AI is causing shockwaves with the paradigm shift it is causing across verticals — and the ecommerce industry is emerging as a primary proving ground for the disruptive potential of AI. From improving the quality of customer interactions and providing highly-targeted product recommendations on ecommerce websites, to creating personalized marketing strategies for target audiences and streamlining business processes, let’s take a look at how AI and its related technologies are driving the progress of the ecommerce industry.
In this case study you’ll learn:
- Why “it’s not personal, it’s business” isn’t true and we should stop repeating it
- How a small ecommerce store with an important mission struggled with reaching their target audience in spite of having all the right ingredients for growth
- How the latest advances in AI and ad technology unlocked the key to growth and how you can use the same technology to grow your online store
Business is personal
You’ve probably heard the expression, “it’s not personal, it’s just business,” but work actually is quite personal. We spend over a third of our lives on it, we leverage our unique skills and experiences to create it, and as we go about our workday we’re constantly interacting with other people who are pouring just as much of themselves into their work. Our professional lives aren’t just personal, they’re deeply personal.
For small business owners, that personal connection sometimes extends even further – into the purpose and mission of their business. They founded their company to create something that is meaningful to them. That personal connection to their work is often what drives them to take risks, work long hours, and continue investing in their company past the point many people would have given up.
Becoming Unapologaytic – a deeply personal mission
For Pierre-Yves Monnerville business is unquestionably personal. His clothing company’s mission and products are inspired by experiences that are unique to who he is. He wants to make the world a better place for people like him, who face unfair life challenges because of who they are.
As a black person growing up in the 80’s, Pierre experienced bias against people of color. He was also born a gay man — another personal quality that made him a target for bias and even hate. The combination of being a gay man and a person of color means he encountered unique challenges that neither gay white men or heterosexual men of color face. Even within his own community, a place where most people can feel safe and accepted, he sometimes felt discriminated against because he did not conform to traditional ideas about what it means to be masculine.
In 2018, Pierre founded the company that would eventually become Unapologaytic, an online lifestyle clothing brand that helps gay men proudly embrace who they are. By wearing his brand’s unique and exuberant designs, his customers create opportunities to spark conversations and make positive impressions that can lead to understanding and progress. His products are more than clothing, they’re a message to catalyze positive change.
The Unapologaytic brand is about being unapologetically gay. It’s about embracing who you are rather than conforming or hiding. It’s about feeling pride in spite of a world that can sometimes cause you to feel shame, not because there is something wrong with you, because the world does not understand you.
He’s created a brand that offers clothing and accessories that have bold messages about fearlessly embracing who you are:
Building momentum (and the first signs of success!)
Driven by a mission that aligns with his passion, Pierre set out to create an ecommerce company so he could ship his clothing to customers around the world from his home in the UK. He built his store on Shopify so he could easily accept online orders and focus most of his time on design, marketing, and other aspects of his business.
Very few small ecommerce stores are an overnight success and Unapologaytic is no exception. There have been challenges and difficulties, and progress is sometimes slow and hard won, but there have also been some important victories and milestones along the way.
One of the highlights for Pierre was seeing someone he didn’t know wearing one of his shirts in public for the first time. Being a reserved and quiet person, Pierre did not speak to his customer, and the person wearing the Unapologaytic shirt had no idea who Pierre was, but it stands out as a significant moment and personal victory for him. It was a sign of success, a personal milestone, that would validate all the work he had done up to that point and motivate him to continue on.
Scaling up – a common challenge for ecommerce stores
Unapologaytic has an important and inspiring mission, a great brand that his target market loves, high-quality ethically produced products at a fair price, and a great online store, but he still struggles to grow his store each month. He can generate sales but struggles with generating more sales — an all too common problem in the world of small ecommerce stores.
What do you do when you have all the right ingredients for growth but it’s just not happening? In the 1960’s, Steuart Henderson Britt, a psychologist and professor of marketing at Northwestern University, said, “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a [person] in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.” The message is clear: It’s hard to succeed without paid advertising because it’s the most effective way to reach people. That’s why it’s valuable and that’s also why it’s expensive!
Even with today’s digital marketing landscape — a rapidly evolving amalgamation of traditional websites, social networks, multimedia content, algorithms, and now AI and blockchain — advertising maintains its relevance and status as a key driver of business growth. There simply isn’t a more predictable and reliable way to get your message in front of your customers. Paid digital advertising is one of the best ways to grow an ecommerce business quickly.
The issue with advertising is the same as it’s always been — advertising isn’t free and that can make it risky. With limited resources, many small businesses hesitate to invest in paid ads and instead opt for free and low cost ways to reach their market — like organic social marketing and content marketing.
Every marketing channel and tactic is like a tool in a digital marketer’s toolbox. No tool is better than another — they all have their unique application and relevance — but at certain times one is more appropriate than another. A lot of times you need a hammer, but sometimes only a wrench will do the job.
Paid advertising is the “tool” that becomes most relevant and useful when the business is a functioning machine that just needs more fuel. The business has all the right ingredients for success, it can generate orders when people visit the website, it just needs to find more of the right people and bring them to the store.
Reaching more customers with Tailwind Ads
Pierre has been a long-time customer and advocate of Tailwind. He uses it to manage and organize his social marketing on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. It saves him time and frees him up so he can focus on other aspects of his business.
Pierre says, “With Tailwind, I like having everything in one place. From Tailwind I can get ideas for posts, generate graphics, schedule posts, send emails, and I can create ads. It’s really like a Swiss Army Knife for ecommerce store marketing.”
Recently we introduced an exciting new way to help Pierre reach his customers so he can grow his company. Last year we acquired a company called Nectar9 — a unique company that was leveraging the newest advances in AI to create and optimize successful digital ads. We immediately began adapting this technology — that was previously only accessible to big companies with big budgets — to help small business owners like Pierre reach their customers quickly, easily, and efficiently.
Tailwind Ads’ AI helps create successful ads in two major ways. First, it generates the ad creatives for you. It analyzes your website and products and then generates ad copy optimized to appeal to your target market. If you’re like Pierre, you may be skeptical of how good AI is at generating human-sounding copy that accurately reflects your brand and voice. See for yourself how well Tailwind’s AI captured Unapoloygatic’s brand and products with these Facebook Ads:
The second major way Tailwind Ads AI helps ecommerce companies create successful ad campaigns is by handling the optimization aspect of digital advertising. If you’ve ever run online ads, you know that creating the ads is just the beginning — the key to success and the bulk of the work is ongoing optimization of the ad copy and adjusting bids to find the delicate balance between spend and return.
There are some things AI is particularly well-suited for. Analyzing massive amounts of data and responding in real-time is one of those things. AI can “listen” to the stream of ad performance data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and instantly make micro-adjustments to your bid strategy so that your ads perform at their optimal level. With AI managing your ad campaigns, every dollar you invest in paid ads creates maximum return and you don’t have to invest any of your time into interpreting the data and making adjustments.
Tailwind Ads: AI-driven results that speak for themselves
Pierre had tried paid advertising in the past with mixed results. He struggled to get a positive ROI even with retargeting — often one of the easiest ways to achieve positive return on ad spend.
Since starting with Tailwind Ads, Pierre has been able to reach and engage his customers, bring them to his online store, and generate purchases at a low cost. In fact, he has increased his advertising budget since switching from managing his ads on his own through Meta Ads Manager to Tailwind Ads AI-driven ads. He’s increasing his investment in Tailwind Ads because he’s seeing more traffic to his store, more people signing up for his newsletter, and more sales of his shirts and accessories.
He’s finally able to find and reach more and more new customers in an affordable way. Tailwind Ads is the perfect tool to fuel Unapologaytic’s growth and help Pierre achieve his mission of helping people everywhere embrace who they are.
Interested in using Tailwind Ads to reach more customers and grow your online store? Join our private Beta — just send an email to [email protected]. We’ll reach out to you when a spot opens up!