Written by Richard Protheroe
17th June 2016 • 27 min read
Last week I mentioned how there are around 24 million e-commerce websites globally.
Sometimes you may feel as if you have 24 million direct competitors! Standing out from the crowd can be difficult, but the 5 companies below have managed to do that.
They range from sports supplements, eyewear and fashion clothing which are all very saturated markets. However, they’ve shown originality and have always been at the forefront of new marketing developments.
UK Entrepreneur Oliver Cookson established MyProtein in 2004, using his £500 overdraft, his skills in web development and a love for sports nutrition and fitness.
7 years later he sold the company to The Hut Group for £58 million. They are a massive player in their field and here’s how their marketing played a massive role in their success.
Subtlety is so powerful in social media marketing.
This is especially the case when it comes to Instagram and it’s an area that MyProtein have excelled in. Elliot from Skippr recently explained in a Veeqo webinar how a product on a white background just won’t cut it.
You are buying in to a lifestyle with MyProtein and not a product. Very early on as a retailer it can be tempting to becoming overly promotional, but a tactic like this is beneficial in the long term.
It can also have a short term impact as well. Use a tool like Hashtagify to identify hashtags related to your industry. You can also use a tool like Skippr to identify the hashtags that gather the most engagement over time.
Let’s say you sell sunglasses. Use a shot of a model in a sunny environment and use a caption like ‘Tag 3 friends who are looking forward to summer’. This can gather some great quick engagement.
Creating a sense of urgency is a great way of increasing conversions.
Marcus Taylor, who launched a Groupon deal for musicians explains he once saw an upturn of 332% in conversions just by adding a countdown.
MyProtein are great at utilising this tactic on both their website and through their email marketing.
Either prompting you on arrival to order by 9pm for next day delivery…
Or their email campaigns, they invariably use a limited time whilst reinforcing that on the landing page. Occasionally they’ll use language such as ‘Members’ and ‘VIP’ as well to entice you to thinking your are part of an exclusive club.
Using other companies and influencers to promote your business is a fantastic way of freeing up your time. It’s a tactic that Lexie Sport employed fantastically well when we spoke to them recently.
Offering influential people a commission based on sales was a great way of leveraging MyProtein. You can use a tool like Buzzsumo (which offers a 14 day free trial) to identify influential people in your industry.
You can set it by relevancy, number of followers, or reply/retweet ratio. This tool scours Twitter bios and brings back a list of people which you can save and reach out to.
MyProtein are fantastic when it comes to competition. Using a text based service to enter.
They currently use Gleam to run their competitions. The text doesn’t costs entrants anything extra than the standard network charge to enter.
You probable are thinking how do they make money then?
Well they now have your mobile number and can easily remarket to you. SMS is an effective channel and 65% of companies describe SMS marketing as being ‘very effective’.
Additionally you are encouraged to share the competition through your social channels and will gain one extra entry for each share. It’s a win, win situation!
HUGE £1,000 COMPETITION!
Text "MP" to 63333 for a chance to win
— Myprotein UK & IE (@MyproteinUK) June 4, 2016
2. Warby Parker
Warby Parker’s humble beginnings started in the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. Within less than a year they were described as “the Netflix of eyewear” in GQ and are now worth around $1.2 billion.
Warby’s blog is a joy to behold.
Whereas a lot of e-commerce blogs can be very self promotional, Warby’s offer an almost daily mix of interviews with photographers or models, book recommendations and sharable infographics.
When they do offer an insight in to their new collection, it doesn’t seem intrusive, due to the helpful content they regularly produce.
I recently wrote about how there was a day for everything. Warby utilised this fantastically when writing about Sunscreen Day to (subtlety) promote their glasses.
This would have been pushed out to their social media channels with the relevant hashtags to help drive traffic to their website.
Additionally they push all their blog material to Tumblr. This is a fantastic avenue for you if you have a relatively young demographic.
It also has a very high time on site spent by users and is great for ensuring your posts go viral.
This is where Warby Parker really set themselves apart from the rest of the field.
Not just content with selling their glasses online, in a saturated market, they chose to take things offline.
When items weren’t available on their website, founder Neil Blumenthal would invite people around his 5th floor New York apartment to view the glasses he had on him.
This simple tactic led to thousands of people turning up at his front door one weekend. To avoid an issue with his neighbours he explored the idea of pop-up stores.
They used this to their advance during a six week stay in Soho. Also, they once bought a bus and ripped out the seats and drove it all around America.
The way Warby operate makes it feel that you are buying much more than a pair of glasses. You are buying in to their brand, and you really feel a part of it.
We're celebrating a big milestone in Nashville—tune into Snapchat tomorrow for a tour of our brand new Nashville HQ! pic.twitter.com/c9OxqmJ6C5
— Warby Parker (@WarbyParker) June 6, 2016
They regularly post pictures of members of their team and plus the insides of their office. Regularly taking to Snapchat as well to answer customer questions and discuss trends.
With any pop-ups or stores they are very active to promote the surrounding area, which can only be great for PR.
They decorate the walls with famous NY imagery, included literature from local writers and every pair of glasses came with a lens cloth with an illustration of NY from NY born Jason Bolan.
If you are attending an event or tradeshow, how can you stand out? Is there a way you can integrate the culture of your surroundings?
In order to create a community feel, donating or partnering charities is a great way of gaining a sense of fulfilment and also it gives your business a positive image.
— Neil Blumenthal (@NeilBlumenthal) June 6, 2016
Warby do this by partnering with local charities in which they have a store. This creates great PR within a base where their customers are.
Additionally with every pair of glasses that you purchase you are given a $30 gift card to choose a charity project to support.
Starting in 2000, the British retailer now sells over 850 brands including its own range. The employ just over 2,000 staff and have a revenue of over £1 million.
I’ve lost count at the amount of retailers i’ve seen aimlessly tweeting product image after product image with a link to their website.
ASOS clearly know their target market and are very self aware of where they are posting. Their content on Twitter is highly shareable, with its use of gifs and emoji’s appealing to a younger demographic.
Do you have a much bigger competitor that utilises Twitter well? Start analysing their posting times and dig out some similar material.
Gather about 2 weeks worth of material and then use a tool like Crowdfire to copy the followers of that account. They will see your content and hopefully will start interacting with you.
Another thing that ASOS do well is nostalgia. People love nostalgic posts.
We spoke to Issac from Jnco, recently whose wide leg jeans were a massive hit in the 1990’s. They relaunched and were reaching an average of 625k people with every other Facebook post.
ASOS have tapped in to this mindset by posting nostalgic articles to their Facebook. Try something similar and perhaps look to sell these nostalgic items themselves with a link in the post.
You’ll be surprised at the take up you’ll receive.
Similar to Warby, ASOS are very active with their blog.
There is an old cliché, if you can’t beat them, join them. ASOS have certainly done this, taking the Buzzfeed format that is proving popular and relating it back to fashion.
Titles such as ’13 things you’ll know if..’ and ’11 things you definitely’ encourage interaction and will prompt a high CTR.
As we also saw with Warby it’s highly effective to ensure your articles are topical and relevant. That goes with whatever industry you’re in. They displayed this with their recent Big Brother piece.
Is there an event related to your industry you can write about? Our latest post on how Brexit will affect UK sellers became our highest viewed post, as it was timely. Find yours!
A lot of retailers are casually playing down the impact of mobile on e-commerce sales. Arguing that consumers will only use mobile for assessment, whilst using desktop to purchase a product.
However ASOS disagree (and they were right to).
ASOS have always done things a literally different, which has got them to where they are.
Heavily promoting free returns may have seemed like a bonkers idea at the time, but 89% of people have suggested they’d shop again with a site if they had a positive experience with returns.
As for mobile, they embraced this with their mobile app which received 3.2 million downloads over a six month period. Mobile now accounts for 50% of all of ASOS’ sales and grew by 85% from the previous year.
If you have the money to spare, you’d do a lot worse than to look at Moon Code for developing an app for you. Apps convert 3x better than a web browser, whilst 87% of time spent on mobile devices is done through on an app.
This is especially true with a younger demographic which ASOS tapped in to. They reflected this in their marketing campaigns which featured skater, street dancers, and a beat box choir. Away from the traditional celebrity and catwalk approach.
4. Black Milk Clothing
One of Shopify’s biggest success stories Black Milk Clothing have built a cult following in Women’s leggings since their inception in 2008. They are now a multi-million pound company churning out more than 2000 leggings a day.
Traditional isn’t a word that you would associate with Black Milk Clothing.
Radio, Television, Print, Banner Ads, Google Adwords; they haven’t spend a penny on them.
All of their money is spent on community events all around the world, they also launch parties and photoshoots.
Of course you may not have the budget to launch worldwide events, but Black Milk started local in Australia. Use Meet Up and see if they any events locally you could attend. Alternatively create your own. Released a new range? Throw a party rather than an Adwords campaign.
Another ‘anti-marketing’ tactic originates from their product sourcing. Black Milk source all their products locally, which ensures they don’t bulk purchase anything.
Therefore all of their products are limited and they feel no need to offer discounts. This is in turn doesn’t devalue the brand.
User Generate Content (UGC)
This is a subject I touched on last week and Black Milk reign supreme in UGC.
They assign a certain hashtag to each product and actively encourage their customers to use it. In turn they will be featured on the relevant product pages as well as Black Milk’s social media feeds.
What Black Milk did well is that they tapped in to this market during Instagram’s inception. Displaying real girls in all shapes and sizes made the products more attractive as consumers could relate to it.
What Black Milk do well, and what you can do as well, is to reward the people that take part in this. Send them a direct message on Instagram personally thanking them and send some stickers or accessory their way.
Black Milk actively encourage fans to make localized pages on Facebook so that they can buy, sell and swap leggings.
Black Milk are active in these groups as well answering questions, announcing new products and holding competitions.
There’s no board or shareholders with Black Milk so the founders listen to their customers. It might seem simple, but if the people want it, they get it.
‘Sharkies’ as Black Milk fans interact in the main Black Milk Facebook group and then create localized communities around the world, where they meet up and trade.
5. Public Desire
Manchester based, affordable footwear company that has expertly used audience insights and social media to market their business.
Baewatch? Twinspo? Do these words mean anything to you?
If you aren’t considered a part of Generation Z then you’ll have no idea what they mean, but then again you won’t be Public Desire’s target market.
It’s a simple tactic but Public Desire talk the language of their customers
The example above is placed confidently enough on their homepage. While they include Pinterest boards such as ‘Beawatch’ which you can see below.
Coincidentally Pinterest drives the highest average order value when compared to any other social platform.
At no point are Public Desire’s simply stating here’s a top, it’s made of this blah blah blah. Believe me there are tons of website’s that do that.
Using natural language your audience are familiar with can increase conversion rates from 25-40%. Here’s a description of some platforms on their website. I personally think they are great.
All retailers should be using Snapchat.
Snapchat users love shopping online. In fact 76% of users on Snapchat purchased something online in the last month.
If your target market are young then it’s a terrific platform. There are around 100 million daily active users on the platform, who share around 10 years worth of photos every hour.
Public Desire utilise Snapchat very well. Tapping in to events close to their target market such as Parklife festival (see above), displaying new products, office activities and photoshoots.
It is difficult to convert people directly from Snapchat, as there is no bookmarking function and users tend to be in a transient mood.
However, it is all mobile and flipping between apps is such a quick process. Smart Snapchatters are also putting short URLs on their snaps to encourage people to view the site.
Plus only 1% of companies are using it, so it’s likely that your competitors aren’t.
You can do this simply by creating a bitly link, and it’s free. You can then track how much traffic this generated.
When you look at Public Desire’s social media pages you will see that they have 27k followers on Twitter, 55k likes on Facebook, whereas on Instagram they are rocking 770k followers, impressive!
When I spoke to Elliot of Skippr recently about the new Instagram feed changes, he stated how competitions are now more important than ever on Instagram.
Instagram’s feed is essentially changing to that of Facebook’s. If you don’t interact with someone, they’ll slowly disappear from your feed. So competitions ensure you stick around!
A few competitions you could do:
- Double tap to enter
- Tag 3 friends to enter
- Send us a picture of you with our product using a #
That interaction will pay off in the long term as people will continue to interact with you. So when you do have an offer, this will ensure you will receive a tonne of interaction. Which you can see below.
Know of any other retailers who are crushing it? Pop them in the comments below.
Written by Richard Protheroe
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