Stop Training Your Customers to Expect Discounts

Everyone loves a bargain, so snagging something on sale can often feel like an achievement but it becomes less so when sales are happening every other week. For a retailer, it can be a quick way to get people onto the website or inside the store. For customers, it might be the thing that gets them to finally decide to make the purchase but whilst it can give a boost to sales numbers in the moment, the long-term effects of doing it all the time can be incredibly damaging.


Why all the Discounts?

It can seem like an absolute dead certain way to increase the sales on a website and the fact that it is everywhere would imply that it is the single most effective way to convert people into customers, right?

Well, the real reason they are everywhere is that it is easy, not because it is the best way to convert customers. The short-term gain of increased conversion rates and increased sales soon give way to reduced margins and brand damage.

The convenience, effectiveness, and pleasure from seeing the sales spiking from throwing around discounts are hard to resist but like gambling, it becomes a hard habit to break.


It’s a Neurological Trigger

The reason these habits are hard to break is that they are hardwired into our brains. Constant repetition creates a neural pathway, a highway that gets easier and easier to access the more times we go down it.

When we do something repetitively, offer a discount or purchase using a discount, it becomes hardwired into our brains as a habit and when that habit is linked to pleasure (like increased revenue or grabbing that bargain) it triggers the midbrain which floods the system with dopamine.

The brain now starts to see it as the right thing to do because it becomes the shortest route to that success. With the reward centre of the brain being activated it’s even harder to stop because it just makes us feel good.

It’s simple really. When you couple a habit with a reward our brains just can’t help but think it is a great thing to do.


Discounts can create more problems than they solve

We’ve already mentioned that discounts hit the margins and reduce the overall total revenue that you’re bringing in but there has been research done that indicates that discounting lowers the overall lifetime value, lowers satisfaction scores like NPS and creates a higher level of revenue churn. This is when compared to promotions which created higher lifetime value.

Much of this comes from the fact that you’re fundamentally changing your customer's behaviour and shifting the conversation away from value or experience and into one around price. Heavy or regular discounting trains your customers to either expect or wait for the next one. If they know a sale is likely, why would they ever pay full price for anything?

And if you’re using big discounts, the smaller ones become ineffective because they know if they wait, the bigger discount is likely to be just around the corner.

Discounts are designed to prompt action and drive urgency but what can end up happening is the urgency is killed off because customers start to realise it is fake, and that if they wait long enough, the discount amount or percentage is likely to go up.


Say Goodbye to Customer Loyalty

On our Podcast, ’15 Minutes With’ we had Ted Rubin, author of Return on Relationship, talk to listeners about inadvertently training customers with coupons. As he put it “No one wants to walk out of the store and be offered a coupon to walk back in. And if they do, you’re training them to get that coupon.” The same applies to discounts. If every sale you’ve ever had from a customer is with a discount attached, guess what, they are always going to want a discount.

He followed on “My business partner likes to say that they used to be brand loyal to pizza, but not anymore. His wife just wants to get the pizza from wherever they have the coupon from.”

You might be lucky and eventually convert some of these customers into long-term, loyal customers that start to purchase regardless of price, but the continuous use of discounts brings in bargain hunters and they are the most likely customer type to walk away when the discounts stop.


And Say Goodbye to Brand Reputation

All that time, money, and effort you put into building your brand becomes redundant because any perceived value is lost through the continuous use of discounts. You start to be seen as a discount brand and questions about whether products were ever worth the original price start to come up. Once you’re in that place, getting out of it is hard and the excitement of new ranges and products is gone unless they are discounted or priced to match usual discount pricing.

It can also damage reputation in ways you may not realise. Discounts can mask major usability issues on your website. The reasons you’re having to throw them in to start with could be due to losing customers because of bad copywriting, confusing layout or site structure, lack of social proof, poor traffic quality or just plain old terrible customer experience. These remain after the discount ends and your brand takes a hit only falling back into consideration when the discounts return.


So, What Can You Do?

To be clear here, discounting can be used for good. Be that to secure a high-value lifetime customer with a special discount or when used infrequently to create genuine urgency but there are other options.

Promotions work great. For those of you who think ‘well isn’t a discount just a promotion?’ not really. Promotions are used to offer additional value to the customer without the need to start slashing prices. Think gift with purchase, free shipping and returns or risk-free trials. These are all things that create value, build trust, remove potential doubt, and take the conversation away from price.

Other options are bundling products to build in value when bought together, offering aggregated loyalty discounts based on lifetime value and customer spend, creating a buy one, get one free offer to clear out inventory rather than resorting to heavy discounting and if you do want to discount, create single-use codes that can’t be shared across the internet on coupon and sales websites.

If the problem you’re trying to solve is conversion, you may need to look at your site for opportunities to improve it. Things such as layout, product information, related products and personalised recommendations can create a huge shift when they’re working at their best. The experience you are offering to customers with your online store is vital.

Even considering things like improving available payment options and hiding the promo code entry point on the checkout to stop people leaving the site on a search for a code because ‘if there is a space for it, surely it must exist’ can dramatically enhance conversion.


Take action

Review what you’ve got coming up and see if there is a way to get a little more creative with the use of promotions. Find out what your customers want, review your site and your analytics to see if there is something else that is causing customers to get stuck or leave your site and experiment a little. You’ll start to improve margins, strengthen the brand, and drive loyalty all without the need to cut prices.

We know times are tough for everyone right now, but you need to think about the future and not create solutions in the short term that drive insurmountable challenges in the long term.

Why Generic Customer Engagements Don't Work

We’ve talked about this subject a little before on our blog before and featured Ted Rubin on our podcast who talked about the importance of it, but new research released by Wunderkind confirms what we’ve been saying. Customers prefer less frequent but more meaningful customer engagement.

In their research of over 2000 UK shoppers, they found that 43% of consumers preferred more personalised and less frequent engagement when it came to how they wanted retailers and brands to communicate with them.


It’s about Building Relationships

The research discovered that 40% wanted tailored offers and promotions based on a one-to-one understanding of them, selecting it as their preferred means of customer engagement.

As Ted put it, “If you’re only focused on the money, you risk completely overlooking the people, don’t make that mistake. If you don’t know who your people are, and invest in those relationships, you might as well toss your branding, marketing, and prospecting money down the drain.”

And it appears that this is exactly what is happening. 51% of the respondents claimed that they receive impersonalised communications far too frequently suggesting that the old technique of throwing people into a group, if not taking the entire mailing list and just blasting them with a message is still alive and well.

“Retailers and brands have known for some time that the ‘spray and pray’ approach to customer engagement doesn’t pay off. It’s a short-termist strategy that will only ever deliver mediocre results at best, leads to poor ROI, and creates deeply unsatisfying shopping experiences for customers,” Wunderkind general manager Wulfric Light-Wilkinson said.


So How do we Fix It

We just need to listen as a starting point. 27% of people surveyed said they expect to receive engagements that add value to their shopping journeys and are considered useful.

18% also said they want to receive more varied interactions that go beyond simply offering product recommendations. Customers are crying out for brands to establish deeper relationships with them, we just need to pay attention.

When we asked Ted what he suggests Marketing teams can do he said “I try to get them to look at it from their own perspective, to be a customer of their own brand. You know, I look at a CMO and I go, are you subscribing to your own emails? Are you visiting your brand and then surfing the web anonymously, not as your CMO, not as who you are. And when I say anonymously, I don’t mean to hide it from your employees? I mean, to hide it from the tracking that’s going on in the web? Are you experiencing what your customers are experiencing? I mean, I look at marketers all the time and ask them to behave more like customers, to think more like a customer. What works for you, you know, how do you feel about bright red subject lines with total nonsense that really isn’t about anything contained within the email. How do you feel when you get to the offer that is not what you saw in the subject line of your email, like, um, it’s immediate delete”

Once we’ve had this reflection and realised, we’re missing a trick, we need to understand the data we have, figure out what we can do with it to develop truly personalised engagements and then develop a strategy that works not only for your customers but for your brand too.


Getting the Support you Need

You don’t have to go it alone on this journey. There are plenty of people out there, like our very own experience team, that can help you develop the strategy and implement the tooling required to make it work for you.

The importance of using the first-party data you have to create a unique experience is priority one. The tools can be used to turn it into a reality and collect more data along the way, but you can’t start from a position of zero.

You also need to think bigger than email or personalised ads on Facebook. True personalisation takes the experience you want to create and delivers it to the digital shopping experience, turning your website into personalised store for each one of your customers.

For years high end brands have prided themselves on knowing their best customers when they came into stores with sales teams knowing birthdays and anniversaries, remembering what they bought in the past and what will work with it, remembering what might go onto a wish list and making sure they don’t miss out on a chance to buy it or when it goes on sale and a bargain can be had. This is what you need to be recreating on your websites at a much larger scale, but no less personalised.

These are the things that are not only expected but make you stand out in a busy crowd. Everybody wants to be treated as an individual and it is only our fault if we’re not taking the time to do that resulting in our customers leaving us.

Our experience team work with brands every day to facilitate incredibly personalised experiences ensuring they can develop relationships with their customers, create a solid return on their investment and drive continued business.

If you’re looking for some help or would just like to talk to someone about what might be possible, reach out to us and we’ll see what we can do for you.

15 Minutes With Tony Preedy | Podcast Episode #11

In our eleventh episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Tony Preedy. Tony is the Managing Director of Fruugo.

Tony has years of experience in Marketing and Managing eCommerce and Home Shopping experiences, long before eCommerce was a thing. Having previously worked with Littlewoods and Lakeland he understands the home shopper better than most and knows how to talk to them in a way that gives them what they're looking for and allows them to take action. His work now with Fruugo is in the world of Marketplace. This is an area of huge growth and many businesses are investing in expanding their offering through this medium.

In this episode, we talk to Tony about the rise of Search Driven Shopping and the Marketplace and why it has had such an impact on the world of eCommerce. We also talk about the things that should be considered when thinking about venturing into the world of Marketplace and ask if it is right for everyone.  


Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.


Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.



Graham  00:13

On this episode of 15 minutes with we're talking to Tony Preedy, the Managing Director of Fruugo. Fruugo allows shoppers to buy from retailers across the world in their own language and currency using recognised payment methods without needing to calculate exchange rates or shipping costs. This global online marketplace supports ecommerce transactions in 42 countries, 31 currencies, and 28 languages. It houses over 1800 retailers, has processed over 7.9 million orders and had 240 million site visits in 2021. Tony has years of ecommerce experience that stretch far beyond just marketplaces. And we asked him how he has seen consumer behaviour shifting towards Search Driven purchasing and discuss the benefits of adding marketplace to your business strategy. And what it might look like.

Graham  00:55

Hi Tony, welcome to the podcast.

Tony Preedy  00:56

Hey, Graham, thanks for having me on.

Graham  00:58

Yeah no, you're very welcome. What sort of consumer shopping behaviour shifts have you seen in your time kind of within the world of marketplace?

Tony Preedy  01:06

Well, I think the way I look at the way the retailing is evolving Marketplace is a sort of like the natural evolutionary answer to the way the retailing is going. And the way I look at the world nowadays is that once upon a time, if you wanted to sell to people, you opened a shop, and you typically then sold to the people who walked past that shop. And then if you wanted to sell more, you open more shops, and you put those shops in different places. So you got to sell to different people. And that's how retail chains grew. And that was the model. And then the Internet has come along. And people have tacked on websites to the brands they created through those physical retail stores, then over the last maybe five years, the way the consumers shop, particularly online has really started to change. So instead of seeking out a retailer and shopping their range in perhaps the way they would have done if they'd walked into a store to look at what was there to choose from that day, they're using search engines, and they're using search engines either on the retailer's own website, or they're using Google to look for a specific item because they've got a need or a problem that they want a solution for. And they're becoming increasingly agnostic about where they buy it from, they just want the thing and they want the thing now, and in some respects, they've been taught that by Amazon. Amazon makes it very easy to simply go and buy one thing. Whereas perhaps five or 10 years ago, when I was sort of managing online shopping businesses, you talked about building a basket, and there was a minimum order value for free shipping, and you'd expect to get multiple items per order. Well, that's all gone now. People are typically buying a single item. And then when they want the next thing, they go and search again for the next thing. And I think marketplaces have both encouraged and now are accelerating that trend. What marketplaces are doing is leaning into a trend that's at the consumer level, which is what I call atomic shopping. So it's where you're buying the lowest possible unit that satisfies the need, you've got.

Graham  02:59

And that's an interesting trend, actually, because and there seems to be the story about the demise of the department store. And to me, I kind of rightly or wrongly think of a marketplace as kind of a digital department store. And it's interesting that people are not shopping well, they don't appear to be shopping in department stores on the high street, but their entire digital trend is to do the exact thing that they're not doing in person.

Tony Preedy  03:22

I do get the analogy. And I think there is some truth in that digital department store concept. But I think what's different is how you shop it, which is primarily about search. And whereas perhaps in the department store, you walked in the ground floor and you walked past the perfumes you weren't interested in buying and you went up the escalator and then you went somewhere else, and then you hunted down the thing you were looking for, and then he got there to discover that they didn't actually have it anyway, now what you're doing is you're typing something in on your phone, that is a pretty good approximation of what you're looking for. And then it's as if you've been teleported directly to the shop that contains that item. And you're stood there right in front of that item ready to buy it without you actually having to do all of that physical searching. So that Search Driven shopping really is where the world has gone. And for retailers wanting to take advantage of that. Then clearly, if they have their own website, they're going to want to optimise it for ecommerce and making it available for search and findable by Google and all that good stuff. But then you still have to get people to come to your website. So then a lot of what ecommerce managers do is worry about traffic generation. Well, marketplaces are where the footfall is online. And the other beauty of the marketplace model is you don't usually have to pay to get in, you simply join the marketplace and you pay when you get a sale. So it's like performance marketing on steroids. So you're getting access to a huge volume of consumers actively looking to buy the products you're selling, but it doesn't cost you anything unless they buy from you. And that's a really attractive retail model. But there I think it's then important to look at whether you're adding a marketplace that takes in or brings you a different type of consumer to the one that you you gained, if you were on, say Amazon. A lot of retailers are wanting to diversify from their use of Amazon as a sole marketplace. And then they're looking for what other marketplaces are out there. And eBay is an obvious one. And some brands will be comfortable with the environmental rules of selling on eBay and many won't. But then you get into more specialist marketplaces. And that's when you tend to get into cross border. And that's, that's where Fruugo really specialises because 95% of the orders that are generated on Fruugo are typically export orders. So we're bringing to retailers in one country customers from lots and lots of other countries. And consequently, they're selling to people they wouldn't otherwise have been able to sell to

Shelley  05:40

Tony, you talked about the trend towards marketplace with respect to consumers being able to be in control it a little bit more of their own shopping habits and what they're trying to seek in their shopping. But you've also talked about expanding that radius. And you just kind of touched on it again there. I wanted to know how do you use data to sort of expand and take it to the next level, again.

Tony Preedy  06:00

Data is a bit nerdy as a topic, but it is super vital when it comes to ecommerce. Again, to take a physical retail analogy, if you were a brand selling to grocery, what you really cared about was shelf presence, the number of facings whether you were eyeline that ultimately was a big influence of how you get seen. And if you have to get seem to get bought online, it's the same principle you have to get seen to be bought. But how you get seen is all about data management. And for most ecommerce businesses, it's about how the data is structured. But then it's about content, I still find it amazing how many ecommerce businesses attempt to sell products with next to no description of what the item is, why you'd want to buy it or why they as a retailer picked it for sale in the first place. I've spent a long time working in the catalogue industry. And for us, it was always about storytelling. It was about sell the sizzle, not the steak, you know, what can you do with it? Why do you want it? What are the benefits of doing it. And so that old school copywriting discipline that goes back, I mean, centuries, there's a book by a guy called Claude Hopkins called Scientific Advertising and he wrote it in the early part of the 20th century, it's super relevant to today's marketers, and it's got great tips on how to optimise your copy to sell more. It's a much overlooked aspects of ecommerce and and of marketing.

Graham  07:22

The one thing that I can see it's like a true benefit for the marketplace pieces around the convenience. And this is something that keeps coming up time and time again, convenience has to be a core factor of kind of your offering. And it feels like the marketplace is kind of a quick route to convenience, right? Because certainly when you look at Amazon, that seems to be the key point of differentiation is the convenience piece, you get to a single place, I've got all this stuff, you can get it delivered tomorrow, if you've got prime, if there's any issue, you can get it return really easily that offering seems a little bit more difficult to replicate on your own site.

Tony Preedy  07:54

So would I agree with that statement? Yes, I would, they'd look at what Amazon is good at, it tends to be what I would call low emotional content products. So Amazon is not great in health and beauty. It's not great in high end fashion brands, other web businesses are far more effective at selling those categories than Amazon is. What Amazon is fantastic at is the stuff that you don't really care about very much. It's like I need a cable for my laptop to connect it to a monitor is not a silver bullet that it simply means that by being accessible you you win. So there are other factors. And I've already talked about storytelling and emotional content around the product to encourage people to want to buy it. But then you get into the other old marketing dimensions of price and availability and so forth. Fruugo is a business that connects sellers and customers all over the world. And in many cases when they're searching in for the sake of argument Sweden, they're not just therefore able to shop from Swedish companies, they're able to access retailers on Fruugo that are placed all over the world. So it could be a seller in Germany who gave the data to Fruugo in German and that product price in euros but the customer in Sweden is buying it in Swedish and priced in kroner and for them it could well be that what the Fruugo marketplace has done is brought to Sweden a product that otherwise wouldn't be there. And so it's the availability of that product that is the key to getting it sold in that particular context.

Shelley  09:23

Are there any products or industries that you think are particularly unsuited to marketplace?

Tony Preedy  09:28

Pretty much anything you can put in a box and give to a parcel carrier to ship can be sold? We sell a lot of garden furniture which is like really bulky big product, but if you can ship it, we can sell it is the short answer. And then there are some product categories that are prohibited, that can't cross borders or the search engines won't allow the sale of but apart from that, no, pretty much anything is good for marketplaces. The stuff that works best is going to be relatively small, relatively light and relatively expensive. I mean that's perfect for marketplaces because there's plenty of margin in the product, but it doesn't cost a fortune to get it to where it needs to get to. But there are lots of lots of examples of products getting sold, which don't conform to those sorts of small light and expensive parameters. And, you know, our most popular category on the Fruugo marketplace is clothing. And there's a great volume of clothing being shipped from one country to another, and increasingly, directly from the manufacturer in China to the consumer in Western Europe. That's another trend that marketplaces I think are accelerating, which is cutting out middlemen and allowing the customer to benefit from the price saving.

Shelley  10:35

Sure, almost anything goes and actually what's more important is making sure that brands are aligned to the right marketplace for their needs.

Tony Preedy  10:44

Now use the word brand, and I think is worth just pulling that apart to say, Okay, well, when is it a brand and when is it a retailer. Retailers typically stock goods, sometimes their own, often those they've bought from other people, usually brands and so a brand can find that they are already on marketplaces without sort of realising it, because the retailers to whom they've sold products are listing those products are marketplaces and a lot of brands are wrestling with that and trying to figure out whether they should actually be the supplier of product into those marketplaces and sort of own that relationship and the product content. And there are a lot of direct to consumer brands that only exist as brands being sold directly to the consumer, they don't sell to retail, they are just DTC. And in many cases, those are international. So there's a lot of US brands selling to European customers directly through marketplaces.

Shelley  11:37

I wonder if I could go back as well to when we were talking about convenience and convenience with respect to the customer. But what I also wanted to touch on was this convenience for retailers and how you were saying pricing models are much more convenient to retailers as well. And so actually, the convenience of marketplace isn't just for the end consumer, but it's actually for the businesses themselves and how they conduct their business.

Tony Preedy  12:02

Marketplaces are frequently a way of providing sales growth with very little risk and very little capital. For most retail businesses, I would say to them, unless you're solely going to concentrate on marketplaces, get your own house in order first and concentrate on having a good website and all the operational processes necessary to be efficient in driving traffic to that website and fulfilling those orders. But having done that, adding those products or extending that operational facility to one that is able to process more volume, because you're marketing those same products through marketplaces for me is a bit of a no brainer, because the only extra work you need to do is the data work to integrate with those marketplaces. It's a one off project, it usually takes a few weeks, if you sort of apply yourself to it. And then you've got a stream of orders coming directly to your door, you're only paying for those on a per order basis. So it's a way of extending the investment you've already made in operating a website for yourself, you're just getting more volume for it, I guess Fruugo is then doing that, at enormous scale, we're providing retailers the ability to sell to consumers in over 40 countries, those are highly unlikely to be consumers that would have been reached otherwise. But Fruugo is doing all of the heavy lifting, we're doing the marketing, we're doing the translation, we're doing the Foreign Exchange Management, we're doing the payment services integrations, we're doing the fraud detection, all the retailer has to do is receive the order, put it in a box, stick a label on it and ship it.

Shelley  13:34

Are you seeing many barriers for retailers in that scaling process?

Tony Preedy  13:37

Inventory management becomes a challenge if you are operating your own website, and then multiple channels to market. Order management systems matter because it is in nobody's interest for a product to be marketed that can't be sold. But now generally speaking, most of these things do scale pretty well. During the course of the pandemic, we were in some cases selling more units than our retailers could keep up with. But even then there are if that if that becomes a sustained problem, then there are third party service providers that can solve that problem. So we work with a company called Huboo who are a third party logistics organisation that specialises in providing warehousing and order picking services for retailers. If a retailer were to find that they needed to expand and or they'd reach an operational constraint then overspill into a third party is very straightforward, nowadays.

Graham  14:30

You've given us so much insight already. But if somebody is wanting to do this or add the stream to their business, what kind of tips or tricks or advice can you give them to build into their strategy as they start to look at marketplace as an option for their business?

Tony Preedy  14:45

So if you're going to be serious about the use of marketplaces, you're probably going to want to use more than one. And if you're going to want to use more than one marketplace, you're going to want to use some form of orchestration software that helps you so you've got a single user interface in your business and a way of write once, published many times, to all the places it needs to go. And then in the other direction, you've got all the orders coming in and being consolidated, and you've got inventory being managed across all of those different marketplaces. So those software systems have real value if you're planning to develop a marketplace strategy seriously. And you choose one of those to meet the needs of your business, depending on scale, and how sophisticated you want to get we work with many of the big companies ChannelAdvisor and Len Gower at the sort of top end of the the industry, I suppose, both in terms of functionality, but also cost. I would also recommend a company called Linnworks, who also do an excellent job in terms of providing these sorts of systems to retailers. And indeed, there are many others around North America and Germany as well.

Shelley  15:48

Tony, thank you so much for your time today. It was really, really interesting to learn all about marketplaces, I know that there will be a lot of people listening who will be able to apply everything that we've discussed. And take that first step, you know, dip a toe in the water and try something new and and see where it takes them in business.

Tony Preedy  16:05

Yeah, I mean, the the truth of the matter is start selling on marketplaces start on Amazon and list one item, you know, it doesn't have to be an enormous great project. I'm a big believer in testing and small scale experimentation is a great way of learning, you know, sort of the Agile method sort of frequently iterate and adjust based on feedback. Now clearly there comes a point where you do need to put some systems in place to do it at scale, but don't feel like there's an enormous great barrier to leap over in order to get started because the barrier to entry is generally speaking very low.

Graham  16:39

That was Tony pretty Managing Director of Fruugo. There was little doubt with a growing trend of Search Driven purchasing is here to stay. Putting yourself in places where people are looking is a smart strategy. The marketplace is a natural next evolution of E commerce. And with the high levels of traffic, placing it into consideration for your business might just be the right thing to do. But you need to make sure that you own houses in order first, you're able to set up systems that allow for growth and you're creating content that gives people a reason to pick your product not only for marketplace, but for your own website. Start small and experiment. And if it works for you, you may have found a new channel that will drive a new audience and as a result, new business. Thank you for joining us on this episode of 15 minutes With and we look forward to having you along on the next one.

15 Minutes With Swathi Rocque | Podcast Episode #10

In our tenth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Swathi Rocque. Swathi is a Manager (Senior Consultant at the time of recording) with Deloitte.

Swathi is an experienced E-commerce business analyst with a long history of working in the information technology and services industry and has worked with large scale business and brands not only whilst at Deloitte but also when she spent time at both Accenture and KPS.

In this episode, Swathi explains in practical terms how we manage and balance the real world challenges that we face when user needs and business needs fail to align. Her unique perspective comes from her experience in both private and public sector digital delivery projects. Most recently, Swathi has been involved in the COVID-19 response technology commissioned by the UK Government.  


Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.


Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.



Shelley  00:13

On this episode of 15 Minutes With we're speaking to Deloitte Senior Consultant Swathi Rocque on the importance of user centric design. Swathi explains in practical terms how we manage and how we balance the real world challenges that we face when user needs and business needs fail to align. Swathi has a unique perspective from her experience in both private and public sector digital delivery projects. Most recently, Swathi has been involved in the COVID-19 response technology commissioned by the UK Government.

Graham  00:45

Hi, Swathi. Welcome to the podcast.

Swathi Rocque  00:46

Hello. I'm happy to be here.

Graham  00:49

Excellent. Excellent. We're really excited to have you. So can you tell us a little bit about what a user centric design is?

Swathi Rocque  00:56

Yeah, definitely. So user centric design is more applicable when there is demand versus supply. When there is a demand from the users, this is where the user centric gets more important. User centric, has a lot of other derivations. So if you take a user centric design, from the angle of the public sector, or from the angle of private sector, it's a bit different because on the private sector is where the user centric design closely sit with actual audience and the feedback that comes into the actual use. But on the public sector, it's the same, but there's layers of approvals or things that needs to be done before it reaches out to public. So what I feel is user centric is really important, because that's where your starting point is to understand what the public needs and what the user needs. But sometimes this can get overridden from the business centric requirement, I would say, because the business will say, okay, user needs this, but we have a budget of this, we wouldn't be able to satisfy the customer demand. So that's when all the ifs and buts and trying to get the ties down comes into picture.

Shelley  02:06

So is it safe to say that two of the biggest hurdles in your experience have been budget, and also perhaps attitude of the business, particularly if that's influenced by whether it's private sector or public sector?

Swathi Rocque  02:18

Exactly. This is where things start sensing a bit different when you're working. So there might be a product example. So when you take in a private sector, you might have a module or example module that you can sort of envision and you can start building the user centric flow, because you're not starting from a blank page, you know, who is the audience, and you know, who are your competitors. But when you come to a public sector, this is where things a bit different, you might not have much competitors, no one competes for countries to countries, websites or demand, we do a user centric research. But you wouldn't be necessarily satisfying the end results, because that's where the complexity starts. Yeah, this is a user centric flow. And this goes to approval by the time you get approval, users could have moved into another at one stage, I feel it's a very different feel when you work on both sides, and things are treated differently.

Shelley  03:14

Private sector, is that much easier than to get that understanding at the end user and public sector, do you ever really get a true sense of that audience? Particularly like you say, if there are no real competitors, it must be really, really difficult to get a firm grasp of the user, if you're trying to create a user centric design, be it for a website, be it for an app, whatever it may be for?

Swathi Rocque  03:38

Yes, because that's where on the public sector, you start with an empty page, you don't know what the user needs here. You might sort of get the essence. Okay, this had worked before. Now, we are trying to draw some another line. So for example, we have the COVID application, this is a very, I would say, a very peculiar example, because we didn't anticipate that COVID is going to come and hit us in such a bad way. And taking that as an example. It was like an empty page, when things got started, the way the progression made was good, but we didn't necessarily have idea how the audience would accept the design or anything that we are trying to research on. And on the other end on the private sector, you know the demands, so based on the demand trend, you sort of start picking up, okay, this is what the user needs. And this is what the user has gone through. And this is what the other competitors are doing. So public sector, when you're starting with any new stuff, it's a blank page, you might have some information, but that's not really applicable to the end user. This is where you need to spend a lot of time understanding the audience and sometimes I don't think this efficiently happens. It happens but not an extent of how we do it on the other fence like on private sectors.

Graham  04:56

So is it safe to say that when you kind of compare them, Customer Experience somewhat takes a backseat to business need, right? We're going we need to gather this information. We want to gather it in this way, because that's how we want to look at it. And actually, people need to just figure out how to use it. And it's less about creating a beautiful, friendly experience and go, You know what, you don't have a choice, you have to use this thing. Just use it.

Swathi Rocque  05:21

Yes, definitely. That's something I would say is like a strong voice that comes out. In private sectors. If you've taken an example of any site, you have for each and every journey, you might get into like a feedback or someone saying virtual hello for you. So for example, you go to Argos site, you browse for two seconds or more than a minute, there might be a pop up coming. Are you looking for something? Can we sort of assist you? So this is where like, yeah, the user feels that they're not left alone, they have, there are some helping hands when they're trying to go through their journey. And you can ask for support when needed. But on the other hand, for example, you're filling up something on HMRC or any other forms, you will be lost, you will have so many questions. So you go to frequently asked question page and you start researching, taking an example of my experience. So recently, I had applied for my extension of my visa application. And visa application extension is such a big work like you have almost like 14 pages of forms to fill in. And it's an online form, I was pretty much lost, because the questions they asked were some like, yes, I do fall under this particular brand or category. But somewhere, I was like, what does it mean? What is there any alternate meaning for it? So this is why I had so many questions. And I tried to ring every day to the visa office to clarify my questions. But I was not like a happy customer at the end of the day when I finished my application. So this is where there's, I would say there's a clear difference, what you expect from each of the sectors.

Graham  06:55

That clearly creates an opportunity for people to go, how do we make this a better, more usable experience? Because ultimately, if you do that, theoretically, there's less of a need to have a whole bunch of people sat in a call centre answering phones or not answering phones, as the case might be. If you just built a usable, good experience in the first place, you would somewhat mitigate the need to have all these other support systems around it.

Swathi Rocque  07:20

Exactly. That's definitely I think that's something it can be in future implemented, or they can think about it. Because if you just go to any other websites, which is owned from the public sectors, you might feel the reviewers if the thing is the best thing is I sort of go through the review comments what the people have added, they could have said, Oh, it's not user friendly. I lost my time here, I sort of missed the application. And in fact, I was worried that my application would get rejected because there was so many questions, which was uncertain, like I said, okay, yes, for a couple of questions they asked, and I didn't know the meaning of it. The reason is, they hadn't given out enough explanation or justification, what does it mean? And the best thing is, I skipped a step. And I just went to the final submission. And I realised after skipping the step that oh, God, I missed the step. And I'm trying to go back and it says, error. So that was like, if I don't sort of go through the step, it means like, I'm not applicable to access any NHS funds or stuff, because as a visa application, when you're doing and UK, you got to pay certain amount for NHS, I think for the facility. So I don't know how exactly, it just got missed when I was doing my application. And I was like whole all over every place trying to call agents and the like the answer what I got from the technical support, or the customer support group was like, if you're missed, you just need to wait for a case officer to contact you. And then you can proceed with it. It took almost like two months for the case officer to contact me. I was literally lost in that whole process. I would say,

Shelley  09:00

Swathi, I can completely relate to the visa process and all of the un-user friendly features of it. I mean, it's just a black hole or a rabbit warren of poorly designed non user centric features.

Graham  09:13

But what's really interesting as well is that both Shelley and I have travelled a lot, right? We've been and you too Swathi, we've been all over the world.

Swathi Rocque  09:20


Graham  09:20

And it seems to be Well, I certainly haven't come across any government that's gotten this right, everybody seems to follow the same design idea of let's make it as difficult as humanly possible to lead people into corners. And nobody has thought, actually, why don't we look at what people are doing from an ecommerce point of view. And the experience has been built into that and replicate some of that on the other side it. To us, we obviously work in the industry. It seems like a really simple thing to do, but for whatever reason, no one's thought about it.

Swathi Rocque  09:52

Exactly. I think yeah, that's that's where is the actual gap lies in terms of understanding and the I would say It's more like educating the team itself like the the whole public sector, I wouldn't sort of point your point fingers on, the things are working fine here in public sector not. And in private sector things are a bit different. I would necessarily say like when you try to align between the private and public sector, that's where the experience is quite different as individual what to sort of go through each journeys, I wouldn't sort of solutionise yes things here, I think it's more like awareness, like if they sort of take a step to understand what the user needs, because user definitely needs the journey to be done pretty well on the public sector. So for example, visa, this is one of the complex thing, and it's a very essential thing rather than me going and buying a product from Gucci. And so I want my experience to be well defined, and I shouldn't face any sort of glitch or any back and forth, which I went through. So I think if they had done a bit of user centric research, they might have got a lot of information. And that could have been fed into the system. And it could have saved people's time, call centres calls, and also the back and forth messages or the anxiety, it's like when you don't get any response. That's where you start getting anxious. Oh, god, did I do it dry? Did I not do it? Right. So this a lot of things. It's not just user experiences, the emotion of the user also is tied into that particular thing. So that can be sort of looked after pretty well. That's what I feel.

Shelley  11:32

And they could have saved a lot of money, right? I mean, it's, it's easy when you look at a project and you measure it upfront, and you give it a budget upfront, but like you both touched on earlier, you're not measuring the after effects, and all of the knock on effects as part of that same project, you know, the cost implication of having to open call centres to answer everybody's questions, because FAQs and user journey is so poor. So Swathi, I wanted to ask you off the back of all of this, what happens when you have to continue you have to forge on and the design is being directed in a non user centric direction?

Swathi Rocque  12:09

That becomes challenging. So as a business analyst, or as I would say, consultant, it's quite hard when you don't understand what the user needs, and you get dictated from business. But that's a challenging, like, every time when you start doing analysis based on what business needs or user needs, you start questioning, what is the business impact? And what is the user impact? So this is the one of the checkpoint that always I tend to ask for the stakeholders understanding. Are they trying to drive any business needs here? Or is there anything that it benefits the customer. I have been in situation where it's not user centric, like it's not actually up directly applies to us or what features we are doing, it's more like business benefit. This is where complexity starts, because it is okay for business. But when it reaches to the end user, I'm not sure how it will be accepted from the end user. The thing is, there's a couple of things like experience that I can share, like there might be a fancy website that we are creating and one of the business user says "oh Gucci has done that beautiful USP on their website, can we get that here on our site?", but the background of it, we haven't done enough research, whether the Gucci's product, Gucci's website has got that USP, there's more users using it or what is the traffic? Like what is exactly influencing the product? Or is it sort of getting some benefit for them? If you sort of blindly copy what the other products have done? This is where the challenge starts. You're just borrowed the concept, but you haven't thought about the background of it, whether it is essential for user yes or no, you haven't researched from your product angle, it might be helpful for Gucci, but not for you for your website, because it's a different product. And it's a different set of customers who's going to use this. So this is where I feel sometimes when business is dictating what the user needs, sometimes it's misleading, they could have not done enough research. So that's why we need a more of user centric research, the understanding and the analysis, whether this requirement is really efficient, or it's fetches value as a team or as a product to our company.

Graham  14:26

If somebody is going through this process, and they're trying to kind of balance this out, and they're going look, you know, this is this is what the business wants, because it looks cool and shiny, and we think we know what our customers want, but we haven't really asked. What sort of tips or advice would you give to anybody going through this process that would put them in the right track and make sure that they don't end up in a situation where they build something that nobody wants to use.

Swathi Rocque  14:50

Understand the market demand first. So first, understand what your brand is because you need to understand whether your brand is strong enough in the market. And then understand how the other products actually managed this. I know it's a bit of research that you need to do with your competitors as well. And the next is your user, understand the types of user that you're targeting. And based on it, you can sort of do a lot of researches, you can send a feedback forms, you can do a survey, you can actually, I remember, actually one of our clients just literally standing in a mall with the handout sheets, like asking them to fill up the survey forms. So you have a lot of methods to cover. But the main thing is set your product vision and the audience, right. If the product vision and the audience are not right, then I think it's going to be a big failure. You're targeting incorrect or a different audience who are not supposed to be as a part of your target group.

Shelley  15:49

Swathi, thank you so much for your time and your insight. It has been incredible talking to you. And it's been so interesting hearing about the balance between public sector, private sector, and how that influences user centric attitudes.

Graham  16:03

Yeah, it's been amazing. And I think if the one takeaway that people get from this is to just think more about the users will be in a much better place.

Swathi Rocque  16:13

Exactly. Think more and also try to action it. Not just thinking, put it into action.

Shelley  16:19

That was Swathi Rocque, Senior Consultant at Deloitte speaking to us about user centric design methods, challenges and insights within private and public sector projects. Swathi shed light on the realities that businesses and digital teams face in order to deliver on both user led best practice and also tread the fine line that balances this approach with providing short term gains demanded by stakeholders. To everyone listening we hope you enjoyed this episode, and we look forward to welcoming you next time on 15 Minutes With

15 Minutes With Lucy Aitken | Podcast Episode #9

In our ninth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Lucy Aitken. Lucy is a UX/UI designer with

Lucy has years of experience, both from agency side and client side in the development and improvement of not only e-commerce sites, but also SaaS platforms. She uses this background to create experiences that inspire confidence from users and aids them, in a seamless way, to follow digital journeys and get the most out of each digital interaction.

You'll hear Lucy talk about the importance of design when creating exceptional customer experiences and how the rise of mobile has changed the customer expectation plus how it's our job to meet what the customer is looking for.  


Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.



Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.



Graham  00:13

On this episode of 15 minutes with we're talking to Lucy Aitken, UI UX designer with Lucy has years of experience, both from agency side and client side in the development and improvement of not only ecommerce sites, but also saas platforms. You'll hear Lucy talk about the importance of design when creating exceptional customer experiences and how the rise of mobile has changed the customer expectation and how it's our job to meet what the customer is looking for.  Hey, Lucy, welcome to the podcast.

Lucy Aitken  00:43

Hi, Graham, hi, Shelly. Nice to speak to you today.

Graham  00:46

Yeah, and you. So can you tell us a little bit about how important is design to the customer experience.

Lucy Aitken  00:53

So I am obviously a designer. So I'm going to say it's hugely important to customer experience, it's quite often the first thing that users see, or the last thing that they remember, whenever they have an interaction with a website or your product, it's very visual, something that can evoke a bit of an emotional reaction sometimes. So yeah, it's super important, not just how it looks, but also how it functions and everything that kind of backs that up. But that design is the first thing that they're really going to interact with, when your brand is kind of putting themselves out there.

Graham  01:27

So when we talk about digital design, what are the different types or what are the things that you need to consider when you're putting together design for a digital experience?

Lucy Aitken  01:37

Yeah, so I think one of the big things to think about is how and what medium your users are going to be interacting with your websites and products through? So is it going to be a desktop? Is it a mobile device, a tablet? Or is it potentially you know, like the dashboard of a car, it really is that broad of a range of sort of interfaces that users interact with. And I think most importantly, in sort of ecommerce and sales world at the moment is that mobile interface, it's just been increasing in popularity of how many users like are using mobile devices and smaller screens to access websites. So it's a real area that you should be focusing your design and experience on.

Graham  02:19

And that is interesting, because we've seen or we've heard that there's going to be a large uptake, in live commerce and live commerce essentially, is really using social in a way to put the purchasing journey into a video. And I've seen really good versions of that, where it happens all within itself. And I've seen really terrible versions of that, where you're watching the video, you click Buy and sends you to a website and you lose the video that you're watching. So yeah, it is it's incredibly important to kind of understand, like you say, where the person is doing, what they're doing, and ultimately what you want them to do.

Shelley  02:54

Lucy, you were talking about the various different devices that experiences now need to adapt to. And it's varied. You know, what you said about car screens? I mean, that makes so much sense. Increasingly, we're seeing people engaging with brands and digital experiences through car screens. It's not just mobile, it's not just desktop, how do you, as a designer, adapt these experiences to fit on all of these different devices to fit on all of these different screens?

Lucy Aitken  03:23

Yeah, so there's a few different ways that it can be done. So I think traditionally, and probably the most common way of working that most people have heard of is that responsive design. So taking what you have on your website, and making sure that each component, each section responds down to smaller and smaller screen sizes, until you have it potentially in a stacked view or something like that on a mobile device. But I think as we've seen that shift away from desktop, and into these smaller devices, what's really important when you think about that experience now is looking at your data, how many customers are accessing, they're accessing your site on a mobile device, I think like Graham mentioned, talking about like social selling people coming straight through from Instagram or Facebook ads, whether we're looking at ads potentially on their mobile device and coming straight through to your website on a mobile. Once you know that that traffic is maybe something like 70% mobile 30% desktop, you want to start thinking about something called progressive enhancement, also known as adaptive design. And what that basically means is starting with the small screens, the mobile devices first and scaling up that experience to a desktop device. And you can do that in a few different ways. You could do it by focusing about what the most important needs of those mobile users are and making sure that you have all of the features and all of the experiences and the content that they want to see on the screen. And then as you scale that up if there's anything additional that you wanted to add that wasn't important at a mobile level, you can begin to add those additional details to the desktop designs as you move up the screen size. But really, the main thing is to focus all of your attention on those mobile devices. And if that means potentially something like a shopping cart looks entirely different on a mobile device, it's not just a small version of the desktop device actually has a different functionality. Maybe it scrolls vertically, it doesn't have anything next to it, you know, the layout could be entirely different. And after it gets to a certain screen size that changes completely, rather than being those traditional same components just laid out in a different order that we've we've seen more commonly.

Shelley  05:43

That makes perfect sense, because when I think of responsive design, whether it's the right, you know, definition, I suppose but when I think of it, that's exactly what I think of as when you you know, you make it you minimise a little tab, and it sort of is the same thing that you're seeing, it just gets smaller. But it makes perfect sense that we need to think about design now in new ways that actually completely changes, depending on what what device that you're using. And does that link in with the whole accessibility conversation, you know, how different people are using different devices in different ways, because actually, their needs as an individual are completely different.

Lucy Aitken  06:21

Yeah, definitely. I think one thing that we often think about is the touch points that we have on mobile devices. So you know, if you're accessing a desktop, you're maybe using a trackpad or a mouse to do that, with a very precise point that you can click on different buttons, different fields, whereas when you're on a mobile, you've got your fingers and your thumbs. And we go a little bit further than that, even and think about actually the size of those people's hands. Where can they reach? Are they holding their phone in one hand? Do they have a coffee in the other hand? You know, there's so many variables. And that's why really drilling down to understand your users. So if you know that actually, this is something that's going to be accessed by children, or it's something that's predominantly accessed by women or men or somewhere you can break that down, you can start to then think about, can these people reach that top right hand corner of the screen? Or should we make sure that anything that needs to be touched is lower down towards the bottom of the screen?

Graham  07:22

So that's all great stuff. And for companies that are wanting to look at that and change and take some of these things on? Is it a throw everything out and start again? Or is there a way to kind of do it in a piecemeal approach and which is better for your for the end user? Really,

Lucy Aitken  07:39

Yeah, so especially if you've got a quite a loyal base of customers, you know that you've got a lot of returning visitors to your website, and you make a big bang change on to your mobile experience, it's more than likely that it's not going to go down too well, with your users, people are a little bit resistant to change, even if it is something that you think is going to benefit them in the long term, if they've been used to using something a certain way. And now they have to relearn it all at once, that can cause a lot of friction. So the best approach is to do small, iterative changes. The other great thing about this is you're going to get a lot of insight from actually which change worked, which changed didn't and that's just going to build and build till you have this experience that is constantly evolving. And you can keep and discard those changes and in how well they work.

Graham  08:31

And I guess the real advice here is don't be afraid to try new things, right? Because as you say, if it doesn't work, you can always turn it back.

Lucy Aitken  08:40

Exactly, definitely. And there's no such thing as like a failing test. If you are doing like A/B experiments, they are all just learnings. They're all insight. So from doing that, you're going to constantly be getting great insights from your users that you can bring into the next sort of experience that you want to put out there.

Shelley  08:59

So it's all about constant refinement, then I guess you could say. Intuitive design Lucy, is it safe to say that that actually isn't always the case that it's necessarily intuitive, but perhaps it's just what people are used to?

Lucy Aitken  09:13

Yeah, so I think there's a really sort of strong argument for using what users are familiar with. I think as creatives we always want to push outside of the box, do something new, something that other competitors aren't doing. But actually what might be the best experience for your users is using something that they're familiar with, so that they don't have to relearn how to fill out a form or make a payment. If it's something that they know how to do. They've already spent the time learning and understanding that process. If you throw in a curveball, even though you think it may be a better experience, ultimately, it can start to fall down because it's just not what users are used to seeing. And I think that just touches again on the idea of testing and doing those small, iterative changes. Just so that if you have really tested and worked really hard and think that you found a solution that is better than what's out there at the moment, there's a little bit of a learning curve to get the users on board with this new idea. And yeah, and getting used to this new and better experience, I think, to think of like mobiles, for example, when we are when we all first had mobile phones, we were very used to actual physical buttons to click everything. And there was a real transition period where we moved over into touchscreens. And I remember there was back before the iPhone came around those the touchscreens where you actually had to physically apply pressure to sort of generate interactions on the device that was a little bit sticky had quite a lot of friction with it. And it didn't at one point, it didn't seem like it was going to take off people were like, Nah, I'll stick to my Blackberry. But now I don't think I know a single person who doesn't have a sort of touchscreen mobile device.

Graham  10:59

And I guess some of the things you also need to consider is what other companies are doing, for instance, Apple Pay, right? You don't want to try and reinvent that experience, because Apple have defined what that experience is. And your job as a designer, it should be to integrate it in and make it familiar, because it's what people are expecting.

Lucy Aitken  11:17

Yeah, definitely. And I think unless you are potentially like Microsoft, or Google and you are at that level, where they are a direct competitor, the best thing for you is to use those integrations, the users are familiar with it, they trust those brands, it's already there, it's on their phone, and it just makes a nice smooth process. When you're making payments.

Shelley  11:38

How do businesses tread that line? How do they know? Alright, these are the bits that we copy, we mimic like you said, if it's a really big company, then obviously you just integrate it. But on a smaller level. How do they know when it comes to peer to peer competition? Do we recreate this and we go down the creative route, which has its attractions, but also it has its risks? How do you walk that line?

Lucy Aitken  12:01

Yeah. So I mean, you'll get bored of me saying that I sound like a broken record. But I think doing A/B testing and finding out those insights with real users or doing user testing and speaking to your users with maybe one or two solutions to sort of test the waters, see how that's working. But there's also loads of great resources out there already. So there's a website that I quite often like to take a look at called GoodUI. And on there, they will do reviews of tests that large organisations like Airbnb, Amazon, those big names, they'll publish results of tests that they've tried. So you can look at common design patterns and see what's one, what's worked for them. So you can use that as inspiration for your designs and your website.

Shelley  12:48

That is fantastic. So actually businesses and to anyone listening you they can use that resource to actually go and have a look at what current best practices based on what other companies are reporting in their experimentation. I think that is fabulous. And your advice is actually to dip a toe in the water to try these things. But to do it on a smaller scale.

Lucy Aitken  13:06

Yeah, definitely. So go out there, especially if you have got competitors that you think aren't doing as well as you in the digital space. Or maybe they are and you want to go and see what they're doing. See how you can apply that for your business. I mean, nothing is just a copy and paste because the people that are visiting your website are probably going to be different to the users on another site at but as long as you test those ideas, get some ideas of best practice, then you can't go wrong.

Graham  13:34

So are you noticing any trends or anything that's kind of coming up that you think people should kind of be looking at a little bit deeper?

Lucy Aitken  13:42

I think mobile trends is something to definitely keep an eye on. Just a kind of interesting thing that I've been looking at over the sort of the last two years now, I suppose is how that desktop and mobile market share has changed. So sort of for the last 10 years, when iPhones were released, we just saw a constant upwards trend for more and more users using mobiles. But around March, April in 2020, actually, for the first time we saw in the UK that just completely dipped and desktop actually started increasing in the number of users using that again, it was still up on the year before, but it had kind of had a big impact what was going on in the world. And we did see more and more users switching back to desktop as they were spending more time at home. And then if you follow the graph, that's really interesting, because you'll see that when the lockdowns end, we see users picking their mobile phones back up, they're out and about and then subsequently, when another lockdown came into play. We saw that kind of switch over again, it's quite a small amount really, in terms of the overall numbers but it is just something interesting to keep an eye on. And then in terms of other technology that's out there. I think searching by voice, a lot of like voice interactions and searching by image and the sort of new technologies coming out around those spaces is something to watch out for. So yeah, Google's obviously been doing search by voice for a long time. But I think it's becoming quite familiar with users now. So is that time where you can start to think about can I put VR on my website is there's some sort of AR that I could be doing or searching by voice or some sort of image recognition.

Shelley  15:25

Thank you so much for your time, Lucy, it has been an absolute pleasure and an eye opener and we can't wait to have you back to answer all of the questions that I'm sure will come out of today's podcast.

Lucy Aitken  15:34

Great. Thank you for having me.

Graham  15:36

Thank you.  That was Lucy Aitkin, UI UX designer with Creating an experience that adapts to the user's device, rather than adjusting to the size of their screen creates an exceptional customer experience that allows you to stand out from the crowd. Small iterative change allows your users to adapt with a new design at a pace that suits them, rather than forcing them to have to relearn the entire customer journey. It also gives your business the opportunity to gather insights and continuously learn to understand exactly what changes you're making work for your customer base. Thanks for joining us for this episode of 15 minutes with and we look forward to having you along on the next one.

The Awesome Power of Customer Reviews

We’ve all asked for the opinion of a friend or family member when we’re either looking for something or are about to buy something. It’s just human nature to want to get support on our decision or be offered an alternative when we’re about to make a mistake.

When it comes to online, we do the same but a lot of us, 93% in fact, rely on online reviews as they impact our purchasing decision. Therefore, so many businesses have implemented review abilities on their website and the individual products they sell.

But what happens when the system is manipulated, either intentionally or unintentionally? And with the rise of fake reviews all over the internet is the once ‘King of Social Proof’ on the verge of losing its crown?


Why Reviews are so Powerful

Customer reviews are a double-sided coin for a business. In the eyes of the customer, they create credibility and offer social proof whilst allowing them to have a voice, share their experience and help create loyalty.

For the business, it gives you valuable insight into the overall experience you’re offering from being found to a delivery arriving. With this, you can find areas that might not otherwise be seen that can be improved. Your marketing efforts are massively improved because as we mentioned before, people rely on reviews and if they’re highlighted in the right way, they could improve conversion and improve search rankings.


The Darker Side of Customer Reviews

But as much as they can help, if something seems a little off, customers are going to pick up on it.

Any kind of manipulation of reviews is going to stand out like a sore thumb. Censorship of reviews and the purchasing of fake reviews are unethical as a starting point, but they raise concerns for those looking at them. The fake reviews situation for Amazon has become such an issue that they're now taking legal action against fake review brokers to be able to protect their customers.

95% of consumers suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see bad scores and 30% of consumers assume online reviews are fake if there are no negative reviews.

Understandably, a business does not want to have pages and pages of bad reviews but hiding them is not going to fix the problem. Each one should be looked at as a learning experience and be used to make business improvements. They’re also an opportunity to address the concerns of your customers openly and transparently. Simply sticking them in a metaphorical box marked ‘ignore’ just creates more of the same. If you ignore the concerns of those customers, you’ll either never get another purchase or their voices will just get louder.


Infographic by- Invesp Conversion Rate Optimization


How do you avoid falling into these traps?

There are a few ways that you can do this.


  • Publish any genuine review - good, or bad.

34% of consumers have said that their low product ratings have not been published by eCommerce sites. You don’t want to be one of those sites doing this.


  • Respond to those reviews that need your input

Inevitably, things will not go right every single time. Don’t ignore the bad or less than perfect reviews. Reach out and use them as an opportunity to turn things around. Try to keep as much of the resolution in the open so that others can see what you have done to resolve it, but don’t get into arguments in the reviews section with customers. Remember they’re not a personal attack on you, they are in most cases an outlet for frustration and a request for resolution. Take it as an opportunity to create a new customer experience that blows their expectations and creates a loyal customer in the future.


  • Don’t purchase fake reviews.

This feels like it goes without saying but it is happening. 82% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year and 62% of consumers have experienced significant variations between online reviews and actual products received. It is a false economy and the long-term brand damage is hard to fix.

The purchasing of fake reviews takes many forms and however, it is attempted it doesn’t work. Even things like incentivising customers to leave positive reviews with the promise of winning something or getting something in return falls into this category.


  • Restrict reviews to only be submitted from verified purchases.

Again, this sounds like a bit of common sense but many places are not putting this into action. By using reviews from people who bought the product from you, it builds credibility for the reader. They know that the person went through the journey with you and received what it is they bought.


  • Use a trusted Third Party to validate the reviews and add their credibility.

As much as a person is looking for product reviews on the website itself, using a third party like Trustpilot can add weight. They’re seen as an independent outlier with nothing to gain by manipulating your review scores.

If people have doubts, they often google your business name followed by reviews. This drives them to places like Trustpilot where if you’ve been ignoring bad reviews or soliciting unauthorised good reviews it comes to light.

We as a business use Clutch. All reviews must be submitted with LinkedIn authorisation and the team at Clutch authenticate each review before publishing. Sure, we have testimonials on the website but using Clutch helps support the claims we’re making.


  • Extend the types of reviews you’re getting

Getting customers to support reviews with images or videos adds another layer of authenticity. It is an extra step in the process that fake reviewers are unlikely to take and if you’re selling things like clothing or furniture and don’t offer a visual commerce option in the shopping experience, it reassures people that what they think they’re buying, they’re buying.


Summing it all up

Customer reviews are great for your business and can have a serious impact on the number of people who choose to buy from you. And with the number of new eCommerce stores on the rise, they can be the difference when things like price and delivery options are all the same.

But you need to play the game fairly. Be open and honest with the feedback and learn from it where you can whilst keeping as much as the problem solving out in the open. We’re not suggesting you air all the dirty laundry but always responding with ‘DM us or send us an email’ offers little reassurance that the issue was ever resolved beyond moving it to another channel, simply to be ignored there.

And the final word is that if you’re asking people to leave their opinion after taking an action, be prepared that not everything is going to be a gold star glowing response. Regardless of how hard you may have worked or how much effort was put into the interaction, we all have different expectations and you’re essentially competing with their last incredible customer experience.

15 Minutes With Luke Frake | Podcast Episode #8

In our eighth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Luke Frake. Luke is the Experimentation Lead - User Growth at Spotify.

Luke's interests are in the field of optimisation and experimentation, which are becoming more and more recognised within mainstream digital commerce as vital to any long term experience strategy. As part of the User Research Team at Spotify, Luke is involved in optimising digital experience for Spotify users.

In this episode we talk through the challenges faced when a scientific mindset is applied into a business setting, valuing 'failures' as learnings and understanding that in some cases, the failures are more valuable than the successes.


Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.



Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.



Graham  00:14

On today's episode of 15 minutes with, we have experimentation and user growth lead at Spotify, Luke Frake joining us. Luke's interests are in the field of optimization and experimentation, which are becoming more and more recognised within mainstream digital commerce as vital to any long term experience strategy. As part of the user research team at Spotify, Luke is involved in optimising digital experience for Spotify users. Luke talks through some of the challenges that come from operating in an emerging field as well as how applying a scientific mindset allows us to value failures as learnings. In fact, it would seem the businesses can actually learn more from their experimentation failures than their successes.

Shelley  00:52

Luke, welcome.

Luke Frake  00:53

Hi. Hi, Shelley. Nice to chat with you. I'm good. Thank you. How are you?

Shelley  00:58

Fabulous, so good to have you. We wanted to get straight into it and ask you, what does good experimentation culture look like?


I think there's quite a few different ways that you can summarise good experimentation culture, I think there's like a few different points that you can consider when looking at different companies and looking around. I mean, firstly, like, how data driven as a company, are they making their decisions, because somebody in some C suite office is saying that this is what they should do? Are they making decisions backed by measurable data, you know, user research, analytic data, anything like that? I think that's one of like the key ones that comes up first, I think people are encouraged to kind of think outside of the box, you know, people enabled to fail, make mistakes and try different things that kind of goes against the curve, what metric people are using? And like how, how are they measuring success in different areas of the business? Big one, I think, is democracy within experimentation culture, as well. So how are people allowed throughout the business to make these decisions that decisions and to make these mistakes? Are people C level making all of the experiment ideas? Or is it coming down to kind of every junior analyst and eveyone else around the company able to do these things? Continuing on - What happens with like results from experiments? And how do people perceive these sorts of things? I think there's like a huge list of like how people can consider and how people can think about these different like bits and pieces. It's a big one, it's a big question to unpack for sure.

Shelley  02:20

Absolutely, we could easily spend the entire episode talking about just that. In your experience, is that a utopian picture? Or is it achievable for businesses?

Luke Frake  02:30

Absolutely, I think it's completely achievable. I think it's very hard to change, though, that'd be my my crux of it. I think when you speak to companies that that do not have a good experimentation, culture don't have, you know, have fear of failure built in within the company, and how kind of top down decisions and don't look at data, I think it's very, very hard to change, you know, purely by the fact that if you have a top down culture, the top is deciding what's happening. If the top doesn't want to change, it becomes very difficult, but it's definitely possible. I mean, you know, I've worked with so many different companies and variety, like varying degrees at this scale of good culture and bad culture, if you'd like, quote unquote. But but it's definitely there are companies that are absolutely smashing this I mean, look at like Spotify, I think is a great company. But I think looking outwards, you know,, and companies like this, where they really are just churning out experiments, churning out learnings, but also making different from these learnings as well.

Graham  03:27

And would you suggest that, if a company wanted to do this, they start small? And if they're going to start small, where do they start? Because you could go, You know what, let's just both feet in and see what happens. But I guess with that, there's a risk that you'll try once fail, and never go back. Whereas if you start small, you can kind of build to a crescendo, per se.

Luke Frake  03:50

Yeah I think when it comes to running experiments, starting small is one thing, and I think it's important, but I think you touched on a really good point, then it's like, what is the outcome of these experiments? And how do people perceive that and that that is a fundamental part. And I think that's something that's hard to start small. I think that has to be kind of educated in all directions of a company. And what I mean by that is the, you know, the most successful experiments don't always come from the biggest uplift in a metric or something, an experiment that fails its hypothesis, you know, we think we think a is going to happen, but actually it doesn't. And this happens instead, that's, that's a learning. And that's what's important. That's the important crux of experimentation, you're learning. I love when one of my experiments increases a metric  by 15%. And that's a huge win. And I give myself a pat on the back for that sort of thing. But at the end of the day, that's probably built on 20 other experiments that have decreased a metric that's built and 20 other learnings that have come from somewhere completely different that enabled us to get to that point, where do we get that huge win? So I think, I think that it's very good to start small in terms of getting people into experimentation, but really understanding that learnings and knowledge is what you've gained from experimentation rather than dollars. That's not the initial outcome at least.

Graham  05:06

What advice would you have for a business where experimental culture isn't part of what they do, but they're engaging with an agency or an external business that has that as part of the way they do things? And they potentially have two different versions of what success looks like. Ultimately, you would want to bring the company that doesn't have it closer to the company that does that. Is there sort of, you know, any advice on how to bring those two people closer together faster?

Luke Frake  05:37

Yeah, I think it's the same. If you have, there's two situations that are they're really the same here, you either have a company that doesn't have a culture of experimentation, you have a say, an agency that do or at the same time, you can have a company that doesn't have a culture, and you can have an internal CRO team that do. And that,  that's something I've seen all sorts of different places, throughout my time. And it that is the bit that's hard, that's very hard to do, being being the small trying to change the big in these situations is very hard to do. But it definitely can be done. And I think one of the one of the techniques that I would say is really good for this is trying to get some common ground trying to get some commonality, really try to, you know, as the experimentation side, really trying to understand what are the goals and key metrics that the rest of the business, the rest of this company, whatever it is, are really trying to achieve? And how can we explain how experimentation can help us get there. So for instance, if you've got say, you know, say some engineering team that might necessarily not want to run experiments, they think it's a waste of product time explaining how small iterative experiments can actually help them do more more work in the long run, because what they deploy will be more valuable. If you've got a, I don't know, a marketing team who are really focused on their average order value, explaining how using experimentation and failing a few times can help kind of increase that. And therefore it will, it will make all of their metrics at the top of the funnel look much better. So I think that that's something that I've seen people fall into traps with before is always explaining experimentation is like number of experiments running. And not necessarily talking that kind of common language, that, that that piece of truth, if you'd like that everybody can kind of get on board with and agree with.

Shelley  07:18

From your experience, then it's, it's about the process. And by the sounds of it, it's also to do with context. So you can zoom in as close as you like to one particular experiment. And if that fails, it can essentially freak people out, right? Particularly if you don't have data to back it up, or you know, it doesn't, you don't have the learnings that you can apply, necessarily. But actually, if you step back and zoom out and appreciate the fact that that's part of this huge, huge context of all these other tests that are running these experiments that are running that are actually supporting, you know, a much, much broader end goal, then that's kind of the perspective that you're getting at. But I suppose from the from the angle of being data driven, you know, to try and influence leadership to change that culture. How do you do that? You know, when it's such a such a complex ecosystem?

Luke Frake  08:12

Yeah, I think, I think that's the hard bit because like you say, if you focus on a single experiment, as soon as you get your first failure, quote unquote, failure, you're in the position then where people, people don't understand the process, I think what you start to be able to do though, is you start to join up into stories, take that example a second ago, you know, we have a huge weigh in on one experiment, don't tell that story on its own don't signal that one experiment that was hugely successful out, you need to tell the story from the beginning, you need to explain the journey. And we did this, we tried this, and it didn't work. But what that taught us was x y z. So we compounded that on the experiment again, and again and again. And what we had at the end was this huge win. So make sure when you're telling your stories about how you got to this, you know, this, this, when at the end, you include that journey of pains and frustrations along the way, because realistically, that is the journey, that that's what happened. And that's how you start to get people away from this fear of failure, because they understand that nothing, you know, no failure is without learning, and we can move forward and take that into kind of the next and the next and the next and come up with something much better.

Shelley  09:16

Because we tend to understand the research process in an academic setting, you know, we get it and we go, Okay, leave the scientists to it, it's, you know, it's an iterative process, but then applying that mindset, within a business setting. It's sort of like, you know, we're not we're not joining, joining the dots fully. So I think that is such a brilliant explanation to actually say, you know, you need to look at the whole thing and don't even your own, how we present our own successes. We need to be, you know, more honest about it so that people actually understand that we're not undercutting ourselves, it makes perfect sense.

Luke Frake  09:50

Absolutely. I mean, we we so for instance, on our side, we have all of our experiments when they concluded they go into our knowledge base, and that's something that Spotify we share around the entire company everyone can see, that isn't just a pot of winning experiments, that is a pot of experiments that were run successful experiments, inconclusive experiments, failed experiments, because that is the learning. And we really push that as well.

Graham  10:13

So once you've got all the information, how do you get it out into kind of the wider teams on the wider business to get sort of other people excited about what's happening? Because having the information in a single place is one thing, but how do you get people to engage with it?

Luke Frake  10:25

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that's, that's one of the most important parts of a CRO team, or in any kind of experimentation team, but often one of the hardest things to do, or most overlooked things to do. So for us, we, all of our analysis is compiled into some kind of deck. So each experiment has its own deck associated to it. And then that is contains all of the analysis and kind of all the details for that experiment. And then what we'll do after that is, if we, in this example, we have kind of a story of experiments, we might create something that's bigger that contains that whole story. So you can see you can drill down into the snippet into the singular, or you can kind of see the bigger, but having these things is only one part of it, right? If we have 1000 decks for the 1000 plus experiments that people run, then who's reading them and who's looking into them. So there's a few things we'd like to do around that. One is just sharing it as broadly as possible. So using kind of internal communication channels like email, or Slack, or Teams, or Workplace, or anything else that people are using, just to make sure that there's like a constant stream of this information being shared out to people, but also doing more, doing more like in person or virtually in person sessions, where you have people presenting these ideas, and really opening up to the floor of this isn't just me taking these ideas and giving them to you, this should be conversational. Challenge, the outcomes, challenge the questions like let's continue this learning and continue, there's bits and pieces of like, how can we improve, because out of those sessions, then you really start opening people up to there is no one right? That's all continually challenge and ask questions, which gets you back to kind of improving the overall culture and pushing those bits and pieces forward. So I think, trying to play as many channels as possible, but also trying to talk directly to people as well. And getting those outcomes is the best way to kind of disseminate that information.

Shelley  12:10

Well, definitely, I guess people in their different roles, respective roles within a business, they will have a completely different perspective of that business. And so to be able to voice their ideas, their questions and challenge exactly what you've been talking about experimentation, different learnings, is a way to enrich that process and also get them buying in to the whole to the whole process behind it.

Luke Frake  12:35

That's it. And I mean, that part earlier on trying to understand people's metrics, having those conversations opens up to that, because when you can say to somebody, this experiment has reduced the bounce rate of this page, and you can literally have the conversation, somebody can ask, well, what does that do for this metric that I care about, then you can start to explain it, you learn what they're interested in. And you can also explain kind of the joint between the two. So it just helps continue that process of conversation around experimentation, which ultimately leads to a better culture internally for experimentation to so I think it's very cyclical.

Shelley  13:05

Absolutely. And a better culture overall, when people are collaborating, communicating. So surely, that's part of how you also get senior leadership excited about this process as well.

Luke Frake  13:15

Exactly. Yeah, spot on.

Shelley  13:16

Luke, thank you so so much of your time, is there anything else in terms of tips and insights that you think people listening might be able to apply?

Luke Frake  13:25

I think I hope the main thing that people take from this is to is to communicate too many times that I go into different companies like when I when I was working within the agency, or when I'm working in companies and different teams aren't communicating. So I really hope the one main thing people take from this is talk to other teams, don't don't be that standalone silo, talk to your agency, talk to the team in your business, whatever it is, understand what people are thinking and how these different bits and pieces work and how they can come together to be something better than the sum. That's that's my main takeaway.

Graham  13:55

And that's good advice overall. So to be honest, outside of experimentation, we encourage everybody to talk to each other because it's, it's always those things that come up in surveys when you know, people ask about business satisfaction and employee engagement. Communication is always the thing that comes up is something that needs work on so yeah, we'll take that. Thank you.

Luke Frake  14:17

Most welcome. Yeah, most most welcome,

Shelley  14:19

Luke. It has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for your time today, I know that this is going to be an episode that people can really really learn from. It may be a case of I imagine there will be loads of questions off the back of it. So I'm sure we'll get you back for a follow up episode at some point in the near future.

Luke Frake  14:37

Awesome. Lovely speaking to you, Graham and Shelley, thank you so much for your time. We really enjoyed it. Thank you.

Graham  14:41

That was experimentation and user growth lead at Spotify, Luke Frake. By shifting our mindset and not looking at experimental failures as failures, but more as learnings and then sharing them with the wider business in an open discussion, we're able to fully utilise the benefits of experimentation within our business. And remember, communication is everything. Thank you for joining us for this episode of 15 minutes with we look forward to having you along for the next one.

15 Minutes With Ged Zalys | Podcast Episode #7

In our seventh episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Ged Zalys. Ged is a Commerce Delivery Lead with Accenture.

Ged has years of experience working within the world of commerce both in Europe and Asia. We talk to him about the rise of Live Commerce and how China is well ahead of the curve and leading the pack in its adoption. We ask him what its potential is for in the western market, what things businesses should consider before attempting it and what a business will need to implement in order to do it correctly.


Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.



Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.



Graham  00:13

Today on 15 minutes with we're talking to Ged Zalys from Accenture. Ged has years of experience working both in the European and Asian markets, and we talk to him about live commerce and how China is adopting it. We ask him what its potential is like for the Western market, what things businesses should consider before attempting it, and what businesses need to be able to implement it correctly.

Shelley  00:35

Ged you spent a bit of time in Asia during your time with Accenture, are you able to tell us a little bit about the trends that you are seeing emerging from Asia with respect to social commerce and live commerce.

Ged Zalys  00:46

I think what is happening in Asia, it's a little bit like people do have a perception at least like you know, many that I speak to have a bit of a perception still, that's you know, China is still the posters from Shanghai of the 1940s, you know, is that the big like beautiful buildings with curly roofs as well. But that's really like farthest from from the truth, because right now, it's closer to sci fi movies that we watch, when you're working across Shanghai, or if you even in Beijing, or Hong Kong, as well as the tall high rises, then you can be walking across the city and you will see a flying QR code above your head that has been created with with the drones as well that you can take your phone and scan it and get taken to a website or to download the game or to see some sort of features. So really, the technology is everywhere, you could be sitting in there underground stations and going on a train and instead of looking out the window and seeing just a tunnel, there is a screen that is giving you advertisements or telling some sort of a story as well. So it's very much closer to science fiction than what a normal traditional perception might be. When I think when it comes to a bit more in the in our space in the commerce space. And in social areas. And in live commerce as well, we see businesses taking a completely different take on solving that problem. Like traditionally, in Europe, and in the West, as well, we have a very clear distinction between the video platforms between the commerce platforms and social platforms in China is not really the case, they kind of blur it all together and put it all into one. Which is in turn creates a lot more complexity in order to achieve this successfully. But at the same time, it delivers that unified customer experiences that that customers get. And I see this really like, you know, becoming the predominant example. For example, there is a brewers called Snow beer. And these guys are do they were selling a lot of a lot of beverages before COVID head and I think COVID was a very brilliant example like, you know, how they dealt with and use social commerce and how it helped to accelerate. So in their case, they realise that hold on a second, people are not going into the bars, they're not going, you know, not really socialising, how are we going to sustain our business and let alone improve it, but they actually sold over 400 million extra beverages that they would normally do. And the way they done it, they didn't realise that. But essentially, they got WeChat mini programmes. So this is like, you know, to the to our western audiences. WeChat is pretty much our Facebook, YouTube and other things combined. And they have these little mini programmes that allows businesses to create their own unique representation of them, but yet, you are still within the same ecosystem of WeChat. And they created this mini programme to enable and they called it a nano influencers because they realise when there was a limitation added during the COVID, you could only have 10 people or so meeting together. So all of that regular venues and campaigns that they've done in the past, it was really a little bit out the window. And that's not gonna work and before but hold on a second people are still meeting the meeting in groups of 10. And I think like every single group has got a person that is that, you know, motivate that he organises he or she organises gets people together. And for them, it was very much of like, like, why don't we let these people do it, like, you know, they want to go out, they still want to organise it. So let them you know, be able to choose COVID safe places where they can invite their friends, they can order and pre booked drinks that is like going to be catering for 10 people. So that concept of nano influences commerce, which is was part of the social commerce was invented. And that just became a boom of Snow beer, which was like four Super X brand initiative.

Graham  04:25

So that all sounds amazing, and certainly something that I would love to experience. But how do we pick up kind of what they're doing in Asia and bring it into the West, say the UK into Europe without kind of having to reinvent the entire wheel and use what we already have.

Ged Zalys  04:41

Kind of going to step back a little bit and think about you know, in order to answer this question, I think the reason why it's happening right because like you know why social commerce is happening and how it's applicable for Europe as well that the decision making power has shifted from brands to the consumers. That's the fundamental shift of why social commerce is coming into the picture. And instead of businesses focusing on their objectives now what businesses have to do is start focusing on customer satisfaction. And I think that's one of the fundamental changes that is driving it. And in order for us to get there, and I think like, you know, the other reason being of why that is happening, businesses are starting to look to diversify their revenues. And the reason is that traditional ads no longer really work the same as they used to, especially with all of the GDPR policies being created data privacy regulations as well, that we keep on hearing about and the traditional methods of identifying our customers, making sure that the content is as personalised as it can be, is not as effective as it used to be. That's what we're seeing. But if you are staying within the same platform, oh, and using the social platform, you kind of don't have to deal with that the content is within it, you letting the platform providers disord these areas out for you. And then the way you positioning us like a one step closer, in addition to that, I think customers they behaviour is changing, you know, you have the entire Gen Z'd that is now coming of age and they have a buying power, people are also looking for sustainability and the products that are sustainable. And finally, 87% of consumers in in E commerce shopping, believe the social media help them make shopping decisions, like as I see this personally. And when I speak to friends as well, you know, people complain about ads, but I see many people are like, I wouldn't know what is new out there if I didn't get advertised to and I like personalised ads and like some people are completely okay, that, you know, their data is being used to give them tailored experience as well. So it's 87% of people that actually think that way of the latest statistics. So there is a huge case in order to get to that point. But I think the problems we're trying to solve and like what we need to consider before we get to that is whether we have our business definition in place. What social commerce means to your business really, like in in a sense, it's a new channel, and usually the new channels, they're not adopted as fast as you would, it's not like it doesn't happen overnight. If you started if you always be where brick and mortar becoming digital takes a lot of time. So you have to define what social commerce is giving to your business. I think that's that's the number one step of recognising the importance of it, and then is really the value of case, right. There's like, you know, what opportunity size is there from the social commerce? What's my return of investment, because it's not going to come in like overnight, you have to actually put some funds behind it and let it nurture it and let it grow until that happens to let it grow and being nurtured that is part of your go to market strategy as well. You know, how are you going to change your business model? Where are you going to sell? What exactly are you going to sell in order to activate your social commerce. And then finally, I would say is like another entity that comes in that is most probably is not very intuitive immediately to existing businesses that are not doing social commerce, you have to have partners, you know, you have to have influencers or KOL's (key opinion leaders) in order to promote your brand. And like when it goes back to KOL's, it shows that five times the number of impressions and engagements are generated for every dollar spent on influencer market as compared to pay ads. So when it comes to influencers, it's a fundamental piece to get it right, in order to get that scaling.

Shelley  08:23

Ged that is really, really interesting. I love those stats, because they are key business considerations when it comes to actually getting this started. And like you said, pulling those trends out of what we're seeing in Asia, not having to reinvent the wheel completely, but being able to apply it in other settings like in the UK. So aside from all of those points that you touched on those considerations for getting started, like the business strategy, the plan of where you're actually going to get started with us in terms of platforms, and in terms of influencers? Are there any obvious markets that you think this is really best applied to?

Ged Zalys  08:54

You know, I'm going to be fair with this is like if you're trying if you're thinking of selling something outside of apparel, footwear, beauty jewellery, or CPG in general, right, I don't think it's an area it's a suitable area because think about your audiences and think about like, you know, who is using these platforms and how relevant it will be in your reach as well. So my take on that is if you're in apparel, footwear, beauty, jewellery, or CPG, social commerce is for you otherwise, it still needs some time I guess to mature

Shelley  09:25

So fast moving consumer goods are really where it's at for social commerce and for live commerce, and then just give it some time from there and then most of the other industries and other markets starting to adopt it potentially if it's suitable

Ged Zalys  09:36

Yeah, like, you know, that's that's would be my initial recommendation, because these are tried and tested industries and we seen them flourish when they attempted this approach. Other industries we haven't seen so many success studies, but it doesn't mean that that's not the case. There are three different approaches to this. There is direct you know, where where you actually go into the platform such as Facebook Instagram, right and you start uploading your product and selling it. That's direct. Then there is a affiliates, and affiliates is one I mentioned about the KOL's, they are advertising on your brand, or actually an affiliate unaffiliated selling people just essentially like, you know, shouting and screaming about how great your product is. Then you see this demonstrated really well in Michaud and AliExpress. And then the final one is the community and the community is more of a peer to peer platforms. You can achieve this in Facebook marketplaces that other better examples would be like Groupon or deal share in India. And I really like that there is a use case of KFC where they use the community in order to do the selling. So their approach was very much of a in Chinese customers riot is usually translated almost customer is the boss and KFC was thinking, you know, what if we actually make customer, the boss, so again, they want to WeChat mini programmes and they created an application that allowed you to sell your own chicken. So essentially, it's for you to advertise to your friends, you get a commission and every purchase that is being made is essentially profiting you. So you are becoming almost like a reseller of KFC, but not technically, you know, people would go in back to KFC stores and pick up the chicken are getting delivered that you becoming the kind of an owner of your own store and you reselling it and they created 2.5 million KFC pockets stores in just 120 days. So going back to your initial question of what is the potential of other industries stepping into this day, you know, traditionally we would be thinking so after considering these three approaches, right, there is about some of them such as Facebook, right, where you're uploading your product, and you allowing to see how it's happening, you don't need to spend too much investment into your other technologies to support it. It's kind of like a testing and planning and seeing whether it gets activated and you do A/B testing with this, you see how people are reacting with this, then you have to put like a breaking point that this is go or no go depending on your hypothesis. So you create your usual scientific method, you create a hypothesis of what you want to achieve in the next few months. And you do this trial and error almost run to see how well it's performing on the given platform. And if so, after two months, you should be starting to think about how is this going to integrate into the rest of your ecosystem. If you are new to selling in general, if you been in a brick and mortar store and haven't gone digital maybe that's it said, you just focus on that channel and you grow it. But if you already got an existing digital presence and E commerce store as well, then you might want to start considering how the orders captured are going into your order fulfilment process. So you can scale and utilise the same operations that you have done used in the past from your digital presence and your store now serving the customers that are coming in from the social commerce channel as well. So hopefully this just gives a little bit more context, Shelly? Absolutely. Thank you so much for that, Ged.

Graham  13:01

So you've given us a tonne of information around kind of how to think about this and what you should be considering when you're implementing it. And you know, is it right for your business? Are there any other tips or insights or learnings that you've got for people that really genuinely want to consider social selling as a potential channel for them that kind of as a, you should probably think about this before you start.

Ged Zalys  13:21

I think it's an important one to pick up. It's great when you think about new channels to reach your customers and there's always like, you know, a profit that can be added but at the same time, there is a risk of that it could potentially could start cannibalising your ecommerce website. The traffic from your e commerce website that you have today might be diverted into the social commerce traffic and the core digital experience might differ as well, which is not always the bad thing is like if you keep the customers in the same environment, think about it. Sometimes when you think you forgot something in a different room, and you go back to that room and you forget completely why you came to the room that's almost like you know, that's how human brain works a little bit is that you know, when you change your environment, your brain kind of resets and it's like okay, so something new must be happening and you forget what was the purpose of you to come come in back there. So there is a value of like actually keeping the customers on a single channel instead of like no flipping them back and forth. And then you are building your social audiences and there is a huge value in it. There is a new reach like you know, acquiring new customers is a lot harder than nurturing existing ones. However, social commerce is giving you that ability to reach out to completely new customers where you can continue focusing on nurturing your existing customers and your E commerce and acquire the new customers from your social channels. And I think you know, finally I just want to kind of add on to few more points that people are starting to think in different ways like you know, how it differs from your traditional e commerce websites and your social commerce. People traditionally are used to looking for customer reviews in order to help them make a decision in order to buy it but with social commerce now it's customer reviews and influencer reviews as well, then we go into a different component of product comparisons, right? So people used to just put them side by side and see which one is better. But now with social commerce, you might be actually relying on your friends opinion on what they really think about it.

Shelley  15:17

Ged, thank you so much for your time today. All of the insights from what you've seen firsthand all the way through to what you would recommend for businesses and ultimately for the end user when it comes to social and live Commerce. Thank you so so much.

Ged Zalys  15:30

Thank you guys. It was really lovely being here. I hope that helps.

Graham  15:33

 Thanks. Yeah. And we look forward to having you on again in the future.  That was Ged Zalys from Accenture. Social Commerce opens you up to new audiences in channels where they love to spend more of their time. And when using in conjunction with influencers and key opinion leaders makes discovery of your products easier. It may not yet be for everyone. But for those that can, it's a new channel that when well considered and implemented can drive engagement and meet the changing needs of customers. Thank you for joining us for this episode of 15 Minutes With we look forward to having you along on our next one.

15 Minutes With Lucy Hall | Podcast Episode #6

In our sixth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Lucy Hall. Lucy is a Lead Trainer with Meta and the founder of the hugely influential Digital Women Community.

Lucy's interests are in the social space with a particular interest on training events and community building. Lucy is also the founder of a number of industry events, conferences and awards.

Lucy shares her knowledge on helping others to navigate the social selling sphere on a regular basis. Her experience in delivering curriculums and appealing to users to come together to find a social voice is second to none.

On the episode, Lucy shares her knowledge and offers tips, insights and advice on community building and community management.


Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.



Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.



Shelley  00:13

Today lead trainer at Meta, Lucy Hall is joining us on 15 minutes with. Lucy's interests are in the social space with a particular interest on training events and community building. Lucy is also the founder of a number of industry events, conferences and awards, and she is the founder of the hugely influential Digital Women community. Lucy shares her knowledge on helping others to navigate the social selling sphere on a regular basis. Her experience in delivering curriculums and appealing to users to come together to find a social voice is second to none.  Lucy Hi, Welcome.

Lucy Hall  00:53

Hi, Shelly. Thanks for having me.

Shelley  00:55

What I wanted to ask was how through your training experience, you have found that communities have an appetite for connection online?

Lucy Hall  01:03

I think people have always had an appetite for connection. And people have always had an appetite for community, because communities are the things that binds people together through mutual interests or problems that they have. And through the training that I've done, I've been able to reach out to lots of different audiences by training them, because essentially, I'm able to train people on digital skills for free through the Meta programme as a lead trainer. And I found that people are really happy to go on that training and learning journey together. So the communities that I run are people who have a big appetite for digital skills, but also connection as well. So together, it means that they're able to learn and then talk to each other about what they've learned and share skills with each other. So when they learn something, or they know something, they're able to share their experiences. I think through the pandemic, it highlighted even more how much people will need that connection. And we had a big explosion of online communities, even bigger than we already had. And you can even see that Meta was increasing its communities programme as well. So they were really putting a lot of importance into communities. Because there was already some great growth through groups, which are to different Facebook pages, because you're just, you know, advertising to an audience. I think the appetite for online connection is absolutely huge. And it's growing every single day.

Shelley  02:25

What I really what I find really, really interesting about that is how you say these communities often have quite a few interests in common. Could you tell us a little bit about how communities differ to audiences, when it comes to brands?

Lucy Hall  02:39

I think there's a big misconception about building a community, because people think when you have lots of followers on social media, it means that you then have a community. But that's absolutely not true. A community is something completely different. And audience is people who are watching you following you. And they want to know what you're up to and what you're doing. And a community is a group of people that are connected together by like I was saying before, when your first question by a common interest, or a common problem. And so therefore, they are able to connect and talk to each other in a different way that feels more natural and not very forced. The person who started the committee doesn't always have to be there when you have a community because people talk to each other because they're interested in the same thing. Whereas with an audience is a little bit more difficult to get that going. You can build communities that have audiences, because they may be interested in the same thing. But of course, two completely different things.

Shelley  03:31

And so people can come and go, and they can move in and out of communities, where audiences, it's sort of presumed that once you lose someone, you kind of lose them to a competitor, so to speak. But in a community, that particular community might only serve a certain short period of time for that person's experience. So it might be for example, a new mothers group, it's expected that you're only going to be part of that group for a period of time. And you might tap into that community again, in the future if you have another child. But it's not going to be a lifelong membership.

Lucy Hall  03:59

Yeah, absolutely. I think essentially, we're all part of lots of different communities. If you think about how many different communities you're part of a different parts of your life might be that you're part of a community, that's for local residents in your area like Canterbury for example. Or you might be part of a community where you have an interest in sewing. And it just means that you can talk about those interests with other people who are interested in the same thing. And you're not necessarily waiting for the community leader to say something or the brand to say something, you're actually just talking amongst yourselves. Of course, the community leader is always there to ask questions and stoke the fire, if you like, to get people chatting with each other. If you're a brand trying to build a community, you would think about what's the common thing that binds all of these people together? What is the thing they're really interested in and people like Red Bull do it really, really well, if you think about it. Because Red Bull have this brand where it's all about sport and energy and excitement and then they create these events around that. And as part of that they have this amazing community.

Graham  04:58

That's an interesting topic actually, because Red Bull a few years ago completely changed their marketing model away from selling product to selling experience.

Lucy Hall  05:06


Graham  05:06

And it's about producing content that people can engage with and like you say, putting up these events and setting them up, and I guess is a brand going to have more success if they approach a community in that way, rather than approaching the community and kind of slapping up a billboard and going, Hey, by the way, we have a whole bunch of products that we think might be appropriate, and we want to sell them to you kind of like they do with an audience, is it better for a brand to invest in how do we support the community so that an association is created between the support was given to us by X, and as a result, we are more likely to support them because of the good that they've done for us, rather than a brand turning up and going, we'll send you samples, because we just want to get our product into people's hands.

Lucy Hall  05:47

I think people are pretty savvy, especially if you're within a community. And if a brand suddenly comes in and says buy my thing, you know, they're gonna know that they're just being monetized. And I think, however, if a brand comes in and works with the community leader, or creates a community, where actually the centre of this community is about building a community, and just fostering that connection between people, I think people are going to see that brand in a better light and potentially going to buy from them anyway. But I think that's the whole thing around social media as well, isn't it and social media marketing, when people are just blatantly selling stuff, you're less likely almost to buy something straight away. But once you've built up that trust, and that almost that community, or that audience of people who really love you, and really  love being part of what what you have, being part of the community, then they're more likely to go when they're ready to buy, you're going to be front of mind, aren't you? I think that's normally how it works. However, I do feel like brands could be working with community leaders in a different way. So now a lot of brands work with influencers. And literally, they just send them products, or they ask them to talk about the product or sell the product, which is great, because the influencers already have a community lots of time, they have a following rather than a community. But there is space for a brand to go into actual communities, and work with the community leader to create training programmes or to create experiences, like you're talking about with Red Bull to help those communities in some way rather than than blatantly trying to sell them products.

Graham  07:14

And I suspect it's probably quite important as well that the brand shares the values of the community shares. And then there's not an obvious disconnect between we're just going to find the communities with the biggest numbers of people.

Lucy Hall  07:26


Graham  07:27

Like you say people are savvy and they can see through obvious attempts at kind of flattery, were it particularly isn't warranted.

Lucy Hall  07:34

Oh, absolutely. The way I go about partnerships for our communities, our communities going to 70,000 women over the last couple of years. And it really accelerated during the pandemic. And the way that we approach partnerships is that we normally get them to provide content or educational content to our community, because they want education, they want to learn about digital skills. And so if I can bring someone in that wants to teach our community about digital skills, by association, they're going to want to use their products when they're ready for anyway without saying buy my product, because they've now we've created this amazing content that people can watch over and over again or live, they can ask questions whenever they want. And the community see the brand in this great light, they love them. And when they're ready for the tool, or the digital products, they're going to use it because they feel like they've connected with that brand. And they feel like that brand is not just somebody who's partnered with the community, but part of the community as well. And I think that's really important. The brand shouldn't be this brand who's coming in and just selling stuff or talking about stuff, they should be part of the community and feel like they're part of the community as well. And whoever that may be within the organisation should be in there like talking to people and engaging,

Graham  08:39

That's important so that the community sees more than the brand, they see the individual that's representing the brand, because we all know that people trust people you don't trust kind of faceless organisations. The people are inside. So I think that that  you're right, you've got to have people that represent the brand in the community, but they should be known for who they are first and who they work for second.

Lucy Hall  09:04

Yeah absolutely.

Shelley  09:05

And I like how you sort of drew that comparison between how a brand might tap into an influencer to sell a product for a short space of time and have nothing to do with that audience before or after, and how in community, it doesn't work that way. The brands that integrate themselves really well aren't actually trying to actively sell something for the here and now they are trying to involve himself in the ongoing conversation of that brand. But another point that you kind of touched on which I just want to dive a tiny bit deeper into if you don't mind, is how you have all of these different people as part of a community and how if you are involved in in trying to either establish or manage or run a community, how you balance differing levels of skill sets, that kind of thing. So for example, you're offering training so how do you manage such a big community? When you have people with skill set level zero and skill set level 10 At the same time, how do you keep that in in one community?

Lucy Hall  10:00

it is quite hard because obviously you've got different people at different levels. So when you're sharing content that's like, you know, how do you create a customer persona and that kind of thing. It's quite entry level, something that most marketers or digital marketers, people in digital would know about. But then if you're from a different discipline, in digital, you're very technical, you wouldn't possibly have to look at that side. And you might be interested in it, you want to change career, and you want to understand different elements of digital. So there is content for everyone. But the way it's managed is that we ask people to share their own skills. So rather than me as the trainer coming in and sharing my knowledge, we ask everybody to come and share their knowledge, which means we have kind of a skill sharing community. So it becomes not just a place to pick up a training course from digital women as such, it becomes a place where everybody can share their skill. And what that means is that people who already have these great skills have an opportunity now to show that they are knowledgeable. And I think that's really, really important. And especially for women, because it's often known that we have imposter syndrome, and we are less likely to be on panels, and which is getting better now, especially digital and technology. Because five years ago, you wouldn't see any women or the technology or a digital panel would you. And so we're giving people the opportunity to be on the panel, to have their first speaking slot and that kind of thing, as well and share their knowledge and give them the confidence to do it in front of an audience whilst teaching other people in the community as well. So it's a really nice way to bring the community together.

Shelley  11:25

Oh, I love it. I love it. And so if you are the owner of a community are a custodian of the community, how does that work? If you're the person that set it up? And you're the one managing it? How do you allow it to have this life of its own, but also keep it on track, so to speak? Or how was that how was that process managed?

Lucy Hall  11:43

Look, it's really hard to create and manage your communities it's not that easy, you're gonna have different reasons for wanting to create one, some people could start a community because they want connection themselves. Some people start a community because in the back of their mind, they want to make sales or they they want to have a business from the from it. But whatever happens, it takes a lot of time to create a community. And when the community does kick off, and people start discussing amongst themselves and becoming this real kind of community, you'll find that you still have to be there to manage the community. So funding a community is really important. Understanding that it's your  community but you can't really own a community, it's not your community and lead a community if you can't own it, because the community will go off and have their own conversations. I mean, there's people within our community who already have their own subgroups where they talk to each other. And there, it all started from digital women, but now they have their own meetups, which I think is amazing.

Graham  12:33

You mentioned previously that you obviously we saw a spike in communities during the pandemic, which as you say is, you know, understandable, because people were kind of reaching out. But contact because we were all locked up inside, you got any tips for people to kind of keep those communities going, as we start to venture back out into our real worlds, right? We go out back to work, and you start to see family again. And that need for some people may be fulfilled in other ways. But there are still going to be a lot of people that are heavily dependent on the communities that have been brought up through this process. If you've got anything that you can suggest around, how do you keep that momentum going? How do you continue to grow the community as they move forward? And what point do you start to reach out and ask for help the concept of the moderator and people that kind of work within communities to make sure things are going forward?

Lucy Hall  13:17

I mean, there's a couple of questions there isn't there, there's the one about the moderators. And yeah, if your community is growing, you're gonna need more moderators. Because it takes time, the best moderators are the people who are the most active, because they're there anyway, they love it, they normally policing it, they're normally letting people know if they've said something or done something wrong. Anyway, literally the best people and you can trust them, because they're so integrated into the community. It's such a big part of their life, that they're the people that you want, and you can definitely trust them. So you would, you know, make them moderators. And to do that you should just have a set of guidelines, and have a set of almost rules about what's acceptable, what's not acceptable and give it to them. And it's, again, you're not paying them. So you might want to offer some kind of incentive or something like that, say that you'll out their picture on the website or put their picture up as the moderator of the community. Normally, that's enough, because they love the community so much. They want to share everyone's part of it. And the other question was, how do you keep the community alive? How do you keep the community going? I think at first, like I said, you do have to put a lot of work into the community, she had to get the right people into the community, and then other people have to be able to share the community. But generally, I think you do have to create content. As a community leader, you have to create content that is engaging, that ask people questions that bring people into the community to talk to each other. And you'd have to ask the community to invite other people who they think would enjoy being part of the community as well. That's how you grow it. And that's how you keep people engaging. So you can't just even when the community is created, and everybody's talking about whatever binds them together, you can't completely step back. You have to be there to get the conversation going sometimes.

Shelley  14:49

And so if you had any other tips and insights and advice, I mean, there are a lot of good insights just in that question that you wanted there, Lucy about how to grow it. How to keep people engaged and little tips about how you can go about those things. Is there anything else that you feel that we haven't touched on?

Lucy Hall  15:05

Yeah, I think I'm just going back to basics, like who is this person that is in this community? And what do they want? What do they like? How can we make sure that we're meeting their their needs? And how can we motivate them to keep joining in the conversation? I think that's really, really important. And again, making sure that your mission, you have a mission for the community, like what is this community? It might be just like the crafting community, for example, bringing people together, who love to craft and want to talk about it every day? What is the mission? Or why are you doing it? What do you want to achieve there? Knowing that it's really, really important, making sure you've got a set of guidelines for your community? What's acceptable, and what's not? Is this a safe space for people to be able to talk to each other? Can they share spam, you know, all of their products and services? Probably not. You need and people need to know all of that stuff. So before you even go to the community, put those things down on a piece of paper, and then talk to your community regularly and ask them what do they want? What is it that's connecting them, because when you know this information, you can grow the community even larger, I think the other thing is really important. If you're not a brand running community, you do have to find a way to fund it. So going out and looking for partnerships, and perhaps setting up a membership is really, really important. Otherwise, you'll burn out and you'll think what the hell am I doing all of this for.

Shelley  16:16

Lucy, that was all so, so amazing to hear. Thank you so much for all of that advice. I think for everybody listening, those are the things that they can actually go away in action, and they can start today, start writing things down and start getting a plan together. Thank you so much for your insight and your experience that you've shared with us today. It has been incredible.

Graham  16:32

Thank you for your time.

Shelley  16:34

That was Lucy Hall, lead trainer at Meta and founder of Digital Women. Lucy, thank you so much for your tips, your insights and your advice into the world of community building and community management. Certainly you touched on a few points that do indicate community is a bit of a dark art for a lot of people and a lot of brands. So we know that this podcast is going to be just so valuable to a lot of people and we cannot wait to have you again soon. For anybody interested please go ahead and join the Digital Women community that you can find on Facebook. And for all of you listening. See you next

Lucy Hall  16:34

Thank you.

15 Minutes With Ted Rubin | Podcast Episode #5

In our Fifth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Ted Rubin. Ted is a leading Social Media Marketing Strategist, International Keynote Speaker, Business Advisor and Author.

In March 2009 he started using and evangelizing the term ROR, Return on Relationship, hashtag #RonR… a concept he believes is the cornerstone for building an engaged multi-million member database and engaged community, many of whom are vocal advocates for the brand.

Many people in the social media world know Ted Rubin for his enthusiastic, energetic & undeniably personal connection to people. He has been listed as #13 on Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers, and number #2 on the Leadtail list of Top 25 People Most Mentioned by digital marketers… and most recently to the leadersHum Global Power list of the Top 200 Biggest Voices in Leadership for 2022. Return on Relationship, ROR, #RonR is the basis of his philosophy… It’s All About Relationships!

We ask Ted what exactly is Return on Relationship and why is it so important for your business.


More About Ted

His books are as follows: Return on Relationship 2013, How to Look People in the Eye Digitally 2015, The Age of Influence 2017, and the recently released Retail Relevancy, written along with business partner and Retail Thought Leader John Andrews. Learn more about Ted at,, @TedRubin, and



Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.



Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.



Graham  00:14

On this episode of 15 Minutes With we're speaking with Ted Rubin. Ted is a leading social media marketing strategist, international keynote speaker, business advisor and author. In March 2009, he started using an evangelising, the term ROR, or return on relationship. A concept he believes is the cornerstone for building an engaged multi million member database and engaged community, many of whom are vocal advocates for the brand. We asked him what exactly is return on relationship? And why is it so important for businesses in the digital age?


Shelley  00:43

Ted, welcome to the podcast.


Ted Rubin  00:46

Shelly, thank you so much for having me, I'm so happy to join you guys.


Shelley  00:49

A pleasure to have you. And so you are the author of Return on Relationship and we would love to really get started on that and understand what you refer to as currency, measuring return on relationship as a currency,


Ted Rubin  01:02

I was working for a company called Elf Cosmetics. And it was in the early days, very early days of social media 2008. And the way this came about, I'm giving you a little more background here, just so you understand the whole return relationship thing was that I was building the social platforms, I immediately recognised that they were more about conversation than about marketing. I mean, I had an email list, we had banner ads, we had all the things we could be doing. But the owners of the company was so desperate to market to these people that they became my little domain and I protected it, not yet not ready, and they kept pushing. And finally, one day when they push hard enough, they said, why can't we market to these people yet, and I just blurted it out, I said, because it's not just about return on investment right now. Because in the end, it's about return on investment. It's about return on relationship. Simply put, it's the value that's accrued by a personal brand, due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple dollars and cents. ROR is the value I like to say both perceived and real, that will accrue over time through connection, trust, loyalty, recommendations and sharing. And I worked really hard to use it to define and educate companies, brands and people about the importance of creating authentic connection, interaction and engagement. Just to wrap up what I just said about return relationship. I like to say that short and simple. If you're only focused on the money, you risk completely overlooking the people don't make that mistake. If you don't know who your people are, and invest in those relationships, you might as well toss your branding, marketing and prospecting money down the drain. I think you mentioned this earlier, when we were talking, I like to say the relations on the most important currency, if you don't honour them, you're not going to be able to increase your ROI by wrapping ROR around it.


Graham  02:46

Before we came on, we watched your video on your website, and you talk about brands no longer being owned by brands and brand being owned by the consumer. And I think it's a really important point that kind of goes along the side of that because there is a drive for businesses that as soon as they've got access to someone who they presume wants to listen, the first thing they do is try and force a message down their throat. And it's generally sent up a sales message. And I don't think brands have quite understood that they're not in control of the conversation anymore. Relationships can be broken just as quickly as they can be built.


Ted Rubin  03:19

100%. What's different now is that we pick and choose where we see ads, how we engage with brands, it's incredibly easy to turn off advertising. to just ignore it. The problem is a brand has their marketing budget, they reach out, they get Graham's attention, they get his email address or some other way to communicate with them. And then they start banging him over the head again and again and again. Instead of recognising that they've got to continue nurturing this relationship the same way we do when we meet friends, or we meet people in business or anything else. We don't just, by the way, a lot of people just meet us and move on. And then six months later or a day later, a favour is asked instead of building that relationship, doing a little quid pro quo, doing something for someone without expectation of anything directly in return. And then knowing you're building a bank of returns, and brands need to understand that they can do the same thing. It's so easy for us to find a replacement. I am an Allbirds customer, you guys familiar with it? Okay, I love Allbirds. But if they mess up, there's 20 other choices out there. And one of the reasons I don't make that move is they don't do that to me. I feel that they do it really, really well. They provided me with an app, they made it really easy for me to find my content. You know what I've already bought in the past order something in the future. I periodically get an email when they have a new product, when something cool is coming out. I might get something that they have a special offer around the holidays because they know I might want to introduce my friends or family to the brand, but they don't constantly bang me over the head. Whereas I have other brands that I purchase things from and every day I get something from them and every day they're asking me to buy and I'm already a customer and how many pairs of sneakers do I need? I don't want to be retargeted. No human being likes being retargeted. No one wants to walk out of the store and be offered a coupon to walk back in. And if they do, you're training them to get that coupon. My business partner likes to say that they used to be brand loyal to pizza, but not anymore. His wife just wants to get the pizza from wherever they have the coupon from. I mean, I don't know about you. But I know a lot of people that I don't necessarily have time for it, but I do it sometimes. Go in, fill up your shopping cart, abandon it, you will immediately get something offering you a discount on the same thing you would just about to buy. Now Amazon doesn't do it, because they offer a lot more value. And they know their customers keep coming back, because they're so good to them. Because they really pay attention. And they deliver on time, and they take things back, but you go to, you abandon your cart, they're going to come after you.


Shelley  05:44

What I love Ted is the comparison between personal relationships and how those are nurtured, and professional relationships or relationships with the customer. Because it makes it easy for people to understand, right? Instead of thinking with this brand hat on, they can actually go oh, well, it's just the same as in real life, because it is still real life, what you said with all of those vouchers and coupon examples, what's also really interesting is not measuring the damage that we're doing with all of this kind of advertising that we're just bombarding people with, how would you say when discussing with business leaders, or empowering marketing, or any department for that matter, to speak to their leaders to encourage them to take this philosophy on board? How would you do that?


Ted Rubin  06:25

I try to get them to look at it from their own perspective to be a customer of their own brand. You know, I look at a CMOS and I go, Are you subscribing to your own emails? Are you visiting your brand and then surfing the web anonymously, not as your CMO not as who you are. And when I say anonymously, I don't mean to hide it from your employees? I mean, to hide it from the from the tracking that's going on in the web? Are you experiencing what your customers are experiencing? I mean, I look at marketers all the time, and ask them to behave more like customers, to think more like a customer. What works for you, you know, how do you feel about bright red subject lines with total nonsense that really isn't about how do you feel when you get to an offer? That is not what you saw in the subject line of your email, like, um, it's immediate delete and sometimes I'll get, look, I'm a human, I'll get drawn into clicking on something because it's an interesting subject line or something like that. Then I get there and I go, okay, they suckered me, I'm out, you know, and then I'm not just out, which is the way they look at it, they look at it as I'm just out, okay. He went in, he clicked through, he left there, I'm looking, I'm not only out I'm annoyed. And I'm that less likely to click on their links again in the future. And look, that was a really intrinsic part of email marketing in the past, I like to look at them and say, start thinking about instead of email marketing, think about it as me mail marketing, thinking about about me, what are you delivering to the consumer, you're the consumer. Brands experiment and a lot of brands are experimenting more than more, but a line that my business partner I like to use, and it's a big part of our book, Retail Relevancy is that simplicity is the new eDLP. eDLP is everyday low pricing, which is what Walmart made famous, we're not going to give you sales, we're always gonna have the best prices. What we're saying now is simplicity is the new eDLP. Make it easy for them, and they will buy from you again and again and again. And what is easy for the mean, it doesn't just mean checking out easily. It means make it easy that they don't have to go looking elsewhere and make it easy that when they want to return, make it simple, that when they have a customer service issue, they don't have to go searching the site to figure out how to speak to somebody or what to click on. I like to say, you know, people say oh my god, Amazon's made it impossible for other brands to grow and exist. I think in some ways, it's just the opposite. I agreed with that for a while. But right now, Amazon has led a pathway to new brands to understand how important ease of use and simplicity is and how important good customer experience is. Mostly, if I'm buying just a general product, I go to Amazon, if I see it in another place, I try to find it in Amazon because it makes my life easy. But I also work with a lot of small upcoming brands. I'm vegan, I get vegan meals from a company called Veestro. I'm going to exercise and I want to hydrate myself without all the garbage that goes into things like Gatorade. So I have a company called Hydrant. Both of these companies, and there's many more than I use are like monthly subscriptions. But if they make it incredibly easy to change your order, to put off your order, to delay your order. They email me every week before my order with four days ahead of time to say we're about to ship you we will be doing it next week. If you want to change that. Here's a link coming right now. I go in and click the link, there's a calendar, I pick a date I move. Now they've learned that from Amazon, they learn these ease of use things. They've learned these things. And then Amazon has also provided a platform with their cloud based services with other things to allow other companies to do these things. So yes, they've made it harder for certain companies, but I believe they lead the way for a lot of retailers by showing people how important a relationship is. Do you never see an ad from Amazon saying we care about you. No, they care about you. They're not saying it, they're doing it. Now granted you again There's a lot of naysayers. Well, they only care about because they're making money, fine. But the reason they're making money is because they do such a good job nurturing the relationship, taking things back, fixing things for you, when there's a problem. As we all know, there's a lot of third party sellers on Amazon, I've even when it says no returns, I've had Amazon take back a product for me, because they look at the lifetime value of me as a customer that I've been a customer since 1995. And then every time they raise my prime, I don't even blink, I just pay it and they see how much I buy from them. And of course, they have analysts that are saying, well, this is a single guy living at home looks like he's buying a lot of stuff from us, probably the majority of the things we're going to do right by him. And yes, a lot of that is data. But like I like another thing I talk about is you can't just rely on the data, you've got to apply judgement to your data.


Graham  10:47

And it's really interesting, because one of our most read articles that we've written as a business ourselves is actually titled Convenience is key for customer satisfaction. And it is continuously in the top five pages of our website that are visited. So the hope is the message is getting out there and people are understanding this. And businesses are not just looking at it, but they're doing something with it. And I think the other thing that is implicit in kind of everything you've said, is around the understanding of trust, because the businesses that are getting it right are taking the time to build the trust from their  customers so that when something goes wrong, there's no issues because implicitly we trust these people, and we know it will be dealt with. And we know that if they're going to send us a message, there's going to be some sort of value exchange as a result of it, which is why content is king. And the brands that are getting it wrong are taking trust and setting it on fire at the first opportunity they have for a quick return in the immediate


Ted Rubin  11:41

one of my favourite responses to these kinds of questions. When people ask me, what's the ROI? What's the ROI of ROR? What's the ROI of social is, I like to look back at them and ask them what's the ROI of trust and what's the ROI of loyalty. And both of those are the ultimate in anything that you're building as a business. Trust, because that means people are happy to do business with you and we'll do it on a regular basis. Loyalty means they're going to stand by you when things aren't perfect or when you need someone and I like I also tell brands in social media, when you make a mistake or somebody's criticising you, I always take a breath and wait a moment. Because usually if I'm getting criticised unfairly, one of my followers will come in and they will stand up for me. So I don't even have to say it. And I would say that happens 90% of the time, I believe this, brands tend to jump right in, they're so quick to defend themselves. They're so worried about something. But again, if you engage with people, if you answer their questions, if you're there for them, if you build that relationship, that return on relationship will come back as insurance for your brand.


Shelley  12:40

It's honest engagement, isn't it? It's not defensive engagement. And I think people are so clued up to that they can see it instantly is whether a brand is genuine or not. And I think a lot of that stems from, like you said, the trust that's been built or not built over all of the communications and all of the experiences that have passed and whatever that history might be.


Ted Rubin  12:58

Right, and I mean, again, it's amazing what you can get for an apology or not even an apology, don't you have to go that far, I made a mistake, okay, for someone that can't say I'm sorry, they can, a lot of them can say I made a mistake, or I misread that, or I didn't get it properly, I misjudged the situation. But unfortunately, very many are afraid to do that. And the brands that can get incredible advocacy from their customers because of that, and especially if they fix a situation that didn't work out, you know, or or even you made the mistake, but we're the brand, we're gonna stand behind it, we're going to help we know you ordered the wrong thing. You know, Amazon even orders now one of their choices, I ordered the wrong thing, you can still send it back, you know, those things are just really important. And I think it's what's allowed all of this digital sales and marketing and online sales and E commerce to happen because of that.


Shelley  13:47



Graham  13:48

And if there was one thing that you could kind of give to the people listening to this podcast as a starting point, or a takeaway to kind of hit the road and start moving in this direction, what is that thing?


Ted Rubin  14:00

I'm going to give you two,


Graham  14:01



Ted Rubin  14:02

they kind of relate to each other. So something that's real simple, easy to take away and keep in your head is that relationships are like muscle tissue, the more you engage them, the stronger and more valuable they become. And then number two is a network gives you reach, and that's your outreach, your email list, you get that network, you get a lot of people but a community gives you power. Networks connect, communities care. And when you build a community around your brand, you're going to exponentially get the value of that return on relationship because the people will be there to support you and support each other. And then if just some some immediate things that people can do is that I think people I think brands think it's too hard to communicate with customers. It takes too much effort. I think brands need to start empowering their employees to reach out and connect with people to stop worrying about are they going to say the wrong thing? Are they going to answer the wrong thing, you know, train them, train them on how to engage with people without necessarily saying no, or answering a question the wrong way. Just people want to be heard. And when they feel like they're saying somebody's there listening to them as simple as I hear you. And let me look into that. And I'd like to talk to my manager and get back to you. I mean, there's so many ways to do this where you don't have to give an answer, of course, then you do have to get back to the problem is that happens, and then you never hear back. But if you again, it's the same thing, when I get put on hold by certain brands, or I'm on a chat, and they say, give me a few minutes, I'm gonna come back there, I know, they're gonna come back, I know that if I wait there, I'm gonna get some value out of that. They're training me to have patience with them. And I'll get value out of that. So I just think companies need to start empowering their employees and allowing them to power the brand.


Shelley  15:37

Ted, it has been amazing talking to you. Thank you so so much for your time. I know that everybody listening, there are going to be loads of questions off the back of this. So I'm sure in future we're gonna have to have you back to do another episode, but it has been an absolute pleasure.


Graham  15:49

That was Ted Rubin, social marketing strategist, international keynote speaker, business advisor and author. Treating the relationships we have with our customers like we do with those in our personal life is key to building trust and loyalty. Following that with putting ourselves in their shoes and taking a look at our marketing messages ensures we're not eroding the trust we worked so hard to create and to continue to drive loyalty and remove the need for customers to look elsewhere, we need to ensure we are creating experiences built on convenience and ease of use. As Ted put it, Simplicity is the new everyday low pricing. Thanks for listening to this episode of 15 minutes with and we look forward to having you along on the next one.