Tim (Host): Welcome to another episode of the MarTechno Beat, especially curated podcast series powered by Netcore Solutions. Here’s what you’ll gain cutting edge insights from leading marketers, product champions and MarTech influencers on all things, user growth, engagement, retention, and AI led personalization throughout this series. We’re interacting with global e-commerce experts and thought leaders to get their insights into the biggest e-commerce personalization trends in 2021 and beyond. I’m your host, Tim Moran. And today I’m joined by a very special guest. Chloe Thomas. Hi, Chloe. How are you?
Chloe (Guest): Hi Tim. I’m very good. Thank you. Excited to be here on your show.
Tim: Yeah, likewise, excited to have you, I’ve been following you for quite some time and for the audience that isn’t aware of you, I’m sure many are, but Chloe is a globally recognized e-commerce marketing problem solver, author of several best-selling books. I’m a keynote speaker and host of the award-winning e-commerce master plan podcast, and, take a deep breath, the brand-new keep optimizing marketing podcast. I’m not sure where you find all the time, again, welcome Chloe and glad to have you, you know, fit into your busy schedule. Otherwise
Chloe: I always have time for other podcasters, because you know, it’s, it’s great spreading the word, everything I do, everything I’ve managed to find time for, as you say, it’s a packed diary, but it’s all about helping people find their route to growth with e-commerce and helping them avoid the pitfalls. So, any opportunity to help spread the word, I’m always up for it.
Tim: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And that’s one of the reasons why we were so keen to have you join us in this podcast series is because I think so much of, you know, MarTech is, it focuses on tech, right? It’s the ones in the zeros and it loses that human touch and, you know, again, super excited to have you, you know, just covering off on a lot of that today, you know, just to kick it off. for those of you that might not be familiar with you, could you maybe walk us through your journey in the realm of e-commerce and, you know, maybe a little bit of what you’re focusing on most recently.
Chloe: Wow. Yeah. so, I’ve been in e-commerce since early 2000 now, which is a crazy long time. and it’s been interesting, you say actually about how people get obsessed by the tech and forget about the softer stuff, because I often get asked what’s changed in that time. And as a marketer, who’s interested in cajoling customers to buy from us actually not much has changed. I remember my first job in e-commerce. We were trying to set up email, welcome sequences to increase customer lifetime value. And we were trying to do post-purchase campaigns and we were trying to get Google ads to work well for us. So, in some ways like nothing’s actually changed, it’s just the texts become a lot easier. so it’s interesting. You mentioned that I’ve been in, in the, in the industry 15 years was client side. Then I ran a marketing agency for 10 years and for the last three years, I’ve been fully concentrating on what we do here at e-commerce master plan, which has been going for a lot longer than that. I did this for someone who studied history at uni. I am terrible at remembering the dates of things. It’s truly embarrassing, but that’d be I for the last, last three years, it’s been all e-commerce master plan, which is all about having fun and making money, first and foremost, driven by the desire to help e-commerce businesses by giving them the tools to solve their own problems. So, as you mentioned, the two podcasts e-commerce master plan is all about inspiring business owners by sharing stories from other people who are at the coalface of e-commerce and keep optimizing. We focus on going deep into different marketing methods. And then my three books are kind of where, because both my podcasts are interview based. It’s nice to have somewhere where I just get to talk my own stuff. So that’s kind of where the books,
Tim: It’s your own creative outlet, so to speak. And I think you’re over several hundred episodes of the, the e-commerce master plan, podcast at this point in time. Am I incorrectly, seeing fame in it?
Chloe: No, you’re right. I think, numerically where I had some very strange numbering systems in the early days, we’ve actually done a lot more episodes than there are numbers. but number wise, we’re over 300. We’ve been going for over five years. So, yeah, there’s a lot there. Yeah,
Tim: Yeah, yeah. Understandably. And like you and I were just chatting, before this podcast, you know, there’s a lot of it that’s actually evergreen as well too, because like you just mentioned so much has changed since the early two thousand and so much, you know, has remained the same, and it’s, it’s often quite amazing if you take a deep introspection into those two different areas of things. I know we’re here today to talk about personalization and we’ll get to that. I promise you, but maybe you could pick out one thing besides personalization that you think is most interesting right now that you’re spending a lot of time focusing on and learning more about and talking to people about?
Chloe: Oh, that marvelously ambiguous phrase that is storytelling. that’s the one I am properly into at the moment, still trying to fully define it, still trying to fully work out what it is, but it’s kind of, it’s kind of like, you know, we’ve all been talking about emotional commerce, emotional e-commerce for a couple of years now. And initially everyone was kind of doing the easy stuff. So, putting reviews everywhere and using urgency and FOMO and you know, all those kinds of scarcity tactics to quickly drive a sale. it’s almost like storytelling is kind of the, the ambiguous hard to define big brother, all-encompassing piece of that. It’s one of the things that D to C brands tend to do incredibly, and it’s all about creating a really strong emotional connection with the customer. So, they feel like they’re part of your tribe because they’re able to connect with your kind of as humans with human desire rather than just these guys making great mugs.
Tim: You know, it’s super interesting. And I think I’m seeing a trend here. we couldn’t lay Campbell on a previous episode, one of the, a great guy, you know, again, I’d followed him forever and it was great to get to speak with him. But one of his points that he covered off on was, storytelling much like you mentioned, but his focus was, how some people are doing artificial intelligence generated storytelling, which was just like one of those, you know, mind blowing, you know, kind of thoughts. If you could picture the animated Jeff meme, a big guy with his hands, you know, going out from his head. It just, it really took me by surprise.
Chloe: Yeah. I have a friend in the States who I, you know, your friend in the UK who spends a lot of time in the States who he, one of his, he was, we caught up last week and he was saying that a lot of the people he works with are getting using AI software to write books that they’re then launching on Amazon and that’s essentially their business model. And he was trying to persuade me to write my next book by getting the AI to write it. I’m just, I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I’m not quite sure.
Tim: It sounds to me like that’s two books, you have the AI generated book and then you have the post-mortem book to follow up and see what the experience was like, one written by the computer and one written by you. So, keep an eye out. You heard it, you heard it here first folks Chloe will be writing an AI book in the not-too-distant future.
Chloe: It was to see if it out sales the one I actually slaved over, probably.
Tim: I know that would be really depressing, but you know, to keep things, I, I think it’s super relevant in the sense that, you know, storytelling is so much about the individual and the topic today is personalization. And, you know, again, it’s that one-to-one conversation that businesses can have with their customers, at scale. And, you know, I feel that so many of us realize that the pandemic of 2020 has put a tremendous spotlight on e-commerce, an area where brick and mortar, you know, is finding success in salvation. you know, pretty much globally. we’ve never seen anything like this to this extent, at least, with all of this consumption, migrating online, while customer acquisition is a notable challenge, I wonder what your thoughts are on some of the biggest challenges that e-commerce players are combating in terms of customer engagement and retention.
Chloe: Yeah, I think it’s something which I’m pondering quite a lot at the moment is this kind of boom in new customer acquisition, we had kind of through no fault of our own last year. People just bought from us. I don’t know why, but they just bought from us is something I hear surprisingly large about the time. I don’t record people when they’re saying that, but, so you won’t find it on the podcast, but he’s kind of like the, oh my God, we’ve got all these new customers. How do we keep them around? Are they people who are going to stick around? Are they the right customers for us or has this actually fundamentally changed our business? So, I think, in terms of retention, I think it’s brilliant that this has actually got us properly spending time on it. But I also think, you know, it’s the, the old, the old saying, I suppose, which is always slightly frustrating for anyone listening. So, I apologize in advance for saying this, but it is true, which is retention starts at the point of acquisition. And if you want to retain someone and get them to buy again, you have to sell to the right person in the first place. You know, I suppose if you were selling a premium, toilet paper and a gold-plated toilet paper or something last year, and you picked up a load of new customers who just wanted toilet paper, you’re not going to be retaining many of them. They’re going to go back to whatever bog standard, toilet paper they were buying beforehand. So, you’ve kind of got to be aware of the different segments who are buying from you and who are the most likely ones to, to retain. But then I think also it’s about the journey you take them on as they go through the buying process. And how will you look after them? Post-purchase is really important to that whole acquisition. And the first sale has such an influence on customer retention.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s interesting that you say retention starts at the point of acquisition. I’m sure, there are a lot of people nodding their heads, you know, globally, as they listen to this. And it’s so true, but something even more interesting, I think that I wanted to call out, that you just mentioned something I haven’t necessarily thought about is, are they the right customers? And if they are the right customers, how are they purchasing from you? And is that fundamentally changing? What kind of a business are you? You know, we have a customer, I won’t name names, who’s working with us for personalization on a website and, they previously were, let’s call them just a good general clothing, e-commerce retailer. And they’ve since shifted almost 100% of focus and sales to masks. and it wasn’t by any choice of their own. It was more along the lines of, this is what they’ve observed their customers purchasing. This is where the trends were going. People were staying home more, but they were needing these stylish masks and that dictated their strategy the past six to eight months. so again, I think that was super interesting that you called that out. and then in terms of customer acquisition as well, too, you know, I think that retention starts at the point of acquisition, but we need to be planning for that retention, before the acquisition. And, you know, I’d be curious to hear some of your thoughts about how you can plan for that retention.
Chloe: Oh, there’s a question. Can I give you, because we started talking about personalization. Can I, you one kind of personalization tip for the recruitment process at this point? Yeah, absolutely. So, something which I’ve seen increasing number of businesses doing, especially in the health and beauty sector, that seems to be being a super powerful way of both getting the first sale and giving yourself the ability to personalize communications into the second sale and beyond is to do kind of a, not a personality quiz, but a product selection quiz first and foremost on the homepage. So, you’ve probably seen it, you get on a website and they’re selling some kind of funky new hair product. So, hair story does this. and as a contributor, like, yeah, I love the idea. I love the story of this, you know, new gen, new gen shampoo. That’s going to make my hair amazing and it doesn’t have all the horrible stuff. I can’t remember the names of, but I, I’m bought in, but I’ve no idea what to buy or how to do it. So they give you a quiz. What, what should you be your starter kit or something. And you click through as a consumer answering the questions, and then they tell you what to buy. And obviously it’s practically helpful in terms of working out what to buy. It also uses an emotional trigger of once someone has been involved in the creation process of something, they are more likely to go on and buy it. And although they haven’t changed the product because the customer had an involvement in picking this, you know, answering the questions as they go through to that package, that’s developed for them, they are more likely to buy it. So you increase your conversion rate, you put the right product in front of the customer and you give yourself incredibly useful data that you can use to then segment what appears on the website, what marketing they get in the future. And when it’s, I mean, it can be used for all kinds of different products, but when it’s for health and beauty in particular, it means you understand that person’s product needs. You know, if there’s someone with short curly hair, they’re not going to need the same products as someone with long straight hair, you know? And so, there’s, there’s things you would never bother promoting to them. So that I think is, is really important on the acquisition strategy that really impacts your potential for, for repeat purchase later on.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. And it, as, as you’re talking about that has me thinking about how, you know, personalization at this point in time, I think it’s such a broad term because there are so many areas, in the customer journey life cycle that we have opportunity to personalize an experience, specifically to them, in the case of acquisition, you focus on something that I think a lot of us, tend to overlook when we’re thinking about what complex solution I need. And it’s basically just asking the customer what they would like to buy. Can you just ask me what my preferences are in, in many instances, if it’s phrased the right way, and if it’s a site that I seem to trust, you’d probably be surprised what I tell you. And that just turns into a trove of first party data that we don’t have to worry about any private privacy concerns over because it’s acquired properly, focusing in on personalization, Chloe, in one-to-one personalization, you know, again, it’s, popped up really is a major conversation, conversion and retention lever. You know, at netcore, we see pretty much every day, helping our customers to implement, AI driven, product recommendations, technology to foster that one-to-one conversation, you know, between a business owner or marketer and a customer at scale, but what we’re really truly learning is that to that point, it can mean so many different things. Personalization can mean so many different things to different brands. for e-commerce players, a product recommendation engine can be truly a critical success factor. In your experience, how were brands leveraging this to drive higher platform, stickiness, loyalty and revenue growth? I feel that’s related to, you know, the acquisition strategy that you just described.
Chloe: Yeah, it’s totally related to it because I think, I think where we’re onsite personalization, where you’ve got the merchandising happening through the AI for you, it’s, it’s obviously a massive time saver for the team. I go back far enough that I, when we were trying to do all this stuff manually, and it was on, it was a time eater. So, you know, it’s a massive team internally, but the bigger benefit is the far, far bigger benefit is by getting the right product in front of the right customer at the right time, which you can, we don’t. And I think there’s a place for both, the manual asks and they tell you what they want, if the quiz idea that I shared earlier, but then I think there’s a, there’s a huge benefit for getting the tech to do it for you. You know, so the right product is put in front of the right person at the right time and the things which, I mean, I’m seeing all kinds of strategies and it continues to kind of boggle my brain a little bit. How many different ways people could do this? You know, because it’s like back five, six years ago, you put something on the website and then, you know, you were like, Oh, brilliant. There’s no longer an out-of-stock product at the top. And, you know, and you might have a better search functionality. So, people don’t keep ending up in the bin, you know, on a four Oh four pages. And now its mind blowing the different ways in which retailers use it. And the thing which, which often kind of has me the most impressed is how they’re using it for new customer acquisition, not just for, for the retention side of it, which I know is completely not what you asked me, Tim, you asked me about the retention side, but the fact that you’re learning all those things from existing customers to put the right thing in front of the new customers, she knows best seller blocks and so forth. We do also have a good impact on the retention strategy. You know, there’s different ways you can manipulate the products to get different options for people I think is key. And then I guess the, the most, the one where if I come across someone who’s got a fully embedded, product recommendation system running on their site, one of my first questions to them is have you integrated with your email marketing? Because that for me is an absolute, no brainer of a recommendation box or in your, for your retention customers and a best seller’s box in pretty much every email that goes out for your, for your inquirers, because you’re just, you’re just putting a great product in front of people. It’s why wouldn’t you.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah. Why wouldn’t you, that’s the question and it’s, it’s so empowering, I think again, to actually own the data. you mentioned, you know, again, how I asked about retention, but you’ve focused on acquisition. I won’t hold that against you personally. Again, I think both of those pillars are super important in establishing a foundation, to build a really super powerful, you know, e-commerce engine. That sounds so impersonal. but let’s call it a customer experience, right? Because if it’s a brand, if I think a brand gets me from the start and they do nothing, but show me that they continue to try to understand who I am through my changing tastes and timeframes, I will be more likely to want to give them my hard-earned dollar. You know, it’s a matter of something that I think, is a lost art, you know, in the sense of loyalty and customer retention and again, it’s no different than a shopkeeper of old, welcoming someone into the store and remembering that they like a certain type of a cosmetic or, you know, a particular taste in music back when CDs were still a thing. And I flinched because I dated myself. So, if you know, it’s just jumping ahead, you know, in terms of e-commerce and e-commerce brands, you know, what are some top things that, you know, you think they should focus on to increase average order value and long-term customer lifetime value. I, I think that that’s heavily related to personalization, but I’m very curious to hear, you know, some of your thoughts, you know, on that,
Chloe: I think it kind of everything we’ve already said, I suppose, would be, would be the number one point. It’s very much the case that, you know, if you recruit the right customers, it’s an awful lot easier to increase the customer lifetime value. So back to my point earlier about, about, you know, identifying the right channels, you should be when you’re looking at customer lifetime value and should be doing it based on acquisition channels. So are the customers who stick around and spend the most money, the ones you’ve got on your Facebook video ads, or they’re the ones you’ve got via, I don’t know, the Google shopping campaigns or email signup or something, because that is, you know, being able to change what happens at the beginning of the funnel makes a huge difference to the end of the funnel. So, you’ve got to, it’s not just a global customer lifetime value looking at it. It’s something a lot more, a lot more in depth. I think also it’s about more and more, and this is partly from, you know, builds on what you were just saying. Tim, it’s more and more about understanding how customers’ needs change a bit over time. You know, you said about, you know, they, they see your storekeeper sees you come into the store. I think the example that’s probably easiest to understand is when you’re talking about a fashion retailer, and back in the day, you know, we always got a fashion retailer. You can identify, who’s bought women’s clothes and who’s bought men’s clothes and who’s bought kids clothes and forever. We will only send them information about that category, which, you know, you’re laughing because you know what I’m going to say, which is that women still rightly or wrongly, it’s the fact frequently buy clothes for their male partner clothes for their children. Therefore, it’s going to change over time. And I think that’s one of the best things that AI is able to give us is that, you know, it can see that last time she was on the site, she was looking at the kids’ clothes. So, the next email we send should have some kids’ clothes and her normal choices, and it should mix it up. And if we can get our channels working together and we can get the AI set up right, then we’re going to, or rather let the AI set itself up, right. Let’s be honest, then that is going to help us put the right message in front of the right person at the right time, you cannot afford just to abdicate your own responsibility as the marketer, as the business owner, to the AI, because every tool is only as good as the person using it. So, you also have to, you still have to put some work in, but I think it’s when the marketing meets the, the power of the algorithms, that’s where we get the biggest impact on customer lifetime value.
Tim: Yeah, I’m totally with you on that. And it sounds like it’s such a lofty ambition and goal, to have an AI to help evolve the customer journey. You know, something that actually understands that, well, I may be shopping for children now, but a little secret kid grows up. Right. And the things that you’re going to be buying for them are going to be changing over time as you mentioned women that buy for their husbands. you know, that’s exactly how it happens in this household as well too. I can imagine what my fashion would look like without, you know, the brilliant input of my wife. and, and one of the things I think that you mentioned, as well, it’s key and it’s something we see at net core every day again, is that, there needs to be the human element in the guiding touch to help someone understand how to use a technology, you know, situationally. So that person that does own, or manage an e-commerce retail website, you know, in this case, should be using net core as a personalization product. We make sure that we always have a helping hand to guide them and understand not only from a technical standpoint, how things need to be implemented, but from a strategic standpoint as well too. And I think that’s something that all marketers should take to heart. you know, not, not just in the States, but globally is the fact that this technology doesn’t need to sound like it’s a lofty ambition or a lofty goal. it, it, it is even outside of personalization, something that’s readily available today, in, in, and again, just, you know, something that I think you call out and is super appropriate. So, Chloe, we are wrapping up now, you have said a lot covered off on storytelling. I think we’ve covered off on customer acquisition, customer retention. you’ve covered off on, something that I’m definitely going to be looking into, you know, focusing more on in the future, AI evolving, customer journeys. Because again, I think that’s now that you bring it up, I think that’s a super fascinating area to focus on. but ultimately, you know, it’s the idea that customer acquisition and retention need to start with storytelling and asking the right questions and just understanding who their customer is. So with that being said, I’m sure a global audience will benefit greatly from all that you’ve shared with us today. Our listeners would like to follow more of your fantasies if they’d like to follow more of your fantastic thought leadership on e-commerce. you know, maybe again, I know that you’ve covered off on some of this in the beginning, but where are some of the high-level places that people can find you again?
Chloe: Well, the easiest thing to do is to go to e-commercemasterplan.com and then you’ll find some very obvious legs to both the podcasts and to the books and details of the house, get in contact with me too. So yeah, ecommercemasterplan.com goes there. You’ll find everything
Tim: Wonderful. Chloe, thank you so much for making the time and joining us, in a big thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in, for more such awesome content, do subscribe or follow a more techno beat wherever podcasts are found, or write to us, at engage and net core cloud.com with your questions and suggestions, for the next, in our exciting series, Chloe, it was marvelous speaking with you. Thank you so much for joining
Chloe: Tim. It was an absolute pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.