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Daniel Murray from fashion social network Grabble on ecommerce

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 11 August 2014

Creating engaging shopping experiences with fashion social network Grabble

Grabble logoSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your full name, job title and role (what do you do there) for Grabble?

Daniel Murray (DM): I’m Daniel Murray, cofounder at Grabble. I focus upon on retailer partnerships, customer acquisition, social and PR strategies.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about Grabble (for those that don’t know), what is it and what does it do?

DM: For those that don’t know, we are a social fashion network, we enable our members who sign up for free to save their favourite fashion from any other site using our bookmarking tool – the Grab button. By simply dragging this onto your bookmarks bar, you can save any fashion product from any other site into personalised collections and receive sale alerts which users love. Then, on our discover feed, you can browse through an endless feed of products that have been Grabbed by other members just like you – discovering the best of fashion all in one place.

SMP: When was the company formed, how is it funded (how do you intend do drive revenue) and how many people work there?

DM: The company set up shop in June 2013, its funded through angel investors, currently we receive commission on all products purchased through the Grabble funnel, but we are building tools for retailers currently that are more focused on enterprise solutions. We have eight members of staff.

Photograph of Daniel Murray, cofounder at GrabbleSMP: Why did you start the company and how did you settle on the name Grabble?

DM: The name was agonising! We just wanted something different, but something that still had connotations of how people interact with products, whether in the real world or online. We probably came up with over 1,000 permeations until my cofounder said Grabble, and we settled on that, it just made sense! We started the company after speaking to young female students about how they shop online. We discovered they all bookmarked products regularly but didn’t use Pinterest, would lose their bookmarks because they would get cluttered.  There was no call to action – hence we spent a lot of time developing this bespoke sale alert feature.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

Our audience is 16-25 year old females predominantly, but we do also target males, and as it’s a platform, we have some members who are over 50 that use it!

SMP: How many users are signed up to Grabble and how many use it daily?

DM: Currently we have just over 10,000 members, and around 500 use it daily, but that is being rectified by us launching notifications for users, which we have tested and anticipate this will make a lot of our registered users more active, as the site becomes more addictive. We are also launching our “Tinder for Fashion” apps on iOS and android.  The fact that our mobile site has been so restricted has hurt us because so much of audience lives on mobile.

SMP: How did you initially attract users to site, social channels et al and how do you do it now?

: We tied up some early content partnerships with publishers in our target market. We enabled them to create collections around fashion content they were sharing and this helped us drive traffic. Unfortunately, our biggest and most active social platform (Instagram) doesn’t drive any traffic back, but does get phenomenal engagement, but we have strongly adopted Twitter, which has driven a lot of users to the platform. Our blog gets featured a fair amount and whilst we process it on WordPress, we also keep the same content on Tumblr up to date, which helps us drive viral growth for our content.

SMP: How many vendors are signed up, how are you attracting and building relationships with them?

DM: When we first built the platform we actually intended to work with smaller retailers, but found getting through to them especially hard because they wanted to know what larger retailers were using it. So we redirected our attention to ASOS, signed them up, and suddenly people were interested. It wasn’t just the smaller retailers, but we started getting recommendations through agencies to apply it for their clients too. Within three months we had commercial agreements with over 300 retailers and around 75 bespoke retailer pages being managed by clients. In terms of building relationships, the results speak for themselves, but we do try to go above and beyond, particularly with social and blogging in this area.

SMP: Grabble appears like an ecommerce fuelled Pinterest, what’s different about it and what’s going to make it last the test of time?

DM: Absolutely.  That’s kind of the simplicity and beauty.  We are totally focused on one area for our users and retailers love that too. The sale alert feature is a complex bespoke technology solution that provides great value for all, but in general our social tone and focus on a specific demographic helps us build a brand, and strong brands are often what last the test of time, alone. However, we have also figured out how to Grabbing on mobile, which is a huge coup for us.

SMP: What are the challenges that you’ve encountered and how are you overcoming them in what you have been doing so far at Grabble?

DM: The greatest challenge was trying to build an attractive platform from an aesthetic point of view, with underlying complex technology prone to break, and reliant on so many variations across ecommerce that are dependent on how other people run their websites. It’s quite simply been trial and error, we log our failings, learn from our mistakes and make the correct judgements  (sometimes incorrect) and continue to develop from what we learn.

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

DM: We have run two fantastic events for our community.  We managed to get both of them for free. This included sponsors for everything and even celebrity guests, magicians, journalists and the Hoxton Hotel as a venue. Because of the engagement we have received from valued members of the fashion blogging community, we have been extremely fortunate to partner with some great people, venues and get endorsement.  This has enabled us to really give back to our community without having to spend our tight budgets. Social media engagements were absolutely crucial to us in achieving this and that has been executed fantastically by our social community manager.

SMP: What are the main social channels are you using, why and which are the most effective for Grabble?

DM: The number one for us is Twitter @Grabble, because we get great engagement and a lot of love, regularly, unprompted and it also allows us to work closely with brands, which is very valuable to us.

Instagram would be second if we were able to link back to the website, but its frustrating that we cant, so I will have to say…

Pinterest because whilst we are similar, we are actually able to build up a portfolio of followers slowly but surely that really engage with our core proposition, who are frustrated with the limitations of Pinterest (that so many pictures are just that – images, and not items ready to purchase), so they actually come and sign up to Grabble and stick around – in terms of retaining users, those that come from Pinterest seem to stick around the longest.

On Tumblr these users engage regularly with our blog, and we generate a lot of traffic to our blog content through this medium, however they don’t really register, so they fulfil an alternative metric.

Our problem with Facebook is that you have to pay to reach your audience every time, making it quite difficult to get any organic virility, so unless you are doing something particularly exciting that hits a core metric (like visits to a collection of products we are really looking to push) it doesn’t really make sense from a cost point of view.

SMP: What sort of activity / engagement are you receiving across the social channels that you use and how do you create / sustain this?

DM: With Twitter we see a handful of retweets and favourites on every post, but occasionally we will nail it with some kind of witty post, and receive an email from someone like MSN or Buzzfeed asking to feature our tweet, and then of course we will drive a lot of new followers. We probably get around 50 new followers on Twitter a week organically, but if we do a competition (have done with Miss Selfridge, Joy, and Rubbersole) we will shoot up by about 1,000 followers (and lose almost half of these after the competition ends), so it’s quite hit and miss. We don’t really believe in following and unfollowing as a tactic as long term this has proven to fail, so we persevere with events, offline activity and pushing our Twitter handle as our primary form of communicating with our brand.

Instagram; we will receive at least 10-20 favourites per post and we measure this basically as value for our community as we are in fashion however we concede internally that unless a network is driving clicks, it can be a bit frustrating. Surprisingly however, its our largest community, and its pretty much been driven from offline engagements, events, press days, activity with retailers and consumers alike – its actually quite phenomenal how many followers you can attract in a day, and doing anything in partnership with celebrities (such as some of the Made In Chelsea crew) has done wonders for our followers, and they appear to stay engaged generally.

For Pinterest we don’t get so much on-going engagement like repins or comments really, but we do drive traffic and that traffic signs up – so in terms of growing our community there we are still learning, but in terms of garnering results for Grabble, it’s the most effective I would argue.

For Tumblr getting new followers on Tumblr appears a bit harder despite the quality content we publish from a blog perspective, however unless we do something like “quote of the day” we really struggle to get reblogged, or followers.

Facebook obviously has the best tracking the best prompts to do activity, and is incredibly addictive. The temptation to boost every post is huge, but ultimately they never seem to compete with standard advertising on Facebook to get results – we find we can very easily push activity through Facebook and get lots of likes and shares but absolutely no clicks, and so we find it a bit of a false promise – we have stepped back a bit from Facebook until we can understand how to optimise our spending here, as its just too easy to waste money, and the virility is very restricted unless you are willing to cough up

SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities in the online shopping sector and the competition that you have; say from the likes of Pinterest?

DM: Easily the biggest challenge it’s converting customers from window shoppers to buyers. What we have found is that consumers that click buy from Grabble onto retailer sites convert at over 8% (and the industry average is 2%) so we are doing a good job, but when our commission is still small, the real challenge is balancing our CPA effectively so we can grow to scale without breaking the bank inefficiently.

We are currently working on feedback with retailers to build some bespoke solutions in the B2B space however that help us boost the typical 98% drop off rate, and that could be a very exciting and sustainable area of growth for us that could help us manage our consumer acquisition strategy more effectively, so watch this space. website image

SMP: What is the most challenging part of building upon your brand presence in digital environments?

: Having a high turnover business of interns that come in (often excel), but then leave. We have responsibility to help out especially in areas like social media and blogging; it’s keeping the tone that we have defined clearly.

For a while it was hard to understand what kind of tone of voice we wanted to share with our audience without being too alienating but having opted for ‘young, witty, cheeky’ predominantly, it becomes a little easier if we recruit effectively. So far we haven’t had to measure the impact of anything particularly negative – so I’ll have to come back to you if that happens!!

SMP: What do you think is going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media, social networks and/or technology for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

DM: Everyone seems very fascinated by the impact of social on conversions, which is why social commerce is such a hot topic. There was a recent study showing that despite being far smaller than the likes of Facebook, Google Plus, etc, it was actually Polyvore that drove the most sales on earth, overall. That is pretty impressive and shows how if you target your product around the concept people are specifically engaging in, you have a great opportunity to hit new heights and make new ground.

I think social will increasingly drive sales in the younger generations, but I am pretty downbeat on opportunities for driving valuable sales and engagements in the higher end market, and age ranges. I do think at some point people might go full circle, from sharing everything to going quite private due to privacy concerned, especially highlighted by Facebook and the government, and once that tide turns sufficiently, it will cause a huge backlash – but that is the kind of political factor it is very hard to plan for – so until then….

SMP: What are your top five predictions for social media and ecommerce for the next 12 to 18-months?

  • Mobile dominates.  This seems pretty obvious but we are already seeing this, and it will be a while until the mcommerce experience is updated and sophisticated enough to keep up to date. The checkout facility is still a few years away, and actually that is where Grabble can make a mark currently, enabling users to ‘save for later’ from mobile, and hook up once on their desktop for better checkout functionality.
  • Ecommerce will be led more by mobile search.  Mobile search is an interesting one; people don’t really use search engines to come to retailer sites, they actually originate their journeys on apps or social networks and click off from there, so discoverability on the right platforms is key.  We intend for the Grabble apps to be a great starting point for fashion discovery, helping to alleviate this attitude.
  • Twitter will dominate Facebook.  Facebook is just increasingly driving brands away with its payment scenarios, it might well be making them return better results to shareholders, but whilst it is phenomenal for large retailers, it’s increasingly difficult to get new likes because people are bored of them, and the audience is just increasingly old.
  • Snapchat and Vine will continue to grow because people love video.  Video seems to have entered a golden era whereby it’s the single most important element of social interaction, any social network focused around making video sharing simple and watchable is going to continue to do well.
  • The absolute key prediction from our point of view however is that social will continue to break into different specialist areas.  It’s no longer good enough to have one social network to rule them all like Facebook, its now about a couple for video, a couple for link sharing, a couple for fashion, a couple for tech, a couple for sport etc. This provides a lot of opportunities for new companies, and a lot more relevance to these smaller audiences where the expectation is that there will be much higher engagements. Just look at Instagram, its focused entirely on images alone, and their engagements are through the roof!

SMP: What are your top overall five tips for ecommerce and shopping sites approaching and managing social media?

  • Choose a tone that works for your audience, because it’s the easiest way to get engagement.
  • Don’t delete negative comments, directly respond to them publicly and then sort them out in private after.
  • Regularly try to engage your audience with questions, spark debates or initiate any way to get responses, and run competitions.
  • Show what life is like within your office, or corporate day-to-day, because people actually like to see what life is like within the company.
  • Write really clear guidelines to share with your team, so people know how to take on board your corporate tone and strategy.  Use Buffer so you can do the bulk of your work in one go, that way you can focus on other things!
SMP: Best way to contact you and Grabble? @murraymuzz and Tumblr blog.

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

DM: Breakfast shake of course, peanut butter, banana, seeds and flax.

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

DM: We raised £450 for St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington at our last event, on Tuesday. I visited my friend who’s in the same hospital (completely unrelated) for his back, last weekend.

SMP: If you weren’t working at Grabble what would you be doing?

DM: Still working in advertising or media, or I’d be running a socks subscription service, something I’ve always wanted to do for some reason. Or, finally getting round to writing that sitcom I always half start and never finish.

SMP: What were the most interesting things you bought online and what prompted you to buy it?

DM: I have a lot of cat t-shirts… I love cats. That aside, I bought a reconditioned Bang & Olufsen wall clock record player because I saw it and fell in love with it – its been on my wall for three years and every single person that comes to my flat comments on it almost immediately (thankfully positively).

SMP When and where did you go on your last holiday and why?

DM: Ibiza. Umm…. Well my friend’s family rent a villa there, and it’s pretty incredible, and is free to me so, that’s why!

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

DM: Get on Trello, sort my to do list out, choose a playlist and get ready for havoc.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

DM: Flying (couldn’t resist – does anyone resist that temptation?) See the future. Then, I wouldn’t need to constantly test and evolve my product based on feedback, I’d just cut straight to what consumers want and enjoy the journey a bit more.

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