Q&A: Reece Downey, eCommerce manager at Teapigs

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to Teapigs?

I first heard about Teapigs at a consumer show, I bought a couple of packs and signed up for their newsletter. Several months later they sent out a recruitment email and here I am. There are two people including myself who look after the website on a day to day basis, and we work very closely with the marketing team – made up of three people. We’re based in Brentford, West London, right next to the Thames.

What are the main tasks on your to-do list at the moment?

I’m working on some really exciting projects that will take the eCommerce business forward several steps this year. I can’t go into details unfortunately, but keep your eyes peeled.

What platform does the website run on?

We have been working with Blubolt, a third party web agency for several years now, we work very closely with Blubolt on briefing, designing and testing any new developments. We do as much as we can in house and daily maintenance of the site is managed by us. The big advantage working with a web agency is we have an external reference point at all times. We can bounce ideas off each other and not worry too much about limitations, I trust in Blubolt’s capability to come through on near enough every idea we have.

But the big con is the extra layer of communication. Rather than asking someone in house sitting to the left of me, I need to organise a call, or a meeting and can’t ask for updates as frequently as I’d like. It can seem a little detached at times.

What does Teapigs do well and what needs improving from a digital perspective?

Our social media is brilliant, our website has recently been completely overhauled and has been a great success. This year we’re looking to test more promotions, while developing our ability to read, understand and react to customer behaviour. We’re hoping to have some really cool automations running in the coming months.

What do you think of online subscription services, are they the way forward?

Our 'subscribe & save' service has hit the targets set for it, and I think it’s going to play an important role in our growth over the next few years. There are some big improvements in the pipeline, proving we’re willing to invest further in the service. Do I think they’re "the way forward"? Not entirely. Customers like options, and it’s an important option for them to have. I don’t see subscription services as the future of our eCommerce business, but I do see it playing a notable role, and continuing to be an awesome option to offer our customers.

We are who we are. We don’t trouble ourselves with trying to sound like something we’re not, we just sell really good tea in a really accessible way and enjoy telling people about it.

What new innovations are you looking to implement over the next 12 months?

I can’t say too much. The idea is to offer a stand-out service, packed with some really exciting features. We’re also looking at ways to improve our automated marketing and ability to react to customer behaviour. We have a huge improvement on the way for this that will allow us to communicate with our customers with relevant information and promotions with minimal manual input.

What is the biggest challenge affecting the retail industry today?

The speed at which it’s advancing. eCommerce is moving forward at such an incredible rate, and it’s dragging the rest of the retail industry reluctantly forward with it. A lot of retailers are being left behind. I remember a time 10 years ago, where the challenge of eCommerce was a growing concern for the high street. One of the advantages the high street had over online, was that you could walk into a store and buy an item the same day you wanted it. With Amazon’s Prime Now and free evening delivery for Prime customers, as well as shipping services such as Shutl, this advantage is slipping away. Click & Collect shipping options, and using existing distribution and brick and mortar store networks is the way forward for high street retailers looking to improve their eCommerce offering. John Lewis is setting a brilliant example of unifying their online and brick retail options.

Which consumer technologies out there are complicating web design?

The easy one is wearables. They’re sitting in the shadows at the moment, but already from an email marketing perspective – anyone reading our emails on a watch on their wrist, with no way to jump straight onto the website or easily shop are very hard people to email market to. I see augmented reality working in the fashion and make-up retail sectors, but I’m more interested in virtual reality which provides a complete immersion in the retail experience without leaving your sofa – incredible.

What do you think of the UK skills shortage? Is it affecting you and the business?

It hasn’t affected us at all. If you provide a brilliant environment, then attracting brilliant people is never going to be an issue.

How do you see eCommerce and online shopping changing in the next 5-10 years?

Impossible to predict, but I can dream! There are the obvious developments such as the ability to fulfil orders faster and for lower costs. Increased bandwidth will allow even greater interactivity with eCommerce sites, and mobile will continue to grow at a ridiculous pace, innovation will need to continue to ensure mobile conversion and the enjoyment of shopping on mobile can keep up with the number of people browsing on the platform.

And finally, what keeps you up at night?

Really bad pieces of functionality or rubbish design frustrate me to no end. If we make products and services we enjoy using, we can’t go far wrong. I struggle to understand how anyone gets this wrong.