Following on from the success of our previous virtual Geekmeet, in which one of our speakers joined us live from New York, the next logical step was to make our session fully transatlantic.
For our latest Geekmeet, Piper’s popular and long-established roundtable of ecommerce minds, we teamed up with US-based Primary Venture Partners to conduct what we think is the first of its kind – a global forum over Zoom with 50 UK and 50 American brands including our partner brands past and present, Monica Vinader, Boden, Neom, Wattbike, The Thinking Traveller, Wild Nutrition, and Mous (pictured).
As with all experiments, there were a few teething troubles. The most notable involved one of our US attendees and the mute button – or lack of it. We spent an enlightening couple of minutes listening to his impressive negotiating skills before he was eventually (and mercifully) silenced.
That aside, the format worked remarkably well. Instead of having one speaker, brands submitted questions in advance with brands from each country responding before opening the discussion up to the forum.
Here are some of our take-outs:
- Speak to your existing audiences. Seek their input/survey how you currently perform and ask what you can do to make your brand better and different. Some brands ask for feedback on the checkout in the form of an open textbox, with results monitored and compared by country.
- Team up with a brand in a new country. In addition to collaborations which leverage their credentials and database reach, it is also useful to have an external sounding board where you can seek feedback/input on your approach.
- Focus on community-building. With YouTube and influencer marketing in the UK still behind the US, try to maximise word of mouth and focus on building your community. See previous GeekMeet session dedicated to community building.
- Identify and create advocates out of your consumers. Tools such as Duel and Sauce are regarded as powerful in the UK.
- There is still value in email communications. Wherever possible, build your marketing ‘pot’ which will ultimately reduce reliance on paid media. To assist in capturing email addresses, where products/variants are out of stock, collect email addresses for notifications.
- Review your Google Analytics. With so much invested in different types of media globally, it’s critical to ensure your Google Analytics has been audited. Jill Quick has spoken on the subject at a previous Geekmeet and assisted many Piper brands.
- Find alternative shipping options. Brexit has unsurprisingly been a disaster for numerous businesses who fulfil from the UK, some of whom have had to put their operations on hold. Several brands have mitigated the risk by using freight forwarders and courier consolidators such as OSE. Others scrambled to fulfil via European third-party logistics or even established warehousing solutions for themselves. The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) is said to be incredibly pro-active in assisting UK brands.US businesses should consider ReBound or Zigzag to manage the return and re-distribution of customer orders.
- Use TikTok for awareness not conversion. TikTok can generate amazing awareness, though attendees felt it was not a tool to drive conversion and can actually have a negative impact if trying to do so. Sometimes, the founders have gained more traction than the brands themselves.
- Make the unboxing experience special. It’s important for customers, particularly in the US, to feel pampered by the unboxing experience. The products are also more likely to end up on Instagram.
- Podcasts and print work. Podcasts seem to be gaining traction for brands in the UK, less so in the US. But brands in both markets are seeing a resurgence in traditional print media. Due to the sheer scale of the US, UK brands coming over were advised to use targeted/localised maildrops as a test.
Above all, the general consensus across the 100 brands in both countries is that loyal consumers need to be treated as heroes and that the personal touch cannot be underestimated.
At the end of the three-hour long forum, someone gave the example of a beauty store in San Francisco where the assistant gave out samples to a customer along with her mobile phone number, asking her to call her the next day with an update.
Providing that ‘level of intimacy’ at scale is not easy, especially digitally and in a new country, but it’s the kind of service that customers won’t forget – on either side of the pond.