Something Digital Career Fairs – Fall 2020

This fall recruiting season is a little different for Something Digital; we are attending four ‘virtual’ career fairs. Although we will miss interacting directly with the students, we are excited for the opportunity to meet them at the following schools.

Fall 2020 Career Fairs:

  • Howard University – Wednesday, September 16th: 1 -5PM
  • NYU Technology & Start Up Expo – Friday, September 25th: 10AM-2PM
  • Stony Brook Virtual IT/Computer Sci Job Fair – Thursday, October 1st: 12-4PM
  • CCNY STEM Virtual Career Fair – Thursday, October 8th: 11AM-4PM

 

Interested in meeting with SD at the ‘virtual career fairs’? Check out our page on Handshake!

Want to learn more about who we are and what we offer? Check out the information below and browse our About and Team page.

Who is SD?

Our extraordinary collection of talent – analytical and creative, technical and unconventional – is what makes working for us a unique experience. Our emphasis on training and professional growth sets us apart from other agencies.

JumpStart Program

Something Digital’s JumpStart program is an exceptional professional development program for recent Computer Science graduates joining the workforce.

During the 8-week program you will:

  • Shadow your new colleagues to understand various roles at SD
  • Challenge yourself with knowledge assessments
  • Daily meetings with your fellow Jumpstart team and instructors to track your progress
  • Partner with a seasoned Something Digital team member through our “Bridge Something” Mentorship Program
  • Attend orientation meetings with leads across each department
  • Sit in on Lunch & Learns led by SD experts covering a variety of topic such as:
      • Working with a remote Team
      • Ecommerce 101
      • Tips & Tricks from Jumpstart Alumni
  • Obtain a certification in platforms such as Shopify and Magento 2

 

Training Opportunities

At Something Digital, each team member is assigned a custom training plan to bridge any gaps in experience and knowledge, as well as honing skills and

  • Attend virtual or in-person industry events
  • Online/in-person classes for both soft skills and technical skills
  • A training plan tailored to your goals
  • Participation in webinars, blog posts, and lunch & learns
  • Explore more than 260+ engaging continuing education topics
  • Attain certification in platforms such as Shopify and Magento 2

 

More Benefits

  • Medical and Dental Insurance
  • Voluntary Disability and Life Insurance
  • Paid Time Off
  • Competitive Compensation
  • 401k & Contribution matching
  • A Dedicated Mentor
  • Annual Volunteer Opportunities

 

Check Out Our Blogs

5 Things People Forget When Re-platforming Their Ecommerce Site

The other day a colleague asked: Why does every new project invariably begin with a change order? It’s a great question, and one that deserves serious thought. So a bunch of us got together to look at the things — for want of a better word — that lead to change orders and add time to the project.

Here are the top 5:

#1: Great design takes time.

It’s pretty quick and easy to build a site with a Shopify Plus Premium Theme but is that what you want for your brand? We love the Premium Themes, and they can deliver a beautiful site but it will be templated. You can begin with a design and add your brand, colors, images and copy into it, but it’s still a template. If that’s not what you want then you’ll need to build additional time and expense into your replatform or build.

Modern ecommerce has a long list of “isms,” one of which is the existence of a design language we must adhere to. We even reinforce these isms by calling them “best practices.” Many in the space have a notion that if your site isn’t predictable you’ll lose visitors, but that’s not really the case. Sometimes unpredictability can be really good. Take the site Entireworld.com. It has a completely unpredictable design, but visitors have no problem viewing products and adding things to their cart.

Design also encompasses your user interface and user experience. Once we build or replatform a site for a client we like to involve our Conversion Rate Optimization team. As my colleague, Megan Deleonardis discussed in her recent (and excellent) blog post, How to Build a Case for CRO within Your Company, the best practices and use cases we (as in the entire ecommerce community) rely on are essentially best guesses. The reality is that the same consumer will have different behaviors with different brands, so you need to test and optimize your customer experience based on tests.

Bottom line: Templates are a tried and true way to build a website, and they can be tailored to your brand and customer base. But if you want a more unique customer experience you’ll need to build extra time and expense into your re-platforming initiative.

#2: Data Migration is Always More Complicated than Anticipated

This is something that even we at Something Digital can forget. As people and consumers, all of our data lives in the cloud, and accessing it from one device or channel is straightforward. You just sign on and there it is.

But in the world of ecommerce, moving to a new platform requires a lot of data munging (ensuring that the data you want to migrate is structured correctly and consistently prior to moving it to your new platform). It’s not uncommon for data migration to turn into a long and difficult process of changing names, uploading it, realizing you made a mistake, reuploading it, and so on. Copy–>right click–> paste won’t cut it.

Your existing ecommerce platform may have some third-party apps, many of which store your data in the cloud, and when that’s the case migration is straightforward. But many don’t, and they’re the ones that tend to be problematic. Take for instance, your Store Locator. Chances are that data isn’t stored in the cloud, and when it’s time to replatform all of the stores will need to be set up all over again.

#3. An Information Architecture Audit is a Gift

Moving to a new ecommerce platform is a great time to look at your site with fresh eyes and ask what you could and should do better. It’s a terrific opportunity to rethink your approach rather than simply lift and shift an exact replica of your site to the new platform.

But many ecommerce brands resist doing an audit because they don’t want change. They don’t want customers to complain, “who moved my cheese?” Certainly a redesign will disrupt their rhythm, but there are two reasons why you shouldn’t let that stop you. First, consumers are pretty resilient. They can manage to navigate around and find what they need.

More importantly, a stagnant information architecture can really limit your potential growth. Customers who engage in the act of discovery more frequently will stumble onto new products and categories, and will ultimately have a higher lifetime value. If you keep everything exactly the same your customers have no reason to “explore” your site.

By the way, if you haven’t updated your information architecture in five years then you’re serving a customer paradigm that no longer exists.

#4: Weed Out What No Longer Makes Sense

My dad had a saying, “You never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul, because you can’t take it with you.” In other words, don’t get attached to your stuff.

The same is true for a lot of bells and whistles brands implemented on their sites through the years. Maybe they served you well two or three ecommerce platforms ago, but they’re not likely relevant to today’s consumer. Remember five years ago when Groupon deals were all the rage? (Ask a Gen Zer what Groupon is.)

We speak to a lot of ecommerce managers who want to bring all of their functionality with them because, well, why not? But a lot of it may not be beneficial anymore. Take wish lists. This feature is only useful if people have a very long purchase cycle. If your customers are storing items in their wish list because they intend to buy them over and over again, it’s probably better to introduce a subscription program. Wish lists are a design language of older ecommerce platform vendors that included them by default.

More importantly, five years ago ecommerce was all about efficiency: How do we get a buyer on our website, place an item in a cart and then complete the checkout process. We weren’t thinking in terms of average order value or lifetime value, which requires brands to take a long-view of their customer relationships.

Today we’re focused on the customer experience. Does our site delight the customer? Does it entice them to discover new things? A top goal for many brands today is encouraging the visitor to return over and over again, because, as the saying goes, if you hang out in a barber shop you’ll get a haircut soon enough.

Not too long ago we did an informal data study of 40 of our B2C clients, and we found that customers who visited the About page during the course of making a purchase were 65% to 70% more likely to purchase again. How do we explain that phenomenon?

My theory is that someone who has made a purchase decision after learning about your brand values and what you stand for is someone who shares those values. From that point on he or she will look at your brand through that lens of a shared value system.

But here’s the thing: while brands want to talk about migrating their entire order history, no one is talking about how to imbue their brand values throughout the purchase journey. In an era where we want to create deeper engagements with the customer, and be viewed as meaningful brands, it makes no sense to sequester that value message in the About page.

This is why we ask our clients: Would you rather have a very high conversion rate or a very meaningful brand. Brands that are meaningful invariably have a very loyal set of customers with high LTVs because the brand means a lot to them.

Measuring exactly what makes it meaningful is tricky, but you can measure things like LTV and AOV (and if, by the way, those to metrics are equal, that’s a good indication your brand isn’t particularly meaningful to your customers, because they’re not coming back).

At present we’re in a tough economy, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t spending money. People will buy an Xbox One X, there will be people who’ll buy a PlayStation 5. Connecting to that consumer’s values will get them to spend their money with your brand.

#5: Don’t Take all Your Data to Your New Platform

There’s a notion in the wider digital ecosystem that no data should be thrown away because all data is valuable. But is it? Do you really need to bring order data that’s 15 years old onto your new platform? I may have begun shopping with your brand 15 years ago, but I was a very different person then than I am now. I’ve changed, so has ecommerce and the expectations I bring to my interactions with you.

You don’t need my 15-year order history. What you do need to know is my shopping patterns and behaviors, where I sit in terms of value to your brand, and what I’m likely to want next. This is the kind of data that will help you drive relevant online experiences and promotions for me.

Another way to think of it is like this: do the visitors who’ll come to your site today need to know every product you carried 15 years ago? Let’s say you’re an electronics brand. Fifteen years ago the Nokia 1100 was the most popular-selling cell phone and you probably sold it. Does today’s customer care?

That’s one part of it. The other part is that ecommerce platforms are more sophisticated now, and you just don’t want to bog them down with historical data. Of course your historical data needs to live somewhere, but there are purpose built solutions for it, like BI tools and inventory planning and management systems. Your ecommerce platform needs to do one thing and do it really well: deliver a beautiful customer experience. That’s the binary question you need to ask about which data you migrate: will it be useful in enhancing the customer relationship?

What’s interesting about these five “things” to me is that they’re a direct reflection of the way ecommerce constantly evolves. They may take time and effort to consider, but they’re well worth it.

Something Digital and Rite Aid Finalists in the 2020 Adobe Experience Maker Awards

We at Something Digital spend our days creating the best possible e-commerce experience for our clients. We listen carefully to our clients’ needs, ask the right questions, and even apply our personal experience as consumers when designing a solution.

While we’re proud of our accomplishments, it’s still humbling when our work is acknowledged by industry leaders. That’s exactly what happened when Adobe announced its 2020 Adobe Experience Maker Awards and named Something Digital as one of its three finalists in the Mastermind category.

The Mastermind category, according to Adobe, “recognizes the company that has delivered a unified commerce experience across multiple B2C and B2B channels.” The work that impressed the judges was the site we built for Rite Aid.

Something Digital had significant experience to bring to the engagement due to our numerous clients in the health, wellness and beauty sectors. We understand the challenges of selling products that are deeply personal to the consumer and require long consideration times.

We began the Rite Aid engagement by helping them to migrate their site from Magento 1 to Magento 2. Once that important work was completed we concentrated on creating a more unified customer experience. Together we:

  • Teamed up with Adobe to deliver a more seamless flow between content and commerce.
  • Helped Rite Aid showcase its vast assortment of categories with custom Page Builder content blocks, allowing the brand to update content frequently, e.g. highlight antihistamines on the homepage at the peak of allergy season, along with highly relevant content on individual product pages.
  • Expanded checkout options by allowing customers to check out right from the marketing pages, as well as from the shopping pages.
  • Securely integrated the loyalty program into the site so customers have one login for both shopping and the loyalty program.
  • Migrated the custom features that Rite Aid wanted from its Magento 1 integration — Apple Pay, Load2Card, BonusCash, KidCents — to the Magento 2 platform. Something Digital recreated all those features so that customers and Rite Aid can continue business as usual.
  • Deployed on Magento’s Commerce Cloud for optimal performance, infrastructure, scaling, and monitoring. SD teams with Adobe’s Magento Cloud team to deliver a valued managed service layer that maintains these products and services at scale in a manner that continues to grow with the client.

 

Need a mastermind to help your brand create an outstanding customer experience for your site? Something Digital’s teams of best-in-class User Experience Designers, Developers and Quality Assurance Engineers are here to help.

Additional Something Digital Health & Beauty Resources:

 

Coming soon: The Something Digital Health, Wellness and Beauty eBook.

The State of The Customer Experience: Digital Panel

Everyone makes assumptions about what customers expect when they interact with a brand but how can we separate fact from opinion?

To answer that question, our partner Nosto surveyed 1,100 consumers to learn exactly what makes an ideal customer experience for them. Some of the insights are predictable, others are anything but. Now that we have an idea as to what consumers expect from an experience with a brand, the next task at hand is to find ways to deliver on those expectations.

To that end, Phillip Jackson, Chief Commerce Office at Something Digital, hosted the experts in a webinar to analyze the results that Nosto collected so that you can carve out an action plan. That webinar, The State of the Customer Experience, is available free and on demand. This blog post highlights just some of the insights revealed in the 45-minute webinar.

First, let’s meet our panelists.

In the upper righthand corner is Jan Soerensen, General Manager North America for Nosto, a standalone personalization platform that lets marketers personalize all of their brand’s touchpoints to the customer. To his right is Jake Cohen, Director of Product Marketing, Klaviyo, a marketing platform that helps ecommerce teams create, nurture and grow relationships with customers and prospects. Below Jake is Phillip Jackson who hosted the panel discussion, and to Phillip’s left is Olivia McNaughten, Product Marketing Manager, Yotpo. The Yotpo platform offers a full suite of solutions for customer reviews, visual marketing, loyalty programs, and referrals.

Phillip: One of the things we heard in the survey was that consumers expect omni-channel access to goods, although 53% said they interact with a brand most often on websites. What do you make of those finding Jake?

Jake: On the one hand if you’re a digital brand, 100% of your customers interact with you on your website because that is how they must buy from you. The purpose of the other channels is to nurture the relationship by sending information, community reviews, first-access to new products, and other things that are of real value to customers and prospects. Just take care to send information via channels your customers and prospects have opted into.

Phillip: Jan, 57% of consumers said they found a seamless experience across multiple channels, which is a bit surprising because within the industry, we see seamlessness across all touch points as a challenge. Why is that?

Jan: It’s a result of personalization. Personalization allows brands to meet their customer’s expectations, which in turn deliver better, more consistent experiences. There are many ways to approach personalization, one is based on maturity of the customer relationship. Early in the relationship marketers may want to go with a dual tap approach, starting with a pop-up with an offer and perhaps an exit-intend. Obviously, the site should cookie the users so they don’t become dependent on discounts.

Phillip: Changing topics a bit, do you recommend limiting discounts?

Jan: Discounting and couponing should be a stand alone discipline. A brand’s goal should be to minimize it as much as possible, which they can do by creating segments of people who don’t need a discount to purchase or repurchase. It’s a good idea to reduce the number of unnecessary discounts, and there are marketing tools that can automate that decisioning by identifying and segmenting which consumers have a strong affinity to a brand and suppressing those offers.

Phillip: When the survey respondents were asked what helps them make a purchase, 76% said reviews, followed by discounts, photos, word of mouth and loyalty points. Olivia, why do reviews trump discounts?

Olivia: Consumers are swayed by social proof. Our research has shown that 77% of shoppers actually prefer customer photos over professionally taken pictures. To that point, 98% of customers seek reviews when making a purchase decision because it helps them feel more confident that their decision is the right one for them.

Phillip: Can user generated content (UGC) be featured outside of the dotcom site to promote repeat purchase or retention?

Jake: Absolutely, and to find proof just consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which says that for people to feel truly safe and comfortable they need a few things. First is food, shelter and water, the second is belonging. People want to feel they’re not alone, and they’ll go to extremes to do that. I also recommend Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence. He termed the coin “social proof” in that book.

If you can capture [user generated] content from people in the tribe who are connected to your brand and disperse it to others who are not, you can demonstrate social proof and invite them to belong. The next question is mechanical: how do we do that? We’ve mapped that out.

[Editor’s note, Jake describes that map in detail in the webinar]

Phillip: Let’s talk about the home page, 58% of consumers say content on the home page is relevant to them. Is that because we’re doing a great job at crafting more personalized experiences, Jan?

Jan: We’re a lot better but we still have a long way to go. By way of example, let’s compare it to email. Marketers are really good at creating email series — welcome series, customer lifetime value series, category affinity and so on. There are so many campaigns we run offsite that we can and should run them onsite as well. The direct-to-consumer brands are good at this. When a new customer arrives on a site it shows branding and social proof. As customers progress in their relationship, the home page emphasizes loyalty. Even if your brand doesn’t have a bunch of products or personas, you can do a lot around life cycle and life time value.

Olivia: People take many routes to reach your homepage; it’s not linear. One of the most important things brands can do  towards providing a consistent experience is to implement social proof in every touch point. Once they enter your website the trust is already there, so your homepage can focus on your brand. The best thing you can do there is showcase your brand through your community.

Phillip: Thanks to our panelists for all of their insight. This post covers just a small fraction of what they’ve shared. I highly recommend watching the free webinar at your convenience for:

  • A deep-dive into the current state of customer experience based on survey results
  • Expert opinions on why certain customer experience trends are meeting consumer demands
  • Actionable insights and into how ecommerce brands can optimize their customer experience strategy to meet consumer expectations.

 

Watch the full webinar here or let us know if you have any questions.

Conversion Rate Optimization with Megan DeLeonardis and Phillip Jackson

Every ecommerce brand wants sales — as many as possible and as quickly as possible. To that end, all focus is on the conversion rate, or the number of sales divided by the number of website visitors. Success in ecommerce means doing whatever it takes to keep bumping that number higher, right?

Not exactly, say Something Digital’s Megan Deleonardis, Vice President of Programs and Phillip Jackson, Chief Commerce Officer. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a bit more complicated than that, and for good reason. The two of them jumped on a Zoom meeting, with me, Brittany Wheeler, to talk about Something Digital’s unique take on CRO.

BW: What does CRO mean today, in 2020, for today’s merchants? And what are its opportunities for ecommerce merchants?

PJ: The short answer is it’s a practice by which merchants, or their consultants, examine every aspect of an ecommerce business to assess how well a brand is meeting the needs of its customers, and then applying that insight to improve the customer relationship. A stronger, more responsive relationship is the best way to generate more sales.

MD: That’s right. A brand’s conversion rate is dependent on getting a lot of factors that affect the customer experience right — page design, site design, traffic quality, end-to-end purchase funnel, overall ecommerce strategy, and above all else, understanding what your customer wants from your brand. Unless a site has 100% conversion, meaning each and every site visitor converts, we need to test, measure and optimize all aspects of a business on a continuous basis.

PJ: Let’s dig deeper into that. When Something Digital talks to our clients about best practices, we present the purchase funnel as a process governed by three factors: the traffic you drive to your website, the basket size or average order value (AOV), and conversion rate.

But those factors are broad. Traffic can be broken down into new visitors versus returning customers, active versus dormant customers, customers who find your website organically or arrive as the result of a campaign. AOV can be segmented by first purchase versus replenishing or returning customers, and so on.

MD: That’s exactly why we treat conversion rate optimization as a practice unto itself, one that spans the digital strategy team, the creative team and the engagement team.

PJ: Which is a practice you lead. Why don’t you explain your role in Something Digital?

MD: I have a few avenues to focus on. One of my key responsibilities is to help Something Digital build out and change our messaging towards CRO. CRO requires more than technical partners and technical developers. It’s about strategy, and using data to help our clients make better business decisions.

To help our clients make better decisions, we pull all of the SD teams together to look at data and see what it means from all of our perspectives. We analyze what’s working and what’s not and, as a group, hypothesize the best way to tackle a challenge. We then run tests and validate the results. This is how we optimize the customer experience so that clients see revenue growth year over year.

PJ: The word optimize is a key here because one can inadvertently harm other ecommerce factors since everything is all finely tuned and balanced with each other. For instance, if you try to get a visitor to convert too quickly it can have a negative impact on AOV. Or if you over-emphasize AOV with incentives, you can disrupt the customer’s normal flow of purchase and extend the purchasing cycle. In a worst case scenario, you can prompt a customer to load on up with, say, a six-month supply of supplements, which will deliver a boost in AOV, but it will also mean they won’t have a reason to come back to your site for those six months.

MD: And a lot can happen in those six months.

PJ: It sure can. You might introduce new products or extend a product category which they might not see. Or your customers may reconsider your brand and look at others. Good relationship management means ensuring your customers want to return to your site regularly, and when they do, discover new products.

MD: This is precisely why we’re working so hard to elevate the concept of conversion rate optimization with our clients. It’s more than just a metric, it’s more than just a rate of sales. It’s a mindset.

PJ: I agree. CRO is about finding the right balance. Here’s something we’ve learned in the process about conversion rates: not all people will convert on their first visit, and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s even preferable, especially if we’re prompting visitors to make a highly considered purchase. In those cases we need to tell multiple aspects of the product or the brand story, and it just doesn’t make sense to push for an immediate conversion because it is likely to backfire. These are the things we think long and hard about.

MD: And it’s why successful CRO initiatives must touch every person within Something Digital. Our designers are always looking at what’s working on a page, and how design can improve the customer journey. Our digital strategists are always looking at the funnel to see where a brand loses prospects, and why, and how we can fix it. And the strategic engagement managers, on an annual basis, build roadmaps to help clients meet their revenue goals. And we look holistically at the ecommerce funnel to ask things like: Do we need to drive more traffic? Increase AOV? Is the conversion rate where we want it to be, or is it below average? Should we focus more on mobile?

Of course, these conversations have always been happening, but now we’ve pulled it all together into the CRO practice so we can remessage the conversation.

PJ: That’s smart, in my opinion, because at the end of the day, CRO is all about insights, as I’ve said earlier. Success in CRO isn’t only about getting more purchases, success is finding what works and what doesn’t and using that insight to build a better relationship with the customer.

We have a pyramid we use when we talk about CRO with customers. At the top of the pyramid is vision, just below that is goals, followed by strategies and tactics. The point is, if you don’t have a goal then your strategies may not align with your vision. CRO is a strategy, but the end goal isn’t more sales, it’s greater insights into your customers and how they think. This is the ultimate goal, in my opinion. The better the relationship, the more your customers will provide unsolicited feedback to your business. That leads to them feeling a greater ownership of that relationship, which leads to long term loyalty and greater lifetime value.

BW: So it sounds as if our approach to CRO is different from other agencies. Do we charge for that service in the same way as other agencies do?

PJ: Nope, not at all. A lot of agencies take a percentage of the client’s ad spend, some take a percentage of net new orders or a percentage of lift. We include CRO in our retainer hours so that we’re not incentivized to earn more by getting our clients to spend more. We’re incentivized to find the right things that work for our clients, and to find the insights to enhance their businesses, and not simply to execute a Google Adwords or social media playbook.

BW: Need more information about Something Digital’s CRO service, or to speak to someone how to apply it to your business? Click here to get started.

Measure Your Maturity: Power Your DTC Retail Business Growth Webinar

Growing an ecommerce business can be tough and figuring out how mature a company is can be even more difficult. SD’s Chief Commerce Officer, Phillip Jackson and Klaviyo’s Director of Performance Marketing, Joe McCarthy have brought you a webinar to help you decipher those next steps using SD’s BULLSEYE maturity quiz and Klaviyo’s expertise in owned marketing.

To check out the full webinar click the link below.

Measure Your Maturity: Power Your DTC Retail Business Growth Webinar

press release

Leadership Moves, Delivery Reorganization at Something Digital

This week, ecommerce agency Something Digital quietly announced a delivery team reorganization along with the ascension of four long-time team members to a newly formed C-suite. Changes were announced at the Q4 company meeting on December 5.

SD’s delivery team is moving from a traditional hierarchy to a matrix structure. All practices and associated services will remain intact, but there will be new internal formations around both functional and team-oriented leadership.

Something Digital C-Suite

Additionally, several long-time senior leaders were promoted effective immediately: Mickey Winter becomes SD’s Chief Creative Officer, Jon Tudhope becomes Chief Technology Officer, James Idoni becomes Chief Operating Officer, and Phillip Jackson becomes Chief Commerce Officer. These promotions are well earned, as SD is in the midst of 3 successive years of record growth.

“As a growing company, you can’t continue to operate with 100 people the same way you did with 50,” says Principal and Co-Founder Founder Jon Klonsky. “These colleagues—along with others being promoted—are great leaders who have helped us excel.”

Greg Steinberg, SD’s other Principal and Co-Founder explains further: “The changes represent our effort to better distribute leadership, accountability, and culture. We’re extremely excited about SD’s next decade.”

About Something Digital:
Something Digital creates human focused digital commerce experiences that evolve brands and grow businesses. We specialize in commerce, digital strategy, user experience and design. Our expertise ranges from fashion & apparel to food & beverage, accessibility, and everything in between. We are in it for the long-haul and develop long lasting client partnerships that reap unparalleled growth and success.
Learn more ›

Merchant to Merchant: A Podcast for Merchants by Merchants

Hello and welcome to the Something Digital Merchant to Merchant Podcast!

We’re very excited to share our podcast with all of you. This podcast won’t just be about anything – we’re bringing you stories about digital commerce straight from the merchants themselves and its hosted by SD’s, Phillip Jackson.

Click below to listen to full episodes from our podcast and subscribe here so you never miss an episode.

 

Our next Merchant to Merchant is in New York City on April 16, 2020 – Save the date!

Merchant to Merchant: 3 Brands Share their Strategies for Staying True to Their Principles

Creating a brand is hard enough – holding true to your ideals is harder still. But not impossible, as dressmaker Christy Dawn, custom eyeglass company Fritz Frames, and yoga brand Alo Yoga can attest. In this podcast, Victoria Ainsworth, growth consultant for Christy Dawn, Gabriel Schulmberg, Fritz Frame’s CEO, and Nick Jaquay, IT operations manager for ALO Yoga talked with Phillip Jackson about “doing things the hard way” and creating brand experiences and products that not only define – but align with – the mission of the brand.

We hope you’ll listen to the podcast in full (it’s about an hour), but if you can’t, here are five key takeaways:

Problem Solving as Genesis of Brand

Each brand began with a desire to solve a problem. For Christy Dawn, it was the massive waste and horrendous environmental impact of the fashion industry. Each year fashion houses order vast quantities of fabric for their collections for the coming year, much of which won’t be used, known as dead stock. Christy Dawn saw a business opportunity in those huge piles of unused fabric: a collection of dresses made from 100% dead stock. As it turned out, women love these dresses.

Heidi Hertel and Gabriel Schulmberg both have children who need glasses, and were frustrated with the experience of buying and replacing them on a regular basis. If your two-year-old needs glasses, expect them to be lost or broken frequently. Getting kids to the eye doctor, then to an eyeglass store to select frames, and then back again to have them fitted is time consuming. On top of that, styles and inventory are limited. Gabriel says that even if he was lucky enough to find a pair find a pair his children liked, there was no guarantee he could replace them with an identical pair once they were lost of broken. “We didn’t start out to sell glasses, we set it up to solve glasses, and the brand is grounded in that.” In other words, the brand was founded on making life for parents easier.

The founders of Alo Yoga are passionate about yoga, and wanted to make it easier for practitioners to incorporate it into their lives. A big challenge: going from the yoga mat to the street without changing clothes. Alo Yoga decided to create, “garments that carry over to the street, into a life lived consciously” because “mindful movement can travel beyond the studio.”

Listen to Customers

All three brands are keen to listen to their customers. For instance, before Fritz Frames began manufacturing frames the company interviewed 100 people, mostly moms, and asked them about their days. These interviews convinced them that they needed to offer customers a super simply sales cycle.

Victoria Ainsworth says that Christy Dawn is still small enough that they can follow up with every customer to find out how they like their dresses. Alo Yoga relies on social media to crowdsource their product design. Yogis get insight from their students, and then feed it back to Alo Yoga via social media.

Designing Products Around Mission

Every thoughtful brand launches with a mission, but staying true to that mission can be challenging. Why are these brands successful?

Fritz Frames’ mission was to make parent’s life easier. To that end, they offer custom, 3D printed eyeglasses, which they sell via an app. The app creates an image of the customer’s face, and allows the customer to select from different styles and colors virtually. The entire process, from downloading the app to queuing up the order at the 3D printing facility takes 5 minutes.

Alo’s mission is to allow people to be more mindful every day, which is why the brand offers an app with instructor-guided yoga routines. Customers can practice yoga as their schedule allows. The brand also has studios where shoppers can practice yoga.

In addition to making clothes out of dead stock, Christy Dawn now plants cotton in India. The cotton is both sustainable and regenerative, so as not to harm the plant.

Approach to Growth

Fritz Frames was launched as a way to provide eyeglasses to kids, but 50% of their orders now come from adults. Most eyeglass manufacturers make assumptions about the types of styles that are appropriate to each face shape, and if your taste runs contrary to those assumptions, you’re out of luck. Because Fritz Frames customizes all styles to the individual face, growth will come from making more customers happier.

Christy Dawn has no interest in growing just for growth’s sake. As Victoria explains, “we believe in sticking with this model and things will grow over time, and grow as they should.” For Christy Dawn, growth comes from word of mouth. Women love their dresses and tell their friends about it. They also advertise on social media, but they don’t rely on the usual tricks of 15% off, their ads stay true to their brand.

Technology is an important part of the Alo experience. For instance, smart mirrors leveraging augmented reality allow shoppers to see what they’ve tried on in many different colors. Growth comes from visualizing what the future holds, and being ready for it from a tech perspective.

Lifetime Engagement vs. Lifetime Value

Interestingly, each of these brands value lifetime engagement over lifetime value, which seems anathema to a consumer brand. “Focusing on long-term engagement, time spent thinking of the brand, is more important than trying to get them into a store to buy something,” explains Gabriel Schulmberg. “It changes how you approach the business. It’s not about driving sales, but how many touch points can we make this person feel great about the brand.”

The panel had a lot more to say about the challenges than described here. Have a listen on your next lunch hour, or commute by clicking here.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Something Digital Helps Magento Move into the Future

The Web has always been a cooperative endeavor, with the best minds coming together to create better experiences for the general user population. It’s an approach adopted by Magento through its Magento Contributors initiative, which acknowledges that the people who work with e-tailers day in and day out have critical insight into market needs, and that their collective insight can help propel the platform forward.

As Magento says about its community of contributors, “Your contributions are the foundation of the Magento open source platform. Contributions include source code patches — either bug fixes or new functionality — delivered by individual and partner developers across our Community.”

Something Digital’s Contributions to Magento

Something Digital has been impressively active in the contributions community, and recently Magento invited one of our developers, Patrick McLain, to join its Community Maintainer team. Patrick maintains a handful of open-source modules for Magento 2, and can often be found looking for interesting questions on Magento StackExchange.

Led by Patrick, Something Digital has made substantial contributions to Magento, including 40 submissions, 39 of which have been incorporated into Magento’s core code. His contributions have ranged from code modifications and bug fixes to new features that will enable progressive web applications (PWA) to support mobile phone shoppers.

Some highlights:

  • Libsodium encryption. A key contribution allows for implementation of the Libsodium encryption library. The encryption library previously used by Magento, mcrypt, had been deprecated for quite some time, so Patrick worked to bring Magento’s encryption library up to date. Thanks to Patrick and Something Digital, all encrypted values stored inside the database and used by the platform are now more secure.
  • GraphQL projects. Most of our contributions concern the GraphQL project, which is a query language originally developed by Facebook for its mobile applications, and competes with REST API. Facebook turned GraphicQL into an open source protocol, which in turn, enabled Something Digital to contribute to power the future of Magento’s front end in bringing about PWA.
  • Mobile Checkout. Within GraphQL Patrick made numerous contributions toward the checkout implementation, thereby allowing users to progress from viewing a product to putting it in their cart, setting shipping and billing addresses, payment information. His contributions span the checkout to order creation processes.
  • Payment Methods Architecture. Something Digital developed the architecture for online payment methods, i.e., how code will be structured for anyone implementing a payment method inside of Magento. And once it’s exposed to PWAs through GraphQL, will follow the architecture that Something Digital developed.

 

“It’s no surprise that Something Digital’s developers like Patrick are prolific contributors to Magento’s core platform. We’ve helped retailers thrive in the global ecosystem for 20 years, and have firsthand knowledge of what they need from their platform in order to serve their customers well and grow their businesses,” explained Greg Steinberg, Principal and Co-Founder of Something Digital. “The fact that the bulk of our contributions are now part of Magento core code speaks to the expertise of our development team.”

Something Digital Clients get an Inside Track

One of the reasons why Something Digital leadership is keen to allow its developers to participate in the Magento Contributors Community is that such participation has a direct benefit to our customers.

As Patrick explains, “For all new features that we help build, even before it’s released to the general public, before it’s available for anybody to use, Something Digital developers are already subject matter experts, because we wrote it. We understand the internal workings of it, the best practices for developing features on it, because we were there the whole way through the development cycle.”

If you want to learn more about our Magento contributions, who we are, and what we do, let us know!