Behind the Shop - Ian Rhodes, Retention

4 min read
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In our Behind the Shop series, we take a closer look into the people that have been building your favorite online stores.

The ecommerce and online shopping revolution rages on. We usually only encounter the storefronts, so we asked ourselves: who are the storebuilders behind the scenes? And what can they teach us about building the perfect online store?

This time around, we talked to Ian Rhodes, founder of Retention. This ecommerce growth consultancy offers (DTC) ecommerce businesses the support they need to improve their customer retention and grow profitable repeat business.

Hi Ian! Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure! I’ve spent the past 24 years building and growing ecommerce brands. From the days pre-Google when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I consult with brands on organic strategies that drive profitable, sustainable ecommerce growth.

Behind-the-Shop-Ian-Rhodes-Jessie-and-James-LondonSet up shop like Retention's client Jessie and James

What’s the biggest challenge you struggled with recently as an ecommerce consultant?

Two things. The first challenge is DTC brands who haven’t identified their product/market fit. Great products with a desire for a wider audience that have struggled to identify their core audience. Their ideal customer. It’s the marketing foundation where a lot of ecommerce brands struggle. True customer centricity has never been so important.

Secondly, the desire for quick growth. Attempts to shortcut and the misguided belief that a Facebook ad, 10% discount code and an out-of-the-box Shopify product page is enough to build traction. That’s not a route to sustainable growth.

And what steps did you take to overcome this challenge?

Preaching. I’m fortunate that I can reel off stories, the good, bad and ugly, from 100s of brand founders I’ve worked with or listened to. This stuff takes a lot of hard work, a lot of creative thinking and trusted advice.

Behind-the-Shop-Ian-Rhodes-Retention-quoteClick to Tweet

More about Retention. Why do people come to your service and how can you help them?

I help founders figure all this stuff out. To take ownership of their marketing, focus on channels and to do the less ordinary. Ultimately, it’s about the routes to take, the pitfalls to avoid and the journey to profitable, sustainable ecommerce growth.

If you had to pick one thing. What would be the single most important factor in creating a solid ecommerce strategy for growth?

Apart from the obvious - a damn good product - at the foundation you should be building an active, engaged community. And that means making the shift from viewing ‘the list’ as a sales channel.

Learn how to open the doors to your brand, let people truly get to know the inner workings, and share the journey alongside your customers. It’s exciting building an ecommerce business. Let your people feel part of the experience.

Behind-the-Shop-Ian-Rhodes-ODs-Designer-ClothingSet up shop like Retention's client Room to Grow

How do Shopify and social shopping support each other? Any valuable insights into where this is going in 2021 and beyond?

Social shopping is where you build your audience and build trust (telling your customer and your products' stories). Shopify is the mechanism to help people make their purchase as easily and as confidently as you can.

What are you doing to stay relevant to Retention, personally? And what’s Retention doing to stay relevant to its customers?

Taking inspiration from the real success stories in the ecommerce marketplace. Figuring out what works. Learning how to make the most of technology (not just launching tech tools). And gentle reminders of building on solid foundations.

Behind-the-Shop-Ian-Rhodes-ODs-Designer-ClothingSet up shop like Retention's client OD's Designer Clothing

Can you suggest 2-3 people from your own extensive Shopify network every agency owner and merchant should follow for inspiration? And why these people in particular?

3 people that I take inspiration from, but aren’t necessarily in my network, or even alive...

  • Bernadette Jiwa - her writing on effective business storytelling and why story matters is contagious.
  • Eugene Schwartz - he literally wrote the book on everything you need to know about building an ecommerce brand… before ecommerce existed. Clever.
  • Dave Harland - he’ll teach you how to be a better copywriter. And copywriting is where most marketers, if they admit it or not, struggle.
Behind-the-Shop-Ian-Rhodes-Vaping-comSet up shop like Retention's client Vaping.com

Everyday, there are thousands of people venturing into ecommerce. What’s your biggest piece of advice?

Ignore the 1000s of pieces of advice from people who haven’t built an ecommerce brand.


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Jonas van de Poel

Jonas van de Poel

Content Writer for ShopPop. Polyglot and wordsmith armed with fountain pen and ergonomic keyboard. Loves copywriting, marketing, and wearing shades at night.