Since 1994, VL Omni has been automating and integrating data for the omnichannel retail sector (both B2B and B2C). VL is one of the first Shopify Plus Technology Partners, and Robin has been invited to speak at numerous events on the topics of e-commerce strategy, growth, and more.
About VL OMNI: VL integrates and automates data strategically, applying business rules to the data transformation directly so that there is no need to manually manipulate the data at the target application. VL provides point to multi-point integration using cutting-edge programming strategies, languages, storage solutions, and more.
Interview Excerpt Below:
"Grant: Alright. Fair enough. If an e-commerce business owner wanted to work with you guys, what would you say is ... What would be a reasoning why you think that you would be a good fit for them or why you're good at what you do?
Robin: The kind of e-commerce store operator we target is not the entry level. We're not a plug and play solution, so we tend to look for the ones that are scaling, that are struggling with complexity in their supply chain and complexity in their business operations, and those that are mature companies that are sticking their toe into the e-commerce space for the first time. Those two touch-points, and those align with platforms like, say, Shopify Plus, for example. Magento.
Robin: What we like to do with customers is we like to work through their business model and look at the work flows that they want to put in place to actually engender a solid customer experience that represents their brand, and also allow them to leverage proper integration strategies so that they're building the foundation for scalability. Many companies approach integration as point to point, plug and play, quick, dirty, and they hit that Black Friday/Cyber Monday curve or maybe it's something else that's specific to their business, and all of a sudden, it's like they had the wind taken right of them because they hit a brick wall. I've seen this so many times. Laying a proper foundation is really, really critical. If you're in it for the long term, then you want to scale.
Grant: Okay. That's a great segue into our Money Question of the Day. If you had the chance to work with an e-commerce business owner, what would be the one thing you would focus on to grow their profits or increase their sales?
Robin: How do you differentiate yourself from your competition? What is it that makes you unique? What makes you the place that I want to go and buy that product? Is it the quality of your product? Is it the quality of your experience? Is it the quality of your customer service, the way that you interact? Or is it just that you're so cool, that I have to be buying from you?
I think if the answer is, I want to have a superior customer experience and I want to have a unique brand identification beyond product, then the underlying key issue there is how you use the data you're collecting and how you integrate your platforms, your application stack. If a customer is answering yes to those kind of questions, then they should be talking to us.
A growth hacker by trade, Harris has been working with brands around the world adapt to digital media for a decade. At Within The Flow, he has built a community of e-commerce professionals aimed at the pooling and sharing of knowledge and resources as well as collectively solving problems.
Interview Excerpt Below:
“Grant: Excellent. And if I was a budding E-commerce entrepreneur and I wanted to get into this field, why should we listen to you?
Harris S: Well, I have right now at this moment worked on two very successful E-commerce stores. They both hit six figures in revenues, and they have razor sharp niche markets. Like we started from scratch with no prior knowledge when it came to running online stores, and we’ve … let’s say, spent a significant amount of time learning from the best in the industry.
We’ve spent more time learning than we did working in the store just to be able to solve all the problems that came with it.
The store became successful after a great deal of trial and error and persistence. I’ve gone through every inch of Shopify and Woo Commerce’s innards at this point. So that would be my credentials for this particular industry.
Grant: Nice, and if someone wanted to get a hold of this resource what website would they go to … or any sort of contact information?
Harris: They would go to Within the Flow It’s pronounced Harris but it’s … everyone just calls me Harris.
Grant: Yes, it’s true. And now you’re ready for the big question – if you were working with an E-commerce store owner what would be the one biggest thing or the one thing you would do to make the biggest difference in their profits?
Harris: Now this is something that might sound simple but it actually isn’t. And that is product research. Because when we were starting off we had the resources, we had the [inaudible 00:03:20], we had a domain and whatnot. We basically … we were ready to go, but we didn’t know what to sell. So normally in this situation what someone would do is something like, “Okay, this product looks nice, it has lots of searches on Google. It’s got a nice trend going. Maybe I should start a fidget spinner store.”
Harris: That’s not exactly a good idea. The broad appeal does not always work. They need to have a process established and that process needs to yield numbers in terms of both the product, the budget, and the audiences.
As the VP of Marketing and Sales, I am Gruen Agency’s internal marketing strategist and chief brand evangelist. Frankly, I get into everybody else’s stuff – website, content, social marketing, search marketing, industry thought leadership, digital advertising, consulting, speaking and training. Take a listen to Search Talk Live as I help interview other industry experts about digital marketing.
Over the course of this crazy career I have worked in-house for several consumer brands, provided content for travel brands, and consulted with nearly every type of small business under the sun. I wake up every day totally fascinated by marketing systems and how they touch the every-day lives of people. Every opportunity I get to teach or train someone else about marketing communication gives me joy.
Along with all of that, I am the designated cool mom with three mostly to nearly adult children. I love to travel and meet new people. And, in those rare moments of free time, I love to read and write historic and steampunk fiction.
Interview Excerpt Below:
“Grant: Okay. And you guys … You mentioned that you’ve been in business for 25 years, so that’s an obvious track record. And why would an e-commerce business come to you guys in the first place?
Michelle: We actually specialize in conversions, and I happen to have a case study that we did for an e-com client. And just sort of give you a sense of the success rate that we have for digital marketing with e-com. After our study, they had an 88% increase in active products able to appear in Google search results. They had a 98% decrease in errors related to their advertised product information, and 61% decrease in the cost per acquisition, without giving it any sales volume whatsoever.
Grant: Nice. And what type of e-commerce store was that? Can you say in general?
Michelle: Yes, this was one of the case studies that is available on our website. This was work that we did for Maui Jim, the sunglasses company.
Grant: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Michelle: Yeah. It was a combination of both paid and organic search that we were able to get those kinds of results. One of the big things that Maui Jim really needed was just to make sure that their product pages and particularly the product feed to Google was consistent across the board, product, to product, to product. And just by cleaning up their product feed, we were able to get results like that. That was before we even turned on paid search. But then we also layered on that process, with some better campaign positioning. So that. our paid search, we were able to put the right product in front of the right person at the right time and lower that cost, per acquisition.
Grant: Okay, and if you were to start working with an e-commerce agency, what would be the number one thing you guys would utilize in order to grow their profits?
Michelle: It would really be kind of that same process I just described for Maui Jim. We would do an audit of existing Google shopping campaigns, look to make sure that their paid campaigns were optimized, that they were properly segmented, that sort of stuff. That we could turn things on and off as needed. And also, take a really long, hard look at their product feeds to make sure that when people go to organic search, that in the carousel, the right product was showing for organic search as well.
Frictionless Commerce: Specializes in helping brands convert first-time buyers? How do we do this? We use a process called AEJR (amplify desire, establish trust, justify price, and reduce cognitive load).
About Rishi: When I started in 2008 my core thesis was that most purchase behaviors were rational. 8 years on and 212 experiments in we know nearly ALL purchase triggers are irrational. And this is good news because it means we can influence purchase behavior.
Interview Excerpt Below:
“Grant: It sounds like if you give the justification and it makes sense to the end-user, the consumer, they’re usually okay with that and you don’t have to follow the herd of people that are out there giving free shipping because that’s what they’re told to do. Right?
Rishi: That’s exactly right. We have a framework internally. We call it AEJR. It’s an acronym and it stands for amplify desire, justify price, establish trust, and reduce cognitive load. Those are the four pillars on which we do all conversion optimization. I think that the first three are pretty obvious. Amplify desire, obviously, people get it. Establish trust, people get it. Justify price, people understand as well, but reducing cognitive load is something that I think not enough businesses think about.
One of the things that I’ve found is when I talk to clients and I look at their page and I say, “Who is your audience?” They have a very clear definition of who their audience is, and I say, “But when I read the description, it seems like you’re trying to satisfy many different audiences.” What they tell me is that, “Well, three years ago, we were also focused on this audience and we also think that this customer, even though they represent 10% of sales, that’s still 10%. We can’t ignore it.”
But when I look at the page, I realize that this person or this person is 10% of sales, yet they’re getting 30% of the real estate of the page. To me, there’s a disconnect there. I think one of the things that happen over time, and this is natural to any business, is that as they learn more about their business, as they learn more about their audience, they keep on adding more and more stuff on the page. For example, if there’s a website where there is a product and they’ve listed five features, as they start selling this product and they sell thousands and thousands of units, their customer service comes back and says, “Hey, we’re kind of hearing a lot of people in Florida say that one of the features they really like about the product is the fact that it’s portable.” They’ll be like, “Oh, that’s really interesting. That’s an important feature. Let’s add it to our list.” It’s this additive nature where we’re constantly adding more and more stuff because we want to make sure that we’re talking to all potential customers.
To me, that is really dangerous. It’s one of the most common mistakes I see with retailers or with online businesses, is they just put too much stuff out there. As a result of that, it doesn’t necessarily speak clearly with effectiveness to that one audience. What we do is when we talk about reducing cognitive load, what we do is we actually eliminate everything that we feel can be eliminated without shutting the business down. Then we start adding it back in and we ask for justification for each of those elements and as a result, without much effort, we’re able to reduce the amount of content or the amount of information being propagated on that page by 30%. Just a simple act like that has a magical effect on conversion rates.
Grant: Wow. That’s pretty interesting there because less is more. What’s the old adage? “Less is more.” I don’t know who said that, but it sounds like that’s what you’re doing.
Rishi: That’s right.”
Interview Excerpt Below:
“Grant: Yeah. I guess they’re inundated with business. Now for the big question of the day, which was the whole reasoning for this interview. If an eCommerce company approached you to grow their sales or profits, what is the one thing you would do for them, the one thing that you think would have the biggest impact on their profits?
Thom: Sure. Profits are not just short-term, they’re long-term, and as you do whatever other efforts you’re doing over time, if you don’t have a strong foundation, you’re never going to hit your maximum potential. So, what I always say to any new client regardless of the project, we have to look at the foundations of your site, that is site speed, that is search engine optimization, that is checkout flow, that is color scheme, that is the site navigation. All of the boring stuff that people do once and forget about. You need to revisit that stuff because that’s what’s going to make the difference between profitability–especially long-term profitability–and failure because it becomes much too …
Basically, let’s say an alternate answer. I said well, you have to do Facebook advertising or do online advertising. Well, if your site is not up to snuff, you’re throwing money away, you’re burning it. Every dollar you spend, you’re not getting the maximum impact from it, which cuts into your margin, which cuts out your profit. So, that’s why 100% of the time building that strong foundation, whether you’re a brand-new company or whether you are 10, 15, 20, 25 million dollar a year company. Every client I’ve seen even the ones who do incredibly well still need some of that punched up, and if you don’t take care of that then you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Grant: All right.
Thom: And in fact, if I could give a part B, I’d say email marketing. A little too simple.
Grant: Yeah, email marketing. That’s one that I see a lot of people don’t do still in this day and age. It still surprises me. But yeah, that’s great.
Thom: [inaudible 00:05:33] yeah, it’s you have to do email marketing, but even still making sure that everything, particularly site speed on mobile, you got to do that first.
Grant: Yeah, especially if you’re ranking for organic. I think Google penalizes you when your site’s not fast enough, at least on mobile I know that to be true.
Thom: That is true, and you pay more for ads, and you have a higher bounce rate. You pay for ads that aren’t doing anything for you. Yeah, that’s critical, and that’s only becoming more and more critical over time.
With a no B.S. attitude, Kristin is the founder and managing director of Creative Development Agency (formerly award-winning firm, Marquet Media). She oversees the day-to-day operations of the agency as well as directs all client accounts and projects. Kristin also develops, manages, and implements various internal and external communication and social media initiatives. With a strong eye for creating memorable brands and a diverse range of knowledge, Kristin provides strategic counsel to clients interested in developing successful internal and external communication programs across all media platforms.
Kristin has forged successful partnerships with celebrity fashion designer and correspondent NV Nick Verreos; prestige hair care brand Briogeo; French accessory designer Mona Roussette; and many more. She has generated media placements in Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, Seventeen, Glamour, and ELLE magazines, refinery29.com, and countless other outlets.
Kristin holds a master's degree in marketing and PR from New York University, and is also a contributor to HuffingtonPost.com, Entrepreneur.com, and NYDailyNews.com. She is the owner of business consultancy, FemFounder.co, and the founder of the lifestyle tech startup,TheHauteRebel.com. She is also the author of the book, Squash the competition and Dominate your marketplace: 55 easy Tips to Generate Big Publicity for your startup or small business.
Interview Excerpt Below:
“Grant: Nice, so you’re driving Pinterest. You’re putting your pins up, I guess. I don’t know a ton about Pinterest. You’re driving them to your website. A little more specifics on that, please.
Kristin: Yeah, absolutely. OK, so many people think of Pinterest as a social network, but it really isn’t. It’s more of a search engine. It’s like a visual engine. It’s fantastic if you optimize all your boards in your profile for whatever you’re trying to rank for, just like you would on Google. It’s going to increase your rankings, obviously, in the search results, but your pins are going to start showing up consistently and getting re-pinned.
The great thing about Pinterest, unlike Instagram, is all of your pins, you’re able to link back to different blog posts or a landing page to get email opt-ins. It is a great way to build an email list. I would say I actually have a couple other side businesses. Pinterest is our largest drivers for those businesses, as well, which I’m not going to really get into, because it’s not really relevant to this conversation.
I can sit here and talk about Pinterest for a million hours, for days and days on end. But essentially, you want to optimize your profile, your board with the right keywords. You want to make sure that your pins are aesthetically pleasing, they look good. You pin them to the right boards. You join group boards so that you can reach more audiences. You link back to all of the right blog posts or landing pages so that you could get people to opt into your newsletter, or your website, or content upgrades, or whatever it is you’re trying to promote. It’s fantastic.
Grant: Wow, that sounds pretty slick, OK. I never thought of the power of Pinterest, but now you’re making me a believer. And the second part to that question, since you own an agency as well, what would you recommend to an eCommerce store to grow their profits as quickly as possible? What techniques or strategies? But if you’re only going to say one.
Kristin: If I could only say one, as an agency, yeah, I think that eCommerce businesses, the best way to build your business is definitely trying to execute a PR plan. It’s not rocket science. I actually have a free course for people that are interested in dipping their toe into the vast world of PR, without hiring an agency, so that they can learn the basics. It’s actually called the PR Academy. I could actually share that link with you later, but PR could be a game-changer for your eCommerce business, especially if you end up getting links back to your website from websites like the Huffington Post, Bustle, BuzzFeed, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, anywhere your market or target audiences hang out.
It’s not that hard like I said. You don’t need to hire a PR firm if you’re just starting out because PR firms are very expensive. They’re $5,000, $10,000 a month, and there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get coverage. Once you learn the basics of PR, it’s like the sky’s the limit for eCommerce businesses.
For the last 25 years as a sales professional, marketing consultant, trainer, international speaker and coach, John has helped clients generate millions of dollars in businesses all around the world in almost every imaginable industry. He has had the unique privilege to have conducted over 5,000 one-on-one strategic focus sessions with Managing Directors, CEO's and Entrepreneurs in over 140 different industry groups. In those focus sessions he was able to see how they grew their businesses, what they did to market their businesses, what worked and what didn’t work, who their customers were, what their strategy and tactics were, their sales processes and their metrics for managing their businesses.
In the last 18 months John has helped launch 27 consulting businesses that have generated over $4.2 million dollars in consulting contracts around the world. Most importantly, John cuts through all the fluff and gives you real actionable strategies that work.
Danielle has a background in fashion design, blogging and enterprise sales - but her heart really belongs to travel and coffee. 10 years ago she started the blog Brisbane Threads while pursuing a career in enterprise sales for Australia's largest telecommunications company. It was through this blog that the world of digital Influencers and their challenges would interest her so much that she threw-in a rising career to pursue the world of technology startups. 5 years later, Danielle has successfully raised over $3 Million in equity, built a world-class team and launched a SaaS platform in Australia and the US. Next stop, Margaritas in Mexico.
Interview Excerpt Below:
“Danielle: Yeah, absolutely. I think the biggest reason why people want to work with us is because of the data that we have. There’s influencer marketing and it’s so easy to become an influencer these days. You could set up an Instagram account, build a following, so brands or e-commerce owners find it really difficult to pinpoint which influencer is right for them because there are millions of them out there now. What we do is we make it super easy to sift through those influencers and find the right ones for you. Instead of it being a really laborious time-intensive job to filter through millions and millions of influencers, we give them access to say, “I sell this kind of product and ship to this location. I’ve got this kind of budget to spend,” and we’ll shortlist down in seconds. It makes it really easy for people to tap into this new marketing channel.
Grant: That’s really interesting. Let’s say I sell, I don’t know, yoga accessories or something. You would look for someone that … maybe like an actress or someone that practices yoga? Or how would that work exactly? I’m just kind of going to get some clarification here.
Danielle: Sure. Let’s say you sell yoga mats. What we would do is we would jump into the Scrunch platform and we would look for anybody that talks about yoga. Some of those people might be celebrities. Some of them might be health and fitness bloggers. Some might be yogis that have a fabulous Instagram account. Then, typically the next step is what your budget is, so if you have a lot of money to spend, you might want to work with a celebrity, but if you don’t, you might want to filter down all of those results by people that have maybe 50,000 followers and less. We call those micro-influencers and then reach out to them to start a campaign and talk about your brand of yoga mats. You might even send them a free yoga mat so that they can try it and take some photos of it themselves. Then when they post that out onto their own Instagram page or they might review your brand on their blog and link back to your website, that’s when their followers can see your brand, click through to your website, and hopefully make a purchase.