Our final meetup on our series on How High-Growth Brands Use Technology and Experimentation To Fuel Growth took place back home in San Francisco, with some of the industry’s leading brands in ecommerce today. We had a great turnout of people from the retail industry who were curious about the techniques and technologies used to successfully scale today’s unforgiving industry of ecommerce.
Courtesy of our partners over at BigCommerce, we invited Keith Frymark, Director of Operations at Cora, Darren Brown, Inventory Planning Manager at Taylor Stitch, and David Inman, Ecommerce Merchandising Strategist at Nerd KungFu to speak about the ways that they’ve experimented and succeeded, and experimented and failed throughout their brand’s lifetime. They all had some incredible insights into delivering the best product, top-notch customer experience, and ways they continue to scale today.
How experimentation fuels growth
Positioned as a “group therapy session” for brands looking to scale successfully, Keith, Darren, and David all had different ideas surrounding a similar vein of growth for their brands. Experimenting is one of the single most important things your brand can do to avoid being irrelevant. Whether that’s through evaluating your software, crowdfunding to determine the next product that will be sold, or personalizing the customer’s experience through face-to-face events, our panelists had some incredible insights into what works and what’s failed.
Google Analytics is a helpful tool in pushing your brand to constantly adapt and change depending on the market. But it’s not everything: “You can’t just look at conversions and AOV [average order value] as your barometers. Google rewards your site when people spend more time on it and will punish you if you have a short bounce rate,” Darren notes.
Ensuring your customers stay on the site for longer than a few minutes is key in keeping your brand alive. But basic instinct is also necessary when making a leap and experimenting with new tactics: it’s important to not always get buried in the data.
If your brand is looking to understand customer feedback and personalize the experience for the customer, social media is a great tool for this. Since the conception of an idea takes months to come into fruition, you can also experiment with voting on what product the customers want to see your brand come out with next. This is an exciting way to get your customers involved in the design process, and also makes them feel valued.
Successful experiments start with goals and hypotheses. Taylor Stitch decided to try using Google AdWords which resulted in customers only purchasing the item they originally searched for. Instead of removing the program altogether, Darren decided to try crosslinking similar products. This not only increased the time customers spent on the site, but also increased AOV by 18% — without any additional cost to the brand.
Loyalty programs work really well for brands. Whether you’re looking to bundle items into a customer’s second, third, or fourth orders, or want to delight your customers by putting a small amount of cash in their account for the next order, retaining the customer is by far the most difficult and important thing a brand can experiment with.
What to do when experimentations fail
The most obvious answer from all three panelists is to learn from your failures. But there are a few other ways that these high-growth brands use failure as a way to try new methods.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, visual merchandising is an important tool into what’s selling and what’s not. Is it due to where the item is located in the store? Perhaps putting slower-sellers in easier-to-see areas will help move that product.
Talking to customer service representatives can provide a great deal of context for some of the data points your brand is collecting. It can be difficult to retain customers, and measuring your brand’s customer lifetime value through product and customer experience can be extremely beneficial.
If you’re not recording failed searches, try it out! Taylor Stitch and Nerd KungFu emphasize the importance of knowing what your customers are looking for. If you find that everyone is searching for an item that you don’t carry, perhaps it’s time to offer your customers what they’re searching for. This can also save you time and money in the research and development phase of your brand’s process.
How to balance experimentation and fast decision making
“Data, instinct, and fast research,” Darren notes. Knowing your customer, or getting to know your customer through innovating, trial-and-error, and ensuring your new product is relevant to the brand.
One comment that all three panelists noted was that it’s imperative to own your niche. By staying true to your customers in terms of the product you offer, but also in terms of how you meet your customers where they are, your brand will more likely dominate your area:
“In changing our fulfillment strategy and switching to Stitch, we were able to meet our customers where they’re at. If you can’t get to them how they like to shop, what are you actually doing?” -Keith Frymark of Cora
Other than fulfillment, encouraging customers to write reviews can also provide brands with helpful feedback in improving the product and customer experience. It can be difficult to get customers to do this for free, but if you offer them a chance to win a gift card or product, you’ll wind up getting the information you need.
What we’ve learned
Throughout the meetup, deciphering data has played an important role in helping Cora, Nerd KungFu, and Taylor Stitch. Without knowing why customers churn, what product customers are looking to purchase, and ensuring long-term retention, brands fail. Learning from the failures are the opportunities you can take to make it right and keep your brand alive.
By defining your brand’s goals, experimenting with different tactics and systems, and personalizing the experience for the customers, you’re able to scale your brand efficiently and effectively in today’s competitive retail landscape.
We hope you’ll join us for the next retail meetup!
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