Manpacks, if you haven’t heard of them, are an ecommerce success story founded by two guys who came up with a great concept for selling undies. The idea is a subscription-based ecommerce business model for mens underwear. They bundle underwear, socks and other manly goods, customers sign up for an order and they get them sent every 3 or 6 months thus replenishing their drawers, so to speak. Fantastic – even if it does put some Mums out of business.
Andrew Draper kindly shared their story this morning at an IIA eCommerce Breakfast Briefing. The audience was a mix of suits and casuals (spot the techies) spread across the assorted sofas of Engine Yards rather cool, loft style ‘offices’ based in Barrow Street.
So what were his nuggets of ecommerce wisdom informing ecommerce best practice:
User Experience and Testing
Andrew outlined the amount of testing that they did on the design of the site, and continue to do. Initially, traffic levels were too low for effective A/B testing and they carried out what he called ‘pulse testing’. They tested a version for 5 days and carefully segmented the traffic to check conversion rates. Then they iterated. They kept Steve Krug’s usability mantra, and book title, ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ to the forefront of their minds and recognised the importance of reducing the cognitive load at the beginning of the customer journey. Make it easy for them to do what they want to do and what you want them to do. And that’s to shop.
He pointed to the Online Chat option on the site which has been hugely important in establishing relationships with their customers. It’s often his co-founder Ken doing the chatting. In terms of email contact with customers he recommended never using ‘no-reply’ emails. In contrast to many businesses, they positively encourage questions in emails.
- Social Media: Twitter was a very strong channel for them, especially in the beginning. But even now, they spend a lot of time talking to customers across different channels. At the time of writing the Facebook page couldn’t be found – he wasn’t aware of what happened there.
- Press: Press mentions were a big help in getting the word out.
- PPC: They tried Google AdWords but found the conversion rates weren’t strong and now run brand campaigns only. They’ve experienced better conversion rates with Facebook ads. They run ads for 3 days, with perhaps 10 to 20 different ad formats and then analyse results. This just goes to emphasise the importance of testing as many businesses experience fairly low conversion rates on this platform.
- SEO: I asked Andrew about their approach to SEO, he said their approach to site design was user experience first and then optimisation. Initially, the organic traffic was only about 2%. Now they have dedicated product landing pages for all products. From a user perspective this isn’t obvious and doesn’t impact on the user journey.
- Sponsorship: They undertake activities like sponsoring video games, which is a powerful way to connect with their target audience.
All in all, great insights and a lovely guy and thanks to the IIA for organising. The key takeaway I think to successful selling online is know your customer, be fun and talk to them.
I especially like the mission statement of the Director of Marketing & Social Media:
Awesome all the things!
Unfortunately they don’t ship to Europe so you won’t be able to get a Manpack here. Not yet anyhow.
If you’re running an ecommerce site and are looking for a payments solution I’d best mention IIA member WorldNet TPS for a great service.