MarTech Interview with Bill Lorimer, AVP of E-Commerce at SmartBug Media

Discover essential strategies for optimizing holiday campaign performance, including data analysis, audience engagement, and effective marketing techniques.

Bill, can you please give a brief overview of your professional journey in e-commerce and marketing leading to your current role at SmartBug Media?
I entered the e-commerce world back in early 2012 as a platform developer, but I quickly realized my strengths were better suited to client and brand management. For more than a decade, I’ve had the opportunity to lead many projects that have helped enterprise brands jump headfirst into the digital world and quickly scale. Over the years, I’ve been able to take my career experiences and utilize them to help me grow into the leader I am today.

I found SmartBug through a job search at the beginning of 2023 and was really intrigued by the opportunity to join the company and take on its e-commerce line of business. Most know SmartBug for being a powerhouse in the HubSpot ecosystem, so it’s been a fun journey focusing on the e-commerce side of things and working to grow that offering within the larger organization.

Could you kindly elaborate on the essential components that businesses should consider when analysing holiday campaign performance?
Speaking of email and SMS programs specifically, a key area to focus on is promotional performance. Reviewing data points such as type of promotion, conversion performance, discount type, and duration of promotion is key to understanding what really worked and didn’t work with your consumers.

Another key focus area is your audience engagement based on specific segments. A strategy that just blasts information out to all consumers is one that will generally fail, so it is critical to target the right audience at the right time. When you know your audience and can segment based on data, your campaigns will perform better and help you meet/exceed your goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). It’s also important to review your data year over year, if possible, to utilize trends to help drive your strategy and performance during peak selling moments.

Would you be able to highlight the key data elements across channels that businesses should focus on when assessing the success of their holiday campaigns?
At SmartBug, we focus on many data points to assess the success of our email marketing programs. The key areas that we generally focus on are:

  • Open rates
  • Deliverability metrics (bounce rate, unsubscribe rate, spam complaint rate)
  • Click-through rates
  • Placed order (conversion) rates

It’s also important to not get hyperfocused on one area of your business. It’s critical to view all channels together and see where you can pull insights that span across multiple channels. Some of the key areas we focus on when it comes to other channels are:

  • Traffic Data: number of sessions, traffic sources (organic, paid, referral, etc.), bounce rate, new versus returning
  • Sales Data: conversion rate, average order value, top-selling products, cart abandonment rate

How do you suggest businesses determine KPIs for upcoming campaigns based on the insights gained from past holiday performance?
You should always allow your data to guide you in the right direction. It can tell a story, and it can inform you of where you need to focus your efforts. Reviewing top-performing campaigns from past key selling moments can help you determine what your strategies should be for the current selling moment. This can also help you focus on the KPIs that performed well historically and utilize those KPIs to set benchmarks and goals for your future strategies. Your past insights and data are your best path forward when it comes to figuring out future strategies.

In your experience, how do you approach evaluating the ROI of holiday campaigns, and what factors would you recommend businesses consider when allocating resources for future campaigns?
To truly evaluate the ROI of holiday campaigns, you need to know multiple data points that are associated with your holiday campaign strategies. You first need to define your costs that were associated with the holiday campaigns. You should include all expenses related to the holiday campaign, such as platform fees, creative fees, strategic fees, cost of goods sold, and any overhead costs. Being able to pull all of these cost metrics will then give you your spend, which can help you determine the ROI based on the revenue performance for the holiday campaign.

Could you kindly share strategies that you have found most effective in enhancing future campaigns, particularly after peak selling moments?
For the most part, businesses will follow similar patterns and time frames for when their key selling moments will occur. A good example is Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Most brands will target these key selling moments, and consumers can be overloaded during this time and will naturally make a purchase during this time.

It is very important to ensure you also have a strategy in place that will happen when these key selling moments are over. At SmartBug, we generally focus on rewarding loyal customers and, sometimes, maybe even the customers who didn’t purchase during the key selling moment. Having varying strategies that reward your loyal customers and also try to gain new customers can really help your brand weather the post-holiday-season purchase slump.

Would you mind sharing a strategy that you have personally found successful in optimising holiday campaign performance?
Don’t be afraid to really dive into variety. If you start with a sitewide promo earlier in a given time period that doesn’t change over an extended period, you can easily fatigue your consumers, which will most likely result in negative performance. You need to lean into strategies that change and offer unique opportunities to retarget your audience in ways that will keep them engaged and excited. You need to know your audience and know how to target them. Data is your best friend here, and it can help guide you in the right direction when it comes to optimizing your holiday campaign performance.

How do you stay updated on e-commerce and marketing trends, and what recommendations do you have for businesses to adapt their strategies accordingly?
There is a lot of material out there that can really help you understand trends within the e-commerce and marketing world. I’m a huge fan of podcasts because I can toss on my headphones, listen along, and knock out other things. Multitasking for me is important because I generally have multiple things happening simultaneously.

One key trend I’ve learned throughout my e-commerce journey (and listening to way too many podcasts) is that what works for one brand may not work for another. You need to keep an open mind when diving into strategic planning. You need to learn quickly and adapt even more quickly to stay ahead of your competitors. Don’t be afraid to fail as long as you’re learning from it.

Based on your extensive experience, what advice would you kindly offer to marketers looking to elevate their holiday campaigns in 2024?
You need to make it a priority to dedicate resources to defining and optimizing your strategies and how you tackle holiday performance in 2024. Data can be overwhelming, and if you don’t analyze your past data, it is pretty much useless. That historical data can tell a story, and it can guide you in the right direction to hitting and exceeding your targets. Utilizing 2023 data and trends to inform your 2024 strategies will be key to succeeding and staying ahead of other brands.

Any final thoughts or key takeaways you would be willing to share regarding the intersection of holiday campaign analysis and effective business strategies?
Always let your data inform the approach you should be taking. Your past data can be priceless when it comes to figuring out what direction you need to take. It’s not always easy figuring out the path forward, but having past experience can really help you out on your 2024 holiday journey.

Bill Lorimer, AVP of E-Commerce at SmartBug Media

Bill Lorimer, associate vice president of e-commerce at SmartBug Media, is based out of Charleston, South Carolina. For more than a decade, his focus has been growing and scaling enterprise brands within the e-commerce space at various startups and well-established agencies. His strong technical background and understanding of what makes a client tick have been key components to his success within the space. In his free time, you can normally find him cycling around Charleston or hanging out with his corgi pup. LinkedIn.
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