Special guest Eric Melchor is Personalization Geek for OptiMonk. He has gone from 0-40,000 users in just a few years and have over 500 five-star ratings on Shopify. OptiMonk’s mission is to empower the average online business with Amazon-like personalization superpowers.
This episode discusses the changing consumer preferences and the importance of personalization for businesses. Eric explains that consumers appreciate personalization because it makes their lives better and they engage more with brands that provide it. Nicolas and Eric discuss the power of personalization in conversation and how it can lead to better communication and relationships. They also discuss the issue of annoying popups that disrupt the user experience and ways to increase average order value (AOV) on e-commerce websites. Free shipping is an important factor for customers, and it is important to strategically display important messages during the customer journey.
Live streaming and engagement with shoppers can be effective in increasing sales, as well as using product ratings and referrals. Finally, Eric shares his experience of being laid off three times in his career and how it impacted his life trajectory.
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The Power Of Personalization: Keys To Customer Satisfaction With Eric Melchor
We have a great chance to have Eric Melchor with us. He’s a Personalization Geek for OptiMonk. It’s a company that is helping brands on Shopify, Magento, and many other platforms with personalization. He has gone from 0 to 4,000 users in a few years and has over 500 star-rating on Shopify, which is pretty impressive, knowing that getting rated is never easy. That’s pretty cool. Congratulations on that.
OptiMonk’s mission is to empower the average business online with an Amazon-like personalization superpower. That’s cool. I’d love to have superpowers as well. He’s also the dad of two kids. The one, in particular, is she keeps working up at night and gets sick so she can skip school to stay with her dad at home. Finally, because there’s always something, he is also a Texas expert living in Romania. How could that happen? He is a mediocre tennis player. I can relate to that. It’s going to be a fun conversation. How are you, Eric?
I’m doing pretty good. Thanks for having me on the show.
We’re super excited to have you. It’s fun because, first of all, you also have a show. We are probably going to talk a little bit about that. You’re talking about personalization and things. It’s cool to have someone that not always take himself seriously and loves to engage with the audience. Before we go there, quick update with eStreamly. We are super excited to have released a new player that enables you to stay in page experience when you go full screen.
It means that you can go live on your website across Facebook, social media, and on a blog, but when you pop in and go to the player and expand to full screen, you are staying in the experience that you are. That’s pretty cool because that’s something that we have been trying to achieve for many months, and we were able to do it. We are excited about this. Let’s dive into this conversation. Eric, what’s the journey for you? Why from Texas to Romania? How did that happen?
I was living in New York City for several years. I didn’t want to go back to Houston. There was an opportunity to work for one of the largest media agencies in Romania. This is back in 2009 and 2010. I had traveled to many places. I’m adventurous, so I thought, “Why not?” I did a one-year contract. During that time, there was this beautiful woman that I fell in love with. She worked in the same building for a sister company.
I came back to Houston, but we were still in touch through Skype and instant messaging. I still kept coming back to Buchères to visit her. We met in Paris and Spain. I convinced her to move to Houston. I told her that it was a beautiful European-like city and very cosmopolitan. I bought this used scooter. I bought a condo downtown because it’s the only walkable place in the entire city of Houston. I tried to make it as European as possible for her so that she could move. She moved, and it all worked out. A few years later, we got married and had a couple of kids. We were in Houston for about ten years before we moved here to Buchères.
I am not originally from Alabama. I live in Atlanta myself, but I am originally from France. I love the fact that you found the love. It’s always a woman, man, or partner that brings you elsewhere in some way. It’s interesting to explore and live in other countries. I’m a big fan of living in another country. Let’s not talk here about personal life and all that. This is not the primary topic.
One of the first questions that I wanted to ask you when I was doing some research about OptiMonk and what you’re doing in the personalization world and all that is there’s something that struck me. I think it would be an interesting starting point for this conversation. You were saying that D2C brands and quick discounted sales are no longer sustainable business models. It’s a customer shopping preference that has changed in particular personalization. I’d love for you to start with what you think has changed and how you think a brand should adapt nowadays.
I saw a study that 35% of purchases on Amazon.com are based on recommended products. That tells me immediately that consumers, as long as they trust the brand, are willing to accept recommendations. A lot of consumers don’t want to think, “Don’t make me think. Show me what I could be missing out on. Show me the things that I need.”
Eighty percent of consumers according to an Epsilon study want personalization. It makes our lives better. On Netflix when you see recommended shows or series to watch, you don’t want to spend fifteen minutes looking for something to watch. You want something that, based on their algorithm, knows that this is a show, based on your viewing patterns and behavior, this is probably something that you’re going to want to watch.80% of consumers want personalization. Personalization makes our lives better. Click To Tweet
As consumers, we appreciate that. Because it’s there and we appreciate it, we engage more with that brand. We become lifelong customers. It’s not so much about the price. It’s like, “I’m not going to stay on Netflix for another year because they gave me a 20% discount. I’m going to stay with them because their personalization engine and the content are quite good. I’m going to be loyal there.”
A lot of brands out there, especially when it comes to retail have been taught to try and pull as much information as possible from the consumer without engaging or knowing them. As soon as you go to a website, you’ll see a quick pop-up like, “Give us your email for 10% off,” or maybe you put something in the shopping cart and you try to leave, and there’s another, “Here’s 10% off if you make the quick sell.”
It’s done, unfortunately, at the expense of the customer journey and experience. Nowadays, you see it all the time, especially in the younger generation. It’s not so much about the price. It’s about the experience. When I wrote that post on LinkedIn, that’s what I believe. We’re seeing it now, and it’s going to continue to trend where the brands that thrive are the ones that create a pleasurable experience without less friction and less confusion. It’s not much about the price, but it’s more about, “What are your pain points? If we have the solution, fantastic. Let us help, educate and serve you.”
I love what you’re saying. I have been annoyed by some websites where the moment you enter the website, you’ve got this huge pop-up in front of you. It’s like, “Give me your email,” and then you have to find where is the button to close the window. There’s nothing more painful than that. I don’t know why people keep doing that. I assume probably there are tons of value in getting those emails. I agree with that. I think like, “Give me at least 5 or 10 seconds so I can check exactly what the website is about.”
It gets worse because a lot of those have the next to the box and the X. It will say something like, “No, I want to pay full price instead.” It’s like, “Why do you want to read that?” Isn’t that awful? That’s awful.
I’ve seen some of those. I have been browsing a lot of websites, and not many have this button like, “I want to pay full price.” It is true that I have seen some of that, and that is painful. The other thing that I found interesting with what you’re saying is this notion that maybe discounting is, I won’t say outdated, but kind of. It’s interesting what you’re saying, but I do still believe that in the economy we’re moving around with this notion that the recession is coming and all may not be coming depending on who you talk to, discounting prices do have some power still.
When you think about this, if you discount every day all day long, there’s no value if, “Give me an email, and I’ll give you 10%.” That’s one thing. If you’ll play well with discounts, make it an event or it’s something that happened not regularly but on occasion, it still has a lot of power. The other thing that resonated with me on the comment that you go to a website and you have this bunch of products where you don’t know which one to choose. Personalization is about helping you find out, “I love that 35% of the recommended thing.”
When I think about livestream shopping, it reminded me that when you are in the live, in some way, what you’re doing is like you are doing a personalized recommendation as well because now you are only showing 5 to 10 products. That’s the one that you can shop through the live if you want to browse others, then you have to get out of life. It resonated with me from that standpoint.
Here I am. I am talking with you and I say, “This is great. How do I do personalization?” I don’t think there is any trade show nowadays where everyone is not talking about personalization. It sounds like it’s the word that everyone brings everywhere, yet it doesn’t seems that we get it. If it’s such a big thing and everyone is agreeing that, “That’s the new thing, we should all do that,” then why is this disconnect between the narrative out there and what people are doing every day? How can they bridge that gap? Why do you think there is a gap?
There is a huge gap because most people don’t even know, like, “What are you referring to?” I tell people, “We focus on personalization.” They’re like, “Do you mean showing the person’s first name in the email?” It’s like, “No, there’s a lot more to it than that.” I like to think of personalization as very similar to Google Analytics. People turn it on, they have it, but that doesn’t mean that they benefit from it. If you were to use a personalization platform, turning it on is not going to do anything for you. What I always recommend is for somebody to go either a course or a free workshop.
At OptiMonk, every two weeks, I host a free 90-minute personalization workshop. We take you through the process of how we do personalization for our brands, and then we also provide what we call a Personalization Checklist. Here’s the thing. The strategies for personalization are different. They’re custom for each and every brand because in this checklist, for example, we ask you questions that are going to be unique to your business.The strategies for personalization are different. They're custom for each and every brand. Click To Tweet
For example, “Are you getting more than 20% of your traffic from international visitors?” If the answer is yes, then there’s a big opportunity for personalization because, for those visitors that are coming from France, you can have a nice little welcome message for them, “Hello from France. By the way, we ship to your location, all prices include in Euro, and if you spend more than €100 in shipping, it is free.” You would want to offer that kind of messaging for your international visitors, but 20% or more of your traffic is international.
If you’re getting more than 5% of your traffic from a social website, like Instagram, there’s an opportunity there for personalization because you can specifically welcome people from specific sources. Maybe if it’s not Instagram or it’s a major website like Forbes.com, you can have a specific message for those visitors. Another question could be, “Are you also collecting SMS phone numbers? If you are, here’s a great strategy on how to collect both email and phone numbers at a very high conversion rate that’s very proven and effective. If you’re not, then that wouldn’t apply to you.” I always recommend that somebody attend a free workshop and get educated about it. If you get access to that personalization checklist that we provide free during the workshop, that’s the best thing that you can do because it’s going to be customizable specifically for your website once you go through that checklist.
It sounds like the approach of personalization, in your perspective, is much related to the messaging of your website at the destination of that customer. We had a person coming on the show previously that was talking about using specific words on the checkout based on what your behavior was to help you do the checkout.
In your case, what you are saying is you can take it at a different level by providing a different piece of content through the journey of the customer so they can understand better the overall landscape of what you offer, why you offer, how you solve the problem and all that. How do you feel about personalization at the product level? When you are talking about 35% of shoppers buying different products based on recommendations, is that something that you feel is achievable with the data for any brands or is it something that only Amazon can do?
It is achievable. We’ve had different clients that approach us and they wanted help trying to increase their average order value. It’s crazy, but a lot of brands out there are having to deal with creating different code and copying and pasting that code on specific product pages or locations on their website where a platform like OptiMonk allows you to show specific offers on every page of your website or specific pages.
When you can do that in a non-obtrusive way, maybe through a horizontal bar that’s at the bottom of your webpage, your AOV is going to increase easily 10% to 15% by showing those offers consistently throughout your website. That’s one way. Another way to increase your AOV is by showing the shipping threshold information, “Spend $10 more and you get free shipping.” That’s another easy way to increase AOV.
We provide different tactics that can allow you to increase AOV pretty easily and show offers consistently using things like the shipping threshold or maybe even the add to cart to the threshold, like, “Add one more to your cart and get free shipping.” Things like that work. A lot of merchants don’t know how to implement those, or they have tools that make it very cumbersome and hard to use to try to implement those things to increase your AOV.
It reminded me of a couple of live that I’ve been watching from some customers and some from outside. One thing that you say is this messaging saying, “Add this, and then you get free shipping or things like that.” There was a study saying like, “Sixty percent of the consumer that doesn’t get free shipping are dropping their cart.” It’s huge. If you can’t afford to have free shipping on your product because maybe your product is at $0.30 and you can’t afford to pay $5 to $7 on that order as shipping, that is understandable.
One of the things that I’ve seen during the livestream to go back related to their livestream and the video commerce space is there were struggling in getting sales. Nothing is coming up. At some point, because they were having free shipping on the product, you could only figure it out if you were going all the way through the checkout. You say, “All those products are free shipping.” We saw already like, “Free shipping?” then we started to see sales. When we are an eCommerce brand and thinking about designing on eCommerce, there is a lot of things we know. We have to sometimes put ourselves in the shoes of, “The people that are coming to us probably have no clue about who we are or they have very little understanding.”
There is a lot of information that you need to convey for them to be aware and make their purchase decision. That’s where I think the power of personalization can be interesting. Most of the time, you tend to put everything up upfront, and then now all of a sudden you’re overwhelmed with information.
One of the things I do personally when I’m overwhelmed with information like this pop that comes right away, the first thing is I will shut my eyes and try to find a cross to close this thing. I’m not reading the text. You have been trying to deliver a message to me that I don’t read. It’s smart through your journey and have a platform that understands where you are in your phone and then pops up that messaging that is important for the purchase to help you out.
The same way you are thinking about the livestreaming as you are engaging with your shopper, remember telling the power of rating like having a referral, talking about free shipping versus like, “How do you get free shipping? What is the benefit of your product?” Those things that are standard but happen in the journey, the shopper will like that and will increase your commercial. I appreciate that.
There’s something else that I saw when I was researching. You are saying in the beginning that you have been able to grow your email subscriber through conversational messages. I’d love for you to elaborate on that. Share with us what you do differently than what most people are doing, and how could that benefit eComm nowadays, to think through conversion channel messages? Are you using GPT to talk?
No, conversational messaging. The typical email popup trying to get somebody’s email address is going to convert maybe 2% to 4%, depending on how good the design is, how good they offer, and the copy. What some brands are doing is trying to find out what is the right message to say to that person. The right message is always touching upon the person’s pain point. To very easily do that, let’s say you’re a health and wellness brand. You have three main products. One is to help you build muscle. One is to help you lose weight. One is to help you sleep better.The right message always touches on the person's pain point. Click To Tweet
If a person comes to your website, you could always have a welcome message and say, “Can you let us know what you’re interested in?” Have those different choices, A, B, or C? Once a person makes that choice, let’s say they’re looking to lose weight. The next little window or message could be “Fantastic. Would you like to receive our ten best ways to lose weight and see our most popular items around how to lose weight? If so, click here to go look at the products or into your email address to receive that content or article.”
It’s an approach that is working well because you’re delivering content or the next step based on what their preferences are and the information they told you. Essentially you’re saying, “Let me take you to the part of the website that is most valuable to you. In addition, I’m going to deliver you our best content around that pain point that you told us about.” The consumer knows that, “If I sign up for their email or their newsletter, it’s going to be around content that’s my pain point.” Brands that are doing that approach are typically seeing email subscription rates anywhere from 10% to 15%, which is significantly higher than the 2% to 4% email subscription rate.
It reminded me of a newsletter that I personally follow. I don’t know if you know that newsletter. Sam Parr created this from the trend. That company was acquired by HubSpot. When I signed up for the newsletter, one of the very few things they were asking me is what my preference is as it relates to the content. I picked a couple of pieces, and now if I’m not interested in space, I’m not going to receive anything around space.
It’s very powerful because what happened is I think like everyone else. I probably received 100 newsletters that we all subscribe to one day and don’t remember even the reason why we did that. Now, I only read one. It is because, at some point, they ask me, “What do you want us to talk about?” I’m like, “I’d love for you to talk about this.” Every time I open this newsletter, they have things that interest me. At the end of the day, I see that power. You will think, “I’m a brand. Nicolas, you’re talking about space. I’m not doing a spacecraft or anything. I’m selling a beauty product.”
At the end of the day, when someone is interested in your brand, maybe they are interested in one specific part of the body, and you can decompose your content into two topics. How do you serve those different topics? There are a lot of opportunities there. I like what you’re saying there. You are also doing a lot of podcasting. Are you trying to bring that personalization aspect to your podcasting as well? I’m curious to see how far you are taking that personalization in some way.
When I have a guest on my podcast, there are a few things that I do to try to make them comfortable before they even get on the show because I’m interviewing people from different cultures and countries. Some are Hungarians, from Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and all over. The American culture is very different than other cultures out there. We tend to be smiling a lot more. We are a lot friendlier. Before they even come on the show, some of the things that I do is I will send a personal video either 1 or 2 days before the actual recording date.
The personal video is saying, “I’m looking forward to having you on the show.” Sometimes I’m doing these videos while I’m out doing a walk or on an errand. I let them know what I’m doing, “I dropped my kids off from school. I’m going through this park right now. Anyway, I look forward to having you as a guest.” The other thing that I do that they appreciate is on the pre-registration form to be on the podcast, I have a question on there and ask, “What is your favorite song?”
When they fill that out at the time of recording, when they log on, usually the Riverside, where I do my recordings, I have their favorite song playing. They love it. Isn’t that awesome when you join a meeting and you hear your favorite song? That is another little thing that I do. Sometimes another thing I’ll try to do, and I’ve done this before, is to speak in their language and usually say a compliment, sometimes in French or Bulgarian. I brought it up, but they appreciate that.
It’s something that we can all do. In this show, we talk very often about the power of testing, experimenting, consistency, and all that. When you think about personalization, this is something you can experiment with. It doesn’t have to be on your eComm. If you want to see the power that you could have, ask your employee. Ask those questions and do something that matters to them upfront and see their reaction. Now you can see the power of it and how it completely changed the conversation you are going to have. There’s one post that you did on LinkedIn where it was a while back when you joined this company and then started with some personalized questions about where they’re coming from and all that.
That led you to have a very different subset of conversation. Your LinkedIn has a whole slew of resources. I invite everyone in the audience to follow our guest here because this is cool. Before we go and end up this conversation, I want to ask you more personal questions because, through your LinkedIn, I discovered something from you.
Maybe in the audience, there are people that have been laid off or are about to be laid off, and they know that it’s something. The economy is having some struggles and everything. I’ve seen something about you saying that, at some point, there was an experience that was unfortunate for you. It was one of the great things that happened. How did that impact your life trajectory? I’d love for you to share that if you are open to that.
I’ve been laid off three times in my career because, in the States, most employers and the law is at will. They can lay you off anytime they went. It happened on three occasions unexpectedly. I’ll never forget the first time. On a Thursday, I closed my apartment. I spent all my savings on the down payment for a condo that I bought. I’m very excited. It’s my first property. The next day, I walk into my supervisor’s office. She says, “I’m sorry, but you’re being laid off. We’re selling the company, and several people are being laid off.” I was without a job for six months. It took me six months to find another job. I was living on the couch in my mother’s home. I was borrowing money from my brother and my sister.
I thought I lost my girlfriend who’s my wife now because we were long-distance. She hadn’t moved to Houston yet. Those plans were on hold. Let’s be realistic. Who’s going to want to stay with somebody across the pond who doesn’t have a job or any money? It was a very bad time in my life, but I was able to get back on my feet. I vowed that if that experience were to happen again, I would not be in that same situation. What I did is that once I started working, I saved a lot of money, and I put away about six months of expenses in a savings account.
The other thing that I did is I started reading a lot of books on self-development like, “How can I grow in my career?” I started doing Toastmasters, becoming a better speaker, and more confident speaking in front of people. I was reading books on wealth. In addition to self-improvement and trying to become a better speaker, I was doing things outside of my job, whether that was starting teaching as an adjunct professor or creating a nonprofit, but all those things help give me a separate identity from my job.
I looked at my job and my future jobs knowing that, “At any time, I can be let go.” Once you know and accept that, there’s a sense of freedom. There’s a sense of weight that’s lifted off my shoulders because when it did happen again, I didn’t panic or get depressed. In fact, even though I had a lot of money in my savings account, and my wife was working, immediately when I got home after finding out getting laid off, and I’ll never forget that because they laid off 30% of the company, me and 3 members on my team, and 1 person on my team was five months pregnant. She started crying when she heard that news because, what was going to happen to her insurance? She was only going to have insurance for 30 days. She was pregnant.
Her position and circumstance were far more extreme than I could have ever been in. I got home. Even though I didn’t need to, I signed up to be an Uber driver because I wanted something else to do. I enjoyed talking to people. I didn’t want to be home all day looking at the computer looking for a job. I didn’t have to do that. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it doing 2 or 3 times a week.
Being an Uber driver for me was quite fun. I ended up getting another job four weeks later that was much more demanding and a lot better in terms of pay and everything else. It all worked out, but it taught me a lot. It was a good kick in the ass, especially when you’re borrowing money from your younger siblings, you’re sleeping on the couch, and you feel like you’re going to lose your girlfriend who you’re in love with because you don’t have any money coming in.
All the plans that you made seemed like they went down the drain. It was a very bad time in my life, but I used that time wisely in addition to reading about self-improvement and keeping my mind mentally strong. I also started doing sprint triathlons, so that way I was getting healthier and getting mentally and physically stronger. That first experience of getting let go was probably one of the best things in my life. It changed my life.
First of all, I want to thank you for your vulnerability and your ability to share this experience with this audience because being laid off is something that we hear a lot now. I know that a lot of people are going through various stages of emotion. In some way, what you have been doing is what creators are doing every day. If you think about it in some ways, you have a main source of income, which in your case was your job, as a content creator. It is either paid advertisement or partnerships and things like that. You’ve been trying to expand your horizon to say, “What other thing can I do to stay strong mentally? What are the other sources of income can I generate, and diversifying myself so I don’t become so reliant on that one source of income?”
In your case, you’ve done it through experimenting, getting out there, learning about new things, and being mentally prepared and more grounded in your space. For creators, they were trying to find it through a different source of income. It applied to every one of us. We don’t have to depend on one single thing. We have to understand the space where we fit in, but it doesn’t mean that we have to stick to that because the day that thing broke, what are we going to do?We have to understand our space and where we fit in, but that doesn't mean we have to stick to it. Click To Tweet
I love the fact that you are telling all this story, and at the end, say, “By the way, that was the best thing that happened in my life.” It’s a sad story and complicated. I hope this light of hope for anyone that is in this audience that may go through that process or may not think about doing it. Maybe you should. It’s something that you want to consider as what else you can do.
Are there other streams of income? Can you get new skills? Can you learn new things or reinvent yourself? Can you experiment? Can you be consistent on something? Go podcasting, livestream shopping, or dropshipping. There are multiple things you can do nowadays that you can learn. You embodied that well. Thank you for taking the time. It’s been a real pleasure to have you on this show. I hope the audience took tons of value. Where can we find you?
Thanks, everyone, for joining us. Please share, like, comment, and tell us what we did well and what you’d love to see. If you have any guest suggestions for us, we are here. We have the Live eCommerce Community if you want to continue this conversation. Some of our guests are in this community. Maybe Eric is going to join, who knows? We have streamers and brands. If you’re interested in this whole space, want to chat with partners, find out how they do it, what they are doing, what’s been working, what’s not been working from an eCommerce or livestream perspective, or being a curious person and want to experiment, please join us. We always love to have more folks that are challenging and love to exchange. Until then, we’ll see you next episode. Bye for now.