Trend Tracking eCommerce DTC with Aaron Orendorff
Play • 26 min

Aaron Orendorff, VP of Marketing at the Common Thread Collective, just put out an epic blog post tracking the data on the DTC space as COVID-19 has progressed. One of the ideas in that blog post was that eCommerce brands could essentially make themselves “essential”.

On today's episode of Agency Ahead, you'll get to hear about some of those insights.

Here are the highlights:

  • (1:13)  The origin story of the Common Thread Collective.
  • (4:40) Recommendations for eCommerce clients.
  • (9:03) A dive into the data.
  • (13:26) On messaging the moment.
  • (15:32) On making yourself essential.
  • (21:13) On product reviews.
  • (22:53) Aaron's cause. 

Here are the insights:

Recommendations for eCommerce clients

Aaron says it's all about figuring out what you offer, and the right messaging around that.

One creative method he's seen is offering what he calls discounts that aren't discounts. 

"For example, Supply, a single-edge razor company whose AOV [Average Order Value] is like four to five times the usual razor. It's the second-worst product to be selling in this environment. A luxury razor. Like nobody really needs to go out and shave except for maybe Zoom. But they couple that with a year's supply of replacement razors. They used to use this as their loyalty program that had a charge to it."

Other examples he uses are deferred payments, ways to bundle savings, and free shipping offers.

"The goal is to cater to the need while still, let's be honest, be profitable."

He says he doesn't want to sound negative when he talks about profit, but, "one thing I always fall back to is these are real people with real businesses supporting other real human beings with their income. At the larger, macro-scale, it's good for the economy for businesses to be profitable."

A dive into the data

In May, retail sales have started to go back up in-store, a little bit. For a moment it even looked like things were going back to normal, to the point where Aaron was trying to figure out how they'd use all these creative assets Common Thread Collective had built around the crisis. 

Yet the second wave is starting to hit. 

"It's scary to see the renewed piece, particularly in the United States, in states that did not respond well when quarantine was called for."

CPC is one metric they're watching. The cost from the initial big dip has been going up but is still below the pre-quarantine baseline. 

Based on the data he expects to see a second eCommerce wave. 

"As these new cases really start to hit and really hit the news, consumer confidence is going to go down once again, especially in retail [brick and mortar] locations. 

I very much expect now is the time for eCommerce brands to be anticipating that and looking for those opportunities that surround new customer acquisition, as costs go down, and driving new visitors to at least get their contact information. 

New customers are the lifeblood of growth, and if we can use these lower [ad] costs to acquire email addresses and phone numbers, email and SMS, then we head into the normal state, especially fall and the holiday season, having that owned audience, which is massive in the long run."

On messaging the moment

"Messaging the moment, that's a phrase our CEO and founder Taylor Holiday just drove into our brains over and over again. And that moment isn't beyond us yet. Especially when you think about things like unemployment, and what we might call displaced people groups who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. 

Gym owners, musicians, anybody in the food industry or hospitality – pair with them in meaningful ways that connect your brand for yes, goodwill, and to the narrative that you're already a part of, people and groups you're already invested in."

He says if you do that, you can just double down and go into the investment, and do all the things that profitable businesses have to do.

"Build that email list, build customers, the owned audience, make new sales, and do that united with the essential causes that you're just going to have. They're going to be out there in need. Figure out how you can partner with them and help them."

On making yourself essential

Aaron says making yourself essential is a lot like the traditional marketing idea of social proof. 

"I think like seven years ago, when I was starting out, I was like hardcore nobody. No degree, no clients, no connections. I figured out how to look like somebody by connecting myself to other somebodies."

He says he went on a three-year tear of trying to get his name out. 

"Guest blogging anywhere and everywhere so that he could throw those logos onto his site to trick people who arrived into thinking: Aaron knows what he's doing. These people probably gave him money, maybe I will too."

He points out how brands have done this recently to power through the crisis.

"Igloo wakes up two or three years ago to the rise of DTC eCom. They're a hardcore traditional retailer, an old-school legacy brand and business. What they did was get poised with this handful of licensing agreements to places that were very friendly to families and kids, as well as nostalgic."

Igloo partnered with VW, Disney, Spongebob, Star Wars for 5/4, Guy Fieri, and even The Grateful Dead.

"Nobody wants to buy a cooler right now. Nobody should buy a cooler right now. Everyone's stuck at home."

But people are buying coolers because they love the nostalgia. They also love some of the social causes Igloo has attached itself too, like setting up a 100% profit-share with the CDC.

In short, it's about connecting yourself, in a meaningful way, to emotions, people, and brands that people do find to be essential, even now.

On the value of product reviews

Garrett took a moment to tell Aaron about Traject SKU, which allows eCommerce brands to collect and monitor their product reviews.  

Aaron seemed to approve, noting that product reviews are "massive" in the eCommerce field. 

"Especially if someone's top-to-mid funnel. It's that same idea. I try to become somebody by leaning on people who are already somebodies.

He says that nearly all the successful campaigns run by the Common Thread Collective involve getting user-generated content. 

"Someone's video using the product, new reviews, new images of those reviews. We call it evergreen, but it's the refreshing that takes place, it's not so much the offer, it's that user-generated content, ratings, reviews, and testimonials that we put front-and-center mainstay." 

What’s your right now cause?

Aaron's go-to was the Southern Poverty Law Center, even before Black Lives Matter made its way back into the national consciousness. 

"It's a fund that especially focuses on black people and underrepresented people, oppressed people, primarily black people in the places they need legal assistance the most." 

Connect with Aaron Orendorff

Want to reach out to Aaron? 

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