Shopify's Commerce plus event

LONDON — That old adage about the customer always being right rings true for many digital companies that are putting the customer at the center of all that they do — and getting results.

Direct-to-consumer sales were the focus of a Shopify conference, Commerce+, in London this week as brands took to the stage to speak about the importance of putting the customer first and finding personalized marketing solutions.

“Commerce is changing faster than we’ve ever seen before, the growth of direct-to-consumer particularly has been incredible to watch. We’re seeing brands that are very young actually growing at incredible rates and in many cases past more of the traditional retailers,” said Shimona Mehta, head of EMEA at Shopify Plus, the online commerce platform.

Jennifer Heath, e-commerce manager at Linda Farrow, said that putting the customer first has helped the eyewear brand to grow.

“We’ve tried affiliate marketing, and that hasn’t worked the way we hoped, what did work was direct mail and understanding that our customer, who will pay a premium price for our products, appreciates getting look books,” she said.

Candice Chan, director of e-commerce and digital at Hourglass Cosmetics, said listening to the consumer has helped the company find the right marketing approach.

“We’ve tried to incorporate some elements of augmented reality to market our products, however, we’ve found that by curating our content to really show the different textures of our makeup with great visuals has been more beneficial,” said Chan, who added that finding the right technological infrastructure has helped Hourglass to grow in the digital space.

For both Heath and Chan, whose brands have traditionally operated on a wholesale model, traffic to their sites has been slower than expected. Both Linda Farrow and Hourglass have only been operating direct-to-consumer for a few years, and instead of fighting against their wholesale accounts, they’ve learned to piggyback off of them.

“A sale for Linda Farrow is a sale regardless of whether it comes from our site or from Net-a-porter. However, we’ve learned to benefit from being on their platform and now we offer a two-year warranty program and to register for it; it links them back to our site, so that drives traffic to us and we can data capture our consumers,” said Heath.

Accessing customer data has also become more difficult.

Despite that, Hana Abaza, director of marketing at Shopify Plus, said that as long as merchants create the best possible customer experience by offering great omnichannel experiences, customers will be happy to give up their data to brands.

“Merchants and brands have to make sure they really double down on that direct-to-consumer mentality. If people love you and are happy with your brand, they will want to give you that information. At the back end, we work with a huge ecosystem of partners to enable that as well,” Abaza said.

Shopify’s ecosystem also works hand in hand with brands. According to Abaza, they’ve built the Shopify Plus platform to provide that level of service to their merchants.

“We work closely with them to make sure we’re matching them on their growth journey and we exist because we realize that they need real human beings and account managers to get them there,” Abaza said.

Shopify is also focusing heavily on payment services, such as enabling local payment methods and rolling out multicurrency features. For both Heath and Chan, they’re looking to expand their digital presence into Asia.

Heath and her team will be launching a Chinese web site domain for Linda Farrow; however, for Hourglass, which is already stocked on Tmall, the brand is looking to work more closely with local solutions.

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