Q&A with Sam Barton, head of user experience at Shop Direct

Peter Buckley

Back in December 2015, Essential E-Commerce printed a Q&A with Taggstar’s customer, Sam Barton, head of user experience, Shop Direct. Today we’re printing the Q&A in full. Thanks Sam!

Why did you choose to work with Taggstar over competitors? Where did you find them?

We have worked with many emerging companies over the last few years, focussing upon innovative technology and methods. Taggstar’s platform was of interest knowing movement within the industry, but when we learned about the science behind the tool, and with their professionalism and support, the decision was an easy one.

What is the Shop Direct policy on using start-up technology? How do you go about finding start-up innovation?

Shop Direct works with a lot of start-up companies, who tend to drive innovation on niche or specific elements of the onsite experience.   We identify them through multiple sources, and discussions typically advance where they can clearly evidence that their technology will solve a business or customer problem.

Tell me about the implementation process of Taggstar? Was the technology easy to integrate with Shop Direct’s existing platforms?

We introduced Taggstar’s persuasive messaging through our world class ‘Experimentation at Scale’ programme enabling us to learn more and faster through A/B experiments. Experiments enable us to make quick and nimble changes to our websites, removing assumptions, to learn which ideas improve key metrics that should be iterated upon, and which ideas need to fail fast.

Why do you think these social proof messages are so effective? Why do customers choose to read/act upon them?

We found that the messages helped in two ways. Firstly, in presenting social proof to people that usually searched for this information, the experience was improved by making the information they needed more easily accessible. Secondly, through presenting this information to people that found it useful but did not normally think to look for it, we were able to inform the decision and provide reassurance where needed.

Do you think the messages will help with big sale events as you approach peak times? E.g. Black Friday?

These messages provide value all year round, but last year’s Black Friday experiment with Taggstar proved that the opportunity during big events is massive. The number of people visiting the site is one factor which cannot be denied. However, by the nature of the sale events we can really harness the power of Taggstar’s algorithms and let people know about our hottest selling items. For this reason, we were confident in the value of the tool and included Taggstar’s messaging on Very’s Black Friday pages at 100% of traffic.

How does it tackle your personalisation efforts?

The tool already has the intelligence to show a message with the right product, but we are working with Taggstar to build on this. We will be creating a more personalised experience for each of our customers by presenting them with the most relevant, useful information, when and how they need it. Our User Experience team is pivotal in working with Taggstar, to use more varied messages, different methods of delivery, while better understanding our customers using data and user centred research.

What is the future of this type of messaging technology? What would you ideally like the technology to do in the next couple of years?

We are continually looking for opportunities where we can integrate this technology into all our platforms, one area which is on our horizon is the integration within the apps.

What are the biggest eCommerce challenges facing Shop Direct at the moment?

We now employ over 4,700 members of staff across the UK, Ireland and Asia. As the business continues to go from strength to strength we need to ensure that we have the right resources to help support this growth. Therefore it’s important for us to attract the best possible talent to our business which means focusing on building the brand and raising the profile of Shop Direct so that we are front of mind when candidates are looking for their next career move.       

Where else do you look for innovation? Do you look outside the retail sector? If so where, please provide examples of industries/companies doing interesting things in your opinion.

We look for innovation in many different places and sectors.  We take part in knowledge shares and spend time with non-competing organisations from outside retail such as the gaming and travel sectors to look for examples of best practice and the use of innovative concepts.  

Peter Buckley

Author Peter Buckley

Having started his own business at 19, Peter has never been too far from the startup community. Cutting his teeth at TUI Travel PLC, the world’s largest travel company, Peter left the corporate world and has spent the last 4 years in startups like mypikk, Befittd.com and now, Taggstar.

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