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Against the Grain: Sorted Group

Sorted are changing the way we use ecommerce with their clever tech eco-system transforming the online delivery experience. In this months Against the Grain, Adam and Dan touch upon the company’s values, attitude and what to expect in 2021.

Brand News

Adam Walker
GO!
Dan Greenall

AW: To kick us off then, very top line, can you broadly talk me through what your role involves day to day, month to month?

DG: The way I explain this to people is – that at its simplest level – my role is to lead a team that is responsible for generating pipeline for the business. It’s the core thought that drives everything that the marketing organization itself does. That means from a day to day, my role is incredibly varied.

Take one day this week as an example, on Wednesday I conducted an interview for our new retail sessions podcast, I was doing team stand ups, heavily involved in sales planning sessions, involved in a competitive intelligence forum, and then having agency status meetings. It’s a vast role and that’s why I love it!

AW: You joined Sorted Group in May 2020, possibly the most turbulent time in the UK, how has that been in terms of onboarding, management of a new team virtually and taking on an adapted marketing strategy.

DG: Initially, it was completely surreal. You know what it’s like to join a company, you have a couple of weeks of inductions, where you meet everyone, and you get completely overloaded by information. You bump into people in the kitchen when you’re making a brew, and you start to learn the real nuts and bolts of the business. Being in the office with your colleagues is where you can get a real organic sort of insight of how everything works.

That first two weeks was still just as intense in terms of inductions, I went through as much of the businesses as possible in that period, and just completely absorbed as much information as possible. It was very surreal doing all of that through a screen because one of the key things is that  when you have a conversation through a screen it is incredibly focused, it’s not like when you go into the office you have a meeting, there’s small talk and the banter beforehand and afterwards and that’s kind of how relationships are formed.

When you’re doing it through a screen, you have a focus on what needs to be achieved for that meeting. Once that’s been achieved, it’s like great I’ve got a spare 10 minutes to gather myself before the next call. So, all that natural organic stuff, kind of doesn’t happen.

I think that was probably the biggest challenge for me, figuring out a way to plug that gap and figuring out how to navigate the right way across the organization and doing all of that remotely, was an interesting challenge.

AW: Remote working must have been especially frustrating as Sorted literally have an award-winning office. How important is that for morale?

DG: That’s a weird one as well, because on a personal level, I’d never experienced it. My first day in the office was probably the most surreal experience. It was before it was officially re-opened, I went into to meet a colleague, I got there around 9am and was in from nine o’clock till 12 o’clock on my own!

That aside, the offices are beautiful. I think the key thing for Sorted and kind of the mantra that we have taken, has always been even when we opened things up in summer last year, only come into the office, if you’re comfortable and happy, there is absolutely zero pressure from anyone in the business. We’ve got some great workspaces in there, I think it will be a huge boost to morale when we’re able to get back in there and see each other physically, once everyone’s comfortable and happy doing that.

AW: Q1 of 2020 saw a 1715.65% increase in shipment volume, of course the pandemic has played a significant part in online sales but do you think evolution of retail is also driving online deliveries?

DG: The pandemic has certainly been the catalyst for that acceleration in growth. But all of the things that have happened in that concentrated time were going to happen anyway. So, if you think about it in terms of that last mile of the customer journey, the courier delivery world. There’s more choice; same day, next day, click and collect, nominated day, retailers are starting to really figure out the value in offering choice at that part in the customer journey and how powerful that is for acquiring business.

The other interesting dynamic is the retail market being so consolidated. We touched on it a couple of seconds ago, around casualties in the market and what is causing it, we’ve seen it in the news recently that Debenhams and the Arcadia Group have gone from the high street. What this means for the market is that competition is going to get even more fierce in ecommerce. How that manifests itself in terms of, better digital experiences and really slick customer journeys, is going to be interesting to see.

AW: The pandemic has taken bricks and mortar out of the equation for a while and what it’s certainly done is force businesses to invest digitally and no longer see online as a secondary income but the primary one.

DG: Absolutely – but again, there are some really cool innovations happening there. What we’re seeing now, is there are lot of retailers who’ve got those stores and they have got a strong ecommerce business as well, they have started to realize that actually you can turn those retail stores into mini distribution centres. If you can get your infrastructure in the back office to realize that the stock in-store is also available to be picked and then distributed through the online business, then that  reduces some of the commercial impact on those retail stores not being active.

AW: In an Amazon dominated world, with next day delivery becoming a constant demand, how important is it for big and small retailers to adapt and focus a lot more on delivery options?

DG: In retail and ecommerce, you often hear the final mile being described as the ‘last battleground’. If you’re running through a timeline of ecommerce evolution, the most recent evolution is payments. Think about it, you go on any major ecommerce site and you get to the checkout, you’ll typically see that you can pay by PayPal, Klarna, you can spread the cost as well as pay through traditional credit card.

There’s been this huge focus in taking the friction out of payments, to improve the customer journey, and also improve basket conversion. The next part of that process is the delivery options; you go online, “right, I’m having those trainers now before they go out of stock”, it’s an easy purchase process and then you have to wait two weeks for it. No thanks.

That takes all the fun out of it because you want them straight away, as soon as possible. This has meant that choice in delivery has become more of a key component in the customer experience.

We’ve got customers that have seen basket conversion go up by a magnitude of 20% and higher by offering more choice and evolving beyond the traditional, you can have it next day for a premium, or you can have it standard for a fixed price and it will arrive in 3-5 days. The evolution of the delivery process is becoming really interesting, due to how pivotal it’s becoming in the customer experience.

AW: A lot of exciting things coming out about Sorted at the moment, what’s next for the brand?

DG: In the very immediate future, you’re going to see some big household names announced as joining us on the platform. There are some big ecommerce brands in there, very well-known ecommerce brands, but there’s all sorts of big traditional retailers, that have seen large ecommerce growth and are partnering with us to keep up that momentum going further and further into the future.

That’s the immediate future, then the biggest thing really is we’re making a big, concerted effort in the business to figure out where we go internationally, to fuel the next phase of our growth. And, you know, we’ve got the desire on doing that within the next 18 to 24 months. So, there’s a lot of work going on internally now, to answer the question of where, how and when, another thing that I’ve been quite heavily involved in.

AW:  What do you look for in agencies, when considering working with new ones?

Open mindedness, lots of ideas, and innovation. For a long time in the industry, it feels like brands and agencies have judged the measurement of success for agencies around cost per lead, which is absolutely fine in a lot of markets.   But we look at it differently, because our  TAM (Target Addressable Market) , is made up of, I guess, a comparatively small number of very big accounts. topped up by some pretty big mid-market accounts, so what we’re all about is cost of opportunity.

We want agency partners that are open-minded and can adapt to that way of working. In terms of ideas and innovation a great example would be if we’re looking for a PR agency, I just want to be hit with lots of options. Keep us busy! The worst thing possible and I’ve experienced this the hard way, is when you’re  fuelling the PR agency with ideas and avenues to explore. You get to the point in that sort of relationship thinking, what’s the point of me paying you for this? Because I’m doing a lot of work here and really, it should be coming the other way. That’s what it boils down to, open-mindedness and bringing lots of ideas to the table.

AW: Lastly, if there was one thing you could change about your industry, what would it be?

DG: I would like to see more brands recognizing that it doesn’t just end at the point where you’ve got the credit card details and the orders taken. The more people are adapting to buying online, the more demographics come online, the more that complete the experience will drive loyalty. People remember bad experiences, it will stick in your mind, it’ll drive your future purchase behaviour, you can almost guarantee it. If brands can recognize that, the customer journey goes way beyond the point where you’ve got the credit card details. It’s about what you do to keep them engaged and keep them on side after that.

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