Interview with Stuart McMillan about Conversion Conference

Stuart McMillan

Stuart is the next speaker interviewed leading up to Conversion Conference and he lives and breathes eCommerce with his role as the deputy head of eCommerce at online shoe retailer Schuh. Stuart has the advantage of a history working in bricks & mortar retail before he moved careers into ecommerce which offers a unique and valued perspective.  Prior to working for Stuart worked for iconic British retail brand AllSaints with a global network of websites and a multi-lingual eCommerce platform.

Stuart will be presenting his Conversion Conference session “Going from one website to three and back to one: lessons learned from a responsive design project at” during track 2 on day 2 from 2pm with moderator Paul Rouke from PRWD.

  1. Do you regret the move to digital from bricks & mortar? If you stayed how would you have adapted their business model? No, we have no regrets whatsoever about our digital presence, however I would hesitate to call it a “move” from bricks and mortar. The two are complimentary; hopefully we (retailing professionals) have gotten past the point of considering the internet to be a competitor to stores. It is simply a manifestation of customers exercising choice, much as they do when they shop in Tesco when they may visit a Metro in their working day but visit an Extra at the weekend. I cannot say what would have happened if we hadn’t adopted digital, we may well no longer have had a business model worth adapting.
  2. What advise do you have for businesses budgeting for a responsive design project?  Look at your data. Are you doing all you can to provision a digital experience for all your users? What is the opportunity cost between your existing offering and a site which works better on more devices, based on projected traffic in a years’ time? How about traffic in two years’ time? You need to take in to account conversion changes as well as any changes in how you will actually operate the site. It can take a lot of effort to have a ground-up responsive rebuild, you need to ensure that it is worth it. It is also important that while you try to get as good a site live as possible, sometimes the most important thing to do is just to get it live and move on from there (assuming no major issues).
  3. At what point is responsive webdesign the only option? What was the point/sign that 3 sites became too much?   We looked to the future and saw a point where traffic from desktop computers was only a third of the total to the sites. That point will be at some point next year, I’ll share our traffic mix in the presentation. In two years’ time we will be talking about a mobile site that adds in some additional considerations for desktop computers, the mind-set will have completely changed. Another key consideration was the effort required to keep three sites up-to-date, in actual fact we have never managed to keep them all up-to-date. By having one responsive site we will be able to evolve the user experience faster.
  4. What excites you most about responsive design?  I’m excited about a fresh start with a site that has had a lot of best practice baked in, which gives us a great starting point from which to take our conversion optimisation work to a greater level of maturity.
  5. How important is it that businesses look to optimise social media channels?  I’m afraid that social has still to prove itself commercially, we’re looking at our attribution modelling to try and understand it’s impact, but at this time it’s hard to say how important it is. However, you do see a lot of companies waging a social-media charm offensive who also get quite upset when customers post negative comments about poor service. Don’t fix your social media, fix your services.
  6. Does eCommerce success need an effective customer service strategy? At Schuh our key differentiator is our customer service, we also take a holistic view of customer service. In fact, the ecommerce director now considers the user experience online as part of “customer service”. We offer best-in-class order fulfillment services and customer contact services, 2014 will see us continue to consolidate them, looking to how we can fill in the remaining gaps. You only need to look at the amount of positive feedback we get about our customer service to see how much it matters to our customers.
  7. Do you think the marketing industry has enough buzz words? What’s some you think are used too much? Marketing will always invent new buzz words, I have no doubt of that, it’s a natural response to the desire for “newness”, however they do get a little tedious. Really, good retail is actually very simple, let’s get back to basics and get it right.
  8. What is one vertical/industry that you think always leads conversion optimisation? Any company that has a head start in understanding their customers seems to do better with conversion rate. Catalogue or ex-catalogue businesses are classic examples. However, there is no magic here, they have just been applying science to selling for longer.
  9. What is one vertical that always sets the pace and direction for what’s next in web design? I don’t think I’d like to call out a specific vertical; most of the innovative web design seems to come from smaller agencies or from individuals. It takes vision and freedom to innovate, which you often don’t get in bigger companies. However, it often then relies on the bigger companies adopting these ideas to then get them in front of customers and encourage wider adoption. Responsive design is a perfect example of this. I’ve been seeing some great portfolio work for a few years now, but it’s only recently that we have seen some larger companies adopting them. That’s not to say that the smaller companies do it better than bigger companies, the smaller companies often don’t have the capacity to focus on things like performance or A/B testing, where larger companies with larger resources can.
  10. What’s some new software/tools that you think people should consider trialing or exploring? We’ve been using EyeQuant for a couple of months and have found it useful in the design process. We’re also moving our testing to Optimizley to help us increase our testing volume. However, many of the other good tools have been around for a while and are still underutilized. Let’s take the Chrome developer tools, and the Google Page Speed Insights extension specifically. It’s been around for a couple of years, it’s easy to use, yet people are still not implementing what it advises. Come on people, let’s make the web faster!
  11. What is the main points that you want people to get from your presentation?  I’d like people to understand why we’re choosing responsive and how they might approach it. I genuinely believe that we’ll have one of the best responsive ecommerce sites once it launches.
  12. What are some of the other sessions/speakers at Conversion Conference that you are looking to see? We have worked closely with PRWD and I am looking forward to seeing what else Paul has to say on responsive based on his work with other clients.
  13. Are there any other Data Driven Business Week conferences or sessions you are looking forward to seeing?  I’m afraid that with the pre-Christmas launch of the responsive site I’m going to have to limit my conference attendances for the rest of this year unfortunately!
  14. Also what social profiles do you want me to link to if people want to follow/engage with you online? I tweet from @mcmillanstu and participate in a weekly ecommerce twitter chat #ecomchat

Thank you Stuart for your time in answering these questions.  If you want to catch Stuart speak and save ££££ on tickets for Conversion Conference London you can use our discount code LOSTAGENCY13 and you can register and find out more here.