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Making Data-Driven Decisions with Verbal+Visual
When designers Genevieve Saylak and Corissa Santos were brainstorming ideas for the namesake that would later become their womenswear company, they found a muse in 19th-century artist and poet William Blake.
“Great things are done where men and mountains meet,” Blake once said.
With their love for nature and fashion in mind, Genevieve and Corissa launched their line, Where Mountains Meet (wMM), in 2015. The brand’s collection of tops, bottoms, dresses, and knits is high-quality clothing that is sourced either in the U.S. (their denim) or from artisans they’ve collaborated with based in India, Bolivia, and Guatemala. At the heart of the wMM brand is artistic partnerships and eco-conscious production practices, as well as merging the gaps between creative craftsmanship and modern sportswear.
In 2017, the wMM team was looking to migrate their e-commerce shop and then launch in time for New York Fashion Week. According to Genevieve, the trick was “finding the right partner to both understand our elevated, design-driven brand and create a seamless, conversion-oriented interface.”
That challenge was accepted by New York-based digital agency Verbal+Visual. The independent, minority and woman-owned hub prides itself on “building businesses, not websites,” though they do the latter very well, too.
Since 2009, Verbal+Visual has been creating and crafting “considerate e-commerce experiences for thoughtful brands,” including John Varvatos, Refinery29, and Carhartt. In a nutshell, Founder and CEO Anshey Bhatia and co. are doing website design and development, as well as system integrations and operations for their clients. Ultimately, the Verbal+Visual team wants to help companies improve the overall e-commerce experience for their customers.
Making those tight Fashion Week deadlines was only the beginning of the partnership. After a closer look at wMM’s site and e-commerce store, Verbal+Visual saw a real opportunity for meaningful growth beyond the runway.
A bigger problem
Anshey says wMM represented the ideal client: one whose products and mission they believed in and one with opportunity for longer-term collaborations.
“We limit ourselves to one new client per month, about 10 to 12 per year,” Anshey says. “And we work with them in a very in-depth fashion to redesign, reimagine, re-platform, and optimize their digital experience.”
Verbal+Visual is a staff of team 16 people, which includes former intern turned COO and Partner Caroline Dau. The team is divided evenly between strategists and project managers, project creators, designers and direct designers, and technologists (think front-end programmers, back-end systems creators).
“Everything we do has a message behind it,” Anshey says. “Our message to our target audience is you can have high quality products and have a sustainable, eco-friendly, people-friendly process to back it up.”
Anshey says the digital experience needing the most TLC was the wMM website. “They had a website that wasn’t very good. They were losing a lot of revenue because of that and their lack of syndicated business on their site,” he says.
Long story short, the presentation and navigation on the site was a mess. So the Verbal+Visual team migrated wMM’s e-commerce store over from Squarespace to Shopify. Anshey says this was done because of Shopify’s ease of content and inventory management, so transitioning the wMM aesthetic would be seamless. The redesign kept the clothing the hero while delivering small, delightful touches, such as animated icons and a funky logo loader that brings the site to life.
Next up, Verbal+Visual introduced wMM to MailChimp’s custom email templates and segmentation features, allowing them to create visuals that were designed with the feel of their brand in mind. Anshey says with MailChimp they were able to build out wMM’s e-commerce templates so that they matched the branding and the segmentation that is on the site.
Anshey says his team knew using MailChimp would continue to allow the wMM staff to remain hands-on with building and cultivating their still relatively new brand identity. “Brands that are growing and are in the growth mindset—those brands work really well with MailChimp,” Anshey says.
“We knew they could go in and manage everything they needed to on their own. We knew that their budget was limited,” Anshey continues. “Everything we did was with MailChimp’s ease of use in mind and the ability to use MailChimp as a launchpad for the business and their micro CRM, so to speak, where they could get to understand their customers and then retarget after via email.”
Email + data = a better CRM
Since launching, Verbal+Visual has always relied on data-driven analysis to inform their clients on current and future best practices. Anshey says that since wMM started using the custom email templates and segmentation tools, they’ve seen an increase in engagement.
Thanks to an analytical deep-dive, Verbal+Visual was able to take that relationship a step further. “We definitely take a look at where the lost revenue is and most times it’s based on data, and most of the time you can just tell,” Anshey says. “You can see going through a process that there is friction, that people are really not going to be able to navigate the site or understand their brand and they don’t have that it factor.”
And they take their data mining seriously.
“We look at Google Analytics after 3 months with every client that we work with,” Anshey explains. “We see what the increase in conversion rate is, what the increase in average order value is, and then we look at sources for those returns, and those sources often come from email.”
The goal is to take all of that number crunching and turn it into an experience that helps their clients reach customers on a human level. And Anshey says he’d rather not inundate them with too much information, either.
“We want to make sure that the email strategy is done at a level where customers are feeling compelled to go to the site to learn more and buy versus being turned off,” he says. “There’s a fine line there, so we start with the less is more approach, and make sure we have high quality content in those posts, and then go from there.”
Make your website work for you.
Websites working against new businesses is a common problem the Verbal+Visual team runs into with new clients. Here are 3 ways you can ensure your online presence leads to digital currency:
Data — live it, learn it, love it.
Numbers shouldn’t overwhelm, they should inform you. “Make sure you’re getting accurate and detailed data and that you’re looking at the data frequently and understanding what it means,” Anshey says. “You can’t improve your business if you don’t know how your site is performing and how your emails are performing.”
Make it personal.
Do it with an assist from MailChimp’s email templates, and target with segmentation. Take advantage of being able to customize your online presentation in a way that feels like a natural extension of your brand. It can be as simple as changing the background color or adding an emoji to the subject line (that is, if you speak emoji).
“Implement a personalized experience, or target audience,” Anshey advises. “Without that personalized experience, people are not going to convert at nearly as high a level as if you had had that experience.”
There are no “transactions.”
Keeping that connection between business and customer strong means not letting purchases lead you to forget the person.
“Treat your transactional emails—order emails, shipping confirmations—with as much respect as your email newsletters,” Anshey says. Instead, treat those exchanges as opportunities for CRM growth. “If you can get data from those, you can get upsales. Of course, if people have just bought something, they don’t want to be upsold, but if they are about to review something, maybe they want a product recommended. It’s important to have a strategy around those email campaigns and newsletters.”