7 Principles of DTC eCommerce with BigCommerce Head of Europe Mark Adams (episode 241)

Mark Adams is Head of Europe at BigCommerce. He’s been in the eCommerce world for almost 20 years, mainly working agency side and focused on the technology stack side of things. He’s been advising market leading brands and retailers for years, and today he’s going to help all of us understand “The 7 principles of building your direct to consumer brand online”.

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About the Business

  • Works for BigCommerce
  • Specializes in helping brands go DTC
  • Wants to see businesses spend less and get more out of their technology investments

About Mark

Mark started his career in the late ’90s as a sales rep for a company called Scoot. They were basically a direct telephone directory that competed against the Yellow Pages.

While Mark was working there, they started selling websites for small businesses and he and his team began producing one-page websites for companies. In 2004, along with a couple of friends, Mark started an agency that focused on eCommerce.

In those early days, his company was working with large multinational brands like Sony and RawMail, helping them implement and integrate eCommerce solutions. At that time, such an undertaking was incredibly complicated and expensive.

Today, those same problems are solved easily by downloading a plugin or app and Mark says that reality has really taken hold in the past 5 years. 

Before The Tools

Mark remembers projects that would take 9 or 12 months to complete and cost hundreds of thousands if not millions, but those days he says, are over.

It’s a good thing too, retailers are under a pretty serious threat from a number of angles, including a rapid transformation of industries to a higher cost of labor and digital competitive threats. The days of high spend on technology are over—and Mark says he’s grateful for that.

Going DTC

Simply put, DTC is the process of brands selling directly to their consumers via a digital channel. Brands have been selling via retail and wholesale channels for years, but they rarely connect with the consumer directly.

One of the best things about digital is that it allows brands to learn much more about their customers than they previously were able. Creating a direct sales channel that a brand can communicate with, learn from and engage with their customers over the web is where BigCommerce is seeing a lot of growth. 

The 7 Principles of Going DTC

Mark is holding one of his seven principals close to his vest—a secret that will be unveiled at the upcoming BigCommerce expo. The rest he gives eCommerce Master Plans listeners an intro to below.

1.) Investing in Growth—Brands, retailers and anyone selling digitally to consumers need to buy the right tool, engage with the right technologies in the right way and they need to focus their budget and their investment on growing their business, not on managing technology. Investing in Revenue Generating capabilities is key.
2.) Performance—The performance and page load speed of sites is crucially important. Most sites are incredibly slow. Google estimates that you will bounce people off your site if it takes more than three seconds to load. 
3.) Pay Attention to Social Channels—Marketplaces will remain important, but emerging social channels are where brands are going to see huge growth in the coming years. 
4.) Keeping costs under control—Brands need to identify the total cost of ownership of running their online business. Understanding the total cost of sales and keeping tight control and management of costs is crucial. They are apt to run away from owners.
5.) Inventory Channel management—a complex problem to solve and one that technology can greatly help
6.) Create Rich Content—Brands need to be thinking about the content experience they provide and the assets they have to engage their consumers with really cool experiences that will build loyalty. Investing in content creation in a key asset moving forward.
7.) Still a secret…for now.

Investing in Growth

Before his role at  BigCommerce, Mark helped retailers select eCommerce technology that would best power their digital channels. That experience means he has spent a lot of time researching technology providers.

Huge costs in acquiring licenses, hosting, upgrades, and support were traditionally part of the package and ate up around 80% of a company’s budget with only 20% of the budget being put toward improving conversion.

Mark says that the model needs to be completely flipped. 20% he says, should be spent on keeping the lights on while the 80% should be actively helping businesses grow. 

Half of all eCommerce transactions happen on Amazon and they have the capacity to release new innovations daily.

That core competition is hard to keep up with and retailers coming into DTC need to have more of their budget going toward actively working on moving the needle for their business. Front end experiences should be optimized to get page loads to sub 2 seconds.

That, Mark says, is the future and retailers need to be focused on delivering that experience. 

PWA  (Progressive Web Apps)

PWA is essentially a highly optimized mobile-first experience. PWA’s are built for peak performance and make mobile sites work faster and better for users. In many ways they are like having a browser supported app. 

Mark says that he and his team have been most interested in headless technologies that allow users to invest in the right mix of tools and platforms for their company. In short, anyone considering rebuilding their mobile experience should be investing in PWA, and the only companies it might not make sense for are those committed to another technology stack within their content management system, which can make it more complicated.

Unfortunately most eCommerce technologies tightly couple presentation to performance which makes it difficult for developers to separate out and develop fast performing websites. Using PWA’s as one of the methods to develop mobile experiences solves this problem.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Social—BigCommerce Data show that 3-4% of revenue generated is coming from social commerce. 16-24 y.o. demographic is primarily browsing and purchasing from these channels.

Tool Top Tip

  • Slack—Mark especially likes the history feature

Growth Top Tip

  • Hire Early—hire someone who is better at doing specific elements of your business.

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