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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

5 Minutes with a CEO: Scott Phillips of Rise Art

Upside spoke recently with the founder of an online art marketplace about how analytics are used in his company to improve the customer journey.

Scott Phillips is one of the two founders of Rise Art, a curated marketplace that helps connect talented artists with casual art collectors. He holds an MBA from London Business School and has worked with Microsoft, Dialog Semiconductor, and online video network Rightster in strategy and development roles.

Upside spoke with him recently about how analytics are used in his company to improve the customer journey.

About Being a CEO

UPSIDE: Is there a piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you first became a CEO?

Scott Phillips: When we first started Rise Art, it was the two founders, a business plan, and a couple of laptops. When you are part of something early like this, you quickly realize that there are no defined roles. You just roll up your sleeves and get started.

I wish that someone had told me to focus more on recruiting, hiring, and retaining exceptional talent as the initial business evolved. As the founder and CEO, I’m in the unique position to sell the vision, passion, and opportunity of a start-up in the early days. If we had really focused on hiring incredible talent early on, we may have been able to move faster as a team in certain areas.

What is the one thing you wish people knew about your job?

It takes a certain personality to become an entrepreneur and start a company. In some ways, it’s crazy. You give up certainty and a steady income and replace it with a lot more stress and uncertainty, but it’s incredibly rewarding and fun. I am driven to create things and starting this company has been an incredible learning experience. It can be daunting, scary and there are times when you just don’t want to face the music.

I think the best entrepreneurs are truly passionate about what they do. There will be a lot of struggles, but if you are persistent and truly believe, you can create something incredible. I want people to know how much I love my job and the business we are creating.

About Your Work

What do you think is one trend or idea that is the most overhyped in business?

Pivot is one term that I think is way overhyped and too frequently celebrated. A lot has been discussed recently about the “lean start-up” and the notion of building a minimum viable product -- testing and iterating and only really investing when something sticks. Although I don’t argue with the methodology, I see a lot of founders pivoting too frequently and not really giving an idea a chance to resonate with users.

As a marketplace connecting professional artists with art buyers worldwide, a lot of our success depended on building a trusted brand and a network of really talented artists. It took time for our business to gain traction. I feel that many entrepreneurs rush too quickly from one thing to the next. If you have raised funding and built a team, you can pivot your team once -- maybe twice max. Beyond this you start losing the confidence of your team and your customers.

At worst, pivoting is used as an excuse by founders that haven’t done enough diligence and user testing before launching a product or service.

What’s the one thing you can’t do your job without?

I can’t live without my mobile phone and task management tools. I am frequently traveling, with clients, or not at my desk, and the phone keeps me connected whether I’m replying to a colleague’s request or speaking with clients.

I go between many task management tools; I currently use Omnifocus which helps me get things out of my mind and into a system where important things don’t fall through the cracks. Being in the art world, our product is incredibly visual and great for social media. I am often browsing Instagram, Pinterest, and other visual apps on my phone to keep up with how things are rapidly evolving on this media.

Using Analytics

How are you, personally, using analytics in your day-to-day decisions? What data do you look at every day? Every week?

I try not to look at too many data reports on a daily basis. I’ll sometimes track vanity metrics to satisfy my ego, such as how many visitors are coming to the site and conversion rates, but the deeper dive comes on a weekly basis when I look at the funnel with our team of data analysts.

We have a dashboard and spreadsheets aligned to our KPIs, and we measure metrics across acquisition, engagement, and retention. We created a number of customer funnels that look at engagement metrics as users progress through the site. We compare these weekly against acquisition channels and site-wide targets. If headline numbers are unexpected or a certain channel shows an unusual spike, the team and I will look more deeply at the channels to understand what took place.

We are testing a number of marketing channels and campaigns, so we also use this as an opportunity to review all the current tests and realign budgets accordingly. Our analytics team is obviously doing a deeper dive on a daily basis to inform everything from A/B testing to marketing spending, but I don’t tend to get involved unless a decision needs to be made on a new campaign or feature set.

What’s the most significant outcome you’ve seen come from analyzing data?

Some of the most immediately rewarding outcomes have resulted from looking at how users are going through the site and how we can improve the process to serve them better. Early in 2016, the team spent a lot of time looking at abandoned carts and the behavior that led to a purchase. We then identified a few areas to test to improve the experience and customer service.

After trying a few different ideas, we landed on the system of customer service that we are using and improving today, and the impact on the bottom line has been really strong. In the last six months we can see that over £100K in orders have come from activating customers further down the funnel.

What one thing do you wish your organization could analyze better (and why)?

One area that we are looking to improve is our attribution models. Art can be something that people discover and engage with but don’t ultimately purchase until they have a specific need. Many of our clients take some time to convert.

Because they may use multiple devices and not be logged in at all times, attributing a sale to a specific channel can be incredibly difficult. This makes it difficult to fully evaluate and understand the returns on many of our marketing campaigns. As we roll into 2017, the team is working hard to improve our attribution models to provide us with additional insight into user behavior and journeys.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the editorial director of TDWI, including research reports, the Business Intelligence Journal, and Upside newsletter. You can contact him via email here.

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