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Lucas Walker jumped into ecommerce in 2014, after he had built up his entrepreneurial chops with the founding of a few businesses. The same year he entered ecommerce was the same year he made his first Shopify sale.
As he searched social media groups for deeper insights into marketing practices, he was disappointed in what he found.
“There’s just so much BS,” he said. “You sit through a 90-minute webinar that’s just a thinly-veiled pitch. It’s two minutes of actionable content of what you’ll actually do.”
Lucas has since taken matters into his own hands. Instead of keeping his years’ worth of ecommerce and digital marketing experience to himself, he has made it a mission to spread his knowledge.
One driving force is a belief that big impact accumulates when you consistently make small changes.
We asked him to talk about that, plus what makes his brand unique, his advice for ecommerce marketers, and thoughts on a constantly evolving industry.
A bite-size approach to podcasting
Lucas is the founder of the Rolled Up Podcast Network, aimed at educating merchants in all matters related to online retail. His three podcasts—Rolled Up, PITSTOP, and Bricks and Clicks—are dedicated to helping ecommerce merchants learn and grow.
Tell us about Rolled Up and how you use the podcasts to help ecommerce merchants.
Lucas Walker: I’ve always been a fan of podcasts, so ‘Rolled Up’ is my flagship show. It’s way overproduced, and no ecommerce podcast guy needs to be that good, but I do that because I enjoy my craft. I’ve got to push myself and see what I can do.
‘PITSTOP’ is very much tactical. Just like the name implies, if you watch ‘Drive to Survive,’ it’s a quick pit stop. In the intro, the high-performance car comes in, which is your Shopify store. Maybe you need to change your tires, which create a bit of drag. So they brush it off, and then you keep going. It’s not a total site overhaul. You’re not redoing your automations. But maybe you make one little adjustment—you try sending your second email in your welcome series a day later.
My ethos is I want every episode to make a merchant an extra hundred bucks. There was an episode about SEO. I used the example where if you set your URL to your store.com/fathersday—instead of father’s day/2021—just redo that original page because you already have your backlinks from last year that’ll still give you some juice for this year. So it’s just those little ready-to-implement-tomorrow-tactics that you can use strategically to get going.
Then there’s ‘Bricks and Clicks.’ I’m fortunate enough that my best friend from childhood is a data scientist for consumer packaged goods companies. He’ll work on retail promotions in the store, 18 months in advance. Almost to the penny, he predicts the future. He and one of his partners host ‘Bricks and Clicks.’ It’s really to help brands get that true omnichannel marketing experience. There’s a lot that you don’t think about going into retail.
For example, Chris Mead from Crossnet told me he’s lost literally tens of thousands of dollars from chargebacks. If you go into Walmart, ASDA, or anywhere else, and your products aren’t labeled correctly (for example, if your barcode is on the wrong side), they’ll say, ‘No, we’re not going to put it on shelves. And we’re going to take $15,000 off the purchase order for you wasting our time.’
Those are the kind of losses I didn’t know about. If I can help prevent someone from a big loss like that, or just help them keep winning—that’s what the network is really all about.
Let’s dig a little bit more into that “overhaul” mentality. Why doesn’t a huge and jam-packed, intense guide work for merchants?
Lucas Walker: They don’t have time. Let’s say you’re merchandising. You run a million dollars a year, high six figures even. I think that’s pretty representative of the average merchant. Your gains for overhauling everything are not going to be that impactful. In fact, it’s going to set you back. You could have been talking instead to the customers to rewrite your welcome series or made other little fine-tuning adjustments.
I try to develop content that is easy to consume and find when you need it—almost that just-in-time learning. You don’t need to know about retail chargebacks if you’re working on your first-ever welcome series, but you want to be able to find that information when you need it.
You don’t want to listen to two hours of people talking about what worked for them. It’s interesting. It’s entertaining. But it’s not going to help you at the end of the day. It’s meant to be you get up, go for a walk in the morning, grab a coffee, and you learn something. Then just kind of let it marinate, and it’s in the back of your mind for when you need it.Lucas Walker, Founder Burrito Roller Rolled Up
Lucas’ marketing advice
Lucas has been navigating the digital marketing landscape for quite some time. We were curious about what piece of advice he would give his younger self—the version just beginning his professional ventures in the industry.
First, he emphasizes how important it is to learn how to capture an audience. “I don’t care how good at sales you are. I don’t care how good your conversion is. It doesn’t matter.” Building an audience comes in different forms. It could be building an audience of customers.
It could be anything from building an email list to building the organic reach of a podcast, YouTube, or customer audience.
He also understands how vital it is to be a good writer. You need product descriptions, you need emails, and you need posts. Above all else, he clarified that you “just learn to write copy”.
You should document what you’re doing, while you do it. That way, you have a record that you can look back upon. Trying to remember all of the steps and nuances of a campaign that worked really well is a waste of time.
With such insights in mind, we proceeded to look at ecommerce merchants now. Along with what to improve upon, we explored his thoughts and feelings on what they should reconsider in their day-to-day practices.
Is there a common mistake among ecommerce merchants that just makes you facepalm?
Lucas Walker: I think doing the same as everyone else. You have to do what works, but if you’re using the same data, the same creative—it’s almost like that Eminem song, ‘The Real Slim Shady.’ There’s the line in that song: ‘There’s a million of us that walk, talk, and act like me, might just be the next best thing, but not quite me.”
You see it with people selling insulated mugs, like Yeti or the other brands. Sure, you can do it. You can have similar photos, but it’s not going to work as well if you don’t have something to differentiate.
This is what brand is—it’s people remembering that it’s you after the fact. You need to have something that’s uniquely you, whether it’s how you put your label on it or how people find you. You need some sort of differentiation because there’s really an infinite supply now of products, of creative, of being able to go and get good photos.
On the flip side of that question, what is one best practice that you wish more merchants adhered to?
Lucas Walker: Giving a s**t about their customers.
I may be biased about that, but you focus so hard to get a customer, and then they have a question, and you ignore them.
Let’s say it costs $50 to acquire a customer. It might cost $5 to answer a ticket, and then that customer comes back. In fact, I know it costs less than that because I know what some contact centers charge per ticket. It’s less than $5. It really is five to 10 times easier to retain a customer, and it’s 10 times harder to go out and get a new customer.
I think you really need to walk through your own funnels and see what everything looks like that your customers are going through. Open up a support ticket. Were you satisfied with how long it took? Compare yourself to Amazon and to other stores that you buy from. It’s that fine balance of seeing what other people are doing to manage customer expectations and then putting your own spin on it.
People talk about Blockbuster, but there were a lot of independent video stores that aren’t really around anymore because everything went to Netflix. Maybe it could have been as simple as, ‘Let’s have people call and reserve a movie for pick up.’ They would be able to compete against Netflix because they have a larger selection. There aren’t a lot of old movies on Netflix. It’s hard to find classics, and people still have DVD players.
I’m sure people would go out to a video store if it’s convenient if they can text and ask, ‘I want some ‘90s action movies. What have you got?’ Then you respond, and it’s ready to go. That’s something people would take over Netflix, at least some of the time.
So I definitely think that being close to your customers is a competitive advantage.
The COVID effect
We all know that the trauma of the pandemic has pushed a lot of retailers, worldwide, to move online if they weren’t already or enhance their digital presence. Merchants also put extra focus on their digital channels—whether it was to adapt to the changing times or out of necessity to stay in business.
Amid all of this, Lucas still started Rolled Up, launching in November 2020. We explored how COVID affected this launch, as well as Lucas’ predictions for how the pandemic will shape ecommerce going forward.
Did the pandemic influence the narrative you were covering? Or was your emphasis on tried-and-true, foundational digital marketing?
Lucas Walker: It was more about what shifted permanently.
I think that the pick-up (in-store) is still very much a thing when executed well. It’s nice to not have to wander through IKEA and their maze to get a light bulb for their Swedish lamp that only they sell.
I think that a lot of it is about moving forward, but the fundamentals will still be there. Letting your customers know what’s going on by email, whether you’re open or closed—that’s the message.
If you’re a small retailer, and you’re now open because you can open up again—that’s news. That’s like a product launch.
The most effective ad I’ve seen the last two years is just a neon Bristol board type sign in the windows saying ‘Open.’ That is effective marketing in 2020, but sometimes if customers aren’t driving by, you just need to remind them that, ‘Hey, we’re still in business. You can come in if you wear a mask.’ Just adapting to your customers’ needs to make it as easy as possible and removing that bad friction. If you’re open, sometimes you just have to tell them.
Do you think that there are any lasting effects, on a retail ecommerce level, that maybe we should be thinking about for 2022?
Lucas Walker: If you look at book sales in the United States, what percentage of books do you think are sold online? It’s 35%. I really think that that’s a kind of benchmark for ecommerce, but there are also products that are just hard to ship logistically, like kayaks.
It’s just hard to order online, where the logistics and fulfillment of the last mile will be more expensive than someone going to the store and taking it home. But that’s really what you’re paying for. I think that that will change for a lot of convenience items.
I think a big new challenge and a big hurdle is last-mile logistics. You see it in New York and some really densely populated places, where people can order sort of like one iced coffee and have it couriered to them. But that’s not feasible for a lot of products.Lucas Walker, Founder Burrito Roller at Rolled Up
Ecommerce can be a huge advantage, especially for people who like your brand already. But if you’re buying a MacBook, you want to go into the Apple Store or try the different sizes, see what you like, what you don’t like, how it feels, etc. Once you know what you like in a laptop, you don’t need to go back into the store. So I think that’s a pretty big shift for going online.
How to deal with privacy changes
COVID aside, a slew of changes have rocked the marketing and ecommerce industries over the last few years, notably around privacy. Larger companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook are tightening their privacy policies. That means marketers have to get a lot more creative.
Another privacy-related change is the iOS 15 update, which started rolling out in mid-September and allows Apple Mail users to turn off open tracking. Though limited in scope as far as users go, it effectively renders email open rates dead across the board.
What are your thoughts on iOS 15 and its impact?
Lucas Walker: Things are always changing, and it’s kind of a level playing field. It sucks, but everyone’s kind of being hit by the same regulations. It’s just really about adapting and finding what works. Go through your data and you look at what works.
You’re not really starting from zero. Focus on what matters. If you’re sending emails, and you see that you’re still getting clicks or sales, that’s all you care about.Lucas Walker, Founder Burrito Roller at Rolled Up
If your open rate was 5%, but all of them ended up purchasing, that’s way better than everyone opening and nobody purchasing. It’s just changing the metrics that you’re following and kind of forcing you to be a better marketer anyway.
I do like open rates at a glance, because if something is really down, it’s nice to say, ‘Well, why? What happened there? Why is it so low?’
But open rates and unicorns don’t pay the bills. You can’t buy groceries with open rates.
Do you think it’s wise to do something in particular that will future-proof your marketing strategy? Or do you think it’s better to remain nimble for these kinds of changes?
Lucas Walker: I’d say both. You should be future-proofing and if you have something that works, double down on that.
But at the same time, it’s a fine line between and wait and see, because it might not be a big deal. I do think it’s important to start creating more segments. Maybe just clean up your list of people who have been opening, but not clicking on anything, and re-engage with them. Going forward, you could do the same thing of saying, ‘Hey is it our emails? How come you haven’t clicked anything? We just wanna make sure that we’re not crowding your inbox. Let us know.’
Then you can adapt. The core strategy is still the same—we’re going to have a great email list. Here’s how we’re going to do it. To go full circle, that’s what PITSTOP really focuses on. How do you do it?
What’s in his tool chest?
We at Omnisend love providing resources to guide merchants toward better marketing tactics that result in higher sales. We also like to pick the brains of fellow marketing pros and hear what they’re using to improve how they get the job done.
Do you have a go-to tool or app that makes your life easier?
Lucas Walker: I’ve finally discovered Zapier. I had fooled around with it, but it makes everything easy. Even just collecting emails and dumping them into a Google sheet to put them into various flows through Omnisend. I remember looking at Conduit Solutions in 2015, and it was still a long way to go. You’d have to spend a good chunk of change to get your email contacts from Shopify to your ESP.
Other than your own, can you recommend a social account, blog, podcast, etc. to those looking to grow?
Lucas Walker: Start with Shopify Compass. There is a ton of free content there that will get you started. If you want to go deeper, find the author and reach out to them—most are happy to chat. Omnisend has a ton of content, too, for email marketing and marketing automations.
Lucas is very familiar with the burdens and challenges of entrepreneurs. He’s experienced them through three successful businesses in the software, ecommerce, and media spaces. It’s why he advises that an entrepreneurial pursuit should resonate personally.
“If you have to grind for long days, you need to enjoy it,” he said. “You can’t just go through the motions. If you’re going to do that, get a job and make more money working fewer hours.”
Pair that with Lucas’ tips, and you’re heading toward a better work experience. Make little adjustments as you go along to see real improvements. Document your work so you can repeat it when it’s fruitful. Listen to Eminem and differentiate yourself—it’s what makes a brand.
Perhaps above all else, care about your customers and communicate with them. They’re what make your work possible.
For more insights into making changes that add up to great marketing strategies, follow Lucas Walker on Twitter, LinkedIn, and at Rolled Up.
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