The Ecommerce Uncovered Podcast is a behind-the-scenes look at what makes ecommerce a success in today’s ever-growing and continually changing online world.
The podcasts look to uncover the secrets of ecommerce success, so you can learn and apply to your own online business.
Brought you by the Co-founders of Core Fulfilment, one of the UK’s leading ecommerce fulfilment service providers, Paul Burns and Jeremy Vernon.
Jeremy Vernon: Hi, Jeremy Vernon here. Welcome to Episode No. 11 of Ecommerce Uncovered. For this week’s podcast, I’m very pleased to welcome Chloë Thomas, the Founder of eCommerce MasterPlan. Chloë is the bestselling Author, international and keynote speaker, and host of the eCommerce MasterPlan podcast – all of which are built on her expertise and experience in eCommerce strategy and marketing. Across her career, Chloë has seen many businesses that have struggled to get to grips with eCommerce. In response, she crafted the eCommerce MasterPlan to help companies plan, develop and grow a successful eCommerce business, whilst avoiding the pitfalls along the way.
So, I really hope you enjoy this. I enjoyed interviewing Chloë. We touched on the podcast. We touched on the books she’s written and had some great tips and everything else for ecommerce retailers that are struggling to generate traffic, generate customers, and ultimately, getting repeat customers, which we dealt into a little bit deeper during our conversations. So, all remains for me to do, is, welcome Chloë Thomas to the podcast.
Chloë Thomas, welcome to the podcast.
Chloë Thomas: It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me on.
Jeremy Vernon: It’s absolute pleasure. Before we sort of kick into more of the marketing side of things I want to talk about, it would be very rude of me not to talk about your podcast, eCommerce MasterPlan. Now, this is one of the reasons I’ve got into podcasting, is that, I’ve found your podcast, I’ve got interested in it.
Chloë Thomas: Oh, really?
Jeremy Vernon: Oh, yes, yes. This is part of the inspiration for me to do what I’m doing now. So, one, thank you.
Chloë Thomas: Absolutely. Thank you for being inspired.
Jeremy Vernon: Can you tell me a little bit about your journey, just specifically with the podcast?
Chloë Thomas: With the podcast, okay. So, my podcast began for about 3 and a bit years now. It’s been going for quite a while. But it feels like, only yesterday. It was created, because I was doing a series of talks around the southwest with the Government exporting, I can’t remember, they called something then. Then of course, there are the guys who want you to export your products and services. I was doing it like a roadshow. One of the guys there was covering social media. Every single time, he spoke, he talked about podcast, how they were going to be huge. So, I kind of grab him one lunchtime. We ignored all the delegates, which was very naughty of us. We talked about it. He explained what it all was. He got me some people to listen to, got to listen to them.
I kind of realised that scratching the skin of the world of podcasting, this was a really powerful way to get your message out. Being podcast host is heavily about being organised. I love organising things. So, that kind of suited me as well. For a long time, I have known that I have, that I’m very privileged to have some very awesome conversations with ecommerce business owners, but off the record. So, forever I’ll be talking to a client, going, there’s this thing that someone has done who does something similar to you, and what they have done, is this. I can’t tell you the numbers of who they are. But it worked really well. It was like, this is ridiculous. No one is being served well by this, apart from me and the person I was speaking to. So, it’s kind of like, I have the right skillset to be a great podcast host. She says in retrospect, a reasonable podcast host I thought was I, but then on the flip side of that, was, oh, not even on the flip side, but on the other side of it, was, I could get these conversations to happen in the public domain. Therefore, (A) lots more people could listen to them, and (B) I could then actually tell people about, and not say this person who might do something is vaguely similar to you. So, it all kind of came together rather nicely. Now, getting people to come on the podcast and talk initially, that was a whole world of pain.
Jeremy Vernon: So, I’ve done very well, basically, have I?
Chloë Thomas: Yeah, yeah, even though…
Jeremy Vernon: So, earlier on.
Chloë Thomas: Well, I found podcast host, some people who have previously been on podcast, was a lot easier than trying to just get the people I want to.
Jeremy Vernon: Okay. So, 250 odd episodes in within 3 years, is that, about right?
Chloë Thomas: In fact, today, it’s 159.
Jeremy Vernon: So, 150. Okay.
Chloë Thomas: There’s a few others who are probably, it’s probably pushing 200 now.
Jeremy Vernon: Did you ever think it would be as big as it has been and growing every day as we speak?
Chloë Thomas: No, at no point do I ever consider cancelling it. But there were times I thought it might be more of a labour of love than something that grew. But it has consistently grown. But when you’re in a podcast group with people who are talking about yoga and healthy eating, and they launch their show they get 5-figures basically by turning out. You get a bit disheartened in a little while. Then you go, actually, I sort of all I care about, is ,what I actually tell the ecommerce business owners, which is, stop looking at other people’s benchmarks, and just worry about your own. When I started taking my own advice, the number side of it was lovely.
Jeremy Vernon: Okay. Specifically, against what you now do, and obviously, we’ll come on to that in a short while, how was the podcast helped you build your business?
Chloë Thomas: The actual tracking the numbers, is, very, very hard to say how the podcast has contributed to the bottom line. But in terms of content and industry awareness and perception, any anecdotal things like here, it has a huge impact. So, I know there’s quite a good correlation between the people who spend money with me and the number of podcast episodes they’ve listened to. Anecdotally, I haven’t fully analysed it. I haven’t gone… So, right, you want to hire me to do this, or you want to buy this course from me, you’re not allowed to buy them, until you tell me how many podcasts you still do. But there’s definitely a correlation there.
Jeremy Vernon: As it threatens, okay.
Chloë Thomas: It’s also brilliant for content. So, my last, but one book pretty much every example in there was a podcast guest, because I have the content. I could talk about the numbers and the information without just seeing from a far. I’ve been behind the scenes with them, but in the public domain. It’s also the podcast is now the star of pretty much every talk I give as well. They’re all, here’s an example. Hear about it more in the podcast, which I’m sure it could get slightly annoying. But for those listening, so I try nowadays to just say at the beginning and in the end, you can hear more about this bit more somewhere else.
Jeremy Vernon: So, which came first for you? Obviously, eCommerce MasterPlan is your brand. Obviously, that’s also the name of the podcast as well. But obviously, behind eCommerce MasterPlan, is, the courses you do, the sort of education side of things. Which came first for you? Was it the podcast? Or was it the sort of educational side for online retailers?
Chloë Thomas: Well, eCommerce MasterPlan has been out for 6 years now. So, it came first. It was brought out of my desire to help ecommerce business owners, achieve their point of success faster, because a lot of people just seem to be…I just came across a lot of people who were doing some things and completely missing the thing that was the most obvious for their business. So, that’s why I created the business. That’s kind of what everything I do in eCommerce MasterPlan, everything the business delivers, is, still focus on helping ecommerce business owners make better decisions. So, not necessary one-on-one going, why are you doing that? But giving them the frameworks and the inspiration, the guidance to work it out for themselves, and then to be there if they’ve got questions and so.
Jeremy Vernon: Okay, great. So, what’s your background then prior to eCommerce MasterPlan?
Chloë Thomas: I started off my career at Barclays Bank. But that was a miserable period of my life. So, we’re not going to dwell on that. I was doing marketing there. That kind of got me to the marketing bug. Then I got a job at Past Times, which some of you, listeners will remember. Some of them won’t. But it was a UK High Street Retailer with a big catalogue site. It was very early adopter in the world of online commerce. So, I joined them as the Catalogue Marketing Manager. I became the Manager of Customer Relationships, I think was the title. So, I was doing the catalogue mailings, the email marketing, other bits online as well as installed to move cards. That went under. I got into a Consultancy who ran various elements of about 6 or 7 mail order businesses. If anyone listens to a lot of my interviews, that number changes from interview to interview, because I’m terrible at remembering exactly how many it was. It was somewhere between 6 and 10. Just to clarify that. Then they’re always ahead of ecommerce, taking mail order businesses who’d have the catalogue with mail. The products might be accurate on website within 2 weeks of the catalogue mailing.
Jeremy Vernon: How things have changed.
Chloë Thomas: Yes. Oh, how things have changed, indeed. So, I got the great joy of actually putting the products over the right time, and building new websites for them, and sending the first email to a list of 60,000 people. It was an awesome time. That, I mean the guy from there, he was my boss there. We spun that out into a separate marketing agency, which I ran for just shy of 10 years, and sold last year.
Jeremy Vernon: Wow, okay. So, let’s talk a little bit about eCommerce MasterPlan and sort of the stuff that you do. First and foremost, obviously, you’ve written a number of books on the subject in 5 books. I’ve actually got a list of them here. Not necessarily in order of writing so apologies for this. But Customer Persuasion, and probably the book I want to dive into a little bit more today. eCommerce Marketing, eCommerce MasterPlan 1.8, eCommerce Delivery and then B2B eCommerce MasterPlan.
Chloë Thomas: Yep. That’s them.
Jeremy Vernon: Just out of interest, what’s your favourite book of those, 5 that you’ve written?
Chloë Thomas: Oh, that’s horrible question. That’s like asking who their favourite child is? I like all of them. eCommerce Marketing has a special place in my heart, because it sells more than any of the others.
Jeremy Vernon: That’s a really good answer. Why not.
Chloë Thomas: Also, because I’m currently trying to work out how I’m going to rewrite it. Since I’ve rewritten that one. It’s coming in the next 12 months. But I haven’t quite yet decided what from about that it’s going to take. Partly, because I really love Customer Persuasion. Because that’s the one, which I think gives most to the reader. It’s the heart. It’s kind of hard to read, because almost every pages has 2 or 3 ideas. So, it’s a notebook at the ready one. Then B2B eCommerce MasterPlan is my most recent. So, that’s got quite a special place in my heart as well. But they’re all, but I’m not telling you why I love the other two, because I think they might not be that interesting to the listeners. But they’re all very special. You know, no matter how long they’ve been published for, I still get messages about all of them from people saying, how much they value them.
Jeremy Vernon: Which is why presumably you created them.
Chloë Thomas: That’s why I created them, yeah. That’s what it’s about.
Jeremy Vernon: Obviously, we’ve mentioned the podcast, but how do the books helped you build your business? Again, is it more of a credibility thing?
Chloë Thomas: Again, it’s quite a hard one to track what the impact is. But they certainly have a more practical impact than the podcast does, because each of the books… people come to the website, and they sign up for the free chapter trial of each book. Then each book has additional materials available online for people to come and sign up for that as well. So, they have a very big direct impact on email list growth and on the financial of the business, whereas the podcast does neither. So, yes, they’re more trackable one and they make working with clients a lot easier, because rather than the client had to pay me to tell them something that I’ve told to million other people. I can tell them just to read the chapter of the book, which means they kind of got it recorded so they then can keep going back to it. So, they are very instrumental too.
Jeremy Vernon: Okay, great. We mention Customer Persuasion then we want to go into that, because I think there’s a really interesting topical concept that you put together in that. I think I’ve heard you say before that you have a way of looking at relatively complex things and seeing it in quite a simplistic sort of step-by-step approach. I get the idea this is what you done here in Customer Persuasion. It’s all about conversation, the customer conversation, and sort of within that you called it, the Customer MasterPlan.
Chloë Thomas: Yes.
Jeremy Vernon: So, taking it from sort of people searching for a product or a service through to, well, repeat and then regular customers. Do you want to just go over that concepts of that briefly?
Chloë Thomas: Yes, sure. So, it’s ecommerce drilled down into 6 balls and 5 arrows. Am I right? Yeah, 6 balls and 5 arrows. It’s Monday morning, I’m slowly waking up there. So, essentially if you can get as many customers from the left-hand side to the right-hand side of the model as fast as possible, your business will grow and grow and grow. So, the left-hand side goes from the world, that’s the first customer relationship level, which is everybody out in the world. Then in stage one, which is the arrow that links to the first 2 circles, it’s all about how you get people to your website. The second circle is visitors. The third circle, these are the customer relationship levels, is, then enquirers. Then we go first buyers, repeat buyers and regular buyers. That is the process somebody takes through your business. Once they’ve reached one of the circles, of the customer relationship levels, they are there. It’s your job to find a way to move them up to the next one. So, to move them from being an enquirer to being a first-time buyer, from being a visitor to become an enquirer becoming a buyer so far through the journey.
There’s different things you need to do with your marketing, with your business in general, your customer service, and with your website at each of those stages. The book explains to you how to work out what your biggest problem is, in terms of which stage between those circles, you should be focussing on. Because that’s the real message, is, stop to try to do everything, focus on your weakest point to fix that. Then each of the chapters about each stage, it’s just perhaps with the different ways, you could fix the problems.
Jeremy Vernon: Yeah. So, I’m an ecommerce retailer. I’m overwhelmed with all the various different things I need to do. So, where would I start? Where would I actually, I’ve got obviously this, hopefully, a way of attracting customers to my website. Maybe I’m doing well with that. Maybe I’m not doing well with that. But in terms of this specific concept, where do I start as I’m trying really get a mastery of it, and move through the different phases?
Chloë Thomas: You’re still at Chapter 9. Because Chapter 9, is, where there’s the information on how to analyse where your business is, which does some simple maths. Once you’ve done that, you can then work out where you’re weakest. Then go and work on that stage of the process. If you want then a quickfire non-maths version, then take a sheet of paper, divide it in 5. Write down which marketing you’re using at each stage of the customer’s journey. So, it’s all your marketing about, getting people to your website. What are you doing in terms of turning enquirers into first-time buyers? What are you doing in terms of turning visitors into enquirers, in terms of turning first-time buyers into repeat buyers? If you’ve got nothing in one of those boxes, that’s probably wasn’t a good place to start. But obviously, the Chapter 9 financial method is better, but the quick and easy way, which actually, if you haven’t done the quick and easy way then you’re probably not yet ready to move on to the numbers method anyway, is, to go and look, is there one of these stages, where we’re not actually doing anything. It’s probably, it’s the goal gap you need to fill.
Jeremy Vernon: Yeah. I’m sure a lot of online retailers are in that, overwhelmed, it really did. You know, they’re getting some success obviously, because they’ll have to have some to have a business. But it might just not know where to start. If someone comes to you and says, look, here’s my business. This is what I’m achieving so far. Where do they’ll begin to even to look? I know, obviously you’ve said to start at Chapter 9. But, if someone just to come to you as a potential customer, how do you start that process with them? I’m sure you just don’t say, go and read Chapter 9.
Chloë Thomas: No, no, I don’t.
Jeremy Vernon: Obviously, how do you start breaking down all of the overwhelmed, that they have as a retailer, and start breaking things into manageable sections?
Chloë Thomas: The first conversation, is always really about trying to find out more about them and their business. During the course of that conversation, I’ll get a pretty good idea, probably I’ll ask them. But I get a pretty good idea about what the size of their business is, in terms of both turnover, and getting a bit into profit and cash flow. But also, almost more importantly about the team, and what the abilities of the team, and the likes of the team are, or even of the owner, if it’s a single person business. Once I’ve got an idea of that, then I can give them some options of how to go about solving the problems.
For bigger retailers, that tends to be me doing a project analyse, get into the numbers, because they got the data there, and because you should be looking at the data, when it’s a bigger business. For the smaller businesses, it’s often a case of having a series of calls, where they’ve got work to do between times, or a course support of a course or something along those lines.
Jeremy Vernon: You mentioned data. Obviously, in the book, there’s quite a lot of sources of that data.
Chloë Thomas: Yes.
Jeremy Vernon: Do you want to sort of mention a few that you recommend, where to start? Because it’s all very clever analytics and all that sort of stuff out there now, isn’t there?
Chloë Thomas: Yeah, I mean. There are a lot of very clever things out there. But a lot of them are bright shiny objects, which is one of my hated things, the bright shiny object. These are the things, which arrive your inbox and distract you completely from what you’re supposed to be doing. Then a lot of the “oh look, I can find this”. You know, if you’ve ever spend a whole day in Google Analytics, finding very interesting things, but nothing you can action. You’ve been taken in by the bright shiny objects. So, my Number 1 most favourite report of all time, year after year after year, is, the source medium report, that’s in Google Analytics. From memory, you go to acquisition, traffic and then there’s an option called, Source/Medium. That takes you down to the granular data, that hasn’t been fudged by Google. It’s the cold hard data, of where your traffic comes from, and what it does when it comes to your website. Because, if I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked, my conversion rate X is this good, I’ll be a lot wealthier than I am now. The answer to that question, is one of the questions I wish that I kind of have a tape recorder and just go, ting. I’ll play you back what the answer is.
But the reason being that your overall conversion rate is a useful stat to be looking at, week on week and month on month within your own business. It’s a completely pointless stat to compare against somebody else, because you don’t know what they’re doing to get the traffic, and what they’re doing to get conversions. Because it relates to both the traffic and the conversions. Take it to the Source/Medium report, and if from there, I can see that you’ve got great conversion rate of your emails, the terrible conversion rate of your direct traffic, then I know you have got a problem. Therefore, we need to go in and dive in to what that problem is. But you know, you can see more of the data, more of the details. You can also see where the traffic problems are as well.
Jeremy Vernon: You’ve just mentioned email. I’m sure a lot of people are like, email’s dead. Everyone just gets their inbox full of junk and they ignore everything now. That’s not necessarily the case, is it?
Chloë Thomas: No. email remains acute. I’m more than happy, because someone comes and shows me the stats that the email is dead for them. That’s fine. But you have to test it first. You’ve got to give it a good try, because the number of businesses I see that are making huge sums of money through using their email database wisely, is just insane. There’s a company in the States called, Custora, who produce kind of like, groups together a set of data on lots and lots of ecommerce businesses, and where their money comes from. For them, ecommerce remains, sorry, emails remain about 25 percent contributor to sales. So, 25 percent of sales on ecommerce website is done by emails. Contributor to sales. So, 25 percent of sales on e-commerce websites driven by email. So, ignore that at your peril.
Jeremy Vernon: But this sort of forms that you mentioned. I think things change very quickly in e-commerce, don’t they? That’s I guess obviously, that’s why you’re looking at revising some of your books, because some of that, not necessarily outdated, but there’s newer stuff that you may want to add.
Chloë Thomas: Yeah.
Jeremy Vernon: How do you see sort of again, I think going back to a lot of sort of the overwhelm side of things where you might go, well, I’ve got to look at email. I’ve got to look at live chat. I’ve got to look at my Google Analytics. I’ve got to look at my Facebook Analytics, all these things, and I know that, they’re just… I don’t know where to start. But the other sort of newer methods of building relationships and attracting customers, obviously things like, there’s live chat. There’s influencers. Obviously review sites you go into a little bit on in your book as well. Then other sort of mediums like, podcast for one, TV, radio.
When you’re speaking to a retailer, and they’ve heard about potentially there are things that are shiny object like you talk about, what do you do when they sort of… oh I need to start paying with the influences, I need to start looking at live chat, I need to start looking at the review sites when they haven’t got some of the basics right?
Chloë Thomas: It’s a tricky one. Because sometimes, it can be such an obvious thing to do that it’s worth ignoring the basics for another couple of weeks and seeing if you can get the traffic on there. Because for some businesses, it is the green light. Influencers, particularly can be the green light. But in an approach for everybody, it’s more the case of looking at your numbers, looking at what you know, looking at what you can see competitors are doing, and think what is the number one thing I could be doing right now to be improving my business? If it is building an email welcome campaign, then that’s what you should be doing. But if it’s installing live chats to improve the sales process, because you’re finding lots of people are asking questions, then if you have a standardised platform, Shopify or Magento, or something, or a BigCommerce, Volusion, or RSB. You can put live chat live for about half an hour. By the end of the day, you will know, whether it’s worth installing or not.
Jeremy Vernon: You just need people at the other end to be able to do that to action it quickly.
Chloë Thomas: Yeah, exactly. Have been testing live chat myself finally recently, my ability to leave live chat, ah, I’ll forget about it, and go and make a cup of coffee for 10 minutes is terrible. So, that’s one to watch out for.
Jeremy Vernon: You really need to see our customer service team that sort of you know, they may be have traditionally answering phone calls and things like that.
Chloë Thomas: I’ve actually just taken it off from one of my sites, because I thought with various pop ups were coming up, it was all looking a bit too busy. I thought right, live chat, I keep forgetting to say, I’m available. So, it’s never got an available person on there, anyway, which is not good. When I do turn it on, I have a bad habit of forgetting about it. So, until I’ve got a VA, who can look after it for me, I thought, let’s just remove it for now.
Jeremy Vernon: One of the things you do in the book, is obviously, you give examples throughout the chapters of businesses maybe, you’ve worked with, or you’ve certainly interviewed and had dealings with. When obviously you talked about influencers and things like that, one business that I’m very fond of at the moment and very much a fan of what they have achieved, is Gymshark. I know you have featured them in some of the stuff you’ve done. I just think what they’ve achieved in the last few years is absolutely incredible. A lot of it is down to influencers. Something else I want to talk about, is, the sort of communities that they built. So, going back to influencer, what sort of your take on the meteoric growth of Gymshark?
Chloë Thomas: I think the Gymshark example, is a great one to inspire us and to move us onwards. The ability to replicate it is very, very hard. There’s a certain level of luck and being in the right time at the right place and doing the right things, which is actually the sort of thing which, anyone can manage to achieve if they make the right decisions at the right time. But yeah, quite a challenging one. I think also the another thing to take from it, is, yes, they did very well on influencers, but they’ve worked really hard at it. Influencers are not some influencers of marketing is not like affiliate marketing. It’s not something to be turned on and forgotten about. It’s a daily workload. It’s something, which you are constantly working on, constantly building relationships. Often, relationship building is not something that fits with the rest of e-commerce, in that one-on-one relationship building certainly. Usually, we’re automating it. If you want to work with influencers, that’s the one-on-one relationship building piece. Not so much more like B to B sales than consumer e-commerce marketing.
Jeremy Vernon: Interesting. Last week in fact, we’re talking to another e-commerce business completely unrelated to anything that we’re talking about. But they were talking about they using influencer. They’ve got quite a niche market about what they do. I won’t go obviously, into all the details. But there are influencers against that niche, of course. They tried to replicate that influence with their own YouTube marketing and stuff like that. It’s completely bombed, no engagement yet. The influencers were getting huge amounts of engagement, huge amounts of interaction. It’s just the fact, that people see through that, don’t they? An influencer has to be independent to the brand for it to be authentic.
Chloë Thomas: I don’t know if it has to be completely independent, but it needs to be honest. I think it’s rare that someone brand sites When working in an e-commerce business has the same credentials, skills, ability that it takes to make an influencer. It’s much more of a reactive, creative, not that e-commerce is creative. It’s a very different way of working than sitting down, certainly at the beginning, sitting down and going, right, these are the topics we need to cover in the next 12 months. It’s more sort of wake up on a Monday morning, and go, oh my god, I’ve got to tell my audience about that. It’s that sort of thing. Yeah, it can be tricky, i.e., if I was there, I might have gone for a bigger sponsorship package instead.
Jeremy Vernon: Yeah, I’ve mentioned communities and I think giving the Gymshark example, is, a great example of how they’ve really got this very loyal following of customers. Hence, why they are doing so well. You talked about it in your book. How does someone go about building a community from scratch, effectively?
Chloë Thomas: There’s a couple of ways that work quite nicely in e-commerce. One is a community, who know about each other. One is a community, who don’t have contact with each other. So, the latter, is, literally just about designating your top 5 percent of customers as VIPs and just treating them a bit differently. So, they feel like they are part of something, even though they don’t know who the other club members are. So, to give them special free P&P weekends or to send them an email going, we’re thinking of going with this colour or this colour for this lamp, what do you think?
Jeremy Vernon: Get them involved.
Chloë Thomas: Yeah. Actually, get them involved in the decision-making process of the business. Send them samples to test and that sort of thing. That’s a brilliant way of creating that community feel without it being too hard to manage. Because I do say to a lot of businesses, my god, you really ought to have a customer community. Let’s create a Facebook group, invite them in. This is the other way, very, very simple way. Create a Facebook group, get them all in there, get them chatting and do the same, what do you think? This product or this product? Competitions and so forth. That scares the pants off most people I suggest it to. We can’t have our customers talking to each other?
Jeremy Vernon: They’ll talk about pricing.
Chloë Thomas: What if they share our competitor offer in there? What if they start complaining? And they all jump together. So, that I understand is quite a scary move. So, to take the here’s our top 10 percent, and we’ll treat them the same as we would, if there was a Facebook group. We’ll see how they react as a baby step towards the Facebook group. I would say kind of man up and try the Facebook group, because there are a lot of fun, and they have a lot more cuts through the Google algorithm, not Google algorithm, but the Facebook algorithm even than does a page.
Jeremy Vernon: Well, there’s a lot of changes somewhere across Facebook recently. I’ve seen a lot of business related people moaning about, they are not just getting the reach that they used to, I think about a third or something like that. Some people are quoting. So, that’s quite a significant decrease, isn’t it?
Chloë Thomas: It’s a huge decrease. Yeah. But it was kind of inevitable.
Jeremy Vernon: Yeah, slight change of direction I guess. One of the things obviously, we talk about with e-commerce, is ever changing. It’s every day, there’s something new. Every day, there’s something slightly different. How do you keep up with it, because obviously you’re then advising other businesses? But how do you advise businesses to keep on top of this ever-changing e-commerce monster that we’re all part of?
Chloë Thomas: Yeah, I think this might be heresy to say this. But I don’t think it changes that much. I think a lot of bright shiny objects come along, a lot of marketing agencies decide, a lot of software agencies decide, this is the best thing in the world. Like, Facebook Messenger box at the moment. Just everybody wants to talk about box. Currently, I get more inbound requests from people wanting to be on my podcast to talk about box than to talk about anything else.
Jeremy Vernon: Are you not a fan?
Chloë Thomas: I don’t mind a box. I’m not really against it. But I think there’s really, really clever box out there. But it’s not one size fits all. It’s not something, that every business should have in place. It’s not something, which even every business that should have it in place is ready to put it in place. It is you’ve got to know what the box to do and say. If you’ve not been running any kind of live chat or interactive chat in the meantime, you’re probably clueless. So, I think fundamentally, a box system is just another way of communicating with customers. I think occasionally, there’s new tools coming along, that for me, the fundamentals don’t actually change. It’s about getting your business in front of the people, who want your product, and then building a relationship with them via whatever channel is the right one for you, in order to keep them buying from you.
Jeremy Vernon: Which is obviously part of that Customer MasterPlan that you talk about in the book.
Chloë Thomas: So, I suppose you said what would be my advice be to anyone who’s trying to stay on top of it all. It would be, try not to get overwhelmed by all the things you’re hearing, and try and just focus on what your business needs, and keep an eye on what your competitors are up to. But I wouldn’t get too worried about all the newness. I go to all the biggest events in the UK, the biggest conferences. I listen to the biggest retailers and a lot of smaller retailers. There’s nothing that remarkable come out in the last 12 months, in the last 24 months. That’s why eCommerce Marketing, the rewrite of the book is quite a tricky one to do, because actually the current book is still 100 percent accurate. It’s 6 years old, the content in that. So, if I’m going to be a writer, I’ve got to make it even better. So, how do I do that? Because actually the existing content is right, because you still approach these things in the same way.
Jeremy Vernon: Okay, one of the things you talk about, and it just sort of sparks something for me. I’ve just read a book by Seth Godin called, All Marketers Are Liars. It’s quite an obviously, thought provoking headline or a controversial headline as that’s meant to. That’s his point. But you take about an ethical approach in Customer Persuasion, and so does Seth Godin. He’s not saying don’t do it. But what he does go into, and I think it’s really interesting. I’d like your take on it, really, is that, a lot of marketing is based on a more of a fib than anything else. But as long as the marketers sort of run with it, people obviously believe it. He calls it, the world view, it’s what people sort of want to believe in some ways. He gives examples, for example, designer clothing. £150 shirt is better than a £25 shirt because it makes you feel better. But actually, that’s a bit of a lie, isn’t it? It’s the marketing behind it, that persuades you to believe, that the £150 shirt is better than the £25 shirt. So, I think it’s a really interesting book. When you talk about the ethics, that reminded me of Seth’s book. I was just wondering, are you going to take on that?
Chloë Thomas: Yes, I do. The value versus the brand. If we say these 2 shirts are exactly the same quality. One has a logo. One doesn’t even have a logo on, but it’s made by somebody different, and you’re buying into that. I think it’s wrong to think that we as humans make buying decisions based on purely logical things, or that we want to make buying decisions based on purely logical scenarios. If we want to feel like we’re part of the tribe that that brand creates, then actually what we want and what we’re paying are in line with each other. So, I can see why he’s saying those things are lies. But I don’t think that’s being unethical, because I think the human being making the buying decision has the choice.
Jeremy Vernon: He’s said, yeah, of course.
Chloë Thomas: For me, the unethical bit is where you’re claiming to be something you aren’t.
Jeremy Vernon: Yeah. He talks about fibs versus frauds. Obviously, he was saying then that fib is actually okay to a certain extent. He promotes ethical stance, of course. But he’s saying a lot of marketers work on the fib more than anything. But we are very cynical as a buying sort of consumer, so to speak. So, the fraud bit will always be found out. But it’s the fib bit, that I thought was interesting, because it’s not truthful, but it’s not fraudulent. So, there’s a real fine line between the two.
Chloë Thomas: Yes, I very much try and be as true and honest as I always can be. But it’s something I’m about to admit this on a podcast so that anyone can listen. Because I have people who follow me all over the world. If I’m running information that ends up midnight on Friday, the technical cut-off date to that, is usually going to be at some point on Saturday. Because I’m like, well, I’m going to tell you that’s the end point, because that’s the urgency and that will be the correct end point for some people. But if you’re in the wrong time zone, it’s going to be different. I don’t want it to be the case that someone reads midnight on Friday hasn’t seen the caveat. There’s only comes back to us at a time zone. So, it carries on over. Likewise, I sent an email out a couple of weeks ago, because I was giving away one of my books for free on Kindle. The Amazon setup page, the one you’re introduce as genius. Oh no, it’s awful. But it’s nice to see Amazon gets something wrong occasionally. The instructions suggested you had to set it up, which starts on Monday, ends on Wednesday if you want it to run on Tuesday. Down at the bottom, it said how many days you’ve covered. So, the information at the top to that, was the correct setup for one day. The information at the bottom so that was the correct setup for 2 days. So, I’m like, well…
Jeremy Vernon: Which is it?
Chloë Thomas: Which is it? Because if I changed it to match the top, then it’s going to be zero days. So, I’m like, well, we’ll go with 2. I’m sure no one is going to mind, if I told them, it’s only available for one day, and it happens to be available for 2. So, I guess unknowingly fib at times, but I try and do it to give the best possible customer service. I think you kind of have to do that, if you don’t want to annoy people by them missing out.
Jeremy Vernon: It’s also trying to keep things simple like you said about time zones. You don’t want to start having to say, oh, by the way, if you’re in this time zone, that actually means it’s this time, being UK time. It just gets too complicated.
Chloë Thomas: Time zones are a bug bear of my life, generally.
Jeremy Vernon: Just on that very point, how much have your business done then is sort non-UK based?
Chloë Thomas: The majority, probably 80 percent is UK based, but I get quite a lot of Podcasts viewership is about 45 percent US, about 10 percent Australia. So, when it comes to book sales, they are truly global in terms of the courses and the work that I actually do with people. That’s almost entirely UK based with a smattering of Europe and the occasional American or Australian. Yeah, it’s tricky. I’m forever doing global stuff, but most of my work is in the UK.
Jeremy Vernon: Okay, just finally to wrap up, if people want to hear you speak. I know you’re quite busy with conferences and things like that. Where’s your next sort of speaking engagement?
Chloë Thomas: My next speaking engagement, boy, that’s a big question for a Monday morning. Where am I speaking at? My next speaking engagement, is the Direct Commerce Association’s Annual Summit at the beautiful Hurlingham Gardens in London. If you’re coming by public transport and you’re a lady, well, you might be a man as well, and you’re planning on wearing high heels for the day, bring a pair of flip flops, because it’s a really long walk from the Tube station. Insight knowledge there. I’m speaking there on the subject of affiliate marketing, influencing marketing, in fact. That’s in June. Details are on the Direct Commerce Association site. Then I’m doing a whole workshop for them on Digital Marketing 101 in St Austell in Cornwall. So, super easy one for me to get to. No overnight stay required. That will be at some point in, I think, is it the late July? No, early July, I think that one is. But that’s certainly this side of the summer.
Jeremy Vernon: Do you get to travel a lot now then based on everything?
Chloë Thomas: I was early in Oslo this week. But they found someone else to do the slot. So, hopefully I’ll be in Oslo later this year. I should have been in Greece earlier this year, but the snow got in the way of that. So, mainly UK at the moment, but all over the UK. Yeah.
Jeremy Vernon: Fantastic. Finally, if someone wants to get in contact with you, I think this is going to be a really easy question to answer. If people want to get in contact with you, they are interested in either, obviously, your books are all on Amazon, but if they want to get in contact with you, speak to you about a particular thing in their business, what’s the best way to get in contact with you?
Chloë Thomas: Just head to ecommercemasterplan.com. You will find all the details there, hopefully easily signposted. If you can’t find that, tell me and I’ll know my UX needs improving. But ecommercemasterplan.com, you will find all my contact details, and links to everything else we’ve talked about today, actually.
Jeremy Vernon: And obviously the podcast is available on iTunes?
Chloë Thomas: Podcast is there. It’s on everything.
Jeremy Vernon: It depends how they consume podcast, you’ll find under eCommerce MasterPlan.
Chloë Thomas: eCommerce MasterPlan. It’s there.
Jeremy Vernon: Thank you very much for today. It’s been a pleasure.
Chloë Thomas: No, thank you. I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you. It’s really cool to do it through face-to-face as well. You are officially my first face-to-face podcast interview.
Jeremy Vernon: I’m pleased, I’m pleased.
Chloë Thomas: On either side of the mic. So, this is very cool.
Jeremy Vernon: Absolutely pleasure to meet today. So, thank you very much.
Chloë Thomas: Thank you.