How to successfully grow an eCommerce business in these crazy times ⎜ eCommerce Masterplan ⎜ EP 146
Ryan Cramer: What's up everyone. Welcome to my corner of the internet. I'm your host, Ryan Cramer and this is Crossover Commerce, presented by PingPong Payments, the leading global payments provider, helping sellers keep more of their hard earned learning. Let me start that again, everyone. Hi, this is Ryan Cramer from Crossover Commerce. If you guys couldn't hear me, that's because I had myself on me, but I apologize for that. This is episode 146 of Crossover Commerce presented by PingPong Payments. This is my corner of the internet, where I bring you the best and brightest of the Amazon and eCommerce space in order to help you grow your business and to help in any aspects of the Amazon and eCommerce life. That being said, before we get started today, I hope you all are having a great week, but if you're new to the show, Crossover Commerce is presented by PingPong payments. What is PingPong payments exactly? We are a cross- border payment solution that has helped people transfer more than$ 150 million a day, and now$ 20 billion a year. Of the course of PingPong Payments, they have crossborder payments, have converted$ 90 billion in repatriating money for sellers around the world. Whether that's paying your Vas, paying your suppliers manufacturers, or just if you're selling on multiple marketplaces and you want to get your money back without paying so many fees, go ahead and check out PingPong Payments. It's a link in the show notes below or in the comment section and if you're watching this live, on all of our various social media networks. That being said, we're going to be live on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, as well as Twitter. But then also if you're listening to this later on the audio versions, we're going to be on your favorite podcast platforms as well. That being said, I don't want to waste any more time without getting into it today. Our guest is Chloe Thomas of eCommerce MasterPlan. She actually is a podcast host herself but has also been in the industry for many years. She is a top 30 eCommerce influencer in 2021. I am super excited to have her on in terms of what that means, and obviously what we're going to majorly talk about today is how to successfully grow an eCommerce business in these crazy times. Crazy can mean multiple things. It can mean growth is unexpected and we need to keep up with it. Crazy can be under the guise of, I have so many things on my plate, how to I alleviate myself in terms of responsibilities or just efforts. And also, how do I figure out all the barriers that are being put in place? Prices are going up. Logistics are becoming more of a nightmare. If you've been on the show and heard the show before, it's constant problem and people have to overcome and face on a day to day basis. But that being said, we're going to talk about how to wade through all of these, quote, crazy times. That being said, Chloe Thomas of eCommerce MasterPlan is our guest today. Welcome to Crossover Commerce, Chloe.
Chloe Thomas: Hello. It's great to be here. Thanks for inviting me on, Ryan. I'm very much looking forward to solving everyone's problems.
Ryan Cramer: Well, thanks for telling me that. I was on Mute. Because it's funny when all these different screens are on. You get the message to me it's like, hey idiot. No one can hear you. You're just a talking head over here. But no, that's all on me. We were talking before this, live shows, sometimes I press the wrong button and that's what happened. But yeah, thanks for hopping on. You are joining us today from, what part of... Are you in London or what part of England are you coming-
Chloe Thomas: Well, I'm in a teeny tiny bar of England called Cornwall, which is-
Ryan Cramer: Okay, I know where Cornwall is.
Chloe Thomas: Okay. Right down the far Southwest. I think they've been showing Poldark in the U. S. on some channel or other, so I live in Poldark land for those of you who are into that, but we don't dress like that anymore.
Ryan Cramer: That was a long time ago. Well, I actually spent four months in Grantham, England. Obviously, that's nowhere near Cornwall, but in terms of that capacity, one of my favorite things while studying abroad is just traveling to different parts of England, so that was one of them. It was just fantastic over there in terms of the history, which is greater than the United States, but then the ease of travel over there. How are things for you in terms of what's going on in England? Have you been there the entire time or you've been traveling around or were traveling around? What's that history?
Chloe Thomas: Well, usually in the usual world, I would be doing quite a lot of traveling. I'd be up and down to London quite a lot for different events and things. But for the last 18 months, for some reason or other, I haven't left the county.
Ryan Cramer: I was going to say, are you even able to move about in the county or-
Chloe Thomas: We can move about. In the UK at the moment, we can pretty much within reason to do whatever we want, but crosstalk-
Ryan Cramer: Within reason, right?
Chloe Thomas: Yeah, within reason. We still have some restrictions, but we're basically out of all lockdowns and that kind of thing, so it's nice. But we haven't been doing very much, to be honest, but because we live in a beautiful part of the country so why go anywhere, quite frankly. Half the country's come down here, so why would we leave?
Ryan Cramer: Exactly. Well, I've told people this too, I think this is an interesting reckoning of how people understand the nature of business in a time where you're either forced to, whether it was 12 months or it was 16 months or installer and going, you found a lot of the world really ebb and flow with the times and the capabilities of what we should and can do in this nature. I think that really shined a light on remote capabilities or just online businesses, I should say. Just because in the nature of people's needs and necessities, they can't go out in public, but also for the fact that we can do things like having a podcast show and us meet together over the course of the internet and we can talk together. And that capability where it's so fascinating that all these things have changed or they've fast- forwarded five or 10 years or so. In that regards, what for you has changed the most besides the travel notion or has business changed, has a real life changed for you? What's that major factor?
Chloe Thomas: Okay. The biggest thing is I no longer need to travel, if that makes sense.
Ryan Cramer: Sure.
Chloe Thomas: The business used to have various ways of making money. Because I've been able to be office- based. It's forced me to do something I should have done anyway, which is to really double down on the podcasting and that side of the business and the summits side of the business and doing things that work remotely that I can do from here and that everyone in the world can tune into if they want to. The focus of the business has massively changed when now 95% and pushing towards 100% podcasts in summit focused.
Ryan Cramer: Wow.
Chloe Thomas: We're very much become a content creator rather than any form of consultancy.
Ryan Cramer: Well, that's what I have found fascinating too, is businesses that have centralized around the content focus, the education focus, if you will, and help the growth aspect of it. Let's dive right into it, Chloe. Your background is in eCommerce, Amazon seller direct to consumer seller. Where does that expertise stem from, if you will?
Chloe Thomas: Sure. I started my first job in the world of eCommerce was as the mail order marketing manager of a UK high street business. I started off in catalogs almost 20 years ago now and became involved in every element of direct consumer communications and from the installer, to card, through to the emails and then dabbled in the paper click. That was just an amazing, I found what I loved. I am definitely a direct marketer. Then from there, I ended up as head of eCommerce for a group of mail order brands, so bringing in their first properly functioning websites. The ones where the products are on the page on the day the catalog mails rather than a week after the catalog is in the customer's hands. Rocket science type stuff. It was a lot of fun, huge amount of fun. After a year, we turned what I was doing there into a marketing agency and I ran that marketing agency through about three different business models over the next 10 years, working both for eCommerce businesses and for lead gen as well. I got to straddle both worlds and take the best of both. Then I sold that marketing agency about three, four years ago, and now I get to focus on eCommerce MasterPlan full time. I've attacked the industry from a lot of different angles, but throughout it, I've always been trying to help those running eCommerce marketing, whether it's me or whether it's someone else, to avoid the waste of not doing what they should be doing and avoid the waste of putting budget into things you shouldn't be. I sum it up as helping marketers make better decisions. Because it's the number one question I get asked by people, is Chloe, what should I be doing? Closely followed by, is what I'm doing what I should be doing? That's the world that I inhabit.
Ryan Cramer: Well, it's fantastic. Well, the reason why I think that's so fascinating is because it's almost like the cutting the fat. If people are landing mean, your dollar can only go so far. And that's what we talked about with our company and on the show, is we've seen this evolution even over the course of these last 12 months or so that this podcast has been around, of this evolution of prices continuously going up. If you're a small or SMB or small to medium business owner, you've seen your dollar not go as far as it used to. You used to be able to get containers of goods for$4, 000. Now that's gone up four x to eight x. You used to see advertising costs subsequently be pretty consistent across the board go up a little bit, but over the past 18 months, you've seen that spike continuously. It's really hard in terms of, if I'm looking to get to either Amazon or direct to consumer side of business, to know that cost will continuously go up and it's hard to forecast for that. But for what you're telling me, how to be smart with your dollars and how to make yourself stretch then, and then get rid of this wasted avenue. What's the number one thing that when people ask you these kinds of things, what's the number one thing that's like, that's easy, to get rid of x, y, z or change x, y, z? What's that number one thing for you?
Chloe Thomas: Well, the thing is an annoying answer, warning, coming up. It all depends on the business. The thing is you have to go back to the data and see what's working. See what's working, can we do more of that? See what isn't working and do less of that. If people haven't given a good go to email marketing, Facebook ads and Google ads, where you can work out quite quickly if it's going to work for you or not, then they're missing a trick and they should really have given those are good going over. Because I obviously come across inaudible, we don't do email. People were refusing to do email 10 years ago because they were scared of spamming and they didn't like receiving emails. Now they don't do it because it gets old hat and it's like, there's so much money to be made with email. But then I find other people who have the same approach to Google ads or the same approach to Facebook ads. We feel like Facebook ads is, it's reached its maximum competitive space and everyone's doing it. I still come across the most amazing retailers who are not yet doing Facebook ads, and it's mad, really.
Ryan Cramer: Is it-
Chloe Thomas: Anything could be the answer, unfortunately.
Ryan Cramer: Well, I guess my question to that is, is that because a lot of people... this is maybe where I see a lot of people change their mind, is because they, or where they might come from there is because the simply people don't want to be... They want to be ahead of the curve instead of they want to stick with was consistent. Don't get me wrong. Email marketing is very fascinating. You get a consistent open rate. You can actually work with the data and analytics. Maybe two, 3% open rate, conversion rate. The data is there. It's the traditional marketing, since you and I are marketing people, you have the funnel, you can pretty much lay up and guarantee that this amount of people will open, convert, everything like that. That seems pretty, lack of a better word, boring. Do people more want to focus on the exciting, the new stuff like, I want to be trending, I want to be new and cutting edge, I want to stand down these capacities? Do you think that's why people come from that point of view?
Chloe Thomas: I think it's partly that. I think it's, we get bombarded as business owners, as eCommerce business owners, eCommerce marketers, with so many ideas and things and people telling us, this is the next big thing. This is the exciting thing. This is what you should be doing. Sometimes we forget to put it through the filter of, what skillset have I got in my business? How much budget have I got? Is this where my customers are? Are they going to hang out here? Can we use this to get intent? Sometimes that distraction and that focusing on the wrong thing comes in because people have been to a conference where someone did an amazing presentation on Instagram Reels. Once they decided, oh man, we must do Instagram Reels, and they go, that's specific right. We're going to set up a studio and we're going to train everyone on how to create video and we're going to do at least one reel a day. Then someone reminds them that they're selling dishwasher parts. Probably Instagram Reels actually isn't the best option or they're only, that this is still a side of the desk thing and that they're maxed out and other things. There's that, taking what we hear about can distract us. But sometimes it's also people going, okay, I'm really good at this and this that I really get. I don't really understand that bit. Therefore I'm going to go focus on the bit I don't understand, because I think that's my failure. A lot of it comes back to us not making good decisions and not following our core strengths. I think, especially for startups. The marketing method that's going to be successful for you is about, 50% it's picking the right marketing method, but 50% is picking a marketing method you actually want to do. In those early days, you can lose a lot of opportunity by bashing your head against the proverbial brick wall and trying to do something that someone said you should, but you just don't like.
Ryan Cramer: Right. Well, I think that you've made a really good point. I think there's too many options in order to market to people. You have to do what's comfortable and makes sense to your company. I've heard it time and time again and especially on this podcast where guests, x, y, z have said, you have to be specific and focused. Don't try to do everything well. Try to do everything expertly. Whether that's Facebook and Instagram, or are you add, your audience is just on Instagram or your audience is just on all these marketing platforms, why do you think people get so overwhelmed of, if they come to you for advice, were like, I'm going to do like that person. Do you see that a lot of, I see my competitor x, y, z. I want to be just like that? Is that a red flag to you or is that like, let's talk about this for a second, and then you have to reel them back.
Chloe Thomas: That might be a good move. I'm not saying it's not a good move. Let's actually sense check it and go back to, what are you trying to achieve? What's your brand message. What's your relationship with your customers? Who are your customers? Are they actually there. It may be that it's almost a fluke that that company is great at that marketing method because the son of the owner just happens to be a ninja SEO or something. And it's like, well, you're never going to be able to invest that kind of money and get that return because he's got a 16- year- old who's great at it who he can hire very cheaply.
Ryan Cramer: Exactly.
Chloe Thomas: There's all these factors you don't necessarily know, so it's great to watch the competition, but always take it through that filter. I take people through in that situation, I take them back to, let's think about that customer journey. I have a model I use called the customer master plan. Which is breaks eCommerce down into those key customer stages. You've got all the people out there in the world who may or may not have visited your website. You then got people who've visited your website. Then you have the people who haven't, who added themselves to your email list, the inquirers. Followed by the first time buyers, then your repeat buyers that bought twice. Then you've got the regular buyers who bought more than twice. Our job as marketers is to work in between the gaps of those stages. We're either trying to get people from being in the world to visiting our website. We're trying to get people from a visitor to either an inquirer or a first time buyer. We're trying to get people from first time buy to repeat, or from repeat to regular. To simply draw on a sheet of paper a box for each of those stages and go, what are we currently doing to get the world to our website? What are we currently doing to turn a visitor into inquiry and so forth? Where are the gaps first off? If you've got gaps, that's what you should be filling, so find something to fill that gap. If you don't have any gaps, the next question is, when did you last review the performance of what you're doing in each of those boxes? Because if you turned it on a year ago and you haven't gone back, that's probably why there's quite a bit of opportunity. Then you get into how well are we actually performing in each area. And then can we improve it or do we need to try something else? But by creating that structure, it helps people avoid that trap of going, we need to do Facebook ads. No, you don't need to do Facebook ads. You need to recruit more new customers, or you need to turn more existing customers into, first time buyers into repeat buyers. Then it's, how do we do that? Well, Facebook ads could be an option. It gets people to think a bit more strategically about their choices rather than looking at these bright, shiny objects or the platform that everyone's shouting about.
Ryan Cramer: I like the filling the gap idea that you were talking about of, hey, we don't have to reinvent the wheel, but what we do have to do is make sure that people can go download, quote unquote, proverbial funnels and make sure that they can get down the line in that regards. We're not selling, at the end of the day, the product is what it is. Well, we have to make sure that it makes sense for this person, this person and these categories get down the line. Seems pretty simple in that regards, Chloe. How are things changed in that regards of the past maybe 12 months or so? Have people been even more overwhelmed or are they re- shifting their focus away to more simplistic natures of, hey, we need to get away from all these additional ideas and try to be trending and get back to the basics essentially? Is that where you're seeing a lot of people refocus on?
Chloe Thomas: I think it's been a fascinating last 12, 18 months. Because we had that, most people saw a massive peak in orders. Then in the last hour in August, in the last four months, we've seen not entirely a plateau, but are back to some form of normality, where we're up on two years ago, but we're down on the big lockdown peaks. There's been this roller coaster of, where do we get stock? How do we get it to people? And firefighting and now we're settling into more of a business as usual space. Which I think when you have one of those crazy time periods with you, purposefully using the name of this episode, you end up doing the firefighting and then you have to take a beat and go, hold on, how should we actually be approaching this? The three key things that I've seen people doing, one is that they've invested more in the softer marketing areas. Partly because demand was so huge, they had spare time in the marketing department to go and spend some time on social or on blogging or on outreach. I think those areas have finally got a little bit more attention. Which is good because one of the big trends, I think one of the hugest trends out of what we've been going through, is the acceleration of the customer's desire for some emotional connections to the businesses they're with. Whether that's that they've seen, they want to be buying from the brand that's doing something good for the planet or something good for humanity, or whether they like buying from that brand because they have the same lifestyle as the owner. The small to the very big emotional engagement pieces, for what you've got to be doing content and you've got to be better understanding the customer and you've got to be doing the social side of things. Then the third one is that the pace of analysis has sped up. Whereas previously I'd be saying to people, once every three months, step back to that customer master plan model and go, where are our gaps? Where are we failing? Now it's more of a monthly process and right in the depths of the huge increase, it was more of a weekly process. Hold on, where are we dropping the ball? Because you need to step back more often and go, where is the gap? Where have we let the ball drop? Where is the problem that we most need to solve? A lot of reporting got sped up and analysis got sped up that led to hopefully, for those who were doing it well, some streamlining of reporting processes and some more hard and fast analysis of actually, is this worth the effort? Is this report worth us producing to try and flip the amount of time spent creating spreadsheets into time spent analyzing the impact of those spreadsheets?
Ryan Cramer: Right. And looking at the data and making sure that it makes sense, and you can understand it and not just discount it for example. I think a lot of people are, like you say, Chloe, more apt into, what is the data telling me? What do I need to, just actually listening to it and I think a lot of people want to force things upon their customer base instead of letting them dictate, this is how we consume your brand, your products, all these different things. And I think that's what's crazy about just not oversimplifying it, but you need to in regards. People want to think that there's more to this when in fact data is telling them, we like your brain because of x, y and z and that's it. Just continuously hammer at those core products and more and more people will find that in that regards. Super fascinating. In that context, you and your business are, is it more content marketing or what I like to call it as amplified marketing. You're teaching people, you are educating through content, whether it's a video blog, audio, any in that regards, making it super niche in that industry. Is that where this swing, if you will, has starting to lead people, of be an educational leader and be an expert in your area, your facet, your service, whatever that might be. If I'm selling dog treats, I'm going to be an expert in all things nutrition, in all things that dark traits can potentially touch. I'm going to be an expert and people want to understand that category, they're going to know, I need to go to Ryan's podcasts and I need to listen to all the nuances of that or I need to look at his blog for the new and upcoming things, buy his products because he knows exactly what he's talking about. Is that where we're seeing the shift towards as well.
Chloe Thomas: I think expert is one of the ways in which people can go about creating that strong connection with the customer and making that brand stand out. But I don't think you always have to be... If you're a dog treat business, you don't necessarily have to be the expert in the nutrition side of it. You could be the expert in rewarding or training your dogs or you could just be the brand who just does nice things for dogs. I was recording a podcast recently with someone who was talking about how there's a dog food brand in the UK, who when their customers reached a certain level of loyalty points, they make a donation on their behalf to one of the dog charities who look after after dog strays.
Ryan Cramer: It's amazing.
Chloe Thomas: It's a brilliant idea, which I will be mentioning multiple times to people because I think more businesses should do this thing. It's not just about giving the customer money off. But that creates the connection with the customer by saying, we really love dogs in this particular instance. And it just creates that, yeah, they really care about dogs and stray dogs. And we really care about dogs and stray dogs so we're going to keep buying from them. Can be about sharing the story of how the business was founded or getting behind the scenes of the products. There are lots of different ways of doing it. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to become a PhD in dog nutrition. But it is a very valid way of going about doing it, but it's what fits with your brand?
Ryan Cramer: I think the other thing that's really captured me, because a lot of people are, I've had these conversations with Amazon sellers before, is how do you reward people and continue to build that loyalty around it? Obviously direct to consumer, you can either do loyalty points or you can do a, buy one, get one free. Or you can say, hey, you get a discount if you purchase a certain amount. Amazon's a little bit more strict in that regards of how you reward people. But I like the nature of, hey, your product and making it whether it's an insert or whether it's in certain capacities of, hey, we appreciate you supporting our products. We hope you enjoy your product x, y, z, letting you know proactively, part of the proceeds of you purchasing from us, we're donating back to our local YYMCA, for example, and for every donation that your purchase you made, we're going to donate one on behalf. It's almost like the Bonobos Model, if you will, the brand, the SOC model of socks are not sexy, let's be honest, but everyone's wearing them. There's always two. But they played the notion of, you buy one pair, we donate a pair, and therefore, the more you buy, the more we donate in that capacity. I think that donation and almost giving back, if you will, in some sort of capacity, whether it's like I'm planting a tree or I'm donating a product, or money's going toward an organization, it really cultivates that loyalty. Is that where consumers want to be able to engage with more brands? Is that where we're seeing maybe not enough wins, if you will?
Chloe Thomas: I think there's two angles to it that I've come across and heard there is and so forth. But one is, is this a phrase which in the UK we have a genius lady of the high street called Mary Portas, who is ludicrously clever about these things. I saw her speak at a conference a couple of years ago now, and she was talking about how consumers have moved from wanting status symbols to wanting status stories. We don't want the Rolex on our wrist. We want to be able to go to our friends when they come around for a barbecue and say, these sausages, I got them from Tom The Butcher. And Tom The Butcher raise his own pigs, and they're this special breed. And we want to basically bore our friends with the story of why we are awesome because we chose that product. There's a big switch, which I think hits on every generation. Whether you're 80 or whether you're five at the moment, that's just seems to be something we like to do. We like to feel good because of our purchasing decisions. Then you've got the gen Z, the millennial age range, who quite frankly, they want to know that what they're buying isn't doing the world harm. They want to know about the recycling plans. They want to know about the charity plans. They want to know that this is sustainable, ethical, not... That it's a company which isn't doing anyone any harm and that's trying to heal the earth. I oversimplify that massively, but there is that trend as well, coming through at the youth market, which I think is beginning to dribble up through. There's another one of those elements which I think we're all coming out of the pandemic thinking a lot more about how our actions impact on the wider world. I think we'll drop off a bit because we'll get back to normal, but I think we're still going to see that continuing through. We're seeing a lot more brands embrace that as part of their marketing strategies.
Ryan Cramer: Okay. You said a inaudible listener out there, bore people to death with the stories, because it's true, at the end of the day we as a parent or something like that like, my kid bought this for me because they know my favorite color is green or something along those lines. It spoke to them and they're super proud to donate or share it off with people. I think like you said, it's a story behind the product. No one just transactional things of... It could be, for the people in our space, I call them Lambros. You see people are super successful. They're like, you can earn lots of money and you can drive cars like me. Okay, if you want to be successful in that, that's great. But actually, if you change your message to, I grew up not getting to pick out... My parents never were able to afford things for Christmas for me. My most cherished toy was a quote- unquote, toy Lamborghini that my dad bought me and he goes, " One day, I hope to get you the Carver journeys." Whatever that might be. In that story you can start to say, I worked my butt off in order to get where I'm at. Now I can buy my dream. Whether that might be a car or my parents' house, or it can be as simplistic as, my family no longer has to work the entire life. It can be that story that catches people instead of, hey you can have money to have transaction x, y, z. That doesn't correlate with, I want to say majority of the world. But do you think like that's the, that shift back to that story, you think a lot more people are taking that route if you will?
Chloe Thomas: Yeah. I think we are certainly shifting in that space. I think there's always going to be an element of people who want to have the status symbol. It's inevitable. Did you see on Instagram the guy who did the whole video of his friends, who he goes on holiday with and how much they earn and how they can afford to spend on a holiday, and whether they're willing to go to third world locations?
Ryan Cramer: I have not. But this is a good story, continue.
Chloe Thomas: So it was cool. He called it he's Forbes list and he was doing either on TikTok on Instagram. I found it on Twitter because I'm old. But he posted it on one of the new people's platforms. And it was him explaining this spreadsheet he created to organize holidays with his friends and you have to be earning over$ 250,000 to be on the list. And it was how many weeks a year you could go on holiday, how much you were willing to spend per week on holiday. And he was literally just sharing the whole thing and it probably went viral because the guy at the bottom of the list was called Broke Bobby, because he only owned a quarter a billion dollars a year. We just like, do you not live in the same world as the rest of us. It was just mind inaudible.
Ryan Cramer: There's lots of questions we can ask about that. Do his friends know about this list? Are they okay with that? And again, quarter of a million dollars a year, fantastic for lots of people. I think everyone would take that on any day of the week. That's super... gosh, I can't believe it. Now you're going to have to share that with me. That's fantastic video.
Chloe Thomas: inaudible destructed the rest of the episode. There's certainly a status symbol element in there and it was about going on holiday and it was about, one of the columns which I found quite intriguing was willing to travel to third world destinations. Which you would imagine when it starts out with that spreadsheet that these are people who want to go to Dubai, they want to go to Aspen, they want to go to Valdez, they want to go to-
Ryan Cramer: Monica or something like that-
Chloe Thomas: ...the Seychelles, Monica, all those kinds of jet set places. But actually one of the key criteria on this was where you go to a third world destination because clearly they're some cache and status from going somewhere that other people wouldn't go or that makes them appear more humble. There's still status symbols there but I think they're changing and they are by their very nature becoming more experiential and becoming more about the stories we tell around things and products therefore need stories as well.
Ryan Cramer: Interesting. I think me I would say that your money goes farther in a third world country but that doesn't seem to be the issue with this group of, quote unquote, friends. But fascinating. I guess when people find success, it's very fascinating when people are exiting this business and we're talking about, for listener out there who who's copped in whether it's on our podcast or on our live stream, we're talking about how this really grow an eCommerce business in these crazy terms. Chloe, I'm curious about your take on this. We've seen lots of headwind about, quote unquote, aggregators in the space and how they've taken businesses, whether they be successful already but then they take it to another level. That's their whole model of how do I facilitate and take this brand from what is real status is right now and how do I grow it internationally? Are you following this trend or what's your take if you will, on purchasing brands outright and building this portfolio I'll be. It could be hundreds, if not tens of brands if not hundreds of brands that they're trying to grow and create this successful portfolio, if you will. Is that a trend that you're monitoring closely or what's your take on that?
Chloe Thomas: It's not one I'm monitoring closely but it is one I'm aware of. And it seems to be one that's happening more and do correct me if I'm wrong on this. It seems to be happening more in the Amazon FBA world.
Ryan Cramer: It is.
Chloe Thomas: In the DTC Shopify type world. So one of the reasons I'm not finding it that closely because I tend to tend to hang out in own site world rather than marketplace. But I find it quite fascinating and it's amazing how some of these aggregates as you call them. They're getting into the Inc 500 and they are seriously, serious businesses which my mind slightly boggles because you're on a platform you don't control. If Amazon gets annoyed with you or E- bay, or whichever marketplace you're on, then you can quite quickly lose it. But then I suppose if you've got multiple brands you're somewhat more set. It makes a load of sense from a, you have so much overhead and therefore the more brands you've got going through that overhead and learning that skillset, you should be able to make more margin and you should be able to make more profit. But I'm always slightly skeptical of such structures, because I told you earlier about the high street retailer where I started off managing the catalogs, that was a company, an overall company who were trying do the same thing with a multi- channel retailers. And we went under because the theory didn't work. So amongst many other ways, so I'm always a little bit skeptical of these. They're not for me but I find it very, very fascinating what they managed to achieve.
Ryan Cramer: Well, there's to that point, I've looked at the trend and we monitoring this. It started very, very much, it ramped up quickly at the beginning of the pandemic, maybe February or 2020 you see lots of money being invested, but the fascinating thing you're starting to see trends like, not all these people are going to... It's almost guaranteed. Not all of these businesses can exist in the same space. It doesn't make sense. There's a lot of space in Amazon was or a non direct to consumer but there's not a lot of space in terms of having everyone compete for the same quote unquote brand. But there is something that came up, I want to say two days ago, whereas number one I say doc traits it's, I forget the brain off the top and I could probably find it as we're conversing, but it was a brand that was purchased for this number is going to sound crazy. They sell directly on Amazon, they started on Amazon, but then they have diversified into PetSmart onto Target and Omni channel presence and they have their own direct to consumer website because I checked them out. I was like, can I even buy their goods on this website? You certainly can. Based in Florida, they were purchased for a, not a hedge fund company but a company of equity for 615 million U. S. dollars their entire. So it's all eCommerce based, no physical retail stores. It was one of the largest transactions I have ever seen. I think today, I think brand wise that was native to digital in terms of all of it's number one in like dark treats on Amazon but also is in retail stores. They physically had no retail locations but all their products we sell directly online. That money is over close to a billion or half a billion dollars but they're still, I believe operating them but they were purchased for almost under this under other umbrella. That's an insane amount of money. It's a hold, never though there's stratosphere in terms of what people are seeing value in terms of the ability to sell directly to consumers, again driving traffic to their website, but then also understanding the marketplace aspect of I can sell in retail stores, super valuable to lots of brands, I can sell on Amazon which is a marketplace that constantly changes and we all know this. But the eyeballs are there. So if someone has figured out all these different dimensions, I call them three pillars. Selling retail directly so wholesaling or you can sell online on Amazon FBA or marketplaces in general, and then direct to consumer. Those three models, if you've figured all three of them, you're going to be instantly valuable and again, 600 and I want to say 15 million U. S. dollars, nothing to sneeze at that's quite an investment for a company that is just going to acquire you or put equity into you, whatever the transaction looks like. But is so fascinating. Have you seen businesses get, not gobbled up or partner with them in that capacity or is it almost on a different side of things where they just can't they want to, they feel a hole in someone's space. Do you think that's the genesis or the beginning or the core principle of all of this?
Chloe Thomas: I think it's currently quite trendy in the VC space to be investing in this area. But what I would absolutely love to know about that deal which I suspect is impossible to get our hands on-
Ryan Cramer: I'm going to look it up here. If I'm looking at my side, I got my phone rather ready.
Chloe Thomas: They'd really fascinating to know what the multiplier would look like. So how much they would be willing to spend on that business. If the turnover, the annual sales was the same but they were only on one of those three channels or they were only on two of those three channels because I suspect that the fact they were doing well in all three massively upped the sales. Because the thing is if you're... I see wholesale play clearly going to make a lot of sense to them, the wholesaling into retailers but you are not in control of that route to market. Again, just like being on Amazon or a marketplace, you're at the will of the buyers and how much they like your product and how much over the years you keep delivering what they and their customers want. Same thing on the Amazon and the marketplaces platform. So there's any one channel you're really in control of. It's very intriguing how by having two risky things and one more, less risky thing you can massively increase the value of the business.
Ryan Cramer: Right. The brand is called Zesty Paws. And the brand is keeping your bestie feelings Zesty which is a funny tagline. We're talking marketing, that's a lovely tagline. But from what I could tell, they are treats but also probiotics lots of supplemental products for your canine, obviously friends, your family whatever you want to call it. But the company that purchased them was H& H Group. I'm not sure exactly where their headquarters is at but their $ 610 million to acquire the U. S. pet, some woman print Zesty Paws. Enterprise value at$ 610 million. That's something that has intrigued me. Another thing that I know our friends of both Ping- Pong, but also there's been this acquiring of third party abilities logistics space. We haven't even talked about the craziness of logistics and what's going on right now. For third party direct to consumer brand, they can have their own warehouse. There's three pier party sellers. They can really partner with lots of different entities, on Amazon side it's all, if it's fulfilled by Amazon, which is really cost- effective to a nature, or if you can do it directly by merchant. That being said, one of our companies in the space actually acquired a business of similar magnitude where they have all these brands underneath their umbrella, but also with it, the ability to have warehousing in a couple of different locales in the United States, specifically. Super fascinating, because that makes me tend to think that there's going to be this reliance on not just on Amazon's fulfillment network, but distribution to different retailers or individuals and customers and their own warehousing system. Because if you're only solely relying on your goods being on Amazon, you really don't have the capabilities to, if we have to happen to go through what we did March, 2020, they shut down. They don't allow in goods that are not essential under these certain categories, then all of a sudden, you're a Creek without a paddle. And you can't sell on that platform because your inventory doesn't exist. It's either out or you can't get new one in. So I thought that was also a fascinating,
Chloe Thomas: And even if your inventory is in there, they might slow down their ability to dispatch your product because it's not deemed as important as something else. I think it's an interesting one, isn't it? Because there's clearly, if you're selling on Amazon, there's a huge benefit to being on the FBA program, especially so in Europe where they will then deal with pan- European sales elements for you, which is a whole headache gone.
Ryan Cramer: It's a headache. I've talked to many people about as like pan- European but then also take out one or take out England from that because of our lovely event of Brexit, which I'm sure you're dealing with constantly, why that's such a headache of selling directly, just specifically in LA or England. I keep saying London. It's more than just London. You lovely people in Cornwall, for example, there's more than just London. In England, the UK for example, and then also everyone else in Europe, it's so difficult to navigate which one do you want to go into? Do you go into specifically the UK or do you go into Germany for example, which is the second biggest marketplace on Amazon but also in terms of just sales in general, there's lots of happenings in Germany, but there's marketplaces in each different country. So again, we're talking about crazy times, there's so much happening in the world. How do we navigate all these different growth factors that we can potentially get into, but then also how to make it more simple in that regards? Is there other-
Chloe Thomas: I think it's the perennial challenge in eCommerce, but to be fair in any business but I think in eCommerce more than most, or there is just so much at any point in time, an eCommerce brand could be doing. If they're an Amazon seller, they could go and sell on other marketplaces. They could create their own DTC website, they could start wholesaling to retailers. And that's just big channel decisions, let alone all the small scale stuff they could do within the Amazon platform itself. The same thing if you're running your own DTC website, so many things you could endlessly do and then you go, which countries do you go into? Where do you choose to sell? It's an endless set of decisions and you can never be perfect with any of those decisions because we don't live in a crystal ball world. I'm sure there are brands who their big play for 2020 was to go into international sailing. And they had all the ducks lined up and they launched it in maybe January, February and then March came and the postage and the delivery timelines just went through the roof and that's game over essentially, because the postage costs have not yet come down. They're still pretty horrendous cross border and the time span is still horrendous a cross border.
Ryan Cramer: They're spiking to in October through the rest of the year, actually. That was at least domestically here we were told that there's going to be the surcharge, if you will. Not just in November, December which makes complete sense but I believe they said as early as late September early on or all of October, just because people are trying to get out ahead of it. And that goes back to the whole cost in the essence of selling online or all these costs can be worth it, it's all going to be playing with my margins. How do we effectively price products where it seems like a deal, but then also I'm not just like losing money and per transaction. There's all these different things that, getting my goods on time. I have no idea if my goods are going to sit on the water if I'm going to get it into my warehousing and to Amazon in an effective amount of time. Because not just small, medium size businesses but this industry is affected by the likes of Fortune 100 businesses. They get their goods from international areas, they're trying to get into a domestic locale and then they're going to sell them in their retail stores or whenever. But we all use the same systems of logistics of trying to get goods from point A to point B, whether it be ocean or freight or of air, however it gets to us, everyone's playing the same game. If you're an entrepreneur in your business, you're all playing the same game logistically. It's just how do you forecast ahead of time? And that's the headache that constantly people are being put under. Do you have advice in terms of, for the sellers now? Is there people that you're relying in trying to point people to, in terms of hey, maybe we should start focusing on this before we get ahead of ourselves?
Chloe Thomas: Well, I think first and foremost, you need backups. If you currently are-
Ryan Cramer: 100%.
Chloe Thomas: ...using one career, you've got to have a backup career ready to go when everything goes wrong.
Ryan Cramer: When, you said when, inaudible listener, she said when, not if, when. Because crosstalk.
Chloe Thomas: I think you have to achieve it well, partly because however good, however premium a career you've chosen to go with, it is still a gig economy. It still all depends on the criminally lowly paid person at the end of it, doing a decent job of delivering your parcel and being there and turning up for work and all the rest of it. And even the premium guys still have that same. They tend to treat their stock but it didn't have better retention rates, but it's still the same model. It is an inherently difficult model and one that it's not that scalable. You have to assume it's going to go badly so you need those backups in place. That also goes, I think for getting your product to you. I would certainly be looking to get product landed sooner this year-
Ryan Cramer: 100%.
Chloe Thomas: ...and I would be... If international's a big part of it, I'd be looking to have product landed in the country you intend on selling it in the next month or so. Because-
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely.
Chloe Thomas: ...it just takes a huge part of the risk out of the way. So I think backup plans, contingency plans and keep your careers in the loop on what's happening with your order volumes. I know forecasting is truly tedious but doing those forecasts, sharing those forecasts means that if everything goes horribly, I use that time. If everything goes badly and they're having to throttle the volumes, they are going to treat those who have been keeping them in the loop accurately better than those who don't.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely.
Chloe Thomas: You've got to play the game, basically.
Ryan Cramer: I'll steal a phrase from one of the tabs on your website, keep optimizing. I want to transition quickly on this last 10 minutes or so that we have with you, Chloe, of your pockets. I think that people are understanding everything we're talking about today is super high level and like we mentioned before, it's nuanced depending on the area, the different divisions that you might be selling in or just the product and the service that you're offering itself, what that has to entail for expertise. You have the ability to talk with other experts in the space in multiple different ways. But specifically I'm really excited, because you were named a top... One is go back to the stat that I said at the top of the show, one of the top 30 eCommerce influencers in 2020 according to Scurri, which is no small fee. You were identified with that. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on that specifically, but then also the reason why the podcast exists, what you're planning to do with that and break into that if you will?
Chloe Thomas: It's very lovely of Scurri to have named me. I'm not quite sure what the algorithm was they used to determine it but I guess I'm sufficiently noisy thing.
Ryan Cramer: You mean both?
Chloe Thomas: Over the last 15 or so years, I've somehow managed to get to this point where I'm well known in some circles and completely unknown still in others, which is fine by me. But it's very nice to get those plaudits and it helps me get onto podcasts like yours so I'm very happy with it. As to what we're doing in the podcast, both my podcasts exist to help eCommerce practitioners on the own site side of things. That's where we focus the great majority of our coverage, is on those selling from a Shopify and Magento commerce, that sort of thing. And on the eCommerce most fan podcast, we talk to a different retailer every week about just sharing the story, the inspiration of why they're doing what they're doing, how they're doing it and it could be anything from someone whose just turned their side hustle into a full- time gig and they're fast approaching that 50 to 100, 000 turnover level in our annual sales level right the way through to someone who's doing multiple millions of dollars a year and running multiple brands and selling on multiple platforms as well. So that's always eclectic, always interesting, and always some nuggets to be picked out whatever size your business is. And then on the keep optimizing podcast each week I interviewed different marketing expert and each month we focus on a different topic. So this month we've been doing what we've called the new new, because we've been up and running for just over a year now. I've done like a mop- up month in August, were we've grabbed the topics that didn't work a whole month. We've done TikTok and live stream, YouTube ads goes live tomorrow. And a couple of other things. When we go back to normal in September where we'll be doing organic social media, then loyalty content, we have months on Facebook and email. I just try and find people who've got really interesting takes on it. You can share really good strategies and it's all about helping people grow their eCommerce website with hopefully not giving them too many distractions of things they shouldn't be doing.
Ryan Cramer: I love that concept and I think that's so fascinating, especially if you're listening out there, if you haven't been to eCommerce MasterPlan and we're going to link out to this in the show notes below. But your latest episodes were so fascinating to me, again, selling baby leggings, seven figures in seven years, but then you also cut over to Etsy, then you also cut over to Amazon. But you hover all these different topics, very similar to this show. I'm super jealous for you by the way. Hopefully we can start trading some guests if you will, but the fact that there is so much opportunity out there in different marketplaces, different ways to go about it, and what I'm assuming is the point of reference from you and I think it's very evident by just talking with you, is how do you get people's perspective hone in a little bit and then add it to their business today. How do you make it applicable today instead of in theory, a year down the road or how do I... That doesn't apply to me because everything ties back to something that I'm not doing right now. But no, your show seems, and what I've heard is very focused, very... Your guests are so high level but you really keep them your foot to the fire of, how are we going to make my listener better today? And I appreciate that as a podcast host but also as a consumer of eCommerce content as well. So congratulations on the success first and foremost, being recognized as a top influencer. That's fantastic. All the recognition you deserve from what I can hear, it's super fantastic. Is there plans to continue to grow that out? Diversify as to enough, are you looking for five shows, what's the plan down the road for that?
Chloe Thomas: Unfortunately, there's only one of many, so there's a limit to just how many shows I can do but I have... This year has been about really consolidating our processes around the podcast to get them really doing well and growing nicely. And going into next year, there probably will be more podcasts. Who's doing them, how we're doing them, I'm not quite sure yet but there's a lot of eCommerce topics still to be covered and the listeners love that. I just love the way you can create that mixture of both inspiration and practical advice. And you can jump onto something where you both get the inspiring story and you get solid, practical things that you could actually do, even if sometimes there... Well, that's really interesting but now I know I shouldn't touch this with a barge pole which recently we've done the episode on TikTok, we did the episode on YouTube ads and for different reasons, each of those may well be things the list is it going, I'm really glad I know more about that but I'm ignoring it for at least six to 12 months or possibly forever. Which for me is a result because it means they can go box that bit off again and think about something else instead.
Ryan Cramer: Exactly. We're a shiny object syndrome as I like to call it as a real thing in the world. And as entrepreneurs, this is in what we are a finance company but you only have your currency that everyone has is time. And that's the one thing that if we are spending on one thing, you're not spending on another. How do you diversify that time and make it actually apply back to your business? Chloe, I know we're heading to hit the top of the hour, but to reach out to you, to follow your podcast or to connect with you, what are the best ways to do that? I know we have your LinkedIn handle there at the bottom, Chloe Thomas eCommerce, which I love that. You've branded yourself within your Instagram handle, which I need to do that more. Ryan Kramer one, what does that handle? That's a dumb. But anyways-
Chloe Thomas: crosstalk ones over the years though, so anyway crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: It's like our email addresses. We had some really bad email addresses that were tied back then, but we start to get more and more branding and focus. But how do people reach out and connect with you?
Chloe Thomas: Well, like I said, I'm pretty active on LinkedIn, so you'll most certainly find me there. Also ecommercemasterplan. com is the best place to go to. There you'll find information on both the podcasts, my books and anything else we're up to and you can sign up to our email list to get all the many, many things we seem to share every week to help you improve your business. So ecommercemasterplan. com.
Ryan Cramer: Are you doing an episode a day to keep the... I'm trying to come up with something crazy, not the doctor way but the boring listener away or anything like that. How often are you posting content?
Chloe Thomas: Across each podcast, we have one episode a week, so we post one on a Monday and one on a Wednesday. We ran a virtual summit earlier this year, which is still available for people to sign up and watch if they want to. And I toy with the idea of a bite size daily episode or something else but I've got so many ideas at the moment. I need to filter them down to the one that's actually has the best chance of success. So, yeah. I have far too many things I could do. I just got to work out what I should be doing just every week.
Ryan Cramer: That's the thing. Well, it was funny. Like you, I think I told people I was telling the story of, we started this podcast last... oh my gosh, almost a year in a few days ago. I did the math of how much content we were putting out there, content meaning episodes everyone, and listener. And it came down to 1. 8 per working day or something like that and it was one every two or three days similar to that context. But then people, I think maybe my advice to you, if you could, for the inspiring podcast or if you're listening to people, lots of more people are like, I want to do a show or I want to host something or be in this forum. My advice always to people is be consistent. There's always these statistics from all these different platforms that say, there's all these shows out there but after there's only so much time or effort that they put on, then they just burn out. It's called the podcast burn or they never post content ever again. And that's not the case obviously for you. I want to be in that arena too. What's your advice to people when they ask you to get into this world, if you will of podcasting?
Chloe Thomas: It's to really think it through, because it is a lot of work doing a podcast well. I invest a lot of time in finding the right guests, prepping for the recordings. Then a huge amount of time in creating all the flotsam and jetsam that goes around the podcast. The editing, the social media activity, the promotion and there's a lot to it. And the podcast is a hungry beast, you have to keep feeding it. I guess, a more practical advice than that would be one, don't get overly hung up on the tech, on the hardware. I did when I started and I ended up with a crazy good podcast microphone, which is brilliant now but at the beginning was not necessary and working out how it worked took me, probably delayed my launch by a month.
Ryan Cramer: Really?
Chloe Thomas: My nearer sees about the hardware. Don't get hung up on the hardware. This microphone I'm on right now is what I do when I'm on other people's podcasts, it's what I use. Other hosts seem to love it and I think it's about 30 pounds, which is about-
Ryan Cramer: Great.
Chloe Thomas: ... $40.
Ryan Cramer: Mine right here is no more than 100, but there is one that I constantly look at and I agree with you to add on if you will, Chloe. I say, people just start, be consistent. But then you know what, people are like, " What if I start and I don't like what I see?" Guess what? Change your next episode. It doesn't matter. You have to create your consistency. I've changed my background, I changed my microphone, I change, we're on stream era right now where there's all of these different nuances of you add onto it, but you don't need to take away the content. If you center it around content and you don't do simple things like mute yourself at the beginning of an episode, or if I'm going to poke myself and joke at myself, but do things like that where it's really consistent, precise and you know what you want to talk about and what you want to get out of each episode? We talk about simplistic, the getting focused. That's what you should do. I appreciate that. Any parting words before we wrap up today's episode from you or things you are excited about?
Chloe Thomas: crosstalk what you picked up on earlier, which was keep optimizing, which is my personal mantra as well as the name one of my podcasts. And it is something which we should all live our lives by, which is to identify what's bad, stop it or make it better, identify what's good and do more of it. And you should be doing that with every element of your business, as well as quite probably every element of your life. My parting words would be, keep optimizing everybody.
Ryan Cramer: Well, I appreciate that. And those are good words to part on. Thank you so much again, Chloe Thomas of eCommerce MasterPlan, I would say podcast. You have your hands in all these different things. I know I personally am subscribing to the podcast and I can't wait to listen to more and more content as you're going to be putting that out there. But can't wait to see where your growth is and I appreciate your time that you've just spent from Cornwall to talk with us. Lily people here in Indianapolis, Indiana and then all the listeners wherever you're listening to. Thank you for joining Crossover Commerce and my corner of the internet today. Well, thanks Chloe. Sorry about that. I'll go ahead and wrap up real quick. Again, everyone who is on Crossover Commerce and listening to us, thank you so much for hopping on episode 146. We appreciate you spending the time, your currency that... again, I always say to every person, the currency that you don't have on everything, everyone has time, but if you're spending with us, we appreciate that time. Hopefully you found all of this exciting and everything that we talked about in terms of waiting through these crazy times with Chloe Thomas. Again, go ahead and check out her podcast, go and subscribe to her channels. And just checkout eCommerce MasterPlan in general. That is in the link, in the comments and also in the show notes below. I'm Ryan Cramer. We'll catch you guys next time on another episode of Crossover Commerce. Take care.
Ryan Cramer of Crossover Commerce talks with Chloe Thomas of eCommerce Masterplan discusses how to successfully grow an eCommerce business in these crazy times.
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