Welcome to the e-commerce marketing podcast, everyone. I am your host, Arlon Robinson. And today we have a very special guest, David Fletcher, who is the Senior Vice President at ClearSale, which offers the most complete ecommerce fraud protection, combining cutting-edge statistical technology with the world’s largest team of specialized fraud analysts for a balanced, comprehensive, real-world approach. Today he’ll be talking to us about how changing consumer behaviors have altered the ecommerce landscape in the US and sharing which trends retailers should look out for in 2021.
Welcome to the podcast, David. Arlen, thank you so much, that was a great introduction. I love the explanation of class. Well done. No problem. No problem. And I appreciate having you on. I’m super excited. You know, I love these types of podcasts. What we’re talking about, the marketing trends right now. We’re recording this right at the beginning of February. Twenty twenty one. So it’s definitely a good time by the time this goes viral to probably be sometime in the middle of February.
So really good time, people, that our e-commerce business owners that are listening and e-commerce marketers, everybody, whatever the year transitions, people are always looking forward to seeing our eye. What are some of the latest and greatest things that are that going on that we need to really be abreast of? What do we need to kind of shift around? So definitely want to dig deep into that and get your opinion on, you know, what we can look forward to in this year.
But before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your background and specifically how you got into what you’re doing today? Yeah, absolutely.
So what I did early on was I worked in software. I actually graduated from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in criminal science and business management and postgraduation. I stayed in the area working with software companies and working with large systems integrator in D.C., one of the thousand that probably exists there today because there are so many of them now. But, you know, it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about software, to understand systems, the way they communicate with one another.
And then I found myself in a sales role and I quickly worked my way up the corporate ladder into a VP of sales, the marketing position at one of the larger systems integrators in DC, and that happened in ninety nine. And that really set the table for me to start to better understand the things that executives are looking for and the problems that matter to them when they start thinking about their business. So in doing that, I eventually ended up starting my own firm and did that in the early 2000s.
It was an entrepreneur up until joining Clairsville, so I ran my own company for almost 20 years. Then I joined Clairsville three years ago as a consultant, actually through my own company, and we came to terms for me to leave my company, which my wife still runs today, and I am full time with Clairsville. So with my background and the experience I’ve had in technology, it was really an easy transition into Clearasil. Yes, we’re a fraud company.
Yes, we are very focused on helping businesses grow. But at the end of the day, we’re a technology company and we use that technology to meet the needs of those merchants. So that’s why I say it was really a natural transition for me to join Clairsville.
OK, that’s that’s the good stuff. To be able to pivot, no matter what stage you’re at, is always admirable, because I know a lot of times people kind of get into something. And even though times are changing, technology is changing. A lot of times, you know, people kind of tend to get stuck, you know, in a rush or it’s always good to pivot, which is awesome. So, yeah, thank you for sharing that.
I appreciate it. Yep, absolutely.
So, you know, as I mentioned, we’re going to be talking about really kind of some of the trends. And I know you’re kind of on the pulse of it with ecommerce. It’s really exploding, as we all know, with where we’re at right now in the midst of this kind of global pandemic. And so there’s been such an influx of businesses that have come online selling their products to services, offering direct to consumer, whereas they either were not doing it before or they were doing it at such a smaller scale.
But now, because of all of this, because of the shutdowns that have occurred, not a lot of people going out into retail, there’s really a huge focus on it. And so wanted to kind of start off with what do you kind of foresee as some of the trends as it relates to e-commerce and marketing that we really kind of should be aware of? Yes, so I got to tell you, and I’ve done a couple other presentations where I talked about some trends in twenty twenty one and what we learned in twenty twenty.
And I think one interesting thing that I definitely want to share with your audience is that we were headed down a path on the e-commerce side, regardless of covid. There were things coming down the pike that were going to be changing covid aside, what covid did was it really accelerated it. It it forced us as entrepreneurs and merchants, as business owners to think differently and adopt things faster rate. And so, you know, really, I guess probably by midsummer last year there were a number of merchants that were in a do or die situation and they had to figure out how do I adapt the business and adopt some of these new things to meet the trend as others are now going online for most of their business.
And so, you know, having said that, one of the big things is the change in mobile buyers. The mobile buyer was on the upswing in twenty 2017. We were at about 10 percent and it was slowly coming up each year and it was coming up by about 15, 20 percent each year. And believe it or not, last year we hit 60 percent. Wow. It’s expected to hit closer to 80 percent by twenty twenty four.
Yeah, that’s a huge leap.
Yes, exactly. And so some retailers have to figure out how do I create a seamless mobile shopping experience. But at the same time, I have to make sure that I’m approving the right orders, declining the right orders. Right. There’s so much more to it. It’s not not as simple as the online transaction through the website where someone is actually sitting at a computer. It’s different for sure because there’s different technologies. And as a fraud prevention company, there’s certain things, data points that we get when someone’s on a mobile versus when they’re on a computer or a laptop.
And so, so many merchants today really have to start thinking about how can I provide a mobile experience to my target market? And the caveat there is, how do I then market to them? Because if they’re doing all they’re buying via mobile, chances are via mobile is how they’re going to see my ads. Right. So it’s a double edged sword that you have to be able to figure out and to play with. But that is definitely one of the top trends for twenty, twenty one.
And I think it’s going to continue growing more and more, especially not just because of covid, but with our younger generation. They’ve grown up on phones. You know, my youngest son is ten years old. He’s been on a phone, not a phone on a cell plan, but on a phone since he’s been seven years old. So he’s able to do things through our Wi-Fi. Yes. Apps. And, you know, that’s what he knows when he has a question about something.
He knows how to go to Google and do some research and come back with his own answer. And so everything is changing when it comes to the market and mobile buyer. So it’s more than just being prepared for online shoppers. You have to start being prepared for the mobile shopper, which is a slightly different strategy.
And I appreciate that answer. You brought up some really good points specifically about how we were really kind of already headed this direction, regardless of covid, this really just accelerated it. So it’s like I think I heard someone say it was like the fire was already burning with regards to online e-commerce and amount of sales online covid just added that accelerant to the fire basically added, you know, the fire started. It’s so true. The kerosene, whatever you want to call it.
Right. Is the accelerant and very true. And, you know, another thing that came to mind on my end is, you know, regardless of where we’re at, you know, we just kinda have to deal with the situation is, of course, has been unfortunate for so many businesses. But at the same time, it has created an opportunity to do some things that you may not have otherwise been able to do. You know, like you said, with the increase of the mobile users, that’s really giving a lot of businesses the ability to really kind of test out their systems, improve them, whereas, you know, short amount of time, whereas, you know, they’re already kind of headed that direction.
But this really sets up a lot more case scenarios for them to be able to find to not only their online sales platforms, but from marketing and the messaging as well. And how does that play out on mobile devices? So that is correct. Yeah.
And I’ll tell you another big trend that we’re seeing going into twenty, twenty one. Is the buy online pickup in store and again, that was something that was, I don’t want to say unusual, but it did exist prior to covid. It just wasn’t as popular. It certainly increased in popularity due to covid. And now it’s certainly becoming a way for many companies. I mean, look at our grocery stores are certainly adopting it. Our restaurants obviously are adopting it.
And there’s a lot of opportunity there for that buy online pickup in store. And, you know, the downside that I see as a fraud professional is it allows the fraudsters to create some new fraud schemes. There are things that they can now do differently that helps them bypass traditional filters or traditional reviews. And so our team internally, we spent a lot of time working on this and doing the research to see what we can put into place that will help us to begin to identify some of these potential fraud rings that are taking advantage of the biological weapons store scenario.
Yeah, you know, good stuff. We are. You’re right. That is one area that is definitely, of course, increased as well. And it’s you know, it is a little bit different than the full online and fulfilled with purchasing online and then, you know, just paying for everything and just getting shipped to you. So that definitely adds another element to it. There’s some definite logistic things that have to be in place to make it all work.
Yes. So this is definitely increased it. What I want to kind of get your opinion on now, though, is about how some of those the trends that you spoke about, really, how does the average e-commerce business, the small to medium sized business, how do they prepare for these? And specifically, we talked you talked initially about this explosion of people purchasing on mobile devices. We’ve seen it, like you said last year, it jumped to 60 percent, you know, whereas prior to that, you know, like you said, it was maybe about 15 percent of all users buying on mobile devices.
So 60 percent is a huge leap. What does the average e-commerce business? Really need to do if they are saying, OK, if I’m going to have such a shift of these people purchasing on mobile devices, devices where I begin to kind of improve that whole process.
And that’s that is a great question. And I actually I get that question a lot because I get to spend a lot of time talking to merchants, you know, about their strategy, you know, about growing the business. It’s not just for us. It’s not just fraud. You know, a lot of it’s about how do we help them grow their business, because the more they grow, the more money they make, the more successful we are.
So it’s a win win. So one of the things I always touch on when answering a question like that is the strategy that is needed. It’s called omni channel strategy. And as a marketing professional, I know you know what I mean. But merchants typically don’t know what that means. And what that really means is that they have to start figuring out where their buyers want to buy from because of my omni marketing strategy. Maybe it includes Amazon, maybe that includes eBay, maybe it’s just phone, maybe it’s Instagram.
There’s all these different platforms, if you will, that you could be selling through other than just your website. And so a merchant really has to start thinking about that omni channel strategy and figure out where do they want to invest the time and the money to get their products out there, because mobile is a part of that omni channel strategy. That’s a very important part of it. And so that’ll be just one piece for them when it comes to solving that puzzle of their omnichannel strategy to say, hey, right now we can do X on our website and we know we’re going to increase sales by having our mobile.
Well, now we can increase sales through eBay stores or at Amazon, which, you know, Amazon could be tough, especially for smaller merchant that can get really expensive going through Amazon. eBay is a great solution. Right. And then, of course, Instagram setting up an account on Instagram where you’re getting some organic followers do not buy followers, but you get yourself some organic followers that like your products and have it set up so they can actually purchase directly through the Instagram feed.
And so all of that becomes a part of that omni channel strategy. And that’s where the mobile piece comes into play. Because mobile can go down to different layers. We can start talking about social media within mobile, right. As an example. And so it’s really important that mobile is a part of that strategy. But what other components are in that strategy? Because they start to tie together and maybe the money I spend in one place on ads or whatnot can actually benefit one of my other channels as well.
But, yeah, that’s one of the first things you have to do is come up with that omni channel strategy. Otherwise, without a strategy, they’re just guessing and essentially wasting time and money.
That is very true. And it does come down to once you kind of understand all of the channels you want to focus on and you understand.
And I guess before you even look to optimize anything, you understand where you getting the majority of your customers, if you’re across all these channels, is it directly from the site? Is it Amazon? Is it eBay? You know, where were they coming from? And then like to said, I think that will help you dictate what changes you need to make with respect to mobile or with anything, because you changes are going to need to be made.
But I think you’ll have coming up with that, you’ll be able to determine where you need to prioritize things, where you kind of need to start off first. So you end up here for sure. Appreciate that.
Now we look back to last year, which the bulk of the year we were kind of within still within this whole pandemic. It’s hard to believe, you know, the majority of 2020, we were kind of dealing with this pandemic. And so it stretched to this year. But I guess let’s look at last year and we’ll look at prior to cope with. So we’ll look at, let’s say, pre covid, pre covid businesses were doing you know, there were some general breast practices as far as what to do online and selling online.
Right now, as you already mentioned, things have changed so dramatically. There’s definitely some things that you could probably do before that these days. You probably shouldn’t do any more. And so I want to kind of get a feel for what are some of these practices that they can we can think about discontinuing and then those that we think we definitely need to continue this year and beyond.
That is a great question, because, you know, we’re going to work so hard as a merchant to attract a customer and then convert that customer. Customers are more important than ever due to a lot of companies position right now. So it’s very important that we have to understand what was working before may not work now because the buyer’s style and pattern has changed. But at the same time, what was working? What did we learn from that that we could use today?
And I want to share with you something that I did recently with a large outdoor industry retailer as we went through looking at their numbers pre covid pretty good numbers and approval rates were pretty high. Revenue looked good, did not have a mobile strategy in place at all. And, you know, as we started talking about the fact that they weren’t on mobile, they weren’t on Amazon or any of those other potential marketplaces, it was really important to be able to avoid false declines.
So false declines all of a sudden came into play. Now, obviously, for me on the fraud side, foster declines matter quite a bit because that’s how we can help merchants increase revenue with what they have today without making any changes. Typically due to our internal process and the way we review our orders and the transactions, we’re able to approve more orders. And that was what you had done in the introduction. You had mentioned our strategy and our main review process where I mean, we have over a thousand resources that are there reviewing the data, looking at the transaction, looking at device fingerprints, like analyzing every piece of this buyer’s transaction to try to approve more orders.
And by doing that, we reduce the risk for the merchant and we’re allowing them to recognize and receive more revenue. Right. And that’s a beautiful thing. So I always share with merchants false declines matter more today than they did two years ago. And they mattered a lot two years ago. But today they really matter. So for a company that is, let’s say, using fraud filters or just manually internally, they’re reviewing them manually and they say, well, I’m not real sure I want to prove that.
And they declined it. You worked so hard to get those customers. You don’t want to lose those customers. You want to try to convert them, find a way to convert them. Conversions matter more now than ever before. And so that’s a big part of it. And when when you start thinking about some of these merchants that are not adapting to some of this, they’re the ones that are still struggling. They’re the ones that say, I’m working my way up and I keep running into that ceiling of complexity.
I can’t break through. How do I get over a million dollars a month, whatever it might be? And those are the things that will keep them from doing. It is simple as false clients, because that customer comes in the place, the order the order gets declined. They’re not necessarily going to try another credit card. I know my credit card is good. I’m trying to place the order where I could buy it from you or I could buy it from ABC company for about the same price.
I’ll just go to their website and buy it. And then I’ve lost that customer completely. So, yeah, that’s one of the trends that matter more today than ever before. False declines is something that really. Has to be paid attention to because you don’t want to lose the opportunity to increase revenue and keep a customer, right. And that’s not even including we could probably talk for another half hour arlen just discussing the lifetime value of a customer. Right now, it’s zero.
Yeah, it makes a big difference. And it’s like you said, with those fast declines, you know, business owners don’t really realize that. All right. If you know somebody’s car doesn’t go through at the end, whatever it is, nine times out of ten, then I pulled it out another car. They’re not going to say, let me try this one, because it’s like in most cases, if they’re using that car, they probably just used it somewhere else, either in an online transaction or the a physical retail place.
So if they’re going to use it, they know they just use it. So they know it’s good. They know they have a decent balance on it. So if it’s declined, then, like I said, something must be up with the site. Exactly. Somewhere else. That’s right. I think that that’s the mindset I think most people have, because I know that’s what I would think of myself. Right. And that’s why it had to happen to me on a handful occasions where it just didn’t go through.
And I’m like, all right. Well, you know, and find somewhere else because this is the car I want to use. I don’t want to put it on, you know, one of my cards you just got to find somewhere else. Yes. That is so true.
Yeah. And I went through something similar when it first started because I had two kids going away to college to separate colleges. I had two 18 year olds graduating high school, going to college. And I had my parents who were not big fans of putting credit cards online. And I had to help them make purchases, as well as buying things for my two college students and having it shipped directly to them. I was getting orders declined because building and shipping address wasn’t matching.
And, you know, and I would buy a bean bag was one of my examples and trying to buy a beanbag. I sent it to one address, one son, another beanbag, send it to the other, address my other son. And they’re getting declined. Right. And there it is. It’s now. OK, so that is the card. I want to use it. It’s a false decline now because I work within the industry. I knew what was going on, so I just got on their chat and interact with them, told them what was happening.
But, you know, most people won’t do that. They just move on to the next website. Yeah, definitely.
Definitely. It’s a good, good example. I appreciate you pointing that out. Yeah. You know, as we get ready to wrap things up, one of the things that I always like to do is look at kind of the success stories of businesses that, you know, you’re familiar with or that we’re all familiar with because we can always learn a lot from them. And so when it comes to changing trends and being able to change and pivot and being successful doing that, what are some examples of some companies that have definitely changed and pivoted really quickly and their overall change management process has just been on point that we could all learn from.
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting because a lot of the big box stores adopted the pile on pick up in store really fast. Yeah, yeah. And, you know, they have an unfair advantage. Their situation when it comes to the buy online pickup in store, you have to have real time inventory capabilities. Well, most of the large, big box stores have that in place already. So it’s those smaller size merchants that struggle with that real time inventory.
But I think it’s really important to understand that, you know, yes, the big box stores could do it. And now today there’s more software available to help with that real time inventory and to help with companies trying to adopt that strategy. But the big box stores is a great example. The grocery stores are another great example. You know, I work with a number of grocers in Latin America and it’s interesting that they never did that before. And that was something that they had to make an adjustment to really fast.
And we were able to share with them some of the things that we see in the US and help them begin to develop that strategy. So they’ve adopted it. And we see more and more grocers in Mexico, for example, doing exactly that. And, you know, fast food establishments, they jumped on it immediately, which was a good thing. Right. Once we started to better understand the virus and what was safe and what wasn’t safe, I think fast food establishments did a great job.
And I have a couple of friends that own some restaurants and fast food establishments and having conversations with them on, you know, how are you going to change that process? And I helped one friend develop an app. He developed the app. He got that up and running. And now as a neighborhood restaurant, he’s doing really well because everyone is able to get online and process their order and come pick it up. So there’s definitely success stories out there.
You just have to find them. Yeah, definitely.
For sure. Yeah. One thing you mentioned, the restaurants is a fast food restaurant. I’m in the Orlando area. One kind of trend that I’ve seen that a lot of restaurants are kind of going towards to, I think, improve the efficiency of their to go orders because, of course, most businesses have gotten an influx of that. And, you know, even though here in Florida, all the inside of restaurants are totally open, there’s no limit on the capacity right now.
So people can still do that. But I think there still has been more percentage of people that are ordering out people that still aren’t comfortable sitting inside the restaurant would rather just order out. One trend that I just recently saw is that a number of businesses and it seemed like it just kind of just all happened in the short amount of time. Just the past month or so. Businesses are no longer taking a large number, are no longer taking phone orders, orders over the phone.
They’re saying, OK, in order to do your carry out, you got to order online or through our app. And so I think with that trend, that is really kind of because no one reduces the error in the order taking from that staff on the phone versus, you know, the person telling us. So No. One, it reduces errors. Number two. Right. It frees up the staff that you have that has to take those phone orders and try to understand the person, read the order back key.
That order into the system is a whole lot of things in play there that eat up time and money. And I think that’s really one of the reasons why they have that. And so it’s interesting that you mentioned your friend that developed the app, because that’s definitely a trend where, of course, you’re going to have to go orders, but to be able to more efficiently take it these days, I think the businesses now are saying you got to do it online or do it on the app or or otherwise.
You can’t do it at all.
That’s right. That’s right. That is the key. You know, you’ve got to right now as a as a merchant, as a retailer, you have to be agile. Yeah. And if you’re not, then you’re going to struggle. Yeah. And that’s just the reality of the economy right now and the situation that we’re in.
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Well, it’s been great talking to you, David, and I appreciate you coming on. I’ve learned a lot and I know our listeners have this as well, because things are changing rapidly as we’ve seen. And it’s hard to say how things are going to be beyond this year. But we’ve got to be on our toes and is always good at the beginning of the year to kind of assess the trends and figure out how you need to pivot.
What I always like to do is switch gears here and switch up the question just so audience can get to know you just a little bit better. So if you don’t mind sharing one kind of closing fun fact with us that you think our audience members would be interested to know about yourself. Yeah, good question. So, you know, it’s funny, I get asked this question usually at my go to is the fact that I have five sons, but I think I’m OK with that a few times.
So I want to tell you, I’m going to tell you something I do have going on right now, which is kind of cool. I’m working with a publisher. I’m in the process of writing a book. OK, great. And it’s a book about building e-commerce businesses and essentially the things that are required to build an e-commerce business and what to look out for and how to build marketing strategies and sales plans and so forth. You know, obviously, fraud is a big part of the book to be remiss if I did not include some fraud in there.
But there’s so many moving parts to a good e-commerce business plan that it makes sense to start writing a book. So I’m really excited about that. That should be coming out in August of this year of twenty twenty one. OK, great. And as a matter of fact, if you don’t mind, I’d love to share with the listeners that if they connect with me, reach out to me. We are building a group. The publisher is creating a group of folks that can receive sample chapters and provide feedback to the publisher.
So that would be great to be able to share that information with your audience.
OK, great, great. We thank you for sharing that and congrats on that book and I wish you well once that comes out for sure. Yeah, it’s definitely good stuff. It’s always good to get solid information out because, you know, these days we see there’s there’s a lot of stuff out there. It is hard to find out, you know, really what are some of the the real and the right things to do. So, yeah, I know everything you’re putting out is definitely going to come from a tried and true place because all of the experience that you’ve had running your business at businesses.
So that’s great. So lastly, David, you know, if any of our listeners do want to connect with you, reach out to you, pick your brain any more about, you know, anything that we talked about these trends or reach out to you about how they can help out with the book. What is the best way for them to reach you?
Yeah, I tell you, I’m going to give you my email address as the most direct way, which is David Dot Fletcher et h.e.r at Clear Dot Sale. Obviously, I’m on LinkedIn. It’s David Fletcher, but you can also search Fleche Ekom guy that will find my account. Same thing on Instagram and Twitter. Both of those handles are Fleche, the Ekom Guy DCOM and you’ll be able to find me and follow me that way. OK, great.
Great. Well thank you for sharing that, David. I appreciate that. I definitely encourage all of our listeners to to reach out to you. And you know, of course, thank you again for being on the e-commerce marketing podcast.
Yes. Arlen, thank you so much for having me. It’s been a blast.
No problem. Thank you for listening to the E Commerce marketing podcast.
Senior Vice President at ClearSale