We caught up with Mayank, head of ecommerce at Crocus.co.uk, the online retailer providing over 4,000 plant and gardening products to customers in the UK. Mayank’s role is to implement the business strategy from an ecommerce point of view, making the digital experience work for the customer. The entire customer journey and ecommerce experience is Mayank’s responsibility.How have customer expectations changed?
It has changed massively. I think the customers expectations have grown since Amazon came along, everyone wants delivery there and then, free of charge. Customers want convenient delivery, they want to select their delivery slots, delivery dates and they don’t want to pay for it, especially when they know we’re an online only business and don’t have the overheads of a retailer on a high street.
Who are your customers and how do you tailor your online experiences for them?
When we started in 2000 it was more of a catalogue-based customer, customers would get a catalogue in the post and then go online and purchase the products. Now we’re seeing customers who have become much more internet-savvy. They know how the online process works, what they can and cannot do, what the expectations are, and how the payment is made at the checkout.
The work we’ve done with Qubit is helping create tailored experiences for the future, particularly around seasonality. For example, we’re leveraging purchasing behaviour of our customers from one month last year, and then surfacing the same products to purchase in the same month this year. Naturally, plants are a seasonal purchase and being able to utilise our customer data through Qubit means we can start looking at how we target and message customers, and whether we can extend them an offer to increase that conversion and loyalty to our brand.
How do you think about that customer journey?
We’re constantly thinking about the customer journey and trying to understand, from our data, how best to tailor the experience for our visitors. If we can properly understand our customer we can then begin to develop strategies to influence their purchasing behaviour and make them feel confident in buying from us every single time. Automating the strategies that we employ to influence our customers is something which the Qubit platform can help us achieve.
What results are you seeing with Qubit Product Recommendations?
Before Qubit came along we had a very manual way of doing product recommendations, something we call ‘Goes Well With’. For years a horticulturalist would select plants that ‘go well with’ others, and then upload that information to the website. Our customers love it because they can understand the look and feel of how their gardens should be, and we love it because it’s a really seamless upsell opportunity.
With Qubit, we’re now looking to move away from the manual process of having a horticulturalist feed into every product recommendation. As a first step we’ve built product recommendations to fit with our non-plant based products, like garden benches and sheds. When purchasing a garden bench you’re likely to want cushions or other complementary items, so we can easily recommend these sorts of things. The Qubit algorithm will learn and get better at making recommendations so the future looks really exciting.
After having AB tested the impact of recommendations, we’re now beginning to see the results. It’s made a real difference, and internally I’ve had comments about how relevant and accurate the Qubit product recommendations experience is for our customers. If my colleagues are impressed, our customers will be wowed. It’s a big win for us and something we’ll be rolling out to our plant products very soon.
You’re also using Abandonment Recovery, how’s that working out?
With Abandonment Recovery, it’s again something we did testing and analysis on with Qubit. We were looking at how long customers leave things in their basket, and how likely they are to come back and make a purchase.
We’ve been sending customers basket abandonment emails, without any offers or incentives, and we’ve seen very good results. The next steps with this will be about how we can make it work even harder, how can we fine-tune and leverage that easily accessible customer data to make the basket abandonment email smarter and more effective by using customer segmentation.
What are your plans for 2017 and beyond…
What we’ve realised in the past couple of years, highlighted by working with Qubit, is that the customer is at the heart of everything that we do.
Plans include further onsite personalisation. What we’ve seen with Qubit is that personalising the website for the customer is not only good for us because we get more data about the customer journey, but also because the customer gets a better experience.
A goal in 2017-2018 is having a digital customer experience which personalises itself - everything will be driven by who the user is, rather than what we want to promote. This is not just changing the way we manage the content on the website but a much wider change in philosophy and concept of merchandising and more importantly the company’s mindset towards ecommerce. I’m really excited about it.
That mindset change, how are you talking about your vision to your internal stakeholders?
When we work with a company like Qubit, the team can bring the experience and data of working with 100s of different companies worldwide, it makes the whole internal conversation much easier. I’m backing everything up with stats, facts and figures and when I sit down with our CEO I’m able to show the research, tests and proof of why we should implement a particular strategy. This will also involve a lot of education around the concept of a self-evolving website and content.
Finally, what’s it like working with Qubit and the team here?
I really feel like Qubit is an extension of the Crocus team, I’ve never come across any company that fits into our business so well. Our customer is at the heart of our company, and at the core of that is the data, information, strategy and insight that the Qubit platform and team provides us. Without Qubit Visitor Cloud, and the programmatic solutions like Abandonment Recovery and Product Recommendations, we would not be able to do many of the digital personalisations that are driving so much commercial value for Crocus.Qubit are invested in the success of Crocus beyond just the traditional vendor relationship we have - we’re truly aligned. I trust the team to not just come up with things to put a tick in a box, but they also extend beyond that and think about whether things will add value to Crocus, will it improve our users’ experiences, and will it align with the overall strategy of Crocus. It’s phenomenal!