What is the most important thing we learnt in eCommerce in 2019? Our eCommerce Experts discuss (episode 251)

Chloe is joined by a host of eCommerce experts to answer the question “What is the most important thing we learnt in eCommerce in 2019?”

The answers are VERY wide-ranging from delivery to DTC, from radical transparency to mobile domination. The answers will help you work out your plans for 2020.

Our experts are:

  • Chris Dawson from Tamebay
  • Ian Hammersley from Smartebusiness
  • Lucy Bloomfield of 10,000 Customers
  • Rachel Jacobs from eCommerce Partnerships
  • Ria Fiscina from Parkfield
  • Alex O’Byrne from We Make Websites
  • Rytis Lauris from Omnisend

There’s so much in this episode you’re going to listen more than once!

Which is why we’ve given you the full transcript below.

2020 eCommerce MasterPlan Growth Series sponsored by Omnisend

This episode is part of our annual growth series – you can find out all about how it can help you grow your business and links to the rest of the episodes here.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Chloe Thomas:

Throughout 2019 I spoke to many retailers who are growing at speed and creating great profitable connections with their customers for whom everything they touched turned to gold, but I’ve spoken to just as many who are struggling asking, how do we get through this? What am I doing wrong? Will it ever end? It was certainly a year where those who could adapt fast to the changing world order thrived, but where many struggled to make ends meet.

Whether you’re a successful adapter or it’s something you’re still struggling to come to terms with, my experts have some great answers that will help you. Let’s get started with Rachel Jacobs from eCommerce Partnerships, who takes her answer from the latest Black Friday Cyber Monday stats. Here’s her take on what is the most important thing we learned in eCommerce in 2019.

Rachel Jacobs:

Okay. Well, from my point of view, especially taking Black Friday, Cyber Monday into consideration, a couple of things that I noticed. It’s not necessarily new, but I think that the huge shift towards mobile for Shopify stores. The results from black Friday, cyber Monday showed the two thirds of purchases were actually made on mobile, particularly on black Friday. $900 million spent through Shopify stores, and 69% of those were mobile shoppers. So I think for me the huge takeaway is that massive shift increasingly towards mobile checkouts, meaning that online brands need to have their websites mobile optimised. Another finding as well, which I thought was really interesting, was the 50/50 split between in store and online. I know this is the age old debate whether the online is going to overtake the high street. And I think that 50/50 split shows that things are increasingly moving towards online.

Now, that’s not to say that the high street is going anywhere. It’s absolutely not. But what that means for brands that have an omni-channel business that are online and offline, they need to ensure that they have the right technologies that are running their business to sync up that entire omni-channel experience for the customer, allowing customers to go online to, for example, choose items online and then pick them up in store or purchase stuff in store and be able to return them online and vice versa. So for me, they were the biggest takeaways for 2019, the shift towards mobile and that omni-channel feel, that things are increasingly moving more towards online.

Chloe Thomas:

We’ll be coming back to omni-channel later. If you’re looking to get your tech platforms up to date and working across both omni-channel and mobile, you’d do well to pay attention to the lessons learnt by our next expert.

Ria Fiscina:

Well, the most important thing that we learned is that websites always need to be a work in progress and it can’t afford to remain static. And that’s actually linked to creating calendars and planning your year well in advance. All of those transitions go so much smoother when you know what’s coming next rather than when you’re making that decision on the fly, and okay we need something new next week. What can we put together? But that actually brings me to another related point which is aligning all of your marketing and messaging that’s on your website to your external channels as well. So social, SEO, referral, all that fun stuff. This way there’s a seamless journey for your users to your site and through the conversion point.

Chloe Thomas:

Ria Fiscina is from Parkfield, and I totally agree with both her points. If you’re still thinking about your website as a project you deal with once every few years, you are making a big mistake. These days, websites evolve month to month, year to year, week to week, depending on what the customer needs and demands from you in order to agree to purchase.

Our next expert is Ian Hammersley. If that sounds familiar, he was on the show in 2019 talking about his book Ultimate Guide to eCommerce growth, and his lessons from 2019 are all around making your marketing budget work harder by improving your website.

Ian Hammersley:

Okay, so 2019 for us was an interesting one because costs were tight, costs were an issue. Margins were being eroded. The price wasn’t able to go up. So essentially a lot of our eCommerce growth clients were saying, how can we do more with less? And they got to a point where there was only so much money they could pay for traffic.

So they had a budget of 10,000 pounds, 20,000 pounds a month. They wanted to know, well, how can we carry on growth? How can we cut our costs and carry on growing? And so the only way to do that was by optimising the actual funnel of the site, looking at the metrics within the business.

Because if you think about it, if you’ve got 100,000 people coming into the website, and you can’t afford to increase that anymore, you have to improve either the conversion rate or the average order value to get more money out.

And so 2019, the clients that really suffered were the ones that just cut their marketing budgets and still expect it to not make any difference. And of course it doesn’t work like that.

Now the ones that grew were the ones that actually realised that once the traffic came to the site, if we can increase the add to basket percentage, the basket to order percentage and the average order value, we can get more money out of the same spend. And in some cases, the marketing departments were asked to reduce their budgets.

So we have to get more out of less. And I think that’s where the only way to do that is to optimise the actual site and look at the fundamental mass behind it in the KPIs.

Chloe Thomas:

Now you can’t tell this from the audio, but recording that, Ian was sat in the dark, parked in a lay by in a random housing estate in Manchester, and very cold. Because that morning, someone had smashed his car window and he was on the way to get it fixed.

Now that is dedication to the cause. You also can’t tell that whilst I’m recording my bits for the episode, I’m having to pause and rerecord because my boyfriend keeps shouting at me to flush the toilet because he’s currently trying to unblock our septic tank. Ah, the glamour of podcasting.

Now if you’re wondering why I’m sharing such odd and un-eCommerce related anecdotes, it’s because of the lesson shared by our next expert. This is Lucy Bloomfield from 10,000 customers who literally got out of her sick bed to record this for you. I kid you not.

Lucy Bloomfield:

A couple of things, first of all that radical transparencies are really good strategy. I’ve seen it used in so many businesses in the last 12 months and with great success. And what I mean by radical transparency is, for example, laying bare to your customers, literally lifting your chin and showing your throat to your customers about what’s happening in the business and what you need them to do and what it’s like to be the founder of a business that they buy from.

Not only has this helped my clients and multiple other people generate hundreds of thousands of dollars this year, it’s built really incredible communities around businesses that do this. And I think honestly it’s probably the biggest shift that I’ve seen recently and that I think is the most effective.

Chloe Thomas:

So anyone up for a bit more radical transparency? Well, you can relax. I’ve got no more crazy what goes on behind the mic stories to share with you. Well, for today anyway. So far we’ve talked mindset, website and marketing, but there’s a big area of eCommerce we’ve completely neglected. So let’s sort that out with the always insightful Chris Dawson from Tame Bay.

Chris Dawson:

I think the most important thing we learned in eCommerce in 2019 is that it’s not enough to have a tracking website or rely on a marketplace if you can’t deliver a superb delivery experience to your end customer, your consumer. And it’s really interesting because marketplaces like eBay have got click and collect with, and Amazon have got everything from lockers to next day delivery and even same day delivery.

But recent surveys, which Net Dispatch have just done one have revealed that actually all customers want is a timely delivery to their house. They don’t want a delivery to their car, they don’t want a drone. They may or may not want a click and collect experience depending if they’re going to be at home or not, but even if they’re using click and collect, they’d really much rather the package just be delivered at home.

And the consumers wanting same day delivery, while there is a percentage that will use it, it’s a tiny percentage, 3% in a recent survey with Net Dispatch that says actually we really think home delivery is important.

Only about 29% even wanted next day. 60% are quite happy with a two to five day delivery, but they want the delivery to be effortless. They want to be informed that you’ve got their order, they want to be informed that you’ve shipped their order. In flight tracking is nice, but in flight delivery options, they’re not really wanting those.

They just want the item to be delivered to them at home. So delivery, while there’s been all sorts of talk about innovations that we can get an Amazon Ring doorbell so that the delivery driver can leave it in your house or in your garage, that overkill consumers don’t want that. We really need to get back to the basics of when someone buys something, thank you for your order, your order is shipped, and now it’s turned up at your doorstep and been delivered.

Chloe Thomas:

Ah, delivery. Such a powerful force for good if you get it right and awful if you don’t.

Here’s Alex O’Byrne from We Make Websites with the most important thing he’s learnt in eCommerce in 2019.

Alex O’Byrne:

For me, I think the direct to consumer revolution has been just red hot. And I live in New York and every time I get on the subway, I visit a different new brand that is on there. There’s someone else raising money, or there’s tech partners raising money. And there’s clearly a gold rush going on, and you can tell that whole industries are being disrupted by brands like Glossier,

Hims, Away, Quip, brands like that. And I think the thing that’s been really clear for me this year is the distinction in D to C between if you’re a product or a brand, and if you’re a product and sell on Amazon and if you’re brand, sell on Shopify or another eCommerce platform. And Shopify is the one I know best. And we have clients like Byredo’s, Skinny Dip, finish there, Nietzsche, Crabtree and Evelyn, Bulletproof. And they’re all selling something beyond a product.

They’re selling a lifestyle or an idea that resonates with people. They’re high margin products, and they’re products that customers are passionate about.

And they buy the principles brand to brand and not just the product for its function. And I think that will continue, that kind of dichotomy. And I think one evidence of that is Nike stopping selling through Amazon recently, and the Allbirds found a really passive aggressive letter to Amazon about how they should stop copying their product.

And I think smarter DTC brands are now realising they have to own and control that customer experience. So that means all the touch points on the website, email, customer service, in store experience, whatever it is. And also that another one of their competencies needs to be first party data.

So that being the true value of their brand, they know who their customers are, they can cross sell them, they can pick out loyal ones, they can pick out at risk ones. So the twin competencies of controlling all elements of the customer experience and also being a master of first party data I think is key to being a strong DTC brand.

Chloe Thomas:

Building on that DTC or direct to consumer angle, we’ve got Rytis Lauris from Omnisend. Rytis was recently on the show talking about omni-channel marketing and you guys loved that episode, and he’s bringing a whole host more insight for you right now

Rytis Lauris:

I would say there are two things which we learned of the markets, eCommerce market land in 2019. So first, direct to consumer concept I would say proved itself finally. And we kind of had those new emerging brands for quite a while, which some of them became really popular, some of them died.

But the concept was really recognised by beginners in the market, those who just launching their businesses, and direct and consumer was something which they took as a disrupting concept of selling and disrupting concept of running their businesses.

So it was kind of early, early adopters, and I would see in 2019 we’ve got this trend then of early majority started doing this. So all the old school companies started thinking about direct to consumer, launching their online store, separating to different brands. So a couple of examples to be mentioned is one of our customers, let’s say Unilever.

They are launching a lot of different smaller online stores to sell different brands’ products to their consumers directly, removing the middle man, removing the retailer, doesn’t matter if they are online or offline, and all these huge corporations focusing in just smaller brands, building autonomous teams who are running and will be running both those brands, their marketing, etc.

Second example is Nike pulling out their stock out of Amazon. So they’re kind of taking a huge risk I would say here while risking with a huge amount their revenue, which definitely Amazon is generating for them now, but it’s again a great proof that all those great brands, big brands, they’re choosing direct to consumer model and even choosing not to work with some middleman.

And then the third thing, which really shows a huge proof of direct to consumer as a concept being recognised by the majority of people, is Shopify growth.

So how many new stores had been launched in that in a single year? Hundreds of thousands of them. So that shows about both just entrepreneurs, beginners, they see a lot of opportunities to run their own businesses, not on Amazon, not on the high street or Etsy, all those marketplaces, but to run their own brands, run their own stores on one hand.

And on the other hand, large players, corporate players, old school players are seeing there’s opportunity as well. So yeah, I would say this is the first huge trend in 2019.

The second huge trend which we really see and we really believe that it’s going to continue, it’s omni-channel as a concept. So we see that both traditional offline brands are finally kind of fully moving online and really becoming digital native companies, digital first companies, instead of having something just in addition online.

And the second trend, those completely digital native direct to consumer brands, they are opening either their flagship stores let’s say in New York City and in London, in some major cities. They’re having stores where their experience is completely different to what we used to have before in retail stores where you have sometimes a register before you come into a showroom, waiting in the queues to get in.

Then you have this all full digital experience as well. Then it performs more as a showroom, and if it works for you, then you just order it and it’s being delivered to your home the same day.

Or maybe you just wait and get it from the warehouse by the exit. So it’s one of those examples. And maybe it’s some kind of even a trend of popups tours. So the market of popups tours, one day, two day, three day stores, it’s raising, and the market of popup stores is growing worldwide as well.

So it’s really the proof of omni-channel is being adopted by all the retailers. And of course omni-channel for marketing, it’s a new trend which is already for quite a while, but I would say 2019 was the first year the second channel for customer retention and customer retention communication, a part of email erased and really SMS is living Renaissance and SMS is getting more and more popular.

And it’s really proving by terms of ROI, it’s a very great channel and there by adoption rates throughout online stores and throughout eCommerce players is really increasing. So I would say omni-channel is a huge second trend, both combining offline and online experience and starting really doing marketing in omni-channel way.

Chloe Thomas:

Like I said at the start, whether you’re flying or you’re struggling to get out of the mud at the moment, these tips are going to help you make 2020 better than 2019. We’ve summarised each tip and included links to all the guests and any tools they’ve mentioned in the show notes. And you can get those by heading to eCommercemasterplan.com/podcast where you will find a link to this show.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview from our 2020 eCommerce MasterPlan growth series sponsored by Omnisend. We’ve got another eight episodes in the series for you, so make sure you check them all out. Now we get a lot of people finding the eCommerce MasterPlan podcast for the first time during our growth series.

So if that is you, please don’t forget to hit the subscribe button and also let me know what you think of the show by adding a review. You can do that in Apple podcast, Spotify, or your player of choice.

Have a great week and keep optimising.

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