Steve Clark ADT podcast cover
Episode: 23

Steve Clark - Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) in a post-Covid world

Posted on: 22 Apr 2021
Steve Clark ADT podcast cover

Steve Clark is the Head of Digital Growth at Tangent, a Digital Product & Design Agency from London, UK which helps renowned British and international brands realize their digital transformation needs.

This episode focuses on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and how the field is being impacted by the rise of digitalization and e-commerce usage due to Covid. We discuss how customer experience must adapt in order to accommodate huge amounts of new users and new buying trends of customers, as well as how and why direct-to-consumer brands can differentiate themselves and take advantage of these newly emerging trends.


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“So, what people are trying to do is start lean with a small amount of investment capital, convert as much as possible out of that initial capital, and then from that bank, some advertising spends to then grow up to the next level, which actually is kind of the antithesis of what we see on the corporate side, where you have people who are sort of pumping lots of money out there and kind of then the CRO tests are coming after the fact.”

Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop.

Tim Butara: Hello everyone. Thanks for tuning in. I'm joined today by Steve Clark, head of digital growth at Tangent, a digital product and design agency from London, UK. One of their specialties is conversion rate optimization, and that's what we'll be talking about today, with a focus on how the Covid pandemic has affected things, in particular with direct-to-consumer commerce. Welcome, Steve, it's great to have you on the show today.

Steve Clark: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It's really nice to be here.

Tim Butara: Yeah, looking forward to our discussion and let me just jump right into the first question and maybe let's start with something basic. So, for anybody who may not know exactly what CRO or conversion rate optimization means, can you give us a brief definition of CRO and maybe, why do you think companies should invest in it?

Steve Clark: Sure. So, as the name kind of suggests, conversion rate optimization is a sort of paradigm where people will focus on optimizing different aspects of their website or their app or any basic consumer facing products, with the core focus of increasing the number of desired outputs. So, if you're running e-commerce, for example, that would be changes that you can make to your layout or your structure or performance, which will lead to more people submitting checkout forms. If it's a lead generation campaign conversion rate optimization, and that will be, how can you optimize the form to increase the number of people who submit? And if you're working on other campaigns, you might have varied goals, fundamentally it's experimenting and understanding behavior and making modifications to interactive elements in order to drive more of the desired interactions.

Tim Butara: And what about your approach at Tangent? How do you approach CRO, what are your key focuses or key elements of your offering?

Steve Clark: Sure. So, at Tangent we will approach CRO in a couple of different ways, depending on the specifics of the client requirements. We do a lot of site design and builds and product development at Tangent. So, we will actually start entire website builds from scratch, and we will do all of the wire framing and all of the design. And in those instances, we'll be doing site wide information architecture, we'll be doing structure diagrams, and we'll be making sure that user experience and conversion rate are considered at those stages in that initial phase. 

So, that's kind of one approach that we will take. And we'll use research and learnings and our knowledge from other work in the past to say, this is the right way to go. We can also run some pre-launch tests and run eye-tracking studies, et cetera, to see which variants will most likely perform before we actually put those out into the web. So, that's sort of that pre-launch CRO that we can do is, it's not quite of traditional incentives and it's not quite so sort of statistically based, but it is one factor. Then we also offer the ongoing test and learn focused CRO, which you will find from a lot of other agencies where we are running tools on websites, which are monitoring conversions, but then we're also diverting people to different variants at the same page where we're A/B testing or multivariate testing with different versions of interactive elements on different pages. 

What we're basically trying to do there, is identify and hypothesize changes to landing pages, which may improve the performance or may improve desired outcomes. And then we can split test the traffic between those two barriers, and then we can look at the statistical uplift between them and whether or not that's significant. And so, this is a more design led approach, I suppose you could call it at the beginning, and then there’s the various tactical not unlike SEO approach where we're basically incrementally optimizing a landing patient testing, what works and what doesn't.

Tim Butara: But if I understand correctly, it's all still kind of in the sphere of UX or UX research.

Steve Clark: Absolutely, yeah. So, this will be myself working in partnership with our experience design director, we'll have UI and UX people on each of these projects. It's very much a user experience focused discipline. So, while it does overlap with a lot of other things, UX is very much at the heart of what we do.

Tim Butara: But yeah, as you also pointed out, also it can only be really successful when there's good collaboration with teams that are focused on growth, sales and stuff like that probably.

Steve Clark: Absolutely. Yeah, that's it. Because the approach that we will take will vary based on that, if we're working with a small startup who are selling products, DTC, our approach will be very different to if we’re working with an enterprise company who is trying to generate leads to convert people working in mid-sized businesses, it's going to be a very different requirement for someone to convert and therefore will take a very different approach to how we would optimize the landing page and what tactics we would use from a UX perspective based on that.

Tim Butara: Okay, that makes sense. I think we'll talk a little bit more about DTC a little later on, but first let’s move on to some Covid specific questions and yeah, absolutely, you know, it's almost April now, Covid has been dominating the globe for over a year now. We've seen it have a huge impact on basically all consumers worldwide. And I want to ask you if you've noticed any new buying trends that are affecting how companies are actually prioritizing CRO?

Steve Clark: Yeah, definitely. I think the obvious one that everyone is aware of, there's been a lot more online shopping happening in general. There has been no footfall in physical locations and I think it's led to the digital transformation of a lot of companies, particularly small companies there but also, high street companies and other organizations which traditionally wouldn't necessarily have worked online either in different verticals. And I think across the board, there's been a fairly significant shift to online. 

And as a result, a lot of people who previously hadn't focused quite so heavily on the challenges of running a business online and now seeing the direct impact of how poorly optimized their website is. It’s gone from being, “oh, it's okay, we still get lots of people coming in” to it being the sole or at least the primary channel for revenue for these companies, and matching that with the fact that a lot of these organizations that the we're seeing are also seeing in some cases, a decline in revenue coming through, but based on these factors and then the fact that because you've competence is lower, people are spending less money in general, saving more money. 

There's a real incentive not only to do better, but also to reduce the amount that you're spending on traditional acquisition. So, people are basically very keen to spend less money and make more back as if, everyone's keen to do that, but people are more focused on tactics and techniques they can use to do both of those things at once. And CRO is a very good way to do that. It enables us to do more with the traffic that is coming to the site, basically, enables you to be more cost effective and drive more and get more sales out of the same audience pool without having to suddenly double your marketing budget or increase, or even drive the same while reducing your other overheads as well. So, that's something we're seeing a lot of at the moment and a lot of people coming and asking those questions. 

I think as well, there's another factor to that. And I think it's also a lot harder for consumers to … previously, if you were buying in a store, for example, you'd be able to go back and return something quite easily, or if you had a poor experience, you'd go back to when we deal with that. And I think we're also seeing a much greater emphasis on trust; I think is a really big thing that we're seeing through Covid as well. I think generally speaking, a lot of products don't necessarily translate well to purchasing online. 

We very recently did a user experience study on a cosmetics brand. One of the things that we found through that study was that it's very very difficult to choose a pigment color, a foundation color for a sort of skin product. If you're only getting a bunch of different swatches on a mobile app, you can't actually put those on and often you can't really tell if the color is going to work for you. So, what we're seeing there as well is, people are buying multiple versions, which look like they might be close and then testing them and then sending them back. And it does a very different approach to these products. And you would be surprised, I think, by how many products there are, which actually you probably do need to try on or test or experience before you buy. And I think there's become a lot more of that two-way process of delivery as well, and a lot of returns happening at the moment as well, which traditionally you wouldn't have because you would go into a store, try it then just repeatedly buy the same thing online after that first touch point, then that first touch point no longer exists.

Tim Butara: But this is a really good example, actually, how these return policies and stuff like that has to inevitably change. And I'm guessing that this is, I mean, maybe it's a bit off topic here, but I've seen a real surge in how companies employ digital strategies basically to allow a better experience for their shoppers. The examples I'm thinking of is something like using VR to enable the customers to try on whatever, sunglasses, shoes, lipstick even I guess, or makeup or whatever. So, that’s really, this is I think one of the key things that we'll have to figure out properly in the next few years, how to have this awesome intersection between traditional commerce, physical commerce that really relies on these physical channels and approaches, and the digital and how these two will kind of merge together.

Steve Clark: Yeah, and I completely agree with that and we're seeing some real innovations coming out and a lot of these innovations aren’t new. A lot of these innovations have been on the back burner for a long time, but we're seeing a real sort of uplift in the number of people trying them. Another example, again, you talk about VR and AR. One that I really love is webcam based augmented reality for trying on products like glasses. And that's something which I never would have considered existed, but something that I personally have experienced and used and thought it was great. And yeah, it works really well. And that's something that previously I probably would have dismissed as a gimmick, but now, because there's no alternative, it's actually you realize how important that is. Now, actually I think even in a post-Covid world, whatever that might look like, I think I would probably save myself the time of going in and trying those glasses on if I can very quickly make a decision. 

Likewise, I think even the large corporations and companies are using lots of these techniques as well, more so now than previously. Another example of this from my own personal life is, I recently bought a desk and I took a look on Amazon and I was able to actually use augmented reality in my camera to see exactly what size that would be in the space that I wanted to put it in. And I know that a lot of different furniture companies have been doing that, in very specific use cases in the past. But for a player such as Amazon, who's obviously ubiquitous in all different parts of business to then be taking a technique like that to the forefront, it really shows a shift there in terms of this ability to really experience products without physically having them present.

Tim Butara: Yeah, some very good examples here. And we're already moving into my next question. I wanted to ask you about some Covid specific tactics or triggers for reaching and appealing to consumers in such a time. Like for example, at a moment in time, when we're all ordering goods online, as we've just pointed out, and probably a lot of us are experiencing delivery delays, how can a feature such as guaranteeing timely delivery for an order impact conversion and the relationship with a brand and a customer?

Steve Clark: Sure. So, I think there's a, there's a few things here. I think fundamentally people are much, or at least the trends that I'm noticing is, people are much more likely to be paying close attention to delivery versus what they were doing previously. I think behaviorally there's a lot of boredom at the moment and I think there's a lot more demand for people to regularly be ordering stuff, to be quite honest, I think, but there's a lot more shopping happening online, it’s that sort of dopamine hit that people are getting from sort of ordering things. And I think people are-- the approach that we would have where you order something and forget it versus now where you order something and you anticipate that excitement of having something arrive. I think there's not a lot being said about that, but I think we're seeing a lot more of that. 

So, I think there's a lot more frustration when things don't go right. And then we're also having a lot of time where things aren't going, right, because it's just sheer volumes. And I think supply chains have improved now versus where they were 12 months ago when things were really sort of quite difficult. But I think people are more likely to have a negative emotional response if their sort of orders aren’t fulfilled. So, I think the one thing that we really encourage when we're talking to brands is just lay it out very simply in plain language and explain exactly what it is. Don't hide stuff in small print, don't make someone have to click through to another page to find information, just say, when will you get it, is it guaranteed, how much will it cost to get it earlier if they want to. And just lay that out really clearly, and then say also if you don't like it, what do you do about it? 

And if you hide that in a deep page, somewhere in a policy, you're going to lose that sale to somewhere else, if you can click back and go to the next Google result and find another company that does pretty comparable product, but says also it's free returns, we'll get you a new product by the end of the week if you send it back. And I think those sorts of things, which previously may not have been so important, they were still quite important, but weren't at the forefront of someone's decision-making, I think absolutely are our key sort of factor now. 

I think people are also paying a lot more attention these days to social proof than they were previously. And I think having reviews at the forefront, which specifically talk about the delivery process. So now we're seeing reviews, which break apart product quality, delivery process, experience, these sorts of things, rather than just having one star rating for everything. And I think those are very important to showing we will do this, but we say that we do it, but also, we fulfill it and if not, fix the problem before you start saying that you can do it rather than sort of trying to just sort of hide stuff away or put stuff in other areas. Cause again, it comes back to that point, consumers are careful with their spending at the moment, we're seeing unprecedented levels of saving and when people are parting with money, they are doing so with higher expectations than previously, and they’re sort of anticipating that package from the second that they order it and that they've parted with that cash more begrudgingly suppose than they previously would have beforehand. So, I would say it's important that we do that. 

Another thing we see that works really well is notifications. We’re also seeing a lot of people using social proof platforms where essentially you provide a notification that someone else has recently bought that product on the landing page directly or on the homepage of a website. And you can take this to the nth degree and you can make it very intrusive and have a negative effect from doing this. And obviously, there's a lot of discussion around what level of proof you need to provide. Obviously, it's a little bit intrusive to turn around and say, Steve Clark just bought this product. But if you can say this product has been bought five times in the last hour and you're able to present it on that landing page, we tend to find that in general, those work pretty well. 

And we see a positive impact on conversion rates from that because people trust what other people are doing. And if they see that 10 other people are buying it or 20 people are looking at that product page, they're more likely to have their fears quelled there. Because obviously, as I said earlier, we're talking about an increase in focus on the experience of buying and the people are more reluctant to purchase. I think any signal that we can give that “this is the right decision to make, look, other people are doing it, look, we'll fulfill that properly, look, you can send it back if you don't like it”, all of these things work together to make sure that we're really able to get those conversions in.

Tim Butara: But what about maybe the more, you mentioned that you get notifications with social proof, but what about the other kinds of notifications that incite visitors to buy? I'm thinking specifically of the FOMO type, the type that are like, “oh, you better hurry, cause already 1,100 people viewed this product today” and you're like, “oh, okay, maybe I should purchase it now, because if a thousand other people are checking it out and there are only 25 items in stock, then what really are my chances to get it, if I sit on it and wait on it?” So, maybe that's, how would you say that that would impact conversion? Is it a positive or a negative thing?

Steve Clark: Yeah, so again, we can give the impression of scarcity absolutely and say there's a, there's a limited supply that other people are looking, best hurry, act now, this was, these messages have been around for as long as advertising has been around, as long as selling stuff has been around and they do, they do work. The challenge with these is obviously we need to be careful about how far we take it, because often at the moment people are being bombarded all day every day with fairly aggressive advertising messaging. I mean the amount of time people are spending on the internet, on social channels, on different platforms, basically different ways to consume advertising, they're watching television, they’re spending more time in front of screens. People are being inundated with fairly aggressive messaging at the moment. And what you can actually find is, is through these sorts of messages. Yes, they can work, but, it's probably best to be subtle with them. Cause people are mentally a little bit exhausted with rush messaging, they are tired of being told, get this, get it now, everyone's getting it.

There's sort of this, like, there's definitely a bit of a focus now on, on sort of taking a more calm and chilled approach and allowing people to make their own decisions. So, I think you definitely can include things such as quantities or available quantities, but I think some of the more intrusive ways, popping up modals and sending emails and saying act now, buy now, it seems sometimes on the page, I think what you're likely to end up doing there is just becoming part of the noise and turning someone off of your brand in general. 

And I think there's other things as well in this, it’s even slightly less sort of aggressive versions of this. So, a notification, just modals will pop up when you go to close a tab, for example, or when you're, you're showing sort of mobile behaviors that you're about to close now, then these can work definitely, but they sort of tend to be a little bit aggressive. And I think as well, they often tend to be employed by websites which are really optimizing stuff to the nth degree. But often not in the e-commerce space, they tend to be sort of websites which are just trying to drive conversion for any reason. And I think that it comes back to that trust thing, because there's a balance to be sort of met there. It's with social proof, you're showing that other people are doing it. Whereas with this type of messaging, you can very quickly get into the territory of just basically shouting at a customer to try and tell them exactly what to do. And it doesn't always work.

Tim Butara: Yeah, good point. Yeah. And another thing that that I thought of while we were discussing this, you know, it's a bit of a paradox actually, you said that people are buying more online than ever, but they're also saving more than ever. And probably, you know, it makes perfect sense that customer experience should undergo this holistic all-around change and transformation in order for this new model to be widely accepted and to be successful. And maybe another interesting point here, you know, we've seen a huge influx of users of the digital, but many of these are not as technically savvy as the people who've been using the digital and working in the digital maybe for years now. So, how would you say that CX and digital experience have to change to kind of accommodate these users and make them and enable them to achieve the same things and to solve the same needs and pains as the technical savvy users?

Steve Clark: Yeah, I think that's a really good question. And I think everyone has seen funny videos of generations who aren't necessarily digitally native, trying to use Zoom or trying to do other things and leaving cat filters on and these other, these other things. And I think yeah, we laugh at them but, I think it's fair enough and actually I can share a link after this, one of our creative directors, Sam, wrote a really interesting article about this and, with UX and CX on websites, there's a lot of unwritten and known knowledge, which I think people who use the internet a lot or online shop a lot take for granted. I think when you land on a website, most websites follow a very similar structure that the layout is very, very similar. You have a nav bar at the top, you have content intersections in the middle, and then you have various different sort of locations where you expect to find elements. 

Those aren't sort of innate. Those have been learned over time. It's just that a lot of websites use them. And so, if the thing isn't in one place, you naturally know, okay, it's probably using this design paradigm where that's over here and for someone who's not familiar, and doesn't have the experience of having shops on 500 e-commerce websites over the last 10 years, or however long you might have been sort of purchasing online, they won't have those, they won't understand those cues. So, they’ll be basically coming in and each website will be a new experience for them. We need to basically make sure that, that we're, we're keeping that in mind as we're going, because what we will see is more frustration, people not trusting things that they don't understand, and then the harder conversions from those audiences. And I think it's very important that we keep that in mind and make it easy for everyone to use the sites again. 

I think there's also an accessibility component here. I think it's something that we push quite heavily and I think people take for granted how easy they find it to browse the web in general, I think based on how it's set up. I think and now we're seeing a lot more focus on sort of websites trying to achieve AA, AAA ratings for accessibility. And I think that that's a really good thing. And I think I'm not saying that you're going to have more people using devices like screen readers and other things like that, but I think high contrast and sort of text sizes and all of these other sorts of things, button tap sizes, et cetera, things which most able-bodied people might take for granted, I think actually we need to start considering this a lot more in our design, and I think Covid has kind of expedited that a lot as well. I think we're seeing a lot more of those things. 

And I think this has been a trend for a while, I don’t think this is a new entirely Covid focused thing, I know Google have been pushing a lot of this stuff previously and talked about tap targets and talked about one of these other things and starting to incorporate accessibility as ranking factors. But I think it's those features that improve accessibility for sort of users with assistive devices or users with specific requirements, I think those also help everyone. So, it's important to make sure that those are implemented as well. So, I think, there’s a lot of different trends that we're seeing, but generally speaking as well, I think there's a lot of credit to be given to a lot of these people who have never done online purchasing before. 

I think where there’s been teething problems, I think we are seeing in audiences who traditionally haven't purchased online, we're seeing much more usage. People are getting stuck in there doing it, that a lot of it through sort of a lack of choice, but we are seeing a fairly significant improvement across the board in the adoption of these technologies. And I think a lot of people who previously haven't done much online shopping before are actually finding out quite how funny it could be and how enjoyable an experience it can be. And I think it's opened up new markets, which traditionally might have been more difficult to tap into for sure.

Tim Butara: Yeah, some really good points there. I'm glad I asked the question. I especially love the point about accessibility and how it actually benefits everybody using the web, you know, it's not just, oh yeah, accessibility is just for, for the people with disabilities or people with temporary disability or whatever, but it is just like the, the sidewalk being lowered thing, you know, it's like, it was originally meant for, for people with strollers or, or in wheelchairs, but all of us benefit from them on a daily basis. So, it's like, we shouldn't fight it. We should embrace it. And as you said, it's like some of the basic things of-- some of the basic stuff of using the web we take for granted. But as soon as you have even a temporary disability, I know that a lot of articles and a lot of resources about accessibility always seem to kind of promote this idea of, you know, a disability is not necessarily something permanent. It can be, you know, you having an important phone call while cooking and only having one hand available or whatever. And yeah, it's just a really multifaceted thing.

Steve Clark: Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree with that. Yeah. And I think it's a benefit to everyone as you say to continue doing this, and this is a great direction we’re moving in.

Tim Butara: Yeah, 100%. And another thing that I think we already kind of hinted at, but we didn't really dive into more deeply, so, I'm going to do that now. A lot of brands, especially smaller brands could have been more financially affected and really financially affected by Covid and everything that's been going on. And would you say that this also played a role in them focusing more on CRO because they couldn't invest as much, they couldn't spend as much of their advertising budgets on marketing tactics and customer acquisition. So maybe conversion became a more important priority than acquisition?

Steve Clark: Sure. Yeah, I think there's a couple of points here. I think it's a really interesting question. The first point I'd say is actually small companies typically tended to always do this anyway. I think they were always at the forefront of new technology adoption, new paradigm usage. And that's not to say it always works, but it was always new, new companies taking those risks. I think what you would tend to find is, or at least the trend that I would see in my work is you will have small organizations and small brands trying stuff out and being more out there with their design and exploring new technologies, doing things like AR and VR and these things. And then, you would find 12 to 18 months later, then you would see the big corporates adopt the stuff that works and not the stuff that doesn't, and you'd start to see it become more mainstream through that. 

And I think that hasn't changed in Covid, I think, as you say, like the budgets that these brands have to compete with the likes of Amazon and mainstream supermarkets and other companies, I think they just don't have the money to do so. So, they have to focus on building a really strong brand and building that as one component. I think there's a pro aspect to that. I think the experience ties in really closely to brand perception and how people view your brand. I think obviously there's also, the conversion is actually, you need to drive conversions to make money. So, the more you can squeeze out of that without pumping more money in I think absolutely. 

I think as well a lot of the organizations that I'm seeing starting now, we're seeing a lot of people who are starting stuff the first time due to gaps in the market created by Covid. And I think we're seeing new players entering marketplaces who were coming in and they're being a lot of the time self-taught and learning a lot of stuff themselves as they go, they're setting up their first Shopify website and they're just constantly consuming articles about all of these different technologies, all of these different things. And it's brilliant. And we see a lot of innovation coming from it, but I think also a lot of these new plucky companies we're seeing coming out, I think they're not in a position to drop hundreds of thousands of pounds on marketing spend. So, a lot of the time what we actually see is it's almost a bootstrapping brief, I guess you could call it where people are coming to us and they say, we need to achieve X number of sales in order to get to the next available amount of budget to do this thing. 

And so, what people are trying to do is start lean with a small amount of investment capital, convert as much as possible out of that initial capital, and then from that, bank some advertising spends to then grow up to the next level, which actually is kind of the antithesis of what we see on the corporate side, where you have people who are sort of pumping lots of money out there and kind of then the CRO tests are coming after the fact. And it's like, okay, so this is the marketing spend. How can we make X spend produce more? Whereas the other side of the argument is very much how do we create the ad spend from the sales that we've brought from our initial 10,000 pounds or whatever it is, initial capital. So, I think, yeah, it's a, it's an interesting trend on both sides. I think we'll probably start to see some adoption of that model on the corporate side as well as we move. So yeah, it's been very interesting to watch.

Tim Butara: Yeah, that does sound super interesting. And a super interesting distinction, how it's basically vice versa for differently sized companies. Really cool. And yeah, you mentioned Amazon as kind of the big player and maybe as a, kind of as a-- one of the final questions, have you seen any changes with regards to brands that are selling on Amazon or versus direct-to-consumer commerce and how do you think these new trends will continue and evolve as we move toward a post-Covid new normal, so to speak?

Steve Clark: So, I think Amazon is a really interesting case and I think they had an extremely strong sort of Covid year, I guess you could say. And I think they will continue to do very well. I think this, the Amazon versus your own DTC website is something that I've come across a lot in my career even before Covid. So, what we're seeing is a lot of people who are finding that their main competitor is actually their own product on Amazon. And I think that was something that was quite common previously. One of the things I've noticed as we're going, and it'd be interesting to see where this goes, I think it's still quite early, there's obviously a fair amount of varied sentiment about Amazon as a company coming out in the news and I don't personally have a sort of horse in this race, but I think there's a lot of different viewpoints on Amazon business practices and also Amazon’s environmental impact in these other areas. 

And I think certain audience demographics are becoming sort of less inclined to purchase on Amazon and less inclined to be paying a Prime subscription, less inclined to be sort of supporting the organization in that respect. I think likewise, we're seeing a lot of small organizations which aren't willing or letting their products be sold by Amazon. I think those are fairly that very early and I think it's only a small subset, but I think there are things to watch in that space. I think that's something to look at. 

I think likewise for Amazon, I think, I don't know if you've noticed this yourself, but I mean, the number of people who are now drop shipping products via Amazon and are basically, or as close to drop shipping as you can get, but they’re basically selling products which they’re importing from China directly on Amazon. And so now when you search anything, if you're searching any sort of tech product, or if you're searching for USB cables, or if you're searching for anything now, previously, you would get sort of a few well-known brands, now you're getting about five or six hundred, basically direct from Alibaba versions with questionable quality. It's like, for example, one specific personal example from my own life, I recently purchased a soldering iron and I ended up going direct to a brand because I went on Amazon - I had not heard of a single one of those brands, and none of them seemed like they would have the appropriate electronic safety regulations in place. 

And so, there's a lot of these different challenges now, which I think Amazon is facing where they've, they've done very well, but on account of being the big market place, they've now got a lot of different challenges to overcome. And I think they've got the perception challenge to overcome, to get brands and certain consumers back on board with using that platform. And then I think, there's also a moderation piece to be done around, they’re now very much starting to look a lot like Alibaba when you, when you log on and have a look at their products, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's not what everyone's wanting from them. 

That said, I think they're also seeing, as we kind of touched on that idea about the sheer number of people from other audiences who are now buying online, I think they might be losing some of the under 35 audience to a lot of these things. But I think what they're seeing is a fairly significant uplift in older users who traditionally wouldn't have bought a lot of stuff on Amazon who now are already getting to grips with it and I'm just starting to fall in love with the platform. So yeah, I think there's an interesting shift in that. And there's a lot of interesting sort of threads that I can talk a lot about for a long time which are happening in that area.

Tim Butara: Yeah, think a lot of the points that we mentioned today deserve in depth discussions of their own, which we don't have time for today, but maybe just tying things together and kind of as a closing, as a closing question, you mentioned that this, this shift with consumers going from, from Amazon to direct to consumer brands that you also experienced yourself; are you seeing DTC brands capitalizing on this? And if so, in what ways?

Steve Clark: Yeah, I mean, I don't think anyone's quite brash enough to turn around and explicitly capitalize on it and say explicitly that they're not working with Amazon or anything like that. But I think what we're seeing is a lot of focus and capsulation on brand ethos at the moment. I think there's a lot of stuff coming out in the press and coming out in interesting documentaries and all of these other things. And I think there's a huge marketplace now for a lot of competitive DTC products, coffee subscriptions for Nespresso, which are compostable. We're seeing feminine hygiene products, which are better for the environment. We're seeing all of these different things that have gone from a traditional disposable model, which is available on Amazon or available from your local grocery store versus this subscribed, be loyal to this brand, we do good stuff. The products that we're putting out are rather high quality and they're not negative or they're not bad for the environment or bad for the world.

And I think that we're seeing a lot of capitalization on that. And I think we're seeing a lot of innovation in that space as well. I think we're seeing a lot more people spending a lot of time and I don't particularly like the term, but doom scrolling, going through their feeds and just looking at negative news and depressing themselves. And I think a lot of brands are kind of trying to offer, I suppose, islands within the sea of negativity and say, “hey, like you can't change everything”. You can't suddenly tell the large multinational companies to produce less carbon, but you can stop putting more plastic in the ocean if you switch to this instead of that. And I think these are things which we're seeing a lot of capitalization on and a lot of focus on over the course of Covid in particular.

Tim Butara: Yeah, good point. It's more bet on the brand, not on the product, right?

Steve Clark: Exactly.

Tim Butara: Awesome, and an awesome closing note, just before we finish, Steve, if people want to reach out or to learn more about you, what's the best way for them to reach you?

Steve Clark: Absolutely. So, please feel free to contact me directly on LinkedIn. I'll pass on a link so that can be included. Alternatively, Tangent's website is If you send a contact form through there, I'm more than happy to get in touch and talk to you about any sort of digital challenges you might want to see you pick up with me there.

Tim Butara: Awesome, Steve, thanks again for talking to me today, it's been really awesome. I really enjoyed it. I think our listeners will also get a lot of valuable insights from this. So yeah, I'm really excited about this episode. Thanks so much.

Steve Clark: No, thank you. It's been great. Thanks very much.

Tim Butara: So, to our listeners, that's all for this episode, have a great day everyone and stay safe.

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