Back in 2014, an appearance on Dragon’s Den resulted in Lost My Name receiving the highest valuation in the show’s history. The product – a personalised children’s book based on the letters of a child’s name – eventually went on to become a global bestseller.

Three years later, the company is now hugely successful ecommerce business, recently rebranding with a new name – Wonderbly. 

So, alongside a winning product, what has been the key to Wonderbly’s success? Here’s a bit of an insight into what it’s been doing right.

Harnessing data and personalisation 

Wonderbly’s first product, the Little Boy/Girl Who Lost His/Her Name, is a great example of personalisation in its own right. It’s a fairly simple but original premise – the characters and elements of the story correspond to the different letters in a child’s name – and different to the standard idea of using the child's name for the main character.

The brand’s other books, such as Kingdom of You, are based around even greater levels of personalisation, allowing customers to integrate specific details about a child such as their birthday or favourite food. 

Apart from shaping the product itself, Wonderbly is able to use the customer data it generates to take personalisation to another level, making elements of the path to purchase much more relevant and tailored to individuals.

Speaking at last year's Data Science Fest, Ryan Moriarty, Head of Data Science, explained how the company discovered that the female audience accounted for just a 29% share of sales for its book, The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home. In contrast, Lost His/Her Name had a 50/50 split between boys and girls.

On the back of this discovery, the brand re-designed the book’s cover to better highlight its value proposition (reinforcing the ‘home’ element) to appeal to all genders. There was a subsequent 25% increase in conversion rates to females as a result. While Ryan alluded to the fact that the change in design could be seen as Wonderbly giving in to sexist stereotypes, the increase in sales validated the decision.

Wonderbly also heavily draws on customer data to target and re-target consumers, largely focusing on Facebook and its ad platform. The company's co-founder, Depesh Mandalia, has spoken about how Facebook's algorithm and its predictive capabilities has helped the company to better target users on social media.

According to Ometria, CRM is also a huge focus, with the company drawing on data from previous customers to inform future marketing. If a customer has already bought Lost Her Name, for instance, it will retarget the same person with a pre-personalised mock-up of Kingdom of You – re-engaging with the user based on an existing relationship, and allowing them to imagine the next step in the journey.

Using customer insight

In his talk at Data Science Fest, Ryan Moriarty also explained how, alongside using customer data to optimise on-site targeting (e.g. showing certain characters that might appeal to different genders or countries), Wonderbly also uses insight – usually in the form of surveys and online feedback – to inform the future product roadmap. 

For example, the assumption might be that all customers are parents or grandparents – but what if the buyer doesn’t necessarily know specific details about a child, such as their favourite food or home address?

Before launching Kingdom of You – a book which relies on more personal details of a child – the brand surveyed potential customers on the likelihood they would buy the product in future. 

Results found that as the relationship to the child grew more distant (i.e. from a parent to an aunt, to a family friend) – the likelihood decreased. Thanks to this feedback, Wonderbly is currently working on optimising the copy in targeted emails based on these differing relationships.

Similarly, it’s also experimenting in the same way with customer intent, aiming to capitalise on the reasons why someone might buy a book for a child and how it might make them feel – as opposed to just the delight of the child.

Focus on UX 

Another aspect that sets Wonderbly apart is its focus on design. With customers creating their own books online, a fun and seamless user experience is vital – something the brand certainly delivers on. 

At the heart of this UX is the book creation tool, which allows users to preview books in full before buying them. 

However, before customers even get into this process, the site’s use of video and graphics create a wonderfully immersive experience, hooking users in to the brand’s ethos and the story behind each book.

The product pages include a few nice touches, too, such as prominent reviews and a visible ‘free shipping’ promise. 

However, the site’s preview tool is arguably its most impressive feature. With a lot of ecommerce sites still lacking in high quality product imagery, it’s a novel experience to be able to see exactly what the final product will look like. Moreover, it means that the company is perhaps able to reduce dissatisfaction with the final product – as customers will already be fully aware of what they’re going to receive. 

I also like the fact that the site’s simple UX is suited to all age ranges, too. So whether a parent or less-tech savvy grandparent is using the site, the functional design means it will be easy for most people to use.

Social media marketing

While much of Wonderbly’s growth has stemmed from word-of-mouth, which was then bolstered by paid advertising and CRM, it’s recently veered into other areas of online marketing with a number of social campaigns. 

Instead of just promoting the product, however, it aims to provide value, creating campaigns that inherently offer something useful or helpful for customers.

It has previously supported worthwhile events and causes, such as World Book Day, encouraging youngsters to read with an incentivised ‘Snowy Book Peaks’ tutorial.

Similarly, it uses competitions to encourage user involvement and interaction. Its 'Food Monster' award gave people the chance to have their child’s drawing turned into a professional illustration by artist Marija Tiurina. The competition generated an onslaught of interest online, and a follow-up competition as a result.

More recently, the brand appears to be placing more focus on social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, capitalising on hashtags to build engagement and encourage user generated content

Meanwhile, it's not afraid to use a personal or humorous tone of voice on Twitter, which serves to increase user engagement and levels of customer retention. Once someone has purchased one product (perhaps for their own child), the brand strives to re-engage with customers, using this kind of interaction to inspire repeat purchases and interest in new products.

In conclusion…

Combining a smart use of data with slick design, Wonderbly is a great example of how to build a successful ecommerce company on the back of a single idea.

What’s more, as consumer expectations only increase, it demonstrates how important it is to integrate personalisation into every step of the user experience.

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 31 July, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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