We’ve been working with Vervaunt for a while now, initially with Paul (the other Founder) as an eCommerce Consultant and now with their team across paid media strategy and execution. As part of a new series where we’ll be interviewing our key partners, we asked Josh Duggan (who runs the Vervaunt Paid Media team) to answer some questions about Vervaunt and their offering.
Here’s Paul and Josh in New York coming to visit Shero and one of our clients.
How did Vervaunt get started?
Vervaunt was officially formed relatively recently in September 2017 – Paul has been working in digital and eCommerce for over 10 years and was operating in a freelance capacity for a number of years. Paul’s focus is more on replatforming, BA projects and eCommerce strategy – which represents the other half of Vervaunt.
Paul worked with a lot of relatively big clients who either weren’t running paid media (e.g. D2C brands) or weren’t considering it as a serious channel (fully outsourced with very little focus). I initially freelanced for around 2 years working with Paul working with clients such as O’Neills, Gear4, Linda Farrow and a few others – primarily on proof-of-concept experiments. Over time, the media budgets of these clients increased and we built more demand around the offering – which was essentially a more hands-on, strategic paid marketing offering. I started working with Paul full-time from July 2017 and we decided to form a new company which focused both on consulting and paid in September.
Some of the Vervaunt team in London a few weeks ago.
How has Vervaunt allowed you to grow in your career?
Working for a smaller agency can provide massive opportunities within your career. Within my first two months at Vervaunt, I had pitched for more clients than I had in the previous 7 years. Larger agencies are typically quite hierarchical, which limits both the opportunities and exposure to new things. It’s definitely interesting to me focusing on smaller businesses – having managed programmatic campaigns for Google (and generally working with larger retail businesses) in a previous role, I enjoyed speaking at the Meet Magento New York around how certain principles can be applied to smaller businesses and budgets. I’ve also been invited to speak at a few other eCommerce-focused events, which are opportunities I wouldn’t have had at a larger agency and didn’t have whilst working for MEC and Essence.
In addition to this, our team is able to allocate far more time to R&D and L&D, which is really important when we’re competing with much larger providers. One of our key focuses as a business is around Google Shopping and automated optimisation – we’ve been able to allocate time and budget to working with a developer I’d worked with previously to develop our processes and a few scripts and tools that I definitely wouldn’t have had the time to scope out and manage before. We also run lots of training sessions with the team, as different people have different experiences with the different channels and we can all learn from each other – again, this isn’t as common in larger businesses where you might be working as part of a team on a single account.
How do you explain what you do to someone who is unfamiliar with Paid Search?
We typically work with eCommerce businesses and our primary focus is to drive sales through paid media channels. Google shopping now accounts for 65% of retail search traffic and this is now a large element of our offering. We also manage other channels and activities, for example, cart abandonment campaigns on Facebook, which typically convert well.
In terms of the day to day, we work with clients to understand their business, their products, their business objectives and their profit margins. We then most commonly build and optimize product feeds for shopping and remarketing and build text ad campaigns for Google search ads. We optimize campaigns daily, which could include – adjusting amount spent on media/ keywords, testing new ad copy and CTAs, optimizing product feeds to rank more on search and also a lot of analysis. We run regular diminishing returns analysis’ for clients for example to illustrate the possible returns for increased investment and at what level this becomes unprofitable. We’ve found that communicating on areas like this is really important.
What does Vervaunt specialize in and how do you help merchants?
I would say one of our biggest USPs as an agency would be Google Shopping management. We’ve become experts in feed management and we create, manage and optimize feeds as part of our standard management. We’re generally a lot more hands-on than most as we have a lot of experience of working with platforms like Magento, Shopify Plus, Shopware etc – this has been something Paul has pushed our team on. We also have a number of proprietary scripts which have helped us to manage product feeds with more than 100,000 products for example.
We are a very small, but highly specialist team. Everyone has at least 3 years experience and between us, we have managed accounts for Google, Nintendo, Morrisons, BMW, Aston Martin and Ernst & Young. Our offering on the paid side is focused on being a more hands-on partner and being more knowledgeable in eCommerce generally – as well as achieving results obviously.
On the other side of the business, Paul and Sham are primarily focused on helping retailers understand technical requirements and ultimately select the right eCommerce platform for their business. In addition to this though they do a lot of replatforming solutions consulting and customer experience projects.
What advantages do merchants get by working with Vervaunt?
We are building a small team of paid media specialists. Experience in the team ranges from 8 years to 3, with everyone having previous experience of working on international brands.
We really focus on building a good understanding of a client’s business and work really closely across all aspects of eCommerce operations (alongside Paul’s team). We spend a lot of time with our clients and we work towards becoming an addition to a client’s internal marketing / digital team.
We also provide bespoke reports and provide a dashboard that’s updated daily etc, which are often built around metrics and reports beyond just paid media.
What’s the most challenging Paid Search account you’ve worked with and how did you overcome these challenges?
In general – working on Google’s search account was one of my biggest learning curves where we would often hit the keyword limit. When I last worked on the account – it had 12 million keywords.
In general though – I find B2B is typically the most difficult to push through PPC. We often work towards ROI targets and with B2B there is generally a big disconnect between online conversions (lead submissions etc) and actual offline commitments, as well as the overall value of the transaction (which may come over time or may come via another system which we can’t track etc).
Another tricky account I previously managed was for a large UK law firm. CPCs would range up to ￡80 for certain queries and competition was really aggressive. Our branded CPCs increased to ￡5 at various points, for context. To overcome these challenges and competition we worked with the client to really understand their business and clients in more detail. From various qualitative research studies, it was clear that people had a negative association with larger law firms and had much more trust in smaller/ family-ran law firms.
We, therefore, decided to focus on building out really local-focused campaigns. We used ad customizers to dynamically change ad copy based on where a user was searching – “Award-winning Solicitors in Chester” for example. We then also had local call extensions, so that users would know they are speaking to the relevant office, as opposed to a national call center. We also worked with the client to build out new local landing pages. We focused on specific pages/content for each location, which would call out its expertise, client testimonials, and awards etc.
Most of our mutual clients use Magento – how do you use Magento to improve paid performance?
We tend to get pretty involved on the Magento side and all of our paid team are able to manage the various different data feeds we use and manage things like product attributes. This is something that’s generally really valuable for us and the client as it cuts out those periods where both sides are waiting for another party to deliver on something.
With ~65% of retail queries now going through Google shopping – Feed optimization is one of the most important factors of paid search management. However this is often overlooked as it typically sits in between the remit or developers and the paid team. Magento is one of the simplest platforms where we can simply add new product attributes and re-configure the feed to pull in the new optimized value. For example, a product ranks much higher for queries if it has a description over 500 characters. Having the access to Magento – we can easily add in a new feed_desc attribute for example which expands the product description for Google shopping without changing the site.
We also do a lot of feed title testing and optimization which again is much more time efficient when simply making quick changes in Magento.
In addition to that, we’re starting to use Magento BI, which so far is looking like a really valuable tool for us! We tend to use the Magento BI tool to validate suggestions around customer lifetime value and also create reports for sales, so we’re not solely looking at Adwords and Google Analytics data. We also create reports around SKU performance to help us understand general popularity of products within the business.
With new clients, BI is an effective way to look at product category performance and to identify which areas to focus on as a priority. We can then build out high priority campaigns focusing on these areas – also ensuring that the individual products that perform best have a higher bid to increase coverage.
Where do you see Vervaunt in 2 years time?
We have grown relatively quickly in the last 9-12 months – from a team of 2 to 6. We have recently spent much more time investing in our technology and our own proprietary tools and building stronger relationships with our existing clients, which is really important and more of a focus than growth currently. Over the next 6 months, we plan to continue improving our offering and building out ours, and the team’s skill set.
In the next 6 months, we aim to have 1-2 more staff in the paid team to support day to day optimization such as feed optimization and search term reporting and campaign builds.
One other thing I’d say is that we are really focused on bringing in the ‘right’ clients for Vervaunt (relatively good size with a good level of eCommerce structure in place) who are looking to grow. In around 12 months and as the team progresses, we can bring in new clients and then build out new roles. In 2 years we hope to be much more involved across the industry and have a few more high street brands, where we can demonstrate our skills and expertise through case studies/ awards etc
Gentian, beating Josh convincingly at ping pong in San Diego.
If you would like to find out more about Vervaunt, you can visit their website here. If you would like to find out more about how we work alongside Vervaunt with our clients, please feel free to get in touch with us here.