plum tree group
An executive conversation with Daniel Townsend
Founding Partner & Managing Director
HQ: Chicago, IL
In the Digital Age that we live in, commerce has become more democratized; the barrier to entry lowered, the ceiling of potential profits raised; the number of risks multiplied; the impact of commerce on our social fabric expanded.
In this context Plum Tree enters the commerce space with a renewed vision and approach to identifying, enabling and optimizing our clients’ commerce capabilities and opportunities in the digital channel. Our vision is anchored by a shared set of beliefs across all our brands:
Being Valuable to Clients
- We believe merchants succeed most when understanding the needs of their customer the best. Consequently, we want to enable companies to have access to customer insights that will fuel innovation in both product development and customer experience
- We believe in equipping emerging and mid market companies with competitive advantages that enable them to compete and continue to be the engines for innovation and job creation in our society.
- We believe in helping our clients go beyond just building them an eCommerce site but that our job doesn’t truly end until we’ve helped that company grow and develop the capabilities to sustain growth even after the engagement ends. To do so requires a mentality of a Partner rather than a Vendor.
- We believe there are instances where we aren’t going to have all the capabilities that our clients ask for and need but we can be the best partner for them by teaming up with best-in-class tools, solution providers and thought leaders in the industry.
Our mission is to help brands design, create and bring to market products, services and experiences in the digital channel. Each part of this mission focuses on a different need a merchant may have depending on where they are at in the journey. For some, they need help designing, which is more than just pretty pictures but involves brand and user experience exercises to identify the mission of the brand and how the online experience should look and feel. For other merchants they already have an established brand and they need help marketing and promoting those products online.
We use a model called RACE which stands for Reach, Act, Convert and Engage. Each stage corresponds to a stage within a typical customer journey of Awareness, Decision, Purchase, Advocacy.
Specializing in Digital Transformations
We have 4 core competencies that clients most seek us out for:
- Customer acquisition and retention - Helping clients acquire and build relationships with their customers.
- Channel Optimization - Helping clients optimize the channels that they are selling on.
- Marketplaces - Helping clients sell their products on popular marketplaces like Amazon, eBay or Walmart
- Strategy & Analytics - Helping clients turn data into insights and insights into growth strategies.
Within the Channel Optimization practice listed above, one of the areas that is becoming increasingly popular is our ‘dynamic content’ practice. Today, most websites are static meaning they present the same content to all the users who visit the website. We help our clients present dynamic content or in other words, we help clients show different types of content to different audiences depending on things like gender, time of year, or whether they have visited the site before or not. For example, let’s say that a customer is browsing a site and adds a handbag to her wishlist. Well the next time she visits the site we can show a message on the homepage that says ‘10% off of all handbags’ and only she will see it. When you think about it, it’s almost nonsensical that most sites out there today treat all visitors the same. Brands don’t do that in real life nor should they do that online. When they present the same static content to everyone who visits the site they miss a big opportunity to connect with their customers by leveraging more relevant content.
Website and Conversion Optimization is a core competency for us. And it’s not just something we pay lip service to. We invest in tools that allow us to run scientific experiments on our clients websites in what is known as A/B and Multivariate testing. Few examples of this are… we grew revenue by 300% for CustomOnIt.com through a series of about 10 changes / experiments on the site. We grew conversion rates from 3% to over 8% (industry average is 2%) for TonerPrice, a leading ink and toner cartridge company through a series of experiments making incremental improvements for each experiment.
Plum Tree is a certified partner across some of the leading solution platforms powering digital transformation such as Magento, Big Commerce, Shopify, VTEX, salesforce, Google and AWS.
Partner not Vendor Mentality
Within our organization we strive to give our people a safe place to take smart risks on the path to driving results for clients as well as their own career growth. In so doing, we create a culture that challenges us both personally and professionally, the byproduct of which results in great experiences for our clients.
We don’t have Account Executives but rather “Client Partners”. These are official titles within our organization. These team members are to view the entire engagement from the client’s perspective and to be an advocate for the client.
- We invest into an “innovation fund” for each client. Depending on the size of the client retainer we take a portion of the engagement revenue and we allocate it to pure innovation and exploration of ideas that are outside of the current scope of engagement. They are meant to foster innovation thinking within our clients and also provide a way to tackle some of the larger organization challenges or as a pathway to explore emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence.
- For select clients we create a Joint Business Relationship and put skin into the game. For example, for one of our biggest clients we created a separate venture to take over one of their underperforming brands and revitalize it into a profitable business. This happened to be an area that the client had all but given up on and so it made for a perfect opportunity for us to co-invest where we only benefit based on performance.
About Daniel Townsend
I'm an "Intrapreneur" who enjoys the arduous, never compromising but always rewarding journey of transformation albeit personal or organizational. My professional journey started in corporate america as a consultant and migrated to startups and emerging businesses where I've held positions from CTO to Marketing Director to CEO. Alas it has led me back to working with some of the world's largest brands in the areas of Digital Innovation and Transformation.
My own personal journey is just as varied having traveled and lived in different parts of the world from the inner city of Los Angeles to the Amazon jungle in Brazil to being a proud father of five.