2J Commerce’s head of Strategy and UX, Darren Bull, has been building relationships with long-term clients based on his ability to add significantly to strategy and eCommerce requirements, focused on commercial objectives, customer journey, outstanding user experience, and conversion rate optimisation.

Having spent the best part of 20 years in Digital, Darren has worked with some of the biggest household brands, and some of the most luxurious brand retailers in the world. He’s also been in the Magento world since its’ public launch.

Here, he shares his 5 key areas for brand success:


1. Nuture NOT Acquisition

Traditional eCommerce has been about acquisition and conversion rates, but driven by the always on-informed consumer. It’s time to shift to a mindset of nurture.

Commerce today is about bringing your site visitors into what we call your ‘Brand Universe’, where they can then receive content that will slowly persuade them to like and love your brand, take action, and ultimately purchase. The most straightforward step to a Brand Universe strategy is to make sure that people can be part of your story and then, make sure you are sending them content that is relevant to their likes.

For example, the most obvious communication with your customer is through email. You email your customers at various stages of the purchasing cycle, for example:

  • Welcome to the brand. - Welcome the prospective customer to your business, your brand and your products. Break the ice and open up the channels.

  • Why us? - What makes you different? Why do you do what you do? why should they buy from you?

  • Incentive first purchase - We love bargains, and we love a good incentive. Entice people in with a discount or free shipping.

  • Post purchase - Never underestimate the power of a Thank You. Keep the relationship going with content to ensure a lifelong customer.

  • Win back - “We miss you! Here’s £5 off…” People who haven’t shopped in a while can be persuaded back with offers like this. You might gain a repeat customer.

  • Recommend to a friend - Recommendations from people you trust massively influence what you choose to buy. So rewarding your customers for recommending your product can only be positive; your loyal customer is happy because they get a reward, and you gain another customer into your Brand Universe.

Each email should be consistent in your messaging, and relate back to your brand; providing deeper insight into your motives and reasons for being in touch. These are all opportunities to engage, so don’t waste them.


2. User Generated Content (UGC)

Everyone today has a story to tell, and people don’t just want to hear your part of the story. They want to participate, to be part of your brand.

This isn’t the aftermath of one amazing campaign, it’s been proven that even simple reviews and ratings improves SEO and sales. According to E-consultancy, 70% of people trust other people’s opinions posted online, so social proof goes beyond just your website. It has the potential to nurture a greater amount of people into your brand universe.

It’s actually quite easy to do. Document your brand journey across the board. Some channels will work better than others of course, so always measure your engagements, but you ultimately become a publisher, and your Brand Universe will grow as your customers engage and share respectively.


3 All about your Folk, your Tribe

The customer is king is an old adage, but never has it been truer than today. Not only does your customer want the very best service, they want the best value too. Put plainly, it comes down to giving customers what they actually want. They want to choose - to be in control of their experience and service.

Make sure you have options that are relevant, that are about providing a great service that really inspires and goes above what is the ‘norm’ in eCommerce.

You will only build your tribe by gaining loyalty, which comes from great service and great content. Give the people what they want, and they will come back for more of it

The key to doing this effectively, is to ask yourself not just how you tick the eCommerce boxes of what the customer expect, but the human experience boxes too. User Experience is Human Experience, because The human connector is much easier to remember.

Communicate with your users on their level. Invite them into an engagement built around content. Once engaged, you will build a tribe. Don’t forget, 38% of people recommend a brand they like or follow on social media, so you could be missing out on a lot of recommendations here.


4 Embrace Returns

In the world of One Story Everywhere, where every touchpoint is an opportunity to create more nurturing, more goodwill and more good karma for your service, it’s time for another mindset shift. It’s usual for the brands and retailers to see returns as a plain old pain in the A. It’s true enough, returns and exchanges do affect your margin, and have an overhead on resource, but if you don’t see them as another opportunity to delight and wow the customer, they will affect your margin in a much more damaging way. Of course, you should be doing everything (and more) to reduce the number of returns through better on site information such as size and fit, etc.

This is just one Additional touch point that you can use to influence your customer - there are many more, but this is a perfect example of where you have an opportunity to go one better.

Reduce your returns by helping provide a better service. So if you are Selling gloves, for example, rather than have simple measurements on the product page, so your customer has to jump through hoops and find a tape measure etc, have an at scale image appear on the screen, or be able to print it.

You can do similar things for furniture. Have it so you can order a floor plan for furniture and have it delivered for free. It’s essentially a piece of paper that your customer lays on the floor to give confidence it will fit. Use follow up emails and be sure to convert based on this exceptional service.

Take a leaf out of the Zappos book here. They allow consumers to return purchases for up to 365 days from the purchase date. You’re in real luck if you buy on a Leap Year, because they give you till the next Leap Year to return those orders – that’s a four year return window!

Be brave, be visionary and make your returns policy too good to be true - your customers will love it and talk about it.

5 Stay Flexible

Agile, flexible operations are going to be the key to success for ambitious eCommerce brands. This is no time to rest on your laurels, the customer is going to get more demanding and discerning. You must make sure you have the right insights, products, strategies, content and courage to transform your business to meet their needs, of course, whilst maintaining growth. The disruption of retail is only just getting going, so be prepared to transform everything; from value-chain supply, logistics, on demand global fulfilment, translation, production and transparency of location.