Partner Spotlight: Diff Agency

The Chief Strategy & Conversion Officer at Diff discusses the end-to-end strategic work they do with clients and their experience generating lasting results.

Head of Content, Dynamic Yield

Our Partner Spotlight series interviews experts from our killer network of solutions partners and highlights their impact in the field of personalization.

Jamie Schreter has an insatiable mind for making authentic connections between brands and consumers. He’s got years of experience identifying and unlocking growth opportunities across digital communication channels, contributing to the success of Bentley Leather, Stokes, Bench, Hatley, and Mackage to name a few.

As the Chief Strategy & Conversion Officer at Diff, a digital marketing agency founded by a retailer and built for retailers, I was excited to get on a call with him to pick his brain a bit about how eCommerce experiences are changing to suit the individual needs of the customer, how that fits into a brand’s overall conversion strategy, and what work really needs to be done to build a foundation for scalable growth. Jamie also names a few of the up and comers influencing his testing and experimentation efforts.

Catch a snippet of our conversation below, or listen to complete audio session:

Dynamic Yield: eCommerce companies today are facing some pretty stiff competition as the customer experience becomes a number one priority. How are you advising brands to design meaningful user journey’s while also optimizing for conversions?

Jamie Schreter: First and foremost, we very much value knowing who your customer is. You could be in the same industry as somebody else but still have a different customer based on age, demographics, or simply how they shop. We run through scenario-mapping and persona workshops at the beginning of any project to help really truly understand who we’re building the site for.

We’ll go as far as to give him or her a name and persona broken down so we understand what we’re doing. We also very much drive our brands in the work we do with them, and on their own, to use data to drive a lot of their designs in UX. So ideally, if they’re coming from an existing place where they already have eCommerce, looking at said data to see where people are browsing and dropping off what browsing and shopping behaviors are like. It’s this data that allows us to define who our customer is and what those personas should be. So making data-driven design decisions as well as understanding our customer is very key. 

DY: You’re a channel man, so what would you say are the best mediums retailers can leverage these days to really forge an authentic connection? 

JS: Having that concept of personalized communication and a personal touch reflect on your site and your experience is really important. Building personalization on your site and showing someone the experience that is catered to them based on what you know about them; their browsing and shopping history, demographic, location, all of that stuff. That is really how retailers are building an experience.  

You and I are two very different people, If we went to the same site and had the same experience, they’d be lucky if one of us reacted, let alone both of us. The way that we would both engage with the same brand should influence and drive them to deliver an experience catered to each of us. And that’s how we’re really forming connections these days, as it’s, “Let’s build a relationship.”  

Experience is the number one priority. It’s no longer, “What do I have to offer you?” It’s, “How can I give you the best experience possible?” So on-site personalization, social communication, those are very, very powerful today.

DY: From your work with clients like Popsockets and Ministry of Supply, what are some of the first things you assess before building out an overall strategy to ensure healthy, scalable eComm growth? 

JS: Pop Sockets and Ministry of Supply sell very different products and have very different goals and focuses for the year — understanding what those are for them really important to us. 

I’m also a really big fan of looking at a competitive industry analysis and understanding what’s being done out there. Not because I encourage people to copy their competitors…. if anything, I’m a big fan of not copying your competitor unless you have some backdoor insight into their data into their actual focus. You can’t even truly understand why they’re making the decisions they’re making. But at the end of the day, your customer is still exposed to those sites and business as an alternative to you. Therefore, being aware of what they are doing is really crucial to making decisions on how you can achieve the kind of the growth metrics you have in place.

DY: Who in the eComm space do you have your eye on right now? Anyone killing it that you look to for inspiration when it comes to testing and experimenting with new ideas? 

JS: We have a customer, Leesa, who is in the mattress industry and they looked at companies like Casper, who is a name that we all recognize as being an industry leader because they’ve really mastered the concept of a clean, simple experience. But then you have someone like Leesa who does an incredible job of leveraging user-generated content to sell their product.

And so when we talk to clients of our clients about the value of user-generated content, we usually refer to Leesa as an example when it comes to their homepage and product page, where you see so much feedback and testimonials about its products and mattress. They know the value of a referral and what it does for their conversion. Those are the kind of sites we pay attention to — it’s not usually a brand or a name, it’s usually an activity or a function. 

DY: Let’s talk data, baby. Where are retailers missing the mark when it comes to activating their data and what should they be doing more of with it?

JS: When it comes to collecting data for retail customers, there are three questions that we need to answer:

  • What data are we tracking?
  • How are we going to track it?
  • And what do we do with it once we have it?

Until you can answer those three questions, you shouldn’t actually go ahead and invest or do anything because it’s literally building the engine before you have a plan to do so. People mostly fall down on the third one… “Oh, yeah, I want to make sure I track general eCommerce data and customer-based data, and so on and so forth.”

And then they have all this data, living in these tools, and they still batch and blast their emails or present the same content to their customers while on the site. They don’t actually do anything with it, or they rarely scratch the surface and don’t really dive into it.

DY: Oftentimes, sale events and discounting are the first things online retailers do to drum up sales and engage with new and past purchasers. What are some other ways eCommerce brands can influence consumer decision making, build loyalty, and avoid diminishing returns that doesn’t revolve around promotions?

The world of, “Hey, let’s just drop our pants and our prices and get as much volume out the door” works for some brands. There’s a particular brand here in Canada doing that very well with volume-based pricing. But, overall, it’s just not gonna work for everybody.

In a general sense, the first thing to do is understand what your customers consider “incentive.” We had worked with a client who was a premium brand and they had two major sales a year. So when they ran these sales, they did very well because items were rarely discounted.

And then we started trialing things like giving top customers advanced notice of the sale. Or giving them advanced notice of products that were being brought in for the sale that weren’t usually on the site. And we realized there was a tremendous incentive around advanced or early access, which got me really excited.

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