Jul 09, 2021

Shopify & More: Optimize your eCommerce

Will Francis photo

byWill Francis

Posted on Jul 09, 2021

In this episode, host Will Francis meets James Williamson of London digital marketing agency 8th Dial who works hands-on with clients to optimize their online stores after they're up and running. They talk about conversion optimization using heat mapping, the importance of testing and considering the funnel, optimizing your content, and even "the dreaded email popup form".

The Ahead of the Game podcast is brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute and is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and YouTube.   


Will: Welcome to Ahead of the Game, a podcast brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute. This episode is a big Q&A where we explore an area of marketing through a leading industry expert. I'm your host Will Francis, and today I'll be talking to James Williamson, owner of specialist e-commerce and digital marketing agency, 8th Dial, who are based in London. It was after James' first business was forced online by his furniture shop losing its premises, that James adopted the tools of e-commerce. Fast forward a decade, and he's now helping some of the most sought-after luxury brands in the UK and Ireland take their online shops to the next level. So let's hear all about how he does that. Welcome to the podcast, James.

[00:00:45] James: Thank you very much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

[00:00:48] Will: Good. Yeah, no, we're excited to have you because you've got a really interesting business and interesting story and you know how e-commerce works. And that's something a lot of our listeners really want to get some info on, so we'll get into the detail of all that, how you build and market these e-commerce stores. Just tell us in your own words first a little bit about what you do and how you got there.

[00:01:12] James: So not your traditional career path into e-commerce. I had a furniture company where I used to buy, restore, and sell vintage and antiques for a number of years, and, unfortunately, got kicked out of the warehouse where my shop was and how to put everything online. And that's where I much...you know, that was the fun bit. It was the thing that I enjoyed doing. I absolutely loved building the website, and the photography, and learning on the job more and more about digital marketing, and paid advertising, and getting it wrong and then getting it right. It's yeah, really, really good fun. So I wrapped up the furniture company, once I sold all the stock, which took about a year, and took a job in a luxury or high-end interiors firm in London called Heal's, which is based on Tottenham Court Road.

[00:02:04] And I worked there in a couple of different e-commerce roles and ended up being the brand marketing manager, so managing all of the...anything that you saw on the internet basically for Heal's, which is, yeah, 200-year-old British heritage brand. And then was there for...I think it was five years, six years, and then set up 8th Dial, which was based...We couldn't think of a business name. And my first office was in Covent Garden on Seven Dials in Earlham Street. So I was just being lazy I think and just chose 8th Dial. People were trying to convince me to use apprentice-sounding excelsior marketing and all these other sort of butch powerful names, but nothing really sat right, to be honest, so that's where the name comes from.

[00:02:48] Will: That's great. And what sort of brands do you work with?

[00:02:52] James: So we work a lot with small to medium-sized, predominantly independent, or have been independent then been bought out during our time working with them luxury goods, so slightly higher price points, something that's more of an investment rather than just your consumables and that sort of thing. So we work with everything from vineyards, we have a florist chain, we've got Beavertown Brewery who has obviously been bought out. I suppose they're maybe not quite luxury but are, you know...are more expensive than standard drinks. And then we work with design firms, boutiques, and, yeah, sort of a bit of a mix in between.

[00:03:38] Will: It seems that Shopify has come to dominate e-commerce in recent years and it's become the main part of what you do at 8th Dial, you know, building, optimizing, and marketing Shopify-based shops. Why does that platform dominate do you think today?

[00:03:41] James: There's a number of different reasons I see for Shopify having the success that it's had. And it has been a big success. It's enabled people to come to market a lot easier and it's allowed people to have this sort of tool that's relatively straightforward to use from a basic perspective, but then when you scale up, there's a lot more interesting, fun things that you can do to enhance the user journey and basically increase the performance of the site across the board from, you know, how people sign up to an email or split testing different landing pages or whichever aspects of it that you're looking to improve, so I think from a starting out perspective, it seems to be one of the more simple self-manageable options.

[00:04:45] When you look at the backend of some of the other...you know, if you're using WordPress or Magento, you often have to know a little bit of code to be able to change things like images, or banners, or anything else. With Shopify, you can just drag the item to where you want it to be and, you know, it's placed as you expect. There's no messing around and that's...So for us, I hadn't used Shopify until we had, I think, three clients at the time. And one was on WordPress, one was on Magento, or two were on WordPress, one was on Magento, and then we got a fourth client who was on Shopify. And it was like having my eyes open because we were spending so much time either fixing glitches...you know, there'd be like one browser...you know, one customer had one problem on a strange shaped phone and you're spending hours trying to work out where the problems lie and correct things. Whereas with Shopify, it just worked and it meant that you could just work on improvements, you could work on the customer journey, everything else, rather than having to worry about, you know, tweaking bits of code, which is another big benefit. You don't have to rely on developers a lot of the time in the start at least anyway.

[00:06:00] Will: Yeah, that's a really good point. Isn't it? I mean, like a lot of the good things in life, I suppose, Shopify, it's easy to start, but it's hard to master. So there's a very shallow learning curve initially and then there is that more advanced stuff if you want to take it to the next level. And that's where it can get complicated. But like you say, it's easy to kind of get something good online relatively quickly. But what I'm really interested in getting into the detail of with you is like, so when people have started up their own Shopify store and things are going reasonably well, they obviously hit some sort of kind of ceiling with it. And what is that point at which people come to you and they're looking for more and, you know, what are the most common kind of quick wins you find yourselves implementing on those sites?

[00:06:52] James: What happens is when people get busy running their Shopify store, when it's taking off successfully, they kind of need a marketing manager, someone to make emails, someone to work on graphics, someone to help put together a content calendar, work on SEO and that sort of thing. But to have one person full-time that has all of that knowledge base for their type of brand is quite a difficult order and it's probably gonna be quite expensive as well. So what people tend to do is they'll come to an agency like ours and they'll say, "Look, I'm able to build emails and I can do the photography, but I really need help with creating new landing pages, or I need help with my paid marketing, or whichever." And it just enables growth in areas where the customer or the client is, you know, struggling to get things pushed forward.

[00:07:46] Will: So it's mostly about scaling up? Is it a lot about that kind of...they want to really kind of take what they've done that's worked well on a small level and sort of scale that up?

[00:07:55] James: And that's exactly why Shopify is good for this because you can test it out. I was at a funeral on Wednesday, a mourner who I'd actually just met that day. She was talking about how she was wanting to set up a wig company. And she was talking about it. She had all the products, "I just don't know how to..." And within about 15 minutes of talking to her, we've got a partner dashboard. So I just set her up a developments shop, which there's no cost to do, so she can have a look through. She sent me a message back today, actually, and she's got some of the...you know, like the pictures uploaded, and the products, and all the rest of it.

[00:08:26] So from that conversation, she's able to just play... There's a mobile app that she can use to go direct. You know, you don't need to have a camera, and then upload things onto a computer, and then edit them. You can just crop it on the app and it'll all work perfectly. And she's wanting to sell through Instagram, obviously, and the product catalog in her Instagram, it's just one button to sync it and it's...all the product pull through, so she can take the product straight away. It's just, it's that ease and convenience. And then in a year's time when she's, you know, making a fortune and can't do it all by herself, then that's when she'd probably reach out to somebody to help with the other aspects and then improve the...

[00:09:07] Will: Come back to you, hopefully.

[00:09:09] James: Well, let's see. Yeah. Plant some seeds and see how they come back. Yeah.

[00:09:15] Will: That's really interesting, yeah, that that's the kind of very typical trajectory for people. So just to go back to those kind of typical optimizations, like, okay, so let's say I'm a year or two in, I've got essentially a boutique from home kind of, you know, e-retail business, right? I'm selling inventory from home and I want to scale it. What are the levers that I've got to play with that are going to take me into that next growth phase of my trajectory?

[00:09:49] James: There are a few different ways of looking at it. And obviously, there's paid and non-paid, and then there's existing and new customers to look into, and website improvements to help with conversion. So one of the first things we do when...you know, and this is like sort of a quick win, but it's hopefully an opportunity to learn. One of the biggest things that a lot of companies don't have is live chat because they think it's too much to handle or to worry about. Right now, particularly on Shopify, it'll be the same with other sites as well, but you can turn on and off live chat so the button doesn't show up if you're not available, or if you're at the weekend, you don't want it to show. It's absolutely fine. And you can have it on your phone. It's not...you know, you don't need to be sat at a desk with a headset on. And that will...you'll quickly find out if you've got problems with, you know, like sizing guides or if customers are asking the same questions again and again about deliveries, or...

[00:10:47] Will: But you identify those kinds of points of customer confusion, essentially, things that you can improve?

[00:10:51] James: Exactly. And it's moving people further down the funnel. You get a new customer to the sites. Okay. And then they say, you know, "I can't find this information." I've had it myself and it's annoying because you want to support small companies, so I'm into like camping and outdoors and that sort of thing. And I looked at buying something called a...I think it's called a pig fork. Actually, it was a bit weird, but it's basically like a metal...you won't be able to see this on the podcast, but a metal stick that comes out of the ground and then another one that you can hold like a pan over a fire with. And it doesn't say anywhere if the...it's just got pictures of the stick, but then it's photographed together.

[00:11:27] So I've had to message them on Instagram to find out and they haven't got back to me on Instagram, unfortunately, but it's those touchpoints where you can find out quickly, right, "Okay, well, why aren't people...you know, the conversion rate has dropped down to 2.5% where it was at four straight away. What aren't we doing right or what else...what other questions might people have?" And it's those FAQs and simple bits of information that sometimes you get so busy, you forget to think about the simple stuff. And letting people know the basics is super, super important.

[00:11:59] Will: Yeah. I think I've heard...I mean, in sort of web user experience, I hear that referred to as friction, you know, and the real kind of top players in digital products. I mean, we're talking people like Spotify and Netflix, you know. They've gone to the nth degree in terms of removing friction. Every bit of friction that they can find, they've removed it so that it is as smooth as humanly possible to go and sign up, spend money, and use, and get value from their products. And you're right, you know, small businesses, they don't think about that. Like you say, with your product example, it just wasn't photographed in a way that gave you complete and total clarity and the ability to purchase on the spot, which you would have done. You would've just bought it right there and then, you know. So, yeah, live chat is a great way to get that feedback. Any others? Any other kind of typical quick wins that you find come up regularly?

[00:12:54] James: One thing that we...if people are running paid advertising, so they're driving traffic from, you know, paid social, what we find sometimes is that people are driving...and I work predominantly in luxury, or we work predominantly in luxury goods as an agency. And there'll be driving customers or whoever was running the paid before we take over will be driving traffic directly to product pages without letting the customer know what the brand's about, without giving any...you know, they'll just see like a high price tag and a product next to it, and they don't understand why the value is there. And customers are getting more and more savvy and quite rightly deserve to know more about the ethics of the company, or, you know, where the products come from, and exactly what the brand is about.

[00:13:43] And so for a sort of quick win we find is that creating landing pages instead of product pages...So you'd create like...I use the term advertorial. So create a page that's got some brand information, nice imagery, but you've got links all the way through. So if someone does want to click through and they're ready to click through straight to the product, you know, you're not missing out that opportunity as well. But it means that when people have a read through, they'll be able to see like maybe part of the manufacturing process, or part of the brand story, or some other like useful information that's going to help them become a completely new person to the brand to somebody who's going to advocate for it and then become a brand fan.

[00:14:24] And that's, you know...they're your customers and they're the people that are going to refer you to their friends and explain why they've spent slightly more, but they've got something that was made by, you know, a group that's really local or someone that's...you know, is helping a charity, or social enterprise, or something else. And you find that once you give that information, the bounce rates go right down, the engagement rates for the users on the site go up, and crucially conversion goes up as well. So I think that additional information, and not just...basically, it's not wining and dining. You can't just go straight in and be like, "Buy the product. It's more expensive." You don't really know why, but, you know, if you went in and found the details, then you might find out why, but just show off that extra information.

[00:15:10] Will: I think though...I think some people are under the misapprehension perhaps that e-commerce is this thing where it is just...it's a shop front and a load of product pages, and you just tip money. You just literally tip a wheelbarrow of like ad spend money into one end, and sales come out the other end, and that it's a bit of a machine. And that is a bit of a cold way of looking at it. But brand is just as important. I mean, particularly in luxury, you know, there sphere you work in, brand is so important, isn't it with e-commerce in general?

[00:15:43] James: It's getting more important, not just in luxury, but we've seen a big shift in what would have been really average, like level products a few years ago that people have really put a good...you know, a proper brand together for everything from, you know, like a small pop-up pie shop or whichever. Their online presence is good, they're creating a community with their social channels, they want...you know, people will be able to be part of the email list and you'll find out where they are next week. I saw a great one this morning. It's called Dusty Knuckles Bakery. And, you know, they've got a van that goes around, it's all branded up, you can call them and ask them to come to your street with the bread. And they've got this real engagement with customers. And that's like, you know, you think 20 years ago to a bakery, you just would never think that there'd be like a group of cool people in a converted milk float going around and turning up with this...you know, and then spending £4 on a loaf of bread. I don't know what it's like where you are, but the bread seems to be going up more and more as the days go by here. But, yeah, it's that additional...you know, that it's been made around the corner by some people that, you know, you can sort of tell what the brand is and stands for and you feel a lot better for spending money there.

[00:16:55] Will: Yeah, you're right. And perhaps today's customer is more comfortable with spending more money and knowing some of that money, you're buying a kind of meta value, you know? There's nothing different in that loaf of bread, you know? You know that some of the value you're buying is outside of the loaf itself. And I think that's just a thing that, you know...I mean, personally, if you ask me what one of the biggest trends in recent years is in marketing, it's this thing of purpose, you know, brand purpose and the why. And yeah, people aren't just...

[00:17:29] James: And the storytelling.

[00:17:30] Will: Yeah. Because people want to know what they're sponsoring when they buy a product. Like, "What am I sponsoring here? And I sponsoring an ethical practice, environmental, you know, good or bad practice, etc.?" So clearly...and I think with e-commerce, yeah, it's too cold a proposition to go here's a product, here's the price, you know, pay now clearly. So that's interesting to hear your take on that. Okay. So thinking about that kind of optimization a bit more, do you think, again, if I've got my shop it's up and running, doing okay, should I be focusing on bringing in new traffic or should I be focusing on getting more out of the visitors I already have through conversion rate optimization? Like where typically is the bigger gain to be had?

[00:18:22] James: Depending on the type of company, there's either a very long and re-engaging journey from a product perspective, but for other companies there just isn't, and you can obviously...aftercare and, you know, being able to stay in touch with the customer, hopefully, get them to share a review, or, you know, refer a friend program, or anything that's going to get their similar like-minded group of friends to hopefully come and spend money with your company is great. And that's if you're selling something like, say, a handbag or something that's kind of an individual piece. And when I say individual piece, hopefully, this next section will explain what I mean a little bit better. So I used to work for a company called Heal's as the brand marketing manager. And if you don't know Heal's, it's a 200-year-old British heritage furniture interior store that's based on Tottenham Court Road in London. They've got satellite stores around the country as well. And when we were working with them or when I was working with them, the customer journey can be set up very, very differently to buying a bag, and I'll give a quick example. So say if somebody bought a sofa, you'd know what size sofa they bought, what color sofa they bought, and then in the subsequent emails and social, you know, like re-engagement with paid media, you could look at things to dress up the sofa. So you could look at throws, or cushions, or anything that's gonna, you know, go well with that, maybe a side table.

[00:20:00] Another example would be a bed, so somebody buys a bed frame. You switch the targeting over to selling a mattress if they've bought a mattress, new bedsheets, or a new duvet, or new bedside tables, or a new bedside lamp, or, you know, that's a very, very different product that sort of then goes hand in hand with the next step where you can...and it's a lot easier to convert somebody who's already bought something at your store provided they've had a good experience. But saying that if people have had a bad experience, but then you've turned them around, they're much more likely to give you a good feedback and share to friends as well, so you can make a positive out of a negative in that sense.

[00:20:39] Will: So what you're saying is that your existing customers are a valuable resource in and of themselves. You've just got to get creative about what you can upsell them to or, you know, get creative about how you segment that audience and tailor and personalize the messaging to them. Right?

[00:21:02] James: Exactly. Yeah. And it might be that you need to have a new product or a product line or something else, you know, if you get to that point where you're not able to continue the journey...you know, if you sell sofas and you'd never thought about selling cushions because you sell sofas, but, you know, that's another sofa for example, but, you know, there's hundreds of ideas. You know, if you're selling clothing, there's accessories or if you're selling coffee, there's coffee machines or equipment, or whichever.

[00:21:29] Will: Hello, a quick reminder from me that if you're enjoying our podcast series, why not become a member of the DMI so that you can enjoy loads more content from webinars and case studies to toolkits and more real-life insights from the world of digital marketing. Head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com/aheadofthegame, sign up for free. Now back to the podcast. And in terms of conversion rate optimization, and people are always really interested in that, myself included. It's fascinating. I mean, just for starters, what is the average conversion rate, you know, across the board?

[00:22:06] James: Depending on what time of year and what industry, it does change a lot, like a very lot. I'd say anywhere between 2.5% And 6.5%, depending on the type of product, you know, what would be average.

[00:22:23] Will: So for like really desirable gift items in early December or something, it would be much higher.

[00:22:30] James: Exactly. Exactly, yeah. Or, you know, like one of our...we work with a florist. It's the florist at Liberty. They're called Wild at Heart. And if you look at like Valentine's day, or Mother's day, you know, it's just...you know, the conversion is 50% or, you know, sometimes they can't keep up with demand.

[00:22:52] Will: Yeah. Desperation buyers when it's the Friday before Mother's day. That would be me.

[00:22:57] James: As a marketer, we pray on these latecomers to, you know, hit with the, you know, same-day delivery offer or something else on the day, and then you'll check the conversion rates.

[00:23:08] Will: Okay. So if that's what you're working with, that's still...I mean, that is a big range, you know, comparatively like two and a half. If you double it, that's five. But really it's quite in an absolute term, it's quite a small range. So how many times do you think on average someone has a touchpoint with a brand before converting? You know, how many times do people typically go back and look at products very much on average across the board? It's probably not just always the first time, right? Is it a few times or...?

[00:23:39] James: Yes. For the type of companies that we work with, it's at least three times usually with the exception of probably the florist and any of the food companies that we work with who are like...people are likely to be ordering for next day. So going back to conversion rates quickly, one of the things that we worked on, which really had a positive impact with what the floristry company was being able to book in the day that...rather than say next day delivery, being able to book in the day that works for you because, you know, you might want them to arrive on someone's birthday or on. So rather than having to work back a day and then order the day before, which is another thing that seems simple now you say it, but so many companies don't offer like a calendar delivery for gifts. So that's quite useful.

[00:24:30] Will: Yeah. But again that goes back to just stepping outside of your bubble and just thinking, "What do customers want?" And thinking like a customer for just a minute, and going through that journey, and doing customer research. And, you know, I suppose we've all got to do that to find out those little...just a small optimization like that, like you say, can be transformative, but it's just how we find them and it's really all about digging into the customer experience, trying to learn about it.

[00:25:00] James: The conversion rate optimization, which we brushed on a couple of minutes ago, one of the things that we do when working with a new client, then ongoing as well is heat mapping and customer tracking on-site and working out a bit like we were saying with the live chat earlier on finding out where people are getting stuck, or if people are adding to the cart and they're not sure if they're going back and checking, read more details, or trying to find the delivery on the footer...you know, delivering information on the footer or anything else, and the heat maps and the customer tracking are super important.

[00:25:36] Will: What tool do you use for heat mapping and customer tracking?

[00:25:40] James: We use Hotjar predominantly. Yeah, I recommend Hotjar. And Hotjar has got a free plan as well I think. So if you are, you know...I think this is the beauty of Shopify. You can buy...I think $19 a month is the cheapest plan and you can do it from your phone. You could install...well, you wouldn't want to install Hotjar from your phone, but, you know, you can start...actually, that's another point. If anyone's not used heat mapping before, it's basically the webpage or mobile page, you get sort of heat spots of where people are clicking more or less. It'll go from blue to red depending on how popular each section of the page is, and you can see how many people are going below the fold, which is onto the next page, basically. So if you've got a huge banner that blocks off mobile, then people are having scroll through further, and people's attention span isn't that high, so it's better to, you know, pick up on these little nuances and try and make the customer journey better.

[00:26:38] Will: Yeah. No, it's really, really useful. And maybe it's just me, my kind of voyeuristic tendencies or something, but what I love about Hotjar is...so with the free plan, you get a hundred free recordings and you get to actually watch in real-time, like watch back people using your website and you get to see where their mouse is going if they're on a desktop and you get to see where they're scrolling and clicking around. And I find that...it's a bit like the live chat thing. I find that's a great way to kind of uncover points of like confusion or frustration because you can tell where people are getting stuck or where they're...you know, what information they're needing before they go and buy something. And yeah, I agree. I think Hotjar is a great tool for kind of digging into the efficacy of your customer journey, you know?

[00:27:26] James: Definitely. The other thing that it's useful for is if you're setting up something like a new home page and you've got two images, you're not sure which one, it's kind of like split testing I suppose, you know, you can put a block with the same link. They might both be new in, you don't have to write new in on them, but you could have like the image with the yellow background or you could have the image with the red background, and then you'll be able to see which one people have clicked on more. And then you can use that information for your paid campaigns, or for your email newsletter, or if you're doing a billboard campaign, you'd know which color is going to resonate better with people, and just spot testing and getting to know what your customers react best to.

[00:28:07] Will: Absolutely. Yeah. Just in terms of like the marketing funnel, right? Talk me through how you think about the funnel. So how you drive top, middle, and bottom of funnel activity with the key channels. And, yeah, I'd like to hear kind of your thoughts on that as a pro.

[00:28:28] James: Yeah, no, that's fine. So from a top-end perspective, attracting new customers, unfortunately, we find that it's more cost-effective and you get a much quicker upturn using paid media. So be that display advertising through Google or sponsored posts on Facebook and Instagram. You're going to get those new people to see your brands a lot quicker and you have the ability to sort of control what people see as well rather than relying on, I don't know, some of the more old-fashioned ways of driving people to your website.

[00:29:05] Will: Yeah. Are we talking kind of quite broad audiences here, like, you know, demographic audiences like, you know, women aged between 18 and 35 in Manchester type audiences?

[00:29:17] James: Well, when I say audiences, yeah. So what you would do or what we would do is have a look at the analytics. So providing you've got Google Analytics on your site, you should be able to check out and see the age group, the demographic, and the location of people who are making transactions. So not people that are visiting the site, but people who are actually buying. And you can use that information then to create a bit of a profile of who your customer is because we've seen this before in a couple of companies that I've worked with. They think that the customer is one type of person and it really isn't.

[00:29:49] You know, you find some times with luxury handbag brands or other people that we've worked with, it's a lot of men buying these gifts for their partners, or buying for their friends, or whoever, rather than people buying for themselves in this particular instance I'm talking about. So it's kind of like...it changes the dynamic of...you know like they might not really care too much about something that you think that the end-user cares about, but it's the journey that they need, you know. Will they like it? Will you be able to send it back or get credit, you know, if they don't like...you know, it's like you find out this information and then you can act on it and get the most out of it and creating audiences if you're using paid media and you've already got a customer base. Facebook's got the algorithm to crunch all of the data and create lookalike audiences, so they'll know if, you know, your type of customer shops at Waitrose, reads The Independent, goes to the cinema once a month. It'll target those type of customers through the rest of the tracking network and you'll get a much stronger likeness to just picking out, say, age groups, and locations, and that sort of thing. It's normally a lot more accurate.

[00:31:02] Will: So creating lookalike audiences based on the custom audiences of purchases, people who've purchased previously, basically.

[00:31:10] James: Exactly. Yeah. And, you know, you could do that by...if you've got a big enough database, you could do it by like sale buyers. So if you've got like a new product range that's, you know, much lower price, or if you've got a sale on, then, you know, there's only a certain type of person that waits 'till the sale, then you can target those guys. And then normally you'd be clearing out stuff to bring the new product in. So maybe you wouldn't want to target your customers that you know will pay full price in two, three, four weeks' time or however long it is that the sale runs for. I think that's quite important. Segmentation is super important. You don't want to give the wrong message to the wrong person at the wrong time.

[00:31:43] Will: Indeed. That's really interesting. Right. Okay. So that's how you really kind of at scale drive lots of people into the top of the funnel. Then what kind of stuff do you do further down?

[00:31:54] James: I mean, the dreaded pop-up email sign up form, which everybody seems to hate, but it is successful and it works, and people do sign up, and people do get 10% off, and people...you know, email I think is getting a bad rap at the moment and is still quite an important part of the marketing mix. You know, we've seen it...when we run Facebook ads, we'll normally run a test on email signups. And people will sign up and then they're part of that journey that you can control easily. You know, you can send them the welcome information if they've opened it, or if they've not opened it, you can send different messages. It's just...yeah, I think it's still super important for email.

[00:32:34] But then obviously once people are on the site, a bit like what we were talking about earlier with the landing page that's got like the about the brand. So it's not just people that have seen an Instagram post or have seen a sponsored post or whichever, someone that's come to the site and then they've spent a bit of time interacting with it. And then hopefully if they've, you know, liked the product enough or spent enough time...and this is where you can get a little bit clever with the re-targeting, which is, you know, the adverts that follow you around and you think you're being listened to. If people have added to cart, or if they've spent a certain amount of time on product page, or if they've clicked more than five pages on the website, you know that they're going to be more likely to buy than somebody who just went on and then clicked straight off. So they're the people that you want to...

[00:33:22] Will: Yes. So creating custom audiences of people who've...yeah, like you say, have shown those kinds of engagement markers, indicators on your website.

[00:33:34] James: Intent. It's any intent. Yeah. So there are numerous different ways of picking them out, but, you know, engaging with products, adding to cart, starting checkout. You could do it by time, amount of clicks. Yeah. Whatever you think is suitable. Because if you could imagine that, you know, if you've got like a high-end used sports car, you know, you're going to get a lot of like teenage boys on there or whoever the demographic is for sports cars at the moment. And then they're not going to be worth the money. You know, if they're aged under 18...you can't really target to under 18s. But if your customer is a 45-year-old sort of woman that lives in the commuter belt of London, then there's not much point in retargeting to the youngsters that probably are just aspiring to rather than actually going to hand over the readies.

[00:34:25] Will: Yeah. Just to go back to something you said there, you know, you talked about the email, the dreaded email pop-up, so do they work? Because we often...is the most common tactic, would you agree? It's the one I see, the most common tactic is the pop-up that says, "Get 10% off on your first order by giving us your email." Is that right?

[00:34:45] James: Do you know what? No. Well, yes, but no. So I don't know if anyone else listening has this, but I will like...it's like I don't even have control over the mouse. It just goes, even if I know I want the 10% off. I've had to go into private browsers to try and reget the sign-up code back because I just shut them down. But you look at the statistics and you've got, you know, an 8% to 12% engagement rate of people signing up with those.. So, you know, about 1 in 10 people do actually sign up and then you've got another opportunity to engage with them when they're not just on your website or just on social media, you know, you can send an email or...

[00:35:24] Will: So is it worth doing? If I've got a shop, would you advise me to do that?

[00:35:29] James: It depends what type of shop. And also when we said pop-up as well, I think the thing that annoys people, and this is similar to the retargeting, the thing that annoys people is you go to a website and then after a second, you get hit with the thing, and that's when you turn off. But you can set up now a custom journey so you'll only show the pop-up if someone's been on more than three pages for more than 30 seconds and landed on the product page. And then you'd say, "Oh, hi there? Would you like this delicious discount or a free whichever?" And that's where it's like, "Oh, actually, do you know what? I do. Maybe not now, but, yeah, go on, sign up, and it'll remind me." Or, "I'm not quite ready to buy this yet, but do keep me up-to-date." Or if you've got a sale on, or if there's something else that might be...you know, if it's something that's seasonal, you know, you might not be quite ready for it there and then.

[00:36:21] Will: So, yes, but done smartly and in kind of a less intrusive and more charming kind of way really.

[00:36:30] James: Exactly. I think people don't hate digital marketing. So if a product is following you around the internet or suggested products are coming up and they're rubbish and it's, you know, something that your nan sent you by accident, you clicked on it, and now you're getting targeted for a pair of, I don't know, hiking boots for forever. That's just lazy, sloppy marketing which people don't like and which annoys people. But if I'm buying my own hiking boots, and I get to checkout and you see like...obviously Amazon, which I won't go into, but they're very good at this because they know. They've got teams analyzing data all the time. But if they say, "Oh, you know, 50% of the people who bought these boots bought these socks because they actually go really well with them." And you're like, "Do you know what? Yeah, I haven't got any hiking socks." Let's have a think about...you know, if it's helpful and you're like, "Oh, actually I hadn't thought of that." Or if you're buying something you don't know too much about, say if you're buying, I don't know, a coffee grinder and you didn't know that you needed a certain blade that's not with it. You know, things like that, that are helpful people don't mind then, but it's the lazy marketing where you just blasted rubbish adverts all day I think that people tend to dislike and it winds them up a bit.

[00:37:44] Will: Yeah, no, indeed. So, okay, you know, in e-commerce there's lots of talk about social ads, and the email, and those kinds of channels. SEO doesn't get talked about very much. Does it play a role?

[00:38:03] James: SEO. So whenever we build a site from scratch or when we do any updates, we always have an SEO plan in some capacity. It might be quite basic or it might be more detailed. It depends on the resources that you've got or how much people want to put towards it. But unless you're going to be like a headless or not even headless, if you're going to be like selling just to Instagram, and just using the website backend, and not being found in search engines, which some people do and do well. That's about one of the few circumstances I can think of that you wouldn't need to have some sort of SEO on the site. People don't want to wait too long. People want to see instant reactions. That's why paid media is quite a good way of finding out quickly if something's gonna work or not. You see the click-through rates, you can see if people are buying straight away.

[00:38:54] SEO is obviously a much slower and organic way of people finding you that takes hard work and time, but if you do it well, you know, you've done a good job of it, you'll reap the rewards. So if you've got a product that's not something that you can buy from, you know, thousands of other places, say if it was a...I don't know, a custom handmade barbecue. I don't know why. I keep thinking about barbecue things. I must be hungry. So if you're one of the only people in a certain area or whichever that does that, then SEO is gonna be more helpful to you than if you sell white socks, which could be a baseball team, or it could be, you know....or then there are thousands of shops that are selling it.

[00:39:40] Will: And you're competing with like, you know, Uniqlo, Topshop, Nike, Adidas, all the big players that you're never going to beat in search anyway. Yeah, that's true. But is it about optimizing product pages and shop pages or is your job for your clients ever about creating content specifically for SEO essentially? So like helpful article, or content, or resources that aren't directly product pages.

[00:40:11] James: Yeah. I'm glad that you sort of rephrased at the end, because I don't think you should ever really write solely for SEO. I think that the content needs to add value to the customer and be useful.

[00:40:21] Will: One of my least favorite phrases in marketing is SEO content. That's just a hell hole of just keywords stuffed crap. So, yeah, I'm definitely with you on that. It needs to be, you know, content that's making the internet a better place and is useful to someone, right?

[00:40:41] James: But Google is getting better at reading and they'll suss you out if you're just keyword stuffing and writing stuff to try and...I mean, there was all the black hat SEO. You don't hear about it too much anymore, but, you know, buying backlinks and keyword stuffing and all that sort of thing. Google has a clamp down every few months on things that aren't necessarily helpful for the end-user and they'll just, you know, remove your pages in page one and cast you aside until you fix the cheat or whatever it was that you did to try and fool the system.

[00:41:10] Will: And so do you create content and resources outside of product pages much for your clients?

[00:41:17] James: Whenever we make content for a client, we try and make it as usable as possible. So we'll do a blog or an article, a blog article, whatever, a piece of content on a website, and it will help answer questions and it will demonstrate, you know, it'll have a purpose. So it might be the new collection that's launched. It's like what the design influences were, you know, some information on the colors that were picked out, you know, why this has been a hot color for the season or whichever, something about how it was made, maybe some of the ethics and the responsibility the brand has. And then what we'll do is that will be, you know...have an SEO frame to it, but not be written just for search.

[00:42:08] So, yeah, so make it readable and answer a question that people might have. And then once you've got that content, post it in an email, link to it from your social, link to it from a product page if it's going to answer some questions because if you're going to make something, make it good. It's better to make good things, you know, at half the rate than it is to just keep splattering out things that are just here today, gone tomorrow. And I think answering questions is the first thing that you need to look at, but always try and have an SEO.

[00:42:37] Will: Yeah. Consideration, of course. You want it to be found. If it's good, you want it to be found. I mean, in content marketing, you hear it referred to as like the informational need, like what's the informational need of that target audience, that profile, like you talked about, you know, when you find out who the buyers are, like what keeps them up at night? What do they think about? What do they wonder about? What's going on in the back of their heads? And what are they wondering about in relation to your industry or products, the lifestyle that your products are part of, and all that, you know? So, absolutely, you know. Make it really good and then also make sure that, you know, it gets found so that it was worth creating in the first place.

[00:43:21] James: Worth the effort, yeah, because that's the other thing. I think everyone's so busy and there's always another social platform or something else that you can do to spend your time. And this is the same with photoshoots as well. If you can try and think about being as efficient as possible with what you're creating and make as much use out of it as possible, then you're going to see the value a lot more. So if you've got a photoshoot set up, say if there's a campaign shoot going on, you can get a second shooter capturing close-up details, and like behind-the-scenes shots, and anything else that's going to be able to be used. You could maybe create a blog out of it, you could use it for social, you could post it in an email, or if there's, you know, other images that weren't, you know, like the main campaign images, they might be good for the product page, or they might be good to show like scale. There's loads of like different ways of getting more value from whatever you do. But if you're making something, make it good, and be proud of it, and try and get as much use out of it as you can.

[00:44:18] Will: Right. So we've talked about the funnel. Right down the bottom of that funnel, how do you see the most successful e-commerce brands drive loyalty and grow the lifetime value or the LTV of their customers?

[00:44:35] James: It's a bit two-fold, the answer, because generally, people across the board are a lot more swayed by price than they were. People were less loyal to everything from banks to supermarkets. You know, it used to be that people would...they'd have their childhood account at RBS, and they'd have it until they have their pension. But now obviously there's a lot more choice. You know, it's things like Shopify that are enabling small people to try out their passion or, you know, whichever and give it a go. And then they'll grow and then they'll take on these other bigger brands that then maybe, you know...you don't want to shop at Mulberry, you know, you want to shop at someone that's making it locally or, you know, whatever the reason might be. And I think to do that there's a lot of touchpoints that you can work with to make sure that customer feels valued and this is both pre-purchase, during, and after the purchase as well.

[00:45:32] The way things are delivered, you know, if you...I won't name the bad delivery firms, but we can all think of a few. If you're sending out, you know, a luxury product or any product, really, and in not really fit for purpose packaging, and it's been left in a wheelie bin and there's no tracking code and you didn't get a...you know, you weren't asked how the product was for you. It's all these individual little touchpoints where they'll say, "Next time, all right, maybe I won't go with you again. It wasn't that great. I had to chase up on the phone. I didn't get a confirmation email. I didn't get whichever else." So if you can look at all these different aspects that you've got loads of control over and find out...And I think a lot of it as well, and it goes back to the live chat, it's, you know, ask the questions, "Is there anything we can do to help you?" Because at the end of the day, without the customers you've got nothing. You know, you might have the best font on whatever, but, you know, but if people aren't buying and people aren't supporting you, then you're not going to last very long. And looking after people, make sure they feel valued.

[00:46:35] And you can do that in a number of ways. I mean, people don't respond...I mean, obviously, if there's a sale on or you have to clear out, then great, you know, reduce the prices, but is this something...you know, if someone spends more than a certain amount of a threshold at your company, it might be a £100 or it might be £10,000 depending on what the product is, you know, you could offer a handwritten note or you could offer something that they can't...you know, like a personalized bracelet. I'm just thinking off the top of my head here, or a pen. You know, something that isn't necessarily like a financial engagement, but it's something to be like, "Yeah, we really appreciate you." And then obviously like most of our clients have like a VIP list of customers who will shop time and time again. And they will be personally contacted by whatever their preference is, so WhatsApp, email, phone call when there's new products launching. And they'll say, "Oh, you know, well, because you bought these other items, what do you think about...you know, this would match with those trousers you bought last summer, or these colors looked really good on you last year." You know, like they've changed, they're a little bit more muted now. We think this would go better with your skin tone." Or, you know, whatever. But there are loads and loads of ways that you make people feel special and valued.

[00:47:45] And that's the difference. You know, you're not going to get that at Marks & Spencer or wherever else. And that's why, you know, you've got a really great opportunity to put yourself across and be there for the customer and find out. And you'll find out a lot more information that way. And if you can use that information to your benefit, and then if, you know, customers say, "Oh, it was great." But, you know, we all work on a Saturday because you sell bar equipment and we all work in the bar or whatever. So it'd be better. But you're closed on a Sunday when we're not working or whatever. You'll find out these bits of information. If you can use the information to help you make decisions on the website and improve the overall customer journey. And that's it. Kaizen is a great phrase for that. It's a Japanese term. It just basically means continual improvement. It's going to take time. It's going to be a hard graft. You know, people see these overnight success brands that have been going for years and years and years, but then there'll be popular. And it's because, you know, they've done all of these things and spent time on it.

[00:48:44] Will: Yeah. There are no overnight successes. They're just new to you. They're not new to the world. They've been at it for years of hard graft. It's true. Isn't it? It's funny that. All right. Last question. Thanks so much for your time. This has been really, really useful, really fantastic. If I was starting my own online shop tomorrow, and I asked you for five must-do optimization or marketing tactics that I must consider, in short, what would they be?

[00:49:16] James: Testing is one of the big, important ones. And that's testing everything, so imagery, copy, subject lines, colorways, paid marketing especially.

[00:49:28] Will: Yeah. And never stopped testing, right?

[00:49:30] James: And that's it, you know. Run splits us on adverts with different images, with different copy, different captions, different titles, and find out because like you said, never stop testing, because, you know, it might be that it's a sunny week and that's why the cool refreshing drink look better, but now it's… You need to constantly be adapting and changing and finding out what people really, really want.

[00:49:58] Will: Okay. Testing. Yeah. Any other tips?

[00:50:01] James: I suppose, I'm obviously from a branding background, but the importance of setting out your brand and, you know, do the research at the start, and I think don't let it become an obsession and you're so worried about launching because you want to get everything completely right. I'm not saying to go completely overboard, but I do think that spending a bit of time looking at competitors, researching colorways, and what you want to stand for from the start is going to be a lot easier than trying to sort of shoehorn things in afterwards. So I'd say, yeah, get your initial brand kit together before like sort of stepping foot into what you're doing. And it doesn't need to be huge, but, you know, pick a font, pick a color scheme, have a logo made. There are hundreds of designers that will be able to do, you know, a reasonably priced logo. And then start off on the right foot. You see a lot of brands that you're trying to tie them back together because they've changed bits and it just looks completely unsynchronized and there's no consistency. So that's one of the main points, must-do is consistency, be consistent, you know, have the same bags, have the same postage terms, you know, keep it right. Let people know what they're getting.

[00:51:18] One thing that we often audit when we're working either with a new client or we won't audit, but we'll talk about when we're setting up a new website is how people are going to browse the site and what type of customer they are. So some people will have seen the product on Instagram and they'll want to go to a search bar and they'll type in the product name. Other people might be looking for a gift, so they'll want to browse. So it's having that journey sort of planned out, so if you've got...you could do by gender, you could do by size, you could do by, you know, material or whatever it is, but make sure that you've got the collection set up that have got these products that are of these...you know, it could be by price. You know, if it's a gifting website, then people want to know or, you know, they want to spend up to £25 or, you know, "I want to spend over £500 or whatever it is." But remember that people are going to browse your site via the search bar via the navigation. So make sure that's really consistent, really clear, and visually...so, "Okay. I see that this section says new in or this section says outdoors." And you want indoor furniture, then you'd know to not click on that one.

[00:52:30] My final point, and actually, this probably should have been number one, so many...and we got it from...you know, we work with designers. Sometimes if people have got their own sort of graphic designer, they'll come up, and I reckon 90% of the time they'll come to us with a desktop layout of the website. Guys, we've made the switch. We're mobile-first now. Start thinking about how people are gonna come to you on mobile, how people are going to browse on mobile, think about how the images are laid out. When you're shooting products, are you going to shoot it landscape, or are you going to shoot it square, or are you going to shoot it portrait? What works for mobile? Because it's no good having, you know, a beautifully designed desktop site if 70% of people are going on mobile. That's really, really important and something that people...I think when people are working on a computer or working on a laptop, they assume that everyone else who's browsing will be, but it's just not the case.

[00:53:19] Will: It's true. It's hard to break free from because we're all working at our desks doing this stuff and yet we just don't put mobile-first and we do live in a mobile-first world like you say. Yeah. So, okay, well, thanks. James, thanks so much for that. Thanks so much for your time and your knowledge. It was really, really insightful. I feel like I've learned an awful lot.

[00:53:38] James: No, thank you.

[00:53:39] Will: I think I might spend the weekend setting up a shop.

[00:53:42] James: Do it.

[00:53:43] Will: I should do.

[00:53:44] James: I'll set one up for you.

[00:53:45] Will: Yeah. Thanks. Well, just one last question for you. Where can our listeners find you online, website and social media, etc.?

[00:53:53] James: It's www.8thdial.com with the number eight. Yeah. Or it's 8th Dial on Instagram, or you can email me. It's james@8thdial.com.

[00:54:08] Will: Well, thanks again. Thanks for your time. Yeah, take care. Thanks very much.

[00:54:12] James: Thank you. I'll speak to you soon.

[00:54:16] Will: If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And for more information about transforming your marketing career through certified online training head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com. Thanks for listening.

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Will Francis

Will Francis is a recognized authority in digital and social media, who has worked with some of the world’s most loved brands. He is the host and technical producer of the DMI podcast, Ahead of the Game and a lecturer and subject matter expert with the DMI. He appears in the media and at conferences whilst offering his own expert-led digital marketing courses where he shares his experience gained working within a social network, a global ad agency, and more recently his own digital agency.

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