IAN RHODESteaching ecommerce customer-centricity
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
All the things that I have done...
24 years on the frontline FIGURING OUT what motivates people to RETURN & SHOP AGAIN
In 2021 it's not unusual to say you graduated university and jumped straight into the ecommerce industry.
It was when I graduated. In 1997.
3 DECADES AGO... DIY ECOMMERCE
Joining one the UK's first pureplay ecommerce brands to figure out two things. How to get people to buy and how to get people online. Our potential audience was a tiny fraction of that which you're working with for your own brand right now.
So. No books, no blogs, certainly no podcasts packed full of (and I'll use this term very loosely) experts telling you how to 10x your growth. I learned through practice. SEO was a doddle the competition wasn't there. Figuring out the messaging that inspired people to purchase? That was the challenge. And it's a challenge that fascinates 24 years later.
This was a magazine subscription business, so I had the pleasure of learning customer retention by hand. No ReCharge or Bold Subscriptions back then. No technology at all, unless you're counting the bcc field and a spreadsheet?
BIG BRAND. BIG BUDGET. BIG LEARNING.
Fast forward to 2002. I landed the role of Marketing Manager and earned my way up the ladder to become European Marketing Director at Priceline. The conversion challenge? The business model was to invite travellers to 'Name Your Own Price' on airline, hotel and car rentals. We were innovators. We learned the art of customer-centricity. We studied our customer. Their travel needs. Their desires. We give them confidence, willingness, to name their own price. Our marketing is led by the customer's voice. Before people named their price they had to have built enormous trust in our brand. Priceline pioneered true customer-centricity in the travel industry. It was a great place to learn my trade. They must have done something right, Priceline, having acquired Booking.com are now the world's largest travel company.
THE ROLLERCOASTER: BUILDING MY OWN ECOMMERCE BRAND
By 2004 I believed I learned all I needed to launch my own ecommerce brand. Hell, I was in my late 20's... why not?! So, from my back bedroom (I know, stereotypical startup story to the extreme) I built my business. Selling guitars. Not just any guitar, I showcased the oddities. The guitars you wouldn't find on the shelves of traditional guitar stores.
The business caught on. I opened a high street store, a warehouse, hired staff, did all the things you do in the name of 'ecommerce growth'. 2 years after launch we were presented the accolade of 'Fender Dealer of the Year'. Hurrah! We made it! The problem being that the business veered off track and became a little too generalist for my liking. I'd lost control of direction. Don't get me wrong, on paper it was great. For me, it wasn't the business I wanted to own and run anymore. I'd last touch with my ideal customer.
TEACHING THE ART AND SCIENCE OF RETENTION-FIRST GROWTH
A shame, but no regrets when I look back. So, I sold the business and in 2009 I started what I'm doing right now. Teaching ecommerce entrepreneurs and marketers how to do this stuff. How to grow a customer-centred ecommerce business profitably and sustainably. The focus is all in on customer-led growth. Not just getting customers. Keeping customers.
I don't work with generalists or those with the desire to get rich quick. My clients are in this for the long haul. The way business should be.
Throughout the 20 odd years I've been in this industry I've kept my fingers dirty doing the work. I can't pretend to hold the magic answers. Conversion is hard work. It's not about just presenting a product. It's certainly not about discount codes. Conversion is a marketing business philosophy. A growth mindset. The route is different for every single business I work with. If it wasn't, I'm sure I'd have written a bestseller by now.
I've had the pleasure of working with over 500 ecommerce brands large and small. I've spoken at events across the globe (narrowed down significantly thanks to the wonders of Zoom the past year...). Thousands of conversations with ecommerce people. This is my space. I'm as excited about what's ahead for the industry now, in 2021, as I ever have been. Let's see what you can achieve.
Thanks for reading. It means a lot to me. It's a condensed story, but hopefully gives you an idea of my background and why I'm sat here, right now, doing what I do.
Before we get into the work bit, I was raised in SW London, Hong Kong and spent 7 years in Indianapolis USA before the age of 18...
Let me attempt to condense my 22 years of learning and experience as an Ecommerce marketer into bullet points.
I'll try to keep this short...
From Subscription Startup to the Biggest Travel Company On The Globe (1997-2002)
1996 - completed a degree in Economics with a dissertation entitled 'Marketing on the Internet' (this was 25 years ago....)
1997 - joined one of the UK's first eCommerce startups as Head of Marketing (I was the marketing team) in London.
1999 - My first speaking event at the UK's first Affiliate Marketing Conference.
2000 - Work documented in Jakob Nielsen's Homepage Usability book published.
2000 - Joined Priceline.com (now the world's biggest travel company) as European Marketing Director.
Saying 'Screw It' and Starting My Own Retail Business (2004-2008)
2004 - launched my own bootstrapped retail business focused on selling guitars from makers you wouldn't find anywhere else.
2005 - The DIY guide to growth. Hand-built an eCommerce platform and wrote daily articles (this was long before the days before Wordpress...) on a hard-coded 'blog'.
2006 - Opened our first bricks and mortar (and wood and steel) shop in Ripley, Surrey and started taking on employees.
2006 - Earned the Fender Europe Top Dealer Award.
2008 - Sold 10,000 guitars and built a website that grew from zero to over 2.5m unique visitors in 4 years.
Selling my business and starting my consulting practice (2009 onwards)
2009 - Founded Ecommerce Growth Co. (Now Retention) to advise and consult with direct to consumer brands and niche retailers on how to fuel profitable, sustainable ecommerce growth. Retention-first strategy.
2010-2014 - Expanded into a world of working with heavyweight clients including Pfizer, Channel Advisor, The Works, HSS Hire, Remploy, Gossard, Pretty Polly
2014 - Listed as one of 14 conversion experts you should be following by Crazy Egg
2014 - Listed as one of the world's Top 25 most influential conversion rate experts by PPC Hero
2015 - Launched the Marketing Homebrew Podcast in collaboration with Content Revolution author Mark Masters
2015 - Published the first in my series of ebooks, Make What You Make Matter
2015 - Contributed to the How 20 Search Experts Beat Rising Costs ebook by Conversion Sciences
2015 - Training provider alongside leading CRO Experts for Conversion Machine
2015 - Speaking at conferences across Europe (inc. first ever trips to Greece and Latvia) to share insights to help marketers be more purposeful in their daily marketing lives.
2015 - Appointed to the advisory board at content marketing agency Contentology
2016 - Recognised on the UsabilityTools.com hall of fame - 32 conversion optimisation experts to follow
2016 - Published my second eBook, Emotive Selling For The Online Retailer
2016 - Currently writing my first full book, Untemplate, ready for publication in Spring 2017
2016 - Interviewed by Design Week asked the question when is it right for designers to write?
2016 - Interview with Savage Marketing talking CRO
2016 - Speaking at events in Berlin, Warsaw and Bucharest during Oct/Nov 2016
2017 - Surpassed 120 shows of the Marketing Homebrew podcast with 40,000 downloads with listeners in 65 countries
2017 - Booked to speak for the 3rd time at the UK's biggest retail fashion event, MODA
2017 - Hosted '5 Steps To Convert More Visitors Into Customers' webinar with Veeqo
2017 - Currently working on the launch of the Ecommerce Growth Academy & Podcast - launching later 2017
2018 - Contributor to the Holistic Email Marketing report The State of Retail Email Subscribe Forms
2018 - Interviewed by TakeCare.io for their Customer Intelligence Masters series
2018 - First appointed Platinum partner to email platform Klaviyo outside of the USA
2018 - Interviewed by Ecommerce Times in their 5 Ways To Build Community Around Your Brand article
2019 - January - Joined 22 conversion experts in delivering the Elementor Conversion tips for 2019 round-up
2019 - Interviewed by Drapers magazine on Tik Tok and the use of short-form video for fashion brands
2019 - Interviewed by Adobe discussing omnichannel strategy
2019 - February - Keynote speaker at the 3XE Conversion Conference in Dublin, Ireland
2019 - March - Keynote speaker at the InOrbit Conference in Portorož, Slovenia
2019 - April - Returning keynote speaker at the Marketing Week Ecommerce Conference in Athens, Greece
2019 - May - Interviewed by Digital Commerce 360 on the use of customer insight data
2019 - October - talking personalisation with the Ecommerce Times
2020 - the world of Zoom calls and no speaking events!! ... coaching ecommerce founders and in-house teams on how to optimise for customer retention and leading retention strategy for a few good brands
2021 - Provided conversion advice on 2Checkout's 8 Expert Tips that Will Skyrocket Your eCommerce Conversions in 2021 article
2021 - Joined 15 of the smartest minds in ecommerce to share advice on InlineCheckout's round up article on the secret marketing strategies of 2021
2021 - Wishpond.com very generously listed me as one of their 7 ecommerce experts you should know. Alongside Gary Vaynerchuk and Ann Handley... which is kind of cool
2021 - Fun teaming up with ShopPop on their Behind The Scenes series answering a few key questions on Ecommerce Growth strategy
THAT'S NICE DEARWHAT DO YOU DO NOW?
Teaching & Actioning Retention-First Ecommerce Growth Strategy
24 years learning what motivates people to shop and shop again.
I advise upon and help action the customer retention strategies that drive long-term ecommerce success. Customer-centred. Data-informed. Process-driven. Clients are based in the UK, USA, Canada and on the international stage (literally).
My clients are in 1 of 4 situations. Typically brands, young or established, with ecommerce revenues over £1m.
- they are makers of products, DTC brands, and are highly focused on acquisition. They've reached the point where growth begins to stall and are looking for advice that will fuel retention for continued profitable growth.
- they are a brand less ordinary and understand retention is a growth mindset. They need review, ongoing advice and training for their in-house team to further their retention strategy. They know the value of delivering and enhancing their customer's shopping experience before and after the sale.
- they are b2b brands working with aged technologies and strategies that require a swift kick into 2021. I'm there to guide them on the road to customer conversion building and actioning a truly retention-first growth strategy
- they are a multi-national enterprise level brand looking for specific project guidance for a new launch or to review existing product-led strategies where advice is sought to drive profitable growth
The role of the ecommerce marketer has changed significantly. It demands insight. It demands creativity. It demands focus. Blending creative copywriting skills, technologies, analytical insight and a defined growth process to grow sales more profitably.
I work from my home office in the lovely village of Prestbury Cheshire here in the North West of England. Two kids. One beagle. My clients are scattered across the globe in a variety of industries. I've worked with over 570 ecommerce brands in a range of sectors. When the pandemic is over, I hope to have the continued privilege of travelling around the globe running workshops and speaking at conferences sharing what I've learned so far.
WHAT'S YOUR INTEREST? LET'S CHAT