Takeaways from Direct Commerce Association Annual Summit – inc Kevin Hillstrom, partnerships and more (episode 107-5)

This is the last takeaways bonus episode for a while – I’ve got no conferences scheduled until September – so after this one it’s all about the interviews for a few months.

Last week I was back in the warm hug of the DCA world again – that’s the UK’s Direct Commerce Association. It was their Annual Summit (which usually pulls in the big guns – so great for networking with the best). The good news for all of you is that there were also some stella presentations that I shall be sharing with you shortly.

It was a full single day, with various streams and special workshops on the go. I stuck to the main conference stream and that’s what I’ll be bringing you updates from.

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However, I will be leaving some of it out as I ended up being responsible for presenting 3 sessions. 2 were planned, and the 3rd I picked up the day before after a scheduled speaker had to cancel last minute. Two of those sessions I just can’t squeeze into this show – plus they were pretty visual. So given I have all the visuals!! I thought I’d not short change you, and rather I’ll present those as webinars over the summer – so you can login and get the full thing.

The first of those in a few weeks’ time – it’s all about making the most of your website – and you can register for the webinar right now.

The second will be in August and it’s all about your advertising budget for Christmas. So keep your eyes peeled for that one.

AND there’s another presentation I’m choosing not include on this one – because the presenter is an upcoming podcast guest! In Episode 109 we have Gabrielle O’Hare, from Argos telling us all about how to manage content on our website – so you can listen to all that goodness straight from the horses mouth next week.

Finally before I dive into the takeaways a few mentions for loyal listeners who came and said hi!

  • Hello to Elizabeth Young and her colleagues at the National Trust- awesome to have you listening – please don’t crash!
  • Andy Richley of Khaos Control – great to catch up as always.
  • Everyone at Sarah Raven too

Right – let’s get on with the takeaways…

I have info for you on:

  1. Key trends in Modern Commerce – a ‘controversial’ session from retail data guru Kevin Hillstrom of Mine That Data – this will really get you thinking
  2. Michel Koch – very clever ways of looking at eCommerce – you’ll get it when we get to it!
  3. Partnerships – how the big retailers are building partnerships to generate sales
  4. 6 Ways to dramatically improve your online sales – this was my third presentation with Ryan Webb of Searchstar – we did 20 between us, but I’ve picked the best for you

Key Trends in Modern Commerce

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kevin Hillstrom he’s a bit of a customer data genius, among other retailers he used to be the VP Database marketing at Nordstrom, and now runs a consultancy (Minethatdata.com) where his average project generates $1,000,000 of incremental annual profit for a typical $100,000,000 business.

He really knows his stuff.

His session was an indepth alternative look at the world of retail – let’s get back to the data and stop drinking the koolaid – the koolaid being “multichannel is awesome, and you should focus on repeat purchase”…

Did I say controversial?

I’ve not going to attempt to repeat Kevin’s presentation here, rather I’m going to pull out a few key points that will get you thinking…

·         Social only work in certain demographics – if it’s not impacting on the your sales you don’t have to do it.

·         If you have bricks and clicks – let the customer chose how to shop – don’t force them into a specific channel. Especially since bricks tends to convert at a higher rate

·         Stop discounting products that are your best sellers. He spoke of a project he was working on January where are retailer had a series of winning products, launched new product that didn’t work, but took 30% off EVERYTHING – giving away margin on products they didn’t need to.

o   Reminded me of the lessons about black Friday from Julie Dean in the Catalyst takeaways (Episode 103-5)

o   AND my promotional golden rule – “A promotion exists to get the customer to do what you want them to do as cheaply as possible”

·         Keep an eye on the big picture! Everything is interrelated so you can’t completely focus on one area alone (I mean, marketing, website, product customer services)

·         Analytics are not the answer – they just show you where the problem is.

·         Get creative with your marketing

o   Kevin made the point that customer acquisition is increasingly focused on Facebook and Google – to the extent that all a businesses energy money and creativity go there.

o   Step back – what creative campaign can you do – think Dollar Shave Club

o   Or Adobe getting their podcasts read by Hollywood stars

·         You need to make customer acquisition pay for itself – it needs to be profitable. (average US repeat purchase rate is that 40% of last year’s customers will buy this year, in the UK it’s 45%)

·         It’s not just about the marketing – it’s about the product too. You need fresh new product regularly.

·         Merchandising and marketing need to work together to make it work! They can’t operate in silos

·         His final point was around challenging us to think more like big sports teams.

o   The most loyal customers pay the most

o   The best events have no discounts

o   Something new comes in every week

o   Think of your products as the players, and use email to develop new ideas

Clever ways of looking at eCommerce

Michel Koch is the CMO and eCommerce Consultant at Time Inc- the UK’s leading magazine publisher. They publish lots of niche interest titles like Women’s Weekly and Horse and Hound.

He was explaining how Time have decided to focus on what they do best – storytelling – in order to find ways to monetise their audience / their publications.

So he focusing their eCommerce play on customers passion points – Cycling Weekly, knitting for Women’s Weekly etc.

And finding a problem or opportunity in each space which they are well placed to fill.

What I really loved is how they’re following a lean / MVP (minimum viable product) solution in each case – testing lots of ideas simply, before investing the big bucks. AND finding the right solution for each opportunity.

In his words looking for a creative business where 1+1=3

For example – they’ve bought the craft event business ICHF, and for Cycling Weekly a site call UK Cycling Events.

Then they’ve created their own sites too:

EQUO – is an event booking site for the equestrian market (fits with Horse and Hound)

For Marie Claire they have bought the UK license to run “Powder” a French beauty box business

AND they have created the beauty products corner of grocery retailer Ocado too.

My favourite is “The Knitting Network” – with Women’s Weekly they have a massive database of knitting patterns, so they’ve partnered with a family business in Kent who selling knitting supplies on Amazon – bringing both pieces together to create an eCommerce site focused on knitting.

I guess the key takeaway here – is (following on from Kevin’s piece) – be creative – find the creative simple solution.

Test before you invest

And keep optimising!

(we’re not ending there!)


The Knitting Network is taking partnerships to the n’th degree.

Let’s take a back a step with this next set of takeaways.

These are from a panel run by parry Jones of The Specialist Works, with Freddy Ward of Hello Fresh, Virginie Charles-Dear of Toucan Box, and Karen Walker from Charles Tyrwhitt

They discussed different ways they are actively pursuing partnerships with other organisations as a creative/ low cost way to acquire new customers.

I’m going to bullet point the key things from this one for you all:

–          Parcel inserts really work! Charles Tyrwhitt continue to do a LOT of these. It’s when you put a thousand of someone else’s flyers in your product parcels, and they put a 1,000 of your flyers in their parcels. A tried and tested customer acquisition method. (chatted about this with Simon Rigby of Delicious Coffee back in episode 106)

–          To make any partnership work the 2 businesses must have a common strategy. The key is finding the right brands to partner with. – think Laithwaites wine running the Sunday Times Wine Club.

–          It HAS to work for both businesses – that might mean you do a small test first, then compare the results.

–          To really make a big impact tailor your insert to the business your inserting in – so Toucanbox (a subscription box of crafty things to do with your kids) created a special recipe you can do with your kids to put into Hello Fresh.

–          The logo of the person you’re partnering with on the advert WILL increase response

–          Things you might want to swap:

o   Inserts – in catalogues or parcels

o   Order confirmation page adverts

o   Adverts in your emails

o   Facebook Remarketing lists (CT thinking, Hello Fresh currently testing)

o   Data swaps

–          Find your partner ideas by focusing on what your customers would want

–          Try to find a warm way in – do you know someone in the business? Do you have a supplier in common? Are you both part of the eCommerce MasterPlan World Facebook Group?!

6 Ways to dramatically improve your online sales

– this was my third presentation with Ryan Webb of Searchstar – we did 20 between us, but I’ve picked the best for you

Quick Fire! (think of it as a top tips section!)

1.       Ryan – looks at the Search Query Reports in Google Adwords and use them to add negative keywords

2.       Ryan – Scarcity messaging works “Only x left”

3.       Ryan – give data studio by Google a look – great for creating more interesting reports, lots of pics / infographics of your company data! And you pull data in from all sorts of sources.

4.       Chloe – Gender split your facebook ads – it’s all about the image

5.       Chloe – Think carefully about your promotions – “Every promotion should get the customer to do what you want them to do as cheaply as possible”

6.       Chloe – use social proof!

Wrap up

Some takeaways episodes are thought provoking others are packed with tips – I think this one straddles them both – hope it’s not too overwhelming!

Any comments questions – put them below – and I’ll get back to you.

Next week it’s back to interviews where I’ll be chatting to Dan Faggella about how he grew Science of Skill – this is one you don’t want to miss.

Have a great week and keep optimising!