible time for each customer. Leading to increases in click through rates of 11%,

With all of that they’ve increased revenue 26%.

Lessons from this session – whilst customer centricity is all-consuming in an organisation it’s not that hard to tackle.

–          Work out what your customers want and find ways to fix their biggest problems that work for you both.

SEO – oh my word some awesome ideas here on how to rule the future SEO world

This session was done by Nick Wilsdon who is the SEO Lead at the Vodafone group.

It really shifted my thinking on where the SEO opportunity is in the next few years.

Let’s start with some of his simple tips:

1.       Https your whole site

2.       In Google Search Console – make sure you’re monitoring all 4 versions of each of your websites

  • https://www.
  • https://
  • http://www.
  • http://

3.       Regularly audit the 3rd party tags on your website – are they all still ok?

Next – the rise of “Progressive Web Apps” or PWAs

What am I talking about! – well these are basically websites that behave like Apps.

You’ve probably seen the google AMP pages when you do a search on mobile – that is a form of PWA.

Google loves these. (AMP is of course owned by Google, and they’ve recently agreed to give any other page format with similar criteria the same ‘bonus’ value when it comes to setting positions in the mobile SERPs.)

You can see some great uses of it at pwa.rocks

Nick tested this at Vodafone with the launch of the iphone 5s – and got 27% more mobile traffic from search as a result of having AMP pages instead of normal pages.

Tech SEO

For Nick this is the place to start if you only do one thing.

What does it mean? – getting all the techy onsite stuff done right.

In practical terms that means regularly auditing your website to make sure everything is working right, looking for:

  • Orphaned pages
  • Insecure form fields
  • Cannibalisation

Nick recommended 2 tools to use to do this:



And don’t just do it once, check every month or so. Have a schedule!

Site Speed

So important.

Putting your site into http/2 really helps – if you can’t do that on your server use a CDM like Cloudflare to do it for you.

A great tool to see how you’re doing and how to improve is sitespeed.io – and it’s free! [Chloe: I had a type in my notes, so on the show I say “.ice” it’s actually “.io” – sorry!]

Voice Search

(you knew this one was coming didn’t you!?)

The adoption of voice technology hardware by consumers (think Alexa) is far faster than the adoption of mobile, and Amazon is winning the hardware battle.

Those featured snippets you see at the top of the Google SERPs these days – those are the only result that is read out when you do a voice search.

Nick calls them “Position zero” – and they are very hard to attain. BUT Google is massively increasing the number of search terms they are returned on – so it’s getting easier.

A better way to get traffic courtesy of voice search is to create an Alexa Skill for your products or brand. It needs to be something that customers need – so more likely to be a customer service portal than a shop.

Even if you’re not sure what your brand’s Alexa skill should do – might be worth grabbing your brand name keyword in the Skills space anyway.

You also need to make sure your product data and APIs are easily picked up by those running voice products. Think Schema.org or great APIs.

OK – I’m aware that’s all al little techy! To explain most of those in detail would take a full podcast – but there are great resources a couple of searches away – so I leave you to have a go with that and research further…

Please do ask questions about this in the eCommerce  MasterPlan World Facebook Group – it’s free to join just make sure you answer the questions when you apply!

Monetising the traffic that doesn’t buy

Lastminute.com have really shifted things in their business.

They’ve built an algorithm that can predict whether a visitor to the website will buy or not.

You may think – oh that’s nice, but it’s REALLY nice.

The team led by Alessandra Di Lorenzo have built an adserving platform to show ads to those who are unlikely to buy during that visit. Thus monetising the 96% of visitors who don’t buy.

A nice idea?

A hugely lucrative idea – running at a 70% margin, and delivering 40% of the whole last minute groups EBITDA (that’s profit).

You have to have a fair amount of traffic to get that to work – but Ale and her team are now looking to roll the service out to other retailers. So if you want a bit of that cash – get in contact with Alessandra on LinkedIn

B2B eCommerce advice

During the B2B part of the show we had a series of great sessions:

–          panel session on learning from B2C for B2B

–          B2B eCommerce stalwart Ricardo Davila, he’s worked for huge international B2B businesses on both the wholesale and manufacturing side. He’s a man who knows his onions. The link to his LinkedIn profile.

–          And Nikhil Amin from Amazon Business who was encouraging us to become Amazon Business customers AND sellers

There were some key themes running through all the B2B sessions, and themes which it’s actually just as important for the B2C among us to listen to as well:

  • It all starts with the customer!
  • Culture and your team are critical to success
  • Shifting from traditional B2B sales models to eCommerce is not a quick change, but very possible and should be very lucrative if done well.
  • Shifting from B2B to B2C is another huge change – so don’t try and do them both at the same time.

And if you’re interested in learning more about B2B eCommerce – you can find all the B2B podcast interviews I’ve done, AND my book “[easyazon_link identifier=”B076FFKNBS” locale=”UK” tag=”ecommmaste-21″]B2B eCommerce MasterPlan: How to Make Wholesale eCommerce a Key Part of your Business to Business Sales Growth[/easyazon_link]”.

So there’s my updates.

If you want to get stuck into some more conference style content in the meantime then my eCommerce MasterPlan Virtual Summit remains open to registrations (it’s free, and you’ll have access until at least Sept 2018!)

Have a great week everyone and Keep Optimising!