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Check out the latest episode of Social Circles: a podcast about eCommerce best practices brought to you by Flowbox. Each episode we sit down with a brand that has found success selling their products online to discuss what’s working in the world of eCommerce today.
This episode features Llinos Evans, the Communications Manager at Tentsile – the world’s original Tree Tent driving social change to save the world’s trees.
Listen now or read the transcript below.
[Flowbox] Hello and welcome to Social Circles. A podcast about eCommerce best practices brought to you by Flowbox. Flowbox is Europe’s leading visual commerce platform, and we specialize in User Generated Content.
I’m Charlie Brook, and today I’ll be speaking with Llinos Evans, the Communications Manager of Tentsile. Tentsile is an eCommerce brand that’s about to celebrate their six year anniversary this March, selling a product that looks like a tent but sits up in the trees like a hammock. The brand grew out of an interest in protecting trees from deforestation by finding a fun way to spend more time in them. Llinos is a big fan of spending time in the outdoors, which led her to her current position as Communications Manager with Tentsile.
[Flowbox] So I would just love to start with a brief introduction of yourself and the brand just to learn a little bit more about how your products came to be and your brand’s story.
[Tentsile] Yes so I joined the Tentsile team about three years ago now. I started off as kind of just helping out in the marketing team as communications assistant and then progressed into a full time role as a social media officer. And now for about a year I’ve been responsible as the communications manager. So the company is ready. We’re about six years old. We’ll be having a sixth birthday on March 18. We’re all very excited about it. The company was really born out of a passion for trees and a drive to affect social change to protect the world’s trees. It was actually founded by a tree house architect in London. Alex Shirly Smith. He was inspired by his childhood dreams of a village in Star Wars to create our Tree Tents and believed if we all hung out in trees then they can’t be chopped out. So as I said he conceived of these Tree Tents as comfortable living spaces for people to camp in suspended above the ground.
[Flowbox] And they really are amazing to see. So this is kind of obviously a very unique kind of product. So I’m sure there are a lot of challenges that come with selling a product that people haven’t heard of before, haven’t seen before. Could you give me some examples of the challenges that come with that?
[Tentsile] I mean you’ve kind of already hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly it. The biggest challenge is just getting people familiar with Tree Tents as a concept in themselves. You know people have already heard of hammocks and obviously ground tents but camping suspended above the ground is relatively new to them. So not everyone is aware that we’ve essentially combined the two. So you get all that you would with a hammock but as you have the added top with the tent you get extra security of a tent as well. So that’s the initial thing is just getting people comfortable with the product. Used to camping in this way and convincing them that this is really a more comfortable, more flexible way to camp because you’re not restricted by the terrain you’re around and you’re not restricted if it’s uneven or wet.
[Flowbox] And do feel like people are open to this? This change of idea? This new message?
[Tentsile] Definitely definitely. I mean we’ve seen six years since we’ve been on scene we’ve revolutionized camping. You know we see more companies popping up trying to create Tree Tents like ours but you know we have the original USP on it. And comfort and security and safety and our customers already paramount to us. All we want to do is ensure that people you know have the best time experiencing the great outdoors, as much choice of experiencing the great outdoors as they’d like.
[Flowbox] Perfect. So now let’s move on to the eCommerce side. What is it like getting people interested in your products via your online presence and what kind of challenges arise in this way?
[Tentsile] So there’s really good news we see a great amount of traffic on our website. And a great amount of engagement over social. So that shows that people are really interested in these products and us in general. But as I said previously because the Tree Tents all relatively new you’re not necessarily, on the eCommerce side of things, you’re more likely to have a returning customer coming to look at the products, get familiar with the products before they make that commitment to buy. So we actually see a lot more eCommerce from returning visitors because people may need a few more visits to finally click that checkout button. So that’s the main challenge is just building trust in people, gaining their confidence so they feel comfortable and they can use our products and it’s suitable for them. But you know the way we do that is provide as much information as possible over our website and also social, a great amount of User Generated Content that helps build customers’ trust and inspire them to get out in the great outdoors with our product.
[Flowbox] Great. Great. We’re always excited to hear about brands using User Generated Content. So I’ll definitely get on to talking about that in a bit. But before that, I would love to know how is it that you want your customers to feel when they see images of the Tentsile brand on your eCommerce store or on social media and what do you do to ensure that?
[Tentsile] Well we want them to feel inspired to go on an adventure in the great outdoors with their friends and family no matter how big or how small you want to define that adventure. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re an avid backpacker, a trial runner, a survivalist, or you just want to hang out on the beach or park with your friends, or even set up an awesome portable treehouse for the kids in the garden. We like to think there’s a Tentsile for everyone. And the way we ensure that is you know creating the inspiration and getting people excited about being in the great outdoors is just using the best content possible and using a range of content that speaks to a lot of our audience. So we’d like to use a mix of content that would engage families you know maybe on their annual camping holiday trip, or you know explorers who maybe like to go off on a solo expedition, or groups of friends who just want to hang out together. So we just unsure that our content speaks to everyone.
[Flowbox] Amazing. Yes, and I’ve seen that your social media seems like it plays a huge role into your eCommerce strategy. I would love to hear more about some of the tactics that you use on Instagram because it really is one of those really inspiring Instagram accounts that shows just a lot of really exciting pictures of the outdoors which I know it definitely sparked something inside of me. So can you tell me what it is that you do on Instagram to encourage people to get eyes on your products?
[Tentsile] So it’s almost what I’ve mentioned before but we just use the most impactful images on Instagram as possible. Instagram has been incredibly important to the business especially in the early days and that’s where a lot of our following came from. And we just encourage as many people as possible to use #Tentsile and #TentsileTribe on their images so that they feel part of something, part of the Tentsile Tribe, part of the community. And it’s always a real thrill when you see some of the incredible places people been using our Tree Tents and hammocks.
[Flowbox] And how would you describe the brand community? How do you get your customers to feel like they can be a part of the community through what you post on Instagram?
[Tentsile] So using the Tentsile Tribe hashtag is a big part of that. We usually have giveaways or campaigns around hashtags so people can get involved and also even just working in the company. It’s like a big family already. So we already have three brothers at the helm. And so the Tentsile Tribe just feels like a large extended family that share our love for trees and passion for camping. Another way we get people involved is that we have our annual summer campouts every year. It happened the past two years. The first year I think they were in California and Italy and then last year they were in California again and in Germany.
[Flowbox] So is something that you actually invite people to come and camp with you guys?
[Tentsile] Yeah exactly. It’s really nice. So it’s a mix of kind of kind of our most avid Tentsile fans, customers, some influences and photographers and press. And then a lot of the Tentsile team as well. So it’s just a really nice chance to get to meet customers, to get to have a feel of how they like to camp. And also just to spread the word about Tentsile as much as possible.
[Flowbox] Wow, that’s really exciting. And so does everybody who works at the brand kind of have some interest in camping or spending time in the outdoors?
[Tentsile] Yeah, we all do. It’s lovely really because it just means that, I feel we are in an incredibly privileged position to be able to go out into the great outdoors with our Tentsiles to do a photography shoot or you know to do some product testing. Instead of being stuck in the office. And also to do all these events where we do campouts or you know it may be a trade show event where we are setting the tents up in the trees for people to use. So everyone does have an interest in camping and being out in the great outdoors and especially for the UK team, we’re based in Sheffield. For people in the UK it’s one of England’s main places for the great outdoors. You’ve got the peaks right nearby, that’s awesome for hiking. It’s great for climbing, trail running, camping. It’s just a beautiful location to be in.
[Flowbox] And such a great place for you to be selling your product then. So why do you feel it’s important to build a brand community when selling online? If we’re just getting back to eCommerce a little bit. What do you find is the best way to connect with people?
[Tentsile] So I think I mean it’s really important because it builds peoples’ confidence and trust in the company. As I’ve said before, because it’s a relatively new product you need a bit more time to kind of onboard customers so they feel really comfortable using the product. I’m really confident in Tentsile as a company. So the best ways we find to connect people is really over social and through our blogs. So we try and write blogs that have a specific role to solve problems for customers. It’s just to give them all the tips and the hacks they need to use our products in the most successful way possible.
[Flowbox] And what do you believe is working in the world of eCommerce right now?
[Tentsile] So I think email marketing is a real huge driver. I mean it always has been but now that the social algorithms have changed slightly it feels that more people in the industry have seen a big uptake in a lot more e-mail give away landing pages at the moment. That’s kind of in reaction to the Facebook algorithm. But one of the big drivers in the world of eCommerce right now I’d say is using User Generated Content because you know customers nowadays, they’ve got to fingers on the pulse they’re really aware of sponsored posts or content it just doesn’t feel very real. They’ll pick up on anything that feels staged and we have a wealth of great User Generated Content. We have loads of customers that love our products and recommend them. So it makes sense to utilize that.
[Flowbox] Great. And so just going further on User Generated Content. You include this within your other eCommerce practices. I know that you use it on social media. Do you extend it further or how important is User Generated Content?
[Tentsile] We have community pages on our website. That’s the hub of our User Generated Content. We are developing our website and over the next few months. So we’re hoping to make a more out of that. I just think it’s incredibly valuable because it just shows potential customers what our products look like in real life situations and they can really see themselves using it. You know as a small team it just means we get a wealth of rich content and from really great photographers from all over the world. So you know stuff that we wouldn’t necessarily be able to get out and get ourselves. Just a great way to display that customers are satisfied and would recommend our Tree Tents and hammocks.
[Flowbox] And you guys have set up some really amazing partners. Such as We Forest and the Eden projects which is really inspiring and I think is really helpful to show kind of what your company values. So would you tell me what it’s like to have these kinds of partners and what does it mean to your audience and to you to have them partner with your brand?
[Tentsile] I think it’s so important. I mean the for me personally the company’s environmental ethos and kind of green principles is the whole reason I was attracted to working at Tentsile. So we’re really proud that we work with these tree planting partners and we also have other conservation partners. So we work with leaving a trace center in the US, all day foundation in the US as well, European Outdoor Conservation Association, The Outdoor Industry Association and 1% for the planet. So that means we donate 1 percent of all revenue to their conservation projects. I’m really proud to say that we planted over 435,000 trees with We Forest and Eden Projects so far and so this is all part of our become one in a million campaign goal of planting one million trees over the next five years. And in terms of how it helps us connect with our audience, I mean the whole reason we started Tentsile was because we love trees, want to protect them and want to share that love and drive with as many people as possible. And whenever you make a commitment to purchase a Tentsile tree tent hammock you’re making a commitment to plant 20 trees. So the entire, all our customers you know participate in that ethos and it bonds us together a way.
[Flowbox] Well I think it’s really cool. It definitely was inspiring to learn a lot about it. I’ve already seen the products before, I mean they look amazing. I’ve never actually gotten to try one myself but I would love to one day. Speaking of your products though what’s what’s your favorite Tentsile product?
[Tentsile] That’s kind of hard. And I know it’s cop out if I say that they’re all great but they are all great. My personal favorite probably is the Connect to Person tree tent because that’s the one I use most. So me and my partner have spent many camping trips in it. So it’s essentially just a really spacious two person tree tent and it’s open on all sides. So it’s really easy to get in and out and I’m really excited, this year we’ll be launching our small double bubble insect mesh which means that you could put a two person hammock underneath, attach the insect mesh and then you’d have a Tentsile stack. But it’s all enclosed in one space, sort of like a two story camping solution.
[Flowbox] Wow that sounds amazing. If anyone hasn’t seen these products you have to go and check it out on their Instagram or on their website. It’s really really amazing. So those are all of my questions. Is there anything else that you’d like to share about you guys, about Tentsile?
[Tentsile] Yeah. I want to let you know about some exciting plans we have for our sixth birthday in March. So March 18th we’ll be celebrating our sixth birthday and we’re really excited to celebrate by launching a new product, a brand new product, the Tentsile Universe. It’s the world’s first three element tent. So that means you can set it up in the air, suspended in the trees like out normal Tree Tents. You can also set it up on the ground and most importantly on the water. So it’s the kind of sup board bottom with the usual poles and insect mesh and rain-like configuration and ratcheting system. Bu it’s just a really comfy family ground tent, a great swimming pond too. And if you’re out on the lake or you know fishing and then also an awesome tree tent like the rest of our products. So it’s our most groundbreaking model yet. And if you can’t wait until March 18th it’s available to preorder from Monday. But it’s a limited run. So there’s only a limited amount available but we’ll also be giving you the chance to win a Tentsile Universe as part of our birthday raffle. So every year for our birthday we do a kind of reforestation raffle. Which means for every ticket, two dollar ticket you purchase, we plant 10 trees. So we’re really hoping to increase our number from last year and plant as many trees as possible.
[Flowbox] How amazing, well happy birthday. And yeah those are all the questions. Thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been really really great getting to speak to you about this amazing product.
[Tentsile] Awesome, thanks for having me. And yeah, if anyone wants to find out more as you said then head over to our social, Facebook, Instagram or tentsile.com. We’ve also got a great newsletter that keeps you up to date with all the latest news and any product releases and exclusive discounts as well.
[Flowbox] Again, that was Llinos Evans from Tentsile. And I really do suggest you all check out their amazing products on Instagram or on their website. Thanks for joining us today. We’ll be back again soon with more from the world of eCommerce. But for now, subscribe to Social Circles to keep updated on our new episodes or check out shoppable UGC galleries at hi.Flowbox.com. Thanks again.