Brand Recognition: An Essential eCommerce Strategy for Emerging Brands

Emma Secombe is the Director of eCommerce at Vibe Jewelry, which produces jewelry inspired by St. John and designed by local artists. She has experience in sales growth, digital marketing, product assortment planning, merchandising, and art directing. As a seasoned e-commerce director in the fashion industry, Emma has worked for brands like Mark Cross, Paul Stuart, Inc., and 3x1.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Emma Secombe’s e-commerce-focused background in the fashion industry
  • The core qualities of a sustainable brand
  • What is Vibe Jewelry?
  • How Emma prioritized Vibe Jewelry’s e-commerce efforts
  • Short-term and long-term e-commerce challenges in jewelry: brand awareness and storytelling 
  • Identifying influencers to reach a diverse customer base

In this episode…

As a brand specializing in nonessential products, it can be challenging to generate brand awareness, especially in the beginning. It often requires a tactical e-commerce strategy and a willingness to learn. 

With expertise in fashion and a deep knowledge of e-commerce, Emma Secombe has spearheaded e-commerce efforts for an emergent jewelry brand. Having started from scratch, she recommends prioritizing fundamental efforts that create the most impact at the lowest costs, like streamlining the checkout experience and simplifying website navigation. To gain brand recognition quickly, you can leverage influencers to promote your products and develop engaging creative campaigns with high-quality images and videos. These efforts also aid in establishing an identifiable brand story.

Tune in to this episode of Ecom Experiences as Samir Balwani meets with Emma Secombe, the Director of eCommerce at Vibe Jewelry, to talk about brand recognition and e-commerce strategies for emerging brands. Emma shares how to select influencers for a broader reach, the qualities of a sustainable brand, and her e-commerce-heavy background in the fashion industry.

Where to listen:

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:00

Hey welcome to another episode of Ecom Experiences a podcast where e-commerce marketing leaders who want to grow and scale their brands faster. Join us as we interview some of the smartest brand founders and marketing leaders in the industry. Explore the lessons they learned discover the keys to their success, discuss what excites them most about the future.

Samir Balwani 0:28

It's Samir Balwani. Here hosted Ecom Experiences where we talk to brand founders and marketing leaders about their experiences growing their companies. This episode is brought to you by QRY. QRY is a paid media agency that helps brands balanced brand awareness and performance marketing to drive predictable and profitable growth. To learn more about how we can help you visit I'm really excited about our guest today. I Emma Secombe, the director of e-commerce at Vibe Jewelry here today. I'm so excited to have her. Thank you for joining us. Hi, thank you for having me. I'm Emma. I love this. I'm so excited to chat with you. Because we've known each other for a while now. And I'm always impressed by our conversation. So this is going to be so much fun. So why don't we just start with the easy stuff. Emma, tell me. You know who you are, where you're working these days and how you got there?

Emma Secombe 1:25

Great. Yeah, so as I said, I'm Emma I'm director of e-commerce currently at Vibe Jewelry. I've been working as a director of e-commerce or head of e-commerce for about 10 years now probably, it's something I kind of fell into. But it's been fun and enjoyable, I going all the way back I went to fit for fashion, my intention was to become a buyer. And so my first role outside of retail, my first role was as a buyer for reformation, which is a brand that had very, very rapid growth in e-commerce and still like a leader today. And I was there as like one of the initial employees to really see all of that e-commerce growth happen and be there to make it happen. So that was kind of the way I fell into e-commerce. And then from there, I've been running e-commerce for many different brands, mostly in fashion, a little bit of home. Accessories, but mostly fashion. So yeah,

Samir Balwani 2:32

that's so much fun. Yeah, so Tommy fashion, home accessories, what's your favorite.

Emma Secombe 2:38

So when I was younger, I really, I really gravitated towards fashion. As I get older. I think I'm more I gravitate more towards home and accessories. But I still like. But I do like to be I tried to be very thoughtful with the brands that I work for. Because I mean in the times that we live in now there's a lot of consumption and all of that. So I like to work for brands that have some sort of sustainable components or are like thoughtful and their ethos and all of that so or brands that are making something that like really will stand the test of time. So right now I work for a fine jewelry brand, where the materials are high quality, and that's like kind of something that can be passed on and not end up in a landfill. So that's important to me as well. So, yeah,

Samir Balwani 3:32

so funny because like, if you add beauty into the mix, Emma, you'll have worked in the four hardest e-comm categories. Oh, really? Because at least from my perspective, because fashion. It's such a tactile experience high return rates, like sizing, huge skews. Fashion is a really tough one. And then you get home goods where you're like, alright, large products. Shipping is a problem. Like yeah, do I actually manage this? And then and now in accessories with jewelry. Really expensive price point? I POVs. And generally it really hard to do. Very Luxe shopping experience online to Yeah, so really her categories and the beauty is the fourth one in my mind around how do you sell a scent where you can't smell it? And so yeah, that's awesome. I love I love how you're like yeah, I just want to challenge let's just go in on this and make it real. Yeah, that's awesome. And then so you said you like sustainability brands and things where consumption, you know, where we are seeing a lot of consumption. So tell me more about what you look for in a sustainability brand, either as someone that wants to work in a sustainability bank, or even as a shopper like what are the things that you look for that matter to you versus you're like, Oh, that's not really Yeah.

Emma Secombe 4:59

I mean for me as a shopper, I'm mostly like a vintage and resale shopper. I'm obsessed with the real real. That's like my favorite. But if I am, I guess I don't buy like used to bedding. So if I do like to look for brands that are have transparency and like certifications that are legitimate, like God certification is important for organic products or, but I think it's important if there's a way to utilize recycled materials or fair labor is transparent. I like to look for transparency for things as a shopper. And then when I am working for brands like that, I do try to get as much information from the owners or whoever that is, like the owners, I guess, essentially, and make sure that we can share that to the customer so that they feel like trust with the brand. Yeah,

Samir Balwani 6:00

yeah, I think that's it's funny, because Transparency can mean so many different things. There's like transparent supply chain, but then also like, yeah, around where the product is coming from and what it means and what it does. So yeah, it's awesome. So let's talk let's shift gears, let's talk about the brand you actually work for right now. So tell me more about Vibe Jewelry, you know, what's, what is it? What's the background? What's kind of Yeah,

Emma Secombe 6:25

are they so I'm in many of my role is just to preface I like to work for brands where I believe in the product is there like an initial my initial impression is I believe in the product, but I see a lot of opportunity for improvement. And that was how I felt with many of my past roles and also for five jewelry. So five jewelry is a very successful retail business with now e-commerce as well for the past few years. But a St. John based brand in the US Virgin Islands and their their business has largely been like tourism, retail business, but very strong brand, retail presence there and like a very devoted customer that returns year after year. And there's definitely like a connection to the brand with the customer, which I think is really important. The brand was founded by two friends who are women and they're very like, involved in like donating to charities that like help with women's rights or help domestic violence or things that really like empower women. So that was really important to me as well. And I love that that's important to them. And it's not something that they do just to get like a gold star like for marketing like it's, it's because it's important to them. And like I said before, it is a fine jewelry brand. So it's sterling silver, and 14 karat gold and semi precious and precious stones. And a lot of the businesses hook bracelets, which is kind of like a traditional Caribbean, or St John based product, but they have all other types of jewelry as well. But that's kind of like the signature. And I was drawn to the brand because I like that jewelry, the jewelry is fine jewelry, it's something that can really be passed down and like worn and will live. But I also saw a lot of opportunity with the e-commerce because there were so many improvements that needed to happen, which I think the owners would recognize as well. So I have now been working for the brand for about six months, we've really done a lot of the site design navigation layout, there's still so much to do. But also re shot off and photography and like worked out better PDPs with more information and more photos and now we're working on ways to really get the brand out more with like influencer marketing, but then traditional marketing, digital marketing, like kind of all over the place. So yeah, yeah.

Samir Balwani 9:07

That's, that's amazing. And it's funny because I know we've talked about this in the past to have like, there was so much to do. I'm so curious, and I like how did you prioritize where to start? Like, what were the things that you were you said, Hey, these are things that we need to do first, and be here.

Emma Secombe 9:27

So um, the things that I like to work on first and any situation is like what is going to be the quickest with the biggest impact? Right so or like the least cost with the biggest impact like get those things out of the way quickly? I think what we did like right at the beginning was like workout some bugs at checkout that were potentially affecting conversion and made a much like better navigation so it was easier to find product The thing that was most most important to me, but it wasn't an instant instant thing was reshooting all the product, or just getting better product photography up there, especially for jewelry or higher ticket items, you need to be able to see what it looks like. So there were some challenges before with like, the photos weren't crisp enough, or there weren't enough angles, or there weren't on model photos. So we did a big like on model shoot, actually most products before it didn't have a photo on a model, which is really difficult to understand, like, the proportions and how it fits and everything. Yeah, exactly.

Samir Balwani 10:39

So Oh, that's interesting. Yeah, that's, that's really interesting. So it sounds like you have a lot on your plate. And it sounds like you do a lot in your role. What part of your role like what what do you love? Me? You've been a an e-comm Oh, my, what is the

Emma Secombe 11:00

I, I really liked the variety. Actually, I think that they've been there a time i, i in many of my roles have, like, directed most of the photo shoots, or in some roles, all of the photo shoots. So that's something that's very familiar for me and I enjoy doing, and I think I'm good at as well like both e-comm and like campaigns and lookbook. So it's like very comfortable for me. But I've also considered in my career like, do I move to that? And I've really thought about it at times, and then I've been like, No, I don't want to do it every day. So I also really do enjoy, like the data and like plan I've had to do like planning and buying and merchandising and a lot of my roles as well. So, but I also enjoy, like, looking at how like digital marketing is doing and like, what's our return? And like everything is I like the variety. That's

Samir Balwani 12:04

awesome. It's funny, because it's like every day is something new, you're never in front of you for that day. And that's actually a great way of not getting bored, for sure. That's amazing. So, so let's talk about challenges. So it sounds like there were some challenges, you've already started kind of working through them, I guess. Less? What are, you know, let's let's start with, you know, what are the top two? What are the two biggest challenges that you see ahead of you maybe like one short term that you're handling? And I'm kind of curious about how you're just like overcoming it? And then the second one is maybe more of a long term? Like how are you going to get to whatever the end vision is? So let's start with the short term one, the easy one, right?

Emma Secombe 12:50

So I would say the biggest challenges would be like working with a brand that really doesn't have any brand recognition, besides like specific tourists who have gone to St. John and connected with it. And St. John is definitely a new and interesting challenge, especially when you're working with a like non need based product. Like, in my past role I worked for AT HOME company like you sometimes you need towels, you need bedding, you don't need jewelry. So I think that that's an interesting challenge, which is something that we're working through with like influencer marketing, but then also like our creative and it's, it's great that we actually do have some like organic influencers that really love the brand that we've been able to work with in a bigger way with like codes and things like referrals. And yeah, that's been really great. But I would say that that's like a big challenge. Like it's essentially kind of like a brand new brand. But it's not an investor backed brand. It's like owned by two friends. It's there's not like some, you know, investor or whatever, who's funding

Samir Balwani 14:02

just kind of pile of money just like sitting there to do things.

Emma Secombe 14:05

I will say that the owners are very, they really believe in e-commerce and because they have such a strong retail business like we are, for the most part able to do what we want to do, it's just it's not the same as Yeah, like a company that's like we're brand new and now like the subway is full of our ads like it's right.

Samir Balwani 14:24

I'm really curious, like, where are you looking at for brand awareness? You know, in a limited perspective from that, that's it.

Emma Secombe 14:32

Yeah. So we're really leaning into the influencer marketing, but we also I mean, there's been some it's being a non US based brand like we've had to go over some like hurdles as far as getting set up on tick tock and tick tock shot but that's something that we want to do and should be able to get on soon. Because I think that that'll be an important thing to test. I think there's a lot of opportunity there. Um, which we have not started yet. But officially now we have a US address so we can do that. We can start it. But yeah, I do think influencer is really important. And then, like, just in social marketing in general, like on Facebook and Instagram, we're doing like local, like targeting with our current audience, but then also just like testing out in, in general with people who have similar interests to the brand. But it's kind of like throwing it all out there and seeing what sticks. Yeah. Yeah, it's

Samir Balwani 15:35

awesome. Yeah, yeah, that's really interesting. Yeah, I think the challenge you're dealing with around brand awareness is something that we talked about pretty regularly with a lot of our brands around. Yeah, it's funny, because until you're a fortune 500, it's never really enough. Right? Like, just always be awareness. And so, yeah, finding that balance between how much brand awareness are we doing and brand marketing versus performance? Yeah, you know, do you do the Airbnb style? No performance all brand? Or is it like that? And you know, my perspective is somewhere not that far. But I think a key elements to be played here. So that's really exciting. I'm curious, when you're thinking about brand marketing? How How did you come up with the story that you're going to be telling in your brand marketing? Is it? Did you create the brand story? Are you like leaning off of what already exists? How are you identifying like, what people.

Emma Secombe 16:35

So that is, I was going to say our other challenge is that we're still kind of working through that, I think there's a lot of opportunity to kind of like finesse and tweak that and then also update, like our branding, in general with colors and fonts. And just like general design, to make the brand feel maybe a little bit fresher. But that's all still in the works has not been implemented yet. But something that we are kind of teasing or thinking about as the brand identity potentially is the kind of like vacation state of mind. So because the brand does have the connection to St. John, which is like a super beautiful island in the Caribbean was like covered in national parks, it's like more nature based Island, maybe even some of other the others. It Yeah, the connection to nature and like vacation is, is really important for the brand. And that's how so many at least of the retail customers, like discovered the brand is in that way. So maybe leaning in towards that. But we are still working out the details. But I will say other things that are important to us are like with the value proposition of the fine materials, is that that is a women owned business is also something that is important for us to have prominent in our marketing. So yeah, but still working on it.

Samir Balwani 18:05

More and more to come. Right. That's exciting. That's awesome. So it sounds like you have a really clear view on the on the challenges you have and how you're going to overcome almost already having a plan in place for a lot of them. So as you look ahead, what are you most excited about? I guess what in 2024, are you You know, you can't wait to do you can't wait to make happen. Oh,

Emma Secombe 18:29

I'm excited for a lot of the changes to actually go live so that we can see the response. So we did a big, big change in October, we updated a lot of the website, we updated all the photography. And we saw really strong November and December, which I was really, really happy about. We do have another big batch of new product and new things to upload a new changes coming. And so I am really interested to see how that goes as far as the actual e-comm like the design and content. But also like as we work with more influencers which this is kind of like a newish program as well. And we've only worked for worked with, I don't know, maybe 15 ish at this point. So it's small. But it's something that we really want to prioritize and as a way to reach new customers. So I'm interested to see how that goes as well. So I'm just excited to see with all of the changes and things that we're working on coming together. Like what, what happens with the business? Yeah,

Samir Balwani 19:32

yeah, I'm really interested. You made me think about a question around working with influencers for a localized business, how do you identify influencers you want to work with that are going to reach customers outside of your local territories, but yeah, how do you choose them?

Emma Secombe 19:49

So we have been looking at so far there, there's been a few bigger influencers who already love The brand which was really great, so we've worked with them but then as far as new influencers we've been partially looking for people who have like a connection to the beach in some way so like maybe they go to Hawaii or like maybe they're I don't know, somewhere else but like they have kind of like a vacation aesthetic and some of their content on their socials. Like maybe they go somewhere regularly or like that's an important part of their lifestyle or whatever. So that's something we've been looking at. It's also really important for us to be to make sure we're working with like a diverse range of like everybody can wear the jewelry all ages, all races all genders like so we are pretty like open to working with like everybody from any type of lifestyle or whatever but we have been looking for kind of like that connection to the beach and some of our our influencers as well.

Samir Balwani 21:04

That's awesome. Yeah, it's funny to see the brand story starting to flow through in all those things, even as it's getting built. That's really cool. Alright, so my last question for you. You are giving advice to a new marketing director? What would it be?

Emma Secombe 21:20

Um, I would say that it's important to keep an eye on I guess what's going on with other brands that are either competitor of the brand you're working for, or just like leaders in general in e-commerce. I think it's also important to look at their socials as well but also engage with maybe like tick tock creators or people that are I think there's so much knowledge that's being shared now on social media and podcasts or whatever about like working in e-commerce and marketing. And I think sometimes you have to take it with a grain of salt, but it is important to keep an ear out for those types of things as well.

Samir Balwani 22:01

I love it. I love it. Because it's it's been such a consistent piece of advice of like, never stop learning. Always be curious. There's so much. And I love that. So thank you so much for joining us today, Emma. If someone wants to find you online, where can people learn more about you?

Emma Secombe 22:17

Um, you can find me on LinkedIn.

Samir Balwani 22:21

And I'll include that in the show notes. So thank you again. We had a great combo. Thank you

Outro 22:33

Thanks for joining us. If you liked it, remember to subscribe so you'll be notified of new episodes. And if you know someone who would enjoy the show, don't forget to share and leave a review. It all helps us impact more brands. If you're looking to improve your paid media go to and schedule a consultation. We're always happy to chat. See you for the next one.

Ready to transform your business?

Don't miss a single update

Get the latest news and analysis delivered to your inbox.