What Exactly is Ethical eCommerce?

Ethical eCommerce refers to the responses to issues of marketing manipulation, greenwashing and unsustainable business practices, through positive change. Ethical commerce is a movement that puts people back at the heart of trading. Where businesses have lost their way in convincing any consumer to buy what they sell, regardless of need, ethical commerce considers the ‘who’ the ‘what’ and importantly the ‘why’ behind product sales. It aims to understand and cater to consumers by providing them with positive experiences that they remember, whilst being conscious of how business efficiency can be improved in a way that benefits the wider environment as well as the end consumer.

Research has shown that 70% of consumers want to consume more responsibly and 66% are willing to pay more for green products [1]. So as much as people do want to shop, they are increasingly interested in doing it in a way that minimises harmful impacts on the environment and other people. Sustainable, person-first and green business practices are three elements feeding into ethical commerce. Businesses operating in the eCommerce space can educate themselves and start making positive progress in this space by adopting the following practices.


Sustainable Commerce

Sustainable commerce is on the rise. Adopting practices that minimise harmful impacts on the environment can benefit businesses, as well as inject growth into your brand awareness. It’s also important to note that the trend toward more sustainable eCommerce is on the rise. How this is playing out in practice differs across companies - but it can involve redesigning business models, transportation, logistics and packaging.

Consumers are particularly interested in environmentally friendly shipping options. Shipping companies that are already excelling in this space include DHL GoGreen, DPD Total Zero and GLS Think Green. Sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging is also a major consumer trend, where the adage ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is central. The less packaging, the better. And yet, many eCommerce businesses still unnecessarily overpackage their shipped items - and do so with single-use plastics. Every piece of this packaging ends up in either a landfill waste site or worse, in waterways or other vital habitats.


People First, Not Profit First

Over half of consumers believe it’s the business's responsibility to drive ethical business practice [2]. So, while one half drives the ethical trend, and the other half hangs back and waits for the revolution, eCommerce businesses flounder in indecision. The trick is for businesses to put the user - or the consumer - first. But beyond just the consumption of goods, are the wider network of people that eCommerce affects.

Factory workers in nearshore or offshore regions, often without safe working or fair pay policies to protect them in their crucial contribution to the end product purchase. In putting people first - both directly and indirectly - not only do decisions become more inherently ethical, but wider-reaching effects on sustainability and green business can also be seen. In the end, a focus on profit alone is simply not sustainable. Going back to the basics of business - starting with core values - and establishing business processes to ensure that these values are embodied in real decision making is vital to the evolution toward ethical eCommerce.


Green vs Greenwashing

Studies have shown that 40% of ‘green business’ claims are misleading [3]. Greenwashing is when false claims are made regarding their business practice being conducted ethically, or when claims lack the evidence to support them. Unfortunately, due to the increasing demand from consumers and the rising trend of ethical business practices, greenwashing is also becoming more common. So how do you recognise when green is greenwashing? A few red flags are vague statements around sustainability, without including specifics; relying on packaging strategies to give the impression of an ethical brand (e.g. blue and green colours, animal and environment graphics); relying on terms that lack legislative regulation (e.g. ‘natural’ processes).

Image Credit: akepa

One case and point is H&M, which in 2018 introduced a fair living wage policy for their employees in factories in Asia - but data shows that to this day the policy has not been realised [4]. So how do businesses make a start on the ethical path, whilst avoiding being caught up in greenwashing? First, a period of self-assessment is necessary before going out to the world with all guns blazing. Secondly, it’s important, to be honest. Small, iterative improvements are not only more feasible strategies for businesses to adopt, but they are more believable and relatable than overnight success stories.



Ethical eCommerce encompasses a range of business considerations: Sustainable business practices, that depend upon clear business values and decision making; a People-first policy, where people in both direct and indirect forms are supported, catered to and cared for instead of profit margins alone; Green business practices, whereby the actions, evidence and progress steps are transparently communicated to build trust, community and brand value. As much as the trend toward ethical commerce is on the rise, it is here to stay. But despite the ability to easily manipulate audiences into believing greenwashing tactics over past years, consumers are now becoming more clued-up to identifying who is genuine, and who is not. With planning, businesses need not make the hard choice between ethics and profit. The two can still go together if planning and implementation are well-considered and supported.

Ethical eCommerce is an investment in your business's future, your employees' future, and the future of the environment. No one expects an overnight success story. But they do expect genuine effort and steps to be taken in the right direction. It is also just as critical to talk about these efforts openly and honestly within and outside of your business.


Resources to Get You Started

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 Will Bonaddio | Podcast Episode #4 | Part 2

In our fourth episode of 15 Minutes With we're back talking to Social Media Manager, Will Bonaddio. He had such good insights that we just couldn't fit it all into a single episode.

Will draws from a wealth of experience in the social space, bringing incredible insights to the episode. He is an award-winning marketer who has previously worked agency-side on brands such as Disney, T-Mobile and Domino’s Pizza and in-house as Social Media Editor-in-Chief for McDonalds in the UK. He is now part of the social strategy team at FutureLearn. Will talks through some of the challenges and insights from his experience at the cutting edge of social media in the UK.

His perspectives on balancing personality and cancel culture in the evolving landscape of social media are not to be missed.


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  00:14

Welcome to 15 minutes with on today's episode we pick up speaking to Will Bonaddio, the social media expert for a second time, the first 15 minutes simply was not enough. We had so many questions to cover and so much content that is an absolute pleasure to reintroduce to you today, Will Bonaddio.

What happens when the tone is off? Or the message doesn't lend as expected. And so you get people responding in a negative way. Or you get people sort of saying, hey, that content was not what we expected, or you get trolls? How do you deal with that? What are the sort of the pitfalls?


Will Bonaddio  00:50

Yeah, so we've all been there. If you haven't yet, I envy you. Sometimes you go through creating a post and you love it. And it looks great on your big screen or in your meeting room, and you're all agree. And then you post and it flops or worse, does brand damage. And trust me, I've done all of the above. I think when I was working for bigger brands, I had basically a direct line into the legal and comms teams, and we'd say, Does this have your blessing? Now, that would slow things down a lot. But at least I had full confidence that if anybody came to me and said, Why the hell did you post that? I could say it's full approval from everyone. Fair enough, like you know, hands up, made a mistake, but it's not like I just came up with it and posted it. And now we're in this big mess. So I think yeah, having your your tone of voice document and make sure that everyone bought into that gives you those guardrails, so you're already on the right track. If you're unsure, the more people you can show it to the better. But then I think there's so many ways that it could go wrong, what we're trying to do it at the moment with Future Learn is, we're really trying to find our tone for social specifically, not as a business, but on social media. And what we're finding actually is that the more funny, irreverent stuff that works so well for certain brands, it doesn't really resonate with our audience, that's not to say you know, it's not like people hate it. It just doesn't do as big numbers as certain other content. So we're not saying anything offensive, but we are trying different tones and different routes in just to see what's going to resonate best. Don't be afraid to do a bit of that, you know, I said to the team, let's use the next month. This is when I first joined, like just try stuff, let's see what's working, never rude, never, you know, offensive or anything like that. But just different tones, self deprecation. Does that work? No. Okay, well, what about being knowledgeable, okay, maybe that doesn't work, as well as being motivational, etc. Try those things out at a low level, don't start promoting them. But I think the really important thing is just to try, because it'd be very easy for me to go away and say, Well, look, every time these brands are funny, it does really big numbers. So I've gone away and now I've just spent three weeks working on this strategy, this is what we're doing and then actually it flops. Testings at a low level. In terms of things going wrong, you can go wrong in many ways. Like it could be the post that you did, it could be your latest TV ad that you actually in the social team has nothing to do with that every time you're posting, people are commenting on that. Or it could be something that, you know, the founder has done. GoDaddy, the internet company, their CEO, or founder rather, like shot an elephant posted it on social media. And obviously, the backlash was massive, and so many other examples of that. I don't mean, just call out GoDaddy, but that's just the one that springs to mind. So I think it's really important in that situation, to I mean, I love a process. Can you have like some sort of crisis document, you know, what are the levels of crisis? And what are the actions that we take? In those examples, I've just given. Make sure that people in your team and beyond are on board with it. And really try and stick with it if you can. And I think something that I've been guilty of or seen other people be guilty of is sometimes, not always, it can be a bit of a storm in a teacup. And when you are in amongst it feels massive. And you have people from outside of your team saying we've got to post a response to this, that we're going to pin to the top of our pages so that everybody's aware of our response is. And in some ways that could do more damage, because not everybody is aware of it. So really, I would recommend some sort of social listening tool, we use one, I don't need to name it, because I don't work for them. But it was it was Sprinklr, which I recommend, but not only can they see like any negative comments that are coming through, but you can also set it up that they can say like the velocity of negative comments. So okay, we always see, you know, 5% negative comments. But suddenly, overnight, we saw a massive increase of those. So therefore, you know, you're getting this email just to take a look at it. So it's not like that can be really helpful. But yeah, I think making sure that everybody is agreed on what you're going to do. And I think I mean, literally at the time of recording Peloton are going through a bit of a storm at the moment. They just had to lay off 1000s of employees. And I think it's really interesting to see how that's being dealt with. So if you go on the b2b, sorry no the b2c channels like Facebook, Twitter, etc. They're not talking about it. I go on LinkedIn a lot. I love LinkedIn. I know people at Peloton so I'm seeing a lot of conversation on it and you know, people you've left saying, you know, I'm now open to work, you know, getting 1000s of shares and likes, etc. So if you were just looking at that you would see it is massive that how, I don't know the answer to this, but how much do the consumers know about this, I'm sure they would care about it, if they didn't know about it, they're obviously not talking about it on those channels. But if you look at their LinkedIn at the moment, they've now done a post where they've literally created a database of people that they've had to layoff saying, you know, we recommend these people, we stand by them, which people are saying is a really classy move, I think they've done that really nicely. And really well. So that's one way of dealing with it. You've also seen, I'm sure, the KFC example where they ran out of chicken. So they did a, you know, an award winning response where it was very human, funny, kind of a one pager that they put in the press, and then obviously went viral on social media, I think in that instance, they're allowed to be a bit funny, silly, because it's their problem. You know, it's not like something has affected. I mean, apart from affecting chicken lovers, it hasn't affected people's, you know, it hasn't hurt anyone, really. So you've gotta judge it. And it's really hard. But I think with those tools, like a guide, what you're going to do in which situation and really go for my tweet that went badly wrong, versus, you know, a member of staff doing something really terrible, what would your response be, and just remember that, yeah, the more human you can make it, the better. And also don't necessarily think that everybody is talking about it, just because all of your colleagues are.


Shelley  06:21

It is really hard to know, when, you know, like a bad response on social is damaging, because not all bad responses are damaging,


Will Bonaddio  06:31



Shelley  06:31

And arguably some that even that we might consider to be still actually promote the company massively, because they go they essentially go viral. So I mean, bad press in a sense, or as they say, any, you know. Any publicity is good publicity. But it is a little bit like that, it's hard, you know that there can be some massively damaging stories out there and responses to pieces of content on social media, but arguably, you know, they're sort of doing their job as well. So it can be quite difficult to know what that line is. But I love your advice on having the guidelines, and also having multiple levels of, of sign off and perspective within the business. So it doesn't just lie with one person and their idea of what might be what might be suitable


Will Bonaddio  07:13

Totally. And I appreciate that sometimes slows things down, you know, sometimes by days, but I think if you've got those guardrails in place, it gives you permission to do some of the more viral things if you know, it takes certain boxes, and you know, there's little to no chance of it being taken in the wrong way. And I think you've got that freedom to do it. But yeah, I mean, surely what you were just saying, we've seen overnight, Adidas, has done a posts, showing women's breasts, come in all shapes and sizes, and then they're promoting their new sports bra. And understandably, some people are saying, That's amazing, great that you're doing this. And then understandably as well, I would argue some people say I can't believe you're showing this so inappropriate that you know, you're showing nudity on my channels. So I think they will have I mean, hats off to them. I can't imagine how that legal and comms meeting went before posting it. I can see it really from both sides. Like I understand why people think it's inappropriate, I can also totally understand why people think we should be talking about this more, I really do stand in the middle of this one. But I think I'm part of a advertising Facebook group where we talk about ads because I'm an advertising nerd. And what we've seen is, you know, some people I've shared in their, tick, I think Adidas definitely wanted that. First person said, I'm really offended. And second person said, Why are you offended? That's ridiculous. This is exactly the kind of conversation we should have. And I said to them, that is exactly what Adidas would have wanted, but I'm sure with that, and, you know, the Colin Kaepernick example, from Nike, where, you know, he took a knee and he was suspended from American football, people were burning their Nikes, etc. Again, I think they would have done that as a calculated, okay, we know people are going to be outraged. But we also know that people are going to really love this and love the fact that we've taken a stand for it. So I think again, they would have said, well, what, how bad could it go? How good could it go? And what we're going to do every eventuality of that. And I would imagine Adidas have done the same.


Graham  09:02

And we've used the term viral a lot, right? Kind of through the conversation that we've been talking. And I think there is a, certainly in my experience, a misconception that you can plan to go viral, you know, you can kind of go we are going to create a viral piece of content and then everyone sits in a room and does it. I think and this is, you know, kind of asking for an opinion on this like is that you could argue that people like Dollar Shave Club, when they produced their original launch ad, there was an intention that that was going to go viral. And it was written in such a way and produced in such a way that it was highly unlikely that it wasn't gonna happen.


Will Bonaddio  09:34



Graham  09:35

But that is a little bit of like capturing lightning in a bottle. I don't know that it's something that you can just on demand produce a viral piece of content.


Will Bonaddio  09:43

No, I agree. I agree. I get worried when I go to conferences, or listen to podcasts. And people are just talking about those things, because they're great. You know, the John Lewis, you all need to do a John Lewis ad. They are great but exactly that they're hard to come by. I think you'd probably want to aim for to try and do one or two, if you can, in a year, but I think they're really hard to do. And that's why you've got to consistently be posting about stuff as well. But yeah, the the benefits of activity like that in terms of like long term brand building, harder to measure, because you might not necessarily see an instant return on sales unless it gets really big, but stuff like that, over the long term can really help drive new business. So I think you should be aiming to do stuff that people care about. That's remarkable. That's interesting. I mean, that's what social media is meant to be. And that's what good advertising is, you know, people don't hate ads, they hate bad ads, people like content. And if that's an ad, then so be it. So I think that's what you're trying to be aiming for all times. But yeah, it's hard to do. There's dedicated creative agencies that will try and do that. And it doesn't always pay off. But friends of mine, I used to work on the Disney account for six months, friends of mine, who have worked on it for much longer. They were saying, even with a new Avengers Trailer, they still need to put money behind it. Because you can't be at the whim of the algorithm. I think the Dollar Shave example. It's an old one. It's a really good one. But it's any viral campaign now. And it's harder, really, correct me if I'm wrong, but it's harder to think of one that immediately springs to mind in the last year. Whereas before, I think we could reel off a whole bunch of them. But yeah, even with an Avengers Trailer, you've got to put money on it. Because if you're the will of the algorithm, that could be something big news that just hits that maybe that post didn't do quite as well as anticipated. So I think the fact that they were doing that this suggests that yeah, it's gonna be much harder than it was.


Shelley  11:32

Will, do you have any tips, any insights, anything that you think we haven't covered?


Will Bonaddio  11:37

Live video had a big moment during the first lockdown in the UK, March 2020, and video live everywhere, because people obviously couldn't be out and about seeing people as much, it's then kind of taken a backseat, the algorithms seem to show it less, but we are definitely seeing more of a focus on it from the platform's themselves now, and live shopping, almost like QVC, etc. You know, it's coming to social, it's big in certain markets, not really in the West yet, but I get the impression that that is going to be coming up and I think hand in hand with that you could do a whole podcast about it that just gonna say is, you know, Blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFT's. I know, I sound like like a tech bro when I talk about those, but they're, they're definitely getting more airtime. And as parts of web 3.0, I do think they are going to play a part, I think we're at the testing phase of it now. I think there's going to be a lot of rubbish associated with it both in terms of ways that people are activating it, particularly brands who are just trying to jump on it, I would recommend people kind of hang back, wait and see what's working, and then go from there. But I do think it's interesting, because rather than just selling, you know, pictures of apes, what we're seeing more of is actually resulting in people owning parts of businesses, or you know, by buying this NFT, you're basically saying almost like a subscription service, it could be for example, I am not working with McDonald's anymore. I do not know this at all. But I could imagine that the fabled gold cards that you showed at McDonald's to get free foods that could work as an NFT, that could work as something that, you know, by investing in this, you have unlocked something. So I think that's a really interesting space. And I've mentioned earlier about communities that seems to be a real focus on for social and brands and for the platforms themselves. And I think NFT's can really be part of that. And I think brands are focusing more on community, because like I say, it means they can do the job for you. But it's also really good way to improve your product, if you know what people are saying about it. And if you've got that community, ideally, you want to own it yourself. So I think we're gonna see more of that as well look at what influencers are doing. A lot of them are moving off of Facebook or YouTube. And they're creating their own kind of own sites, because this is the thing you can have a million fans today, if Facebook said, You know what, we're closing the brand page platform, we're not doing that anymore, you would lose them all overnight. So how can you think about kind of future proofing that and you know, not being at the whim of the algorithm? We talked about it today? How can you have an audience that every time you try and speak to them, you get through to them instantly? That'd be amazing. So I think we're gonna see more people, brands as well focusing on that. And then finally, I think voice, so Twitter spaces, Discord, etc. I hate the idea of that myself. But I think there's a appetite for it. I think putting brands in that kind of live, anything can happen example will, we'll be frightening for many, that it seems to be the way that consumers are going and brands will keep talking to them. And they need to be considering that. So I think it's exciting times I think it's more, you're not going to be able to just post something and then forget about it as a consumer or a brand as feels like it's gonna be more live more always on more really talking to people. And that is scary. But that seems to be the way that things going and then we couldn't do a podcast without talking about the metaverse. I think, I hope this bites me in future but I think the jury's still out. I think I was a big advocate of virtual reality back in 2016. I love the idea of virtual reality. But the fact is, it's an effort. It's an effort to put it on your face. Even people who've got it say they don't use it that much. Whereas the phone, you're using it, you know, hundreds of times a day. So keep an eye out on the metaverse and you know, being in virtual reality or being able to go into this second world and interact with people. I'm very interested. I'm following it very closely. But the jury is till out for me.


Shelley  11:54

Me too. Will, thank you so much for your time. We have covered incredible stuff. I think this is going to be super, super helpful for a lot of people, brands, individuals and the full spectrum of brands, big small everything in between. Thank you so much for your time. We really, really appreciate it and hope to have you back again soon.


Will Bonaddio  15:53

My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me guys, it's been really fun.


Shelley  15:57

That was Will Bonaddio, social media expert talking to us about judgement and humour, about response guidelines, being human, democratic perspectives and decision making, and the need for advertising. To everyone listening. See you next time.

15 Minutes With Will Bonaddio | Podcast Episode #3 | Part 1

In our third episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Social Media Manager, Will Bonaddio. His interests are in the fields of social media voice and strategy for brands.

Will draws from a wealth of experience in the social space, bringing incredible insights to the episode. He is an award-winning marketer who has previously worked agency-side on brands such as Disney, T-Mobile and Domino’s Pizza and in-house as Social Media Editor-in-Chief for McDonalds in the UK. He is now part of the social strategy team at FutureLearn. Will talks through some of the challenges and insights from his experience at the cutting edge of social media in the UK.

His perspectives on balancing personality and cancel culture in the evolving landscape of social media are not to be missed.


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

Welcome to 15 minutes with, on today's episode, we're speaking with social media expert Will Bonadio. Will has big brand experience in running social media strategies during his time at McDonald's, as well as more recently within the relatively smaller brand of Future Learn will talk us through social strategy based on scale, personality and content, celebrity voices, business benefits, and paid versus organic.  Will, welcome.


Will Bonaddio  00:39

Well, thank you for having me. It's great to be here.


Shelley  00:41

So social media marketing, how is it different when you compare your experience within big brands versus relatively smaller brands?


Will Bonaddio  00:51

Yeah, I mean, it's, it's been a bit of an eye opener for me, having worked at McDonald's on their social team for five years, and then joining a smaller, comparatively smaller company like Future Learn, I've been surprised of how I've kind of had to relearn a lot of things that I kind of took for granted, I think people will like to hear this, it is much harder working for smaller brands, I can say that now with experience. When you are working for a big brands, like McDonald's, even your worst performing posts will still be seen by hundreds of 1000s of people. Whereas you know, when you're working with a much smaller brand, and it can be quite daunting and a little soul destroying, sometimes when you spend so long working on a post that actually, you know, you got a handful of likes, there's a lot of kind of like, how can we cheat the algorithm, game it in a bigger company, you know, you're usually promoting this your posts anyway. So don't really need to worry about that. And there's a lot of times where whether you want to or not, you are just telling people things, you know, and that's not best practice, when it comes to social, just buy this product now. But sometimes when you're a big brand, you've got so many products to talk about a lot, it does turn into that, whereas I think is a lot more of a challenge for smaller brands to take on that journey and show them the behind the scenes and you know, give your brand a bit more of a personality. So in many ways, you're actually creating more content, and it really becomes a part of your like day to day and how can you document as much of what you're doing as possible. And to help feed what you're putting out on social, I say those are the biggest differences, I would say the approach that we've got now in the company I'm currently working at is very, very different to what I had before. And actually a lot of the tactics that we were using before simply don't work. So yeah, there's been a bit of relearning and think people listening, if they are working small brands, you've got my utmost respect, I never realised it was going to be like this until I until I left the golden arches.


Shelley  02:26

And so is it in your experience this complete differentiation between the two ends of the spectrum? Does the strategy come from the fact that when you have a big brand, you have a team full of people helping you? And you have big budgets? So actually, that's what dictates the strategy because you've got so much resource? Or actually, is it the fact that a really big brand versus a really small brand has a totally different user journey? And audiences, your content is totally different? Is that? Or is it a combination?


Will Bonaddio  02:55

Yeah, not to kind of, to give you an annoying answer. But it is a bit of both. I think that in both situations, strategy has to come first. And then how that is implemented. Like you say, sometimes it is you just got loads of content that you just need to get out or whatever. So yeah, strategy is absolutely key in a working on a big brand, or small, you should really have like, what are we trying to achieve? And what does success look like? It's really quick and easy to get into. I want to do a funny post, lets you know, here's a great idea have come up with lets post it, and we're all guilty of it myself very much included, really do the work upfront. And that might be a bit kind of like while you're testing things anyway, what do you want people to take away? What do you want to be kind of known for? And really think about what that means? So what are the three to five content pillars, you're always going to post about, you know, that might be focusing on the value of your brand, the credibility of your brand, the trustworthiness of your brand, come up with those three to five, and then it's a lot easier to say, Okay, well, that post that I've come up with, does it fit into any of those? Yes, it does. Okay, so we're going to do it. No, it doesn't, therefore, we won't. So whether you've got a whole load of stuff to talk about, or nothing to talk about, it's a really good starting point, the thing that we're all afraid to talk about in social I find is also what the kind of the business benefits are, it really annoys me. And again, I'm guilty of it myself, where we focus on, you know, I got a great engagement rate of 2%. Cool, but what does that mean? Like? What's that actually doing for the company? And you can talk in your marketing teams about that. And yeah, it is a big success, because maybe your engagment rate before was naught point naught five. But so what you know, why does the CEO need you employed? If all you can offer is, you know, a 2% engagement rate and nothing actually on the bottom line? So it's a hard one, there's no quick and easy answer. And here's how you measure it really easily. But you've got to be thinking about that as well as part of your strategy. And again, that will then help with what you're posting and why.


Graham  04:45

But I just I want to pick up on something that you said in your first kind of answer around the big versus small is that when you're working with the big you tend to have budgets, right so you can kind of throw them around and sponsor posts and in your experience, has social media become a bit of a pay to play model? Is it that organic reach is good? Theoretically, and it always was that it was more powerful, right? Because if it was organic, in theory, the people that are engaging with it actually care versus the sponsored or just people that it gets put in front of, but is it a somewhat necessary part of social media that you need to find budget?


Will Bonaddio  05:23

Yes. So two parts of this, so it's never just a Yeah, especially. So I would say, I sound a bit like Gary Vaynerchuk when I say this, but I think organic reach is really good still on LinkedIn, and TikTok, the great thing about TikTok, for anybody who's not familiar with using it, whether as a brand or you know, normal person is you do not need to have any followers, and you can have a video get a million views. It's not about your follower number, which actually makes it quite difficult to judge who you should be working with, because somebody's you know, 1000s of followers, but actually, the videos do very badly and somebody can become an overnight success. LinkedIn is also very good with reach, because the last stuff I read is that about 98% of people on LinkedIn, don't actually ever post on LinkedIn. So it's a real like, I know we're not guilty of that, a lot of people don't. And so there's simply not enough content on there. So they have to show more content that they've got to more people, otherwise, you're not going to stay on there. So I think those two Yes, there is still a chance for good organic reach, unfortunately, for the likes of Facebook and Instagram, and just the way that Twitter is built, organic reach is very hard to consistently achieve. I'm not saying it's impossible, of course, we've all seen things go viral, but to consistently do it is very difficult. And again, this comes back to justifying your role in a business saying, you know, we're churning out content every day 2% engagement rate, we reach 5000 people, what is that really doing? And if you put a bit of money behind it, could you be achieving so much more. At McDonald's? Yes, we promoted everything. Because when you're serving 3.5 million customers a day, you need everything to be going viral, because otherwise, it's really not worth it, you know, we would do a post about McFlurry, it would do nicely. And you know, anybody would be pleased from an organic reach perspective with that. But if everybody who saw it bought the products, it wouldn't even make a blip on the sales charts. When you're dealing with a big brand, you have to be dealing with big numbers. And I guess now with Future Learn, you know, we look at the post, and yes, we've got some that have done, you know, hundreds of 1000s of views or whatever that might be, but we've got 18 million customers. So again, is that really enough? I of course, I see value in organic social. And I think it's good to be consistently posting so that people really get an understanding of you and your followers who are your biggest advocates and fans, you're maintaining that reminders and they're they understand what you stand for as a brand. That's really important. But I would say that we also have a dedicated paid strategy all about, you know, bringing in new customers, or you know, getting people to upgrade, etc. That is really important. And overnight with that you can reach a million people, no matter what you're posting. If you really silo it, while these are our paid ads, and that's all that new customers and then we do organic, which you know, is seen by hundreds or 1000s, whatever the number might be, depending on where you're working, I would ask you is that the best use of your time, money and efforts? Should you not consider how you can get the two working a bit closer together? And maybe it is the case of you know, your organic posts, you've got one that did really well. So that's the one that you promote. You don't have to necessarily promote every single one. But yeah, we've seen this work really well. We think it's got appeal beyond just our hardcore audience let's promote it and then just getting a bit more value out of it. And you're making a better use of what you're putting your time and effort into. But if you are a serious brand looking to grow your business and get new customers and millions of customers, then yeah, I do genuinely believe that paid is necessary, I'm afraid.


Shelley  08:40

How does a big brand on social media build a personality get an identity across?


Will Bonaddio  08:46

Yeah, cool. I'm really glad you asked this question, because this is pretty much all I talk about the moment I'll try and distil it into a few minutes. But basically, I think a tone of voice document is really important. So everything from if we were a celebrity who would we sound like at McDonald's the kind of the tone of voice was three parts you know, the best of these three. So our best crew member, a helpful courteous, diligent, hard working real person that you meet when you go into the restaurants, Ant and Dec, that kind of cheeky funny, your grandmother knows and loves them but so does your young nephew or child like they've got that broad appeal never crude never rude but you know can be they're cheeky and very British in their humour and then same with Michael McIntyre. So you know, similar trends there, if you can build up that personality is that's the kind of thing that they might say that's a really good kind of litmus test to begin with. Then also think about certain words, phrases, even emojis or not that you would use. And then also, if I had a visual I would show you you can almost get like these barometers how serious versus like wacky do we want to be? How knowledgeable versus curious do we want to be and you can literally put that over a variety of pages and just where does the dial set really make sure that everybody is bought into that and that it reflects to different channels, you might change things depending on LinkedIn versus Twitter, for example, but it's important that your social team all aligns on that, but then also your marketing team and probably above as well make sure that the legal team are on board have the comms team are on board with it as well. Because if you're, if you've got those kind of guardrails, it becomes a lot easier to know what you would and wouldn't say something that I'd recommend for the bigger brother, or for anyone else I was gonna say to be around any brand is don't punch down. And by that, I mean, we've all seen Wendy's. We all love the Wendy's example. But I think those days are slightly gone now of being rude to customers. If anybody hasn't seen that, or you know, people asking to be roasted, they do it, they own it. But I think I wouldn't recommend brands try and do that. I think there's just too much that could go wrong. It's bit disingenuine as well. It's Wendy's thing, punch upwards, not downwards. So you know, I've been tempted where I've done in the past to be fair, but many years ago, where you know, a customer was rude. And we would go back with a cheeky reply. But I think these days, you don't know what people are dealing with, or what's going on in their lives. And actually, you know, don't feed the trolls. It's something that I did agree with, at best, you're going to go viral for being rude to somebody. And that's just not something I think we should be encouraging at all. So don't do that. And then I think the other thing, this is a really important one that I'd really recommend everybody does is look at your competitors, your direct competitors, and see the kinds of things that they're talking about and doing. And actually what I found in many of the jobs, I'm not going to name names, but in many of the industries or the roles I've been in all competitors are not great. So you can see how well it's working for them and really look at the numbers just because something's got like 100 likes as an example. They've got a million fans, that's not great. Where's if they've got 50, then obviously, it's amazing. So really, really look at that, but also look at kind of best in class examples from outside of your industry as well. I would strongly recommend people check out the Twitter, twitter accounts, I think it's the best account for a brand on Twitter. McDonald's USA does an amazing job on Twitter and all channels, GymShark fantastic. Grammarly does really good content as well. Innocent, of course, we always talk about Innocent in every podcast or talk that we do. And same, we're gonna say it's Paddy Power, and Peloton as well. So if you check out those sorts of things, that's got nothing to do with Future Learn, or McDonald's, a lot of those, but look at what they're doing. And you get a really good sense of what good tone is and what people are engaging with. And then the last thing that I promise I'll stop is, think about which channel it's going to go on, and what the kind of conversation is on there. For the most part, things are similar, but there are subtle nuances that just don't work on certain channels. So really keep that in mind. And if you can tweak content accordingly, that massively helps. So just as an example, we had something talking about listening to a friend can be really good for both your mental health and theirs. Whereas on LinkedIn, you might change it to listening to a colleague, I mean, that's a really simple example. But the more you can do that sort of thing, the better.


Graham  12:58

With everybody kind of shifting towards a content drive and everybody wanting to put more content out, how important is it that that content generate some sort of value to the audience, right? Because there's a lot of noise.


Will Bonaddio  13:10



Graham  13:10

And we're all guilty of just putting something out because we feel like we have a shedule and we have to put something out?


Will Bonaddio  13:15



Graham  13:16

Ultimately, all you're doing is creating an audience that are blind to a feed on Facebook of just stuff that no one cares about. And then it becomes very difficult to get your really important piece noticed, because it's surrounded by trash from other people. So I would assume that everyone who works in social media, or certainly works in content production should be striving to produce something that genuinely adds value to the audience.


Will Bonaddio  13:39

Yes, 100%. And what does that value look like? There's a big focus on community at the moment, building a community of brand advocates and people who will almost do half the job for you of promoting your brand to their peers, and not just kind of broadcasting a message to your followers, but talking to them and getting them to talk to each other. Sometimes they'll be talking about your brands, a lot of times they won't. So I think that's the gold standard that we're all trying to get from social media. If you just want to talk at people, then yeah, by press ads, get a billboard or just run paid ads, or just say, you know, here it is kind of buy it. And I think there's still, this is the thing, like I'm sure CEOs listening to this will be like, well, that's what I'm interested in, I'm not interested in having a conversation, I'm interested selling products. And I get that and that's totally fine. Like, let's not beat around the bush with that. But with social, that's not really what it's about. And that's not what best in class social is. So generally speaking, you want to do about 80% of the jabs, the fun, interesting, remarkable, conversation starting content, and then about 20% your right hook, which is come in and buy this thing now. Because you know, you've built up this understanding of who we are as a brand and what we're about. And now we're really excited to tell you about this thing. And I think the more interesting ways that you can do that, the better. You know, it doesn't always just have to be a picture of a hamburger. You know, we did content around spicy nuggets where we pretended that it was like a fashion drop. You know, we had models like wearing spicy nuggets clothing, which you could win, but you know, that's generating conversation around spicy nuggets. That was the big thing. Don't get me wrong though, we still had further down the funnel, literally a picture of a nugget in someone's hand kinda saying, like, come in and buy this now. But I think generally speaking, take a look over your old posts and what you've done over the past month and kind of ask yourself how much of this was just pushing a sales message or something that's not really adding value. And really, you want that to be 20% or less. And if it's not adding value, you ideally want to get rid of it, look at what your content pillars are, look at what your strategy is test, test loads, look at the analytics to see what's working. And ideally, you should get to a point where instead of posting five times a day, or whatever it is, you can actually post a few times a week knowing that each time is going to be gold.


Shelley  15:50

That was part one of 15 minutes with Will Bonaddio, social media expert. So Will will be joining us again for a second episode because we have so much good stuff to talk to him about. So that was part one, social strategy based on scale, content, personality, pillars, celebrity voices, business benefit and cases with respects to value and paid advertising. To everybody listening. See you next time.

15 Minutes With Kat Henry | Podcast Episode #2

What makes an influencer? How is influencing changing? What are the common misconceptions, pitfalls and goals of influencing? On our second episode of 15 Minutes With we speak to Instagram Influencer, Public Figure and current Ms Great Britain Kat Henry on all things Influencer Marketing.

Interested in learning more from Kat? Connect with her on Instagram. And if you're looking for the link to the report by Namogoo, The 2022 Annual Global Ecommerce Leaders Survey, we mentioned in the episode, it can be found right here.

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

In a recent survey of over 200 global ecommerce leaders, it was found that more than half had highlighted social media influencers as a preferred promotional channel for 2022. So to give us a peek behind the curtain on today's episode of 15 minutes with we've got social media influencer and current Ms Great Britain Kat Henry joining us. Kats experience in the world of influencer marketing gives us a unique insight from the other side of the coin. An established and professional influencer on TikTok and Instagram, Kat has a devoted following of 10s of 1000s of loving fans, being an influencer is not plain sailing. And the realities of COVID have changed the face of social selling in a variety of ways. So how can brands and influencers work together in this new landscape? Kat talks us through the influencer world from her perspective.


Shelley  01:01

So Kat what makes an influencer?


Kat Henry  01:04

To me, I think that anybody within the social media world has a level of influence, especially people that are using their own personal platforms to influence other people to either purchase something or speak out about a topic or just kind of use their own voice to elevate another person's voice. So I think for me, an influencer is somebody who can use their own personal skills to either upsell a product or who can sell a product or make a positive change within society.


Shelley  01:35

And how has COVID changed the influencer space? In your experience?


Kat Henry  01:40

I think it's definitely changed the way that influencers create content. I think that forcing us all to be at home put us in a position where we had to be a little bit more intuitive in how we put our content out there and how we actually provide engaging content when we're all stuck in our jammies and not really doing anything. I think it kind of did open the market for loungewear and pyjamas, a lot of home improvements, I think that kind of that kind of market definitely probably thrived throughout the lockdown. So I guess the types of things that are actually being, you know, advertised throughout lockdown was different.


Shelley  02:19

Everyone was stuck at home, right? And ecommerce went through the roof because everyone was buying stuff online and getting it delivered to the door. And as a result of that, I think a lot of people seeing other influencers, like you said, being able to wear pyjamas and having the lounge as the backdrop was sort of empowered to give influencer marketing a go themselves. But for established influencers, it was very, very difficult because it was almost like this expectation that you'd always have these amazing settings behind you one week, you're in Tahiti and the next year in Dubai. But how do you how do you do that when you're stuck at home?


Kat Henry  02:50

Yeah, I think it definitely did put a lot of pressure on people who are existing influencers, because you know, not everybody has the ability to have a beautiful backdrop we were as influencers, we were really discouraged from doing things, especially in the fashion industry for using like the mirror selfie, because it wasn't really an engaging piece of content, it wasn't high level quality content, that people would look at that picture on the grid and be like, Wow, I want to click it, I want to, you know, like it, share it. But actually, when you're stuck at home, you have no choice but not everybody has a tripod and or somebody who can take their photos for them. So your mirror selfie became your best friend. And that's how the content grew over the last two years, it was literally people taking pictures using the self timer on their phone or standing in front of a mirror and taking the best photo that they can. I also think that you know, it kind of lays pathways to putting a lot of pressure on influencers because not everybody has good surroundings. I mean, you know, I live in a flat. So for me finding spaces within my you know, four walls is very difficult to find, you know, picturesque beautiful images,  you have to be intuitive and you have to think, okay, outside the box, how can I make this look engaging. And I think after about two months of struggling to find various different two places within my home, I got to a point where I've just realised that this is more relatable if I just tell the truth and be honest about it and say like, this is my bedroom, guys, this is what you get. That's all good. And actually I think more people started doing that, because they realised that life is too short to give a monkey's about how the backdrop looks.


Graham  04:19

And did you see from an audience point of view, kind of an uptick in engagement during the pandemic? Because presumably, well, the assumption would be that everybody was stuck at home using lots of social media all the time, or was that kind of counterbalanced by the fact that there were just so many other people doing the same thing that actually any increase in engagement activity was kind of dispersed between the existing influencers, and anybody new that came along?


Kat Henry  04:43

Definitely the latter. I don't think there was a specific spike in terms of engagement. I think that if I posted about certain topics, or certain levels of creation definitely got more engagement, actually, the more relatable stuff, where you're saying, you know, like I've had COVID or, you know, I actually lost my mom to COVID and that actually was probably my most engaging content because people found it relatable, those sorts of things actually thrived. Whereas the more glam pictures of me looking like a pageant queen or being a high fashion model or anything like that, that wasn't really thriving, because people didn't see that represented in day to day life. So actually, the level of content was different. And also, you know, the the amount of engagement that came from relatable content went up. But in terms of actual overall, I think what you said Graham towards the fact that there was so much going on, I actually felt like I was perhaps muted in various different scenarios, because I wasn't getting the level of exposure that I had been because there were lots more people doing it.


Graham  05:37

And one thing that I noticed that was quite interesting, it was probably in the middle of the pandemic, I would say, LGBTQIA community, there are a lot of influencers. I'm a member of the community, so live proud, but also portray a lifestyle of excess and putting the influencer on a pedestal look at my life, I want you to want to replicate it. And people started breaching COVID recommendations to be able to produce content. So there were people that travelled to parts of Greece or Spain to be at these gatherings. And actually, what happened is there was a massive backlash against that by the community, because they were seen as irresponsible. And as a result, posts started disappearing, and people started to kind of hide from what they were doing. And all this activity was kind of downplayed. Yeah, it's just it's interesting that, like you say, the stuff that you saw most positive effects on were the things that everybody was kind of going through or could get in touch with. And as soon as this aspirational content was put in front of people, it wasn't seen as I wish I was doing that it was seen as Why are you being so irresponsible, and it kind of people not listening to what's going on in the world. And the fact that the audience are a lot more savvy than they used to be.


Kat Henry  06:45

I think a lot of people, if they saw a picture of like me, personally, if I was to put a picture up of me in a bathing suit, I felt like I had to make a real real point of making it very, very known that this is a throwback, guys like I'm at home in my jammies. And I wish I was on a beach somewhere. And that in itself became relatable, because people were like, Yeah, I also wish I was on a beach somewhere. But we're stuck at home too. And three of my family members have COVID. And therefore, you know, we're in the same boat as you it's finding that balance and being honest and totally transparent with your viewers and your followers. Because actually, authenticity is what is the key here. And there's a level of filtering your life and adding filters to make it look better that actually reality will win all the time. It always will. And honesty is and integrity in this life has to be paramount.


Shelley  07:34

I find that really, really refreshing to hear. And I'm so glad that you said that Kat and that your experience is actually showing that for you. Reality is doing so much better, even content wise. And message wise, compared to overindulgence, I guess, in the sense of, oh, look where I am. And look what I'm doing, particularly over the past two years, when actually people can relate to struggle. And actually, they want to see other people not necessarily struggling, but they want to see people that they can relate to. They don't want to look at influencers and just go okay, they're just living this this life that isn't even aspirational for me at the moment, while I'm locked down. So with all of that in mind, how do you choose which brands to actually work with?


Kat Henry  08:16

For me, I think company ethos is really important, and how that they portrayed themselves on social media, and what sort of level of you know, responsibility and standing they have within the community. I think that those sorts of things play a huge part to me, because I would never take on collaboration that I didn't wholeheartedly believe in, I am not going to sell a product that doesn't align or attune with my own personal ethos. And I wouldn't also sign up to a campaign if I didn't wholeheartedly believe in what he was trying to portray. I think it's really important that businesses and brands are open and transparent about their their own business ethos. And when engaging with collaborators to actually be honest and transparent in what you're trying to portray with your campaign. And actually look for people that attune to that that ethos, rather than just picking the first person that you see, when you open up the Instagram. It's not necessarily about who's trending, it may actually be about who is the most relatable, or who's the best person to sell your product. That's essentially what we should be doing now is looking for the right fit, you wouldn't put somebody into a job role if they weren't the right person for the job role trying to grow or develop your business. So why would you not want the best person to help sell your product, and that best person might not be the person with the highest level of engagement or the most likes on Instagram, they may actually be the person that is a really, really sound background in what you're trying to sell. So yeah, I think research is really really important from a brand perspective to understand who they're looking for. What that influencer delivers, what their own personal ethos is and hope that they both collaborate in the middle on more than just money. It should just be also about how they believe in the product and actually making sure they're the right fit for it.


Graham  10:00

So once you've you've picked the brand that you want to work with, or the brand has picked you, I guess. How do you go about building trust between your established audience, the people that you've built over time with this new brand that they're being introduced to, presumably, if you're working with a brand multiple times, it makes it a bit easier? Because it's not the first time they're seeing it. But how do you introduce this promotion to your audience, and build trust between the two, so that you don't, one,  put your audience at jeopardy, I guess, or kind of under deliver for the brand based on potentially what you've told them, you're able to able to do for them?


Kat Henry  10:42

Yeah, I pride myself on being able to negotiate from the outset of engagement when you start working with the brand as to what you can actually deliver. And being honest, and you know, sticking by your word, if you can't produce something, don't offer it, I would never want to over promise and under deliver, that's not something that I think anybody should aspire to want to do. But also be realistic with your own personal time, with your ability and your you know, you don't promise that you can produce, you know, high level quality drone effect, you know, footage, if you've got a hand cam, and you know, nobody else to help you produce it, you know, don't do that. Be honest in what you can provide. And actually a lot of brands would would prefer the honesty and the, you know, the ability to turn around and say, Okay, well, if that's all you can produce, then maybe I need to look elsewhere. Because there might be 10 other people that could produce that level of content that I haven't tapped up yet. But because you've got a really high level of engagement, that might be who they pick, when you're asking about how do you maintain that relationship with your with new audiences, I will never lie about product. If it's a rubbish product, I'm going to take that feedback, I'm going to take it back to the brand without posting anything on social media. Because actually, I think it's really, really important that if a product is not sound, that you feed that back to the company, so they have the ability to fix it before you take that negativity and put it out into the into the social sphere. Because actually, that damning review is not going to build trust in either you as a personal brand, or to your audience. Influencers have a huge responsibility to be honest,


Shelley  12:23

We've talked about how you've managed these relationships with brands. And we've talked about the changing landscape as a result of COVID as a result of all these new influencers sort of flooding the market, but also in terms of new platforms. So you were a really early adopter of TikTok, and I've personally seen seeing you on TikTok advertising, which is amazing. By the way, it looks it looked incredible. And so I just wanted to ask you, do you have any other sort of tips, insights, advice on this, any part of these topics of influencer marketing that we haven't covered that you think would be interesting, or relevant for people.


Kat Henry  13:03

I have probably a couple for each, but I'll go with from the brand perspective, don't just go with the people that you think are the highest level of engagement, do your research, find out who is who is the best person aligned for what you are looking for, and tap up, don't be afraid to tap up other people within the industry, because they may be a very, very valuable tool for you. But also, don't just go down the tokenism thing like you know, just because you are you understand that being woke in today's society is important. Don't just tap up, you know, the high level influencers who are from the BAME community, drill down a little further, do do the research, because I think it is really, really important. And I kind of understand why you just look at engagement, I get it. But it's not always the key. And it's not always the be all and end all and from an influencers perspective, don't be afraid to shoot your shot, you know, go out there, promote yourself in the best way possible. Send those brand emails, you know, I'm not a huge lover of all of the, you know, follow this strategy sort of thing. Like I take tips from the from the YouTubers and stuff as to how I can increase my content engagement and stuff like that. But essentially, find your niche, find what works for you. And don't be afraid to put yourself out there for every 10 no's there's going to be one yes. So keep going and remain resilient. And from the perspective of trolls, because we didn't touch on it really I think that you know, if you're putting I'm very, very grateful that in the seven years that I've been doing social media, I can probably count on my hands, the amount of times that I've had negativity thrown my way on my own personal platform. And that is because my platform is a safe space for me to sell products without asking for people's opinions. And I pride myself very, very highly in the fact that when I promote a product Whether it be an item of clothing or a makeup product or a hair product, you're saying, this is the product that I'm selling. And if you like it, here's how you can buy it. I'm not asking you as the person who scrolling through Instagram to weigh in with an opinion on my products. And the minute you ask people, What does this look like? you're opening up the gateway for people to offer their opinion. From the influencers perspective, stop asking those questions if you are becoming an influencer, because you want validation, or you're becoming an influencer, because you want free clothes, you're in it for the wrong reasons. If you're doing it, because you know, you can use your skills, your life skills to promote a brand, then you're in the right place. But I also think that empowering other people is really key. And you know, if you see somebody in the industry that's doing well elevate them share their content, because essentially sharing each other's content engaging with each other's content is how we grow.


Shelley  15:57

Love it. Absolutely. Love it. Thank you so so much your time Kat that was just it was so insightful.


Graham  16:04

Yeah, thank you. It's good to have this insight. Because, you know, as that report points out, there's so many people that are wanting to now take a huge part of their marketing budget and put it into into social media influencers, but I suspect the large majority of those people don't actually understand what they're about to do. So the information that you've given them will lead them on the right path to success. So yeah,


Shelley  16:25

Steering them in the right direction.


Graham  16:27

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for your time.  That was social media influencer current Ms Great Britain, Kat Henry. Her insights as a social media influencer have been invaluable. And the key to making a success for both brands and influencers is to remain authentic, transparent and genuine with their audiences. We also need to be hyper aware of what's going on in the world, and ensure that we adjust our messaging to match the reality. If you'd like to download a copy of the report, you'll be able to find a link of it on our Insights section of our website. Thank you for joining us for this episode of 15 minutes with and we look forward to having you join us on our next one.

15 Minutes With Alan Gray | Podcast Episode #1

In our first episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Research Psychologist from Tailify, Alan Gray. In the episode we talk through his research on laughter and self disclosure and their effect on behaviour as well as how it can be used to develop relationships and be used by influencers and those delivering a marketing message.

You can find out more about Alan and his research over at his website, Gray Area.

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

Is the simple act of laughing enough to win others over? Today, research psychologist Alan Gray is joining us on 15 minutes with. Alan's research interests are in the unique fields of laughter and self disclosure and their effects on behaviour. As part of the research team at Tailify, Alan is involved in optimising influencer marketing strategies. And interestingly, some of the work Alan has published would show that the world of laughter and the world of business have quite a bit more overlap than you might expect. It would seem that the simple act of laughing is enough to win others over.  Hi, Alan, welcome to the podcast. Thanks so much for joining us.

Alan Gray  00:52

Hey, thanks for having me.

Shelley  00:53

How are you doing today?

Alan Gray  00:54

I'm good. Yeah, it's a nice a nice day.

Shelley  00:56

So why laughter? Why did laughter appeal in terms of your research,

Alan Gray  01:01

So I guess I was interested first, and laughter the University of Oxford, and I guess it was just, if you watch people interact with one another for any period of time, you'll find that they laugh a lot. And what they seem to laugh at is not necessarily jokes, they just seem to laugh because they're around one another. And this was instantly interesting to me as a behaviour that is common and this frequent, you know, must serve a great purpose. And yet social psychologists barely investigated that felt like a field that was wide open.

Shelley  01:29

And so your research in this in this area of laughter? Was it really sort of, like you were talking about the social sciences in terms of behaviour based? Or did you dive deeper and look at what happened, cognitively. And what happens in the brain, when, when people laugh when they're exposed to laughter?

Alan Gray  01:46

Well, there's been a bit of an explosion of research into laughter at this point now, so they have produced various different neuro imaging studies of what happens in the brain when we laugh, and so on. But my interest was in the social psychology side, and it was trying to understand if laughter is so closely related to relationship development, might it be linked to other elements of relationship progression. So I was looking to see if it was associated with self disclosure, the amount of intimate information we reveal to another person. Social psychologists have found this to be strongly linked to liking and relationship development. So I assumed if, if this is integral for relationship, building and bonds, then it might be linked to laughter.

Shelley  02:28

Completely. It's so so interesting. And so what did what did you find? What were your top key findings and your research?

Alan Gray  02:33

Yeah, so I kind of, I mean, discovery is that laughter. People tend to think of it as something very positive and uplifting, and everyone seeks out someone who's a comedian, and so on, and their relationships and romance, but in my research suggests that it might well be something quite dark. So self disclosure is typically an exchange of information between two people, you know, I tell you something personal about me. And you return the favour by sending me personal about you, that's slightly risky, because that whenever I tell you something about me, I'm making myself vulnerable, you could use that information against me, you could exploit me somehow. So if I could get out of this exchange, if I could bypass that deal, and make you tell me everything without having to tell you a thing at all, you know, I'd be one up. So my work looked into how laughter and the act of laughing might increase the likelihood that you will reveal things about yourself without really expecting that in return, and not really feeling like you had said that much. When it comes to how vulnerable you'd you'd spoken about.

Graham  03:32

It puts people at ease really quickly without realising that they're in that situation. Yeah, that is interesting, because I'm just thinking about that myself now, actually. And you'll I laugh at anything. I'm terrible. Like, I find everything funny. And actually, one of the things I was wondering is, you know, is there a noticeable difference between like, genuine laughter like big belly laughs, and like nervous laughter because I feel like sometimes a lot of what I do is nervous laughter because it's, you know, it's the polite thing to do, because society has kind of adapted towards, you should laugh at this point, because someone's kind of said something funny.

Shelley  04:05

Filling the empty space, so yeah,

Graham  04:07

Yeah exactly. I'm not a fan of silence I don't like it. If I could fill the silence with a laugh or giggle or something, I kind of do that. I guess. It must be somewhat critical to humans kind of forming bonds, right? That is, is that way it kind of doesn't help speed the process along?

Alan Gray  04:27

And yes, there's been quite a lot of research into genuine and and fake laughter. Then the literature the call duchenne laughter and non duchenne laughter, voluntary and involuntary laughs and there are different acoustic properties from those laughs. So, when we're laughing involuntarily, we tend to have loud early bursts and we tend to have a repetitive cycle of laughs and that the go on for quite some time, much longer than a feigned laughter does. So there are acoustic differences here, but more interestingly, people can generally generally very easily detect the difference between fake and genuine laughter and in an fMRI scanner, we seem to process genuine and fake laughs differently to so when we hear a genuine laugh, we process that emotionally, emotional regions of the brain are active and make law and so on. When we hear a fake laugh, we might not necessarily know this, but we start trying to understand why that person laughed, we see it as a kind of problem. And the parts of the brain that are active are usually the frontal regions that are involved in problem solving. So it looks like we approach the sound of genuine fit laughter very differently.

Shelley  05:34

If we sort of extrapolate that idea, and what we've what you've just sort of discussed about bonding and the self disclosure element to it, how does that fit in to digital life?

Alan Gray  05:47

Well, you know, texting, lol, and hahaha, and so on, it's not really going to get these effects because you know, doing that it's not going to produce the physiological release of laughter. So I don't expect that kind of laughter to be, in fact, we rarely laugh when we're alone. So if you're receiving a text message that, you know, is a joke, the likelihood that we're laughter that if we're just receiving that alone will be low. So I don't really think that is so linked to this. But when it comes to the world of influencers, you know, we are in a relationship with them, essentially. And we're watching them online, we're sitting, sometimes we might even watch the video together, or we might see influencers that we truly identify with laughing on screen. And when we really identify with someone, if you say someone is hilarious, what you're saying is, I like them, you're not saying that they're funny. That's how we express liking by laughing.

Shelley  06:40

And so what you're saying is actually in the world of influencer marketing, laughter is a crucial element to who you actually choose to follow and continue to follow.

Alan Gray  06:51

It's a it's a part of expressing your identifying with someone and liking that person. And it's also because of the way that laughter affects us physiologically through endorphin release, it can kind of lull us into a sense of credulity. So we can be more inclined to believe what we're being told is true and less inclined to question that we're not in a defensive mode, when we laugh, we're suddenly very relaxed, and we're very accepting. So it can increase the likelihood that the promoters message is truly heard.

Shelley  07:21

Ah, so it's a sales tool, in a sense, you can actually break down barriers, communicate to build an audience more easily communicate to that audience more easily, and actively open the lines to sales a bit more.

Alan Gray  07:34

Yeah, I think it will increase the likelihood that you'll go ahead with the purchasing decision since the main reason and influence marketing. It's not just like, it's not just like a traditional billboard of grabbing people's attention. It's about gaining people's trust, and having them identify with you. That is what drives the purchasing decision. So laughter if we know that it's linked to self disclosure, we know that it's linked to trust and relationship formation, it's going to be a part of what drives the purchasing decision in influencer marketing.

Shelley  08:01

Definitely. So it's part of that overall experience. And so if we tie that in with the self disclosure element of say, influencers, social influencers, who we're trying to sell, represent something in particular, how does the self disclosure element tie in with the laughter side of things?

Alan Gray  08:23

So if we laugh, because we might be more likely, after laughing, we're more likely to reveal information about ourselves? Well, we can imagine the following might be more likely to comment on the video. And comments have been shown to be associated with purchasing decisions, because we feel like we've invested somehow in this video with the influencers themselves, since we know that we tend to like those who disclose to us. If the influencers laughing and therefore are more likely to disclose, they'll tell us more things about themselves. And we like people who reveal themselves to us. There are many reasons for this. One is that people who we've just encountered are somewhat threatening, we don't know, we don't know them, so we can't predict them. We like people to be somewhat familiar, we'd like to know things about them, so we can understand them and judge their actions. So the more someone tells us about themselves, the easier they are to be around because we kind of have an implicit model of how they might behave. So self disclosure can help us like a person.

Shelley  09:21

Definitely. And I think, you know, when you look at sort of earlier influencers before it really blew up online and on social media, like Keeping Up With The Kardashians, you know, traditionally on television, you know, you can actually start to feel like, you know, these people, when actually, you know, is a very one directional relationship in that sense, but you're right, when you look at sort of the comments of these kinds of influencers, the people that follow them, follow them actually feel like they're part of their lives to a degree. And I mean, how that feeds into the whole sales model, I guess at the end is imagine the insights that these that these influencers have on their own following, they must know so much about them because they are themselves self disclosing so much so much of their own lives and their own likes and dislikes. And I just find it super interesting.

Alan Gray  10:13

Also, you know, one of the reasons why we choose not to stop disclosures because of cultural norms around disclosure. So men and women disclose differently because stereotypes around, you know, women are expected to disclose more and sooner relationship than men. That's a stereotype. But it's one of the kind of rules that people follow. In the influencer world, there seems to be a new norm emerging of excessive disclosure. Disclosure is a thing that people do a lot. And it's more acceptable for an influencer to reveal very intimate things very quickly than what it is, you know, anyone else in day to day life. So it seems to be a new culture emerging in influencer marketing that promotes this.

Shelley  10:58

And you think that is to build, you know, such a tight relationship with the following with their followers, because obviously, they don't know them in person. So you have to feel connected in another way. And it has to you have to to build that level of intimate intimacy, I guess. And that's, that's a good way to, instead of a one to one relationship, have the same thing or the same depth, but on a one to many basis.

Alan Gray 11:21

Yeah, I think it's speeding up the process of relationship development, there's always the risk with self disclosure, that you might disclose what was taken to be too much too soon, and therefore come across as maladjusted and somewhere and therefore less likeable. So you've got to kind of judge what is the what is the appropriate amount of disclosure in this particular moment in this particular context. And changing those norms in the way that influencers have done might be a way of bypassing that and increasing the likelihood that they can reveal a lot more intimate information a lot sooner in the relationship.

Graham  11:50

And presumably, from a brand's point of view, they have to do a whole level of research, right to be able to make sure that because it might seem like the easiest thing to do is go for the influencer that has the most perceived power, either through the largest following or, you know, through their ability to attract numbers of people, if they're not brand aligned in terms of sentiment, or you know, they live to the same values, I guess potentially there's a detrimental effect that the brand can have on itself without even realising it's doing that.

Alan Gray  12:19

A lot of people when they're trying to understand what makes a good influencer, have looked to the available metrics of, you know, the number of likes you've got, how many followers you have, what's your audience size, and, you know, what's your Google search optimization and so on. But we're starting to discover that those things aren't necessarily good at predicting your return on investment for the brand. And what Tailify are doing now is to venture into psychometrics to try and understand if the various psychological predictors of relationship development can shed some light into why some influencers perform better than others. Self disclosure is one of them, laughter is another.

Graham  12:54

Can a brand build the same level of trust with an individual as an as an individual can I guess, is that why influencers are as important as they are to this process? Because a brand just can't do the same thing?

Alan Gray  13:07

Yeah, I think the real breakthrough with influencer marketing is an influencer can stand in for a brand, they can embody a brand and make that brand, truly a human being, in a way.

Shelley  13:18

In your role at Tailify and with respect to influencer marketing, which is the space that you operate in, do you have from what we've just talked about everything from, you know, the laughter piece, the self disclosure piece, any tips for people listening that is relevant to them, whether it's selecting an influencer, or whether it's being an influencer, or even deciding whether they go down that route, anything that you think could be helpful for people to know or to be able to apply? Or insights that could be actionable, I guess.

Alan Gray  13:54

So I think a lot of the time, when people are selecting influences, they tend to shy away from having the influencer use comedy when discussing the product or the brand, they're totally fine with the influencer joking about everything else. But when it comes to the product, the brand, you know, just deliver the lines and the influencers themselves, are also quite nervous about this. They want to be paid and they want to do the job that they've been assigned. I would advise the brand, permit that more and give them permission to joke even when discussing the brand or the product, because we know that humour draws our attention. And we remember that kind of content more. So if we have a bias and memory and an attention for humorous content. And then the brand and product comes along and it's stone cold and bland. What are we going to remember, what are we going to pay attention to? It's exactly it's also going to defeat the purpose for the influencer because they want to come across as authentic and sincere. And if all of a sudden the moment they start talking about the product, they lose all of that that isn't going to do them any favours and their followers will fall over.

Shelley  14:55

And I think we've all been familiar in seeing those those exact kind of messages. The sponsored content and it stands out like a sore thumb. And you're right, it comes down to I guess, brands being so particular over what they want that message to be because they've paid for that slot, so they want to make the most of it, that actually they've completely micromanage the process and defeated the whole point of tapping into this audience that really, really trust this influencer. And so I think that's really interesting. Thank you for that insight. If people have brands can actually take that on board and go, if we're, if we're working alongside this influencer, to deliver a message, let's relax a little bit and see what their take on it is, and how they can deliver that message to the audience in a way that the audience is already comfortable and familiar with.

Alan Gray  15:39

And I think I would also recommend that the influencers themselves try to collaborate a little bit more on their videos, try to get their friends and family and you know, interact with other influencers. Because we know that when you're in company, you'll probably laugh more, you'll probably feel more relaxed, you'll do all the things naturally, that we know are good indicators of success, and people will like you for it.

Graham  16:03

Thank you for your time. You know, it's been super, super interesting. And I'm sure we will definitely be having you back. Because there's bound to be a whole bunch of questions that come from people who listened to this. And as much as Shelley and I can attempt to answer them, we're by no means the experts. So probably best send the questions back to Alan and he can come back on and answer them for us, which would be awesome.

Shelley  16:25

Alan, thank you so so much for your time. It was so interesting to speak with you. And like Graham said I know that there are going to be so many questions off the back of this that I'm sure we will have you again soon just to to be able to dive even deeper into this whole conversation.

Alan Gray  16:40

Thanks a lot. I'm really glad that you guys had me on it was great.

Shelley  16:43

That was Alan Gray research psychologist with Tailify explaining how laughter and self disclosure impact relationship building within both in person and digital exchanges. If you want to find out more you can contact Alan at Tailify to find out how this evolution in behavioural science is being applied to digital experiences and strategy. Thank you, Alan, we cannot wait until our next chat and to everybody listening, see you next time.

Live Commerce: Innovation or Evolution?

You may have heard the buzz around this new channel that is making waves in commerce but for those of us old enough to remember the height of the home shopping networks being broadcast on our TV, it might sound very familiar. Is Live Commerce a remarkable innovation or an evolution of a somewhat tried and tested method?


What exactly is Live Commerce?

To put it into its simplest terms, Live Commerce is the blending of live entertainment with instant purchasing broadcast via a digital channel. I know what you’re thinking, this sounds very familiar.

To give the concept a bit of a back story, Alibaba launched Taobao (which translates to ‘searching for treasures’ in Chinese) in 2016. This self-described ‘super app’ is a one-stop-shop for more than 800 million Chinese consumers and is China’s biggest online shopping destination. It boasts listings of over 2 billion products and services from originally designed clothing to branded products and even fresh agricultural produce.

The platform is used for everything, and that is not an overstatement. People are buying products, ordering food, and even booking flights all in this single app and all this data is giving them the power to create hyper-personalised journeys.

Where it moved away from the standard marketplace or eCommerce experience was with the introduction of live streaming. They embedded the purchasing journey right into the live stream so whilst people are watching the product demonstration or show, they can explore and shop without leaving the entertainment behind.


Innovation or Evolution?

Those familiar with the home shopping networks of old will see the similarities very quickly. Ok, the tech used is somewhat old hat now, but the concept is the same. People like Joan Rivers built brand empires selling things like jewellery in almost the same way using the latest tech available at the time.  We tuned in to watch the show, asked questions, placed orders over the phone, and felt connected to the hosts and guests.

Where Live Commerce is the evolution is that it is putting it in a place that people use now. The days of spending hours in front of the TV are over. The innovation is the removal of the need to use multiple devices and the almost endless number of streams that people can tune into concurrently.

The old way tied us to a schedule that often-meant spending hours waiting for the show to come around and the hope that we didn’t miss it. eCommerce gave us the ability to buy what we want when we wanted it. Live Commerce is merging the two things and creating an experience that is innovative in its delivery but very much an evolution of an experience we know worked.


Does it work?

To put it into a succinct statement, yes it works. In the first 30 minutes of the 2020 Alibaba’s Singles’ Day presale campaign, Taobao Live generated $7.5 billion in total transaction value. And Tommy Hilfiger has extended their live program to Europe and North America after one of their shows in China is reported to have attracted 14 million viewers and sold 1,300 hoodies in two minutes.

But as with all things, it’s not just as easy as whacking up a Livestream and waiting for the money to roll in. Most of the success for those examples is due to the platforms being used and the marketing effort attached to promoting them.

The key to success is putting it into a place where people are already engaging, are open to a shopping experience and the experience that is offered is convenient and easy to accomplish.


Should you be doing it?

Based on the information at hand today it is hard to say if it will work for every type of product. The largest success has been in apparel and fashion, beauty, and consumer electronics. Interestingly if you think back to the types of products often sold through the home shopping networks like QVC, the match is almost like for like.

Other things to consider alongside does your product fit are things like, are your customers or those of your buyer personas using the platforms where Live Commerce is the most successful. Starting the process and getting Live Commerce up and running is not a cheap exercise so making sure that it is something your customers are likely to engage with is important.

Are you willing to invest the time and money not only into the technology required to make it a success but, in the marketing, required to drive awareness, engagement and ultimately the purchases? These are things that need to be kept in the mix when considering if it is a channel to use.

If your answer to those questions is yes, you might just have found a new way to deliver not only an increase in sales but also the opportunity to create incredible digital customer experiences.

Keep an eye out for the next Live Commerce blog where we’ll explore a little more about how to go about setting it up, the best format to choose and the steps to take it from small beginnings to a major sales channel.

The Importance of Personalisation

The picture in the news media around retail spending, especially in-store is not great but online is still standing strong and is substantially higher than it was in February 2020, before the pandemic started.

It’s just more signs that shopping habits have shifted and even when spending is down, the people that are shopping are choosing to do it online first.

What this means for customers is more choice and for those who are running online commerce stores, more competition.

It is your job as a business owner to find a way to stand out in the crowd, create incredible customer experiences and win and keep new and existing customers. There are a few ways to do this, and we’ve talked about several of them on this blog but one that we think needs a special mention, especially since it is so powerful, is personalisation.


What is Personalisation?

Optimizely explains it well. “Website Personalisation is the process of creating customised experiences for visitors to a website. Rather than providing a single, broad experience, website personalisation allows companies to present visitors with unique experiences tailored to their needs and desires.”

The concept behind this isn’t new. We’ve been exposed to it for years. It might be that your favourite café or restaurant just knows what you’re going to order, or they can suggest something new based on what you’ve had in the past. It might even be that whilst you’re in a store your experience changes based on what you’re looking at, the time you’ve been in the store, how you’re dressed or who you’re with. They are all cues to the sales team to offer help, make suggestions and recommendations and just make your shopping experience feel like it is tailored to you.


Making It Digital

As Optimizely puts it “Website personalisation attempts to use data to take that same level of one-on-one attentiveness and translate it into the digital world”

It could look like this:

  • Online retailers provide targeted offers to shoppers based on browsing and buying behaviour.
  • Travel sites can present visitors with promotions based on the current weather or season.
  • News and other media outlets can surface specific videos to viewers based on where they live.

But it can also go beyond just the website and even into mediums such as email, linking it back to a personalised experience online.


Why it’s Important

Customers’ expectations have shifted and continue to shift through this incredible change we’re going through.  So much so that it is as the point that people expect a personal digital experience that mirrors the typical level of personalisation, they receive offline. They want to spend their money with people that get them, make their lives easier and offer incredible levels of convenience. And this is not just our opinion. Research continues to tell us this is what people want.


It’s in the Numbers

We’ve scoured the research and pulled together the numbers that you need to know. They’re everything that will convince you that personalisation is the way forward and they’ll help you build a business case for why it needs to be included in your strategy.

We’ve put them together in a handy e-book that you can download and keep or read it online if you’d like. Just click the image below and the pdf will open in a new tab for you.



Need Some Help Making it all Work?

If you’re ready to start working on ways to create incredibly personalised experiences we’re here to help. Our experience team has worked with very well-known names on their personalisation and have gotten some awesome results. You’ll find a case study of just one of them in the e-book, but we have other case studies in our work section too.

All it takes is for you to reach out and one of our experts can talk you through how to get started.

Design Is Boring

There is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things.


I lied – the above statement is not at all true. Yes, there are certain things we know we shouldn’t do, or we should avoid when designing experiences but to say that there’s a golden bullet is completely wrong.

There are guiding principles and ‘best practice’ approaches that we’re led to believe is the correct thing to do, but does that mean we should treat these as rules?

Absolutely not. If that was the case, then how do we advance the industry? How would humanity move forward if this approach was always taken? In the well-weathered and referenced words of Henry Ford:


“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”


So why would this be the case? It’s because the car didn’t exist at the time and no one else had the foresight or confidence to think beyond what they already knew.

This is also the danger with competitor research and analysis. I’ve lost count of the number of times I hear “I like what this business does so we want to do that”. This raises several questions; “Do you want to be your competitor? And if that’s the case, what differentiates you as a business? Why would anyone buy from you over your competitor?”.

In some instances, there’s a genuine answer to this based on price or faster delivery, but there’s a limit to how far this can go. It’s impossible to compete infinitely on price and certainly huge logistic challenges to promise things like next day delivery.


 Best Practice Should be your Foundation, not your Goal

This isn’t a post to completely disregard the proven approaches and methodologies. This is a post highlighting the fact this should be your starting point. The whole idea of starting these best practices is to create something that ‘works’.

But creating something that ‘works’ doesn’t provide a memorable experience. Just creating something that ‘works’ doesn’t build brand loyalty. Building something that just ‘works’ is emotionless and non-descript. In the words of Charlie Chaplin:


“To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.  Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men! Machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Let us use that power. Let us all unite!”

Please note that the above quote has been shortened for succinctness


 Where Process Makes Sense

There are instances much like the checkout process where having something that ‘just works’ is a good thing. Once the user has got to this level of their journey, it’s about a transaction.

In essence, it’s a process, so recognisable patterns and best practice makes it much easier to complete that process. In many instances you don’t even need a checkout anymore – you can simply use PayPal or mobile payments to complete that transaction without having to engage any further.


Where Process Doesn’t Work

On the flip side, the browsing of products is a much more emotive experience. If your shopping experience is the same as everyone else, how will they remember you? Why would they come back? The same rules apply in physical retail experiences and can be seen all over the place



Apple is a classic example of this. The grey storefront with towering glass panels and a giant Apple logo front and centre is a staple look of their stores.



And the inside the stores themselves are just as striking. The minimal look, drawing all attention and lack of checkouts is a staple to their physical retail spaces. Even the uniform alignment of the tables is carefully considered to create smooth flowing footfall around their stores.

The same can be said about Victoria’s Secret and their bold pink and black statement so they capture the attention of passing footfall. It’s recognition. The association of a statement look or mark with a brand.


What’s in a Colour?

The same risks of identity can also be applied to colour psychology. There’s a very particular reason that so many of the largest social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn use blue as a brand colour.

Blue is associated with trust and stability – something that all social media platforms can never be short of. The same can be applied to many other brands such as IBM, Intel, American Express, Salesforce and Visa. All these brands are dealing with sensitive or private information and need to do whatever they can to build trust and confidence in their users.

When you apply the same colour theory to other industries such as fashion, you have very similar issues. You could arguably say that the clothes and apparel should make the brands stand out, or the larger brands relying on reputation.

However, at a face-value brand level, so many high-end websites look the same. Standard patterns, excessive use of black to portray ‘luxury’, small typeface to draw attention to the clothes and away from the price. This is an example of brands following one of two approaches; we should do this because we aspire to be an elite label, or this is what we’ve always done.

Neither of these is a measure of success and unless brands begin accepting experimentation, it’s going to remain this way for a while. The issue with this is that this removes multiple levels of visual hierarchy making and all levels of identity. Suddenly, these brands are merely competing and relying on status, more than that of having their own identity.



The use of colour doesn’t only apply to the brand, but also the UI in which they sell their products as shown here:



All the images here are from each of these brands (that’s right, they’re not the same site), but they all start to look the same. All use black and white in excess and lack a visual hierarchy or identity. That could switch around the logos on any of these sites and you wouldn’t know the difference.

So now we’ve moved from a conversation of ‘best practice’ to a conversation of ‘commonality’ in UI, but both are interlinked.


Take a Piece of Advice from Apple and ‘Think Different’

So, let’s hope brands open themselves to more creative execution and innovation and avoiding getting sucked into a copy and paste future of faceless, legacy-reliant brands.

Brands, be proud of who you are and what you stand for. Be seen and be noticed. After all, a world without innovation and identity is a world that’s going nowhere.

The Power of User-Generated Content

It should come as little surprise to literally everyone that the pandemic and its continued persistence has significantly shifted the buying habits of all consumers. This has left many brands scratching their heads and scrambling to find ways to get these consumers attention, bring them to their websites and turn these visits from just a casual browse to that of buying stuff.

The big question here is have the effects of 2020, and even a big chunk of 2021, fundamentally shifted and permanently changed how people discover, shop, and engage with businesses?


New Research is Helping Provide an Answer

A new research report from the team at Stackla offers insight into this and reveals that not only is the increase in online shopping here to stay but also, that today’s consumers want brands to provide them with a more authentic, personalised shopping experience.

The report, Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC, surveyed more than 2,000 consumers across the US, UK and Australia. It found that consumers “increasingly seek out and value the social content that real customers are creating about brands. This means that visual social proof—like user-generated content (UGC)— is more important now than ever for brands to leverage as part of their online marketing strategy.”

We’re going to look at some key findings of the report, but we encourage you to head over and download a copy for yourself. It has a ton of great information that will help you develop solid strategies when thinking about how to deal with this huge consumer shift.


Creating the Authentic Experience Shoppers are looking for

In the report, Stackla found that 88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands, they like and support (with 50% saying it’s very important) and that 83% of consumers believe retailers need to provide more authentic shopping experiences to customers like them.

That’s great we hear you say but how do we do that? Well, the report can help with that too. Let’s start by looking at content.

We know content is incredibly powerful when it comes to marketing and advertising with some of the most successful businesses spending 40% of their entire marketing budget on it but is it being spent on the right kind.

Stackla Report: Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC

A strong majority of businesses are either already spending large amounts of budget on influencer marketing strategies these days or are looking to include it in their marketing strategy. However, as you can see from the image above, only 10% of consumers say influencer content resonates as authentic with them, and a mere 19% say that brand-created content is the most authentic.

The real authenticity winner, with 59% of consumers, is content created by other consumers or in other words user-generated content (UGC). It is by far and away the most authentic type of content — meaning people are 3.1x more likely to say user-generated content is authentic compared to brand-created content and 5.9x more likely to say it's the most authentic compared to influencer content.


And it Does More than just Offer Authenticity

UGC is clearly ticking the box for the consumer, but it also has a big impact on their decision to make a purchase.

In the report, it was found that UGC is 8.7x more impactful in influencing purchasing decisions than influencer content. 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions, while a very small 9% said influencer content impacts their purchases.

Stackla Report: Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC

And it doesn’t stop there, UGC just keeps on giving. 72% of consumers say real customer photos and videos are the content they most want to see on eCommerce sites when making purchasing decisions and 80% of consumers say they’d be more likely to purchase a product from an online store if its website had photos and videos from real customers.

It is hard to argue with those numbers. UGC is clearly an area that if you’re not currently thinking about you might want to start, and here is the reason why. 58% of consumers have left an eCommerce store without purchasing because the site didn’t have customer reviews or photos.


UGC is Easier than You Might Think

Consumers are happy to engage with brands that want to share their content and they’re eager for the content they create to be seen and used by their favourite brands.

Stackla Report: Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC

As you can see, consumers would grant a brand permission to use an image or video they posted of clothing or accessories (58%), a home goods product (58%), a beauty/health/wellness product (54%), a sporting goods product (53%) or a recent trip/excursion (52%) throughout their marketing.

And there are rewards for using this content outside of the ones we’ve already talked about.

43% of consumers — and 47% of Gen Z — say they would be more likely to continue engaging with and purchasing from a brand if it shared their photos or videos throughout its marketing.


The Full Report has so Much More

We’ve just scratched the surface of the insights in this report and again we’d encourage you to head over and download a copy for yourself. You’ll find a stack of insights on the importance of personalisation within the shopping experience and why it is so important as well as key insights at the industry level.


Putting it Into Action

Hopefully, you’ve seen the overwhelming benefits of including UGC into your strategy and now you’re thinking about how to make it a reality.

The Experience team at Eclipse is here to help. We can work with you to define the best way to include it in the user journey and make it part of the personalisation that your site offers. All you need to do is reach out to us and we can start talking options.