Guillaume: Hello everyone. Guillaume Le Tual here, host of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast where I feature leaders in e-commerce and business. Today’s guest is Brent O’Brien. He’s the E-commerce Manager at a company called Pactimo. They’re a cycling apparel company. So our topic today is, What’s Working Now in E-commerce? So we’re going to be talking about acquiring customers, traffic, conversion rates, what works and what doesn’t work. So anyone trying to increase their sales, their top line, their profits, for their e-commerce store, this is the episode for you. So let’s jump right into it. Brent, thank you for being here today.
Brent: Thanks for having me. Glad to be on.
Guillaume: Yeah. We had a pretty good chat during the pre-interview so I know you know your stuff, man. Let’s just go right into it, top of mind, what’s working now in e-commerce?
Brent: It’s a great question. There’re a lot of things that I think you could focus on. You’ve seen the economy and you’ve seen the struggles maybe with Google Ads, or Facebook ads as they are trying to utilize first party data. What we’ve started to do is how do we move the needle conversion rate, AOV is the easiest way to increase those sales. So we’ve looked at a couple of different strategies that we try to utilize throughout the year and really put them into high gear during Q4, Black Friday, Cyber Monday. What we’ve started to do is we’re getting customers to the site, how do we get that AOV up? So we really focus on driving some incremental revenue through some upsells and cross sells throughout the site, whether that is in product recommendations on the PDP. One of the things that’s really been helpful for us is putting bundles on our PDP, so allowing customers to get a little bit heavier of a discount when they’re purchasing two or three products, getting that AOV up, trying to increase the value of that order. So we usually give a significant discount for those customers coming in and buying multiple items that can be found on the PDP.
Guillaume: It is Product Detail Page, for anyone who doesn’t know and Average Order Value, for anyone who doesn’t know AOV. All right.
Brent: So I’m really trying to get the average order value up. So we basically have a bundle on most of our top selling products, and when we try to change it, then click into it, they can add their size, their colorway that they’re looking for, and really kind of complete their own, as we use in the cycling history kit. So they can go in jerseys and bibs, we usually pair it with some type of lower item like an accessory to really try to get that and drive that revenue up. One of the other ways we’ve done it is, there’s definitely different tools out there to do this, we usually do something in the mini-cart or a slide cart to help try to increase that as well. So we have some AI running behind the scenes that will recommend products based on what they have in the cart, what they’ve recently looked at.
And then we have some of what we call our impulse buys, lower price items that there doesn’t really need to be a lot of description, you know, we’ll put like cycling gloves, or a neck gaiter or socks in there, something that’s lower value. It’s like you’re going through a grocery store and you’re at checkout and you just see the candy bar, just try to get that extra little bit before they go to checkout. We’ve also entertained the idea of ‘having and have done it’, putting some upsells or cross sells, and impulse buys at checkout to see if we can get another additional sales there as well, to increase that average order value. So we’ve seen a lot of success through that, we’ve utilized that since September and we’ve seen a pretty significant size of revenue come from that with a little lift on our end.
Guillaume: There are two schools of thought on that. Putting stuff at the checkouts, one school is like, let’s try to squeeze an extra sale right there on the last page of the cart, after the cart, on the checkout. Some other people say no, streamline it all, or even remove maybe the top menu or something just to make sure that at the check out all distractions are removed.
Brent: Yeah. We definitely have tested it and we didn’t really see a dip in conversion rate or abandoned checkout rate increase. And I agree with you, if we would definitely have seen our abandoned checkouts increase we would have dropped it. We’ve kind of developed that strategy during a sales period where we know people are on the site and they’re ready to purchase and stuffs are on sale and our conversion rate we know is not really going to suffer. One of those times, it may not be during the sale where I have a certain amount of money that I can spend with this company, then that might not be the right time do it because, to your point, you don’t want to lose that sale if it’s already in the cart while trying to squeeze out another some additional revenue from that may not be the best strategy. We’ve seen it work and we’ve seen a tremendous success during sales periods where we do like our seasonal closeout sales, Black Friday, Cyber Monday where we know people are in a buying behavior and we know that the likelihood of them coming to the site and going through that checkout funnel is going to be successful.
Some of the other things that we’ve seen successful is first responders’ discounts
allowing doctors, teachers, first responders, government workers to get a discount and really giving back to what they do. It’s just kind of more of a giving back. It’s something that’s on our site throughout the year. They just have to go and verify that they are actually employed, or are part of those organizations and then they get a code that automatically gets applied at checkout. We’ve seen tremendous success from that, I’ve done it in a couple different places and seen success. You can do some marketing or advertising with them that kind of get promoted on there, email schedule if you want during high sales periods or throughout the year. We’ve done some of that too to help drive new customers that are on those platforms that usually have millions of followers or people that are signed up. So it’s a good chance to get some new customers into your database and not have to go to AdWords and stuff like that. You can market with them, we haven’t really done it.
Some of them will take a commission if they go directly from their site to your site where they can see your offer on those sites. They’ll basically get that code, get to your site, browse around and then check out. So we’ve seen six figures in sales from that in one year with really no lift from us and sometimes a 10% commission if that is in, but we’re given a 20 or 25% discount year round. Unless it’s in a sales period where we discounted a little bit but are still getting something on top of our sales prices, so that barrier is kind of broken down for them and we’ve seen a lot of success and the conversion rate is tremendous with those kinds of strategies. If anybody’s out there and you want to support first responders and teachers and government workers, I would highly suggest going down that route. It’s an easy way, it’s really easy code-install on the site, low maintenance, and other marketing opportunities out there within those companies. So I definitely would highly recommend going down that route for anybody looking to get some additional revenue or some additional customers.
Guillaume: It’s interesting that some people were challenging that like, would I have gotten the sale anyway without giving the discount? Would I be cannibalizing my margins and stuff like that? But you seem to say it does help in increasing sales, increasing top line, and conversion rate is even higher than regular sales.
Brent: And we see repeat purchases because they’re in your funnel now. They may have been your customer for years now but their likelihood of them coming back to you instead of going to a competitor is because you offer this doubt is high. We see multiple repeat purchases by these individuals, you know, two to four times a year at least. So that lifetime value for those customers is only increasing by offering this.
Guillaume: Right, the loyalty system.
Brent: Loyalty systems which kind of brings me to the next point, loyalty rewards is one of the wings that we have on our site. It’s another way to drive loyalty amongst your brands, giving you some brand awareness but also keeping them in that funnel, understanding that we appreciate every dollar you spend with us and we’re willing to give back to you on that. And we’ve created a couple of different tiers and you qualify for those tiers. It’s a year rolling, so once you enter that tier you get additional points and then you’re in that tier for a whole year. And what we’ve started to do strategy wise is we go out to these groups and really, before we go we give them exclusive access to product launches and sales. So they’re the first to know that right now we’re in our winter clothes out so you’re going to get 24 to 48 hours first access to get whatever you want on this site.
So when we do that they can earn a gift card on a purchase or a discount throughout and free shipping. So we see value in it, we get a lot of repeat customers from those that stay in that funnel. Personally, I’ll go to the grocery store because I know I’m going to get gas rewards off of it, so it’s kind of the same philosophy. We’ve seen really good success with it and we continue to develop that program and enhance that program to try to get not only the best value for us but also the best value for our customers and give a great customer experience while doing that. There’s not many in the cycling industry that have a rewards program so we like to say that we’re one of the few that actually would love to give back to our customers especially when they’re coming in and they’re new. It helps gain some traction on social media for likes and follows, which has helped us gain and grow our social media. So it’s kind of a win-win for us, both from the social media aspect and from the customer experience.
Guillaume: And you guys are the brand owners? You’re not just a retailer selling other people’s products, you’re selling your own products, your own label?
Brent: We’re direct-to-customer so we don’t have any retailers. So we really got to own that relationship and we’ve got to do it well. And so we try to get those repeat purchases and increase that lifetime value of those customers on the site.
Guillaume: Right. Because if somebody is in a different boat as a merchant, there are retailers and a lot of other stores that are offering the same branded product from a big household brand, especially if that product has minimum advertising price and there are policies that are actually being enforced, not all of them do enforce it even if they have it, then loyalty program becomes extremely important. Because you’re almost bribing the customer to buy it from your store versus another store. So how many percentage points are you willing to give back to the customer so that he buys it from you and not from the other one? Can you bundle some gifts or some freebies or some free trials or something?
Brent: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, we try to give them either a percentage off or a gift card so that if we are running a sale they can use the gift card in conjunction with the sale. Rather than giving them a code and you’re on a sale period usually we don’t want to double-discount in that situation to maintain our margin. We still do that, we’ll give some freebies if we have something like lifestyle or hats, T-shirts and stuff like that, we’ll set those at a points value and tell them that you can get this for free. So we are definitely looking to enhance that going into 2023 as well.
Guillaume: We’ve looked at average order value and trying to get it up, and cross-selling and so on. On referring products, now we’re talking about all those loyalty systems, anything else that you guys have put in place that gave you a lift in sales?
Brent: Yeah, there’s a couple of other things that we’ve done. There’s two different thoughts that we’ve kind of looked at. We usually create a sales landing page anytime we have a sale. So for social, we’ll use it to drive email and we did that all last year. And then I look at the homepage, the sessions, conversion rate, bounce rate, and all those key metrics that any e-commerce manager is going to look at. And we came to the conclusion that we’re driving everywhere with these sales pages and we’re kind of like redoing the whole website on these sales pages or putting collections on these sales pages, but are they actually making a difference? So we’ve actually gone away from that. We’ll do it occasionally for some Facebook or Google Ads but we’re starting to drive people to the homepage and kind of doing a homepage takeover for sales. Because we’ve seen in the conversion rate that we actually get a higher conversion rate if we send people to our homepage rather than a sales page sometimes.
Guillaume: Any idea why?
Brent: That’s a good question. I would say the reason why is, you drive them to the sales page, at least from my experience in some of the heat mapping tools that we use, they go to the sales page and then they end up using just the navigation function as they would normally when they land on a site. They may use some filters here or there. Usually at the sales pages we try to separate men’s from women’s products. Because we have a lot of SKUs in our catalog and so it can get overwhelming if you just throw all these products on a sales page and the scroll depth is not going to get there. So we’ve kind of taken the strategy of going back to the homepage and letting people shop or customers shop just as they normally would but we’ll just do a little bit of homepage takeover for a sale and kind of mimic a sales page a little bit and not try to overwhelm them as much. And we’ve seen our conversion rate increase during sales periods, we’ve seen our average order value increase slightly during those sales periods.
So I think sometimes from our standpoint when you have a lot of variance, a lot of SKUs and you direct them to a sales page sometimes it can be hard for the customer to find what they need and so they end up just using the navigation anyway. And some of that on a collection page, you’re limited with the space at the top of the page. You might have that in the AdWords or the email. But we’ve seen hero image, send them to the homepage; hero image, letting them know what the sale is and how long it’s going for, and just keeping it simple and letting them shop as they normally would if they came to your site anyway.
Guillaume: Yeah. And just to be careful with your advertising campaign with Google, if you do something like this, don’t have too many campaigns all over the place and all of them just sending to the homepage. Because your quality score is going to go down and Google’s going to penalize and that’s going to increase your cost per click and your pay per click campaign and then you will be less relevant and less targeted. So for sure, Google wants a landing page that really matches the ad copy, and the keywords that you’re bidding on. So you would want your homepage to temporarily fit that ad campaign, everything is online but a limited number of campaigns and that could work very well indeed.
Brent: Yeah, we do have some sub-campaigns that run off of it that will focus on particular products, especially in a ‘winter clothes out’ we’ll have stuff around, Google AdWords around jackets and vests and bib tights that are directed to those landing pages to focus on those sales. So it’s definitely a great topic and a great suggestion right there.
Guillaume: All right.
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Guillaume: Yeah. What is your top of mind that you’d like to talk about and the stuff that works before we move to the next topic and stuff that didn’t work?
Brent: Yeah. What we’ve seen is we’ve kind of had to adapt, we’ve gotten to the SMS marketing a little bit. So we’ve started to focus a little bit more on there. We have different flows within our system, our email triggers where if they’re part of our SMS program and they’ve opted in, go ahead and send them the email, if they don’t open it send them a text. We see the click-through rate and the conversion rate to be very high so we’ve started to implement some other kind of journeys or flows for SMS marketing, browse abandonment, cart abandonment. We will also target those individuals as well, like our loyalty program that I mentioned before, we will give them exclusive access to what we call breakaway deals or flash sales that we normally may not communicate through email. We will also give them access to sales a little prior on product launches. So it’s kind of trying to give them exclusive little ownership. The likelihood of them opening a message on their phone is higher than that of emails. So we’ve seen great success with that so far and we’re continuing to grow that program and looking at other ways we can continue whether it’s through flows or other journeys that we can provide our customers through the SMS route.
Guillaume: Right. Yeah, the opening rate is over 90% on SMS but on emails you’re happy with 20-30%, and if you get 50% that’s amazing and means your list is very well connected to you. So you’re talking about not promoting your flash sales through email, how do you promote your flash sales?
Brent: We’ll do it through email but they usually have segmented targets. So we don’t necessarily go out through the whole gamut. We will segment, so if somebody just bought a pair of bibs yesterday they will probably be left off of that.
Guillaume: So is it a reactivation campaign or?
Brent: It’s a little bit of retargeting or reactivation like, hey, we know you purchased a jersey or something we’ll go ahead and segment that. It’d be like somebody that hasn’t bought, if we did a flash sale on bibs, bids from us in the last three to six months or in a certain time, then we’ll send it out to them. So we’ve done a lot of segmentation with that stuff to figure it out. As far as cycling history, there’s lots of different types of cycling, you can do road, mountain, gravel. So we’ve tried to target and find out and ingest that from our customers and then target them with specific flash sales. Looking at Mountain Bikes, we may have some additional inventory or excess inventory of mountain bike shorts, okay, let’s actually just reach out to our mountain bike audience and send them this flash sale and then we’ll send everybody who’s on our SMS list. So we’ve done a lot of segmentation on that but usually we don’t run them very long. If it’s a popular item and it kind of fits multiple different cycling activities then we may reach out to the whole email list. So it just depends on the product but we’ve started doing a lot of segmentation around that and we’ve seen that actually perform well. We’re trying to devise a target audience for the product that we’re promoting.
Guillaume: Good. Thanks for sharing those. So now onto the next topic. Maybe you implemented this like in your case and either it did nothing or maybe it made things worse?
Brent: Yeah. Wow! There’s a lot of trial and error that goes on.
Guillaume: That’s part of it. You’re playing battleship so you say let’s try that.
Brent: We’ve done some testing on the site. We have this granger, like, what’s changed the ‘add to cart’ button? We tried to do a multivariate test where we kept it how it was, we’d put, I think right now it’s what we call our orange color, either red orange with white text. We would be like, let’s keep it black with white text and then we were like, we’ll do a variant option where it’s, you know, our orange colorway for Pactimo with black. We’ll see, is it actually going to make a difference? It didn’t. Really, to be honest with you there was no clear winner. You had a slight variation of conversion rate but it wasn’t like you’ve got to change everything now. It’s always like, we did the test and it didn’t really work. We had the hypothesis saying, maybe we just go a little bit simpler out of the ‘add to cart’ button, it would work. And we ran it for two and a half weeks and nothing really stuck and it was very similar from conversion rate to AOV, so we basically said we don’t need to change this. So you think it’s just a tiny little augment, we’ve done some imageries, testing, or even some copy-testing around the homepage and an email and we really haven’t seen any really big results, or anything that we need to implement.
I would say on the site, one of the things that we did try that really didn’t work was we went ahead and tried to do a whole campaign around the loyalty program where we refer a friend. But in a couple of different places we have an order tracking page that you can go to that allows us to put some marketing materials, sales information, we’re trying to promote that. And to be honest with you we don’t really see a list. I was surprised, usually we would have a loyalty program, if you can refer a friend and a give 20 get 20 kind of scenario we would have thought, there’s a couple different places we put it in some content slots around the site to try to promote it. And it really didn’t give us the lift that we were expecting. There’s a couple of things I know we’ve tried, we’ve done some other stuff with content slots around trying to promote new products and trying to get them to, hey, you’re on a thermal bib, tights page we just launched some new jackets and vests, let’s put the content slot in the collection page to see if we can drive traffic for our customers to our vests and new jackets, and it wasn’t really successful. We didn’t get a lot of customers going through that process, and so we’ve kind of gone more to the route where we’re going more of like an imagery approach within the collection that kind of promotes that collection, rather than trying to get customers to go to a different collection after they’ve been on that collection.
So it’s something that didn’t work out for us and so we learn from it and we adjust it and that’s kind of the principles that we’ve taken. And we’ve tried stuff that doesn’t work, we’ve tried some other cross sales, or I should say, product recommendation strands on the homepage, on the product detail page which we thought would be successful based on seasonality and they really didn’t get much click-through. We tried to move them up because we saw the scroll depth on some pages but they weren’t getting a lot of clicks. So we had to try to abandon that and we tried to stay away from those and we’ve dropped them down lower on the page.
Guillaume: Okay, yeah. So somebody who’s looking for whatever product bibs or shorts might not be interested in jackets, and you just show them more of the same, the collections of that category of products. But it’s interesting to have a little bit of testing to get to know which other type of product can interest you, so it’s always a bit of a challenge for those of us running marketing on those e-commerce sites. I know he likes cycling apparel and he’s looking for shirts, but is he looking for anything else? So how do you go and fish for that information? Or if you’re browsing through a home depot store, what else is he interested in? Maybe he wants a second project and we could try to be the providers or suppliers to make some more sales. So you can have a section for trying to ‘fish’, but you should have one section that’s clearly just showing more of the same alternative choices, preferably upsell so you have a bigger sales order.
Guillaume: Okay, cool. Last shotgun question, anything else top of mind before we wrap this up?
Brent: Yeah. Top of mind, we’re always constantly trying, I would say to our point, as an e-com professional or even market professionals, we’re trying to grow this app. So we often try to find whether it’s through an app’s slight development cost us, will this app move the needle? So we often do free trials through an app or through some type of SaaS company where we’ve been wanting to try this, is it actually going to move the needle for our customers? And so we’ve tried to adapt that going on this year, we’re going to try more, we’re going to see if stuff is going to move the needle. So for anybody out there I would definitely recommend that. If you’re able to and you’re not too concerned about it that it’s not going to negatively impact the site, or customers experience, maybe go that route. We’ve started to do it and we’ve seen some good successes with it and we’re going to go that route a little bit more in 2023 to see if we can move the needle a little further this year.
Guillaume: You never know, for each marketing activity will it yield something? Will it break-even? Will it be worth it? Then you have, of course, development costs or license costs, software costs, and so on. So it’s a balancing act but you have to explore and try new stuff and see what sticks.
Guillaume: Well, Brent, thanks for being here today. If somebody wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way?
Brent: Definitely LinkedIn is a good way to reach me. Or you can go ahead and reach me at [email protected]. The two easiest ways to reach me but LinkedIn is probably the easiest, just shoot me a message or contact me through that, you can follow me on LinkedIn and I’ll definitely answer any questions. We’re always looking to grow and learn, so if there’s any other e-commerce professionals out there we’d love to get in touch with you and see what you may do. We can also just communicate and have a conversation on what’s working and what’s not working.
Guillaume: All right. Thanks, Brent.
Brent: Thank you.