Home Discovered Podcasts Episode 2: Donald Russell’s Experience Trialling Search Solutions Including Klevu and Nosto


Episode 2: Donald Russell’s Experience Trialling Search Solutions Including Klevu and Nosto

Head of Ecommerce for Donald Russell discusses their experience trialling search solutions. Hear about their best-of-breed tech stack and the importance of testing the market.

Episode Description:

Join Klevu VP of Marketing, Rachel Tonner, and Donald Russell’s Head of Ecommerce, Jason Stewart, as they discuss Donald Russell’s experience trialling search solutions, including Klevu and Nosto. Hear about their best-of-breed tech stack and the importance of testing the market to drive value through suppliers. 

Guest BIO:

Jason Stewart, Head of Ecommerce, Donald Russell

Jason has been working in digital marketing roles within the F&B and travel sectors for 14 years, and is a specialist and advocate for e-commerce.  Currently holding the position of Head of Marketing at Donald Russell, Jason is responsible for leading a team of talented marketers to the delivery of multi-channel creative campaigns using a combination of digital and traditional methods driving customers to donaldrussell.com.

Donald Russell is a well-established in the world of e-commerce, and F&B generally – with hundreds of thousands of customers shopping regularly to enjoy award-winning, restaurant-quality food that’s delivered direct to their door.  The company built its reputation on craft butchery, and has since grown to be a trusted brand and symbol for high quality food – as easily recognisable through its long-held Royal Warrant and presence on menus in some of the world’s finest Michelin-Starred restaurants.

A multi-award-winning marketer, Jason has a wide breadth of knowledge within the e-commerce and digital space including website design, UX, conversion rate optimisation, SEO, PPC, personalisation, eCRM and more.  Jason believes that although e-commerce is an ever-evolving and often technical and confusing topic, the fundamentals of creating a frictionless, enjoyable and inspiring experience have remained unchanged throughout the years. 


Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:00] Jason Stewart: I think in food marketing it’s quite interesting because you, you can actually inspire customers with things they maybe didn’t really think that they wanted. You know, food food’s a very evocative subject. It’s, you know, how many times have you gone into a restaurant and said, you know what, I’m gonna try that. I didn’t, I didn’t come in with that intention, but I am going to try that today cause it really does sound good.

[00:00:21] And, and that’s really what the function of the search and, and the website generally is. It’s how do we inspire people to try something new but also help them find what they’re looking for. 

[00:00:31] Rachel Tonner: Hi Jason. Thank you so much for joining us today. I’m here with Jason Stewart, who is head of e-commerce for Donald Russell. Jason, can you just tell me a little bit about yourself and your experience and kinda what brought you to e-commerce?

[00:00:45] Jason Stewart: Yeah, hi Rachel. Perfect. Yeah, I can tell you a little bit about myself. So I’ve been working in the e-commerce industry, for 14 years now. In terms of what brought me into it, I’d say that I’ve always had really a passion for marketing generally, but especially marketing that involves technology.

[00:01:07] From a very young age I’ve, I’ve been really interested in, in tech and computers and, you know, the the involvement of, of tech and how it can help to power. The, the marketing of, of organizations. And, and that’s really what kind of led me into, into this industry. I actually spent a decade working in the aviation sector, so you know, it, it really enjoyed watching the progression of e-commerce.

[00:01:33] And, you know, what was the early days of, of the tech watching, you know, websites move into mobile first and you know, e-commerce and, and buying online. And the, the behaviors of customers that were more, more comfortable with doing that as time moved on and, and, you know, Basically building a career out of that from, from the early doors into what it is today, which is, you know, almost the preferred way of, of consumers to shop.

[00:02:05] And yeah, I think that in terms of my experience, lot of it’s born out of the love to just make experiences for customers better, whether that’s through a website or, or engaging them through social media or you know, maybe telling them a nice story on an email campaign or something like that.

[00:02:22] That’s, that’s what kind of gets me out of bed in the morning. And yeah, my experience is vast across multiple. Multiple disciplines because I’ve had the benefit of being exposed to it all over the years. So everything from website development to the, the technology that supports websites and e-commerce systems all the way through to the creative execution design and, and development of campaigns.

[00:02:46] So yeah, that, that’s me in a nutshell. 

[00:02:49] Rachel Tonner: That’s so interesting. So from aviation to food! So in general, kind of what constitutes a great product discovery experience for shoppers in the food arena. And is there anything unique to that and unique to Donald Russell that you kind of want to mention here?

[00:03:11] Jason Stewart: Yeah, I think with, with Donald Russell, we’re, we’re quite a unique case in, in a lot of ways in that we’ve been around for almost half a century now. You know, next year will be our, our 50th birthday. And during that time the company has supplied some of the world’s best restaurants, including royalty actually.

[00:03:32] So Buckingham Palace for about 40 years. We have grown into a consumer facing brand since about 1996. And from there we predominantly were marketing using meal packs and catalogs and taking orders over, over the phone. When I joined the company that was around about. You know, high thirties, early forties percentage of the, the orders was, was the e-commerce side, I should say. Since then post the, the Covid pandemic and, and and beyond, it’s more like two thirds of the, the company’s retail orders do actually come on the.com site. In terms of Donald Russell itself, it’s, you know, multi award-winning food. It’s supplier to, to genuine Michelin star restaurants.

[00:04:23] And we have achieved, if you like, or, or received over 350,000 five star customer reviews from our, from our customers. And they, they absolutely love our products and the comeback time and time again. And it is genuinely fabulous food. You know, that it would be very difficult to, to disagree that the food quality is exceptional.

[00:04:45] And I think that is half the battle in a way. We already have an amazing product, and in terms of Klevu and, and and other tech stack providers, it’s about how do we inspire them [shoppers] and, and allow them to not only find the products they’re looking for, but have them discover maybe something a little bit different.

[00:05:04] I think in food marketing it’s quite interesting because you, you can actually inspire customers with things they maybe didn’t really think that they wanted. You know, food food’s a very evocative subject. It’s, you know, how many times have you gone into a restaurant and said, you know what, I’m gonna try that. I didn’t come in with that intention, but I am going to try that today cause it really does sound good.

[00:05:25] And, and that’s really what the function of the search and, and the website generally is. It’s how do we inspire people to try something new but also help ’em find what they’re looking for. 

[00:05:35] You know, the, the Klevu aspect, some of the things that I think it, it, it does well to aid us in that that goal to help people find things is we do show people, for example trending products. Which, you know, is something that I think helps people see, well, these are what, other people are looking at today. And we also will surface popular searches and popular content. So things like recipes or sections of the website. Things like, at the moment, Mother’s Day is, is on that section, but last week there was a national campaign for what’s called Butchers Week.

[00:06:11] And you know, given that the company has a, a real heritage in in craft butchery showing customers that maybe came in with a different intention, that it is actually National Butchers Week helps to you know, maybe divert their attention slightly to something they might not have tried or, or inspire them that a little bit more.

[00:06:27] Rachel Tonner: I’m just showing now, the quick search. So actually when you click in, you immediately are presented with a lot of interesting visuals and offers and information. So yeah, I see what you’re saying. 

[00:06:39] Jason Stewart: And the bit at the bottom there, that’s the promotional panel function within Klevu, which allows us to divert the attention, to show people that actually, if you did want to order for Mother’s Day, then now is essentially your last chance because we, we don’t have that many delivery slots available now for our Mother’s Day promotion. So the customer may have come in thinking, well, I’m just gonna buy for myself.

[00:07:02] But actually we have this whole section dedicated to, to Mother’s Day, which may interest them even if they didn’t come in with that original intention. 

[00:07:10] Rachel Tonner: Absolutely. And I guess the quick switching of those things is really important for you in order to keep the offers relevant, right? 

[00:07:19] Jason Stewart: Yeah. And, and the Klevu system allows us to do that very easily.

[00:07:22] You literally go into the system, upload the banner, put a URL in there, then tell it where you wanted to show, and it will appear really quickly on the website, which, you know, is, is it’s handy or there’s no development required to allow us to do that, which, in an, in an industry where development could sometimes take some time and often needs to be scoped out and added to, you know, a project management board and added to the next sprint deployment and things like that.

[00:07:48] Being able to do that ourselves just takes all of the, the hassle away. 

[00:07:52] Rachel Tonner: Absolutely. So that brings to the next question quite easily. What does your typical day look like? What does your team’s typical day look like? 

[00:08:01] Jason Stewart: Yeah. E-commerce is, is massive for us because it, it does generate such a high proportion of the overall sales.

[00:08:07] And because of that, our team is, is multi-disciplined and and varied in what it’s output is, even on a day-to-day basis. You know, there, there will be occasions where we maybe will need extra orders to fill our, our weeks’ capacity. There will be other times where we’re working on bigger campaigns that, you know, upcoming campaigns, for example, things like the King’s Coronation which are due to happen quite soon.

[00:08:31] Lots of public holidays across the UK and I’m sure lots of people celebrating street parties and all that good stuff. 

[00:08:36] But you know, it, it can span across retention, reactivation, and acquisition, and each of those three strands has multiple subplots, if you like, in terms of things that we we need to do. So in the world of acquisition, there will be paid and organic media that we’ll need to manage to, to drive new customers to the site, to inspire them to buy from us for the first time. 

[00:09:01] In reactivation, there will be some customers that are either due to lapse or have already lapsed that we’re trying to, you know, encourage to come back and try us again through one method or another. 

[00:09:11] And then in retention, which, you know, is really the biggest part of the the operation. It’s how do we keep our 12- month active customers buying from us? And, and what is it that we can do to really keep them interested and make sure that they’re looked after? And yeah, a a lot of that’s done through things like email social media, website merchandising and things like that.

[00:09:33] Rachel Tonner: Yeah, I mean, you’re basically describing also my day. You know, I’m a marketer too, so I understand how you need to plan for that strategic forward thinking, those campaigns, but also if we’re under budget and we need to quickly get more sales, we also have to be that reactive sales activation team.

[00:09:54] And being able to implement things quickly and make decisions and action quickly is really important. 

[00:09:59] Jason Stewart: It’s, it’s probably one of the main reasons that I enjoy the discipline of e-commerce. It’s because you can be super agile, make fast data driven decisions that can have a profound impact on the performance of the company on a daily, weekly, or, you know, annual basis even. Without really having the need to plan too much in the, in the traditional way. Things like, you know, traditional media and, and traditional marketing methods, you know, tv, print, etc. With e-comm, you can really kind of be agile and, and have that impact almost immediately. 

[00:10:33] Rachel Tonner: And you have the tech to be able to support it. Right, exactly. So tell me about your current tech stack and why did you make those choices? 

[00:10:41] Jason Stewart: I think that our current text stack, I would, I would suggest that it’s the, the term best of breed would, would come to mind. We don’t buy into the concept of any one supplier supplying all of our marketing technologies because, you know, just being really blunt about it, I don’t believe that there’s technology provided out there that has a best of breed of everything. We tend to go. The suppliers that have the functionality for the specific needs of our business and knit them nicely together to provide the, the overall experience.

[00:11:16] So things like we will have suppliers for broadcasting, marketing messages to our customers. So via things like email or, or SMS or, or any other broadcasting message, we, we have a supplier for that. We also have a supplier for the hosting and, and powering of our, our website through our e-com platform.

[00:11:37] We’ve got suppliers who are personalizing the, the content to the individual. And even down to showcasing user generated content and reviews to create an element of social proofing for our customers when they’re considered and purchasing from us. And of course with, with search, we use Klevu because it, it is what we consider to be the best of breed.

[00:12:00] It, it does the job very, very well. And I know we’re gonna get into speaking about why that is, but yeah, our MarTech is is always evolving. We’re always looking at it, testing the market. But sometimes what you have is the best platform, you know, and even if you do test to market. 

[00:12:22] Rachel Tonner: Yeah, and we’re gonna get into to that because I think, you know, it’s so interesting that you actually have tested the market.

[00:12:30] You know, I know that you’ve recently tested a competitor specifically for search. What made you decide to try that competitor? And then what was the experience like? 

[00:12:40] Jason Stewart: Yeah, I think for, for someone that’s been working in this industry for 14 years, I would say that the, the consistent. The consistent aspect of an e-com industry professional is change.

[00:12:56] You know, things change all the time. The technology advances every month, and there’s always something new that you need to be aware of. During the time that I’ve been doing this job, I’ve typically worked in three year tendering cycles with marketing tech providers, and I think it’s healthy to do that, even if you think that you have the very best in, in everything.

[00:13:20] Going out and testing the market can not only drive good value through your suppliers, but it can also enlighten you to things that you didn’t even know they could do. Just by seeing their proposals listening to their pitches and you know, pushing them in a, a sort of friendly manner, I suppose to say, well, look, we’re, we’re testing the market, prove that you guys are still the most relevant option for us. And you know, the, the other side of that coin is there may well be other suppliers out there that if we hadn’t tested the market, we would’ve never known about. So, so that’s why we do it. And you know, the search function is, is one of many that we’ve tendered over the last 12 months and we’ll do more this year. We’ve already done some this year and, and that’s why we did it. But really it’s, I, I suppose it’s to see what the new or existing service has to offer, and whether that’s on a contractual basis or a functional basis. That’s, that’s why we decided to do it.

[00:14:20] Rachel Tonner: And I guess, you know, testing, going out to market, also kind of stress tests your processes as well. It’s, it’s a nice exercise all around. 

[00:14:31] So what was the experience like when you tested this competitor solution for search? 

[00:14:37] Jason Stewart: So in this scenario unfortunately the experience was not a good one.

[00:14:43] We did take on a new provider and a new solution for search over a a period of time. And almost immediately we discovered that despite the, the conversations that had gone on and the, the testing that had gone on. When and we introduced it to the production environment the solution lacked some of functionality that we we had thought that it would actually have. And it had quite a number of technical limitations. And, and it created some real problems for our customers. So one of the technical limitations was around the caching of the, the search and the ability to show, products and show search results quickly according to the changes that we’d made on the website. So in in, in simple terms, what that means is that the search results would show things that it shouldn’t have shown because they had since been removed from the website. So it would mean that the there would be deals there showing in the search results are no longer actually available to the customer. And of course the customers are wise to that. And they will phone up our, our customer services teams and contact center teams and say, well, your website says that the price of this item is that, and I want you to honor that. And then we were being forced to really honor it because the caching of the new search provider [Nosto] could not keep up with the changes we were making to our website.

[00:16:08] And there were lots of other things that really didn’t work the way that we intended them to. And we’ll get into the results shortly, but the we did notice a, a quite sharp decline in performance especially from people who used to search functionality on the site post-launch.

[00:16:25] Rachel Tonner: Yeah, that sounds frustrating. And possibly like, you know, you thought that it was going to work in a certain way and it didn’t, and, and then there was the drop off, but I guess as well, like. The AI element of the search that you had tried, it wasn’t as strong as Klevu’s.

[00:16:41] I imagine that even if the features that you’d expected to be there were there, it’s possible that there still would’ve been a drop off because of the AI. And we’re seeing that actually when we talk about the results and we talk about the results even a week after going back live with Klevu, there’s just been an immediate uplift.

[00:16:58] Jason Stewart: Yeah, and I mean the, the AI point. Even on a very simplistic level one of the things that Klevu does very well is natural language processing. And we sell some very popular products, you know, very luxurious products that customers come to us to buy that are maybe not the easiest for some people to spell.

[00:17:20] So, for example, Chateaubriand, you know, like you wake me up at three in the morning and ask me to spell that I might struggle. But some of our customers struggle with it as well. And one letterout of place was returning no results. And you know, a co not every customer is you know, a spelling or grammar expert. And the, the, the search functionality should be able to process what the customer means when they’re searching. Our most popular product on our website by, by volume, despite the fact where online butcher is actually a side product. So it’s we call them our Alpine Fries. Really, really popular product. We sell, you know, hundreds of thousands of units of these things. But in the UK they’re called chips. So, you know, people, would search for steak chips. But we need our search function to know that when someone types chips, they mean Alpine Fries, you know? So things like that were we’re not coming through the way that we needed them to.

[00:18:19] Rachel Tonner: So what did you wish that you knew before you had tested the new solution? And then let’s get into the results of the trial. 

[00:18:28] Jason Stewart: I, I think that we really just wish that we had known the reality of the situation and that in all honesty it [Nosto Search] probably wasn’t quite ready for market especially for a market in our scenario where we’ve got a very well established e-commerce operation. Our customers are retained pretty well and know what they’re looking for when they come into our site. So search is pretty heavily used. And when you know the functionality that existed a day before is not there a day later and that customer comes in and, and tries to just do their normal shopping experience and, and are struggling with it… like we, we, I think we would’ve wished to know that those things. And I think that that’s a learning on, on all sides. And, and I think in e-commerce, you know, it’s, it’s very healthy to test and learn.

[00:19:21] And even if you get things wrong you know, a lot of cliche terms like fail fast, learn fast, and that type of thing. And for us, we, we learned a lot really quickly. We, we did fail in this instance and, you know, we don’t get it right all the time, but we realized that this is this is something that we can correct and we have since done that and we did that very, very quickly.

[00:19:44] Rachel Tonner: So what, what were the results then? Kind of what, what are we talking for a business that search was very important to you. What happened? 

[00:19:52] Jason Stewart: What, what I can do is tell you the results since we reactivated the Klevu engine. So it hasn’t actually been very long since we reactivated. It’s only been a few weeks, but the results are, are massively in favor of the of, of the Klevu system, so when you look, the, the sessions are fairly static versus the proceeding period. However, the conversion rate for users who use the search functionality have increased by 30%. So we’ve seen a 30% increase in the conversions when people have actually used the search, versus in the proceeding period where we did not have the Klevu system the average order value has actually also increased.

[00:20:37] So because people are, in my opinion, because people are finding more of what they’re looking for more easily. They’re buying more from us and, and spending more money per session. And the revenue has gone up by 34% as a result of that for people that use site search. So, you know, when you see all of the metrics turn green, then that indicates a trend that something that you’ve changed has actually had a, a desired effect. And in this case, I would absolutely say that that is because the system has changed for the better, that the, the metrics have increased. 

[00:21:13] Rachel Tonner: Yeah, Def definitely. And, and I’m glad that you’re seeing the green come back in. Would you be willing to talk about the drop during the time that you were not with Klevu?

[00:21:26] Cause I’m seeing like very significant like percentage points decreases in conversion with search. 

[00:21:32] Jason Stewart: The conversion for users who are using site search declined dramatically. Almost overnight when we introduced the new system [Nosto Search]. And all of the metrics I’ve just mentioned also declined fairly dramatically.

[00:21:47] And I think the only one that really didn’t decline massively was average order value, but, you know, average or order values impacted by a number of other factors, not just the search. So yeah, chalk and cheese, it was totally different in, in a negative way when we launched the new system. And as I say, the system was launched with the best intentions, but I don’t believe it was ready for market.

[00:22:13] And I would, I would argue that it still isn’t. And especially when you compare it to what is essentially one of the best of breed, if not the best of breed platform which, you know, is the, is the Klevu system. 

[00:22:29] Rachel Tonner: What is the time period that we’re talking, that the trial was, was live for? 

[00:22:35] Jason Stewart: The 9th of December, I think we launched and it was only a few weeks back, I think maybe three weeks ago now that we’re in March that we relaunched with Klevu. So yeah, you’re, you’re looking at a couple of months. Give or take maybe even three months of, of having this system.

[00:22:58] We, we gave it a good run, but then decided that the symptoms were there and it was obvious that this was the cause of the, you know, quite dramatically affecting the overall site conversion as well. It’s not just the the users with search. You, you get conversations going on at upper levels within the company saying, Well, the conversion of the website is adversely affected overall and looks like it’s, it’s on the decline.

[00:23:27] And then you can see the numbers for yourself, the thousands of people that use that search. And you’re looking at, you know, 20, 30 plus percent decline conversion period on period. And you can see plain as day that that’s one of the main reasons that the the conversion declined. 

[00:23:44] Rachel Tonner: But well done for you for figuring it out, you know, and quickly realizing, oh, that’s it. And then changing back to Klevu, you know?

[00:23:52] Jason Stewart: In, in, in today’s e-commerce Profession, you know, you must be really heavily analytical with your, you know, your, your data. And you must, you must be able to read the data, like a story. It’s not just a series of numbers, it’s understanding what those numbers actually mean.

[00:24:09] So, you know, people that use search and how a system changing from one to the other can can impact on, on those journeys is only one part of it. You know, you need to understand how your checkout is performing and any changes you, you make there. For example last year, towards the end of the year actually, we swapped out our, our PSP or our payment service provider and instantly noticed the checkout performance increase because there were, there were bugs in the system that to, to the naked eye to, to the person sitting on the corporate side in, in the actual company they would never have known about.

[00:24:47] But when you actually start to drill down into your session recordings and, and how to get the error reports through the, the logs that are coming in. You can realize that under certain scenarios people are not able to proceed fully through the checkout despite their best efforts. And that led to some investigation, which led to some changes that we made on the PSP side and, and ultimately taking in a new supplier similar to this scenario.

[00:25:15] And since then, the checkout performance has dramatically increased and, and as I say, it’s, it’s been a little bit of an, an investigator and been able to read numbers, like a story rather than just looking at them as you, up or down. 

[00:25:29] Rachel Tonner: Yeah, absolutely. So in terms of there, there’s a lot of messaging right now in the market about kind of consolidate your tech stack, go with one provider.

[00:25:39] And you’ve said before that that’s kind of not your ethos anyway, but kind of we know that this other provider is going after Klevu customers. They’re going after other customers of Algolia and Searchspring for example, and saying, “Hey come come on this one platform”. What advice would you give to them? 

[00:25:57] Jason Stewart: Well you know, like any other person that works in this industry I am not gonna proclaim to know the end to end spectrum of every single supplier, all their nuances of functionality and, and what they can and can’t do. I would say that I, I know a lot about a lot of these companies and having sat through many, many hours of pitch decks and demos and things like that.

[00:26:23] And so, so I do have a, a good grasp of what each provider can, can give and bring to the table. And, and this is opinion, I would say, rather than hard fact, but in my experience I have, I’m yet to come across a supplier that can do the entire marketing tech stack as well as some of the individual specialist providers.

[00:26:50] And, you know, there are some that can do a really good job in a lot of areas, but I’ve, I’ve not found one that can do a job in every single area as well as the specialist providers in, in a lot of cases. So yeah, that, that would be my advice. It would just be to be careful and do your due diligence and make sure that you you really tasked and understand what you’re actually signing up for with, with any provider of any technology that, that faces your customer especially.

[00:27:20] And, and, and also, you know, be, be a little bit wary of the the blue chip kind of companies that just simply will acquire specialist systems in order to try and, you know, bolster their own client base or, or try and add a little bit of extra for an extra bit of a, a monthly charge, for example.

[00:27:39] Cause, you know, they’ve obviously done that through an agenda to try and grow their own business. And it doesn’t always mean that they suddenly overnight become specialists in, in that particular area. So just, just be careful, I think is the, is the advice that I would give and, and make sure that you’re doing extra diligence when it comes to stuff like that, even if it looks good on face value. 

[00:28:05] Rachel Tonner: And there’s been a lot of change recently with Chat GPT, OpenAI, all of this stuff. How do you think that like product discovery will change in the future? And what do your peers other retailers need to do to kind of keep researching and keep looking into the new technologies?

[00:28:25] Jason Stewart: Yeah, I think that, you know, obviously Chat GPT and AI are the sort of flavor of the month, if you like. And I, I, I don’t think they’re going anywhere. I think they’re, they’re obviously just going to increase in their their prevalence and in their usage. I, I am of the opinion that you embrace these technologies and learn about them quickly to, to gain an edge gain a bit of an advantage, because if you don’t, others will. I think that the consumer is becoming quite used to using that type of functionality, and I think it is a genuine threat to traditional search engines and, and other things like that because these systems use human language and they understand the way that humans speak and, and act to then give a much more comprehensive answer to a question versus just a, a simple webpage or, or a product suggestion. So I, I think that these things are here to stay and it’s about embracing them and, and leveraging them for your, your own business and your own personal use, I would even say. 

[00:29:26] When it comes to how we use these things, I think that automation and personalization are still big things despite the fact they’ve been on the agenda for for many years now. We, we have data that proves that when we send customers products that they’ve either previously bought, previously looked at or, or put on their wishlist, for example, the, the response rate from those communications is far, far greater than those that just get a generic campaign.

[00:29:58] And that’s, that’s obvious. It’s, you know, I, I maybe like things that you don’t, and I’m sure that our colleagues and peers like things that we don’t either. But if we send them those things it, you know, especially if they’re at attractive price point, they’ve got some social proofing in there, they’ve maybe got some urgency built into them or, or whatever it may be, then you are going to have better performance through your marketing.

[00:30:21] And it’s about how do you, you know, cut through the manual processes that it takes to get those things over the line and start to, you know, automate and be a bit smarter about how we actually get those things out the door. 

[00:30:34] Rachel Tonner: Absolutely. And there’s so much talk about like what actually is personalization, what’s the difference between personalization, segmentation, like experimentation, it’s all, people have so many different points of view. What’s your view on personalization? 

[00:30:53] Jason Stewart: I, I think that personalization spans, you know, the, almost the entire journey. You should be personalizing your communications based on the behaviors, the technology, the acquisition channel even of the individual, that how they’ve actually arrived on your, your systems in the first place.

[00:31:14] What they buy, how often they buy, how much they spend. All of those things matter, I think, in order to deliver a personalized experience. I mean, I do think you can potentially get too granular and you can almost dive too far into data. And you know, in our case, you’ve got about 600 SKUs on our website. Just because someone buys a sirloin steak one week doesn’t mean that they won’t eat sirloin steaks for every week for the rest of the year. You know, it might be a special occasion, or they may have bought a Christmas dinner that they only wanted to eat one day out of the year, for example. So you just need to be really careful about what you do in that respect.

[00:31:47] But I think that Personalization should also influence the technology and the solutions that we provide to the individuals. So things like what devices are they using? How, how fast are their connections generally? You know, how, how do they typically use these systems. You know, so maybe what I see on my laptop/ desktop when I’m at the workplace is not synonymous with what most of our customers see, who typically use maybe an iPhone on the Safari browser or, you know, some of our customers perhaps prefer to use mobile apps than, than mobile websites. And, you know, do we go and go ahead and develop that type of thing? For example, things like the chefs that we supply, there’s been a lot of talk recently about how would they like to order from us? You know, do they, do they want to phone our London offices and order off of our our trade team, or would they prefer it if we, we have an app that they can order very quickly? Chefs are typically very busy through the day preparing for lunch and dinner times. They might want to order in the evening for the following day.

[00:32:50] You know, so there’s lots of personalization across content, technology. And I think even further than that, how the customer arrives and what the customer does. All of these things matter when you decide on what that sort of one-to-one experience or, or closest one-to-one as it can be needs to be.

[00:33:14] Rachel Tonner: Yeah, I mean, that sounds like a lot of work, first of all. How big is your team? 

[00:33:20] Jason Stewart: So the, the marketing team you know, it, it, it’s sort of, you know, varies us as time moves on, it is sometimes a bit bigger, sometimes a bit smaller, but you know, you’re looking at between maybe 10, 12, 13 people.

[00:33:35] And it’s it’s collection of specialists people that do online merchandising and support the web content. Make sure that promotional codes, pricing and all that good stuff is, is accurate and, and meets the, the requirements of the business. You’ve also got people that are CRM data and segmentation specialists that will deal with, well, what should the customers see and what should our clusters of customers be exposed to?

[00:34:03] You’ve got people who handle the acquisition side of things, doing paid media, like, you know, PPC, paid social, press, advertising and, and the occasional TV campaign. We’ve got people that will do content specifically. So they’ll design organic content for social media, blog articles, PR all the way to web banners and, and things like that.

[00:34:26] And then we’ve got technical specialists that will raise tickets to fix bugs on the websites. Launch and test functional enhancements and, you know, help us. Tendering for things like e-commerce platforms, website support agencies, and other MarTech providers. So, yeah, very varied, but as I say I prefer to work with specialists that can cover for one another, if that makes sense.

[00:34:51] Rachel Tonner: Yeah, I mean it is a lean team, but but full of specialists that can cover is a good way to put it. On the personalization front, you were talking about all these different things that, you know, one should do to personalize. What I’m hearing when I speak with other e-commerce managers is that, you know, they developed this personalized campaign, like speaking specifically maybe about email marketing, for example.

[00:35:18] And then something doesn’t work within 30 days and then they go back to spray and pray and then they’re like, but how do I help my business to understand the long-term purpose or the long-term goal of personalization. What advice kind of, would you give on that front? 

[00:35:38] Jason Stewart: I think that if, if you’re doing an e-commerce role well, you should not be afraid to test and learn. And as with any tests in any industry, whether that’s in marketing or not, some of those tests will not work as well as what you thought they would work. I mean, I, a classic example last week I was convinced that because of the way that the retail world works, especially in supermarkets when we run sales, typically what you see when you, you see a sale sign up in any window or any leaflet or whatever that may be, there’s a red background with white text and the word sale.

[00:36:18] Yeah. And it’s a, it’s a visual cue without even reading any words or looking at any pictures that there is a, a big promotion on. So we did a fairly comprehensive test across a number of different digital campaigns where we tested our corporate colors versusred and white. And I, I was wrong. I thought that red and white would hands down win in terms of the amount of orders that we received.

[00:36:45] And it turned out that quite significantly, that our corporate colors, with everything else the same, won. It did significantly more orders and we had significantly less unsubscribes on our email campaigns. Now, you know, I, I’ve been doing this job 14 years and I was wrong. That’s I mean, it’s not necessarily a pure personalization, but what it has done is proved to the business that we, our opinions are not always right.

[00:37:13] So when you say that something failed and you go back to spray pray, then that’s dangerous because you’re never gonna advance if you, if you always do that. 

[00:37:23] Rachel Tonner: Yeah, absolutely. And, and myself having been in this industry for about the same time as you, you know, these best practice things, everyone just says, oh yeah, that’s it. That’s what you do. That’s what you do, but test it. Right? That, that would’ve surprised me as well. 

[00:37:39] Jason Stewart: Yeah. And I think it, it’s also very dangerous to just say, that’s what you do. Close book, walk away. It’s, it’s not, it’s not like that, you know, it’s every business and every customer set is unique in its own way.

[00:37:52] Like there’s, there’s never a right or wrong answer in, in marketing, generally in creative and personalization or in e-commerce. So, it’s about learning, developing incremental gains towards a, you know, more effectively be a, a better proposition. At the end of the day, it’s, you’re never gonna get it just right from the get-go.

[00:38:12] Using worldwide principles that seem to apply to, to every single brand. It doesn’t quite work that way.

[00:38:19] Rachel Tonner: Well this has been an inspiring conversation. Thank you. I’m really happy to know that you are kind of back in the green as well when it comes to search but also, you know, really good advice about.Try it, but try it educated. You know, and make sure that you are going out to market, but also educating yourself and knowing how to read the data, tell the story behind the data to figure out what actually is going on and be able to rectify if necessary. So I think, yeah, all really good advice here.

[00:38:52] Jason Stewart: Thank you for having me. It’s it’s been really good fun.

More Resources


Episode 1: Paul Smith’s Journey to a Fast and Flexible E-commerce Platform

From the challenges they faced with their website to their decision to go headless, Hannah Bennett, Head of Digital at Paul Smith, shares valuable insights into pushing her team and improving their UX/UI. Tune in to discover the unique challenges of building a fast and user-friendly e-commerce platform and gain valuable knowledge in e-commerce, UX, and digital leadership.