Ecommerce Club Working Lunch Report: In 2016 it’s all about the customer

The Ecommerce Club’s February 25th Working Lunch London, hosted by ATTRAQT meant we were lucky enough to hear from the creator of the eCommerce MasterPlan, Chloë Thomas, as she took members of the club through how ecommerce is evolving and where today’s brands can find advantages and disadvantages.

There is little question that the ecommerce industry is at a turning point – we’re no longer selling to early adopters. Rather we’re now selling to the mainstream. What matters today is providing what the customer wants and not get hung up on clever technology. As Chloë says, “So no Bright Shiny Objects! Think customer first, not clever tech first.”

You only need to look at Google to see the power of providing the customer with what they want, when they want it. As Larry Page once said, the “perfect search engine… understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.” Google is the end result of such determination – to listen to the customer and give them what they need. Chloe ran the group through a number of brands, from large to niche, who are growing by focusing completely on the wants and needs of the consumer.

ASOS is a prime example of how today’s brands are focusing on the customer. You can listen to Chloe’s podcast on takeaways from The Delivery Conference, where chief executive Nick Beton outlined exactly how ASOS is achieving this. With turnover of £1.2 billion and 5,000 staff the company’s mission is to be the number one fashion destination for 20 somethings – and they’re achieving that goal by following the customer.

They do this by building and developing the business on four key pillars:

  • Great fashion at a great price,
  • Be awesome on mobile,
  • Provide engaging content and experiences,
  • Best in class service.

What was fascinating is that the day of the Lunch, ASOS announced the launch of its loyalty card, an interesting move in a world where customers, and especially user generated content, have increasing value for brands even aside from their purchase power.

A recent start-up which has taken the market by storm is Lifestyle Labs. This was set up in 2014 in the vitamin space – its founder Valerian Voegele, formerly of Tesco, identified a space in the vitamins world and launched with a goal of never disappointing a single customer. IDENTIFY THE MISSION ON THE SITE and it’s been showing 30 per cent month on month growth and expects to achieve a seven figure turnover in 2016.  Chloe interviews Valerian about the business here.

Stitch Fix was launched by Katrina Lake in 2011 and built its model entirely around the idea of helping the “busy woman on the go” with a personal stylist. That message is repeated throughout the site and its copy, the message being that the company can help you feel more confident and be more successful.

Benny Hsu, through his Get Busy Living blog made $100,000 in 5 months selling t-shirts on Teespring and advertising them on Facebook. He tried out a number of different niche’s but had his first success targeting pediatric nurses. In this case, the slogan that he used was “Keep calm and carry on nursing.” And he expanded from there into a range of specifically targeted niches.

Nineteenth Amendment managed to identify two key customer groups who were being badly served but were connected. The first of these was young fashion designers struggling to get their names and designs known and out to market, while the second was fashionistas wanting to find the next great designer. By satisfying both of them they have created a fast growing business AND made some great partnerships with big businesses – such as the Macys event during Spring New York Fashion Week. This was the first to be open to the public, and the first where customers could buy the products straight off the catwalk.

So there appears to be little question that focus on the customer, understanding their wants and needs, is critical. But that does beg the question as to how you know what your customer wants. It can shape your entire business, but if you’re already up and running and want to build your market, then the key question becomes – how can you best harness your customer to grow your business. The answer to that appears to be: community.

ASOS are certainly already busy doing this. Check out #asseenonme, Asos.likes, ASOS insiders and their app – which reportedly accounts for 44 per cent of their orders. The Wetshave Club has taken a different approach, with an email sign-up asking customers to “Join the Club” and, once a sign-up has become a customer, they get invited to join a customer only private Facebook group. Chloë interviews found Rohan Gilkes about how this works here

Dave Rotheroe took a rather unique approach with the recent launch of two separate sites and services:  – Lick My Dip and Cheese Posties. He used Kickstarter to build a community prior to launch (rather than focusing on money to be raised). In week one Cheese Posties got 600 customers – and yes, those customers receive a cheese toastie kit in the post. Chloë interviews Dave about his approach in more detail here, and interviews Sugru’s crowdfunding campaign here.

What all these experiences prove is that focus on the customer is about so much more than CX, UX or even customer services. It’s about every interaction that a human has with your business. – those you know about and, just as importantly, those you don’t.

What matters is to create a consistent conversation. So:

  • Listen
  • Give the customer what they want
  • Be consistent