Lunch with Littledata: Digital Marketing 101 with Sweet Digital

Digital marketing is quite the catch-all term. Nearly everything you can think of as a necessity when it comes to promoting your business online falls under this umbrella. Of course, it's not enough to be aware of what your digital marketing needs are, though. To create a strong promotion strategy that generates a steady stream of customers, you need to know how to market within them. That's when it helps to have a bit of expert advice. In this installment of Lunch with Littledata, we sat for a chat with digital marketing agency Sweet Digital's founder Laura Hogan to talk through the current state of social promotion, uncover the secrets to winning at PR, and find out how to zero in on the right marketing avenues for your brand. Greg from Littledata: Could you tell us the story of Sweet Digital? Laura Hogan: Sweet started pre-pandemic, just over three years ago with me and my dog in the kitchen pretty much (laughs). We've since grown to eight team members and very much specialize in SEO. But that includes all parts of SEO, whether it's the technical content or digital PR side of things.  Recently we merged with a bigger company here in the West Midlands called Cube, so we've got much bigger resources from their digital team. We also have a really technical, specialized development and design team too. It's a really exciting time for us—lots changing and going on, which is good. Greg: When you're advising your clients, what are the key channels you suggest brands focus on? Laura: It’s partly budget-dependent. I always say if you're looking for a longer-term strategy, then we recommend SEO because that's going to be your lowest cost per acquisition sales channel.  If people want a real quick hit, then Google ads and social advertising is always a really good route. For ecommerce specifically, TikTok is doing really well. Obviously, we've had Shopify add in-app shopping with product tagging for TikTok in the last year or so. The cost per click there is still pretty low from an advertising standpoint, too, especially if your product is something that you can show off how to use in seven or eight seconds. For some of the more traditional brands, LinkedIn advertising has been doing quite well, particularly if you're very specific. You can say, “I want to target people in these companies with these job titles or these industries” and really layer on your targeting.  If you just want some general brand awareness and you're going for the longevity of SEO, then digital PR is always a good shout. Not only are you building knowledge of your brand, but you’re also getting referral traffic that you can track in Google Analytics and see what sales you've got from it. Plus, you get some SEO benefits too since it helps your website rankings by adding good links. [tip]See how to optimize your site and learn more about your customers by setting up server-side tracking.[/tip] Greg: Are there any key metrics that you look at when comparing the effectiveness of social advertisements, search ads, PR, and SEO? Laura: Social's gotten a bit more difficult with the new privacy laws and the iOS 14 update. We’ve moved to pulling in more multichannel reports to see how social is performing and to find out if it’s a touchpoint in the sale. We know it might not have been the final source, but we want to know if it was involved. So we’ve given social a bit of a wider attribution than we might have done years ago.  From a metrics point of view, everybody cares about money don’t they? So it's always revenue and leads first and foremost, then we start to look more at the traffic. If we don't feel like things are going well necessarily with campaigns, then we check the bounce rate on a landing page from ads. We also check if the time on site is really poor. Then we can start working from there.  We've actually found that, particularly with paid campaigns, heat mapping has been a really good addition to bring in and tell if the ad landing pages are too long and where they can be optimized. Greg: How would you recommend brands create buzz around new products? Laura: If you're able to send your product out to people to review and feature, that's a really good way of getting publicity. Obviously a lot of influencers charge, so you need to have a budget in mind and be mindful of who you can afford to have promote your product.  I'm a big fan of the micro-influencer side of things—or really “specialist influencers.” If you've got a tech product, for instance, there are a lot of TikTok reviewers that only review tech and they can get millions of views per video. Some of them are actually very happy to just receive product as compensation. It takes a bit of research and time to look through and find those accounts, which of course is the thing that we don't have enough of.  General journalists are great as well. They often send out requests when they're looking for specific products or features. There's a tool you can purchase called Response Source that puts requests straight into your inbox and saves some of the legwork. HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a really good free version of that same type of tool. Twitter is another great way to get in touch with journalists. Many journalists just post on Twitter what they're looking for, and a lot of them actually have their email details on Twitter as well. It's just about digging through and finding the right person that's relevant to what you're after. Greg: Diving a bit more into social promotion—what's the state of things as you've seen them playing out right now? What are the best platforms and which are lagging? Laura: It's a bit of a mess, actually. Facebook's dwindling in influence for a lot of industries. The tracking prevention really hit them hard and it's made it difficult for users to know what's going on. Then from a management perspective, they're changing a lot on the back end. Rebranding to Meta, merging Instagram into the same kind of user interface as TikTok. They’re changing and moving a lot of things, but also the cost per click just isn't as strong as it used to be. They're actually tailoring on to be quite expensive what you get for what you're getting. I've never been the biggest fan of Meta’s platforms because they're targeting so broad. It's difficult to nail down a really strict demographic on those ads, compared to LinkedIn where it’s so easy to do. Even TikTok's quite good at nailing down a strict demographic.  [tip]Learn how to retarget your best customers using Facebook's conversions API.[/tip] Pinterest is coming back again—there does seem to be more buzz there and the cost per click there is decent. Again, like TikTok, Pinterest is great for ecommerce because we can drive buyers straight through from a post to buying a product. But TikTok is just driving everything.  If you’re working with user-generated content on TikTok, you can actually request the influencer send you a spark code so you can create paid ads of their TikTok video. Since you pay for it, the video is in your ad account, but the ad shows that it's coming from that user which makes it look a lot more organic. We're seeing a lot of big brands doing that rather than it coming directly from the brand’s page. I think that's a really cool approach to take. The influencer can license it to you for a year at a time so you can have that asset for a while as well. Greg: If a brand is working with influencers on any platform, what do you recommend for strategies they should try? Laura: Make sure you get ownership of everything and clear the ability to use content in any videos or imagery that you want. Don't forget that influencer content can go on your website, in your email marketing, organic social, paid social—you want to use it as much as possible so that you're getting your money's worth. We always recommend that people write that in when they're doing their agreements with influencers.  I'd also not be fooled by follower numbers. Look at the engagement people are getting rather than how many people follow them. Because you quite often find that the bigger the following, the smaller the engagement. I'm also not a huge fan of influencers where every other post is a #ad. It makes it feel like the food's not authentic. Again, it's really down to research and spending hours trawling through social media to find the right kind of people to go after. Greg: You mentioned a few times how iOS hit a lot of promotion methods hard and really changed the whole landscape. How have you seen different brands adjusting to post-iOS, cookieless marketing? Laura: A lot of them have just had to go broader with their targeting. People have just had to go big with their audiences, but then also go quite heavy on retargeting from that.  Some of the funnels we've started working with is we'll get a video and then we'll target that video quite broadly and then do a retargeting channel that hits people who engaged with that video. So then you kind of self-refine everything because a lot of the really small user groups and audiences you can't target right away anymore.  Using your web metrics and retargeting from website visits is important as well. The way things are now you have to do that broad segment first to get your data in then filter it down.  [tip]Combat tracking prevention and preserve customer insights by using first-party data.[/tip] Greg: What's something you see digital marketers get wrong all the time about PR? Laura: Sometimes people just go too broad. It's very much a “throw it and see what sticks” approach. Links are brilliant for SEO. We know that links are a core part of the algorithm and I'd be highly surprised if they ever disappeared from the algorithm. But how we could build links ten or so years ago—where you could put a link about puppies on a website about shoes—we can't do that anymore. We need to be a bit more specific about what our brand is about and what's related to them, then find the best sites for it.  Your national press and your local press are always going to be in that mix because they are the trusted sites. They have a good Domain Authority (DA) or Trust Flow, whichever you use, and they have a good audience in them. So it's fine targeting those, but if your company has nothing to do with music and then you're suddenly trying to get loads of links on music websites, the relevance just isn't there. That's one of the biggest mistakes, brands who look at trying to get loads and loads of links anywhere they can, rather than focusing on the quality and the relevance of those links to the brand. Greg: It's similar to the influencer strategy—you want to pick something that's really relevant to your product and your message versus, like you said, putting it on something that's completely irrelevant because it has a high DA. Laura: 100%. You see it too often. I’ll say as well—we know controversy gets coverage, but just make sure you're not crossing a line and always bearing in mind your brand's reputation.  There are instances where a brand has pieces that have gotten them so much coverage, but actually the message that's coming across isn't necessarily the most ethical message or the best for that brand.  It's such a tough line because journalists are getting hundreds and hundreds of emails every day and you want to stand out in the inbox. Greg: When you see a brand bootstrapping their own PR, do you have any advice for them to get started? Laura: Surveying customers is always quite good because it's data that you've got ready waiting from your own customer base. Find out the pain points for your customers and answer some questions around that. If you're an HR company, for example, you might want to ask, “on average, how many sick days are employees taking a month?” Then you can spin that into stories, especially if you put a financial angle on it.  Staying with that example, for instance, say if employees on average were taking three sick days a month, you could then work out what the average cost a year is to that business from sick pay. Then it kind of spins the story out of itself because it's usually quite a shocking figure. So use the data that you have, first and foremost. Sign up for the HAROs and things like that where you get the free journalist inquiries into your inbox, and don't be afraid to be a bit creative. Canva is a fantastic tool. There's a free version of it and you can make really professional-looking graphics from it. I'm not a designer by any stretch, but things that I've made on Canva have been in the national press in the UK.  I also like to look at what the press is covering. Obviously, cost of living is a huge discussion point globally at the moment. So if you've got an angle on that and it’s going to be slightly different to what others are saying, push it out. We've just done one for a client of ours about what the most expensive appliances in your home were. We worked out how much these items cost per hour and how much that was costing you a year to use them. That got picked up quite broadly throughout national press in the UK. If you can make it relatable and factual and add your numbers, there's a really good chance of it getting picked up. Nothing in that piece I did cost any money to get that information together other than time. Greg: Right. The journalist wants to write about it because they know they'll get someone to read it. Then you're getting your promotion in there really by just offering valuable information. Laura: Yeah, and sometimes it's less about you and your business and more about the advice or information that you’ve given. I'd say the core exception to that is if you have a really quirky product, then that in itself can get the press coverage because it's just so out there that people want to read about it because it's fun. That's a scenario when you can be really “me, me, me” with it.  Outside that, you'll be the credit for the information or the quote in there rather than the whole piece be about you. I think gone are the days where the press care about this company celebrating 20 years or we've just bought this MD in. Unless you're a giant-sized company, of course. Greg: That’s again similar to the SEO strategy where you want to provide value and information so people intially come to find you as a resource, engage with your brand, and then learn more about your product. Laura: 100%. It's a really nice, soft intro for people to who you are and what you do. I mean, the piece we just did about the cost of appliances in your home was actually for a homeware client. So it was super relevant to what they actually sell and it just keeps them top of mind for customers. There's definitely times we've seen, in the analytics, straight referral revenue from PR pieces. That's such a good feeling when you see that. Greg: What's the advantage of bringing on an agency versus doing it all? When would a brand know it’s time to say, “all right, I'm ready to bring an agency on board?” Laura: I think the truth is the biggest benefit is time. Time and also contacts. If we've been working with journalists before, we’ve built up a rapport with them already. So it makes it makes it slightly more likely that you might get the coverage—as long as it's still relevant to that journalist of course. Then just the time saved in researching new media lists, overseeing the data, making creative assets, making press releases and emails—it can get quite time-consuming and I 100% appreciate that a lot of business owners don't have that time to sit down and do it.  When to bring in an agency is a tough one because a lot of people jump the gun too soon and want to get the agency when they don't have the logistics in order or their customer department and things like that. So I think I think you need to get your house in order fast, make sure that you can fulfill anything that comes through, and that if you're B2B, you've got your sales pipeline and structure in place so that you are chasing up leads quickly when they come in and staying on top of them. Because the last thing you want is to be driving traffic and potential customers and then have the conversions from it end up slim.  Once you have your house in order and you're ready to take that next step to get some coverage out there or you've got something you want to talk about, then I think it's a good time to engage with an agency. Greg: Right—get the infrastructure ready before just trying to scale right away without a structure and plan in place. Laura: 100%. It can be as simple as making sure you've got some reviews on your products beforehand. That's a trust factor and people are more likely to buy when they see it. Also, make sure you're not just sending people to a Gmail address for contact.  It can be such little nuanced things like that which can make a huge difference for conversion and trust. Even if you’re just running your business out of your bedroom, you can definitely make it look like you’re not. Greg: Is there anything on the horizon for Sweet Digital that you wanted to share? Laura: Our marriage with Cube is obviously a big one for us internally. New processes and new team members, which has been really exciting for us.  Then, just keep doing good work. Keep going, keep doing, keep keeping clients happy. Keep doing some really good work and keep building. We've signed some really cool new clients recently which we're excited to get stuck into—from smartwatches to recruitment and things. So I'm quite excited to get into those and just start going. Quick links: Lunch with Littledata: Mapping the evolution of subscriptions with AwtomicSix reasons to start using Meta’s Conversions API nowGet the DTC guide to subscription analyticsLunch with Littledata: Can an agency like Blend help multiply your revenue?

by Greg

Lunch with Littledata: Mapping the evolution of subscriptions with Awtomic

Subscription ecommerce is evolving more rapidly now than ever before—thanks in large part to the boom in subscription sellers. As with any rising new industry, though, some things are still a work in progress. The future of subscription ecommerce is no doubt bright, but many new brands still face similar issues. Whether it's costly construction for customer portals, poor tools for subscription management, or blind spots in critical analytics, jumping these roadblocks is a key first step on the road to subscription success. To explore how brands can make that leap and build a great subscription store, as well as how the subscription industry has grown and where it should aim to go, we spoke with Emily Yuhas, CEO and Founder of ecommerce subscription platform Awtomic. She shares how to set your store up for success from the start, gives her thoughts on the industry's growth and future, and explains why diving deep into data is a must for any subscription seller. Greg from Littledata: What's the story of Awtomic? Emily Yuhas: My sister has a brand where she sells body products on Shopify. Over the years, I had multiple conversations with her about what could be better about her process and how I could help. One thing that kept coming up was how frustrated she was with her subscription app—and not only from a usability standpoint. So I audited the most effective methods that top premium subscription brands were using and the reasons that their programs had been so successful. When I looked into how I would actually implement them for her brand, I realized that there wasn't a good solution. The only solution really was to hire a developer to build it all custom. That was surprising to me because a lot of the methods I’d seen really working—things like progressive discounts or personalized bundles, really easy customer portal experiences—those are pretty common. I realized each one of the companies that I’d seen using those had to reinvent the wheel and basically build things from scratch. That's what got me really excited when creating Awtomic—building those features into a platform that goes beyond "subscribe and save" and actually delivers really easy-to-use experiences for merchants and customers out of the box. It allows our users to focus on their brand while we go out and do the research on what the most important tools are for subscription ecommerce. Then we make those easily available and constantly evolve as a platform to support our brands that way. Greg: There are a huge number of new subscription services that likely have similar issues to your sister too thanks to the recent DTC boom. What has it been like for you to see that growth and have brands adopt your product? Emily: Overall it’s really exciting. It goes to show how many merchants want to offer subscriptions because it's such an effective way to build that recurring revenue to really create a community and relationships with your customers. I think it's also really interesting to reflect on how far we’ve come. Just a few years ago, subscriptions felt kind of scammy. If you think back even, say, five years ago—you have a lot of people who had a visceral reaction of, ‘Oh, I didn't know I was signing up for a subscription. And then I got charged again. And then I had to call and stay on the phone for an hour to cancel. And then I had to cancel my credit card.’ That's just terrible, right? We've come a long way from that in a short amount of time. Now, there's a lot more transparency—a lot more consumer trust. Subscriptions are becoming accepted as a great way to automate purchases of products that you love. I think that's reflected in the growth of subscription services, the growth of merchants that want to offer subscriptions, and the overall growth of consumers who want to purchase subscriptions. So it's a really exciting space. What I constantly see when I look at the industry is how early we still are in it. When you compare the scammy days to where we are now, and then look forward to what it can become, we're still not at a place where subscriptions are actually the most convenient way necessarily to purchase products—but they really should be. I think there's a huge amount of opportunity to make it a lot easier for people to purchase the products that they use every day. “We're still not at a place where subscriptions are actually the most convenient way necessarily to purchase products—but they really should be.” Greg: How should stores go about adding subscription selling—or improving their current subscription offering? Emily: I think that a lot of merchants, when they add subscriptions, do it almost as an afterthought. They add the “subscribe and save” option and then just leave it at that. There's so much benefit to be had from starting from the point of thinking about your consumers and how they're going to use your product. Do customer interviews. Look at historical orders. Understand things like how often customers get refills of your products. Ask yourself “Which of my products work best for subscriptions?” Not every product in your store is a sure-fire fit. Think about things from your business’ perspective, as well. Ask “how many items do I need to sell together to reduce shipping costs?” I think those thought processes combined can build a really great subscription program. A lot of times we come at things from a very transactional view and think about how we can drive more sales now. Instead, make that mental shift to consider the long-term relationship with a customer. You don't want a customer who's going to subscribe every week and then cancel after three weeks because they have too many items in their drawer. You want to find the customer who subscribes closer to every month and a half (or whatever their exact usage is) and stays for years. If you get buyers to the point where they're actually getting your product when they want it and when they need it, that's when they retain and you build that long-term relationship. Greg: Awtomic offers a handful of advanced features. Can you recommend any that help merchants with customization that works better for their consumers? Emily: Absolutely. We’re really excited about our build-a-box feature. It's something that was a huge gap in the market—being able to sell a customized box of products and then make it easy for customers to manage it on an ongoing basis. A lot of times you’d see personalization on purchase, but then the buyer is stuck with that selection going forward and it’s difficult to make changes. We focused on making that feature a really seamless experience with our app and we found that it works across a lot of verticals. We see it work really well with pets, household, beauty, drinks, or meal services. But what's really great about it is it's an example of a feature that works for both consumers and merchants and makes that relationship stronger. Greg: Right. It helps subscribers get the exact products they want delivered via their subscription instead of thinking it's easier to just go to the store and buy individual items. Emily: Absolutely. We have some brands that come to us who have either had something like this in the past or know they need to offer it. But we also have a lot of brands who have been direct to consumer for many years and introduce it because it's part of our platform, which we love. It's just so easy. It's not something they have to go seek out and do custom development for. There was one case where I did a strategy session with a brand that had never considered doing this before. We set it up for her within a few minutes and that week I saw her average order value go from around $8 to around $30. It was just bonkers to see that happen so quickly all because it was something that resonated really well with her customers. They didn't mind purchasing in larger quantities and she gave them a bit of a discount for that. Ultimately, it's much better for her operationally and for her buyers. [tip]Learn three tactics that can help better your subscription sales.[/tip] Greg: Are there any other subscription selling strategies you've seen stand out? Emily: I would say the most important thing that still gets overlooked is transparency and flexibility. There's a reason that you see a lot of sites say “cancel any time” or “skip or pause when you want to” because that's really important for consumers. I’ve experienced it as a subscription enthusiast with products that I personally love. There's just a reality that sometimes we go on vacation or forget to use everything we got in a shipment—things that are part of life. It's frustrating when I can't go in and just say, “I don't need this right now.” Maybe my situation has changed and I want to change the thing that I'm subscribed to. Maybe I just want a new scent of soap. Whatever it is, I should be able to do those things quickly and easily. It's still the case with so many subscriptions that I'm on that I try to go manage them and I can't even get into my account. Then when I finally get there, there's no pause button. "Your subscribers are a special class of customers and they should be treated that way." Those are the things that drive me nuts as a consumer and they make me feel negatively about a brand, which is such a shame because it's a brand that I've already decided that I love. I think if you do nothing else, transparency and flexibility are the most important thing. I'm also a huge believer in subscriptions as memberships. Your subscribers are a special class of customers and they should be treated that way. Brands that really lean into that end up retaining their customers longer. That can mean anything from giving subscribers exclusive access to upcoming products to special discounts across the store. I think it's really cool when brands are mission-driven as well. We work with coffee companies who source from very specific communities and they can share more about the people in the communities with their subscribers as special content, maybe even live videos. As we come out of the pandemic, you could even think about potentially organizing live events for your subscribers. There's just so much opportunity to engage your subscriber community—these people who have already expressed that they really like your products and your brand. The more brands think about their subscribers as long-term relationships that they want to maintain, the more successful they'll be. Greg: Does that approach help with lifetime value as well? Emily: Absolutely. I think it helps with conversion, too, because buyers see if they subscribe to a product, they’re not just going to get a 10% discount. They’re going to become a member of this community and get all these other perks. Wine clubs have been doing this for a long time. If you're a wine club member, you get your shipment, but you also get free tastings when you come to the winery and you get treated like a VIP. You can book tables where others can't. You might get access to special dinners and other events. You can go visit other wineries associated with the one you joined. It’s a great model that's been around for a long time that can apply to almost any brand really. Greg: How important is data in subscription selling—and to your users specifically? Emily: Data is very important for subscription selling. Our users that are most successful with subscriptions care most about their data. It's only going to become more important as brands need to lean into subscriptions and recurring revenue. As we see marketing costs and cost of acquisition going way up, the reality is that subscriptions can absolutely be optimized. And like I said, a lot of folks come into it, just throw up the “subscribe and save” option and move on. But if you really start looking at the data, you can start to understand what products perform the best as subscriptions. You can even see what products are good ones to be added to subscriptions, even if they're just one-time add-ons. You’ll see what frequencies perform best. If your customers are subscribed monthly, you’ll see if they end up having a higher LTV. You’ll understand why people are canceling. Some of the most successful brands we work with will actually call their customers and ask them for a cancellation reason and how they could have been better. Data helps you deeply understand why people are canceling and what products people buy together. Could those be sold as bundles and increase AOV? You'll understand what discount incentives resonate with people. On our platform, you can easily even run experiments where you try different discounts and see if that impacts your conversion rate. You can see how people are engaging with your customer portal. Are they skipping often? Are they ordering now or are they swapping their products a lot? What are they swapping to? All of these things are data points that merchants really should be looking at on a regular basis. Understanding their customers' behavior and understanding the performance of their subscriptions will help them make their subscription program much stronger. Those who do see their proportion of subscribing customers go up. Ultimately, as soon as you get someone to a subscription, their lifetime value increases significantly. Greg: Do you see your users taking that data and creating personas of their top buyers and then retargeting them? Emily: I do. I think there's so much opportunity to do this specifically with subscribers. I would say it's actually really surprised me. We often do strategy sessions with our customers. One thing we talk about right off the bat is thinking about your marketing, messaging, and how you can target subscribers specifically. A lot of brands have that one lazy subscription option on and just continue marketing as if they're marketing one-time. But really understanding “who are the customers who become subscribers? How do I target them? What are the personas within?” That’s a really valuable way to increase subscriptions. For brands who do that, subscriptions pretty quickly become a really primary part of their offering. [tip]Profile and target leads that match your best customers using Facebook's Conversions API to run dynamic ads.[/tip] Greg: Right. It's understanding the difference in kinds of customers to find out, like you said, people who are going to stick around, who are looking for that membership, who are looking to get a product on a regular basis and are willing to pay for a subscription. Emily: Yeah, absolutely. I've started to see some behavior differences even in the types of products some of our brands will offer. Things like a discovery box or some kind of one-time purchase that indicates that the person is interested in trying something with the idea of potentially becoming a subscriber. Those are lead-ins to subscriptions that help identify different types of customers for you. Greg: Are there any specific metrics that your users look to the most? Emily: I would say the top-level metrics that people look at are overall subscriptions, number of buyers active/paused/canceled, involuntary churn, voluntary churn, revenue from subscriptions, and average order value. But again, I think there's so much opportunity to go deeper here. Those brands that do go deeper, they look using things like retention by cohort. That's a huge one to look at. It helps people understand which customers are retaining, what they did, and why they stayed. Being able to look at retention by product, buy by frequency—understanding how these things actually impact customers’ behavior and longevity. Looking at product performance, not only with subscription but which products pair well together for subscription or as one-time add-ons. Understanding cancellation rates and why people are canceling.Going deeper into the voluntary and involuntary churn. Our platform has a lot of advanced functionality around reducing involuntary churn. We actually give merchants some tooling to experiment there with different numbers and intervals of reach-out attempts via SMS. So there's a lot of optimization to be done there. Also, again, cancellation reasons give merchants the ability to constantly evolve as they get that feedback. Another area is discounts and incentives. There's the basic "subscribe and save 10%," but you can go so much further than that. You can reward people for a number of products that they have in their subscription. You could reward people for longevity on the platform or how many people they've referred. I think all of these things are metrics that merchants can watch as they play with the different settings and experiments and get feedback from customers. [tip]Go deeper on your data with the ultimate guide to subscription analytics.[/tip] Greg: Are there major challenges that you see facing a lot of subscription sellers right now or down the road that they need to be aware of? Emily: A big one we already discussed is that we can't just rely on that simple subscribe and save discount to convert and retain people anymore. That's a very basic level entry point and it's not going to be the thing that keeps people long-term. What I see is this lean into changing your mindset around not really thinking of these as transactional relationships, but thinking of them as long-term relationships and really building community and depth in that relationship. That's what will set the brands apart. That will end up really winning this game. Greg: You mentioned the lack of a development team in the beginning as a blocker for some subscription sellers. Do you have any thoughts on the impact of the no-code movement and how it could affect the future of ecommerce apps like yours? Emily: I think overall it's a really positive thing. In the past ecommerce brands have had to kind of be half ecommerce and half tech company. That just doesn't make sense. Development costs are extremely high. To have engineers on staff is incredibly expensive. What's so great about Shopify and a lot of the no-code solutions out there, including Awtomic, is that they make it so that you don't need developers, but you can still get a lot of the same power, capability, and even flexibility. It gives you the ability to still express your brand and uniqueness, but not have to be in the deep plumbing of how everything pipes through to orders and fulfillment and inventory. I think our app and other no-code apps on Shopify make it so that you don't need to invest in custom solutions when they shouldn't need to be custom. That, I think, will have a big impact on which brands win as well. Actually, there's been a really interesting trend I've been seeing where larger brands that already have custom solutions are looking for how they can get off those solutions and onto apps and platforms that will do it for them because of the platform benefits they would get. In a sense, it's free development. They don't have to constantly invest in development costs themselves and maintenance. They also get flexibility from the platform as apps like Awtomic continuously do research and invest in improving the capabilities they get to unlock as they come online. They don't have to have someone on their team go out and do the research, go design, go build with a team, maintain the thing forever, constantly change it, and have that lack of flexibility. They actually get more flexibility from being part of a platform. I think ultimately the no-code movement's most impactful effect is empowering ecommerce brands to focus on the things that they want to do and do best without having to effectively become tech companies to be able to offer those functionalities. Greg: Is there anything on the horizon for Awtomic that you'd like to share? Emily: We're always thinking about how can we really deepen relationships between merchants and their consumers. So, we're working a lot on bridging the gap between what it means to be a subscriber and what it means to be a member. Of course, we’re also leaning into a lot of the features that differentiate us already, like our build-a-box and helping merchants sell more and become more operationally optimized. We’re really working to make the consumer experience as powerful and easy to use as possible. I think that's something that's really unique about our team. We come from a user experience and tech background, so from the beginning, we focused a lot on the ease of access and usability of our portal. Constantly moving the needle on making our app experience really delightful is so important to us. Quick Links: Littledata and Awtomic join forces to elevate subscription ecommerce management 4 tips for creating a powerful subscription experience Lunch with Littledata: How to take a Smartrr approach to subscriptions 3 ways to better your subscription sales How to win with subscription selling on BigCommerce

by Greg

Lunch with Littledata: Jumping into GA4 with Google Analytics Expert Krista Seiden

The rise of Google Analytics 4, the newest version of the world’s most popular analytics service, is predictably a very big deal in the world of data. As we move full steam ahead toward a cookie-less future and leave third-party data behind, Google has revamped its Analytics service to give users both a new look and new tools to check on the health of their businesses. Changes as big as this, though, always come with a learning curve. That’s when it helps to have an expert that can smooth the transition. In this edition of Lunch with Littledata, I spoke with KS Digital founder and former Evangelist for Google Analytics at Google, Krista Seiden about what GA users can expect from GA4, which reports come out of the box and which require more effort to build, and what to do to set yourself up for success starting today. [tip]Not sure what GA4 has in store? See our top 10 reasons to make the switch.[/tip] Edward from Littledata: You're obviously a well-known evangelist for Google Analytics (GA). Could you tell me a bit about how you got into the world of analytics? Krista Seiden: I like to consider my journey into analytics a bit of an accident (laughs). I was working at Adobe Systems way back in 2009 when my happy accident started. One of my responsibilities as a business analyst was to put together a monthly dashboard for the CEO, which included about 30 different metrics from around the business unit. I had to email probably 30 different people every month to get these metrics and put them together. It was very old school. And I realized that probably about half of the metrics I was collecting every month actually came from Omniture, which was their analytics solution at the time. I thought, “Well, this is silly. Why am I emailing all these people?” So I went to the web analytics team and said, “Hey, just teach me how to do this.” I spent some time with them and I learned how to pull the data myself. That was really helpful. Then Adobe bought Omniture, and all of a sudden all of that training that they had—which is generally really expensive—was available for free. So I thought, “Sweet. I'm going to learn all of this in more detail so I can be more useful in my current job.” And then as time went on, my job evolved and they asked me to just take on Web Analytics full time. So it was, I like to say, a happy accident because it kind of evolved into that new position, but it also just sparked from my interest in trying to make things more efficient and not have to bother everyone. So I spent some time at Adobe doing analytics, then I went to the Apollo Group and did analytics there using the free version of GA on a site that had millions and millions of users. This was predating even GA premium, so it was awful sampling. It was a horrible experience. I had to figure out all sorts of hacks and ways to try to make the data more usable. Just as I was onboarding Omniture there, I was tapped by Google to come run analytics and optimization for what's now the Google Cloud Group, what was then the Google Apps Group. Edward: Speaking of GA, I wanted to talk specifically about GA4 which is just launching. Now that its arrival has been officially announced and it's out of beta, do you think it’s ready for a high scale brand to use as their primary analytics tool? Krista: That's a good question. I think the answer is going to depend on who you ask. If you ask Google, they're going to say yes, it’s fully ready. If you ask somebody outside of Google, depending on their love or hate relationship with it, you will get a varying degree of answers. From where I stand, I think the answer is yes—but I think the answer is yes because Universal Analytics has a deprecation date (July 1, 2023). You don't really have a choice at this point, you need to start migrating (to GA4). For big companies especially, if you're going to need year-over-year data, you need to have GA4 set up and collecting data properly before the end of June 2022. That being said, there are features that are still missing, especially when it comes to ecommerce. We don't have our item scope custom dimensions yet, which is definitely a big problem for a lot of big ecommerce clients. There are ways that you can use other available dimensions to kind of fill that gap for now. It’s not the best, certainly. There are other features that are missing. But there's also a long roadmap and I'm pretty comfortable with where that roadmap is going in terms of the end product of what GA4 will eventually look like when a lot of that has rolled out. I think it's made a lot of progress in the last six months in particular, and it's a lot more ready now than it was not that long ago. [tip]See 10 benefits you can get from making the move to GA4 now[/tip] Edward: I do understand Google's dilemma that they want to sunset UA, but they simply can't launch everything now—there are a lot of features to build out. How are you advising brands go about making the transition to GA4? Is it about double-tracking using UA and GA4 for now? Krista: I think the narrative for the past year and a half has really been let's dual tag, get GA4 set up, start collecting historical data, and start getting used to it. My business, KS Digital, has stopped doing any sort of UA work. We actually stopped at the beginning of 2022, so we haven't taken on any new UA-specific clients since late last year. Our offerings now, when people come to us, are around getting them set up with a solution design and implementation for GA4. We’ll look at their UA data and maybe do a lightweight audit so that we at least have an understanding of what they're collecting, how they're doing it, and what we may be able to carry forward. But we're not really advising on UA anymore. That being said, I do still think dual tagging is a good idea if you are a current UA user and I will continue to recommend that all the way through the sunset. I think it's important to have that side by side, although I do also think it leads to a bit too much of a reliance on UA when people do need to start transitioning to GA4. So it's a little bit of a battle there, but I think it's important for data continuity. Edward: Yes, because the data collection migration has got to happen first, but then people have got to move over the reporting dependence. Krista: Yep. Edward: What are the biggest unexpected challenges you've seen with established brands who are transitioning to GA4? Krista: There are obviously some feature gaps and those have been challenges. But I think the biggest challenge is really just the mindset—getting people used to a brand new tool. GA4 looks and feels very different. You might log in and look at any of the reports that are out of the box and you see this very ugly scatterplot and you're like, “What am I supposed to do with this?” I think a lot of people don't fully realize what they can do with GA4. So, for example, you can completely customize the UI. You can change the visuals. You can add or remove reports that are important to you. You can organize them any way you want. You could never do that in UA—so you can really make GA4 your own. I think that's going to be really important to help people get more comfortable and want to move over. But I think the biggest hindrance is really just a lack of training, a lack of knowing what to do with the product, and just a bit of fear over that unknown. Edward: It’s deceptive because the UI looks very similar at first glance. But then when you start digging, you realize there’s a lot of stuff that’s very different. Krista: (laughs) Yeah. Edward: As you said earlier, obviously there are some feature gaps, particularly around e-commerce. A lot of the out-of-the-box ecommerce reports are missing. For us, the most obvious gaps are around the shopping behavior funnel and checkout completion funnel. But they also exist around the product level analysis which, as you say, is blocked by the lack of item scope dimensions. Are you seeing brands able to replicate some of those using the explorations module? Krista: Yes. So I have several large ecommerce clients that are working on GA4 and we have replicated a lot of those reports within Explorations. The nice thing about that is you actually get to be a lot more specific about what you want in those funnel reports. You can break them down, you can add multiple segments side by side. You can do things like showing the elapsed time between steps or making it an open and closed funnel. So I do think there are actually a lot of benefits to doing that way, but it’s more work to set it up out of the box. “The nice thing about (GA4’s Explorations feature) is you actually get to be a lot more specific about what you want in those funnel reports. You can break them down, you can add multiple segments side by side. there are actually a lot of benefits to (creating reports) that way, but it’s more work to set it up out of the box.” And because of the way that the Explorations permissions work right now, it's very frustrating. You can't actually share access to a report. You can share the report, but then somebody has to make a copy of it and edit it to make it their own. You can't have a shared report that anybody can, for example, change the date on or add a segment to. I think that that's limiting, so I'm hopeful that those permissions will change and become more friendly over time. Edward: Yeah, because the other thing that’s obviously lacking is any ability to share report templates. As ecommerce specialists, we have to build ecommerce template reports. Can you see Google opening up the template galleries to third parties? Or was their Custom Report Gallery not seen as a success? Krista: I don't know that they didn't see the Custom Report Gallery as a success. I don't think it was really top of mind for them. I hope that there will be some sort of a template gallery for Explorations. I think that as more and more people move to GA4 and see that they have to do a lot more in Explorations, that demand will bubble up. I guess we'll see, but I'm hopeful that we will see something like that. Edward: I think it would be a solution because as you say, the problem is not that you can't build analysis reports. The problem is that it just takes some analytics knowledge to build the report. Krista: And you can't do the same type of funnel visuals within Google Data Studio, for example, where you could ship that template because it doesn't have the same processing due to how data studio gets that data from the API. So it's not easily replicable in a shareable fashion. Edward: What about GA4’s connection with Google Ads? How do you think getting accurate data in GA4 helps brands make the most of Google Ads? Krista: I think it's similar to how brands are utilizing Universal Analytics with Google ads, right? It's that conversion data—so goals in UA or conversions in GA4. Then with Google Ads, you can link those conversions and optimize your campaigns that way. I think one of the hidden benefits that maybe isn’t very well known within GA4 is that conversion data is now essentially calculated based on data-driven attribution for everyone. So you can actually change that model and choose what you want if you don't want data-driven. But if you think data-driven is a good model for you, then your ads are now bidding to conversions that are based on that. So that's a difference, but it depends on how impactful that really is for your business. Other than that, I think GA4 operates pretty similarly to UA. [tip]Move your ad strategy to first-party data solutions all around by running dynamic Facebook ads with the new Conversions API.[/tip] Edward: That’s interesting. I see data-driven attribution as one of the big perks of GA4 because it was previously a GA 360-limited feature that is now available for all. So what you're saying is that not only can you run the data-driven attribution within GA4, but you can basically do that within Google ads as well? Krista: Using your conversions right from GA4, if those conversions are being calculated using data-driven attribution, then that will flow through to Google ads. Edward: Cynically, one of the problems we come against is brands whose agencies want to see the conversions directly in Google Ads. Because the attribution model is more greedy, and obviously from the agency's point of view, it makes their campaigns look better (laughs). Krista: Yeah, I've always wanted to say absolutely not. My conversions will be based on GA—but to each their own. Edward: The other big advantage for GA4—which gets our bigger customers excited—is the BigQuery sync or the “ensemble data export.” The question there is, do you think that will be a “free forever” feature? Because that was previously a big plus of upgrading to GA 360. Krista: I do think it'll be a “free forever” feature. However, in the past couple of months, Google has started to enforce the data limits of the free export. I think that limit is a million per day. So if you go over, then that's probably an upgrading type path for you. Honestly, if you have that much data, there are probably other reasons why you might want to upgrade as well. But I do think it'll be free forever. That's one of the big value props of GA4, that everybody now has access to this raw end data. Edward: Yeah. As you say, it's really just that they're just enforcing what was already consistent with regards to volume. Krista: Mm-hmm. But they have actually released the ability to filter the data that you export into BigQuery. So even if you are going over that limit, you can choose what data you want to export to stay under that limit. I think that's actually a really nice additional feature there that helps to make that BigQuery export continually usable, even for businesses with high volume. Edward: Are there any other big features we haven't talked about that you think would be beneficial to an e-commerce brand that made the switch? Krista: Yeah, one feature that I love that's actually beneficial to all types of businesses is enhanced measurement. I love enhanced measurement because out of the box, it's six additional events (well, five if you don’t count page views) that are just collected on your behalf if you allow Google to do it, and you can toggle them on or off. In my opinion, it really helps to democratize data because a lot of businesses were not going to have the resources or the time or effort to be able to go add those types of events. And now they're just going to get them out of the box, which gives them a lot more insight into what's going on on their sites. “I love enhanced measurement because out of the box, it's six additional events that are just collected on your behalf… it really helps to democratize data because a lot of businesses were not going to have the resources or the time or effort to be able to go add those types of events.” Edward: Back in the day when we were doing Google Tag Manager setups, these metrics used to be on the standard list of stuff that you’d say the brand could invest in for enhanced tracking, but it was all manual steps to do so. So it's nice that it's out of the box. Krista: Totally. Edward: Is there anything else you think might be interesting for our audience to know? Krista: Just one word of wisdom, really a warning to people—you're going to need to figure out how to save your historical data. Google said that at least six months after the deprecation date, views will still be available to look at. But after that point, access to them is going to go away. So you won't have access to that historical data after potentially January 1st, 2024. That means brands need to think about how they're going to export their data from Universal Analytics and keep that historical data. It is possible, and there are a lot of ways to do it. I think there's a big business opportunity. We're going to see a lot of new businesses going into this space here. We may see some helpful tools from Google as well. Who knows? But I think that's something to just keep in mind as we get closer to that deprecation date. Edward: I totally agree. I was recently chatting with a customer about the ways to do it. Ultimately it boils down to what analysis you’ll want to do with that data. Because using the reporting API, you can’t export every historical event. You need to decide ahead of time what you want to compare. I told the customer that ultimately you're going to want to do some kind of historical analysis, maybe year-on-year type comparisons. What’s tricky is, as you say, either businesses have got to take a greedy approach and export as much as possible before the close-off or really decide what they're going to want to compare after it. Krista: Yeah. I think for most of my customers, I'll probably recommend a simpler route where we narrow down what their key reporting metrics are (or have been) and focus on exporting those. The sooner you get GA4 set up, the more historical data you'll have there. I've been running GA4 for about three years now. But obviously, not everybody is. If you get it set up before June of this year, though, you'll have your historical data. Edward: Which for most brands is good enough. Krista: Right. There are some brands that want more. But realistically, how often are you actually looking back at that data from five years ago? Not very often. If you are, it's looking at very high-level metrics like how many users or sessions or page views you had and what you’re at now. Edward: Most brands I know have changed the tracking implementation multiple times within that five years. So it's not really valid to look back that far. Krista: Yeah. I think it's more of a shock factor that you're losing access to the data rather than something that people actually need and use all that often. Edward: To wrap up on something we discussed at the very beginning—as you say, the investment brands need to make in GA4 is more in learning how to use this new tool. Are there other particularly good resources you’d recommend for people to learn about how to build their reports? Krista: Yeah, I think there are a lot of great blog posts out there from so many different people in the analytics community. Selfishly, I'll say I have some great GA4 courses from KS Digital. My students have been very happy. You get to learn directly from me and they include live Slack access and office hours. So it's not just video learning but direct interaction where I'll answer all your tough GA4 questions. Google has some resources and there are other great courses out there as well. I've always learned so much just from following blogs and social media on the topic. Quick links: Get ready for the rise of Google Analytics 4 and sunsetting of Universal Analytics Learn why data is critical to your DTC growth strategy See We Make Websites ideal headless tech stack, featuring Littledata’s Google Analytics connector Read 10 benefits you can enjoy when you make the move to GA4 Use our complementary instant order checker for GA4 to check your property


Lunch with Littledata: How to take a Smartrr approach to subscriptions

Subscription ecommerce is booming. Sales in the industry are on pace to double since 2019, and Shopify expects the global subscription market to continue to skyrocket to $246 billion in worth by 2025. In addition to enormous growth, one of the most attractive aspects of subscription selling for merchants is the dependability it provides through recurring revenue. But to win customers, retain them, and secure your piece of that giant subscription sales pie, you need to delight your customers using the right strategies. In this edition of Lunch with Littledata, we talk about how to do just that with the team that knows best—Smartrr. Founder and CEO Gabriella Yitzhaek Tegen shares the mission behind Smartrr, how to best retain customers, what the future of subscriptions holds, and how stores can leverage data to ride the subscription wave to amazing heights. Greg from Littledata: Can you tell us the Smartrr story? Gabriella from Smartrr: Before Smartrr, I was working at a commercial real estate prop-tech company. Loved it. I scaled the sales org and got to work cross-functionally with product and engineering and marketing. But when COVID hit, it just started to feel slightly unfulfilling, as you can imagine selling commercial real estate data to Fortune 500 companies might. It felt like I wasn't necessarily appreciating the opportunity that I had to make a difference in the world. Not saying that subscriptions are making a huge difference. But at the foundation (of Smartrr), we wanted to try to help small businesses impacted by COVID. Even just locally, we thought about what shops were being affected, and that kind of pivoted and grew into me interviewing founders to understand what I could learn about Shopify, BigCommerce, and all these ecommerce platforms to try to help those small businesses turn their business online. But that brought light to a larger issue—subscriptions were really cumbersome, very expensive to launch, challenging to manage, and quite archaic in how they were being processed. As a salesperson, that really intrigued me. So Smartrr started off with the idea of “Let's try to help the small businesses,” and we definitely still try to do that. But we’ve also realized that we can help really large companies with the same issues. It's kind of crazy that companies of all sizes are facing the same problem. So that's how we started building our solution. Greg: What has it been like to see the subscription boom that's been happening over the past few years? Gabriella: I mean, it's happened everywhere. Recurring billing has blown up. B2B, B2C, you even see brick and mortar shops doing a ton of recurring purchases—floral shops, grocery companies, meal delivery companies. I think it's fascinating. It's showing us that people want convenience and they want to be loyal to a brand. For a while, shopping was about having as many choices as possible, like the “Amazon model” of being able to pick one out of a thousand soaps or one out of a thousand dog foods. But now, people want that singularity. So if we can help strengthen that brand affinity, then that obviously really helps brands overall. It's been interesting to watch, for sure. Greg: For stores that want to start selling subscriptions, do you have any advice on how they should go about it? Gabriella: Oh, man, I don't know if we have enough time. I feel like the guides out there now are very one-size-fits-all. That's likely in part due to how limited the tech stack has been pre-Smartrr. Not to toot our own horn here, but a lot of these online resources say to start with things like offering multiple products with a 20 percent discount, then launch and it will grow. But in reality, we've seen that that's not how it works, right? You really have to be in touch with what your business is. What about it is subscribable? Is it the experience that you provide? Is it convenience? Is it perk-related? Is it community-related? Then build on top of that. So what you'll see is a subscription business model that's successful for a cleaning company is going to be very different than for a caviar company, and you should be aware of that. "You really have to be in touch with what your business is. What about it is subscribable? Is it the experience that you provide? Is it convenience? Is it perk-related? Is it community-related? Then build on top of that." But high-level quick tips would be definitely free shipping, which we see converting at a really strong rate. Definitely setting up the engagement with that consumer and letting them have the flexibility to manage their subscription. And definitely rewarding them when they do prove that they have brand affinity, whether it's through referring the product to their friends and family, gifting it, or just being a long-term customer of yours. Greg: Dovetailing off that a little bit—what are the most successful subscription strategies you've seen besides the high-level ones you just mentioned? Anything specific brands have done that you’ve noticed really worked for them? Gabriella: Yeah, I mean, this one's very simple, but there is a direct correlation between the brands that have really great products and great customer service also having the most successful subscription business. It's not like turning on free shipping is going to magically make you be successful. Because you might convert those customers, but you're giving up AOV by giving a discount, and then not having them retain is actually worse for your business, right? So I would say having a great product is number one. Having a community is really powerful for brands, too. We work with a lot of women’s health and beauty companies, for example, that have this community where people are not only buying the product but then engaging with like-minded women and talking about their health stories or their fertility stories. It’s similar with pet products, too. You always want to kind of like have this community of pet owners, so that has been really interesting. And then gifting has been huge for our brands. This is not really the convenience-oriented companies like cleaning supply companies, for example, but more so jewelry companies or apparel companies or fun products that are now gifting subscriptions. So terminal subscriptions that end after three months or six months have been really powerful. "There is a direct correlation between the brands that have really great products and great customer service also having the most successful subscription business." Greg: How important would you say data is for subscription selling and for Smartrr users specifically? Gabriella: Great question. I think it goes back to brands thinking it's really easy to get customers to set up subscriptions and just forget that they exist, right? Which is kind of again touching on the low bar of expectation that has been set by the existing tech stack. Now you see companies like Smartrr and like Littledata showing that by understanding your business through both micro and macro levels, you can make for a smarter subscription business… Greg: (laughs) Nice. Gabriella: But no, jokes aside, we talk to brands all the time that don't know what products are more successful in their subscription business than others. So if we talk to, let's just say, a smoothie company or a meal delivery company that has no idea if their Chicken Marsala or their Chicken Parm are liked by their consumers. So other than generic reviews that are just touching on the high-level subscription, they have no idea if it's a successful product for them. They're not looking at margin necessarily or LTV or AOV. They're not looking at churn by product or by subscription type. They don't know if a six-week delivery of product or a four-week frequency is more successful. So, having that insight into your business can, if anything, just accelerate the rate at which you perfect your subscription model. [tip]See how you can connect Smartrr with Google Analytics on your store to make smart decisions using truly accurate data.[/tip] Greg: Right. Just going back and looking at your methods, always learning and improving. Gabriella: Right, but also cutting down on the time. You could say that theoretically, with enough time, anyone can figure out what works for their business. But if we can cut down on that time, that could make or break a business. Greg: True, that's a great point. Especially for smaller bootstrapped ecommerce businesses, they don't have a lot of time to dedicate to those things. Gabriella: Exactly, exactly. And you don't have a lot of resources, right? Some of our larger brands have a data manager or an analyst. But a lot of brands, even brands, frankly, that have 10,000 or 20,000 subscribers that are using Smartrr don't have someone internally for that. So having tools that can also just simplify the data they're getting and make it more accessible for the average user has been really powerful, too. Greg: Do you see any of your users—maybe your more data-savvy users—leveraging personas at all, maybe by identifying their top buyers and then trying to retarget them? Gabriella: Yeah, that’s interesting. Like you said, it’s definitely for the more sophisticated client base. I think even just having basic information, which we provide, such as attribution around subscription is helpful. Knowing that X amount of sales came from Facebook as a channel, or that X amount came from direct traffic allows them to invest more into the channels, not just with spend but with an understanding of something like “OK, 50 percent of our business is coming from gifting.” Converting into subscribers like that is the kind of insight that has been game-changing for brands that might not be at that stage where they have the capability of understanding personas. Greg: Right, that makes sense. To make personas, you have to know your attribution and which channels are working before you can segment buyers. Gabriella: Yeah. So most commonly, our users are looking at what their top products are, both from a sales and a retention standpoint. We have a really cool retention matrix that lets them see based on cohort how products—and in general their subscription business—is doing. They're looking not only at how many subscribers they have at any given moment but also how that trend has grown or not over time. Another thing our customers look at often that we recently came out with is smart cancellation. It gives brands the ability to ask customers for specific reasons why they want to cancel a subscription. So let's say my product is flavored water, and one of the reasons a customer canceled is that they don't like their flavor. Another might be that they have too much product already. Or maybe they’re going on vacation. Now, through the Smartrr dashboard, customers are able to cancel their subscription, but before doing so, it'll ask you select the reason why. So, for the person receiving too many products, it’ll prompt them with the option to skip an order or delay by three months. For the customer who would select that they don't like their flavor, it'll ask them if they want to swap. For the customer going on vacation, it'll ask them if they want to gift their item to a friend or family member. And we now collect data on each of those cases so our brands can see what is causing churn and what exit prompts have actually been successful in retaining customers. That's been really helpful for our users. One other one I can mention is Smartrr users being able to see what frequency and price are most successful for a subscription. It's almost like A/B testing, but instead of having them both run congruent, you can see in one six-month period versus another six-month period that subscriptions were healthier when you charged three dollars less, for example. Greg: Do you see any major challenges that subscription merchants are facing right now? Or any that you see on the horizon? Gabriella: Yeah, I think firstly the transition from the “subscribe and forget” model to what we're trying to do with Smartrr, which is create better engagement with the consumer to better understand who our consumers—both for one-time and subscription purchases— are. There are other issues that really face all DTC brands but heavily hit the subscription side. One very obvious one is around supply. We have a lot of our clients selling out of products, which sounds like a good issue to have on the surface level. But in actuality, it’s stopping their growth. It’s cool from a PR perspective, but ultimately, if you can sell product, obviously you prefer to do that. We have one client that we launched with and in a couple of days, they sold over 100,000 units, which was their entire first batch. It was supposed to last them for months, but they went viral and that was that. So now they have to wait for a new product to be built and made, and they don't know how long that will take. Greg: That's an interesting one—definitely something that could happen if you grow more quickly than planned or if you're limited by something that's outside your control. Do you have advice for a business that’s put into that situation? Gabriella: Yeah, that's a great question, actually. Another one of our brands that recently sold out is doing something quite interesting—which we can do for brands across the board—but they're developing a waitlist for their subscription. So they’re a subscription-only business, and you can only buy their product with a refill involved. What they're doing is rather than charging customers now for the full amount, given that they don't have the product, they're going to charge one dollar upfront that locks you in for the refill. Then when the product is back in stock and they start shipping again, that consumer gets charged the full amount and their subscription begins. So I think creating hype around the lack of supply is good. Then on top of that, making sure that you're not missing out on the hype at the moment because you don't know who's going to remember your brand when you are back in stock. Get them on the hook now for a dollar or samples or a free trial. If you have something else that you can provide them, that’s the best idea to follow. Greg: Right, and just keeping them in the community. Gabriella: It's just being transparent with your customers. That adds to brand affinity and allows people to be more loyal to these brands initially. They are aware that there’s a waitlist and this is a pre-order, but they're so excited and so bought into that brand that they want to stay engaged and the merchant’s helping them understand why they don't have a product quite yet. It's just about being super transparent and helping your customers know that you're going to keep them in the loop about everything to have a more honest relationship. [tip]Learn about your community of buyers and build a stronger relationship with them using data from Littledata and Smartrr's native integration.[/tip] Greg: Have you seen any significant trends taking over in subscription ecommerce? Gabriella: We build Smartrr functionality based on what brands are striving for. So just speaking to what we have seen, there are a lot of trends around digital subscriptions. You're seeing physical products come out with an app component. Another big one is gifting. A terminal subscription can be a good idea for engaging the kind of outlier network of your consumers. For example, Sock Fancy is a brand that we launched where you can gift a subscription directly to your friends and family. So for Valentine's Day, I gifted my husband a subscription to socks. They're beautiful socks, super high quality. It's a great experience. He received an email that I had put together days ahead but that was sent on Valentine's Day. Then he was able to redeem his gift and loved the surprise. From the brand's perspective, it's interesting because they then collect not just my email address, but my husband’s as well. So obviously when that subscription ends, they can target him to buy an auto-renewal subscription. Plus that approach works nicely with the majority of products. Greg: What's your hiring strategy at Smartrr? Do you focus on recruiting people with previous ecommerce experience? Gabriella: Hiring is definitely important for us. I would love to have a team of experts, but honestly, I don't think it's required. What we're building at Smartrr and what our community, in general, is built around is something that's very intuitive in my mind: we're all consumers. We all experience what it is to buy something online—what it is to manage something online. We all have subscriptions, right? So that feels like a natural fit, regardless of whether or not someone worked in ecommerce. My experience was as a real estate director, and I actually worked in fintech before that.For us, honestly, we want really smart people. I have no doubt that a smart person can learn everything that I learned in the last year or two by diving in. We’ve also learned so much through our partners and through events where we've gone to meet partners and form relationships. Everyone is so willing to jump on a call and just chat through different situations. That makes the learning curve so much easier because again, we're hiring motivated individuals and, intrinsically, they are excited to learn more. It really creates a best-case scenario for moving from a different industry into the space. So I don't necessarily think ecommerce experience is a requirement for us. It's more about finding out—are you smart? Are you driven? Are you fun to work with? We want a good group of people and we've been (knock on wood) really, really fortunate in being able to hire people that fill all of those things for us. Greg: I've noticed that myself coming from a non-ecommerce background. The industry is so welcoming and people really want to help each other out. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Gabriella: Yeah, I love that. Greg: Last question, anything coming down the road for Smartrr that you’d like to share? Gabriella: Oh, man, we have a lot. We've made some recent vendor portal enhancements to make it easier for our clients to do more with subscriptions for their business. We launched new functionality like full-on gifting and prepaid subscriptions. And we have a couple more surprises coming down, but I won't spoil them quite yet. [tip]Book a demo with an analytics expert to find out how you can fit Smartrr in your subscription tech stack and power growth with Littledata's data platform.[/tip] Quick links: Elevar vs Littledata: which is right for your store? Learn how $1 billion digitally native brand Rothy’s uses data to grow See We Make Websites “perfect” headless tech stack, Littledata included Get the step by step guide to running dynamic Facebook ads using Facebook’s conversions API

by Greg

Lunch with Littledata: How Rothy’s uses data across the company

Both visionary and practical, Rothy's is a digitally native brand that became a household name by selling beautifully designed, sustainable shoes, handbags, and accessories. They have continued to scale both online and offline, building a loyal customer base through personalized shopping experiences. Last year Brazilian footwear company Alpargatas acquired a large stake in the company, bringing their valuation to over $1 billion. But stellar growth doesn’t happen by accident. Both their decision-making when crafting their online store and choosing tools for their tech stack were critical to fueling success, as Rothy’s analytics engineer Matt McLean explains in the latest installment of our Lunch with Littledata series. Matt also shares his experience guiding the design and implementation of Rothy’s data strategy, the massive role data plays in their decision-making, and how Littledata has saved them time and enabled a more successful growth strategy. Ari from Littledata: How did you first find out about Littledata? From what I remember, Rothy’s was one of the first brands to implement our Shopify source for Segment. Matt: Once the company decided to rebuild the website, we were on a timeline. So we were looking for services that could cover some of our gaps and maybe put some critical funnel events into place for us without having to spend a lot of internal time and resources doing it. We work with external developers to build and maintain our website, and then I'm here to know what's going on, be familiar with the code, and then primarily to handle the analytics implementation. So that's really where Littledata came in to help. Tip: Get a free data audit for your ecommerce store and see how Littledata can help you drive revenue through accurate data. Ari: In short, what is the Rothy’s story? Matt: Our founders saw an opportunity to build a company that prioritizes sustainability and considers the entire product lifecycle — from far less wasteful manufacturing practices to life-extending features like washable products, without sacrificing style or comfort. Ari: Have you been on Shopify since the beginning? Matt: Yes, we’ve always been on Shopify. Ari: Are you using a custom theme? Has it been easy to get granular data about the checkout funnel? Matt: Our theme is pretty custom. But in the earlier days, we didn't always have resources to code and instrument with analytics. Now that we have that capability, I can go in and use Littledata to find those core funnel events — especially the ones that happen server-side. For an ecommerce website like us, there's a big emphasis on having those funnel sets be accurate. Things like adds to cart and order completed, of course, are events that happen on the server-side with Littledata. So we're always looking for that extra inch of accuracy. Then I can go in and supplement that in the theme code, like adding another event for something behavioral like a form submission or something specific to our theme UI that Littledata can't pick up. “Things like adds to cart and order completed are events that happen on the server-side with Littledata. Then I can go in and supplement that in the theme code, like adding another event for something behavioral like a form submission.” Ari: What would you consider your main Segment use case? Matt: We use Segment to deploy Google Tag Manager (GTM) so that Segment events and event data are available in the data layer. The other main use case is to send events and identifies to Iterable, where the info can be used to create better marketing communications. Ari: Are you tracking offline events at all? Matt: Luckily we use the Shopify POS platform for those purchases. Those reach us as well, so we don't have anything that's truly offline. Ari: With regard to products and the customer experience, how do you use Google Analytics? Matt: We tend to use GA for behavioral, clickstream-type events. As an example, if you have a product page and different types of content on it, we might track engagement with the content by tracking clicks or sometimes scroll depth. We’ll send those events to GA so that the Product, UX, and ecommerce teams can get a sense of what content is performing well. We do have enhanced ecommerce implemented for GA, and it's useful to be able to see things like if somebody interacted with the size chart on the Product Detail Page (PDP) because then we know that users who did that have [a particular] conversion rate. “It's useful (in GA) to be able to see things like if somebody interacted with the size chart on the Product Detail Page because then we know that users who did that have [a particular] conversion rate.” Ari: It's also interesting that you're using GTM for marketing tags like Pinterest. Has that been a limitation to Segment? Matt: I have personally found that to be a limitation. I think the Segment destinations are kind of designed to be plug-and-play. You just set it up, give your Pixel ID and you're off to the races. Which is great, especially for those with less technical aptitude or interest. I have just found that we often have pretty specific requirements for the type of data we want to send into those tags. And when you're using a Segment destination, you're often locked into the format they decided when they wrote that destination. Some of them have more configuration options to help you manage that and some of them don't. So it just becomes a bit of an inconsistent experience as a developer. Because what I want is — when I do my data layer push with everything that I need — to then just be able to pick and choose whatever each tag requires. Then on top of that, do whatever custom renaming of an event or combining of a couple of variables I need to do. I can do that as well with GTM. So it just gives me that extra-fine control that a Segment destination might not. Ari: For customers using our destination, we’ve built some templates for GTM for different marketing tags just to make sure they work with our event structure. But every client seems to have their own way they want to do it, and you were smart to do it in Segment to stitch sessions together across data destinations. Matt: I know our team at Rothy’s has made a lot of requests of the Littledata team because there are so many things that we do in a particular way. And your team is always really responsive with that sort of stuff, which we appreciate. Ari: That's good to hear. Actually, I think one of those requests to our CEO Ed was when we first started building identify calls so that you could use the events to trigger email campaigns. Matt: When we were looking to relaunch the site, that was one of our big feature requests for Littledata. Because we wanted that continuity, we wanted to make sure that if somebody had been identified prior to the site relaunch, they could be identified again after and be considered the same to ensure their record essentially makes sense. Rothy’s has opened retail locations around the country. Ari: So what's next for Rothy’s? It's obvious the brand has really been a success story in the DTC world. Anything exciting on the horizon you can share? Matt: One thing I do know is that because of our success online, we've been able to expand our retail operations. We've been able to open stores even though the pandemic has been happening. And that's all the other teams at the company doing excellent work. The ecommerce experience is still central, though, and that supports all of the other aspects of the business. Ari: It's like a whole new world where digitally native brands are now getting the best retail space. It's definitely like that here in New York. Every time I go for a walk downtown, I see more of our digitally native customers taking over boutiques that used to house legacy brands. Matt: Yeah. I mean, when I was a kid, it was always like, “Oh, do you have a website? Can I visit your website?” Now it's the other way around. You make your presence known, you offer a good product and a good company philosophy, and that’s what gets people talking about it. That’s what enables you to reach out into those other arenas. It’s really interesting. Quick links: See the full event schema with Littledata for Shopfiy and SegmentGet more from Facebook ads with this recipe to build lookalike audiences of your top spendersLearn about the top tools for ecommerce brands and how to build a tooling stack from 1-800-D2CSee why ecommerce stores are adopting Facebook’s new Conversions API

by Ari

Lunch with Littledata: Get the tools to succeed from 1-800-D2C

One of the first — and most important — decisions ecommerce store owners make on their journey to success is choosing which tools will support their business. The ecommerce landscape is flush with great options to help with everything from email and user messaging to core requirements like analytics and attribution tracking. For many store owners, choosing the right tools can be a challenging process. Learning about how each tool stacks up against its competitors, identifying what tools you need at your current growth stage, and pushing past decision paralysis to pick the best one is no easy task. Fortunately, there’s a new service the ecommerce industry can call on to make smart tooling decisions by learning from others in the industry — 1-800-D2C. In this installment of our Lunch with Littledata series, we chat with 1-800-D2C founder Tim Masek to learn how he launched the directory, see what SaaS tool strategies drive growth, and discuss what the future of ecommerce tooling and the industry as a whole has in store. Greg from Littledata: Can you tell me the story of how 1-800-D2C started? Tim Masek: 1-800-D2C came from a need. I was a growth marketer for a long time helping different ecommerce businesses, and a big part of the job is to always recommend the right tools to different merchants. Because tools are changing so fast, though, I’d struggle to keep up with what the best solutions out there were. Instead of going on endless demo calls, I realized that by looking at the tool stacks of different brands I might be able to make a more informed decision on what the actual best tools to use would be. It clicked in my head that maybe there was a space on the internet for another DTC directory, but this time focused on tooling. So, toward the end of 2019 through to early 2021, I put together this Airtable spreadsheet with lots and lots of records of direct-to-consumer brands. Then I added a bunch of information about them — their URL, image, description, the category therein — and paired that with data about the stacks that they were using. That was my MVP, but I wanted to package it in a really nice way. So, I used Webflow to showcase it and my fiancee — the designer behind 1-800-D2C who has designed for a bunch of ecommerce brands — kindly helped me out on the presentation of the site. Her design gave the site a whole old-school feel of yellow pages. It gave something that could be seen as boring and stale when you're talking about essentially B2B SaaS and B2B software for e-commerce merchants a fun, fresh, and energetic feel. We went live in February 2021 and launched on Product Hunt, then that's when the word started to spread organically. There's never been any paid promotion behind 1-800-D2C. For me, now 10 months after launch, the biggest validation is people still sharing it amongst themselves and the community learning about it on their own. Greg: The website design definitely makes it very unique and memorable. How has business been going since launch? Tim: Thank you so much. Littledata is all over it because it's such an important tool for a lot of e-commerce brands on the directory. There are at least 50+ records of brands using Littledata, so it's great to have you guys on there. The business has been going really well. The site's opened up a lot of doors to speak with people on both sides of the equation — merchants who want to share their story about how they built their devices and also tool creators like Littledata who want to make sure they're connecting to their audience and communicating the benefits of their solutions vs. others. I recently spoke at the Webflow No Code Conference event. I've got some sponsors on the site. So really, really fun and I’m still loving it. Greg: Was the first time you heard about Littledata when you saw it in people's tech stacks? Or did you know about us before? Tim: I knew about it before, probably about a year and a half ago when I was working with a DTC brand called Bower Collective. It's a website where you can buy plastic-free home goods. They were using the first version of ReCharge and they didn't have much money to spend on software, so they weren't using anything crazy on the analytics front, just using Google Analytics. Because I was running the growth for that business when they were a part of Founders Factory, we took a look at some tools that would help us make sense of what was happening with discrepancies on the data side between Recharge and Shopify and Google Analytics. That's how I stumbled upon Littledata and was so excited. The product was super simple. The team was very nice, very switched on, and very operational. I didn't feel like I was talking to sales reps or anything like that. It felt like I was talking to geeks, which made us all feel comfortable. The data was flowing quite nicely and it helped us uncover a lot of insights. Tip: Try Littledata free for 30 days and use better data to drive revenue for your store. Greg: That's great to hear. I can vouch that our support team are definitely data nerds and not salespeople. They just love the ecommerce space. Tim: Yeah, it's niche, man. It's niche. There are a few people that get excited about this whole DTC space, you and me included, and there are not too many of us on this Earth like that. So it was just fun to meet them. Greg: Do you see any common problems ecommerce businesses face when they're building their tech stacks? Tim: I'd say probably the biggest mistake I see is someone picking tools that don't work in sync with the other tools they've already purchased. That racks up a large SaaS bill every month without any synergy amongst their apps. It's easy to rectify because it's oftentimes quite easy to switch from one app to another. But we're seeing a bunch of apps connecting the entire ecosystem together. For example, you're going to need somebody on the analytics and attribution front. That's where a tool like Littledata comes in, and Littledata works well with ReCharge and Shopify. So if you are already using ReCharge, it makes a lot of sense to be integrated that way. "It would be a mistake to see apps as individual problem fixers when they could actually be leveraged as part of a larger strategy, a larger ecosystem." Then you've got customer support. If you're using Gorgias, for example, that's going to sync very well with ReCharge because there's a native integration there. Then for reviews, Junip is super well integrated into the whole stack, and they might sync well with your texting solution. When the pieces start to come together, we've got really strong integrations across the board. It would be a mistake to see apps as individual problem fixers when they could actually be leveraged as part of a larger strategy, a larger ecosystem. Greg: Do you think that ecommerce owners are starting to notice the native integrations that are out there as they use more tools? Tim: Yeah, it's definitely catching on. The market's maturing very, very rapidly, and I could see how it becomes a no-brainer in the next year or two to have everything come together. I think it perhaps starts with agencies who have to be educated on what works well together, and we started to see more of that about a year ago. I've worked with a lot of different agencies. They may be inclined to build everything custom themselves, and the merchants may be the ones saying, “OK, but I've seen my friend who runs this other e-commerce store crushing it with upsells because they're using Rebuy instead of doing it custom. Can we just use that solution instead?” So there's got to be a bit of back and forth now between agencies and merchants to figure out what stack is recommended. But for sure, the whole ecosystem is becoming more and more aware of the right tools to recommend and how they all play together. Greg: You have a lot of interesting roundups on the site. Do you have one that's the most popular? Tim: There is one that I really liked, it’s a fun interview I did with Brandon Amoroso who runs an agency called electrIQ marketing. Brandon is a very young agency founder and a super impressive guy. That's the cool thing about what I do — getting to meet amazing individuals like that scattered around the web who I wouldn't have ever met otherwise. In my interview with him, I got him to break down his stack and tooling decisions for a coffee subscription business called Amora Coffee that they put on ReCharge which does some crazy sales volume. He was talking to me about how he used Loyalty Lion for a specific scenario of rewarding customers who bought bundles then letting them redeem those directly in one click from a Klaviyo email. It's all super niche, but he breaks down exactly why he made those decisions. I thought it was a really insightful story — a storytelling way to learn more about different apps. Greg: Are there any tools that you see DTC businesses using the most? Tim: I actually put together a page on the website called “The top 5’s” and it breaks down the top five tools within each category across the entire directory. That's a nice way to get a sense of the top tools. Other than that, one that comes to mind is Klaviyo because it’s used by, I think, 90% of the 1-800-D2C directory. Shopify, of course, because I love brands that are built on Shopify. For the most part, Shopify is number one, Klaviyo is number two. It’s absolutely crazy when you think about the value of Klaviyo and how unmatched it is. Some people talk about Omnisend or Drip or a few others that are in the conversation. But really, the go-to is Klaviyo, especially for young brands. A lot of people are using heat-mapping tools like Hotjar, too. Those are quite easy to just quickly install on the website and get valuable insights. Fullstory falls a little bit behind after that — also a great tool. Then customer support comes right after reviews, so Okendo, Junip, Stamped, Gorgias, Zendesk. Really, those are the core types of tools, and they rank really high on our top 5 tools list. Greg: We've seen the same thing as well with Klaviyo and Shopify. They’re the market leaders, so it makes sense that you'd see those in pretty much every stack. Tim: Just a quick point on that because it really is crazy. We try and come up with our own predictions about what's going to happen in the future with ecommerce, the Shopify ecosystem, etc. I don't see a world where ecommerce stores don't send emails. It’s always going to be there as step number one or step number two. So every store uses email, and Klaviyo just completely dominates that. It's just unbelievable. I hope there will be challenges to Klaviyo because it will keep pushing them to build a better product over time. But for now, they're just completely undefeated, sitting at the top, just enjoying it, crushing it. Tip: Get advanced analytics tracking on your store's email performance with Littledata's integration for Klaviyo and Shopify. Greg: Are there any trends in the DTC space you see that excite you the most? Tim: I love what Blueprint is doing. They’re really cool because they're an SMS-focused DTC tool aimed at driving retention. There's lots of machine learning that happens on the backend of the tool to learn about your customers, find when are they likely to repurchase again, and what kind of cross-selling opportunities you can identify. So you're not just looking at a platform to send broad messages and be an extra layer on top of email. You're looking at something to build a long-lasting relationship with the customer. It merges the world of marketing/communications with customer support because the whole philosophy behind Blueprint is to build one-to-one customer relationships. So, on the other end as a merchant, you can't wait for the moment when Greg decides, “I'm actually going to reply to this text and give some feedback.” Because then the person on the merchant side can start just talking to you and getting to know you a little bit more, which is a bit like customer support, but you’re not only chatting with them because you have an issue. It's a really nice trend in the world of SMBs. Greg: What advice would you give to an e-commerce store owner who is just starting to build a true tech stack? Tim: First, Start super slow. Don't overspend on tools, build up as you go. It's quite easy to graduate from one tool and get to the next. Then, do your research. Use 1-800-D2C, use whatever you can to find the best tools for you at your stage, and then build up from there. What we did with Bower Collective was really fun. We didn't have much of a stack in the beginning. But over time we started adding. Littledata I think was one of the first tools we added because we needed to see the attribution done properly. That was pretty core for the stack and it was lightweight to do since there’s no huge yearly contract, just an easy implementation. "Start (building a tech stack) slow and ramp up your app costs with your sales. Don't put too much burden on yourself in the beginning." Then we were looking at referral marketing solutions due to customer requests, so we implemented Conjured referrals. There are expert referral platforms out there like Friend Buy and Talkable, but Conjured is the most lightweight one that looks really good, is easy to implement, and can really be your first entry into the world of referral marketing. And if it works to get you an uptick on referrals, you're two years ahead at that stage and can move to those other platforms. Then we started looking at text messaging, then the next thing, and the next. So start slow and ramp up your app costs with your sales. Don't put too much burden on yourself in the beginning. Greg: You guys have a very active social presence. Who runs your social accounts? Tim: 1-800-D2C is really just me. I'm working with a really great intern called Emmy, she's based in New York and she helps me out a lot with Twitter. But for the most part, it's just me trying to stay not only top of mind, but also really provide value in the Twitter ecosystem. It's a great platform with great individuals who want to chat about ecommerce. I'm passionate about the space, so it's an easy way to communicate with the audience. Greg: That’s impressive, props to you for taking it all on by yourself! You mentioned earlier that you actually bootstrapped 1-800-D2C pretty much with all no-code tools. What do you think the power of the no-code movement is for the DTC industry? Tim: Good question, I don't know if I have a good answer for that. Shopify is your starting point in DTC and it's becoming more and more user-friendly, with fewer customizations to do on the coding side of things. So, in some ways, it's becoming more and more no-code-like. But if you're serious about building a successful DTC brand, you want to know a thing or two about how Liquid works or at least have some resources on hand to help you with that. That's actually what I'm working on now with Stuart Tasker — making those resources more available to everyday merchants to put you in touch with the best developers on Shopify and help you move at the speed that you want to. Greg: That’s a great service for store owners to tap into. Having just that one expert can be enough to solve a problem and help you bootstrap the rest of the way. Tim: That's it, man, that's the creator economy in a nutshell. It's also what's happening with the whole remote work movement. We live in a world where you can get a lot done on your own by pulling in extra resources from different experts scattered around the world. I'm a big believer in that. Greg: Are there any other brands that you look to in the DTC space for inspiration? Tim: I actually was asked this question recently for the first time, and I didn't have an answer for it besides one kind of funky, odd one, which I'll say again. They're called Darn Good Yarn. It's the type of business I love because they just sell yarn online for people who are into knitting. And finding yarn in a physical store is probably not the easiest thing to do in the world nowadays. So you’ll likely look online for it, and they've become a home for that. I also love it because the community is already so strong. People who frickin love knitting are going to go out of their way to find you online to shop from you. Those shoppers are going to not only be in a great position to love your brand because you're delivering directly on their needs, but then they're going to go out into the real world and create something beautiful that they can then share with you as a brand which you can repost on social and connect with the community. It's really nice ecosystem, and I imagine the yarn market's decently big. So if you can win that, then you’ve got something special. Greg: What's on the horizon for 1-800-D2C? Tim: I would like to do two things. First, I think there's a nice opportunity to create a job board for anybody in the world of ecommerce. Lots of the brands and tool owners that I speak with are trying to hire for a specific role on their teams. A lot of the people I interact with are hiring because the space is growing rapidly and they just need more people to work on interesting projects. There's a couple of resources on the internet that talk about ecommerce, but only a few that really specialize in ecommerce hiring. So I could see 1-800-D2C being a nice home for those types of opportunities. The second bit is getting more contributors to write on the one 1-800-D2C website for me. Right now it's a lot of me putting in the work and talking about what I'm seeing out there, which I'm totally fine with. I love it and that's why I do it. But there are so many bright minds in the world of ecommerce, and I want them to have a platform to share their ideas and their thoughts. So hopefully I can find a scalable way to get them to contribute to the website. Greg: Almost like an ecommerce clubhouse. That’s a great idea. We’d be happy to join you there! Tim: Yeah, exactly. Just read at your convenience — whether it's the newsletter, the blog content, or the job board— or just browse different DTC brands and their tools. Quick links: Find out how to make data-driven decisions for Shopify plus storesLearn how to scale your business faster using first-party dataDiscover 5 things that change in Google Analytics when you install LittledataConnect Smartrr subscriptions with Google Analytics

by Greg

Lunch with Littledata: The keys to smart growth with Shopify Plus Agency UWP

Want to learn from DTC founders and entrepreneurs shaking up their industries? Check out the other entries in our Lunch with Littledata series. A lot goes into growing a Shopify store. Building an engaged following, creating and optimizing your store, and finding the best marketing tools that help you reach your ideal audience are just the start. It can feel overwhelming for some store owners, especially if you’re not a natural when it comes to promotion and marketing. That’s where getting the help of a Shopify Plus agency, like Underwaterpistol (UWP), could be the crucial decision that brings exponential growth to your store. UWP built one of the first 90 Shopify stores all the way back in 2006. They've since grown to help brands from many different verticals, including clients like Omaze, Patou, and Brewdog exceed their potential and become market leaders. To get a better picture of how an agency works with Shopify stores to help them achieve their true potential, we caught up with UWP’s co-founder Gary Carruthers, who shared what UWP does for clients, the best tactics for driving growth, and where he sees the ecommerce market going in 2022 and beyond. Ari from Littledata: We’ve seen subscriptions really take off in ecommerce over the last couple of years. How important are subscription brands to your business? Gary Carruthers: Subscriptions are very close to our hearts. We enjoy subscription work because it's sustainable. It's measurable. You can build a business off of it. The type of verticals that employ subscriptions — like food and drink, etc. — lend themselves well to our skill sets, and our interests as well, since part of our business model is placing a big emphasis on returns and work. Do you usually start those clients with one set contract and then move to a retainer if possible? Exactly. And that's true for a variety of reasons. But, the main goal is to get rid of those peaks and troughs and create nice, steady, reliable, sustainable growth. I always encourage the brands that we work with — if they don't employ subscriptions already — to definitely consider it because of the various advantages. And I think increasingly people are receptive to that. Likewise, the public and customers are receptive to it thanks to the convenience involved. It’s ideal to match the sort of inherent laziness of certain shoppers, you know, like myself (laughs). Tip: Get a full picture of subscription analytics for your store in our ultimate guide to subscription analytics. As UWP has grown, how have things at the agency changed? Our structure has changed in the last year or two. We were always a very small and flat organization. We've had to add a bit more structure and hierarchy because now we’re a sort of “in-between size” agency. We've now got both a client services team and delivery team and they work closely together. Not every single account needs an Account Manager and a Project Manager, but for clients of a certain size and complexity, we would have those roles impact their accounts. That's a bit of a game-changer compared to back in the day. We used to have more of a hybrid approach where the delivery and the client services function was one in the same. We're trying to break those out now too and it's complicated, but it seems to be helping. It is complicated. And I think — like with any business’ growth spurt — there are a couple of key hires who bring about that light bulb moment when you realize “perhaps we should have been doing it this way for the last several years.” But it sort of grows organically, doesn't it? You learn from your mistakes and try to learn from reading and seeing what other organizations are doing. But sometimes it's just that key hire or individual who brings the right perspective to make the right changes. "Sometimes it's just that key hire or individual who brings the right perspective to make the right changes." Does your current structure go beyond assigning those two roles on an account? And do you fill those roles externally or internally? We do everything in house. In the past, we’ve used contractors for copywriting and development to break past bottlenecks and for the most part, it hasn't worked out particularly well in the long term. We always say to ourselves that we need to make sure we're properly resourced so those bottlenecks don't occur in the first place. But it’s easy to say that. That was a bit of a steep curve in itself — making sure we had the team to do as good a job as we wanted to do. That's why the team started growing. We didn’t want to be hoovering up as much work as possible and then onboarding staff. It was basically us asking, "are we happy with the quality of the work?" If we weren't and needed to become more specialist and onboard, say, a channel lead, that's what we did. It's interesting because something that's consistent with your clients — and definitely with our shared clients — is that they're using a really strong brand voice. Part of that is obviously what they hire UWP to help build out. How is that built into the relationship and how you pitch your services? Basically we try to have a holistic approach. Even if we're only selling one service or looking after one channel, that is impacted by other channels and you have to join it up. For example, if we’re looking after somebody’s SEO, that needs to be informed by the other channels at play. Then hopefully we'll do a great job and upsell other services. But each of our channel leaders needs to know what the other ones are doing, how they do it, and what impact that has on what they're doing. Then we need to communicate that back to the client to make sure we’re covering all bases and that the client is getting the most out of everything. "We want to be leading our clients to what's happening next quarter, and the quarter after that, and the year after that. So they've got some targets to aim for." A lot of clients may not have reached a mature enough stage that they can employ all those various channels. So they need to cherry-pick the ones that are going to move the needle the most. But, the overall plan is that we want to be leading them to what's happening the next quarter, and the quarter after that, and the year after that. So they've got some targets to aim for and a path to plot. Do you see those teams grow as they're on retainer with you? Yeah, and that's really rewarding in itself. It's great to go on that journey with clients. But with the Shopify landscape changing as you said, merchants coming to us now are increasingly savvy and knowledgeable. It really keeps us on our toes. That's when we need to keep hiring very, very well to meet those exacting demands from merchants. We just can't keep on churning out more of the same. We need to keep growing and getting better, otherwise, we'll just be overlooked and left behind. Being that UWP was early to the Shopify space, has your relationship with the platform continued to be positive? It has, and that's been an interesting journey as well to see how things change. Our developers were dizzy with excitement about new announcements from Shopify Unite this year. You can see the platform is growing and extending itself. Funnily enough, talking about clients getting savvier, I just read a message earlier today from a client asking about the changes to the storefront and technical changes Shopify announced. In the past, I wouldn't have expected a client like this to even be aware of these developments. People just want to know as much as possible about how they can push their businesses on. Shopify provides tools to agencies and merchants alike, so they really understand the landscape. Tip: Learn to fuel your success on Shopify Plus from 5 successful DTC brands. Yeah, they seem to be moving fast and we have to make sure we keep up. So what's next for UWP’s plan to keep growing? Is there a chance of launching in the US at some point? We had a bit of an idea to do that a while ago. We've always worked with brands in the US and further afield, but we’ve never actually had boots on the ground. For a variety of reasons we decided to just consolidate where we are in the UK and Europe, so the jury's out on US expansion for now. We’ll continue to work with brands all over the world and keep an open mind about the geographical expansion. We are obviously interested in working with people outside the U.K. — always have been. As for different verticals, we're always keeping an eye out for new and interesting ones. But we've got our hands pretty full with the existing ones as well. One thing we’ve been doing is more complex integrations with third-party systems. We're doing some stuff with NFTs as well, which is really exciting. And the blockchain space interests us generally too. Final question: are you still dealing with a lot of migrations to Shopify or has that slowed down? We've seen it less ourselves, but they've been much bigger clients. Yeah, that's exactly what we've seen as well. We've got a couple on at the moment. We like that work. We like the subscription migrations as well. Thankfully, I don't do the data migration myself (laughs) I don't envy that job. But we really enjoy the re-platforming from Magento and others because you get to flex your muscles in a variety of areas. There's UX, SEO, UI, the data migration itself, the development, the optimization of systems, the tech stack, decision making — it just ticks all the boxes for us. So we like a big meaty migration, definitely. Quick links The ins and outs of tracking headless Shopify setupsShopify Analytics vs. Google Analytics: Why don't they match?Learn to create Facebook lookalike audiences of your top-spending customersHow to build a website that your marketing and legal teams will both love

by Greg

Lunch with Littledata: Can an agency like Blend help multiply your revenue?

Want to learn from DTC founders and entrepreneurs shaking up their industries? Check out the other entries in our Lunch with Littledata series. Every ecommerce store wants to grow. The path toward that growth, however, can look different depending on a wide range of factors. Your revenue, your current team, your benchmark targets — they all come into play. Working with a Shopify agency like Blend is a tactic some of the most successful ecommerce businesses have used to develop their startup stores into household names. But before making the decision to bring agency help on, you need to know all the things they can do for you and how they would fit into your overall work flow. In this installment of Lunch with Littledata, we spoke with Blend co-founder and CEO Adam Pearce to discuss how he founded the agency, the approach they take to helping different clients, and what you need to know about your store to make the decision to bring an agency on and multiply your revenue. Greg from Littledata: How did you start Blend? Adam Pearce: Like every good business: a few too many beers and putting large plans into interaction, really. I met my business partner Peter about six or seven years ago in Dubai and, incidentally, we’re married to two girls who are sisters. So my business partner is actually my brother-in-law, and we’re kind of a family business. When when we met, both of us were working completely different careers — Peter was a city surveyor and I was a teacher. Over a period of time, we both went on different paths. He started out with apps and found this thing called Shopify. I went down the sales and marketing route and became a marketing director for an app company. So we knew we both had skills in a similar area. Meanwhile, people kept talking about Shopify and I'm like “yeah, yeah, whatever — it’s just another flash in the pan.” As time went on we knew it was time to actually create something together. Back then — about four or five years ago — there weren't many agencies out there giving people both a Shopify site and the marketing that would sit very neatly with it. So we both quit our jobs and that's exactly the service we created. We started our business around the kitchen table, and four and a half years later, we’re up to 18 employees in two different countries. What an awesome origin story. So how is it having that kind of family business? What are the relationships like? It's good. I mean, it isn't without its ups and downs. Over the course of those four years, we had to go from being friends to brothers-in-law to business partners, and then balance all those things. And for a period of time, our wives were both quite active in the business as well. There was an interesting dynamic there where I'd be working on something with my wife at work, and then going home and trying to switch up from that. The Blend Commerce family. What we learned — particularly me and Peter — is that when you have an issue or something bothering you, you have to get it out into the open. We've got a really open relationship now where if there's something that we need to talk about, we'll get it talked about straight away. Because we had a period where we both didn’t want to have any sort of confrontation or discuss anything difficult — what we would call “real conversations” essentially. We actually got to a point about ten years ago where we felt we didn't really want to be in business together anymore. But we had a very big outside discussion/argument and off the back of it, we did a thing called an Insights Profile. What we discovered is that both of us have good ideas, but we attack them from different angles. That was literally the point at which our business started to skyrocket. I would say to anyone who works with family, getting comfortable having those difficult conversations early on is by far the best piece of advice to give. How important would you say analytics are to the clients you have, and what tools do they use? When it comes to analytics, the first time you mention it to the client you're probably going to get a look of fear. I think the major issue is that a lot of people in ecommerce have fooled around in Google Analytics. They’ve been to that nice pretty GA homepage with those lovely little graphs. But then they get a little bit deeper and find all this data inside and think, “where the hell do I start?” The key thing we realized is, as an agency, there’s no point in us using a tool like Google analytics and just sending clients report after report. A lot of the clients that we work with want a smaller subset of information. "The absolute worst thing you can do is not know both the story behind the data and the rationale behind that story." We try and help tell a story with that data. Because the absolute worst thing you can do is not know both the story behind the data and the rationale behind that story. You know as well as I do that you can take data and cut it in different ways to tell different stories. But if you give the rationale to explain why you cut it in that way, you aren't hiding anything. In terms of tools our clients use, there's probably a big mix out there. A lot of people will be using Google Analytics in different ways. But there are other specific tools that have latched onto over time as well. So obviously, the pandemic had a huge effect on ecommerce. A lot of stores saw a big surge in demand. Did you guys make any adjustments during it? And do you have any plans in place for a post-pandemic ecommerce world? Yeah, we actually had a pretty big change. Initially from a business point of view, like many we were thinking “are we going to be OK or do we need to cut back a bit?” Then after a period of about four to six weeks, we were getting a lot of extra demand from clients. One of the interesting stats that we discovered — particularly for pet brands we worked with — is that in a three-month period they increased their revenue by 600% year on year. So in that context, we found that a lot of people we work with were dealing with this big level of growth that they’ve never dealt with before. Some of these brands only had a staff of one or two people. From a management standpoint, they would say things to us like, “what am I supposed to do with this traffic? I'm having problems with inventory. I don't want to lose the benefit of the analytics tracking that I've got. I'm still spending on Facebook ads, but do I need to?” They had all these different things going on. Then thanks to their increased revenue, they’re also saying things like, “we want to do a project to redevelop our website. And actually, we still need you to do the maintenance. Oh, by the way, can we get some strategic advice?” When we started out, we were very much a project agency. About a year or so in, we saw that actually wasn't working for us. We had a very famous incident where we started a project for forty thousand dollars and in the end, we lost twelve thousand dollars on it. That was it was a pretty big learning curve. We decided to switch to a retainer model which worked really well for the clients and for us. But, in the pandemic, we saw that between a defined retainer approach vs. defined project vs. defined maintenance, people want to dip into all of them, so we set things up to be a lot more flexible. That's when we had the idea of an on-demand digital department. Now if you’re a brand that's growing, when you come to work with us you’re going to have the equivalent of a full-time employee within your business. You could be using us for Klaviyo marketing or maintenance on your site or even redeveloping your product prototype. What we work on doesn't have to be that set, and equally, month-to-month people can change their priorities based on the recommendations we're making for them. But, I've got to admit that like a lot of people in ecommerce, we have been very lucky to have been able to grow. And obviously, that's because our clients have been growing right there with us. When would you say is the best time for a Shopify store to hire an expert like Blend? For me, it's all about percentage of revenue. There were some informal studies done a little while back that said that you need to spend between three and five percent of your total revenue on things like store development and SEO if you want to maintain your current level of growth as a Shopify merchant. They also found that if you want to grow, spending five to eight percent of revenue would help you move beyond where you are at that moment. Now if you're looking at those numbers and saying, “well five to eight percent, there's no way I could commit that at the moment,” then my point of view would be to continue doing what you can manage, then get an expert agency when you hit a higher revenue point. If you're looking at three to five percent and saying “yeah, we can do that now,” I would say it's worthwhile to do it because ultimately, this is a results-driven industry that we're in. If you’re between $5,000 to $10,000 a week, you’re certainly at the point where hiring an expert agency makes sense. I wouldn't say there’s a particular revenue level you need to reach either. Obviously, if you're getting $100 a week coming through Shopify, $5 isn't going to go far with an agency. But if you’re between $5,000 to $10,000 a week, you’re certainly at the point where hiring an expert agency makes sense, plus you've got the budget an agency would be interested in. For the stores that have the right budget and are trying to decide between an agency or hiring someone in-house, what do you think the advantages are for doing the agency? The main benefit for going the agency route is that when you employ someone within your business, regardless of what their skills are, you're always going to have around a six to 12-week lag before they can reach full capacity. A lot of our clients say the benefit of having one of our developers work with them is that we do a briefing session, we start planning, then we start working. If you're bringing a developer into your business, you need to bed them in, handle onboarding, all that stuff. Another benefit for the agency route is that when you hire someone full time — and this is particularly true in the past year — no one really knows what the economy's doing and what might happen. So, depending on where you’re located and what employment status you need to use, it can be a bit of a risk. If someone joins the business and you decide actually, we can't afford them, it's quite a difficult and very emotionally draining process to let them go. With an agency, if you decide you can't afford them or don't want to work with them anymore, typically speaking, it’s only a month to a couple of months before you know if you’re going to have to say bye-bye. You also haven't got that emotional aspect to deal with. An agency expedites that time to get people hitting the ground running and brings the energy and manpower it takes to actually manage a member of staff. Is there a way that an ecommerce store could audit their website and their promotion methods to determine what they might need to improve? I've always been super impressed with Littledata’s different data insights and reports. Particularly what you guys have done with benchmark rates for things like conversion, drop-off rate, bounce rate, etc. Those are good sticking points because when you're running a business, you almost operate in a vacuum. It's unlikely you're going to have a bunch of people doing exactly the same things with the same product that you have. So if you're an apparel brand, you might talk to someone that you've met who's got a food brand, but his CPM and conversion rates are going to be massively different from yours. Tip: Get benchmarks for your ecommerce business against others in your industry with a 30 day free trial of Littledata's platform. The main thing is to get hold of some data as a benchmark. Yes, it's just a benchmark, but you need to know how close or far away you are from those targets. The ones that you’re farthest away from, start fixing that first. Then work slowly but surely back through the others. Don't try and just fix something straight away. Find the most problematic thing you've got at the moment in terms of benchmarking your stats, work on it, fix it, and move on. That's my honest advice for how to work out what you need to do. How has data helped blend grow and succeed over the years? When it comes to data, the most key information for us tends to be around the number of leads we can get from our site based on the content that we put out. The data that has always been important for us is looking at UTM codes, where traffic is coming from, and what the actual conversions are to a call. We can see if someone clicks on a particular blog post and their user journey through the site is X, they have a 20 percent higher probability of converting to a sale than if they followed through another journey. So we try and navigate people to the particular areas of our site which are successful. We then use UI and UX to navigate people through that winning path with the hope that we then get them onto a call and obviously convert them. That's from our point of view. The other side is that when we work with a new client, we're always starting with a data point. When we first meet a client, they’ll usually show us their current site and point out what they want to change. When we ask what that change is based on, they usually say “well, it just feels like that's what we need to do.” It's really interesting that when you look into the data, particularly if you're using things like heat mapping software or looking at different analytics for site behavior, there are some things that that DTC brand owners understand very well and there are things they might feel come out of nowhere. It's hard when you’re so ingrained in a business to sit back and look at things like which website pages convert compared to others. That's where agencies like us are helpful because we can be that fresh set of eyes, look at the data side, and help make fixes. The clients win and we win because it means business. So data is important through and through. Right, it helps them get to that “a-ha” moment so they can understand where they might be losing a lot of attribution or where they can make website improvements. Exactly. Exactly. Do you think there’s one client of yours that you could say has been your most successful client? If so, why have they been your most successful? I like this question. There are a few different examples, and I can actually give two. The first one is a DTC startup brand that we worked with about three years ago. The founder had to dream and came to us to make it happen. We worked with her on designing the store, running the marketing, and started her on one of the biggest promotion methods at the time — Facebook groups. At that point, they were becoming a lot more important for developing a community for marketing. Within the first six to eight weeks, we got a heck of a lot of traction from those Facebook groups. The growth enabled that one founder, within two and a half years, to build a team of 10 people. They've got locations of different countries. They’ve got excellent margins. For me, that was a tremendous success because we've helped that one person not only get their dream but then take it even further. The other client I’d mention knew that their business had a lot of potential when they started working with us. They also had some ideas of what they wanted to do. Off the back of those ideas, we did an in-person workshop and found a lot of information that we just wouldn't have covered from simply looking at their data. We worked out that they had a lot of things happening on the operations side of the business impacting their ability to sell products. Now, in the time that I've been working with that client, they've actually 6x-ed their revenue and 8x-ed their profitability. That was a massive win because we were involved with something that transformed their business. Although ecommerce can feel a little bit devoid of being people-focused at times, I really like those kinds of success stories where you hear about the impact it makes on people. Ecommerce is a fantastic opportunity to do that. Particularly when we think about people like you and me as partners, the people working on the supply chain, people that make the product — there's a lot of people's lives that it touches. For me, that’s a massive buzz. We've noticed that ReCharge seems to be growing really fast, especially in the UK right now. Has that been your experience too? Massively. We partnered with ReCharge three or four years ago now. At the time we started, subscriptions were a much bigger business in the US. But in the past 18 months, there's been a massive boom in subscriptions in the UK, particularly on things that we like. Things like beer, like gin, like food (laughs). But I think you also see it in more unusual subscription items, like clothing, for example. I think it stemmed from the fact that people have become a lot more comfortable with buying through subscriptions overall. It was a bit of an alien concept to the UK market. The great thing with ReCharge is that they have that core focus of their tool being wholly on subscriptions. Yes, there are other options out there in terms of subscriptions, but our experience has been that ReCharge really does know their stuff very well. And, importantly, they look after their customers absolutely goldenly. That's important for us as an agency because when our clients work with partners like ReCharge, we want to feel like we're passing them on to safe hands. We've always been super impressed with ReCharge in that respect. With Shopify opening up the checkout, people were questioning what would happen with subscription services. But as we've seen in the past month or so that what ReCarge is doing is very distinct from what Shopify’s doing. It's much more focused toward those higher growth merchants than people who are starting out on the Shopify side. You work a lot with Klaviyo as well. Are email campaigns for subscription ecommerce pretty different from the email campaigns for nonsubscription? They are. It’s one of the areas that a lot of people get into trouble with because they don’t always make the connection that the process you need to take with email marketing is different for subscriptions. A prime example where we’ve seen a lot of clients we work with fall down is abandoned carts. For example, let's say I’ve got a gin subscription box, you happen to be a subscription customer, and you go and look at a particular gin on my site which may be part of your subscription. Because you’ve looked at that on my site and technically “browsed abandoned,” you’re going to get an email from me saying, “Hey! I caught you peeking at X, Y, Z, gin — get 10 percent off your next purchase for it here.” That's a surefire way for me to annoy you. And it’s one of the things that you have to be very, very careful with. You need to be sure you’re taking people out of certain flows in Klaviyo who are part of subscriptions. Secondly, when it comes to subscriptions, you need to do a lot more communication on email than you do for one-time purchasing. That’s because a) subscriptions are very valuable in terms of revenue, and b) the level of connection in that subscription customer is going to be higher. They're going to expect more from you. It's a fine line of getting the communication right. But as long as you are, as a starting point, separating emails off for singles versus subscriptions, then you should be on a good path. Quick links Learn everything you need to know about subscriptions and subscription analyticsFind out why so many ecommerce stores are using Facebook's conversions APISee how coffee maker Grind pivoted from brick and mortar to £500,000 monthly ecommerce revenueBoost your customer retention with 11 tested and trusted retention strategies

by Greg

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