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.[/tip] 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.[/tip] 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 setups Shopify Analytics vs. Google Analytics: Why don't they match? Learn to create Facebook lookalike audiences of your top-spending customers How to build a website that your marketing and legal teams will both love

by Greg
2021-11-04

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. [caption id="attachment_13461" align="aligncenter" width="550"] The Blend Commerce family.[/caption] 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.[/tip] 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 analytics Find out why so many ecommerce stores are using Facebook's conversions API See how coffee maker Grind pivoted from brick and mortar to £500,000 monthly ecommerce revenue Boost your customer retention with 11 tested and trusted retention strategies [subscribe]

by Greg
2021-10-22

Lunch with Littledata: How Grind pivoted from brick and mortar to £500,000 monthly ecommerce revenue

Want to learn from DTC founders and entrepreneurs shaking up their industries? Check out the other entries in our Lunch with Littledata series. Making the leap to start an ecommerce store is a challenge. Doing it while pivoting from a strictly brick and mortar business at the height of a pandemic is a whole other challenge. That’s exactly what Grind did when launching their DTC store offering compostable coffee pods. Theirs is a story about finding value in your customers’ passion, relying on your team’s adaptability and resolve, and learning from your peers to drive exponential revenue growth. In this installment of Lunch with Littledata, Grind CMO and Creative Director Teddy Robinson sat down to talk through how the company launched its DTC store, as well as the data stack and promotion methods that combined to help them scale to 50x revenue in just a few months. Ari from Littledata: When we first met a few years back you were just transitioning into the online world. But I used to drink coffee from Grind in London years before that! Could you tell us how Grind launched? Teddy Robinson: Yes! It feels like kind of a long and winding journey now. The story goes way back to coffee shops in East London in 2011. It was such a profound year of change for coffee. For most of the 10 years previous you had Starbucks as the star, and then all of a sudden you had a boom of small indie coffee shops. That boom for us came at a really big time because it also followed the integration of social media for business. When I started at Grind in 2012, it seemed strange that you’d have an Instagram page for your business, because the thought was “people have Instagram, not businesses.” It’s phenomenal the way that's changed — now Instagram is the way that we market anything and the way we acquire customers.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Grind (@grind)   Before lockdown, we had 11 cafes and restaurants around London serving coffee and cocktails, with some of them doing a thousand cups of coffee a day just in take away. Our brand became a bit of a backbone to the startup culture in East London and Central London that arrived around us. People would have their product launches and funding rounds celebrating in our little coffee shops. At the same time, we stopped meeting people in real life for the first time and increasingly found ourselves meeting them online and then bringing them into stores. Digital content began leading the business to a point where when we were building a restaurant, we’d be going “oh, my God, this is going to be a great photo for Instagram.” So what kept you focused on growing from standalone coffee shops to finally going online? Over the years we built an incredible brand through brick and mortar stores and newsletters. We became a part of people's lives in a really meaningful, authentic way. As time went on, we realized increasingly that the business model of trying to get our hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers — often from around the world — to one of nine brick and mortar locations was really, really unsustainable. But at the same time, we built an incredible pedigree for being able to serve great coffee. People saw themselves as being a Grind customer rather than a Starbucks customer. At about the end of 2018, we started working on what would be become our first DTC project. At that point, DTC was in full swing. So we set up a Shopify store offering compostable coffee pods for Nespresso machines. The sustainability aspect was really important to us, and after being in the coffee industry for ten years, our expertise about coffee and roasting helped us say, “wow, we can do something different and really meaningful and use our supply chain in a way that other businesses just can't.” At the same time, we've got this brand pedigree that we can leverage for helping people make better, more sustainable coffee at home. That’s great you were able to adapt and introduce an online version of Grind coffee so quickly. Do you feel the Grind community is still growing on the ground in London as well? Running a hospitality business in London is really difficult and has become much more difficult in the last 10 years, let alone the last year. The idea of selling coffee to people at £3 a cup is nothing short of a volume game. But with that said, now there’s much more of a self-sustaining coffee culture. It was all twenty-five-year-old art students ten years ago, and now my mum won't drink a coffee unless they’ll give her a flat white.     View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Grind (@grind)   And obviously, the big thing with the storefronts is the pandemic. We went into lockdown last year and — although we were able to move all our staff on furlough — effectively the business as we knew it just kind of evaporated overnight. We were closing the doors on all these locations in a way that we would never have ever considered doing in the past, and it just felt like the end of the world in a lot of ways. How much of Grind was already online at the beginning of the pandemic? I think less than half of a percent. Before lockdown, we had a business of about three hundred people. The only ones who were working on the DTC project were me and the founder. For us, it was really just good fun and a bit of a side project. That was also a point where we'd never spent a penny on ads. We were really just leveraging a tiny number of our customers. Basically, when people asked about our ecommerce store, we’d send them to it. It was a long time of just finding a few hours a week together to figure out setting up Shopify, setting up Littledata, and pulling all the pieces there to allow us to grow it bigger. [tip]Start your ecommerce journey using accurate data with a complimentary data analysis when you try Littledata free for 30 days.[/tip] How did you begin to build the audience for your ecommerce site? Did you already have an email list? Yes, and I think we were really lucky in that so much of our CRM was already built. We had a quarter of a million people's email addresses and 150,000 Instagram followers before we even had a Shopify site. We used things like the good old-fashioned WiFi email sign-up form to build the list. And then obviously lockdown arrived and we came to a point where around 95 percent of the business went into furlough. We gave those remaining on staff the option to choose furlough or pivot to help us with roles we needed to get the Shopify store up and running, things like email automation. And actually, we had a really incredible response in terms of the number of people who re-skilled in the last year. People were willing to try on a different hat and have become really passionate about something they never imagined doing a year ago. Also at that point, we were already working on what would what our first Facebook ads would look like. Once we’d closed all the physical doors and revenue went to zero, immediately the plan went from taking a two-month run at starting Facebook ads to two days. And they picked up really quickly. In terms of revenue, we went from doing £10,000 a month in February to doing £500,000 a month by May or June. Without DTC, this business would have died in lockdown. The fact that we went 50x in three months I think was down to loyalty. That was also a sink or swim moment for the business. I’m certain the funding that we’ve been able to secure since then has very much come off the back of that revenue growth — it genuinely saved the business as a whole. Without DTC, this business would have died in lockdown. Wow, it’s incredible you were able to scale conversions so quickly. Was your social promotion mostly concentrated on Facebook? Or were you also doing Pinterest and other channels? We hit the ground running and had to figure out Facebook, Pinterest, and Google to begin with. Then we had the challenge of figuring out what our ads should look like, while at the same time building the data stack underneath to track attribution. The ability to plug in off-the-shelf services like ReCharge to offer our subscription service, then build very strong Shopify store themes and plug that all together with Google Analytics by Littledata was really the foundation of the entire ecommerce business. We certainly couldn’t have done it without that. The ability to remain agile at the point where we most needed it was entirely built on a foundation of attaching these various off-the-shelf tools together with Littledata. It’s great to hear our GA connection was such a big piece of your growth. As you started to learn those different promotion channels like email marketing, did you look at any specific top-level stats? For subscription orders, definitely measuring the differences in customer LTV for subscribers versus “one-time purchasers.” In the early stages, though, revenue and return on ad spend (ROAS) were really the biggest top-line metrics for us. The challenge of having to build a data foundation while also building the house (the store) on top of it felt almost like life or death. The plug and playability of Littledata’s reporting tools is really what allowed us to do it. Is the main chunk of the business still going through coffee subscriptions? I’d say although we're not a “mono-product business,” a huge amount of our revenue is just through our compostable coffee pods. We're roasting a huge amount of our coffee ourselves and we can then grind that for people. I guess you could say the coffee pods are kind of our hero product; it's just an incredibly convenient way to to to make a really great, sustainable coffee at home. And since you're roasting it all yourself it’s always high quality. Oh, yeah. We have a high level of control there. Investing significantly in things like our supply chain and roasting equipment definitely allowed much of our growth in the early stages. There's a lot of bad advice out there on how to bootstrap a business in 30, 90, or 120 days. But actually, it just comes down to getting on with it, finding the right tools, and gathering people smart people enough to figure those tools out. With DTC as a whole, there's a bit of a roadmap now, right? People have done this thing before. And there are so many tools, whether it’s you guys at Littledata, or Shopify, or ReCharge, people have walked through these issues before. And in our experience, the people building those tools have always been happy to help out and to make things work for us. Bootstrapping a DTC brand just comes down to getting on with it, finding the right tools, and gathering people smart people enough to figure those tools out. Do you have any kind of advisory board or do you talk with other brands to help your growth? I know some people do and some don’t. It’s funny — when you're spending so much time looking at growth metrics, it's really easy to look at everyone as competition. But actually, there’s an incredibly interesting community of people (in DTC) and we're all on quite similar journeys. So I wouldn't say I’d call what we have an advisory board, but there's certainly a lot of people around London or even the U.K. who are at different stages on the same journey as us. Because this process is so online, it can sometimes feel solitary. But actually, there are people in the same place who are really keen to help out. And then the competition helps fuel the conversation. Quick links Build better Facebook Ad audiences by targeting the most valuable leads Boost customer LTV by tracking subscriptions in the checkout Is a headless setup righty for your store, and how do you track it? Learn everything you need to know about Shopify Analytics

by Ari
2021-09-21

Lunch with Littledata: Why a headless build is right for your store with Nacelle

Want to learn from DTC founders and entrepreneurs shaking up their industries? Check out the other entries in our Lunch with Littledata series. Ecommerce stores need to have a storefront build that’s not just engaging and aesthetically pleasing, but technically sound. Add to this the growing interest in headless setups, and choosing the right site architecture becomes one of the most critical decisions for a store owner to get right. Littledata partner Nacelle powers storefronts that stand out from the competition, offering headless website builds backed by a robust data stack. Focused on Progressive Web App (PWA) technology, Nacelle builds super clean, fast and responsive sites for modern DTC brands. They secured $50 million in Series B round funding from Tiger Global, proving investors see a promising future ahead. In this installment of our Lunch with Littledata series, we sat down with Devin Saxon, Senior Sales Engineer at Nacelle, to talk through the benefits of headless setups, when the right time is to try one, and how ecommerce is still evolving due to the COVID shift online. LD: In one sentence: what is headless? DS: Headless commerce is a flexible ecommerce architecture where your website’s back-end systems are fully decoupled from your website’s storefront (what your shoppers interact with). [tip]Littledata and Nacelle have partnered to create a build that gives you the full headless experience while keeping your Shopify Plus tech stack intact.[/tip] What exactly does Nacelle do? Nacelle is an easy way to build high-performing headless sites. Nacelle acts as the “abstraction layer” within a headless commerce architecture. Our product fully removes all interdependencies between the back end and the front end. It uses graphQL API endpoints with no rate limits for first indexing data (i.e. products, collections, and content), then delivering that data to your storefront. This ensures that you don’t run into any eventual consistency issues and dramatically decreases the complexity of a headless build. Nacelle is not an all-in-one, end-to-end solution. It’s structured to enable a true “headless” architecture, designed — and priced — for flexibility. It allows for customization and the opportunity for merchants to embrace their best options across the board. That includes everything from their ideal digital ecommerce agency partner to their preferred CMS system, third-party applications, hosting, and ecommerce platform at the core for their business. Is the headless build process dramatically different for brands with a good number of SKUs/products (like Something Navy) vs. stores with a few products selling by subscription (like Ballsy)? Every headless build is unique. Not because of catalogue size, but due to what the merchant’s goals and needs are for their front end and overall architecture. The process itself is not dramatically different. We align with the customer on the build scoping process, including their goals, integration, and workflow needs, which can be the biggest determinant of the timeline. It’s best to work this out far before they start building, though, to mitigate any issues from coming up during the build. When should you NOT move to a headless build? I would say it largely depends on the merchant’s goals and how they view their technology. Going headless can be a big expense upfront. So it’s beneficial to understand if you have the development resources to support the build itself, maintain your current site, and then maintain the headless site once complete. This is where it’s beneficial to work with a headless commerce platform. You’ll save time and resources while building out an efficient frontend and systems to differentiate your brand from the piping and plumbing of your headless architecture. “If a brand views their technology and engineering resources as ways to differentiate vs. a cost center, they are ready to make the move into headless.” You can also outsource development resources through an agency. We have typically seen success with brands who are $10-20m over annual revenue, or venture-backed and technology-forward. If the brand views their technology and engineering resources as ways to differentiate vs. a cost center, they are ready to make the move into headless. How has COVID affected your work at Nacelle? It seems like you’ve been hiring quite a bit! We are currently completely distributed as a company, and we have been hiring rapidly! We recently passed the 50 employee mark and we’re going to continue to grow that through the rest of the year. COVID’s effect on the ecommerce space has forced many businesses to reevaluate their tech stacks, which has led to a lot of positive opportunities for us. What about your merchants? Are things getting back to "normal"? The pandemic has definitely accelerated the conversation as ecommerce brands see the need to truly invest in their online presence. With that, headless really aligns with the philosophy of enabling DTC brands to better tell their story through their web storefront and shape the customer experience. Nacelle aligns well with DTC brands here because we remove the complexities of connecting your storefront with your back end. Instead, we allow you to completely focus on your front end with better development practices and less tech debt. Conversations have been really positive and engaging with merchants. It seems like things are actually cranking up more so than returning to normal. [tip]DTC brands with the right strategy can harness Shopify Plus to multiply their revenue and drive growth. Check out these 5 DTC stores fueling their success on Shopify Plus[/tip] Are agency partnerships a big part of your business model? Yes. We believe a strong technical implementation is best for any merchant going headless, and agencies are part of that equation. The agencies we work with have tremendous experience with headless builds and using Nacelle proves to be invaluable to brands who partner with them. What data points are important for your customers? I'm guessing site speed is a big metric? Site speed is always one that’s top of mind for customers. I’d also say conversion rate, average order value, pages per session, mobile conversion rate, and page-to-page speeds come up frequently. “Site speed is a data point that’s always top of mind for customers.” To give an example, Something Navy uses a drop model so their site will get aggressive amounts of traffic when they release something new. So, they wanted to see the number of unique sessions supported within the first 30 minutes of that product drop. We have a lot of different case studies with current customers that cover these points of data. What's the best resource for a Shopify store wanting to explore headless options? Hard to answer this and not be a little biased! Our marketing team put together some great content around this since we have a good amount of current customers on Shopify. Here’s a handful of links to some of my favorite resources they’ve created: Lessons From Over 20 Shopify Plus Headless Commerce Builds Get The Headless Experience Without Overhauling Your Shopify Plus Tech Stack What is Headless Commerce (And is it right for your store?) 7 Reasons to Consider a Headless Commerce Solution Going Headless on Shopify for the ecommerce Developer 5 Common Headless Commerce Questions, Answered Lastly, a bit technical, but what is the relationship between Nacelle and Netlify — or the "Jamstack"? Nacelle and Netlify work in tandem. Netlify delivers your online storefront to your customers' browsers by taking your website’s HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files and making them available online. Nacelle connects your back-end systems, syncs all of the data, and delivers it to the front end. Your Progressive Web App (PWA) calls Nacelle’s graphQL API endpoint in order to get all of the content and product/collection data for your site’s build. As for how we pair with the “Jamstack” — we help manage your back-end infrastructure and make static generation for the modern ecommerce store a breeze. With our back-end API, we are able to integrate directly with your systems (or ecommerce platform) that handle your PIM, OMS, CRM to index your products, and collect information for your front-end build. We also have pre-built integrations into Contentful and Sanity, so developers can leverage that same back-end API to integrate the CMS of their choice. With the front end, our APIs and Javascript SDK are robust and flexible. Our direct integrations into Nuxt and Next are intuitive and easy to use, and our API pairs flawlessly with Gatsby. Finally, we are compatible with over 30 popular ecommerce tools and easily integrate with new systems through APIs to keep up with evolving needs. Quick links: Dive deeper into headless tracking for Shopify Learn step by step how to add Google Analytics to your Shopify store Shopify Analytics vs. Google Analytics: Why don't they match? Try the Littledata Grow plan — for stores focused on data-driven growth

by Greg
2021-08-13

Lunch with Littledata: How Wild built an industry-leading brand in 2 years

Want to learn from DTC founders and entrepreneurs shaking up their industries? Check out the other entries in our Lunch with Littledata series. Lunch with Littledata is back! This time, we sat down with Charlie Bowes-Lyon, co-founder of natural deodorant brand Wild. Founded by industry veterans, Wild became a Littledata customer early on to supercharge their growth. Through savvy market moves and a strong growth vision, Wild became the biggest brand in the UK natural deodorant market. They’ve added more than 140,000 customers in just two years after launch, with plans to build on their impressive growth. In our Q&A below, Charlie shares his thoughts on choosing growth channels, going global, and which data points are crucial for any DTC business to be on top of. [tip]Learn how to track every order on your subscription store and tie them to your marketing campaigns with our guide to complete ReCharge data in Google Analytics.[/tip] LD: Wild has grown a ton since you signed up. When we first talked it was right after you’d closed the funding round. CBL: Yes, I think it was when we were launching International, right after we'd raised funding. So it was early days last summer. Back then you just had one country store? Yeah! It feels like a long time since then… (laughs) Are you mostly reliant on paid spend for growth strategy overall? Yes, we're very performance-led as a business. We operate over a variety of different marketing channels and, as a result of those channels, gain brand awareness. We've also operated a very community-centric and “social first” approach. So, when we initially designed the product we made sure that, at least from our point of view, we were creating something that was very shareable over channels like Instagram. Something that people would really want to talk about and show off to their friends.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Wild (@wildrefill) And I think we achieved that in quite a good way. We've managed to grow on social pretty quickly. In the space of a year and a couple of months, we’re coming up to about 115,000 followers on Instagram. The other side of that approach is nurturing the community. So we have VIP Facebook groups for people who really want to stay involved and be a part of the decision making. For example, we often have polls on things like what scent we should put out next. I think that's been big in helping people to feel like they're involved in decision making. So, it's not just us guessing what customers actually want. It's based on a more data-led approach. A lot of our customers at Littledata want to build those communities, but it’s hard to get the initial traction. Are your engagements mostly coming from current customers or from new customers too? It's both. Referrals account for about a third of all of our sales. So, it's about nurturing that community, being very genuine with them, and really involving them in everything we do. Then as a result of that, people are happy to share and recommend us to their family and friends. That's the organic growth side of it. But at the same time, we're constantly building growth heavily into our CRM. We have landing pages, and we do ads to push that growth along. Do you offer a gifting option? We're not big on gifting, to be honest. In our referral program, if you refer a friend, they get a free case. So it’s really an intro offer. Yes, essentially. Because it can be expensive for people who haven’t heard of our brand to pay £12 for a deodorant. So, letting them see what the product's all about and test it first is a good way. Then we rely on the product being high quality and good enough to retain them as customers. “We rely on the product being high quality and good enough to retain (free trial users) as customers.” Hopefully the ReCharge tracking add on has been helpful to you. Yeah! Without it, we can't see anything on Google Analytics or anywhere. So yeah, it's pretty vital. Who on your team uses the data that Littledata sends to GA? Well, it's used across a variety of things. Myself and the marketing team use GA for top-line statistics and data on different marketing campaigns and so on. It's also hooked into our analytics platform, so a lot of the data that they gather obviously comes from GA as well. That’s being used for things like measuring LTV, but also looking at the operations side of the business and working out different cogs and margins on products we’re selling. Have you built one core dashboard, or is it more of an ad hoc process where you dive into the data and build reports as needed? Yeah, there's a couple of different dashboards we use. Generally, we've got pretty good oversight of data. And Littledata definitely connects that bridge between Shopify and ReCharge for us, which when it's off everything goes completely wrong and doesn't work. So it has been quite important for us. [tip]Learn how to connect ReCharge with Google Analytics for accurate data about your recurring transactions.[/tip] Wild has focused on sustainability since the beginning. I've had a lot of talks with founders recently here in the US who feel like they're having a hard time. Sustainability is definitely a buzzword here, but putting it into practice is a whole different story. Some DTC verticals have caught on, but in a way Europe in general is more progressive in terms of customers backing that commitment up with their purchasing behavior. Yeah—it's a funny one because I think you're right in terms of sustainability. I think Europe and the UK are ahead and people are a little bit more aware. It's a bigger subject that we're constantly focused on, both in politics and our wider society. There's been a lot of quite good changes that have been made. But likewise, in the US with the likes of Elon Musk and Tesla, for example, there's a lot of companies that are doing some quite good awareness around it. On the flipside for us, the US has had good natural deodorant companies for four or five years. We were the first one in the UK launching just over a year ago. So the US market is probably a bit more developed when it comes to what natural products are and why they might be better. It’s all still pretty new for us over here, so that means we have a lot more education that we have to do for potential customers. Whereas potentially in the US, that piece of education's already been done to some extent. And was that part of the impetus for choosing this concept as your brand alone? Yeah, definitely. We saw some successful companies in the US who had done a great job with a fundamentally good product (i.e. natural deodorant that worked). But outside of that, their packaging was very simple and plastic. The brand was pretty bland. We looked at it and thought: “we can add in sustainability and create a better, fun-looking product.” Do you have a community of other brands and founders doing similar things that you personally interact with, or are you more lone wolves? Yeah, we speak to a lot of different people every week really. Both my co-founder Fred and I are lucky that we have pretty good networks from our previous jobs. We certainly get really good oversight of what other companies are doing and how they're doing it and what's working for them. Sometimes, though, what works for others won't work for us and vice versa. It's an interesting time at the moment. I think to be honest, we've probably just been through the best year of ecommerce that anyone's going to see for some time. And I imagine that the next year is going to be quite difficult as a result because, you know, everyone's coming out of lockdown, iOS 14 updates on Facebook, all these kind of small things are adding up to make life a little bit more difficult. And people are heading back into traditional stores as well. So, it'll be interesting to see what happens. But in a way, it's a good thing for us. We see it as hopefully a competitive advantage if things get a bit more tricky and we're able to execute better than others. [tip]Use Littledata’s guide to GDPR cookie banner compliance to ensure your store isn’t hit with a non-compliance fine.[/tip] Do you expect the business model to change at all, maybe to pull in wholesale? Yes, we've just gone live about a month ago into retail in the U.K., and we're now Sainsbury's. I think it's been a really good start so far. Potentially that will be a big channel for us. But really, we're very focused on two things. One is delivering the best natural deodorant we can and always iterating on that. The second is diversifying both our marketing channel mix and our strategy by going properly international. We're already in Europe, but we're dabbling in the US and Australia as well and testing other markets.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Wild (@wildrefill) I think the danger that’s present for ecommerce companies at the moment is that we could see a channel just stop working one day. Something like Facebook, suddenly people's customer acquisition costs could double on Facebook. For example, the UK has had really high adoption of the iOS 14 update from Facebook. I believe it’s somewhere around 30 percent of people (in the UK) are opting in for ads, whereas in Europe it's closer to 60 percent of people opting in. But because we have that diversification of countries we can advertise in, we can immediately move some of our advertising spend to Europe and we'll probably get better customer acquisition costs as a result. Being in Sainsbury's and hopefully other retail outlets in the future just gives us another channel where we can focus, spend on marketing, and diversify. And I think as well, to be honest, once we can, we'll probably do a lot of events and try to get out and get to offline channels. It just gives us another angle of approach. Is the goal that in-store shopping will be the first touchpoint for new online subscribers? Not necessarily, no. We're fairly channel-agnostic. So we don't really mind if someone's online buying from us or shopping in brick-and-mortar retail. “We're fairly channel agnostic. So we don't really mind if someone's online buying from us or shopping in brick-and-mortar retail.” Wild offers a slightly complex product where some explanation is required to kind of understand who we are and what we're doing. And often if you go into a retail store, you're not really looking for something new. You’ve basically got a second where you glance at the products on a shelf. So it's hard to know. But I do think that the brand awareness we've created over the last year has massively improved the retail results that we've had today. Plus, they both will just feed off each other. Some people don't like to order online, or they forget about it. They might want to just go into the shop and grab a refill. Likewise, some people might make their first purchase in a shop and then sign up on the website and get an online subscription. I think the key is just giving customers options. Do you plan to expand globally? And if so, do you plan to hire specific country managers? There are lots of subtle things that can make a difference. Yeah, massively so. We're barely touching the surface of the potential in Europe. And there's a huge market in the US and Australia for us as well. That said, we plan to choose a couple of markets, focus in on them, and make it work there before trying to do too much at once. We’re hiring a German country manager at the moment, so that's going to be our starting point. Quick links Littledata's partner program for Shopify Plus agencies and tech partners Headless Shopify tracking with Littledata Ensuring GDPR cookie banner compliance for your ecommerce store Calculate customer lifetime value for ecommerce using Google Analytics data

by Ari
2021-07-14

Lunch with Littledata: Q&A with Casey Armstrong, CMO at ShipBob

This week, we're continuing our Q&A segment: Lunch with Littledata! We recently caught up with Casey Armstrong, CMO at ShipBob, to chat about the Shopify world, fulfillment, decision-making during COVID, Shopify analytics, and more. ShipBob is a tech-enabled 3PL that fulfills ecommerce orders for DTC brands; their mission is to make Shopify stores feel more successful online by providing reliable fulfillment solutions, warehouses near customers to help transit times, shipping costs, and the overall delivery experience. ShipBob also has a strong Shopify integration. [tip]Check out Littledata's top-rated Shopify app for Google Analytics -- with advanced tracking for Shopify Plus[/tip] Let's dive right in! Q: Has ShipBob’s core market changed during the crisis? Our core market has not changed since the COVID-19 pandemic started, but our core market has grown considerably. The reliance on selling direct-to-consumer and ecommerce has been steadily increasing year-over-year and now everybody who was hesitant or putting it off has to adapt immediately. "The reliance on selling direct-to-consumer has been steadily increasing" In addition, buyers are creating habits and becoming more comfortable buying online. This will impact retail forever. There is no going back to the percentage of retail occurring offline in the US. Q: Are you still seeing a big uptick in AOV when customers migrate to using ShipBob's fulfillment solution? This varies greatly by merchant, but by offering free shipping, fast shipping, or fast and free shipping, we have seen merchants see increases in AOV from 17% and up to 98% in extreme cases. Q: If you were personally to start an ecommerce business in North America right now, what would you sell? Happiness :) Q: What's the most common misconception ecommerce businesses have about fulfillment, or just 3PL solutions in general? The biggest misconception is that they have to be doing a lot of volume. That is not the case. In fact, ShipBob was built to democratize fulfillment for all ecommerce merchants. We have customers that are doing 50 shipments per month and customers that are doing well over 50,000 shipments per month. They both have access to the same fulfillment center network, run by the same warehouse management system, and they see everything in the same merchant application. Plus, we charge $0 for all of our software, including all integrations and our analytics tools. Q: Are a number of your Shopify merchants selling by subscription? Which apps are they using? Yes, we have a lot of merchants utilizing subscription offerings, so they can increase customer LTV and have a more predictable revenue stream. The most common applications we see now are ReCharge and Bold Subscriptions. [tip]See how you can track your subscription data with complete accuracy.[/tip] Q: Any tips for merchants who might be new to ecommerce? Know your numbers: COGS, customer acquisition costs, and fulfillment costs. Sounds basic, but if you don’t know your numbers, you can't efficiently scale your business or know which levers to focus on!   Quick links Littledata's partner program for Shopify Plus agencies and tech partners Free ebooks about how to improve Shopify analytics Headless Shopify tracking with Littledata

by Ari
2020-08-20

Lunch with Littledata: Q&A with Chase Clymer, Co-Founder of Electric Eye

This week, we're continuing our Q&A segment: Lunch with Littledata! We recently caught up with Chase Clymer, Co-founder of Electric Eye, to chat about the Shopify world, headless commerce, decision-making during COVID, Shopify analytics, and more. Chase also leads the charge at Honest Ecommerce, a weekly podcast where he provides store owners with honest, actionable advice to grow their business. A number of Electric Eye's clients use our Shopify app for Google Analytics, and as a matter of fact,we recently partnered with Honest Ecommerce to assemble a list of the 8 best apps to help you scale in 2020, whether you run on Shopify or Shopify Plus. Let's dive right in! Q: How did you start Electric Eye? We borrowed the name from a Judas Priest song when clients got confused who to send money to for projects. We started the way most agencies start -- by complete accident. My partner Shawn and I ended up with a handful of freelance ecommerce clients, all on Shopify. We were tackling improvements and marketing and eventually it evolved into a business. That was about 5 years ago. We still have the same core values, with a few extra now. We started because we wanted to run a business that made us happy and truly helped people.  Q: Has your offering changed during the pandemic? Our focus has been on ecommerce and the pandemic has really highlighted the importance of ecommerce, so we've been a bit busier lately. Our offer has not changed at all: we increase sales for ecommerce brands. We create Shopify-powered sales machines with strategic design, development and marketing decisions. We have been a little more friendly when it comes to terms for our clients, as some of them need to make investments now to pay off later.  Q: Is headless ecommerce just a passing fad? That's a great question. I don't think headless ecommerce is a fad. I've been learning all about it lately from our Lead Developer. It has its place, but like everything in technology, it's just a tool. No tool will fix underlying issues. Using all the buzzwords on your store build won't make your product not suck or fix your marketing. Focus energy there.  Using all the buzzwords on your store build won't make your product not suck or fix your marketing. Focus energy there.  [tip]Did you know Littledata tracks headless Shopify setups in both Google Analytics and Segment?[/tip] Q: What's one episode you'd recommend for merchants who haven't yet heard your Honest Ecommerce podcast, and why? I'd probably recommend our most popular episode with Joe from Speedboostr where we talk about optimizing Shopify stores and automation. In this one, I feel like I've finally hit my stride and as someone who can actually host the podcast (haha).  Q: And one more just for good luck? Our second most popular episode is actually the first episode we ever recorded with Kurt Elster. We chat about 'revenue optimization' for Shopify stores -- and who doesn't want to make more money?  [tip]Check out Littledata's co-founder Ari Messer's chat with Chase in Honest Ecommerce episode #21[/tip] Q: Why are so many musicians interested in tech? I think it comes down to the DIY nature of most bands. You're so broke, you have to learn things just to get them done. I believe a lot of brands should do that too. Learn the basics about anything you're going to hire out so you can talk effectively about how your investment is going to create a positive ROI.  Q: When's the best time to hire a Shopify expert? After you've found product / market fit. Simply put, this means you're seeing real sales from actual customers. This would be a good sign you've got an actual business. Nobody is going to build a business for you. It takes hard work, and you've got to do that work, or you're not going to get any results.  Q: How important are analytics to your clients? What tools do they use?  Analytics are extremely important and I could rant all day about certain ones in certain places, but in short, we try and focus on three main KPIs: Conversion rate Average order value (AOV) Traffic These three numbers run an ecommerce business. I've got a video on YouTube where I go more in-depth about it. Improving those metrics is where you should focus your time and energy. Shout out to lifetime value (LTV / CLV) as well, but that's getting a bit more complex haha.  [tip]Selling by subscription? Here's how you can calculate LTV in Google Analytics for your Shopify subscription store[/tip] As far as tools go, Google Analytics is an amazing tool. It's free and more robust than almost anything else on the market. It's just a bit overwhelming to set up and use correctly. We also pull a lot of numbers straight from native applications or advertising solutions, such as Klaviyo and Facebook Advertising.    Quick links Littledata's partner program for Shopify Plus agencies and tech partners Headless Shopify tracking with Littledata Import Facebook Ad Costs to Google Analytics for complete marketing data Resources for COVID-19 and ecommerce

by Nico
2020-07-16

Lunch with Littledata: Q&A with Anshey Bhatia, CEO of Verbal+Visual

This week, we're continuing our Q&A segment: Lunch with Littledata! We sat down (virtually) with Anshey Bhatia, founder and CEO of Verbal+Visual, to chat about the Shopify world, good design, and where things are going. V+V is one of our fantastic agency partners here at Littledata. They work closely with thoughtful brands that are dedicated to a seamless, user-centric experience on Shopify Plus. We share a number of customers with the agency and it was great to catch up during these crazy -- but also inspirational -- times here in NYC. Let's dive right in! Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your clients overall? Have they seen a boom in orders or AOV, or has order volume been normal? Our clients with higher cost per units for non-home items have been much more affected than everyone else. While no client has seen a major boom, only one client has seen a significant loss, and they are a high-ticket, night-on-the-town apparel company that launched in February. All in all, while there was a slight dip for most in March, ecommerce rebounded quickly. Q: How has V+V adapted to the pandemic era? We have taken on some new client work that is smaller in scope than our typical projects. We’ve done this to help the immediate needs of brands that were not positioned to adapt to the acceleration of e-commerce shopping that we’ve seen. When we saw the need for smaller development projects that could save brands thousands of dollars a day in lost sales, we realized it’s more efficient to solve those short term problems before addressing a full site redesign. We saw the need for smaller development projects that could save brands thousands of dollars a day in lost sales Harley Finkelstein, the COO of Shopify, recently referred to Shopify as a “Retail Operating System”, and we agree with that definition. Our agency is not just building ecommerce websites; we create the infrastructure needed for a brand to scale across many different online and offline channels. [note]Wondering how Littledata has adapted? Here's what we're doing in response to the crisis.[/note] Q: If you were going to start a DTC brand right now, what would it sell? We partner with brands that are mission-driven and are thoughtful about their supply chains and materials. We also love working with brands focused on other mission-driven areas such as health and wellness, and empowerment / equality initiatives. With that in mind, we would start a DTC brand that sources non-perishable ingredients from local restaurants and merchants. Restaurants have come up with inventive ways to sell food and other products while their establishments are shut down, so bringing locally sourced products like sauces, spices, and seasonings to a larger audience is a huge opportunity. For example, Bread makers have seen the second largest increase in purchases from March 2019 to March 2020 as a result of COVID-19, and I have a feeling our team could design a pretty kick-ass bread maker! Q: Sounds delicious! So you're a group of ecommerce design experts — visual design, experience design, etc. What's the most challenging part of creating great design experiences for businesses running on Shopify? Two important issues come to mind. Firstly, brands always want experiential sites, however they also want high conversion rates and AOV. The two don’t always go well together. It’s important that while going through the design process, the tightrope between brand equity and conversion focus is walked across gently and that we don’t go too far in either direction at the risk of losing the other. This is not endemic to Shopify necessarily, however most brands that are on Shopify care deeply about their brand. Secondly, all ecommerce sites need to be accessible to everyone, everywhere. We need to design sites with accessibility as a priority, as it’s not only the law, it’s the right thing to do. The trick is retaining a unique experience, ensuring shoppability, and allowing equal access, all at the same time. Q: What are some underrated elements of great ecommerce design that merchants should pay more attention to? We spend a lot of time thinking about the design elements that are not immediately noticeable. A lot of the new brands we see have certain elements that are trendy or in line with an agency’s signature style. For us, we focus our energies on creating scalable design systems that will bend but not break as a company grows their enterprise. Sometimes that means we have to question the brand’s assumptions and really dig into their brand identity. It’s not always clear and then our job becomes designing a set of guidelines that can not only be applied to the digital experience, but elsewhere. While we don’t specifically focus on branding, it’s important that we understand the fundamental building blocks of the brands’ visual identity, so that we can bring that brand to life across digital touch points. We also pay attention to interactions, animations, and page transitions. These animations are not always noticeable and sometimes they are designed to be that way. If a PDP is image-heavy by design, we’ll create loading animations for those images, with the understanding that it will take a little longer to load some of those images as users scroll down the page. Q: What's your advice for merchants who may not realize that a great shopper experience is stalling their growth? A lot of brands are selling a great product, they’re creating compelling ads on Facebook and Instagram which tells the story of the brand. Then potential customers click on those ads and end up on a site that does not align with the touch points they’ve had with the brand so far. A digital experience that doesn’t align with the brand’s identity will immediately reduce trust between the customer and the brand. It’s important to have a seamless customer journey from delivering ads, to the website, to emails and even into the receipt of the packages. If parts of the customer experience don’t feel connected, you are more likely to lose your customer or lose their potential LTV. Q: How does ecommerce look different for standard Shopify stores vs. Shopify Plus stores right now? There are so many new brands appearing in different verticals right now. Shopify does a great job of giving brands the tools to get off the ground and running. However, when brands need to start to differentiate themselves, they break out of the templated design that Shopify is best for. From a design perspective, you can accomplish pretty much anything you want on a Shopify store all the way up to a Shopify Plus store. Shopify Plus stores, though, are able to elevate the holistic digital experience to another level. Shopify Plus offers significantly more functionality for brands that are going international and are expanding via physical retail or other channels. Shopify Plus is built to provide an entire commerce infrastructure, while Shopify is built for a starter level e-commerce experience. Shopify Plus also offers white glove customer service, which is hugely important for brands serious about their long term growth. Q: Is omnichannel selling a thing of the past? On the contrary, omnichannel is the future of commerce. Some people think of omnichannel as the relationship between offline and online shopping. We view omnichannel as any touch point your customer can buy at. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of ecommerce, but ecommerce still sits at under 30% of total commerce. While most first-time ecommerce shoppers are going to large marketplaces like Amazon, Target, and Walmart, many of them are also exploring DTC brands for the first time. Brands are looking to shift to big marketplaces while also experimenting with new channels like TikTok and mobile gaming platforms. Additionally, we’re seeing traditionally offline businesses like restaurants looking for additional revenue streams. Shopify’s updates for Shopify POS have addressed the short term safety issues surrounding COVID-19, and we believe these updates will also help to improve the dynamic between online and offline, and make more shoppers comfortable with the idea of omnichannel. Ultimately, brands want to be where their customers are. We don’t always know what channels are going to be popular, but we do know all brands need a strong digital infrastructure in place to adapt and scale. Q: How crucial is it for Shopify Plus merchants to trust their tracking? In other words, how important is accurate Shopify tracking and reporting to a store's success? We use data to drive our design process, inform the user experience, and our ecommerce strategy recommendations. As mentioned before, one of the main problems we see with brands is the misalignment between their marketing campaigns, creative content, their website, and the unboxing experience. We use data to drive our design process and inform the user experience It’s critical for us to know where customers are coming from, how they are converting, how much they are spending, and their lifetime value. This not only helps our clients’ marketing efforts, but it allows their ecommerce team to make informed decisions. We can understand what changes need to be made to landing pages, PDPs, and path to purchase, and we can attribute customers to the correct marketing channels so that teams can align around shared goals. Accurate Shopify reporting ultimately leads to clarity around ownership of the data and accountability, so we can’t stress enough the importance of being able to read and interpret these data points.   Thanks again to Anshey and the Verbal+Visual team for hanging out with us online. Looking for more Lunch with Littledata? Last month we sat down with Chad Rubin, CEO of Skubana (and a Shopify seller too!).

by Ari
2020-06-16

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