eCommerce Podcast

Our podcast is raw, honest and damn right insightful, as we chat to some of the best minds in eCommerce

Hosted by Richard Hill

Ep 02:
Chloe Thomas:
How to Grow in a Competitive Online World

Ep 02: Chloe Thomas  – How to Grow in a Competitive Online World 

Chloe Thomas has been on our hit list since the initial stages of our podcast planning.

Her passion and expertise is second to none and we were so excited to learn from her wealth of experience. 

We were absolutely delighted when she agreed to share her knowledge with us. Any person that has a strong love for pancakes deserves to feature on eCom@One. 

 

eCom@One Presents 

Chloe Thomas

Chloe Thomas has nearly 20 years of experience in the eCommerce sphere, working with a range of retailers and marketers, for both national and global brands. She has extensive knowledge in email marketing, Google and Facebook Ads. 

She is a national eCommerce speaker, hosts her own eCommerce podcast and has published a selection of eCommerce books. 

This podcast covers effective email marketing tactics, how to be truly customer-focused, strategies that can grow online businesses and how you can achieve a competitive edge. 

 

Topics Covered

3:34 – Biggest eCommerce success story

5:00 – Segmentation, targeting and personalisation

6:16 – Shiny object syndrome 

8:00 – Importance of making sure your basics are right during Coronavirus 

16:25 – Maximise your ROI from About Us Pages and Welcome Campaigns

21:20 – Tips for your welcome campaigns

24:18 – Email providers

25.50 – The power of story for setting yourself above your competitors

29:49 – What can eCom owners do to be truly customer-centric and how to improve content marketing 

34:35 – Separating the men from the boys in email marketing

39:34 – Top recommendations of expos for eCom owners

 

Transcript

Richard:
Okay, well, welcome to another episode of eCom@One. Today's guest is Chloë Thomas. Now, Chloë's books have been on our bookshelf at eComOne and at home for about seven years, and Chloë's the author of five bestselling eCommerce books. But probably more known now for her podcast, where she's interviewed over 250 eCommerce owners, store owners, marketeers, over the last about five years, I think, isn't it, Chloë?
Chloë:
Yep. It's been going for just over five years, which is crazy.
Richard:
So welcome to the podcast. I think it's about 18 years you've been altogether in marketing, and most of that's been obviously in the eCommerce space. So welcome to the podcast.
Chloë:
Great to be here. Always nice to catch up with a fellow eCommerce obsessive, so I'm looking forward to this.
Richard:
Thank you. I think it would be good to kick off and let everybody know just a little bit about your story, really, your career journey to date around eCommerce.
Chloë:
Yeah. Sure. Well, that could take us the whole show, so I'll try and keep it short for you. My career started off at Barclays Bank, in their marketing department. My career story is mainly accidents at the begin. Accidentally ended up there because I wanted to do an internship, when I was at uni, and finance sounded a bit boring. HR sounded a bit fluffy. Marketing was pretty much all that was left.
Chloë:
So got an internship, and then got a job, and then here I am almost 20 years later, still in marketing. Left Barclays, because it wasn't the right place for me, and applied to pretty much everywhere in order to leave Barclays. The first job I got was with a retailer, Past Times, which some of your older listeners may remember, was a high street online and catalogue retailer in the UK, and beyond.
Chloë:
I was hired to look after their catalogue mailings, and then got a little bit obsessed with the internet. And when that went under, which I swear wasn't my fault, I ended up working for a mail order business consultancy as their first ever Head of eCommerce, which was an awesome time. A bit like being the kid in the candy shop. I had six brands, each of which were doing over seven figures, I think all of them were on. None had ever sent an email. None had ever had the products on the website the same day as the catalogue went live. Crazy idea.
Chloë:
So, I had a year of just doing cool things with those brands. This would have been about 2004, 2005, I think. And then that turned into a marketing agency that I ran for 10 years, that evolved into becoming a Google Ads and Facebook Ads agency. Sold that three years ago, now, and I was running eCommerce MasterPlan and the agency side-by-side. And now I'm all eCommerce MasterPlan.
Richard:
Wow. That's a whirlwind, isn't it? That's literally everything you can think of, I think, in terms of corporate catalogues, eCom stores coming out of the ether, running your own agency, and then now obviously spoken to at least 250+ eCommerce professionals on your podcast. So looking forward to getting stuck in and hopefully sharing some absolute nuggets with our listeners.
Chloë:
I hope so. That's what I want to do. Share some good tips for them all.
Richard:
Good. Let's kick off, then, straight in there. What would you say has been your biggest success story in eCommerce?
Chloë:
Oh, man. For an actual eCommerce client, the one I always remember is back at Past Times, actually, which is a terribly long time ago, but it was something which was really ground-breaking then, and now is still ground-breaking, which is wrong. It shouldn't be. You should be doing this, everybody.
Chloë:
At Past Times, we had a fantastic line in resin garden ornaments that looked like Victorian fairies. A lot of customers were very passionate about our fairies that went in the garden. Occasionally, wandering around the streets of the UK, you would see a garden full of our fairies. And it was a somewhat pleasant sight, but a little bit scary at the same time.
Chloë:
We had some very, very passionate customers, and a new range of garden fairies had come in for the new spring season, and we segmented the customers who always bought fairies from the customers who had never bought fairies. And we sent an email to the fairy people about the fairies, and we sent an email to everybody else about something else. We only sent one email a week at that time.
Chloë:
The results were just astounding for the fairies people, but of course, we got better results from everyone else because we weren't telling them about a product they had no interest in. Which, not ground-breaking, shouldn't be ground-breaking now, I've talked about it a lot.
Richard:
So segmenting your email list, and people that have bought something similar, or had an interest in fairies, in this instance. And actually personalizing targeting.
Chloë:
Yeah. It was something we were incredibly proud of at the time, because it was really hard to do it, but I mention it because I still see businesses failing to do simple, obvious stuff like that, despite the fact, these days, the technology, you can do it at a couple of clicks if you want to.
Richard:
Why do you think they don't do it? Because it is so simple, isn't it? Are they just looking for other things, or-
Chloë:
I think it's the having too many options and not knowing where to start. The question I get asked most often by eCommerce businesses is, "Chloë, what should I be doing?" My focus is on the marketing side of things, and traffic driving, and mainly around the stuff you can really track like the email and the ads and those kind of things.
Chloë:
That's what I get asked, is, "What should I be doing?" And the little bit of client work I still do these days is generally answering that question. There's so much we could be doing, it's trying to work out what we should be doing.
Richard:
Yeah. I totally agree. It's like that shiny object syndrome, that digital marketers and eCommerce marketers, "What's this new thing? What's this? Oh, Facebook Pixels?" Obviously, these all have their place, but when you find something that maybe works a little bit, keep going, keep pushing, keep trying, keep going through with it. Yeah. A simple thing like segmenting a database, and pushing through. That's brilliant.
Richard:
That leads us quite nicely on to my next question. What would you say, in terms of, I'm an eCommerce store owner right now. It's the 24th of March, quite a challenging few days for most businesses in the UK over these last couple of days and quite a few challenging weeks, potentially, ahead with the Covid-19 outbreak, pandemic announcements over the last couple of days. A lot of UK workforce are now working from home. Obviously some eCommerce stores, a lot of eCommerce stores, I believe, are still operating as we record this. I know speaking to a lot of our clients and our account managers today, and their clients, quite a lot of change is happening out there. Some challenges with deliveries, potentially, which is going to be a real problem. Getting stock, drop shipping, et cetera, going to be a definite problem. Closing in, closing in.
Richard:
What are some of the things that the listeners could really focus on now? Maybe these next couple of weeks, while they're at home, and their marketing teams are at home, that they can really focus on to really help to quite quickly... I think we think about speed. What are some of the speed elements that they could implement right now to help them?
Chloë:
Well, I think it's almost like a daily changing picture at the moment. What's possible, what consumers are doing, and all the rest of it. I would say that whenever you've got to move that fast, whenever it's really crucial, then the first thing to do is to check what you've already got live is working as well as it could be. It's not, "Oh, we need to do new things." Whether you're someone who's seeing your sales plummet, or whether you're someone who's seeing your sales grow crazy, which I know there's some of you in both camps out there at the moment, it's about keeping the basics right.
Chloë:
Have you got your basic automations in place? Your abandoned baskets, and your welcome campaigns, so you're giving as good an experience as possible and you're getting the sales you should be getting? Your Google Ads, are you keeping an eye on them as we're going through this? Because if you aren't keeping a decent eye on your Google Ads and all of a sudden demand and search volume for your products has gone through the roof, you might suddenly be spending an awful lot more than you think you should be.
Chloë:
That's a debate which I'm having internally at the moment. I know people who've got huge growth in their SEO performance. It's like, "Wow, should we capitalize on that with our Google Ads or actually is this just a blip that we should just enjoy the profit rather than thinking about the turnover at this point in time?" And I think that's something to keep in mind.
Chloë:
So I guess my summary amongst that bit random tip would be to optimize what you've already got. To keep optimizing, which I say an awful lot. But look at what you've got live, and make sure it's doing the job it should, and then potentially look at spending more in channels you already know. I don't think now is the time to test new things, broadly speaking, because the data is so unusual.
Chloë:
Richard, you said earlier we're doing this on the 24th. There's a client who I'm due to do a Q1 performance review for next week, and I'm just thinking, "Is there any point in doing the Q1 performance review?" Because it's a huge chunk of work, it's a big piece of time, but actually, are they going to look at it? Because is it going to be of any use at all in this quarter?
Richard:
The last two weeks of the quarter are going to completely skew it either way, depending on what they do. Yeah.
Chloë:
Yeah. Yes, it may be that when this has all blown over in three months, six months, 12 months’ time, we go back and review Q1 2020. I nearly said 2019 then. 2020. But I'm not sure it's the best use of our time, me and them, in the next couple of weeks to do that. So I think it's taking a bit of a step back every now and then and not just being head in the detail, going hell-for-leather crazy at stuff. Go, "Actually, hold on a second. Day-to-day what is the most useful thing I can be doing?"
Richard:
What are we using now? Look at the channels. Look at the email. Look at the ads. Look at the Facebook ads, the Google ads, the abandoned cart, the technology, the mobile side of the business, the checkout, and just go in, almost like the 80/20 of all those, and then just get them to where they're doing well. Just keep working them. Keep working them. Keep an eye on those ad spends, like you say. Obviously, there's going to be a lot of movements.
Richard:
I saw a graph today, in different industries, another agency had written a cracking report, actually, about the different verticals that we're in, and obviously some are seeing huge growth. We've got quite a lot of clients in the veterinary and pet area, in food as well, and those two areas are obviously flying. However, they're doing well, but they've got their own challenges where they can't get the goods out quick enough. They haven't got the staff in to pick and pack, so everyone's coming out of the offices, rightly so, to come and pick and pack.
Richard:
But still, they are keeping an eye, some of them, very closely on their ad spend, because there can be these massive spikes but obviously it doesn't mean that there's massive profit, or a profit. Again, I think it was great what you said about keeping an eye on the... Turnover's one thing, but if you're burning the margins on that turnover on your ad spend, the ROA's poor, or profit are poor. And obviously it's a pointless exercise. You're going to be very, very frustrated at the end of this, whatever does happen with Covid-19. You may have a better-
Chloë:
The number one thing at the moment to bear in mind is we just don't know what's going to happen over the next couple of weeks. It might be, by next week, deliveries are restricted to certain product types. Our DPDs and our APCs and all the rest of it are only allowed to deliver food, maybe, or medical supplies. We don't know.
Chloë:
There's still questions, I've seen some people asking questions today of, "Our warehouse staff, is that a key job or not?" As we're, as of today, not supposed to be leaving our homes unless we have to, and various other things. There's a lot that's going to keep changing, and whilst I think we shouldn't be cutting back our spend, we should be asking questions about whether we should be increasing our spend at the moment.
Chloë:
I think if you can increase it and maintain profitability, by all means, go for it. Grab that demand. But bear in mind that you don't want to, if it's not part of your business plan to do so, you don't want to be getting orders at a loss at this point in time, because it's not necessarily a good thing.
Chloë:
Plus, of course, the overall costs of delivering are potentially going to be higher at the moment if you take into account the fact you've probably got less skilled workers doing your pick and pack, if you've got the people down from the offices. Because I know when I've tried to answer the phones, or pick and pack, I'm not very good at it.
Chloë:
So the cost of that, the chance of errors, customer service costs are going up because people want to know when it's coming. I placed an order with a high street retailer two Saturdays ago. It was supposed to arrive this Saturday. Hasn't yet appeared. They told me, on Saturday, that they knew it hadn't yet appeared, and they were working on the backlog. No communication since then apart from to tell us about their store opening hours. So, I'm not going to chase them up because I get what situation they're in, but I suspect they're getting an awful lot of people going, "Where's my product?"
Richard:
Yeah. Well, I have to admit, I was almost one of them this morning. I came home on Tuesday, and webcam-wise, I was like, "Right, I'd better just get a better webcam," for what I thought would be a few weeks at home, or maybe a few days, initially. But then obviously it dawned on me quite quickly it would be a few weeks.
Richard:
I went on to Amazon, no webcams anywhere. This was five days ago. So I ordered one from somewhere else, and it said next day but that was four days ago and it's not arrived. Which obviously I've not contacted them, I thought, "I'll just leave it for now."
Chloë:
I think you look great, by the way.
Richard:
Yeah. This is just using the webcam that comes with my Mac. So it's not too bad. Not too bad. It's the 15 lights that I've got on me that work. Yeah. I haven't ordered my lights yet.
Richard:
Yeah, there's just a lot of unknowns, isn't there? I think that's the thing. And a lot of people are saying, obviously, day-by-day we're getting the news from the government on a daily basis, and I think in terms of eCommerce stores listening in, obviously quite a lot will have happened by the time they're listening to this, but even so, like you say, we're going through more challenges with delivery, certain products that need to be delivered next day, then maybe we adjust bids or we adjust our marketing on those specific products. Fresh food, for example, that's going to be quite challenging to do four, five-day delivery on that. It's going to be no good.
Chloë:
Yeah. I think the advice is the advice we should be following at all times, anyway, which is make sure we've got the basics right, make sure what we're doing is actually optimized, and don't just dive headlong into it. Look up every now and again, and go, "Actually, should I be doing this? Is this still something that's worth doing in my business?" Which is important every day of the year, but when we're up against it like we are at the moment, it becomes ever more important.
Richard:
Yeah, yeah. Okay. Well, thank you Chloë. What would you say is your biggest frustration with eCommerce, or what are some of the things that really gripe you?
Chloë:
About Us pages and welcome campaigns.
Richard:
Yeah?
Chloë:
Yeah.
Richard:
More.
Chloë:
About Us pages. The About Us page that just has, "Here's our address," is a very depressing thing, because humans like to buy from humans, and there's all kinds of neuromarketing proof, and all the rest of it, about how you can go about very quickly, very easily, increasing that link. The idea of the story, the problem, the solution to the problem, the social proof, to put pictures of the founders, why you started the business, stories about the products, members of your team. It's not difficult to fill that page with something valuable, but to just have your address is a waste. A total waste.
Chloë:
Which then comes on to the other side of it, which is welcome campaigns, which is a little bit similar. It's people who just have that welcome campaign which is, "Welcome, here's a discount." You should be educating them about your business. By all means give them a discount if that's what you want to do in order to get the email sign up, but the welcome campaign should be your opportunity to say, "This is who we are. This is what we stand for. Find out more about our products," and to convert that subscriber into your perfect customer. A one-email welcome campaign is generally not worth it. And just a discount code, you are missing a trick.
Richard:
It's... I say lazy, it is lazy, on both counts, isn't it?
Chloë:
Yeah. I think telling people about you is incredibly hard to do. I say this and I have no welcome campaign. All right? Be honest. I don't have one. I have an About Us page that I always hate. Whenever I get around to looking at it I go, "Oh, no." It doesn't say anything it should do.
Chloë:
But at least it's there.
Richard:
When you're talking about yourself, it's quite hard, isn't it?
Chloë:
It is.
Richard:
It's the hardest thing. "I've done this. We're doing that. Oh, no, that's cringy." But yeah, I mean, they're two brilliant ones. Yeah. About Us. That's the opportunity to tell your story, isn't it? The history behind the people, the brand, where we started. Because most eCom stores started in a bedroom somewhere, or as a small concern, quite often. And people love that history of where they started to make their soap in their front room, and now they've got...
Chloë:
Yeah. And they often start because the founder has exactly the same problem that they're fulfilling for their customers. There's an amazing one that I use a lot in presentations and when I'm talking about this to people, which is Farm Toys Online. UK business, and the founder started it because she's a mom of kids who love horses and tractors and farm animals, and she couldn't find the toys anywhere. So she'd be traipsing around the shops trying to find the right tractor that would go with the muck spreader and all the rest of it, and she started a business.
Chloë:
She tells that story really well on the About Us page. You can just imagine those moms going, "Yes. You get me. You know me. You understand my challenges."
Richard:
"You're just like me." Yeah, yeah.
Chloë:
To the point where if they're walking down the high street and they see the product they want, they're probably still going to go home and buy from Julia at Farm Toys Online, because that's the business they have the emotional connection with. There are lots of methods out there of how to get your story, and it's really just a case of finding the one for you.
Chloë:
I guess the other thing to say, is a welcome campaign and an About Us page are never complete. Give it a stab, put it up there, you can always change it next week, but if it's got something about you that's better than your address, then that's really worth doing. Please, please everybody.
Richard:
Yeah, I'm thinking, God, yeah, when I had to write mine on the agency's, it's like... And then it's like, okay. Then, we need to go back and redo it because we... Honestly, at Traffic Lab, we're very much not the agency we were when we wrote it, I think. I think using imagery in there, as well, whether this is us at the kitchen table when we started, this is us in our first warehouse, this is us. The story.
Richard:
So welcome campaigns is probably a bit more tricky for people, potentially, because About Us, obviously they know the history, though it might be a bit cringy writing about yourself, but welcome campaigns, what would be some tips there that people could use?
Chloë:
I suggest that you start off by sitting down with a white sheet of paper and trying to work out what you would want to tell someone who's finding out about your business for the first time. You've got the key facts about the business, which would include the About Us and that kind of thing. You've then got social proof. There should be social proof in every single one of those that you put out there, whether it's your review score or the fact you've been featured in the press, or some actual reviews from customers. That should be in every single one, to bring that trust element in.
Chloë:
And then, you need to be clear on what the call to action's going to be, as well, and also what they may want to know about the products, what you want to tell them about your product. And then when you've got that list, you can start working out how that then fits into a sequence of emails. I said you should have more than one, but you maybe only should have two, or maybe you should have 10. I don't know. It depends on how many things you've got to get out to them.
Chloë:
Within that, if you want a couple of really quick and easy things to put in, have one email, which is just what your customers love about you. It's literally just a customer review, a customer review, a customer review. So easy to create, but so powerful in showing your new customer what your existing customers think is great about you. In their words. A brilliant email to do.
Chloë:
Also, if you've had reviews in the press or you've been featured in things, do a whole email just about that. Really simple emails. High-value content that's going to tell a bit about your story without you even trying, which will help.
Richard:
For clarity then, for those that are listening, so you've got a welcome sequence from people that have bought something from you, then you've also maybe got a welcome email from somebody that signs up to a newsletter. Would that differ?
Chloë:
Thank you for picking me up on the clarity on that. I use welcome campaign to mean a new email sign up, and something which happens after someone's bought, for me, is a post-purchase sequence.
Richard:
Yeah. Okay.
Chloë:
I'm exclusively talking about new email sign ups who haven't yet bought from you.
Richard:
Yeah. Two very different things. Yeah.
Chloë:
But that's not to say some of these emails you might reuse in the post-purchase sequence, to people who haven't already got the welcome campaign, or people who you want to send it to twice, because sometimes it's worth doing that too.
Richard:
Do you have any preferred providers for the email? Obviously, I don't know if you're using Magento, Shopify. Obviously, a wealth of different platforms out there. But have you got any specific tools and tricks, or tools that you'd recommend? Email providers?
Chloë:
I don't have a preferred. I think there's a good fit for each business based on what they're currently doing. I think it's worth looking at what you want to do, what you should be doing, who you need to integrate with, and then find out which platform works for you. I hear good things about Klaviyo, Dotdigital, Omnisend. I use Omnisend myself. And I've done quite a lot of work with all three of those companies, and they're great. Pure360, as well, they're doing some really cool things with their new branding and their new approach.
Chloë:
But it is about trying to find the right one, because that's where the power is, is finding something that works for you, and does what you want to do. And it's as important a decision as picking the right website provider, in my opinion.
Richard:
No, good, good. Yeah. I think they're two brilliant ones, to be honest, and quite simple to implement, which is the key as well. Especially the About Us. To say that About Us, obviously there's no real technical requirements there, it's creative, it's content. The welcome sequence, obviously you need to have a provider to send the emails, which should be relatively straightforward. And then just decide on that initial length of sequence. But like you say, start off with two, get it live and then build it out. But at least it's live. At least you're winning because you've got something rather than nothing. Yeah, they're two great ones. Really good, really good.
Richard:
How would you say eCommerce businesses could set themselves apart from their competitors?
Chloë:
It's mainly about story, these days. In the UK, we operate in the busiest, most competitive eCommerce space in the world, and consumers have no end of choice. They can buy it from someone huge who they trust. They can get it from Tesco, from Amazon, from eBay, huge companies, or they can get it from you, one of your competitors. They have so much choice. And we've got the basic triggers like price and delivery, but actually if you can put some emotion into it, and you can tell your story, and you can build that connection with a customer, be trustworthy, prove that you're trustworthy and treat them well, that's really the only USP left, I think.
Richard:
Yeah. Yeah. Trustworthy.
Chloë:
The human connection.
Richard:
Yeah.
Chloë:
Yeah.
Richard:
Who would you say is doing that quite well at the moment? Obviously a lot of places are doing that quite well. But is there any newer brands that you think are doing it particularly well, that are stand-out?
Chloë:
Snag Tights.
Richard:
Snag Tights. I think I saw that.
Chloë:
It's my-
Richard:
Quite a new company, isn't it?
Chloë:
They've been around for two years.
Richard:
Yeah, yeah.
Chloë:
They sell tights. But they have taken being customer focused and putting the customer first to the Nth degree, to the point that they started the business with one page, just one page, and they only built additional pages when the customers asked for them.
Richard:
Yeah. Wow.
Chloë:
And they don't do email marketing, because the customers have never asked for email marketing. They have an amazing Facebook page. I interviewed the founder, Brie Read, a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it's live on the podcast already. I was slightly flabbergasted by some of the approaches they've taken, because I talk a lot about being customer focused and thinking about what your customer wants, but my God, have they taken it to a level beyond what...
Richard:
Really?
Chloë:
I was listening, I was going... There was a lot of, "Oh, hold on, I need to ask you a question. I'm just still processing what you're doing."
Richard:
Oh, wow. Well, I think that's definitely one for everyone who's listening to this podcast to go and listen to, then. So that's on your podcast recently?
Chloë:
Yeah. It's the most recent one live as we record this. It's number 265.
Richard:
265. Okay. We'll make sure that's in the show notes as well, then. Yeah.
Chloë:
Oh, thank you. But yeah, I'm still slightly processing that conversation with Brie, because it's a hugely successful business, and just amazing. And with such a low price point product, as well.
Richard:
I was going to say, because I think I remember the numbers were in the... They're doing millions, aren't they?
Chloë:
Two million a month.
Richard:
Yeah. That's insane. Two million a month, and they're selling tights.
Chloë:
Tights.
Richard:
Which, I don't know the price of tights, but I'm guessing they're £10, £20 or less?
Chloë:
More like a fiver for a pack of several. It's crazy. Yeah.
Richard:
Wow. That's amazing. That is incredible.
Chloë:
Huge respect for Brie and all she's achieving with that business. It's just-
Richard:
I'd love to get Brie on the podcast. I'll have to see if we can have a chat with her at a later date.
Chloë:
Yeah. We'll sort that out. Email me afterwards.
Richard:
Yeah. Fantastic. Okay. Story, I think is the big takeaway there. Let's have a look what Brie's doing, but I think just be very trustworthy, honest with what you're doing, and connecting with the customer. Yeah. Brilliant, brilliant. Okay, so in terms of connecting... We're talking about connecting with the customer, and purely customer-focused, but what other ways and what other things could eCom store owners do to be really focusing on the customer?
Chloë:
I think you have to listen to them. That's the number one thing. A really simple tip that I've done with a couple of clients now, and I'll be honest, the first time I did this I discovered this by accident. Because we'd done a big customer survey, asked them all kinds of different questions, and it was for a holiday company in Cornwall.
Chloë:
One of the questions we'd asked is, "Why do you come to Cornwall on holiday?" So people had written loads, and we'd had several hundred responses. I was looking at this going, "Oh, God, how am I going to process this into something usable?" Because the individual pieces were really good, but it's like, "Oh, not sure I can be bothered to read through all of them." Which, you should all read through all of them if you do this.
Chloë:
But it was like, "How do I do this?" And I thought, "I know what I'll do, I'll chuck it into a word cloud tool." For those of you not familiar with word cloud tools, what that does is it takes all the text and it puts all the words in the text into a graphic, and the more times a word is used, the bigger it appears on the graphic.
Chloë:
So we had things like beaches and sea were quite big, but we also had peace and tranquillity came through quite big. And we'd never considered using that in our marketing. We rarely talked about beaches, either, which was just truly appalling. But we all live in Cornwall, so why would you talk about the beaches? The beaches are just there.
Chloë:
What we did with this word cloud was we printed it out and gave it to each of the team who created content, or who spoke to the customers, as a visual reminder of the things the customers cared about in relation to our product. So simple, because you look at it and you go, "Oh, beaches is quite a big word, and we haven't spoken about beaches in social media for the last week. I need a picture of a beach."
Richard:
That is so smart. That is so smart. Literally, I think that is so clever. And again, so simple.
Chloë:
So simple, because everyone gets into that rut of talking about the same thing on rotation. For us it was dog-friendly holidays. Huge. Still hugely important to talk about it. But we talked about dogs far too often, and peace and tranquillity, never. We never talked about peace and tranquillity. So yeah, we came across it by accident but I've used it for a few people since, and it's super powerful.
Richard:
So that starts off with a questionnaire.
Chloë:
Yeah. Just-
Richard:
Looking for one-word answers, sort of thing, in the questionnaire, or-
Chloë:
No, you want them to write lots, actually. You want it to be a question like, if you were a beauty retailer, you might say, "What's important to you in your beauty regime?" Or, "How do you choose your beauty products?" You want them to write a paragraph, because the more they write, the more juice you get to turn into the word cloud. And you should also read through them all and see what key things are coming out. But yeah, it's a way to quickly improve content marketing.
Richard:
I love that. You saying about processing your previous podcast. Yeah. That is... Yeah, I can see how we could really use that ourselves in a lot of areas. Obviously, like you said, your social media have then got that cloud, your people on the phones have got that word cloud. Or if in that instance, they're booking a... Is it a holiday type visit?
Chloë:
Yeah.
Richard:
So their phone reps, their business development people, when they're on the phones discussing their potential booking, they've got the cloud in front of them. Or their marketing material, obviously. Their About Us page. Their social media channels. Every touchpoint that you've got there, you'll be using probably the two or three same areas, but you've probably got a nice dozen then to go at, just to tick off those ones that you're missing, because you're seeing them every day. Like your instance when you're at the beach every day, it's like, "Who comes here for the beach?"
Chloë:
Yes. "Oh, you actually want us to talk about beaches. Oops." Yeah, and especially for smaller businesses. If you're hiring a freelancer, or a VA to do your social media, it's such a quick way of helping them understand, these are the things our customers care about in relation to our products. So much easier.
Richard:
Yeah. No, Chloë, that's genius, that is so good. That is so smart and so simple. I love it. Thank you for that.
Chloë:
Pleasure.
Richard:
Now, we've touched on email marketing. Obviously, I know you're a big fan of email marketing, and I think a lot of people are like, "Oh, we don't really use email," or, "Oh, email, does it still work?" Well, clearly it still works based on the couple of things you've mentioned already, but what else would you say about email marketing? What things could eCommerce stores be doing with email marketing? We talked about a welcome campaign, and what else would you say they should be doing?
Chloë:
Abandoned basket's a bit of a no-brainer, but I think for me the thing which is separating the men from the boys in the world of email marketing is properly integrating it with other channels. To just have a Mailchimp account over there somewhere, which does its own thing and doesn't talk to anything else, is just losing out on the power of it these days. It should be the centre of your customer database, decision, segmentation, whichever word you want to put into it. And therefore, it ought to be linking with your audiences on your ad platforms.
Chloë:
If you've got someone who's going through a welcome campaign, they're seeing similar messages on Facebook, in your ads on Facebook or your ads on Instagram. If this week your email was all about the quality of your products, they're seeing posts about the quality of your products, to reinforce that message. And with other marketing channels like programmatic mail, physical mail, or catalogue mailings, or push marketing. Taking that approach and bringing all your marketing together is a great way of usually not increasing your marketing spend, but of increasing the income you get from it all. Because the sum of all those parts is much greater than the individual parts, if you get them working together.
Richard:
Because it's all joined up. Yeah. Yeah. Segmenting, again, and seeing the same message, a message that's relevant, on all the platforms and all the different touchpoints. So you're a big fan of email marketing. Lots of options out there. Again, would you have any recommendations? I think I know what the answer's going to be. It'll be dependent on where you are and what you do and the size of the business. But is there any really... Say you're doing £100,000 a month on Shopify. Is there any go-to tools, providers you would recommend for that?
Chloë:
No. But I would say-
Richard:
I'm not going to get you there.
Chloë:
Yeah, you're not going to get me. I think key things, if you're reaching that level of turnover, key things you must have in your email platform is that it fully integrates with your eCommerce store. All the emails you're sending are going out through the same system. So, you could do the order confirmations in there, so you can see how well that's working, and immediately set it into post-purchase.

Not using your abandoned carts from your store, you are using it from an integration.
Chloë:
Yeah. So you're getting all the best possible quality of every campaign you send out, and all the tracking, and it's all in one place so you don't forget about it. Sometimes I analyse people's results and I'm going, "Oh, apparently you have an abandoned cart." And they're like, "Oh, yeah. Yeah. We couldn't do it ourselves. We got someone else to set it up." I'm like, "Okay, what does it look like?" "I don't know. I haven't looked at that in ages."
Richard:
It still says, "Hi, first name."
Chloë:
Yeah, and it's the branding from 20 years ago with none of the current product range. You're like, "Right."
Richard:
I remember it well. We don't do any eCommerce builds any more, we stopped about two years ago, but yeah, I remember going in, the welcome email, abandoned cart, and it would be literally, "Hi, we see that you are interested in X," and the language in some of those default settings was so bad. And I can imagine how many are still out there, five years later, still, like you say, branding-wise and message-wise, it'll be just all over the joint. Yeah. So just pulling it all into one central system, so all those touchpoints are... And you can look at a individual account email address, customer, client. It's like having a CRM, isn't it? Ultimately.
Chloë:
Yeah. And the product database, and the analytics. They're all in one place, it just makes it so quick to do things. Because I know a lot of people have seen great results from some abandoned browse activity. There's so much you can do if it's easy to do it, and there's tools out there now which will make it so easy to do it. You've just got to have the right tools in place, and then you'll be flying.
Richard:
Yeah. Fantastic. Fantastic. So I know you go to a lot of events. I know that you speak at a lot of events. A lot of events over the years. What would you say would be your top couple of expo recommendations for eCom store owners? I know there's quite a lot to go at, and there's obviously, again, quite a lot of variables there. But what's your go-to if you're an eCommerce store owner? Marketing manager? What would be in the diary this year? Assuming that Covid-19 is not going to throw it all out any further.
Chloë:
I think for all retailers, you have to either go to eCommerce Expo or IRX, Internet Retailing Expo, each year, which are the big free events, where there's a certain amount of content, and where you can trawl the stands and annoy all the supplier-side people by not buying from them.
Chloë:
You can learn so much in a day at one of those. I prefer IRX, and that's not entirely because I get to chair it each year, so probably slightly biased, but I prefer the vibe and I prefer the feel at that event. So you have to go to one of those. Then I guess it depends on what you're after. There's been some brilliant events I've been to in the last year or so, which have been run by software vendors. The Dotdigital Summit. The Meet Magento event. And they take it to another level, because of a couple of reasons.
Chloë:
One, everyone in the room has something in common. If you're on Magento, and you go to meet Magento, all the content is relevant. You can see someone speak on stage about something, and by the end of the day you could be on a trajectory to get that put in place on your site, which is just so brilliant.
Chloë:
Coming from a similar angle is the fact they tend to be very well funded. Quite often, you have to buy your ticket to it. There's always sponsors. And the person who's putting it on has a vested interest in making sure it's really relevant to the people who are on that software platform. So the content tends to be at a higher level, and you tend to get a couple of really amazing people who you would never see anywhere else.
Chloë:
Last year at Meet Magento, in the UK, they had... I've forgotten his name. Guy who runs MageTalk, an awesome podcast from the US came over, and was just unbelievably inspirational. Another guy who's written a top business selling book on psychology, who just took my breath away. And then at Dotdigital Summit last year, they had Nile Rogers, who was brilliant, and took all of his musical knowledge and brought it into the world of business, and was absolutely inspirational.
Richard:
Wow, wow.
Chloë:
Obviously it's got to be a software platform relevant to you, but they can be ridiculously powerful.
Richard:
Yeah, they're some great ones, they are. I've not been to most of those, to be fair. Well, the eCommerce Expo and IRX are the two that I do go to and we exhibit at, infrequently, should I say. IRX has just been postponed, hasn't it?
Chloë:
It has, yeah.
Richard:
I think they announced new dates, didn't they? I mean, obviously, that may change.
Chloë:
2nd, 3rd of September it is at the moment.
Richard:
Yep. September. And then eCommerce Expo was crazy busy last year, when I went, on the Thursday, I think they say about 14,000 maybe or something. I can't remember now. I think it was somewhere where. I've never seen an expo as busy, and I think that's just the space in general, as well, seems to be getting busier, busier, busier, and it's just such a good buzz at these conferences. I would really recommend anybody listening in to go to those recommendations. At least start looking at when they're on, exactly. Obviously things may change around a little bit at the moment, and things are getting postponed.
Richard:
You get to spend that day out of the office, as well, which is what we all need, to go and spend some time with other like-minded people, and the people that have been there, done it, and that are doing maybe exactly what we're doing, or what you're doing, in your eCommerce store. And they're speaking on stage, how they scale from zero to whatever it may be. Those specific suppliers that you might be looking for, for your email marketing, or whatever it may be, they're usually all there, aren't they?
Chloë:
They are.
Richard:
Yeah. They're really good. Well, thank you for that, Chloë. So, I like to end all the podcasts with a book recommendation. I know you've got quite a lot of books behind you there.
Chloë:
Yeah. But those are all mine, so I should really recommend someone else's, shouldn't I?
Richard:
Yeah. I'd be keen to see what your digital book recommendation would be.
Chloë:
This one.
Richard:
Oh, okay. Yep. The Ultimate Guide to E-commerce Growth.
Chloë:
Yeah. This is by Ian and Mark Hammersley. I know Ian quite well. Had him on the show myself, on my own show. Personally, slight plug, it goes really well with my book, eCommerce Marketing, because my book's all about getting traffic to your website, and this is all about them making your website work as well as it can be. They've broken it down into seven key KPIs, and it gives you what the average benchmarks are, it talks you through why, and how, and how to improve those numbers. And it's a book I wish I'd written myself. I'm slightly jealous.
Richard:
You're recommending that. That's good.
Chloë:
That would be my number one tip.
Richard:
But obviously goes well with your book.
Chloë:
It does. They go hand-in-hand.
Richard:
You drive the traffic with your book and then they help you to convert more, so get a KPI, get the 1% to 2%, to 3%, to 4%, et cetera. Yeah. Fantastic. Well, thank you for that. So I think there's some exceptionally brilliant takeaways. And that's gone so quick, Chloë.
Chloë:
It has, hasn't it?
Richard:
That's gone so quick. I just looked at the clock, and it's like, "No way." So thank you so much for being on the podcast. It's been absolutely fantastic. For the guys that are listening in that want to find out more, I know we've touched on a few different things to where people can find you, but where exactly would be the best places to find out more about yourself and the other brands?
Chloë:
If you go to ecommercemasterplan.com, you'll find links to the podcast, to the books, and everything else I'm up to.
Richard:
Brilliant. Well, thank you once again. It's been an absolute blast.
Chloë:
My pleasure.
Richard:
I look forward to catching up with you again soon. Thank you
Chloë:
Me too. Thanks, Richard.

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