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[Interview] Paul Rogers, co-founder, Vervaunt

Vervaunt work with some of the biggest names in retail and specialise in two things: eCommerce consultancy and eCommerce performance marketing. Can you tell us a… View Article

INTERVIEWS

[Interview] Paul Rogers, co-founder, Vervaunt

Vervaunt work with some of the biggest names in retail and specialise in two things: eCommerce consultancy and eCommerce performance marketing.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

 I’ve been working in digital and eCommerce since 2008 – starting out in website management and then gradually moving more into broader eCommerce roles. I’ve worked in a mix of in-house and agency roles before starting my own business in 2016 (a startup called Audited), which I eventually merged with eCommerce agency, GPMD.

I then moved back into consulting for eCommerce strategy and replatforming, which eventually became Vervaunt alongside my business partner (and best friend) Josh Duggan.

From the start, I’ve always been a bit too obsessed with eCommerce and technology and have spent far too much time outside of working hours figuring out how things worked and experimenting. I’ve also worked on various different side projects, including eCommerce sites, Magento modules and aggregator websites.

What does your company do? / What is your USP? 

So, in short, Vervaunt have two offerings (which have always remained the same) – these are:

eCommerce consultancy – focused on overall strategy, replatforming management and planning, auditing and roadmapping / roadmap acceleration.

eCommerce performance marketing – primarily paid search and social for mid-market brands. We also offer broader digital advertising and Amazon advertising, but the majority of what we do is social and search for premium fashion and lifestyle brands.

I think our USP – if I had to say one – is probably the combination of these two services. Our paid team are generally quite technical and have a broad understanding of eCommerce best practices and technologies – most are able to manage feeds, work with CRM platforms, work with the mainstream eCommerce platforms etc. In addition to this, the eCommerce technical team has a strong knowledge of customer acquisition strategy and considerations.

Some of our clients across the two sides have included PANGAIA, Molton Brown, Stussy, Sunspel, Joseph Joseph, Antler, Bremont, Grenade, Osprey, LUSH, Fairfax & Favor, The Frankie Shop, Self-Portrait and various others.

What’s special about the agency and your approach?

On the paid side, we have the same focus on results and focus on the client as many agencies, but I still think the combination of the two offerings works really well and gives us something that very few have.

The eCommerce side of the business is very unique – we don’t take on many clients and we’re generally very careful to make sure we’re only working on exciting projects and working with clients that are a good fit for the agency and the work we do.

Because we typically either manage CAPEX projects or drive the client’s roadmap, we get to work with lots of cool third parties and build business cases for innovation and uniqueness.

What advantage does it add?

I think on the eCommerce side we bring a lot of experience and understanding from other clients. We typically learn a lot about what works for each client and what can have big impacts around new features and optimisation. We mostly work with premium brands, so we often negotiate the brand vs function side and help to drive different areas with complex stakeholders.

I also think we accelerate things a lot more than other agencies – allowing internal teams to focus on trading or website management, and then we’ll push through material projects (such as a replatforming, international site launch, new product tests etc).

How are you working with retailers to gain competitive advantage and what does best practice look like?

These days, we’re really leading new routes to market (e.g. subscriptions) or pushing innovation and uniqueness (strory-telling, creative, different ways of selling etc). We’re typically advocates of trying new channels on the paid side also, be it international networks or emerging channels such as TikTok, Pinterest or Spotify (depending on objectives).

Internationalisation is a big one on both sides. We’ve done a lot of ‘proving of concepts’ and also supported with localised strategies.

We’ve helped brands launch things like subscriptions, AR, loyalty and VIP programs, product builders, bundling features and various other things – these kinds of roadmap pieces are typically designed to gain competitive advantage and strengthen the DTC proposition.

We also massively advocate uniqueness for our clients on the eCommerce side – be that via features, design, brand content etc. I think this is important in today’s crowded market and with so many funded DTC startups entering different markets.

Are there other companies you partner with?

We work with loads of partners to be honest – I think this is one of our USPs, as we collaborate really closely on so many projects with so many people. The obvious ones are the tech partners – eCommerce platforms, like Shopify, BigCommerce, Centra and then other partners like Klevu, Yotpo, Klaviyo, Ometria, Gorgias, Nosto, Akeneo and then people like Shoptimised on the paid side also.

We’ve then worked with a wide range of design and development partners, including We Make Websites, By Association Only, Gene and lots of others.

What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2021 / What challenges are retailers facing in 2022?

There are lots of challenges for retailers at the moment around supply chain, increased competition, rising customer acquisition costs etc., but I think one of the biggest challenges for brands and businesses right now is staying focused in a constantly changing market.

March was the first month that many of our clients have ever been down YoY for eCommerce (largely due to the lockdown last year) and there are various reports that it was the first ever minus month for YoY growth for the eCommerce space – this presents challenges for brands that have forecasted for and budgeted for significant growth etc.

Many businesses have invested heavily in their eCommerce channel, team and operations after strong growth since Q2 2022, but this now represents a period of uncertainty with this slight shift and also reports of change in consumer spending behaviour.

How do you think brands should respond?

Overall, I think it’s just a case of staying agile when it comes to forecasting and marketing spend. Easter was a good trading period for lots of our clients, so that’s a good example of where people arguably could’ve pulled back in March, but then responded to increased demand around Easter.

Obviously customer acquisition is only one part of this – but it’s become a massive focus for so many brands with the growth in online shopping and increased demand since the pandemic.

Beyond this, I think businesses should still be investing in modern, agile technology (which should be seen as in investment, as this will often save money over time), focusing on increasing the value from existing customers (CRM has been a huge area of investment for many over the last 18 months), fostering uniqueness (I personally am fed up of new brands just applying the same techniques and following the same patterns) and knowing their market!

Easier said than done, but there are a huge amount of brands thriving as a result of investing in these areas.

What is on the horizon for you as a company?

We’re doing a lot of work currently on our processes and standardising certain ways we approach things (e.g. test and learn on the paid media side). We’ve also recently introduced our first two proper products, these are Census (a post-purchase surveys app for Shopify) and a creative analysis tool, which forms part of our client dashboard.

We’re also doing a lot more auditing, which is a big part of our business and we’re going to be building out a creative offering (alongside the paid media team) and an affiliate marketing offering also.

Aside from this, we’re just looking to continue to do cool projects and push new and exciting things via client roadmaps.

To find out how Vervaunt can help your retail operation, click here.

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