COVID’s Great Acceleration Calls for Renewed Fraud and Consumer Abuse Vigilance

The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as the great accelerator in many ways including, it turns out, when it comes to ecommerce fraud.

Fraud pressure and instances of consumer abuse have risen dramatically, along with online spending, in the nearly one year since coronavirus lockdowns were first ordered. With many non-essential physical stores closed and with consumers sheltering at home, ecommerce saw a months-long surge of a magnitude generally reserved for the holiday shopping season.

For their part, fraud rings saw an opportunity. With dramatic increases in order volumes and a substantial shift to buy-online-pick-up-in-store and curbside pickup, retail staffs were overtaxed. The chaos gave fraudsters a chance to hide amid the noise. 

Fraud pressure is currently up more than 200% from pre-pandemic levels, according to Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data. Signifyd determines fraud pressure by charting the rise and fall in very high-risk orders on its network. Such orders are presumably fraudulent.

The current 200% increase actually marks an improvement in fraudulent activity. In the early months of the pandemic fraud pressure reached heights of more than four times pre-pandemic levels and peaked during the 2020 holiday shopping season at more than six times pre-pandemic levels.

Consumers are more willing to break ecommerce rules

The fraud assault accompanied an increased willingness among consumers to break the rules in order to receive ecommerce orders for free or at discounted prices that they were not entitled to. In a Signifyd survey conducted just before the 2020 holiday shopping season, 40% of consumers said they’d falsely claimed that a legitimate charge on their credit card was fraudulent. More than 33% said they claimed that an order that had arrived in good condition either hadn’t arrived at all or arrived in unacceptable condition — all to receive a refund while keeping the product.

Another 30% of consumers said they had broken promotion or discount rules by, for instance, falsely claiming that they were a first-time buyer or that they used a one-time-only discount more than once, in order to get a break they didn’t deserve.  

The September results in the survey conducted for Signifyd by market research firm Upwave stood in contrast to a Signifyd survey conducted just before the pandemic. In January 2020,  only 14% of consumers said they had claimed a package had never arrived when it had or that a package that arrived in good condition was somehow unsatisfactory. 

All of which underscores how important it is for ecommerce enterprises to design a holistic fraud and consumer abuse protection strategy or to find a partner who can provide it for you. Signifyd, for instance, is the market leader in the guaranteed protection space. Its Commerce Protection Platform uses machine learning and big data to automate online order flows, instantaneously sort fraudulent orders from legitimate ones, triage abuse chargebacks stemming from customer disputes and future-proof the enterprise against rapidly evolving payments compliance issues.

Technology and financial guarantees allow merchants to prosper 

The combination of cutting edge technology and a financial guarantee allows ecommerce enterprises to open up their conversion funnel with full confidence that the orders they’re accepting are coming from legitimate customers. That confidence all but eliminates false declines, cases in which legitimate customers’ orders are incorrectly declined for fear of fraud. And it means customers don’t have to wait and wonder about their orders while they undergo time-consuming manual reviews.

False declines and delays in order confirmation are customer experience killers. Few experiences are as bad as trying to buy something you want from a retailer who appears willing to sell it, only to have that order declined for reasons that may or may not be clear. The experience is just as negative for the merchant. The business has not only lost the immediate sale, but quite likely has lost a customer for life. 

When Signifyd surveyed consumers and asked how many chances they would give an online retailer before ending the relationship for good, 53% said one or two bad experiences would be enough to send them to the competition.

Successful retailers are well aware of the implications for sales and lifetime customer value. Consider the experience of Heat & Cool, a customer of both Classy Llama and Signifyd that sells heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and supplies. Due to the instant spike in traffic and orders caused by COVID-19, they had received an unprecedented amount of fraudulent orders and attempted purchases. Classy Llama quickly pulled in Signifyd to investigate and implement their automated system. 

When Heat & Cool turned to Signifyd, it was approving about 95% of its online orders. The HVAC retailer had been manually reviewing more than a third of the orders that were coming in causing major inefficiencies.

Signifyd moved Heat & Cool’s Order Approvals Up and to the Right

Signifyd’s automated system boosted Heat & Cool’s approval rate to 98.7%. The improvement increased the merchant’s top line and eliminated Heat & Cool’s need to manually review orders, saving time and providing an improved customer experience. 

As the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on retail becomes clearer by the day, one thing is certain: Ecommerce’s role in retail has grown significantly and will continue on its current trajectory. Overall, online sales in 2020 grew nearly 50% year over year, according to Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse data. In some verticals, such as sporting goods, the increase was closer to 130%.

Consumers have indicated they like it that way. In a September survey, nearly 80% of consumers said they would be shopping differently in the future than they had before the pandemic. That includes about half of shoppers who said they would continue to do more of their shopping online. 

Given that kind of enthusiasm and the lessons we’ve learned about the new era of ecommerce, it’s clear that retailers are going to want to build new fraud and consumer abuse protection into their digital commerce plans going forward. COVID-19 sped up the velocity of business and it’s pretty clear that the winners will be the ones who keep up.

Social Media Growth in the Time of COVID for Nature’s One


Nature’s One introduced Baby’s Only Organic, the first organic toddler formula made in  the United States in 1999.  The company has grown to include a line of USDA Organic Certified formulas, supplemental nutrition products, and along with diapers and baby wipes. 


In early 2020, SARS-CoV-2 (also known as novel coronavirus) hit the United States economy hard. Like many businesses across the country, Nature’s One found it necessary to adjust their business and communications processes.  

As Nature’s One saw a significant increase in demand for their organic  baby formula during the peak of the pandemic, they quickly saw their goals change. This increase affected their supply chain, which meant that the focus for their social media accounts needed to shift from product promotion to audience maintenance and growth.


The Classy Llama digital marketing team developed a customized strategy to help Nature’s One maintain, and even grow, their audience during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our strategy for Nature’s One included:

Sharing meal and menu recommendations for families

Because many families with young children were confined to their homes, we anticipated that there would be increased demand for new family-friendly recipes, snacks, and meal ideas.  We shared both Nature’s One created recipes and curated meal-focused content from other like-minded accounts.

Highlighting available natural cleaning products

Because there was a significant shortage of cleaning supplies on the market, we prioritized promotion for the natural cleaning product range for which Nature’s One is a distributor. Note: While these products were not disinfectant products, the shortage of clearing products on the market made even non-disinfectants hard to come by.

Focusing promotion on nutrition products with significant inventory

While many of Nature’s One’s nutrition products saw a significant reduction in availability, some maintained steady inventory.  We focused our promotional efforts on these products by sharing blog posts and recipes featuring the products still in stock.  

Using humorous content to engage audiences

Though the COVID pandemic is a serious topic, many parents were looking to social media for comic relief.  As part of our strategy, we included a significant amount of original and curated humorous content and invited followers to engage by answering poll questions or sharing stories. 


To determine whether we had achieved the goal of maintaining and/or growing Nature’s One’s organic social media reach, we measured reach on both Instagram and Facebook from March 26 (when we created and began implementing our pandemic-related strategy) to May 9. We compared this six weeks to the time period from February 9 to March 25. 

Over the course of 6 weeks, Nature’s One organic social media accounts saw a 23.82% increase in reach, and saw peak numbers of engagements and shares.  This growth demonstrates that, even while Nature’s One was unable to promote many of its core products using social media, we were able to help them stay connected to their audience and reach new potential customers.

Determining Email Success: It’s more than just KPIs

Beyond Analytics


One of the most important attributes of a successful email campaign is not measurable in a traditional sense – it’s an email’s ability to supplement a company’s holistic marketing plan.

Like any delivery channel, email was never meant to operate independently, yet campaigns often end up disjointed from other outbound marketing.

Internally, this makes sense as most channels and disciplines are operated by different people. However, customers don’t think the same way brands do. Customers need a cohesive brand experience, whether they’re digesting advertising through email, social, broadcast, or web. This is why one of the first things that I consider when evaluating an email campaign’s success is whether it fits with a brand’s overall outbound and inbound marketing efforts.

Emails that supplement a brand’s holistic marketing plan need first to match the brand’s voice and feel. Color palettes, typefaces, and image styles are obvious indicators of whether an email is on-brand. Voice and feel are a little more nuanced, and this can be a difficult place for an agency or third party to step in without the customer feeling a shift. I try to empower my clients to contribute their voice and feel to email campaigns upfront as much as possible. This can be as simple as providing a concept and direction for a campaign or as difficult as writing out subjects, preheaders, and body copy. Either way, I always recommend a health-check being performed during the approval process. Brand owners and executives can be especially helpful during this step because they’re often removed from the process. If a campaign doesn’t pass their sniff test, it likely isn’t on-brand.

This is a great example of an engaging subject line that only works with the brand-image that Catori Life has cultivated. Any other brand would come off either gimmicky or stupid here, but this is definitely in line with the rest of Catori Life’s marketing.

In this example, I’m less concerned with whether this email “sold” well. It’s as much a branding piece as it is trying to sell necklaces.


Being authentic matters. Not only do customers hate inauthenticity, but email is probably the easiest medium of communication to disconnect from. This means there is added pressure for marketers to be true and get it right.

This principle is in lock-step with keeping communications cohesive to a marketing plan, but measurable email KPIs can make it tempting to deviate. One example of this would be subject line manipulation. Over-the-top subject lines that either over-sell or under-deliver can garner more opens, but they do so at the customer’s expense. Outrageous subject lines are mostly a thing of the past, thanks to modern SPAM filters, but if you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to slip one into a customer’s inbox, expect a lot of unsubscribes. And once someone unsubscribes, their contact information is useless unless they choose to subscribe again later. It’s just not worth it.

Overly-cute or attention-grabbing subject lines would fall into this category as well. They probably won’t cause unsubscribes or SPAM complaints, but too many of them will cause customers to tune out. If it’s not a tone that you would take with your web copy, it probably doesn’t belong in your subject line.

Exhibit A: this is clearly a win-back campaign, but it is seriously over-the-top. Painted Memory took a page out of the worst sales book ever and asked if I was “okay”.

It had been 30 days since I had ordered a specialty product from them. This is the brand equivalent of the “Overly Attached Girlfriend” meme…

Know your voice and know your customer. In this case, I haven’t unsubscribed yet, but they are one hard eye-roll away from being permanently deleted from my inbox. I don’t think padding Open Rate statistics is worth that risk.

Trust in God. Measure everything else.

Key Performance Indicators

All too often, the numbers are all anyone seems to care about. “Did the email open well? How many people engaged with its content?” Don’t get me wrong, these metrics matter, but an email’s ultimate purpose is to move traffic from an inbox to your site. Too often, emails are relied upon to be the sales cycle on their own, when they’re best served as referrals to where the best content should be housed. There’s no reason to recreate the wheel – a thoughtful landing page or product page should do the heavy lifting.

This is where sales attribution can be an unfair metric. Last-click attribution models, like those used by Google Analytics, credit the last click with the sale. Therefore, good emails that move traffic to websites might not get the credit for the sale when Google Analytics is used to measure revenue. It’s like getting penalized for doing the right thing. Most email service providers realize this and employ first-click attribution modeling, which captures the traffic source that is ultimately making the purchase. This accounts for some pretty large discrepancies when reporting revenue and is another reason why analytics should always be reported in context.

Of course, classic metrics matter. If no one is opening or clicking, emails can’t accomplish their ultimate purpose. Here are some classic measurables and what I like to see as benchmarks:

Open Rate The number of customers who open your email, compared to the number of deliveries – these can be unique or the total number. I like to see an Open Rate above 20%.
Click-Through Rate* The number of customers who click somewhere on your email, compared to the number of deliveries – these can also be unique or total. A solid CTR is over 1.5%, but I shoot for over 2%.
Click-To-Open Rate** The number of customers who click somewhere on your email, compared to the number who opened your email. I like to see these over 20%, which equals roughly a 2.5% CTR.
Revenue and Source The source is important to see what revenue is coming through campaigns vs. automated sends. Too many variables for a good benchmark.
Unsubscribes These are the people who opt out of receiving your emails on a given campaign. Any number consistently over .1% is a concern.
*Klaviyo calls this click rate.
**Klaviyo calls this click-through rate.

This is not a comprehensive list – a good email marketer will go deeper. I like to see what email referral traffic does once it hits a landing page. Other metrics I pay attention to are time on site, time on page, bounces, and of course, conversions.

If it’s not obvious by now, these indicators are good for getting a pulse on a campaign’s effectiveness but do not tell the whole story. Any business should care about its long-term health. This means not sacrificing the greater good to chase good email metrics. I’ve read countless articles that suggest keeping squeaky-clean lists and purging inactive customers after as little as 1-3 months of inactivity. There are benefits to a clean list, but the purchase cycle is not being considered here! Most retailers get the bulk of their sales around the holidays. If that same retailer purges their list of inactive customers every three months, they won’t be reaching the customers who purchase their family gifts every Christmas. But hey, the email numbers will look better.

If you have customers who haven’t engaged in over 12 months, it’s probably time to send them a final win-back email and then put them in their own segment. From that point, reach out once a year to attempt to re-engage.


Let’s talk frequency. More emails equals more sales, right?

I mean, maybe, but it’s not a sustainable long-term plan. Too many emails most often result in decreased engagement and can alienate even the best customers. This is where the KPIs mentioned above can be really beneficial, especially as a function of time. If a brand experiences a slow, precipitous drop in open and click-through rates, their email frequency needs to be considered.

My preferred cadence is two emails per week. This allows for automated sends that might get triggered and decreases the likelihood of fatiguing a customer. Truthfully, the best cadence depends on the industry and the amount of engaging content available. It’s never a good idea to email someone just to get a customer touchpoint in. Customer’s email inboxes are inundated already, and that unsubscribe button is more accessible than ever – content needs to be meaningful and timely.

Less can mean more. If smart segmentation is employed, the right customers can receive the right messages without being overloaded. If a brand’s content only supports 4-6 emails a month, I recommend taking two or three emails and resending them to customers who didn’t open the first send. I will wait at least 24 hours before doing this, but typically 36-48 hours is best. This tactic isn’t for the faint of heart, though – the open and click-through rates will not be good. I typically see around a 10% open rate and .5% CTR, which will hurt overall email numbers. The important thing to remember is that if 10% open the resend, it essentially adds 10% to the original send’s open rate and might even be re-engaging some customers who hadn’t interacted in a while. It’s like playing with house money.

So What Does Success Look Like?

All of this is to say that email success is not easily defined. Good open rates and clicks do not necessarily mean a good campaign. Numbers can be manipulated and still be unhealthy.

In my role, I have my own quality checks for email success. I think through these questions before and after deploying any campaign:

  1. Was the campaign timely and relevant?
  2. Did it support a holistic marketing strategy?
  3. Did it get traffic to a landing page that made sense?
  4. Was it cohesive and on-brand?
  5. Did it perform well?

Performance at number 5 is not an accident, since it can be influenced by so many intangible factors. Numbers 1-4 are the essential questions.  If you can’t answer all of those with a yes, performance doesn’t matter. Failure to comply with 1-4 can result in lost customers, reputation, or worse. If numbers 1-4 are met, it is already inherently meeting its objective, and consequently, performance will almost always be strong.

These quality checks require planning. An email marketer’s job cannot be done in isolation – it requires constant collaboration with anyone who touches outbound communication. In an agency setting, this means planning meetings with brand owners.  Planning provides the playbook by which a campaign is deemed relevant. This has to fall in line with other outbound communication, like social media, advertising, intercept marketing, and inbound marketing on the website. If proper preparation is done, then an email campaign should pass the first two quality checks.

I see so many emails that try to do too much – they’re too long, too detailed, or too busy. If all of email marketing can be summed up into one objective, it’s this:  drive traffic to the website. An email cannot do all the heavy lifting when it comes to informing or making a sale – that’s a website’s job. This is where quality check number 3 comes in. If an email’s purpose is to drive a click, does that destination make sense? If an email campaign is meant to be informative, it should drive to a page that is specifically created to educate the reader. If an email is about a product or product category, it doesn’t need to be filled with a bunch of superfluous information that distracts from that product or category – it needs to drive to the product page. Even if an email’s objective can be fulfilled entirely within the email (a video, for example), it should still drive to the website. Keeping traffic in a reader’s inbox is every bit as bad as linking to an external page from your site – you just don’t do it!

Determining whether or not an email is cohesive and on-brand is what the proofing process was made for. I take pride in my efforts to learn a brand and master their look and voice, but ultimately I know I’m better off always deferring to whoever the brand owner is. This is true regardless of whether an email marketer is internal or with an agency, and it can be tricky. My suggestion is to develop a proofing checklist. Someone should ensure all of the information, links, and spelling is correct, but executives typically don’t have time for that. Their critical role in the proofing process is the tonality of the email as a whole. If it aligns with their brand vision and voice, then quality check Number 4 has been met.

So the question is, do quality checks 1-4 ensure great performance? The short answer is yes and no. If success is defined as an XX% open rate and a YY% click-through rate, then no. There is no way to ensure that. However, email is a marketing channel that should not exist inside a vacuum. It is meant to engage a reader enough to drive a click to a website. Yes, this takes an enticing subject line, but it also requires meeting the four objectives defined above. By that standard, the campaign is a success.

Email is a numbers game with nuance. You have to be present enough to provide an adequate opportunity to drive traffic to a website, but not too frequently to prompt an unsubscribe. This balance takes strategy, planning, and experience. I’ve been leading email marketing for over ten years, and every mistake I’ve made has been a learning experience that has led to a stronger and more refined approach.

In case it’s not evident by now, email cannot be successful with a one-size-fits-all approach. It requires a professional, and if that person doesn’t exist within an organization, then an agency professional can be well worth the expense. Email marketing can be incredibly powerful, but only in the right hands, and only with the right plans.

Interested in learning more about how you can create an email marketing strategy that drives success? Contact us to help!

Alternative Social Media

Have you noticed that your Facebook and Instagram content seem to be getting less and less attention with each passing day?  Posts that used to reach thousands of people who like and follow your brand now seem to bring in only a slow trickle. Even your ad performance may be dropping. And, that may be making you wonder if it’s time to just give up on your organic Facebook and Instagram strategy and move to one of those new-fangled social media sites. Or, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to make your efforts at social media more effective.  Good news! We’ll explain everything in this article. 

Knowledge drop in 3,2,1…

The State of the Space

More than half of the world’s population – something like 3.96 Billion people as of July 2020 – actively uses social media platforms. And, with 2.9 billion and 115 million users (respectively), Facebook and Instagram have dominated the social media marketplace.  It only makes sense that brands big and small have flocked to those platforms in order to reach the vast numbers of potential customers contained therein.  

However, those brands – and probably even your brand, if you market using those platforms – are now seeing a dramatic and noticeable overall decline in engagement (and revenue) from their organic content. And, it’s making people (marketers included) wonder:  Should we start turning our attention to alternative platforms – those like Pinterest and Twitter, that have been around awhile, or the up-and-comers like Parler and MeWe?

Let’s take a look at where things stand with the big players, Facebook and Instagram, and then we’ll talk about the other options and how to know if they’re a good fit for your company.

So, how bad is it?

Let’s talk about Facebook first.

The decline in organic engagement on Facebook was steep. A study conducted by Trust Insights measuring thousands of brand Pages on Facebook found that the median engagement was just 0.0166% for unpaid content. In 2019, the rate was 0.0215%, which is a decrease of 22.8% year-over-year. To break that down a bit further, about 1 out of every 6,000 people who follow a brand page engaged with that brand’s organic content.

There are a few factors we know of that may be at the root of this drop for Facebook. First, the platform is losing active users.  One report showed a drop of about 15 million U.S active users from 2017 to 2019.  It’s not a watershed for sure, but it’s something to keep in mind. And, reports are showing that the users that do remain are less satisfied with their experience than they have been since 2015. Finally, the age of the average Facebook user is climbing.  The Pew Research Center tells us that seniors are the fastest growing demographic group on the platform.  This means that your content may well need to take this demographic into consideration.

Then there’s Instagram. 

The drop in organic engagement for brands on Instagram was only slightly less drastic. Trust Insights work produced a median engagement rate of 0.372% for unpaid content, which is a 21% decrease from 2019’s 0.472%. That means that 1 out of 268 people who followed a brand on Instagram engaged with its organic content. While it’s 22X better than the median engagement rate for Facebook, the significant decline still gives brands and marketers alike pause. 

But, there’s good news here. Instagram is growing – more downloads, more active users year over year.  And, they’re rolling out some new features that make eCommerce presence on the platform more accessible for brands. So, the issue going into 2021 will be catching users attention.

Another Wrench in the Gears

This summer, Apple announced that it would make a BIG change to the ways in which advertisers/businesses would be able to interact with Apple device user data.  At the center of the change is a code (unique to each device) called Identification for Advertisers, or IDFA.  As users interact with content from advertisers around the internet that code is collected and sent back to the company, essentially showing them where and how the user interacted with their content, and helping them determine if their advertising efforts were effective.  This IDFA works in the same way as “cookies” when you visit websites on your laptop or desktop computer. This little code is the reason those shoes, or that video game, you were checking out seems to follow you all over the internet.  It enables companies to target you based on your interactions. But more importantly for this article, it enables you to target your customers based on how they move around the web. 

Beginning in early 2021, Apple will require any outside company that wants to collect this IDFA and either combine their tracking info with information another company has collected, or share what it collects with another company, will have to expressly ask the user for permission.  Again, this is similar to the permission you give websites online to collect “cookies”, which can limit the data that companies and Google Analytics can see about your online behavior.

This kind of sharing is essential for ad targeting because very few companies have their own native advertising platforms. Almost every company uses Google, Facebook, or another ad network to serve ads based on collected user data. The general expectation here is that many Apple users will say, “no thanks” to being followed around the internet by advertisers. And, this will have very significant impacts on the ability of companies – especially the small ones – to get effective returns on their advertising dollars.  If you don’t know what works, and you can’t target ads, you’re just casting creative into the wind and hoping it sticks to your target audience. 

And, there’s a significant chance that other technology creators will follow suit, changing ad targeting and performance across the board.

Time to jump ship?

We’ve gotten an increasing number of questions from businesses asking if they should just abandon the big platforms and try something else. And our answer is always a very emphatic…maybe.  There are several things to consider before you swear off the Facebook and Google oligarchy.  

First, where will you go? 

There’s a lot of interest right now in up-and-coming platforms Clubhouse, MeWe and Parler..  New users are flocking to these sites in droves. But one major limitation of these platforms is that they are currently ad-free. Parler is considering an influencer-based marketing offering for individuals and businesses, but at this point any content shared on these platforms will have to gain traction organically.  The audience on those platforms, or that level of investment may not be the right fit for your brand right now.

There are several other tried and true platforms you may not have considered.  Pinterest has over 300 million monthly active users, and use of the platform requires interaction with content presented there. Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok all have their own benefits and can be incorporated into your current social media strategy fairly simply. Of course, like we’ll discuss in more detail momentarily, these platforms are only a good choice if they make sense for your business. 

Added bonus, these platforms are still performing fairly well for advertisers so a paid strategy may also make sense there. For example, Twitter saw a 27% increase in engagement with paid content (and a 9% drop in cost per engagement) between 2018 and 2019. 

However, before you make the decision to change your social media strategy (paid or unpaid) by moving to a new platform, there are two primary things to consider:

    • Is your target customer likely to be on that platform? Understanding where your key customers are is imperative to a strong social media strategy, and you should always use this criteria FIRST to determine whether a platform is a good fit for you.  If your target audience is over 65, for example, TikTok may not be a great fit for you. If your product doesn’t represent well visually, Instagram and Pinterest are likely not your best option.  You get the point.
    • Do you have what you need to use the platform well?  No matter what social media platforms you choose for your business, you will need to have someone on your team (or access to someone) who understands the basics of social media engagement and can dedicate the time to helping you grow your community.  Then, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tools and knowledge to do well in the ways each platform requires. Twitter, as an example, is a fast moving conversation. Brands that do well are able to stay active and responsive in that quick moving environment.  Brands that just broadcast tweets several times a day, without much response, don’t build the same traction.  Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest require high-quality, interesting visual content. If you don’t have a means of creating that content consistently, you won’t be able to build the kind of relationships you need to be successful on those platforms. 



Taking a Different Approach 

If the idea of moving to new and different platforms gives you pause, that’s ok! There are some alternative methods of driving engagement on the big players that may fit better with your business needs. 

Influencer Strategy

If you’ve heard the term “social media influencer” it probably calls to mind young and/or glamorous people trying to convince you to buy weight loss tea, vitamin gummies, or some other product.  But we promise you that there is MUCH more to the practice of influencer marketing than that. 

Going back to the data gathered by Trust Insights, we know that people are more likely to engage with content from influencers than they are to engage directly with brand content. On Facebook, 1 out of every 451 people who follow an influencer’s page engaged with their content. When we compare that with the 1 of 6,000 that engage with brand content, there’s a lot of potential for interaction there. On Instagram, the numbers are even better: there, 1 in 85 people who follow an influencer account interact with that content.  

And, the costs associated with influencer marketing don’t have to be high. Depending on your niche, you may find influencers willing to trade content for product, or who are willing to to work with your brand on a continuous basis for a retainer. 

Facebook and Instagram Shops

Both Facebook and Instagram have rolled out features that allow eCommerce businesses to build shops directly on their social media platforms. You can link to products in your posts, and even encourage people to browse your store without leaving your profile.  These tools won’t necessarily help you build engagement or visibility with new visitors, but they may make it a little easier for you to convert those new faces into customers. 

Looking and Planning Ahead 

As you move into social media strategy planning for 2021, we hope that we’ve been able to answer some of your questions about why your social media content may be underperforming, what you can do to combat that, and what’s happening with these new platforms. 

But the fact of the matter is that any of the tactics we’ve talked about above is going to be underwhelming when applied on its own.  Effective digital marketing has to take all of your online marketing efforts into account to create a synergistic strategy that capitalizes on your company’s best assets and meets your customers where they’re most likely to interact with your brand. Competition for customers online is fierce and each of your digital marketing channels has to be performing at its best. 

Take a closer look at the other channels you’re using to connect with your audience, like email marketing, Google Ads, and search engine optimization. How are those performing? Examine areas in which there is room for growth and consider investing in those opportunities, as you may see a better return on investment with those channels than with social media marketing.

Need help figuring out where you are now, and where to go next, with your digital marketing efforts? We would love to help you discover where you’re performing at your peak, and where there is room for improvement.

Classy Llama offers a full-suite of digital marketing services from auditing and consultation to full-scale management, and we’d love to talk with you about how we can partner with your business to help you see greater success. 

Holiday Sales in a Covid World: Navigating the Challenges

There is no doubt that 2020 has been an historical year; fires, global pandemic, riots, Tiger King, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As such, this holiday season will be unlike any other we have experienced and it presents both risks and opportunities to eCommerce. So let’s face them head on, and be proactive enough that the risks and uncertainty will have less of an impact on customer service, sales, and building relationships with your customers while capitalizing on the accelerated shift to eCommerce.

What do you need to know so you can plan?

Demand increase will continue through at least the end of the year

  • Increased levels of comfort with online purchases
  • Social distancing and many still feeling unsafe to do in-person shopping means not having the typical hoards of shoppers filling physical stores
  • A predicted lower level of travel during the holidays means more shipped gifts

Increased demand sounds like a good thing, and it is… mostly.

There have been significant supply chain issues this year, not likely to ease up as online purchases increase. Shipping carriers are nearly maxed out, pushing delivery times out from what we’ve been used to in the past; 1-2 days, to many weeks instead. This can impact your business negatively. It may be difficult for you to quickly replenish inventory from your suppliers, particularly if they are overseas and it can impact your ability to promise your customers delivery dates. In planning for your holiday sales events this year, keep the following in mind:

Evaluate your ability to advertise “order by x date to receive by Christmas” as a marketing tactic. While this tactic in the past may have allowed you to continue to drive sales for those last minute shoppers, this year you run the risk of not meeting that commitment which can lead to a poor customer experience, canceled orders, and missed opportunities for return purchasers.

Investigate different shipping carriers and what claims they are making; which have had delayed shipping issues this year, and which have not. If you have a carrier option that presents less risk in long shipping times, communicate the use of that carrier or consider using that carrier exclusively.

Focus on inventory levels and how that equates to your marketing strategy. Do you currently have ample inventory of the products you intend to put on sale? Are you able to quickly get more if needed?

Consider longer sale dates. Due to all of the factors listed above, people will be online and looking for deals long before Black Friday this year. Don’t wait until Black Friday to begin sales. Start them up to 1-2 weeks prior in fact. This will give you a jump on competitors (less noise=increased transactions), as well as help ease some of those supply chain issues.

Good communication is your best friend.

There is always a deep need for human connection, but this year more than ever we are relying on technology to help fill the gaps that canceled events, closed businesses, and social distancing have created. Be open about that as you increase your customer communication; don’t shy away from it. Personalize your communication as much as possible, be warm and inviting. Be as transparent as possible – expecting shipping delays or inventory issues? Let your customers know before they make a purchase. The more transparent you are, the more those shopping with you will trust you. With trust comes loyalty, increased transactions, increased average order values, and a higher likelihood that the customer will return later to make more purchases in the future.

Place notices in the site header as well as on the checkout page. You may fear that these notices will reduce transactions, but bear in mind most merchants will be doing the same. If you do not have a notice, consumers will assume you do not have those issues. And while the short term gain of the getting that transaction may occur, the above listed issues that can lead to an unhappy customers are not worth the risk.


With so much uncertainty this year, and with much still lying ahead; presidential election, continuing pandemic, and probably zombies (preferably Walking Dead style and not World War Z style), we still have the opportunity to create connection and drive success in our respective businesses. And while the landscape of shopping has shifted significantly in 2020 necessitating being mostly reactive in our ever-changing strategies, we hope these tips will help you get ahead of the game and be proactive about shifting your sales and communication while you continue your ride on this crazy train.

Interested in learning more about how you can navigate this holiday season well? Contact us to help!

Turbocharging ZZPerformance’s Paid Search


Like many well-known and successful brands, ZZPerformance had humble beginnings in a garage. While working on his own Pontiac Grand Prix, ZZP’s founder, Zoom, became frustrated with other aftermarket performance brands. He saw an opportunity to create a better experience for car owners wanting to optimize their ride without breaking the bank. With this mindset, Zoom began building ZZPerformance from the ground up.


Because ZZPerformance primarily sells their own unique products with higher margins, they’ve historically had a fairly high ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) and low CPAs (cost per acquisition) and high AOVs (average order values). Even so, there were opportunities for improvement and growth.


The first, and most critical problem, was the lack of traffic volume. The quality of the traffic that ZZPerformance was receiving was not great either. This was compounded by non-converting and low quality keywords that were inflating cost per acquisition and limiting potential customers from seeing their ads. As a result, they weren’t receiving enough conversions to generate an acceptable level of revenue or profit. 

In addition, we found other issues within the existing ads: 

  • The ads themselves lacked keywords
  • Minimal use of value offers in the ad copy (such as “Free Shipping”)
  • Lack of call-to-actions (such as “Shop Online Today”)
  • Limited use of given character space in the ad copy and ad extensions
  • Lack of Dynamic Search Ads, limiting traffic on keywords that we aren’t actively bidding on
  • Limited budget


First, we paused historically non-converting keywords as well as some of the broader “prospecting” type keywords. At the time, these keywords were accruing quite a bit of cost. We also added negative keywords to reduce irrelevant clicks and cost associated with those clicks.

More relevant, higher quality keywords were added. We also began pursuing variations of their top converting keywords. Next, we developed campaigns that specifically targeted Canada, since historically Canada had generated a high amount of conversions. 

We increased ad quality by including more keywords in the ad copy, utilizing more of the available character space in the headlines, descriptions, and display paths. Then, we created additional ad extensions to ensure the sitelink extensions had descriptions and that the callout extensions were informative and enticing.

Structured snippet extensions and price extensions were also created to inform customers of what types of products are sold on the site and an example of prices to expect. Typically, increasing the ad quality reduces the cost-per-click, however, in this instance the average CPC increased by 7 cents. This is due to the broader keywords being removed which were very inexpensive and the more relevant keywords are a little higher in cost. 

In addition, a Dynamic Search Ads campaign was also created. DSA campaigns pull site content and essentially create keywords for the campaign. This allowed us to capture potential customers searching for products similar to what ZZPerformance sells. There is a bit of proactive maintenance required with DSA campaigns as irrelevant traffic tends to occur more frequently than general Search campaigns due to the match type of these dynamically generated keywords being “broad match”. Therefore, reviewing the search terms is necessary on a regular basis. 

We found that ZZPerformance’s products with a price point of $1,000+ were displaying more often on Google than lower price point items. This had resulted in a decreased CTR (click-through rate) as well as an increased CPA, which was not profitable and was preventing other items from getting value out of Google Shopping. We adjusted to exclude the high price point products.

Intermix Beats M1 End of Life with Classy Llama Accelerator

After ten years on Magento 1, Intermix Beverage knew it was time to upgrade their eCommerce platform. M1 had been good to them, but its end of life loomed near, and it no longer made sense to invest in upgrades to the outdated platform. Additionally, Intermix was seeing problems with page load speed and mobile experience.

Intermix’s primary goal with their M1 to M2 migration was to achieve a stable foundation to customize over a time. Beyond that, Classy Llama saw opportunities to improve the site’s user experience through a modern responsive theme.

Intermix primarily sells B2B, so many customers used their site to re-order the same product on a recurring basis. Intermix hoped to add features that would help them showcase new products and offerings to their existing customers. Intermix had been on Magento for a long time and had a clear sense of their requirements and the features they needed to launch with. Their project was a great fit for Classy Llama’s new M1 to M2 Accelerator. The accelerator package equipped Intermix with their choice of REBAR extensions and Classy Llama’s proprietary Automodus theme.

The Automodus theme empowers Intermix to sell more to their recurring customers with useful merchandising tools like a promo blocks carousel, featured categories section, and a featured products carousel. Many of Intermix’s B2B feature requirements were able to be achieved with out-of-the-box tools. Intermix managed price discounts for customers with Magento’s customer groups and advanced pricing features. They chose to use Stripe for payments and Magento’s native purchase order feature for payments. Magento 2’s native integration with Vertex helped them solve sales tax calculations. Customers were given the ability to reorder product lists with an extension from BSS Commerce. Intermix chose Sonassi to host their new Magento 2 Open Source site.

With their platform upgrade, Intermix Beverage also decided to integrate their site with new software vendors. Intermix began using Klaviyo for email marketing and installed ShipperHQ to streamline their shipping rate calculations in the shopping cart.

Another key integration was with Netsuite, Intermix’s ERP. Using FarApp’s connector, customer and order data push and pull between Magento and Netsuite.

Out of the gate, Magento 2’s modern architecture and the Classy Llama Automodus theme improved Intermix’s mobile experience. Customers were shopping longer and visiting more pages on the new site. After launch, users visited 147% more pages per session and spent 2.5x more time per session. Classy Llama’s Accelerator turned out to be a terrific fit for our migration from Magento 1 to Magento 2. They have deep technical talent, and their approach strongly complimented our own team’s eCommerce experience. We’ve seen dramatic improvements in our session duration, conversion rate, and specifically mobile engagement. Our customers report a much easier to use experience; they are finding more products faster than ever before. Intermix’s customers were now able to find what they needed and check out from their mobile devices. After launching the new site, mobile conversion rate shot up by 211% and their average mobile order value was up 19%.

The difference made by updating to Magento 2 and hosting on Sonassi was undeniable. Average page load time overall decreased by 63% and homepage load time decreased by 43%. These huge speed improvements make their site more enjoyable to navigate and will have a long-term impact on their search ranking as Google’s algorithm favors site speed and mobile experience more and more.

Intermix’s customers love the improved experience they get on the site, and the Intermix team is pleased to be on a platform that empowers them to keep growing for years to come.

Mr Beams SEO Case Study


Mr. Beams started in 2004 with the goal of finding easier lighting solutions for areas around the home. It launched its first product line with a battery-powered wireless spotlight, step light, and ceiling light that could be installed in less than 5 minutes. Today, Mr Beams provides more than 30 different lighting solutions to increase home safety, security, and convenience. 


One of the biggest challenges for Mr Beams was the number of resellers carrying their products. Lowes, Home Depot, Amazon, and many others carry and sell their lines, making the competition and ROAS for Google Ads high. The focus for them was not only to grow their online traffic but to create and establish brand recognition through a strong organic presence. 

First, Mr Beams’ website architecture needed a revamp. The pages were congested and complicated, and the overall navigation was difficult for customers to maneuver. Images, content, and CTAs needed to lead customers through a seamless process to view, learn, and purchase their products.

Second, the metadata needed an overhaul. While most of the meta titles and meta descriptions were the proper character count, they lacked relevant keywords and originality, which was causing duplicate content issues. The metadata for product pages, category pages, and main pages needed to be less generic and more specific to their subject. 

While there was organic traffic coming to the site, changes to the website architecture, metadata, and on-page content would bring an increase in search engine positions, better search results, and strong brand recognition.


Website Architecture

First, we performed a website redesign that focused on building out navigation that was more user friendly. This included a new layout for the menu bar, category pages, and product pages. Search engines take into account how easy it is to navigate from page to page on your site. You are rated based on how “User Friendly” it is for customers. The pathway for learning about Mr Beams’ products and purchasing them was made simpler.

Read more about Mr Beams’ Magento 1 to BigCommerce Migration Here

Our website – specifically organic traffic – had been struggling for some time. But after Classy Llama worked with us on performing on-site audits, migrating to a new site, and making major updates, we’ve seen amazing improvements in our organic traffic! For the first time in several years, we’re seeing significant growth in our organic conversion rate and revenue. It is really exciting!


Second, the metadata is vital for search engines to understand what each page is about. We started with the top product pages pulled from Google Analytics and performed Single Page Content Audits. Each page audit included keyword research based on the product and then pulling the most relevant keywords with high search volume from the list. Based on the research, we updated the meta titles and meta descriptions, created new H1 and H2 headers, and removed any duplicate content that was present in the website’s metadata. Generic titles and descriptions were replaced with original content with top keywords woven in the copy.


By updating the current site architecture and the metadata, Mr Beams saw an increase in search engine position for several top keywords and outperformed the previous year specifically in organic traffic. We saw an increase in traffic, conversation, and revenue. Below are the numbers over a 5 month period from January to May 2020 vs January to May 2019 for organic traffic.

American Leather User Experience Design

Product Detail Page

American Leather uses their product detail pages to show unique furniture styles that can be customized by the dealer. Their existing product detail page had a small amount of content: a description, product images, and configurable options like material, color, and leg style. 

They wanted a design that allowed their team to add additional content when needed and showed the flexibility of their products without overwhelming the buyer.

Our solution was to use product detail pages as landing pages for each style of furniture. We wanted to help shoppers see each style as a starting point to their perfect custom piece, rather than emphasizing a single final product.

We started by designing a custom header that included the style name and buttons that anchored to specific content within the page. We also created a carousel gallery to display pieces of furniture in that specific style. These images of previously built custom furniture in beautifully designed spaces help customers imagine the possibilities of each given style.

We also created a new page section to display customization details and specs for the furniture style.


Mr Beams Magento 1 to BigCommerce Migration

We’ve all been frustrated by a dimly lit pantry or closet and struggled with battery powered lights that weren’t bright enough, drained batteries too quickly, or were difficult to install. Mr Beams’ collection of wireless lighting designs help shoppers illuminate even the trickiest spaces without power or special tools.

After supporting their Magento 1 site for over five years, Classy Llama helped Mr Beams evaluate options for upgrading their site before M1 end-of-life. The Mr Beams marketing team wanted to manage content and build landing pages without a developer. They were also attracted to using a solution that would remove their need for security patches and hosting fees. Additionally, they’d need support connecting their new eCommerce site to Netsuite, their ERP.

As Classy Llama’s solutions architects learned more about their needs, they suggested BigCommerce. A thorough review showed that BigCommerce would not only meet their technical requirements, but would also give them more flexibility to manage their site on their own. 

Mr Beams had a vision for an improved site experience that helped their shoppers find the right product for the job and all the information needed to successfully install it. This meant making changes to their site’s navigation and product listing pages. 

The Classy Llama team created a template with Shogun drag and drop site builder for product listing pages. Now the Mr Beams team can add product video, product specifications, and installation instructions in an attractive layout. Better yet, the Mr Beams teams can design these new product pages without code, saving them time and money. We had such a great experience working with Classy Llama on this site migration! Personally, I’ve never gone through a smoother project. We came in on time, on budget, and without any surprises during the process. The Classy Llama team really listened to what we needed from the new site and worked with us to create smart solutions, and we’re thrilled with the final product! The team at Mr Beams has loved the easy to use interface of BigCommerce and they’re happy to worry less about security issues, since patches and updates happen automatically without the need for a developer.

Not only was the site easier to manage, it was also converting better. Mr Beams’ improved navigation and product pages were helping site visitors find the perfect product and make a purchase. Since launching their new site, conversion rate has been 70% higher!  

Another perk of their new platform was mobile experience. On mobile devices, they saw improvements to their bounce rate and pages per session. Even better, transactions increased 45%, revenue increased 68.85% and conversion rate increased 102%.

Finally, their connection integration was made easy by using Celigo’s platform. While a custom integration might have taken over 100 hours of work, configuring Celigo took less than 20 hours and has reliable and easy to adjust.

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