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E121: Arthur Rakovskis

Why Customer Personalisation Is Key For Maintaining High Value Customers And How You Can Implement It Today

Arthur Rakovskis

Podcast Overview

Making your customers feel special is so important. Personalisation is a great way to make your customers feel valued. And guess what? Valued customers = happy = retained = more sales…you see where we are going here.  

Personalisation is key to obtaining and maintaining those high value customers we all know and love. So in this episode, Arthur talks about personalisation, the meaning of relevant content to increase conversion rates and so much more.

eComOne Presents:

Arthur Rakovskis

Arthur Rakovskis is a Partnerships Manager at Fresh Relevance with a proven record of successful closures leading to the ecosystem growth in SaaS startups. He is proficient in relationship building/management, negotiation and sales strategies. Arthur has a passion for history and art, and a love for exploring new languages and cultures, as well as a constant drive to learn.

In this episode, Arthur talks about the importance of personalised content. He shares exactly what Fresh Relevance is all about, the potential impact of the cost of living on eCommerce and so much more in this episode. 

Tune in to this episode to really take the next step to create a stronger connection with highly engaged customers through relevant and meaningful content. Find out how you as a merchant can help with the pocket tightening lifestyle in the business industry. 

Topics covered:

1:19 – How did Arthur Get Into The Industry

2:10 – How Does Fresh Relevance Add Value To Ecom Stores

2:50 – Why Personalised Content Is So Important 

7:55 – The Top Mistakes When It Comes To Personalised Content

17:53 -What Generates The Best Results With Personalisation

20:53 – The Potential Impact Of Cost Of Living On Ecommerce Businesses

25:21 – What Can Merchants Do To Help With The Tighter Lifestyle

29:22 – What Should The Key Focus Be When It Comes To Personalisation

31:01 – Book Recommendation  

Richard:
Hi, and welcome to another episode of eComOne. Today's guest, Arthur Rakovskis, Partnership Manager at Fresh Relevance. How you doing Arthur? You all right?

Arthur Rakovskis:
I'm doing great. How about you Richard?

Richard:
I am very good, very good indeed. Looking forward to this one. So I think we'll start with a bit of an intro if you want to sort of tell our listeners how you got into the world of eCommerce and a bit about yourself?

Arthur Rakovskis:
Certainly. So as you know, my name is Arthur. At the moment, I work at Fresh Relevance, and as I go with a starting joke, I'm really fresh at Fresh Relevance. I've only been here for four months, a bit longer within the whole eCommerce ecosystem if you can say so. I previously worked in a print-on-demand marketplace company, which was a sort of software to enable print on demand and drop shipping, which is called Printify. Yeah. So in total it has been three fantastic years within the eCom industry and looking forward to talking and discussing more in detail about personalization and the whole landscape.

Richard:
Brilliant. Let's get stuck in then. So obviously, yeah, Fresh Relevance, how does Fresh Relevance add value to eCommerce stores? Tell me about that.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So in general, we empower eCommerce businesses to create personalized cross-channel experiences that capture their shoppers' attention and increase conversions by offering the most current and relevant content in real time. So by simple means we personalize the experience across all of your devices, so whether you're going on web, app, checking your emails, or receiving an SMS, so we create this personalized content, or rather we enable the users or businesses to create the content that they would like.

Richard:
Why do you think that's so important in the landscape at the moment? Obviously, personalization I think is absolutely key. It's easy to send the same message to everybody, isn't it? That's sort of 1980s, '90s, whatever you want to... Quite some time ago. But why is it so important at the moment to send that very specific messages at very specific times and et cetera, et cetera?

Arthur Rakovskis:
So first of all, I think that personalization is a really broad term, so everybody seems to be using it really differently. And I think most of us are at the stage there saying, "Yes, we need personalization." Right? They're not sure what they need, but they think that they need some sort of personalization.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So we got to that point that the understanding is there. So I need to personalize my experience. So when you, Richard, would go to any website, you would see some content that is targeted towards you, and when I would see the content, it would be targeted to me. So I didn't mention, for example, I'm in London and one of my favorite examples is using weather personalization. It's a really simple tool. So for example, depending where you are, our system would analyze your IP address, and depending on the weather that's there, so for example, let's say it's raining outside. It's not. It's just cloudy. But let's say it's raining outside for me in London. We could give personalized content about, I don't know, buying an umbrella, right? For you, it's sunshine outside. Go get yourself a sunscreen.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So you can imagine that this is going to generate significant revenue for your eCom business, and obviously at the moment, I know that I have some data written down, some nice stats that at the moment we are generating up to 33% sales uplift. So at the end of the day, it's all about return on investment and making sure that you're getting the most value of the solutions that are there.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And what is also crucial, what I wanted to mention is making sure that there is the loyalty of your customers, right? There is your loyalty solutions, and I think that's really important, but how do you create this loyalty? By making sure that when you go onto the website it remembers you. "Hi, Arthur. Here is what you've checked out. Oh, based on what you've seen, what about those suggestions?" So making this journey more meaningful, I think that's why it is so important.

Richard:
No, I totally get it. I love the weather example. Obviously, we've been having some extreme weather in the UK over the last few months, which is really, really nice. But as we know, it changes and then things change, don't they, in terms of whether that's weather, whether that's our interests, or there's a certain things going on at the moment. But making sure you're seeing things that are very specific to you or very specific to that sort of, whether that's weather based or whatever it may be. It made me think of that example.

Arthur Rakovskis:
Indeed. And now the travel industry's really bouncing back, so we see quite a few clients from the travel industry coming to us. And my favorite example there is obviously it's cold outside, and you just say, "Hey, it's snowing outside. Why don't you check out a trip to Barbados?" Right? And immediately, you would be like, "Oh, that's a nice, interesting thing." And then you check it out and see, "Oh, that might be a bit expensive." And then immediately you would be, "Maybe I don't want to buy it." And then what you want to do is make sure that you, Richard, stay on the website and do like, "Hey, add your email and there's a little coupon for you." They're a really simple tactic but so, so powerful, right?

Richard:
Copying that example again. It's brilliant because everyone is talking about holidays, it seems, at the moment. Everyone's going, being about to go passports.

Arthur Rakovskis:
Yes, yes, definitely.

Richard:
Challenge in the UK, everyone trying to get their passport and whatnot. But no, those ads trying to buy. A few weeks ago I went shopping to buy various holiday items and a lot of things were out of stock, short. Seems to be a mass shortage of shorts in the country, which is a bit crazy. But you can sort of see how you could get creative and personalize things around, "Oh, it's not going to be long before you go on holiday where... Don't forget this, that, and the other."

Richard:
And the weather thing, we're going back to that. We do a lot with weather on paid ads where we're personalizing the bids around what the temperature is for products. So for example, you sell barbecues and the weather is rising, you're more likely to get the barbecue out, but you're more likely as a merchant to honestly sell more barbecues when the weather's good or about to be good. So if you're tying that with an API into the weather, you can also adjust bids based on weather, which is sort of a similar thing in that. But ultimately, that's a personalized bid based on another set of data, whether that's weather, whatever that may be.

Richard:
But I think honestly, personalization is a very broad topic and you will have seen over the few months you've been doing it, and obviously, a long time our Fresh Relevance has been managing various personalizations for different companies, you'll see a lot of companies sort of doing things wrong. What are some of the bigger mistakes that you see companies doing when it comes to personalization?

Arthur Rakovskis:
So I think that the most crucial thing is to test and test and test to make sure that you're getting your tactics right. I've given you really simple examples that are generic. They might work for most of the people, but again, they might not work for somebody. I'm not sure that it's going to drive food sales per se. I can't imagine that you could increase your burger sales because you're getting more barbecues and it's sunshine. But it's not an example that works for everyone, and I think what's crucial is to test your tactic and to optimize your personalization experience to make sure that it's hitting what you want it to hit.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And I think one of the most crucial things as well is that we have our classical A/B tests. We all know about them, we all run them, and we all have learned how important they are. But nowadays, when everything is so dynamic and when every single... Depending on the time of the day, the clicks might be going up. And we do know that for example, for email personalization, there is a specific time within the day when the open rates are going up. It can be after work, it can be during weekends, rush hours, pre-sales times. What is really important is to have this always on testing to make sure that you're dynamically, constantly testing and making sure that the content, only the most relevant and conversion increasing, revenue increasing content is being there because you just can't lose on this B test that hasn't been the most productive and the best one.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So I would always say, "Test it out, make sure that it works, optimizes, be ready for the change." And as with any tool that you're starting off, I think it's really important to invest a bit of time to make sure that you're getting things right because then it will have an immense return on investment both in terms of money and your time. You've invested a lot, you've tested, you've worked out your strategy, it's working. I mean, don't be scared to change it constantly, but then it's all about actually investing the time and the resource there.

Richard:
Yeah, I think that's where a lot of people go potentially wrong where they'll, and this is across a lot of sort tech, and they'll go, "Oh we tried that. It didn't work." But hang on a minute, you probably did the whole set it and forget it or didn't work with a partner to really dial it in, change things. And obviously, same with any... When we were talking, we talk a lot around shopping ads and search ads and Facebook, obviously the amount of times we've heard, "That doesn't work. This doesn't work." But ultimately, if you're just setting something up and assuming it's just going to work without then testing, changing, and personalizing your setup for your personalization, then it's not like... Obviously, every industry is going to be slightly different, different product sets, et cetera. Things are going to work differently. But ultimately, testing, testing, test... "Oh, hang on a minute, we've got a good chute of result over here. Right, let's tweak that, tweak... Actually, we've just got a whole new income."

Richard:
And I think a lot of technologies out there around personalization, and I'm assuming you guys as well have sort of trial periods and things like that where it's almost like a no-brainer with a lot of personalization tech and software because you're going to dial it in. But quite often you've got to with a 7, 14, 30-day trials with a lot of technology as well before you really need to commit. So obviously, you know can see profitability usually before you've even committed massively to a lot of tech nowadays I think, so that's pretty cool.

Richard:
So what you did mention right at the beginning there is this sort of cross-channel personalization, and that's absolutely key, isn't it? What would you say about personalization across the different channels that are out there?

Arthur Rakovskis:
So obviously, it's crucial, right, as I've touched upon it, and I think we all do understand it right now that it is really and absolutely important to do this cross-channel personalization.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And actually, returning back to the point that you've mentioned about short periods of time and seeing some sort of return on investment immediately. With personalization solutions, I think it's a bit more sophisticated because there is actually a bit of waiting time. Why is that? It's because you need to collect sufficient amount of data. It's all about customer data. And just a refresher, if you or your listeners are not sure, obviously we have our different types of cookies, and we have the third-party cookies. We've all heard of Cookiegeddon, all sorts of this big terms about reducing the amount of cookies and collected information across your journey.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So what Fresh Relevance does and a lot of other platforms do is collect first and zero-party data. So your experience on this particular website which is crucial obviously lies outside of the third-party cookies. So it collects the data which you give consent for on the website. And again, the zero and first-party data is really, really important, and it's really important to collect sufficient amount of data about you and me and the rest of us, where we are, what we've browsed, to make those knowledgeable decisions. So I would say that's one of the first things because we need to know at what stage you are, what's your customer journey, what have you browsed? And very often, when we come in, we would ask what kind of data have you collected? And we can digest a lot of data that has been previously collected in order to make better, faster decisions.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And going back to the cross-channel experience, because without data there is no experience, right? The more data you have, the better experience you will get and will help you to collect the data. So in terms of cross channel, I think what's important is the consistency. And as we do offer the full cross-channel customer experience, I think that a really nice example of cross-channel experience is wherever you go, so for example, you go to the web, to the app, you receive an email or you receive an SMS, again, the easiest consistent example would be your discount coupon code. You want to make sure that when you go there you receive the same thing, that you're in the same sales cycle.

Arthur Rakovskis:
For example, you're a new buyer, easiest example. You go there and you always get the same kind of content. And when you've already bought, you don't want to see the content saying, "Hey Richard, why don't you check out our products for the first time?" I mean I can imagine that you would be a bit annoyed because you've already tried that product and you already count yourself as their loyal customer. So it needs to be something different. And again, it can be a coupon which says, "Hey Richard, welcome back. Here is a discount for your next purchase." Those little things and little touches that can be done across the board and across the channels.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So just to sum up me talking so much is get your data, right, collect that data, and then create this experience across all of your channels and make it consistent.

Richard:
So it's getting the data in the first place, obviously collecting good data so when you're getting messages to your prospective customers, past customers, it's super relevant. I guess the clue's in the name. You got to have that relevance.

Arthur Rakovskis:
Exactly.

Richard:
Ultimately, if you've just bought X, Y, Z and you're seeing the wrong messaging, it's saying, "Hey," whereas if you've just bought something and you can have a message that uses the variable around that product that you just, "Hey, how you getting on with the boots?" Or "How are you getting on with the," whatever you've just bought. "Have you seen our range of X, Y, Z? Again, that's quite crude, but ultimately if it's connected, you're connecting the dots across platform.

Richard:
And we all see it. I think we all see it done well, but are you guys doing it? You guys that are listening, are you guys doing it? And when you think about that experience, when you go to probably look and buy something from some of the bigger retailers that are maybe doing it well. We had a client in the other day that weren't utilizing email marketing and they were talking about one of their competitors, and say, "Oh yeah, we're not going to look at X, Y, Z." Next thing I know, I'm getting an email that's very personalized around that product set. I'm like, "Well yeah, that's pretty standard stuff, but they're not doing it."

Richard:
So obviously, they are about to do it with us now through our agency, but getting that personalization at the right time is absolutely key. And in terms of from our perspective, in our experience, the revenues that can add are in the very, very, very high 23%. Obviously, it varies depending on different personalizations and different technologies you're using, but that cross-channel piece, so important. Nothing worse than maybe getting the right messages on desktop, but then you jump over to whether you're on, sorry, whether you're jumping into social media and seeing ads on social and they're just disconnected, it's like, "Whoa," forget it. You just lost a customer really, haven't you? Because if that message is wrong, you think, "Well, hang on a minute." Confidence in that whole brand, that confidence in the delivery, the backup, the returns potential, the way they're... You say, "Oh, they've not really got... They've that completely wrong." So it can be quite damaging if it's wrong, isn't it?

Richard:
So what sort of things have you found that generate the best results in terms of personalization? We've touched on quite a few things there, but if you're to bring that together and say to our listeners some of the best things you've seen that can generate results?

Arthur Rakovskis:
Again, when it starts with really broad saying there are different use cases, different people want different things. But in essence and in the core, I think one of the most recent Forrester researchers has shown that consumers use more than four devices each day. So we're coming back again to the cross-channel personalization. And what is absolutely important is that consistency, right? And I think what generates the best results is that consistency across the board to make sure that you, taking the example of one of our clients, Look Fabulous Forever, beauty products, and what they have seen generate incredible results is behavioral targeting. Making sure that what people see via Facebook or via a paid ad, whatever, across anywhere is the same thing that they would see on the website, on email, and would be reflected all across the board. I think that's absolutely important and that's one of the best things that generates the best results. And of course, my favorite weather module.

Richard:
Brilliant. So I think hot topic, a little bit of a slight sort of step change, but I think cost of living is on everybody's front of mind really as individuals. And every time I get home my wife's like, "Have you seen this bloody bill?"

Arthur Rakovskis:
I know. I know I what you mean.

Richard:
I try not to get to... But I mean I'm terrible really. I don't get overly involved with, I shouldn't say this out loud really, but in terms of I'm probably a little bit detached in the nitty gritty of what things cost too much. But when you start looking at it in detail, it's like geez, yeah, obviously, you've only got to go and fill your car up, haven't you, with fuel, and it's like, "Oh my gosh, what's going on?" It's crazy. But in terms of our listeners and in terms of how do you see the sort of cost of living crisis, I think, is not far off really impact and econ business. What's the actual potential impact for our listeners?

Arthur Rakovskis:
First of all, I'd like to look at the bright side of things, hope for the best, prepare for the worst. I think that's important. One of the things is that people are trying to tighten the belts, right? Work with smaller budgets, smaller teams to maximize their attacks. One of the things still, there is still growth within the eCommerce industry. Last year it has passed $4.9 trillion worldwide. Actually, it's an increase of 16% of rates. One of my nice stats that I wanted to throw in. But anyways, it's a tremendous amount of money and we're still in this booming of eCommerce. It's not the same as during COVID but it's still growing. And it's really hard to predict what the consumers are going to be willing to spend, and we do understand that there are going to be tighter budgets associated. Some premium products are also getting ready and preparing for that.

Arthur Rakovskis:
But what I think is really crucial is actually the retention component. We do know that it's much more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. So I think what's so important is to stick to your loyal customer base and make sure to create their meaningful experience for them and make sure that you are connecting with them, providing them with what they need, and it can be really different things. And mostly I'm speaking of course for the brands or for the econ businesses who do multiple sales a year for the same person. There are exceptions to that, right? Once in a lifetime purchases. But at the same time, I think it's so crucial to keep this contact going and to make sure that when we're all tightening our belts, we're still going to be spending some money, right, aren't we? At the end of the day, I hope that the economy's not going to collapse, that we're not going to be able to spend stuff for eCommerce. So avoiding this apocalypse, we're thinking about just making sure that your customer is returning to you, not your competition.

Richard:
So I think it's a bit of a theme within our podcast that obviously things come along, whether that's change cookie policy, whether that's crisis over here, that's life, guys. This is life. These things are going to come along and it's how we respond. And that's the same throughout running the business, isn't it? These things come along, and it's like, "Okay, what we're going to do about it?" It's that mindset around it's potential opportunity.

Richard:
It is an opportunity because while other people are maybe pulling back and abandoning maybe personalization or whatever it may be, there's an opportunity there to really go deeper and really look after the customers that you have, and really dial in that personalization with our existing customer base, and embrace the fact that there are some challenges out there. But not on the apocalyptic level like the news may lead you to believe, lead you to believe. But obviously, there's some challenges out there for many, many people. So if you as a brand can help them and put the right offers in at the right time and nurture the relationships with your existing customer base, it's an opportunity for you as a merchant, but also to potentially save your customers. If they're talking about discounts or we're talking about just putting the right product in the right time in front of existing customers that have bought similar things or really dialing in that sort of segmentation piece, it's an opportunity. Yeah, brilliant, brilliant.

Richard:
So where should we go next? So anything else on that piece really? So potentially disposable income, it's the reality. It's getting tighter for people. As a company, we've just literally last month gave everybody a one-off payment bonus to help them. We gave everybody their second pay rise this year company wide, which we've never done a mid-year pay rise. We review all of our salaries in January. We reviewed them all again in June, July, and we gave everybody flat, an additional pay rise on top of the pay rise they got in January plus X amount. That's a one-off payment. I know a lot of companies are trying to do that, but it's difficult obviously for the companies to do that.

Richard:
But disposable income, the reality is it's tightening up for people. Okay, we're going to dial in that personalization, we're going to try and help them that little bit more, and try and see it from the merchant side as well where merchants are going to utilize this sort of potential challenges out there and offer them a deeper, deeper personalization, maybe discount, but what else can merchants do, do you think, to help people that where sales are maybe just that bit tighter out there?

Arthur Rakovskis:
I think in just broader terms, it's all about mustering your customer experience. The whole journey across that, and unfortunately I'm going to repeat myself, you need to retain your customers. Who they are, you need to retain them, and you need to make sure that your retention boosting customer experience is on top of your game. You need to use your customers' past purchase experience, browse data, all sorts of information to display products that are going to peak their interests. They're going to be interested, that they're going to be relevant to them to make further purchases.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And just touching upon those once-in-a-lifetime purchases or big purchases that are still going to go, life still goes, there are challenges, and I want to be on the bright side of things. People are still going to be buying stuff. Maybe a bit less, but they are going to be buying. So I think it's then improving the return on advertising spent.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And then I think that, for example, you guys really come in here and you can help optimize and target customer experience for paid traffic. Visitors who come through PPC, social media ads, Google Shopping. So making sure that your game is there, that you are doing the right things. Because I think it's about getting their interest all across the board, and then when they land on the page, and then this is also what we see, they can bounce, so that make sure that they get the message, they land on the page, and they stay on this page and make this conversion.

Arthur Rakovskis:
Why are they going to land on the page? Because they're interested in this product and they're going to see this ad hopefully with a bit of tricks that you have in your pocket. And then why are they going to land on the page? Because it will have relevant information for them. Because they are going to be able to stay and see for example, relevant products. So easy. They've been browsing, I don't know, for a barbecue grill and they land on a page, and then they see similar products which are totally irrelevant. And we've seen that a lot. Or which are so outside of their price range. They were looking for a barbecue for a hundred quid and then they see something for a thousand quid in a similar product. I mean, probably not so relevant to them, so you want to show something really, really relevant there and make sure that they stay there.

Richard:
Totally. A hundred percent. I was with a client, well, I was on a Zoom with them probably about a month ago. And on a similar vein I went to their... They sell very high end. It's similar actually. Very high end, probably shouldn't say too much, but the very high end outdoor products, we'll say, and that's their market. They're in their multiple thousands their average order value, and then 90% of their products are 3, 4, 5 grand per product. But whenever you went to their categories to look at their product, it was defaulting by price cheapest first where they had the accessories in the same category. So you were looking at a £15 accessory on literally almost like the homepage or on the homepage of the category subcategory, so it just wasn't a reflection of what somebody would've been looking for if they'd gone to that category, sub-category, gone to shop and look for a specific thing, they weren't seeing the thing; they were seeing the accessory for the thing, which is just not a good experience and it's just not...

Richard:
I mean we're talking about an extreme price point there, which obviously is not so much relevant for talking about getting the most out of our disposable income, but ultimately, we're not giving the user the best experience, the most relevant experience.

Richard:
Right. So lots of things there, Arthur, that are brilliant, absolutely brilliant. But let's say crystal ball time. We sat here in 18 months, and what do our listeners need to really get in front of now and be well aware of when it comes to personalization so they can get in front of the things that are coming down the pipeline when it comes to the next sort of 18 months or so?

Arthur Rakovskis:
So I think there are three main things within the next 18-months strategy. And here I'm stealing some pointers from our CEO Mike, who has been presenting on our most recent event. We have relaunched live events which we are really happy about. So here I'm stealing some of his pointers, so I hope he does forgive me for that.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So first thing, consistency across channels. We've been banging on about that, and utilizing new channels. There are so many on the horizon. WhatsApp is not new but utilizing it is a new thing. Web push and app push, all sorts of things. Make sure that there is consistent content across channels and utilize those channels. We've launched SMS. So I think it's a really cool tool to try to make sure that it's consistent all across the board and whatever you're using, it's always doing similar things across them.

Arthur Rakovskis:
The second thing is agile customer experience. It constantly needs to evolve, be optimized, and make sure that it's efficient and it's adjusted according to time. We are living in uncertain times, so make sure to adjust it that it hits the mark. And the third thing is the thought of always on optimization, right? Make sure that you're not just testing, but testing at the right time and A/B testing might not get there. So try to test every single one of your campaigns. Optimize them on the go and make sure that they're hitting the mark. These are three things that I would probably think would be the topic of the next year or so.

Richard:
Well, we will find out, won't we? We'll see how right you are over the coming year or so. Well thank you, Arthur, for coming on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure. I'd like to end every episode with a book recommendation. Have you got a book that you'd recommend to our listeners?

Arthur Rakovskis:
Yes. I'm been thinking long and hard, but I decided to go with a more business practical book, and hopefully nobody recommended it here, although you had a lot of episodes so I hope that I have a new one. It's called Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Has somebody recommended it?

Richard:
Oh, it's a new one. It's a new one. Well done.

Arthur Rakovskis:
I've hit the mark. I think it's fantastic. It's just about, I want to say, improving the relationship in a workplace, but what I'm trying to say, it's about providing radically candid feedback, making sure that you have this culture within your company, and it's coming back to the topic of optimization, to optimize all of your experience. Be straightforward with your colleagues, with your peers, with your superiors, so that you all live within this loop of feedback which you're providing. So I would definitely recommend to give it a read.

Richard:
That sounds brilliant. That's going to be ordered within about 30 seconds from now. Well, thanks for coming on the show. For the guys that want to find out more about you, Arthur, and more about the brand, what's the best way to do that?

Arthur Rakovskis:
Go to freshrelevance.com or just write to me on LinkedIn. Go to freshrelevance.com and you'll find out everything.

Richard:
Fantastic. Well thanks for coming on the show and I look forward to speaking to you again.

Arthur Rakovskis:
Thanks for having me.

Richard:
Thank you. Bye-Bye.

Richard:
Hi, and welcome to another episode of eComOne. Today's guest, Arthur Rakovskis, Partnership Manager at Fresh Relevance. How you doing Arthur? You all right?

Arthur Rakovskis:
I'm doing great. How about you Richard?

Richard:
I am very good, very good indeed. Looking forward to this one. So I think we'll start with a bit of an intro if you want to sort of tell our listeners how you got into the world of eCommerce and a bit about yourself?

Arthur Rakovskis:
Certainly. So as you know, my name is Arthur. At the moment, I work at Fresh Relevance, and as I go with a starting joke, I'm really fresh at Fresh Relevance. I've only been here for four months, a bit longer within the whole eCommerce ecosystem if you can say so. I previously worked in a print-on-demand marketplace company, which was a sort of software to enable print on demand and drop shipping, which is called Printify. Yeah. So in total it has been three fantastic years within the eCom industry and looking forward to talking and discussing more in detail about personalization and the whole landscape.

Richard:
Brilliant. Let's get stuck in then. So obviously, yeah, Fresh Relevance, how does Fresh Relevance add value to eCommerce stores? Tell me about that.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So in general, we empower eCommerce businesses to create personalized cross-channel experiences that capture their shoppers' attention and increase conversions by offering the most current and relevant content in real time. So by simple means we personalize the experience across all of your devices, so whether you're going on web, app, checking your emails, or receiving an SMS, so we create this personalized content, or rather we enable the users or businesses to create the content that they would like.

Richard:
Why do you think that's so important in the landscape at the moment? Obviously, personalization I think is absolutely key. It's easy to send the same message to everybody, isn't it? That's sort of 1980s, '90s, whatever you want to... Quite some time ago. But why is it so important at the moment to send that very specific messages at very specific times and et cetera, et cetera?

Arthur Rakovskis:
So first of all, I think that personalization is a really broad term, so everybody seems to be using it really differently. And I think most of us are at the stage there saying, "Yes, we need personalization." Right? They're not sure what they need, but they think that they need some sort of personalization.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So we got to that point that the understanding is there. So I need to personalize my experience. So when you, Richard, would go to any website, you would see some content that is targeted towards you, and when I would see the content, it would be targeted to me. So I didn't mention, for example, I'm in London and one of my favorite examples is using weather personalization. It's a really simple tool. So for example, depending where you are, our system would analyze your IP address, and depending on the weather that's there, so for example, let's say it's raining outside. It's not. It's just cloudy. But let's say it's raining outside for me in London. We could give personalized content about, I don't know, buying an umbrella, right? For you, it's sunshine outside. Go get yourself a sunscreen.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So you can imagine that this is going to generate significant revenue for your eCom business, and obviously at the moment, I know that I have some data written down, some nice stats that at the moment we are generating up to 33% sales uplift. So at the end of the day, it's all about return on investment and making sure that you're getting the most value of the solutions that are there.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And what is also crucial, what I wanted to mention is making sure that there is the loyalty of your customers, right? There is your loyalty solutions, and I think that's really important, but how do you create this loyalty? By making sure that when you go onto the website it remembers you. "Hi, Arthur. Here is what you've checked out. Oh, based on what you've seen, what about those suggestions?" So making this journey more meaningful, I think that's why it is so important.

Richard:
No, I totally get it. I love the weather example. Obviously, we've been having some extreme weather in the UK over the last few months, which is really, really nice. But as we know, it changes and then things change, don't they, in terms of whether that's weather, whether that's our interests, or there's a certain things going on at the moment. But making sure you're seeing things that are very specific to you or very specific to that sort of, whether that's weather based or whatever it may be. It made me think of that example.

Arthur Rakovskis:
Indeed. And now the travel industry's really bouncing back, so we see quite a few clients from the travel industry coming to us. And my favorite example there is obviously it's cold outside, and you just say, "Hey, it's snowing outside. Why don't you check out a trip to Barbados?" Right? And immediately, you would be like, "Oh, that's a nice, interesting thing." And then you check it out and see, "Oh, that might be a bit expensive." And then immediately you would be, "Maybe I don't want to buy it." And then what you want to do is make sure that you, Richard, stay on the website and do like, "Hey, add your email and there's a little coupon for you." They're a really simple tactic but so, so powerful, right?

Richard:
Copying that example again. It's brilliant because everyone is talking about holidays, it seems, at the moment. Everyone's going, being about to go passports.

Arthur Rakovskis:
Yes, yes, definitely.

Richard:
Challenge in the UK, everyone trying to get their passport and whatnot. But no, those ads trying to buy. A few weeks ago I went shopping to buy various holiday items and a lot of things were out of stock, short. Seems to be a mass shortage of shorts in the country, which is a bit crazy. But you can sort of see how you could get creative and personalize things around, "Oh, it's not going to be long before you go on holiday where... Don't forget this, that, and the other."

Richard:
And the weather thing, we're going back to that. We do a lot with weather on paid ads where we're personalizing the bids around what the temperature is for products. So for example, you sell barbecues and the weather is rising, you're more likely to get the barbecue out, but you're more likely as a merchant to honestly sell more barbecues when the weather's good or about to be good. So if you're tying that with an API into the weather, you can also adjust bids based on weather, which is sort of a similar thing in that. But ultimately, that's a personalized bid based on another set of data, whether that's weather, whatever that may be.

Richard:
But I think honestly, personalization is a very broad topic and you will have seen over the few months you've been doing it, and obviously, a long time our Fresh Relevance has been managing various personalizations for different companies, you'll see a lot of companies sort of doing things wrong. What are some of the bigger mistakes that you see companies doing when it comes to personalization?

Arthur Rakovskis:
So I think that the most crucial thing is to test and test and test to make sure that you're getting your tactics right. I've given you really simple examples that are generic. They might work for most of the people, but again, they might not work for somebody. I'm not sure that it's going to drive food sales per se. I can't imagine that you could increase your burger sales because you're getting more barbecues and it's sunshine. But it's not an example that works for everyone, and I think what's crucial is to test your tactic and to optimize your personalization experience to make sure that it's hitting what you want it to hit.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And I think one of the most crucial things as well is that we have our classical A/B tests. We all know about them, we all run them, and we all have learned how important they are. But nowadays, when everything is so dynamic and when every single... Depending on the time of the day, the clicks might be going up. And we do know that for example, for email personalization, there is a specific time within the day when the open rates are going up. It can be after work, it can be during weekends, rush hours, pre-sales times. What is really important is to have this always on testing to make sure that you're dynamically, constantly testing and making sure that the content, only the most relevant and conversion increasing, revenue increasing content is being there because you just can't lose on this B test that hasn't been the most productive and the best one.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So I would always say, "Test it out, make sure that it works, optimizes, be ready for the change." And as with any tool that you're starting off, I think it's really important to invest a bit of time to make sure that you're getting things right because then it will have an immense return on investment both in terms of money and your time. You've invested a lot, you've tested, you've worked out your strategy, it's working. I mean, don't be scared to change it constantly, but then it's all about actually investing the time and the resource there.

Richard:
Yeah, I think that's where a lot of people go potentially wrong where they'll, and this is across a lot of sort tech, and they'll go, "Oh we tried that. It didn't work." But hang on a minute, you probably did the whole set it and forget it or didn't work with a partner to really dial it in, change things. And obviously, same with any... When we were talking, we talk a lot around shopping ads and search ads and Facebook, obviously the amount of times we've heard, "That doesn't work. This doesn't work." But ultimately, if you're just setting something up and assuming it's just going to work without then testing, changing, and personalizing your setup for your personalization, then it's not like... Obviously, every industry is going to be slightly different, different product sets, et cetera. Things are going to work differently. But ultimately, testing, testing, test... "Oh, hang on a minute, we've got a good chute of result over here. Right, let's tweak that, tweak... Actually, we've just got a whole new income."

Richard:
And I think a lot of technologies out there around personalization, and I'm assuming you guys as well have sort of trial periods and things like that where it's almost like a no-brainer with a lot of personalization tech and software because you're going to dial it in. But quite often you've got to with a 7, 14, 30-day trials with a lot of technology as well before you really need to commit. So obviously, you know can see profitability usually before you've even committed massively to a lot of tech nowadays I think, so that's pretty cool.

Richard:
So what you did mention right at the beginning there is this sort of cross-channel personalization, and that's absolutely key, isn't it? What would you say about personalization across the different channels that are out there?

Arthur Rakovskis:
So obviously, it's crucial, right, as I've touched upon it, and I think we all do understand it right now that it is really and absolutely important to do this cross-channel personalization.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And actually, returning back to the point that you've mentioned about short periods of time and seeing some sort of return on investment immediately. With personalization solutions, I think it's a bit more sophisticated because there is actually a bit of waiting time. Why is that? It's because you need to collect sufficient amount of data. It's all about customer data. And just a refresher, if you or your listeners are not sure, obviously we have our different types of cookies, and we have the third-party cookies. We've all heard of Cookiegeddon, all sorts of this big terms about reducing the amount of cookies and collected information across your journey.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So what Fresh Relevance does and a lot of other platforms do is collect first and zero-party data. So your experience on this particular website which is crucial obviously lies outside of the third-party cookies. So it collects the data which you give consent for on the website. And again, the zero and first-party data is really, really important, and it's really important to collect sufficient amount of data about you and me and the rest of us, where we are, what we've browsed, to make those knowledgeable decisions. So I would say that's one of the first things because we need to know at what stage you are, what's your customer journey, what have you browsed? And very often, when we come in, we would ask what kind of data have you collected? And we can digest a lot of data that has been previously collected in order to make better, faster decisions.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And going back to the cross-channel experience, because without data there is no experience, right? The more data you have, the better experience you will get and will help you to collect the data. So in terms of cross channel, I think what's important is the consistency. And as we do offer the full cross-channel customer experience, I think that a really nice example of cross-channel experience is wherever you go, so for example, you go to the web, to the app, you receive an email or you receive an SMS, again, the easiest consistent example would be your discount coupon code. You want to make sure that when you go there you receive the same thing, that you're in the same sales cycle.

Arthur Rakovskis:
For example, you're a new buyer, easiest example. You go there and you always get the same kind of content. And when you've already bought, you don't want to see the content saying, "Hey Richard, why don't you check out our products for the first time?" I mean I can imagine that you would be a bit annoyed because you've already tried that product and you already count yourself as their loyal customer. So it needs to be something different. And again, it can be a coupon which says, "Hey Richard, welcome back. Here is a discount for your next purchase." Those little things and little touches that can be done across the board and across the channels.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So just to sum up me talking so much is get your data, right, collect that data, and then create this experience across all of your channels and make it consistent.

Richard:
So it's getting the data in the first place, obviously collecting good data so when you're getting messages to your prospective customers, past customers, it's super relevant. I guess the clue's in the name. You got to have that relevance.

Arthur Rakovskis:
Exactly.

Richard:
Ultimately, if you've just bought X, Y, Z and you're seeing the wrong messaging, it's saying, "Hey," whereas if you've just bought something and you can have a message that uses the variable around that product that you just, "Hey, how you getting on with the boots?" Or "How are you getting on with the," whatever you've just bought. "Have you seen our range of X, Y, Z? Again, that's quite crude, but ultimately if it's connected, you're connecting the dots across platform.

Richard:
And we all see it. I think we all see it done well, but are you guys doing it? You guys that are listening, are you guys doing it? And when you think about that experience, when you go to probably look and buy something from some of the bigger retailers that are maybe doing it well. We had a client in the other day that weren't utilizing email marketing and they were talking about one of their competitors, and say, "Oh yeah, we're not going to look at X, Y, Z." Next thing I know, I'm getting an email that's very personalized around that product set. I'm like, "Well yeah, that's pretty standard stuff, but they're not doing it."

Richard:
So obviously, they are about to do it with us now through our agency, but getting that personalization at the right time is absolutely key. And in terms of from our perspective, in our experience, the revenues that can add are in the very, very, very high 23%. Obviously, it varies depending on different personalizations and different technologies you're using, but that cross-channel piece, so important. Nothing worse than maybe getting the right messages on desktop, but then you jump over to whether you're on, sorry, whether you're jumping into social media and seeing ads on social and they're just disconnected, it's like, "Whoa," forget it. You just lost a customer really, haven't you? Because if that message is wrong, you think, "Well, hang on a minute." Confidence in that whole brand, that confidence in the delivery, the backup, the returns potential, the way they're... You say, "Oh, they've not really got... They've that completely wrong." So it can be quite damaging if it's wrong, isn't it?

Richard:
So what sort of things have you found that generate the best results in terms of personalization? We've touched on quite a few things there, but if you're to bring that together and say to our listeners some of the best things you've seen that can generate results?

Arthur Rakovskis:
Again, when it starts with really broad saying there are different use cases, different people want different things. But in essence and in the core, I think one of the most recent Forrester researchers has shown that consumers use more than four devices each day. So we're coming back again to the cross-channel personalization. And what is absolutely important is that consistency, right? And I think what generates the best results is that consistency across the board to make sure that you, taking the example of one of our clients, Look Fabulous Forever, beauty products, and what they have seen generate incredible results is behavioral targeting. Making sure that what people see via Facebook or via a paid ad, whatever, across anywhere is the same thing that they would see on the website, on email, and would be reflected all across the board. I think that's absolutely important and that's one of the best things that generates the best results. And of course, my favorite weather module.

Richard:
Brilliant. So I think hot topic, a little bit of a slight sort of step change, but I think cost of living is on everybody's front of mind really as individuals. And every time I get home my wife's like, "Have you seen this bloody bill?"

Arthur Rakovskis:
I know. I know I what you mean.

Richard:
I try not to get to... But I mean I'm terrible really. I don't get overly involved with, I shouldn't say this out loud really, but in terms of I'm probably a little bit detached in the nitty gritty of what things cost too much. But when you start looking at it in detail, it's like geez, yeah, obviously, you've only got to go and fill your car up, haven't you, with fuel, and it's like, "Oh my gosh, what's going on?" It's crazy. But in terms of our listeners and in terms of how do you see the sort of cost of living crisis, I think, is not far off really impact and econ business. What's the actual potential impact for our listeners?

Arthur Rakovskis:
First of all, I'd like to look at the bright side of things, hope for the best, prepare for the worst. I think that's important. One of the things is that people are trying to tighten the belts, right? Work with smaller budgets, smaller teams to maximize their attacks. One of the things still, there is still growth within the eCommerce industry. Last year it has passed $4.9 trillion worldwide. Actually, it's an increase of 16% of rates. One of my nice stats that I wanted to throw in. But anyways, it's a tremendous amount of money and we're still in this booming of eCommerce. It's not the same as during COVID but it's still growing. And it's really hard to predict what the consumers are going to be willing to spend, and we do understand that there are going to be tighter budgets associated. Some premium products are also getting ready and preparing for that.

Arthur Rakovskis:
But what I think is really crucial is actually the retention component. We do know that it's much more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. So I think what's so important is to stick to your loyal customer base and make sure to create their meaningful experience for them and make sure that you are connecting with them, providing them with what they need, and it can be really different things. And mostly I'm speaking of course for the brands or for the econ businesses who do multiple sales a year for the same person. There are exceptions to that, right? Once in a lifetime purchases. But at the same time, I think it's so crucial to keep this contact going and to make sure that when we're all tightening our belts, we're still going to be spending some money, right, aren't we? At the end of the day, I hope that the economy's not going to collapse, that we're not going to be able to spend stuff for eCommerce. So avoiding this apocalypse, we're thinking about just making sure that your customer is returning to you, not your competition.

Richard:
So I think it's a bit of a theme within our podcast that obviously things come along, whether that's change cookie policy, whether that's crisis over here, that's life, guys. This is life. These things are going to come along and it's how we respond. And that's the same throughout running the business, isn't it? These things come along, and it's like, "Okay, what we're going to do about it?" It's that mindset around it's potential opportunity.

Richard:
It is an opportunity because while other people are maybe pulling back and abandoning maybe personalization or whatever it may be, there's an opportunity there to really go deeper and really look after the customers that you have, and really dial in that personalization with our existing customer base, and embrace the fact that there are some challenges out there. But not on the apocalyptic level like the news may lead you to believe, lead you to believe. But obviously, there's some challenges out there for many, many people. So if you as a brand can help them and put the right offers in at the right time and nurture the relationships with your existing customer base, it's an opportunity for you as a merchant, but also to potentially save your customers. If they're talking about discounts or we're talking about just putting the right product in the right time in front of existing customers that have bought similar things or really dialing in that sort of segmentation piece, it's an opportunity. Yeah, brilliant, brilliant.

Richard:
So where should we go next? So anything else on that piece really? So potentially disposable income, it's the reality. It's getting tighter for people. As a company, we've just literally last month gave everybody a one-off payment bonus to help them. We gave everybody their second pay rise this year company wide, which we've never done a mid-year pay rise. We review all of our salaries in January. We reviewed them all again in June, July, and we gave everybody flat, an additional pay rise on top of the pay rise they got in January plus X amount. That's a one-off payment. I know a lot of companies are trying to do that, but it's difficult obviously for the companies to do that.

Richard:
But disposable income, the reality is it's tightening up for people. Okay, we're going to dial in that personalization, we're going to try and help them that little bit more, and try and see it from the merchant side as well where merchants are going to utilize this sort of potential challenges out there and offer them a deeper, deeper personalization, maybe discount, but what else can merchants do, do you think, to help people that where sales are maybe just that bit tighter out there?

Arthur Rakovskis:
I think in just broader terms, it's all about mustering your customer experience. The whole journey across that, and unfortunately I'm going to repeat myself, you need to retain your customers. Who they are, you need to retain them, and you need to make sure that your retention boosting customer experience is on top of your game. You need to use your customers' past purchase experience, browse data, all sorts of information to display products that are going to peak their interests. They're going to be interested, that they're going to be relevant to them to make further purchases.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And just touching upon those once-in-a-lifetime purchases or big purchases that are still going to go, life still goes, there are challenges, and I want to be on the bright side of things. People are still going to be buying stuff. Maybe a bit less, but they are going to be buying. So I think it's then improving the return on advertising spent.

Arthur Rakovskis:
And then I think that, for example, you guys really come in here and you can help optimize and target customer experience for paid traffic. Visitors who come through PPC, social media ads, Google Shopping. So making sure that your game is there, that you are doing the right things. Because I think it's about getting their interest all across the board, and then when they land on the page, and then this is also what we see, they can bounce, so that make sure that they get the message, they land on the page, and they stay on this page and make this conversion.

Arthur Rakovskis:
Why are they going to land on the page? Because they're interested in this product and they're going to see this ad hopefully with a bit of tricks that you have in your pocket. And then why are they going to land on the page? Because it will have relevant information for them. Because they are going to be able to stay and see for example, relevant products. So easy. They've been browsing, I don't know, for a barbecue grill and they land on a page, and then they see similar products which are totally irrelevant. And we've seen that a lot. Or which are so outside of their price range. They were looking for a barbecue for a hundred quid and then they see something for a thousand quid in a similar product. I mean, probably not so relevant to them, so you want to show something really, really relevant there and make sure that they stay there.

Richard:
Totally. A hundred percent. I was with a client, well, I was on a Zoom with them probably about a month ago. And on a similar vein I went to their... They sell very high end. It's similar actually. Very high end, probably shouldn't say too much, but the very high end outdoor products, we'll say, and that's their market. They're in their multiple thousands their average order value, and then 90% of their products are 3, 4, 5 grand per product. But whenever you went to their categories to look at their product, it was defaulting by price cheapest first where they had the accessories in the same category. So you were looking at a £15 accessory on literally almost like the homepage or on the homepage of the category subcategory, so it just wasn't a reflection of what somebody would've been looking for if they'd gone to that category, sub-category, gone to shop and look for a specific thing, they weren't seeing the thing; they were seeing the accessory for the thing, which is just not a good experience and it's just not...

Richard:
I mean we're talking about an extreme price point there, which obviously is not so much relevant for talking about getting the most out of our disposable income, but ultimately, we're not giving the user the best experience, the most relevant experience.

Richard:
Right. So lots of things there, Arthur, that are brilliant, absolutely brilliant. But let's say crystal ball time. We sat here in 18 months, and what do our listeners need to really get in front of now and be well aware of when it comes to personalization so they can get in front of the things that are coming down the pipeline when it comes to the next sort of 18 months or so?

Arthur Rakovskis:
So I think there are three main things within the next 18-months strategy. And here I'm stealing some pointers from our CEO Mike, who has been presenting on our most recent event. We have relaunched live events which we are really happy about. So here I'm stealing some of his pointers, so I hope he does forgive me for that.

Arthur Rakovskis:
So first thing, consistency across channels. We've been banging on about that, and utilizing new channels. There are so many on the horizon. WhatsApp is not new but utilizing it is a new thing. Web push and app push, all sorts of things. Make sure that there is consistent content across channels and utilize those channels. We've launched SMS. So I think it's a really cool tool to try to make sure that it's consistent all across the board and whatever you're using, it's always doing similar things across them.

Arthur Rakovskis:
The second thing is agile customer experience. It constantly needs to evolve, be optimized, and make sure that it's efficient and it's adjusted according to time. We are living in uncertain times, so make sure to adjust it that it hits the mark. And the third thing is the thought of always on optimization, right? Make sure that you're not just testing, but testing at the right time and A/B testing might not get there. So try to test every single one of your campaigns. Optimize them on the go and make sure that they're hitting the mark. These are three things that I would probably think would be the topic of the next year or so.

Richard:
Well, we will find out, won't we? We'll see how right you are over the coming year or so. Well thank you, Arthur, for coming on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure. I'd like to end every episode with a book recommendation. Have you got a book that you'd recommend to our listeners?

Arthur Rakovskis:
Yes. I'm been thinking long and hard, but I decided to go with a more business practical book, and hopefully nobody recommended it here, although you had a lot of episodes so I hope that I have a new one. It's called Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Has somebody recommended it?

Richard:
Oh, it's a new one. It's a new one. Well done.

Arthur Rakovskis:
I've hit the mark. I think it's fantastic. It's just about, I want to say, improving the relationship in a workplace, but what I'm trying to say, it's about providing radically candid feedback, making sure that you have this culture within your company, and it's coming back to the topic of optimization, to optimize all of your experience. Be straightforward with your colleagues, with your peers, with your superiors, so that you all live within this loop of feedback which you're providing. So I would definitely recommend to give it a read.

Richard:
That sounds brilliant. That's going to be ordered within about 30 seconds from now. Well, thanks for coming on the show. For the guys that want to find out more about you, Arthur, and more about the brand, what's the best way to do that?

Arthur Rakovskis:
Go to freshrelevance.com or just write to me on LinkedIn. Go to freshrelevance.com and you'll find out everything.

Richard:
Fantastic. Well thanks for coming on the show and I look forward to speaking to you again.

Arthur Rakovskis:
Thanks for having me.

Richard:
Thank you. Bye-Bye.

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