Structured is a full stack marketing agency focusing predominantly on direct to consumer. As a seasoned marketer and valued partner at PrettyDamnQuick, David has great insight on the challenges brands face when acquiring and keeping customers today, and how to resolve them.
Here’s what we learned from David in his interview with Avi
*This interview was was shortened for brevity:
Avi: Can you give us some perspective about how you're seeing the market here in June, 2023?
David: Overall, I see things improving trend-wise, things are performing upwards.
Avi: You had a quote in Entrepreneur Magazine about the channels and economics and how what it takes to acquire and retain customers has changed. And this is a year ago, so I imagine here in 2023, things have changed dramatically. Because let’s face it, it's difficult to survive a summer if you're not selling bathing suits.
What are some of the secret weapons to survival? What are some of the things that folks can use? Maybe it's a hack. Maybe there's some things that are fundamental, but I think we’re in an age or a particular time in eCommerce where there's this need to find quick, agile adjustments for how to run an eComm business without spending a ton of money. How would you navigate this or suggest to someone that they navigate the next couple of months?
David: First of all, there is no silver bullet. There is no one thing or do these five things and all of a sudden you're going to see it perform. Secondly, it's no longer a per channel focus. Yes, you need experts on a per channel basis to really hone in and understand what's working and what isn't working. But in order for a brand to really succeed, it's pulling their nose out of the weeds to an extent and looking at: what are all of the channels doing and, how is the business doing overall? And then focusing in then zooming out, focusing in, zooming out to really see how the business is operating. Thirdly, brands need to be very clear in defining the problems they’re solving right off the bat. Communicate to the people you’re selling to like you're talking to human beings and explain to them in very plain terms, this is what we do.
Lastly, be agile and be willing to test. Because in the world of all channels at this point in time, it's always a matter of testing and understanding what is going to perform. And there's no way for you to know if you're so rigid. So be flexible and follow wherever the platform is leading you and set guide rails rather than saying, this is what we do, this is what we don't do. The truth is that the world of marketing doesn't end. There is no getting ahead or saying, “okay, I finished this and now we're slowing down.” Brands need to constantly come up with new campaigns and figure out what direction to move in, and of course change as the tide itself changes.
Avi: What I'm wondering, and part of why this is called Delivering Delight, is that so much attention has been given to top of funnel, and you definitely need folks like yourself to create not just the art of top of funnel, but the science that drives it. So it becomes repeatable, it becomes scalable, it becomes continually successful. But what happens after that? So now I've got the customer, they're in checkout, the product is getting picked, packed, and delivered and so much of our energy over the past 10 years in eCommerce has really been top of funnel and swinging with the wind of top of funnel.
From what I'm seeing, these days brands have a lot more control over the overall success of their business. If they continue following the product, the customer, and the experience through checkout and up until the point of delivery, something that Amazon has made very clear. But is there more that a regular independent brand can accomplish? And is there another piece of this that you may be able to answer, or make the possibility of success easier for some of these brands?
David: Of course, the biggest gift you can get from a customer is them opting in to purchase your product. Then, increasing likelihood of repeat purchase in the future by delighting the consumer and being super communicative after they purchase is incredibly, incredibly important. From purchase, being able to follow through and communicate with them, this is when your order is actually out, this is when your order is fulfilled, the label is printed, it’s creating excitement. Don’t ignore people after they convert. If there's no additional communication after purchase, the consumer will turn away from your brand even though you’ve spent so much time and money on acquiring them in that initial purchase.
Delivery experience is an incredibly important touchpoint to start with, then communication. Brands need to start asking themselves: “how do we differentiate communication to enable customers to consume our product in the best way they possibly can, increasing the likelihood that they have a very good experience with it, which then in turn increases the likelihood that they end up purchasing again?” The audience that has already purchased is always the most valuable. So what can we do in order to communicate with them appropriately and set expectations to build that habit and how do we get the building to result in proper consumption? And positive experience with the brand, which increases that repeat purchase rate.
Avi: So you've spent your CAC, got the customer, they got excited, recognized the brand, put the product in the cart. Now they've made it to checkout. And to me this feels like the biggest pain point today. Today you're looking at an average across the board of about 68% of people abandoning checkout. That means that your CAC, all those metrics, they got you to that place of checkout and are now sitting between that go and no-go. The numbers are working against you because the vast majority of folks who made it to checkout are not actually going to complete the transaction. So it'd be interesting to see whether or not there's a sudden flood of awareness and products and attention being paid to checkout since so much of the money seems to be sitting there.
David: Agreed, the checkout is where the juicy bit is because that is where the highest intent exists. And highest intent is where we're always trying to focus as much of our attention on, so long as there's volume paired up with that intent. Checkout is the place where someone is ready to commit or considering committing. And that's the highest signal that you could get of intent aside from a purchase. There are a lot of testing that we run wherein, you have cross-sells, upsells, you have other things that you could showcase at checkout or post checkout, which do help increase AOV and ultimately the LTV and impact the business positively.
That being said, there's also this missing piece. Up to this point, I haven't seen this until PDQ came out with it, which is the ability to dynamically focus on shipping to allow people to choose what they want, and also to do it in a way that isn't negatively impactful to the business. Because in many cases, what are most brands doing? Free shipping when you spend this much. And only sometimes do they end up making money with this back-of-the-napkin math approach.
Avi: Shipping has gone up between 15 and 25% depending on the carriers you use in your programs year over year. The numbers are astounding. Those aren't costs that you control. And when you say free shipping, that means you're locking into free, regardless of the cost. And that's a very dangerous place to be. And it could be the difference between breaking even, making money, or losing money.
So I was just curious how you look at free shipping thresholds and also maybe some of the other triggers because there are so many. The incentives provided from the time a customer enters a store until the checkout, there's so many things that people are trying to use as drivers. I'm just curious what some of those drivers are, which ones seem to be working and maybe how to think about them in a way that's productive and not just as this magic bullet.
David: For me, the question is what incentives actually get the person over the edge. There's certain things that you could be doing at checkout to get there, but there are other marketing channels that you have access to, namely email and SMS, to remind people, ‘Hey, don’t forget to check out’ to try and recover that abandoned checkout. And then there's also incentive testing. So there's things that you could be doing on the side of just straight up discounting, which is what the majority of brands do.
Some brands don't do discounting, so it's just a matter of communication and explaining what the product is. In other brands, they might be doing cash back with a platform like Fondu. In other brands it could be incentivizing with free shipping. So there's all these different tools in the toolbox that a brand could use to try and get the person over the edge. And for the most part, consumers are relatively savvy at this point in time. So there are a decent amount of people that will abandon. And I've done this a couple times too, where I'll abandon and just wait a couple days and see what comes into the pipeline, see if maybe it's 15%, maybe it'll surprise me with 20%. Consumers generally speaking at this point in time are already trained to wait for the discount.
Avi: The epiphany for me is looking at the journey from start all the way through to finish, as opposed to stopping somewhere along the way and putting too much of an emphasis on one aspect of that journey. Because the journey doesn't end until delivery. I think that's part of our mission here is to try and get that communicated.
What are some of the great brands you've seen getting this right? When you think about this exceptional start to finish, both from an eComm brand that's doing it right, but also the customers that are coming away, understanding what you had mentioned about the value of the brand, great product, and really the whole experience from beginning all the way through something that translates into what was delivered. What are some of the brands that come to mind?
David: EasyPlant is an awesome company when it comes to understanding the funnel in entirety and obsessing about it, in the best of ways. Going from, what are the ads that we're serving? How are we supporting it across other channels that we have access to? What's the experience on site? How can we enable people to see exactly what product they're looking for? And how do we very clearly on a PDP level explain what is the differentiator of our product? Then going through to checkout, having dynamic pricing on that, and then after purchase, setting expectations on what to expect, especially given the fact that you are literally receiving a living thing. And even to that extent, this is where you start thinking about customer experience overall, the unpacking process, the little messages, the little notes that get added in there, which are exceptional.
Avi: One of the struggles I have is that there aren't a lot of brands that come to mind that I say, they absolutely nailed it. What I'd love to see in a year from now is that people come away from a Shopify store experience they had and say, ‘that was amazing, and I have no hesitation to order again.’ And even if the product's available on Amazon, I'm ordering here because it was that good of an experience, better, and that's achievable. I just don't think we're putting the right energy into the right places just yet. But I'm really hopeful that that's where things come to, we're certainly banking on it. Any insights or any perspective on the eComm space for the rest of 2023? Are you optimistic? How are you generally feeling about things?
David: Yeah, I'd say I'm cautiously optimistic. We're definitely running into additional headwinds with new privacy policies that are coming through on the side of Safari and other browsers, but I it’s nothing we haven't seen before. But this example captures the underlying message: don't focus on one specific channel. You have to see the entire customer journey from beginning all the way through to end and then say, ‘how do we loop it back in?’ If you’re not looking at it entirely, then you’re going to lose that edge at some point in time.
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