Up Next In Commerce

Up Next In Commerce

By Mission

Welcome to the #1 podcast for commerce teams, executives, and entrepreneurs. Join host Stephanie Postles as she sits down with commerce leaders on the front lines of digital innovation. With guests from established enterprise companies to D2C start-ups barely out of infancy to everyone in between - you’ll get the inside scoop on what’s Up Next in Commerce. New episodes come out every Tuesday and Thursday. Up Next in Commerce is created by Mission.org and brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud.


The Circular Economy: How Avery Dennison is Closing the Gap Between The Physical and Digital World with Max Winograd, VP of Connected Products

Efficiency, transparency, trust. These are all things that both businesses and consumers crave, but don’t always achieve. Especially not all with one solution. But thanks to digital identities, and the technology that’s coming out of Avery Dennison, that’s about to change. Avery Dennison, a Fortune 500 global materials science company, is taking digital identities past the point of simple QR codes and RFID tags, and into a place where brands and consumers will be able to do more with individual products than ever before. We’re talking about a world where you can track the tiniest details of a product in shipment, like its exact origins to its temperature. And brands will have the ability to create more sustainable, reusable products that can learn from consumers each time they use and scan the digital identifiers, making it possible to adapt to changing consumer behavior in real time. To learn more about this new circular economy, I invited Max Winograd to the show, who serves as the VP of Connected Products at Avery Dennison and one of the founders of atma.io. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Max and I talked about all the ways that digital identities are already being used today, and what the future holds in terms of the connected experience that digital identities provide for brands and consumers. There are so many possibilities and upsides to the technology that Max and his team are creating at Avery Dennison, so keep your ears perked up for this awesome conversation! Main Takeaways:Individual Focus: Investments in innovative technology is helping make possible a future that will see consumers more in control of and informed about individual product journeys. Rather than simply tracking an item from the manufacturer to its final destination, consumers can get all the microdetails of a product. So whether you are expecting a shipment of produce or medical supplies and vaccines, Bluetooth, RFID, and other digital identity technology will make it possible to keep an eye on all of the minuscule details, like the temperature of the truck the product is being shipped in.So Long, Single-Use: How we package products is likely to undergo a fundamental change over the next few years. Rather than single-use anything, consumers will be encouraged and ultimately rewarded by having reusable individual containers that have unique digital IDs. So, rather than going to the store to buy a gallon of milk, so can have your own container, scan its QR code or other identifier at your local market, and the backend system will know who you are, what kind of milk you like (skim, oat, almond, etc.) and the exact amount, and will dispense that into your container.A Circle Is Round, It Has No End: Consumers are much more interested in taking part in a circular economy. There is more activity in re-commerce than ever before as customers turn to the resale marketplace. The need for product-level identification becomes crucial here because you can not only trace a product's origins, you can also pass along all of its information in the resale market, including selling it to be recycled and then have the recycled materials continue to be traced all along their journey.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---For a full transcript of this interview, click here. 
16/09/2145m 43s

Seeing Clearly: How KITS Co-founder Roger Hardy has found repeated success in the DTC Eyewear Space through a customer-first approach

Imagine this… it’s 1999, and you and your sibling decide to start an ecommerce company with just a phone line, a 14k modem, a ping pong table, and a credit card. You build a website, find a product that has unnecessary margins, and decide to just.. do it better yourself. Feeling bullish on this ending? Well we are. Because that’s exactly what Roger Hardy did when building his first company called Coastal Contacts, which grew to be the world’s largest omni channel eyewear retailer. The success couldn’t be ignored, and soon after, Coastal was acquired. But one part of that sibling duo, Roger Hardy, couldn’t stay away from the eyewear game forever. He re-entered the space in 2019 with his new company, Kits.com, and by the end of 2021 the business will have already eclipsed $100 million in revenue.On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Roger and I got to chat about some of his secrets to success in the D2C world of eyewear. We dove into the importance of vertical integration, what the link is between a company’s NPS and its valuation, and how to think about hiring if you want to go from 1 to 25 to 100 to 300 and beyond. Enjoy this episode!   Main Takeaways:Who’s In Control?: Vertical integration has been a hallmark of many successful DTC eCommerce companies. When you control all the levers of production, you not only can cut costs and offer customers prices they will love, you also no longer have to worry about delays or logistics problems that otherwise would be out of your control and set you back for untold periods of time.Blend It Together: While you might have an idea of what you want to sell, if you focus only on offering your own premium products, you leave out an entire customer base that might be looking for something a bit different. By offering all kinds of products, you open the door to other customers who might not have found you otherwise. Then, once they are in the funnel, you can blow them away with a quality experience so they keep coming back for more, which is when you can present them with your product options.Beyond Basic: As you begin to scale, there comes a point when you have to think bigger than just hiring to fill roles. Even if the person is smart and a cultural fit, the aim needs to shift to attracting and hiring people who are the best in the world in every department.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---For a full transcript of this interview, click here.  
14/09/2142m 1s

Crowding Funding Secrets: How raising $28M through crowdfunding inspired Dan Shaprio, CEO of Glowforge, to build the ultimate ecommerce experience.

Crowdfunding has been around for centuries — all the way back to the 1700s when Alexander Pope was looking for resources to publish his book. So what did he do? He turned to the people! In return for their funding, his supporters were promised a shout out in the manuscript and would receive a printed copy.  Thanks to the internet, crowdfunding has been taken to another level. With easy access to billions of people — and their wallets — young companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs have used sites like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and others to get some wind in their sails. Dan Shapiro was one of them. Dan is now the Founder and CEO of Glowforge, but before that, he had a massively successful crowdfunding campaign for a board game he had invented for his kids. Through that experience, Dan realized that there were certain elements of crowdfunding that he described as “magic” and that he thought could translate to the world of ecommerce. For his next venture, he wanted to take the high-intent visitors to a crowdfunding site on his website and get them to start converting reliably on the brand’s landing page. He wanted to build a community, and to build excitement that would turn into a flywheel of referrals and inbound leads. Oh, and he wanted to build an inclusive, mission-driven internal culture at the same time.Well guess what. He did just that with his next crowdfunding campaign. With $100K campaign goal that ended up being blown out of the water, hitting $27M in pre-orders, he launched his next endeavor. And we dove through all the details on this episode of Up Next in Commerce! Main Takeaways:Beyond Crowdfunding: The conversion rate of a visitor to Kickstarter is exponentially higher than that of a traditional ecommerce site visitor. So how can you take the elements of a crowdfunding site and bring it over to a traditional online marketplace? There are certain strategies and tactics that transcend crowdfunding and harnessing that energy, excitement, and engagement can be a differentiator for a brand.Bring A Friend: Referral programs are nothing new, but when done right, they can be a game changer for a new brand. Look at your customer base and the products they are buying from your company. If you are selling to naturally extroverted people — any kind of creator — and your product is helping them create something that they’ll want to share, tap into that natural tendency and give them incentives to share what they’re doing and how your company helped. This could lead to a flywheel of inbound customers without having to spend big on marketing.Come Back When You Want: Repeat customers are the lifeblood of many companies. And while getting customers to return is important, how and why they do so is even more critical. You want people to come back to your company because they were delighted by the product or the experience, not because they need to replace a part that wore out or broke. Those experiences leave a bad taste in the consumers’ mouth, and you should be striving for the opposite, especially if you are trying to build a community of advocates.  For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---For a full transcript of this interview, click here. 
09/09/2147m 49s

Scaling from $0 to $25M at the speed of (UV) light with CEO of R-Zero Systems, Grant Morgan

What if I told you that a technology that has been around since the 1910s is the secret sauce to a company that was founded in 2020 and has completely exploded in the year since? And when I say exploded, I mean scaling from $0 to over $25 million in…. Less than a year. Well, that’s the story of R-Zero Systems, and it’s a great example of how, in today’s world, spotting an opportunity, moving fast, and being able to solve problems in real-time is what separates the winners from the losers in the business world. Whether you’re in CPG, retail, healthcare, or some combination of multiple verticals, the biggest problem a company has is the ability to sustainably scale. But R-Zero Systems is showing just how to do it well, and that’s not the only solution the company is bringing to the table. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I sat down with Grant Morgan, the co-founder and CEO of R-Zero Systems, and he told me all about the wild ride the company has been on since its founding in spring of 2020. See, R-Zero is a biosafety technology company that, thanks to its innovative products, helps customers create safer spaces for its patients, employees, students, and anyone else entering an indoor space. It was created for the same reason as any other company — to solve a problem. The difference, though, was that Grant and his team were able to first, ramp up production at a time when few others could, and second, bring something critical to the very specific needs of the market that was already proven to be effective but wasn’t very accessible. Turns out, that’s the key to growing quickly is effectiveness and accessibility all at once, oh, and maybe a few other things too. Want to know what they are? Find out on this episode! Plus, listen closely to hear my epic UV product ideas that I know Grant is eager to add to his product roadmap, and some of the funniest product requests he has received to date. Main Takeaways:Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: One of the factors that affects productivity is sick days. By finding a way to reduce sick days, a company can operate more economically and efficiently. But more than just impacting the bottom line, by investing in creating a healthy environment, you are providing workers a better overall experience.Proof Positive: Even when you are working with a proven technique, application, or resource, when you introduce it in a new way, you have to go through the due diligence to re-prove its efficacy. Especially when what you are trying to prove is invisible to the human eye.The Right DNA: In order to scale, hiring is key. But this task shouldn’t be treated lightly. One wrong hire can impact the culture in more ways than one could imagaine. So how do you create and keep a culture worth building around, and find the right people for the company? Tune in to hear how Grant things about hiring within a fast growing company.!For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---For a full transcript of this interview, click here.
07/09/2154m 25s

The Not-So-Far-Out Future with Rightpoint’s Chief Commerce Officer, Phillip Jackson

Okay, so sitting around trying to predict the future can be a pretty fun challenge. But for Phillip Jackson, the Chief Commerce Officer at Rightpoint and the Co-founder of Future Commerce, there’s no better way to spend a day — or an hour on a podcast. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Phillip and I went deep down the rabbit hole of all the crazy trends we’re currently seeing in the ecommerce world, and where we expect the industry to head next. From spotting innovation in the gaming community, building the ecommerce metaverse, or working with disruptor brands on high-risk, high-reward ideas to grow a digital community, we touched on it all. Plus, if you think big retail is dead, tune in to hear Phillip’s interesting take on how that is anything but true, and how the D2C brands currently praised on Twitter are nothing in comparison to the private revolution happening in places like Target and Walmart. Just check out the GMV if you don’t believe him! This was such a fun interview, and I loved getting the chance to pick the brain of another smart, forward-thinking podcast host and ecommerce enthusiast! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!Main Takeaways:Retail Takeover: The private label revolution is all around us, you just have to know where to look! Hint: Check the quarterly earnings..Coming Together: Brands love to say they built a community. And while that might be true, the problem is that all brand communities are currently siloed. The future of commerce will be more unified as brands continue to experiment with ways to create an ecommerce metaverse by blending different digital properties, platforms collectibles, and other elements together and making them available more broadly outside of specific channels.Game On: To get a look at where the future of commerce and technology is headed, the best place to look is often in the gaming community, where innovation happens constantly and those innovations often find their way into the real world.Failure is Always An Option: Ecommerce shouldn’t be boring, it should be filled with experimentation, risk-taking, and big swings. Historically, bigger brands have played it safe and stayed on the prescribed path, which has meant they have been left behind by the disruptor brands that are more willing to try, fail, learn, and try again.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---For a full transcript of this interview, click here. 
02/09/2147m 53s

Website Optimization and the Importance of A/B Testing and Qualitative and Quantitative Data

Every business needs a website, and every website needs a landing page. These are universal truths. Where things become fuzzy is when you try to understand what makes a landing page good versus just good enough. The difference between having a landing page that is optimized versus one that just works could be huge: we’re talking more conversions, higher LTV, and, ultimately, more money headed toward your bottom line. So then why are brands still neglecting their landing pages? And what can they do to make them better?I asked those exact questions to Raphel Paulin-Daigle, the founder and CEO of SplitBase, which is helping companies like L’Oreal, Diff Eyewear and more scale their websites in meaningful ways that impact their bottom line. Raphael walked me through some of the biggest mistakes companies are making when it comes to their websites, including the severe lack of patience most brands have for testing and failure. But, as Raphael explains, it’s in the experiments and failures that you learn the most. Tune in for all the insights and get ready to start running A/B tests once this episode is over! Main Takeaways:Math in the Real World: Turns out that statistics class you took in school is important in real life. When it comes to testing, you need to understand and adhere to solid statistical models. This means having patience, getting large sample sizes, and running tests for longer than it takes to build up a reliable data set, rather than just get some quick results that could lead to biases in your numbers.Sweet Simplicity: Asking the basic questions, like “what do you love about this product?” is one of the best, but often-overlooked, ways to get customer feedback that will actually make a difference in marketing copy and product design. Customer feedback is critical, but gathering it has become overly complicated. Break it down to its simplest form and go from there.Don’t Trust Your Gut: The biggest mistake most brands make is believing that they know their customers based solely on anecdotal evidence and internal brainstorming. Your gut instinct about customer personas are usually built on cliches and supposed known factors, which ultimately makes those personas useless. You have to have a more analytical approach that combines both qualitative and quantitative data in order to come up with customer profiles that can be useful to the business objectives.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---For a full transcript of this interview, click here. 
31/08/2135m 47s

Heard It Hear First: How a 3D Printer, a Super Bowl Champion, and a Team with Grit are Disrupting a 100+-Year-Old Industry

There is more to a company than just a really cool product or two. The best businesses are built on revolutionary products mixed with value-adding opportunities, marketing, partnerships, and leadership. Dome Audio has all of that in spades. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I sat down with my friend Timothy Wright, a Super Bowl champion and the chief strategy officer of Dome Audio, a disruptive headphone technology that has the world’s first surround sound, bone conduction headphones. Tim breaks down what it took to build the patented bone conduction technology (sneak peak, just imagine a sketch, a cad file, and a 3d printer...). Plus, we dive into how they are thinking about licensing and IP partnerships and hint at a possibility for how they plan to utilize NFTs in the future. We also had a fun discussion that took us behind the scenes of his pro football journey with five NFL franchises that resulted in a Super Bowl XLIX ring, and lessons he has taken from the world of football and brought into his business ventures. Also, as a quick side note, I am an investor in Dome Audio, but this podcast is for purely informational purposes and not to be used to drive investment decisions. So with that, enjoy this episode with Tim Wright! Main Takeaways:Dream It, Build It: There are products on the market for just about everything. But who’s to say those products can’t be improved? Game-changing companies are built on ideas from people with the drive to put them into action. Use the resources at your disposal — your experience, your connections, the technology available — and iterate until you find the way to make a product that brings something unique to the marketplace.More Ways Than One: To have long-lasting success, companies need to find multiple avenues they can use to bring value. The product is one thing, but how else can you bring a different customer base or demographic to the table? The more ways you can monetize, the better.One Degree of Separation: To drive engagement and build buzz, you have to get in front of an audience. To do that, you have to build a team and partnerships that mirror, or are affiliated with, that target audience. The closer you can get to the people you want to reach — through brand partnerships, influencers, etc. — the better off you will be for a strong launch.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---For a full transcript of this interview, click here. 
26/08/2131m 47s

What’s Old is New Again: How SCOUT is Leaning Into Old-School Methods to Harness the Power of Authenticity and Connection

Knowing your customer is the obvious first step to creating and selling products. But there are still companies that lose sight of who they should be targeting, where, and with what kind of content.SCOUT is not one of those brands. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Deb Waterman Johns, the Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at SCOUT, took us behind the scenes of what it’s like to build a brand that is all about authenticity in its products, its partnerships, and its marketing efforts. Deb explains what it takes to not get pigeonholed in a certain category or vertical, and also talks us through why retail partnerships are going to be important to ecommerce brands in the years to come. Plus, she highlights how what's old is new again, not only in the world of fashion, but business too, and how their team is leaning back into some “old school” tactics to really connect with their customers in the most authentic way.  And because she has been a color consultant to some of the largest brands, I had her reveal what color palettes are going to be trending in the upcoming year.Main Takeaways:Don’t Get Pigeonholed: Sometimes a product can be labeled as one thing and then excluded from all other categories. For example, a bag that’s seen as a gift is not often also identified as a piece of fashion. It takes strategizing to market and display your products in a way that avoids that outcome and allows you to reach all kinds of buyers.Remember Your Day-1s: Although the move to ecommerce is in full force, it’s important to remember that there were brick-and-mortar stores that supported and carried your brands from the beginning. Retail locations and ecommerce brands have benefitted from strong partnerships since Day 1,and those are relationships that should be nurtured and leveraged to maintain contact with all kinds of customers. The benefit from ecommerce and retail partnerships exists within the opportunity to promote new and different products and build excitement with customers in person and give them more value every time they shop.Getting Down To What’s Real: Authenticity has never been more imperative than when it comes to marketing and product development. The brands that ditch the high-gloss photoshoots and invest in more real-life, everyday content are experiencing higher levels of engagement. The same can be said for the brands that take the time to get to know their customers on a real, deep level. Understanding who you are talking to, what they like, and what resonates most with them is critical to creating content that lands and converts.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---For a full transcript of this interview, click here.
24/08/2142m 25s

Don’t Rain on Weatherman’s DTC Success Parade

Some products are new and cutting edge. They’re exciting and they make people rethink how they live or work. And then other products are … umbrellas. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with umbrellas, I just don’t find myself thinking about or buying them very often. And that’s one of the problems that Tyler Kupper says they are overcoming at Weatherman Umbrella. Tyler is the Chief Revenue and Partner at Weatherman, and on this episode of Up Next in Commerce, he told me all about what it’s been like trying to disrupt an industry that hasn’t really  seen any innovation in 50 years. The conversation was really interesting, especially because Weatherman isn’t just thinking about making a product that protects people from the elements, Weatherman has big plans that involve data, apps, partnerships, custom features, and more. Weatherman is thinking long-term, and it’s already working out great because the company has inked major partnerships in the golf world with Arnold Palmer and the Ryder Cup, and has gotten its foot in the door at big box stores such as DICKS and Golf Galaxy. And Tyler says there’s just the beginning! So grab your rain boots and prepare for an epic episode.Main Takeaways:There’s An App For That: Products are designed to solve problems, but sometimes products come with extras that are unique or add value. Users need to be educated on those aspects of the product, and things like apps and experiences can help brands do that.Howdy, Partner: Niching down within certain pockets of an industry or customer base is one of the best ways to start to grow a company. By finding strategic partners that can give your brand legitimacy and put you in front of your target audience, you will be able to achieve much more growth than if you simply relied on a single digital ad channel.Can I Get A Sample?: There is very little a company can do that is more powerful than giving potential customers the opportunity to simply use your product. If it is high quality and meets a need, getting the chance to experience it for free and making that experience memorable — from the unboxing to the collateral included — is going to make that person receiving the sample much more likely to be a loyal customer. And this is true whether you are selling to an individual or chasing a PO from a big box store.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---For a full transcript of the interview, click here. 
19/08/2140m 1s

Building a Better Bank

In 2021, you’d think that just about everything has been digitized at this point, right? Wrong. In the world of banking, there are still local banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions that have been slow to hop on the digital bandwagon. NCR is here to help not just them, but their customers as well by providing all the technology necessary to make banking, digital payment, and other transactions possible on mobile, online, or anywhere you want. But that’s not all. As with everything from ecommerce to marketing, banking is about to get more personalized thanks to data and automation. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Doug Brown, the President of NCR Digital Banking, explains it all and paints a picture of what banking will look like for the average consumer as well as businesses big and small. He also talks about how solutions can and should be implemented regardless of the business you’re in and who you should be asking to get a handle on what consumers actually need. And he dives into where and how crypto will evolve next. Enjoy this episode. Main Takeaways:Big or Small, Tech for All: Regardless of the size of a bank or financial institution, there is now technological capability to make them all function in the same way in the eyes of the customer. Every transaction can and should be available digitally, and the proliferation of tech like the cloud and edge computing has made that possible. This, by extension, allows for more flexibility and choice for people and businesses to choose the banks and financial institutions that work best for them.Make It Quick, Keep It Personal: Today, consumers want two things: simplicity and personalization. They want to transact, move money, or make payments in a matter of seconds or minutes, not days or weeks. And they also want to know that when they are loyal to one bank or service, that they will be rewarded with unique, personalized deals. Those are the expectations that banks — and all consumer-facing businesses — are currently facing.Not Even Close: Whether you run a bank or a retail store or an ecommerce shop, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is assuming you know what a customer wants or trying to bring in solutions based on nothing but trends and what’s flashy or new. More often than not, what you think is an issue is miles off from what the consumer is actually challenged with, and if you just ask them or test out a few things, you’d be able to find that out.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---For a full transcript of the interview, click here. 
17/08/2139m 51s

Becoming More Than a Brand Inside and Out

Everything you put out as a brand should be interesting, it should be relevant to your consumer, and you and your employees should be proud of the final product. So why then are so many brands finding that the people who work so hard on and actually create the marketing materials aren’t sharing the end result? Max Summit is a marketing consultant who has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world — Adidas, Lululemon, Athleta, the list goes on — and regardless of the brand, whether they sell online or in brick and mortar, Max knows that true connection with customers start with the connection to the internal employees. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Max discusses all the ways that brands should be doing internal pulse checks and reinventing their mission in order to make their marketing materials hit home with consumers. Plus, she explains how brands should be thinking about ways to become resources for customers beyond just being a provider of goods and services, and she gives examples from her days at Lululemon that any company can learn from and where VR and AR can come into play. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Who’s Sharing What?: To gauge the health and success of your company’s creative, doing an internal pulse check is necessary. Are employees sharing the work they have produced? Are they proud and willingly talking and posting about the latest project they are working on? Do a post-mortem to gauge how a project went, what aspects were wins and where things could have gone better and allow everyone to share freely and openly how they really feel.Who Knows What?: The boots on the ground at retail stores are often the people with the most knowledge of the consumers and what they want. Brands need to create a more connected communication structure that allows everyone in retail to interact with HQ and the ecommerce team to paint the most holistic view of the customer and then create products and marketing content for them.Who’s Engaging with What?: One of the biggest struggles brands face is getting consumers to engage both initially, and long-term. So brands have to hook a consumer quickly, and keep bringing them back with an interesting, exciting, and valuable experience. Virtual and augmented reality experiences are a recent way that brands have been solving this problem, and the creativity and utility that VR and AR offers sets the table for it to be a major way that brands and consumers interact for years to come.  For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
12/08/2145m 15s

NBC is Tuned In To Shoppable TV

One of the stats NBCUniversal likes to promote is that in any four weeks, NBCU content reaches 95% of homes in the U.S. It’s also the reason that in recent years, NBCU has started to focus more on creating shoppable content across all platforms to really take advantage of the audience it has at its disposal.On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I talked to Evan Moore, the Vice President of Commerce Partnerships at NBCUniversal, who explained all the ways that NBCU is connecting viewers with shopping experiences. And he told us how brands work with the company to target and attribute conversions on content of any kind. Whether consumers are reading a blog or streaming their favorite Bravo reality show, Evan says they are able to capture that already-engaged audience and bring a seamless interactive shopping experience straight to them. He also touches on what he sees as the future of shopping on connected devices, and how it isn’t just shopping, but is the future of entertainment. Plus, are you a brand thinking “how can I get on tv? I want to be part of this shoppable experience! Well tune in to hear how you can play in this world, no matter your company size. Main Takeaways:The Year of the QR Code: Real-world experience with QR codes have exploded mostly thanks to the pandemic and the need for touchless experiences. As more people have experienced QR codes in different places, it has made them primed to be ready to do the same thing with their media, such as with shoppable TV.Bring The Party Too Them: When you have an audience already at your fingertips, it doesn’t make sense to try to direct them somewhere else to make a purchase. Bring the shopping experience straight to them where they are already engaging with your content, whether that’s on a social post, a blog, a TV stream, or on their mobile phone while they’re streaming.Are You Not Entertained?: Consumers don’t mind being sold to as long as they are entertained along the way. When brands and media companies come together to create shoppable content, the goal should be to create stories that are authentic and entertaining, not to just put products in front of consumers and tell them to buy now.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce 
10/08/2140m 46s

Living in the Right Niche

With any new product, building brand awareness is key. But when your new product is something the world has never seen before, well, you need to do more than just make people aware, you have to educate them, too. As a DTC company, you might have a direct line to your consumers, but you still need to be able to show and teach them as much as possible, and then be there around the clock to answer their questions and hold their hand through the process. It sounds like a lot of work, but when the product is changing the game completely, you have to be ready to get your hands dirty. And that’s just what Matt Wall and I chat about today, who is the co-founder of Principle Faucets. Principle Faucets is a DTC brand that has created the first fully-integrated foot pedal system which not only saves water, but is more hygienic and improves faucet functionality. Matt dove into how he and his co-founders brought their foot-pedal faucet to the market, the amount of time it took to test and tweak to make it fit consumers needs, and then he goes into the process of what’s it’s been like to actually get it in front of people — a task made much harder when the pandemic caused them to shut down their mobile display unit. Here’s a sneak peak on what Wall had to say: it takes finding the right niche within the industry and then hyper-targeting your search and marketing terms toward that audience to be successful. Plus, Matt tells us how to market the environmental benefits of something like the Principle Faucet across all different geographies,who are experiencing various degrees of climate change. Enjoy this episode and use the code UPNEXT20 for 20% off on your order at Principle Faucets!Main Takeaways:What’s Your Niche?: It’s easy to get lost in the deep sea of products that come up when they search a random keyword. You might see people finding your product or website, but the conversions won’t be what you want. By dialing in on keywords and long-tail search phrases, you can more easily target the people who are actually looking to buy your product and then get them to convert.Never Before Seen: When you think you have built a better mousetrap, you still need to do market research to see if consumers want what you have to offer. Bringing a brand new company into the world with a brand new product no one has ever seen before is a risk, and you have to do your research before you take the bet to go into a market with a product no one actually wants or needs.Ease Them In: If your product requires consumer education or a change in behavior, it’s wise to build in some tie back to what they are already familiar with. Asking a customer to do something completely new is scary, and will turn people off. It’s better to give them a way to do a gradual implementation into their daily lives.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
05/08/2144m 52s

Solving The World’s Supply Chain Woes with Blue Yonder

If you break down the supply chain in its simplest form, basically what you have is brands procuring products and then delivering them to customers where and when they need them. Sounds easy, right? But if you’ve listened to this show long enough, you know that’s not the case. We’ve heard countless guests tell us just how much the supply chain impacts their business, and they’ve described a number of challenges they have encountered thanks to supply chain disruptions. One thing they all had in common — they had no answers to the problems they were facing.That changes now. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I was so excited to finally get some insight on the supply chain from a couple of guys from Blue Yonder, Omar Akilah, GVP of Product in the commerce suite, and Eugene Amigud, GVP of Product Management and Architecture. Blue Yonder is an end-to-end supply chain platform that enables companies to tackle all the problems in the supply chain, and little side note, it’s currently on track to be acquired by Panasonic for a measly $7.1B. From planning to execution, to transportation management, to commerce, to promising a customer when they're going to get it and making sure that you fulfill those promises, these are just some of the things Eugene and Omar have insider knowledge of. They dug into all of those topics and more and they shared how they help brands solve issues at all stages of the supply and fulfillment process. Regardless of the issues at hand, Eugene and Omar have heard, seen, and solved for it all. They also see the trends evolving in real time, including how important same-day or next-day delivery will be in various verticals, how and where A.I. and ML are being implemented, and what kind of difference edge technology and data will have on the entire buying and shipping experience. Eugene and Omar explain it all in this awesome roundtable episode, enjoy!Main Takeaways:Stitched Together: The supply chain is made up of specific pillars that can be optimized in specific ways. The way to level up and personalize the supply chain experience for brands is to stitch together the pillars and tools to make each pillar more valuable. For example, using machine learning to help do more accurate real-time inventory and then incentivizing purchase through automated couponing will lead to more sales, and also more data to further input into an ML algorithm to keep making the system better.Knowing the Needs: Supply chain optimization is all about understanding the unique needs of a company or an industry. For medicine and pharmaceuticals, speed of delivery is critical — people need their medicine now. For grocery, being able to schedule your food to arrive on the days you need it for the meals you’re cooking is most important. Once you identify what the major need is, solving for that becomes a bit easier.Gaining an Edge: The use of edge technology and data, combined with other execution tools like sensors, A.I. and ML, can change the shopping experience for customers and the supply chain experience for businesses. By bringing everything to the edge and utilizing new technology, real-time freshness and weather and harvest data can be used by businesses to update their inventory or upcoming orders and to inform customers of critical product information.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---
03/08/2148m 7s

Coffee, Cults, and Commerce; Lessons Learned Breaking Into a $465B Industry

What’s hot today might be out of the zeitgeist tomorrow. Are people still doing goat yoga? Are skinny jeans really the new mom jeans? There are so many trends to keep track of and so many “next big things,” it’s impossible to know what’s real and what’s just a passing fad. For a business, it’s important to understand the distinction, and it’s even more important to have products that will thrive regardless of the different cycles your industry will run through. Lopa van der Mersch says she has that kind of product with her company, Rasa, which makes a coffee alternative with adaptogen blends. Lopa has a fascinating story, including inadvertently entering into a cult, navigating tricky co-founder relationships, and building up a business to more than $2M in revenue all from her garage.On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Lopa explains why she believes that her product will be a game-changer regardless of societal trends, and she breaks down how to spot something phony or bad for you, whether it’s in a product or even in a partner or personal relationship. Enjoy this episode! Main Takeaways:Finding the Right Match: When partnering with a co-founder, especially one who is a close friend, some things you should consider are their skills and their ability to resolve conflicts. Ask yourself would you hire this person to do this job if they were not your friend? And think back to how you have handled conflicts with each other in the past. If you are comfortable with the answers to those questions, you can feel more confident in that person as a partner.Culture Shock: Growth in any industry is related to what is happening in common culture. When something is trending, a corresponding industry will rise. Today’s society is focused on health and wellness more than in the past, so companies that deal with products in that space are on the rise. But to stay solvent even when the trends change, companies need to ensure that they have products that are worth something and add to a person’s life regardless of whether it’s trendy or not.Let It Come, But Also Go After It: Striking the right balance between organic growth and focusing energy and money into specific channels is difficult. The key is to make sure that you are diversifying your efforts wherever you choose to try to gain attention. Play with the levers of what’s working in one area, but continue to invest elsewhere so that when one thing begins to fail, you have other options. For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
29/07/2146m 18s

Cooking Up DTC Success with Cuisinart

Most people probably know Cuisinart because of the company’s kitchen appliances like the food processor, air fryer, or coffee maker. Cuisinart’s products are everywhere — in kitchens around the world, in retail stores, and yes, online. In the last year or so, Cuisinart has put a much greater emphasis on the DTC part of the business -- walking the tightrope of being there for retail partners, while still making sure that there is enough inventory to meet the demand coming from online. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Mary Rodgers, the Director of Marketing Communications for Cuisinart, explains the steps the company took to make the pivot to DTC without leaving retail partners in the lurch. Mary also talked about how the marketing and online pushes for products went from being planned out months in advance to changing from one day to the next. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:From Months To Weeks To Days: Sometimes, the world moves so fast that planning in months-long cycles places you at a disadvantage. When demand, retailer needs, and inventory is shifting at a rapid pace, you need to come up with a plan that allows you to stay ahead of the curve, even if that means changing strategies from one day to the next.Eyes On Your Own Paper: Some brands will look to their competitors to see what influencers they are working with or how they are running their campaigns, and then they will try to copy that approach. While this is tactical, it is not strategic because you are placing blind trust in another brand’s team and vision without even knowing if what they did paid off. You have to do your own homework and think about your customers’ needs and build a strategy around that rather than just trying to keep up with the Joneses.More Than Just A Product: Brands have to think beyond the products they sell and understand how the customers will be using those products. Often, especially in housewares, consumers will be using one product in concert with another or as part of a recipe. By understanding the life of the consumer beyond purchase and coming up with content to connect with consumers after the fact, brands can create a more fruitful and loyal relationship with their customers.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
27/07/2148m 17s

Nothing In Life Is Free … Except These Samples

If it’s free, it’s for me — that’s one of my mottos. And that’s why I love free samples. But free samples are universally adored, and in recent years the customers getting the goods aren’t the only ones who are benefiting. Ecommerce companies and retailers alike are using samples as a way to raise awareness, convert more sales, and drive traffic to a product or webpage, and it’s working. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, guest host Albert Chow talked to Doug Guyer, the Co-founder and Director of Strategic Development at Brandshare, the company that brings many of those free samples to your door. Doug explains that sampling is a tool that any brand can take advantage of, and if they do, they could see 97% of people who get the sample try it out, and 32% of those folks actually convert into buyers. It’s a massive opportunity, but Doug also says that most brands out there don’t know that this is possible. How has Doug and the team gotten the word out — including the story of how they landed their very first campaign with Tylenol — and what should brands be thinking about when they engage in the sampling strategy? Find out on this episode!Main Takeaways:It’s Worth A Try: Very few marketing tactics are as effective as free samples. Reports from Brandshare indicate that well-run sampling campaigns see 97% try rates and as high as 32% conversion rates. Consumers are more willing to try something that is of no cost to them, and brands will be rewarded with both awareness and increased sales by making a relatively small investment in samples.Building Trust: When a brand gives a free sample, or includes a related free sample from another brand in a customer’s order, the original brand is seen as going above and beyond. Customers view the sample as a sort of curated experience that was sent just for them, and it creates more brand loyalty.Not a Cureall: While sampling is effective, it can’t solve all of a brand’s problems. A struggling company or a business that simply doesn’t have a good product will be negatively impacted by free sampling.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
22/07/2139m 48s

Refersion’s Reimagining of Affiliate Marketing

Creating an influencer or affiliate program is a huge headache for most brands. Vetting the people you let in, assigning them links and promotions, keeping an eye on their posts. And then what about tracking performance and understanding conversions? Sounds like a nightmare But it doesn’t have to be. Shibo Xu is the Co-Founder and COO of Refersion, which was built on the idea that you could completely flip that process on its head. Instead of the burden falling on the brands, influencers have to prove their worth. And rather than getting lost in vanity metrics or other out-of-date KPIs, place value only in a select few areas. These ideas helped launch Refersion to success and helped the brands that work with Refersion, like Puravida, Impossible, and 19,000 others remove some of the challenges of influencer marketing that have plagued them for years.Shibo talks about all of that on this episode of Up Next in Commerce, which was guest-hosted by Albert Chou!Main Takeaways:What’s My Motivation: Despite what you might think, cash is not always the biggest motivator for influencers. Some are driven by a desire to be closer to a brand, to explore new products or to get products for free.And Your Total Is…: Total order value, total revenue and total conversions driven are the main metrics that will help you determine how influencers stack up against each other. When you accurately measure those three KPIs, you get a fuller picture of how an influencer is working, and whether or not they are worth continued investment.It’s On You: Rather than vetting influencers before letting them into your affiliate network, Refersion’s strategy is to let anyone in who fills out the form, and then make them prove their worth through their performance. By putting the burden on the self-appointed influencer, brands can focus only on reviewing results and turning affiliate codes on and off based on that.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
20/07/2141m 43s

Why Burrow is Not Following the Traditional DTC Playbook

If you look on Twitter or do a quick Google search, you’ll find a ton of chatter about the foolproof DTC playbook. Everyone has ideas about the surefire ways that young DTC brands should be setting themselves up for success. Alex Kubo is here to tell you that those playbooks aren’t as written in stone as you might think. Alex is the VP of ecommerce and digital marketing at Burrow, a DTC furniture brand, and on this episode of Up Next in Commerce, he explained how and why the Burrow team threw out the playbook when certain aspects of it fell flat. For example, Alex talks about the lessons they learned about the signals that pricing sends, and why it’s critical to put the right price on your product to attract the right customer even if that means pricing higher than the playbook says. Alex also dives into what it means to actually be customer centric and how Burrow stays in constant communication with customers. Plus, we discuss why marketing toward buying events or using a spray and pray strategy across a dozen channels is about as useful as setting your money on fire. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Sending The Right Signals: How you price your product or service is one of the most significant ways you signal to customers who you are as a brand and what value you bring. If you price too low, you risk being lumped in with brands that don’t necessarily fit with the type of products or value you bring to the table.More Than Words: Saying you are customer-centric and actually being customer-centric are two very different things. To be truly customer-centric requires regularly talking to and learning from your customers and then building experiences and products based on those conversations. You can’t just assume you know what customers want, you have to do the work to find out.A Horse of a Different Color: There are best practices and guidelines that many companies follow to get themselves off the ground. Sometimes those playbooks work, but in other cases, you have to toss out what everyone says is the right strategy and go in a new direction. Whether that’s in your social strategy, your pricing, or how you’re getting feedback from customers, don’t be afraid to buck tradition and do something different.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---
15/07/2148m 43s

Taking the Pain Out of Point of Sale Processing

In-store sales. Ordering for delivery. Buy online, pick-up in store. With so many buying options accessible to consumers, companies are now facing many different kinds of orders to manage and get right. In the restaurant industry specifically, there has been a huge upswing in the number of people ordering online, especially through apps such as Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Doordash. And that’s nothing compared to the number of point of sale systems that are being used. Moving orders from an app or online system into a physical point of sale is a process that’s prone to human error, but for so long that’s been the only way to do it. Zhong Xu and Deliverect want to change that. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Zhong explains how an integrated, cloud-based platform is taking the pain out of managing multiple ordering and POS systems. Plus he discusses how the real world and virtual world will start to blend together more and more as brands invest in digital-focused capabilities. Enjoy this episode.    Main Takeaways:404 Error No More: There are thousands of point of sale systems and all of them require humans to re-enter online orders perfectly into them before they can be made and delivered. This leads to errors and dissatisfied customers. Integrating the POS and ecommerce systems is one of the most effective ways to reduce those errors.The Real And Virtual World: As restaurants reopen dine-in services post pandemic, they are still keeping an eye on the ecommerce space. The rise of the digital consumer has made it so that restaurants are now looking to create virtual brands with specific functions and offerings for their virtual audience. And sometimes that means creating or investing in a physical space that is only used to fulfill online orders.Addition Without Subtraction: Even though there has been an uptick in delivery and curbside pick-up orders, restaurants are still seeing strong in-store dining numbers. This means that restaurants can invest in delivery and ecommerce tools to improve the customer experience without worrying that doing so will cannibalize in-house dining.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
13/07/2129m 13s

Coming in Hot: How Truff Sells Products … By Not Trying To Sell Products

Business owners, operators, marketers, really anyone who works at any company is always aiming to do one thing: sell products. So when Nick Guillen and Nick Ajluni, the co-founders of Truff, say their strategy isn’t solely focused around this, it makes you sit up and listen. At least, that’s what I did when I heard what they had to say. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, the two Nicks explained how they built their truffle-infused sauce brand by reverse engineering products specifically to live and resonate on social media, and then why they decided to lean into creating epic content without attaching CTAs. It’s an interesting idea, and one that has worked pretty well for them, actually. After all, Truff is the No. 1 hot sauce brand on Amazon and was included on Oprah’s favorite things list two years in a row. So how is Truff creating content that brings people in without being transactional, and what platforms are the Nicks most excited about in the future? Tune in to find out!Main Takeaways:The CTAs are MIA: Social media should be viewed as a friend-to-friend communication platform and a place to build relationships, not just a space to add a discount code to a post or a picture and try to get people to click. By taking the transactional messaging away from social content, you become a brand that seems more like a friend putting out content you actually want to see, rather than an ad people scroll past.It’s Never Too Late: On a platform like Tik Tok, it is never a bad time to join. Because the platform rewards the content as opposed to the number of followers an account has, all you have to do is create one piece of content that hits just right to find success and go from nothing to selling out your products in seconds. But you have to be willing to experiment and try everything to find the right kind of content that will resonate.Don’t Rush Into Retail: In many cases, the best route for new brands is to start small and establish yourself and your consumer base before trying to move into the retail market. In retail, there are numerous costs, fees, and sales expectations that all create a burden on the brand, not the retailer, so before committing to a retail path, ensure that you have a strong digital foundation you can build off of and then create an omnichannel experience from there that includes but is not dependent on retail.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
08/07/2137m 52s

What It Takes to Break Through in China

From starting a hedge fund to owning the DTC beauty market in China is a career path you don’t hear too often. But that’s the winding road that Julian Reis has traveled and along the way he’s picked up some critical intel about the ecommerce world and Chinese trends that he shared with me on this episode of Up Next in Commerce.There are a bevy of factors to take into account when entering the Chinese market. From the vast differences in the way consumers shop in China to the sheer volume of consumers that can make a huge boom in sales in a matter of moments, there is a lot to contend with. And how does a brand even get in front of a consumer without traditional ads or email marketing? And what about social media? Or regulations? Julian explains how to take all that information into account and build an ecommerce strategy that lets you win abroad. Plus, he dives into how his company, SuperOrdinary is working with top skincare brands to enter the Chinese market, and some of the experiences that can be expected when embarking on this new path. What a fascinating discussion that was so different than any interviews I have had so far, enjoy!Main Takeaways:It’s All Chinese To Me: Brands might want to expand to the Chinese market and believe that there is a huge opportunity there, but rushing into the market without doing the proper research could be a huge mistake. Despite the fact that a lot of information is censored in Chinese, consumers there still find ways to access the content that is important to them. Brands need to get more social awareness, learn about what Chinese consumers are interested in and let their actions reveal whether or not you have a product-market fit before trying to make a splash in that market.Platforms vs. Pages: There has been a bifurcation of ecommerce between platforms and webpages. The debate about where to invest more is coming down to how you see your customers acting. SuperOrdinary’s theory of the case is that platforms are the way of the future because at the end of the day, customers spend more time on Amazon and Tmall than on a company’s website. Therefore, more focus should be on creating content that drives engagement on those platforms.Boom and Bust: In China, the volume of consumers is so much higher and there is so much more emphasis on influencers and celebrities, that if something goes viral, a brand could do millions of sales in a matter of seconds. Being prepared for that kind of boom is very different from working in the U.S., where you prepare for steady growth over a longer period of time.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
06/07/2141m 19s

The Shifting Foundation of Ecommerce

The future of commerce is being built all around us, and while so much of the industry changes on a daily basis, there are still some fundamental truths that anchor brands and allow them to find success in the digital and retail worlds. On this roundtable episode of Up Next in Commerce, I got to dig into exactly what those foundational elements are with Mike Black, the CMO of Profitero, and Diana Haussling, the VP and General Manager of Digital Commerce at Colgate-Palmolive.This was such a great discussion that touched on so many different topics that brands big and small should be paying attention to. For example, what are the three key levers that influence ecommerce sales? How should you be developing KPIs that will actually mean something and lead to more profitability and growth? Why is omnichannel the way of the future and what channels should companies be investing in? Mike and Diana have the answers, which they have gathered through long and impressive histories in the ecommerce world — Mike worked at Staples and Nielsen, and Diana has held roles at places like Campbell’s, General Mills, and Hersheys. These two really know their stuff and they were so much fun to talk to. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  Main Takeaways:Pulling the Right Levers: There are three basic levers that influence ecommerce sales: availability, findability, and conversion tactics. If you can’t ensure that you reliably have products to offer people, that those people have an easy way to find the products, and that they are given reasons to actually make a purchase, you won’t be able to grow or increase profits.You Reap What You Sow: Being a first-mover on any platform is one of the investments that has the highest potential payoffs. Companies that took Amazon and Instacart seriously from the get-go have created a huge advantage for themselves in the ecommerce space. By having a head start in one place, you also free yourself up to explore elsewhere while your competition tries to keep up in the first spot you’ve already dominated.You Want Them to Want You: As a brand, you have to firmly establish a value proposition to present to customers, especially when you are trying to extract information or gather data about them. Give customers concrete reasons to want to engage with your brand and earn their trust so that they are more likely to keep coming back. Then use the data they give you to provide even better experiences and products over and over.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
01/07/2155m 42s

Don’t Flush The Fundamentals

The best way to learn something is by doing, which is a lesson that Thomas Lotrecchiano’s father taught him early on. Thomas and his father started Omigo together in 2018 as an alternate route to Thomas going to school for an MBA, and in the years since, that lesson keeps cropping up. Omigo is a DTC bidet company, and like many industry disruptors, its biggest challenge is educating the consumer base and converting skeptics into loyal customers. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Thomas explains how they have done exactly that by blending humor and educational content, building an infrastructure that allows them to ride the changing tides of demand, and by betting big on TV moving forward. Plus, Thomas shares some of the lessons he has learned from his father, who is an ecommerce gamechanger in his own right, having grown a small online business from a modest five employees to 250 in the early days of the industry.. Enjoy this episode! Main Takeaways:How Long Will It Take?: Getting consumers to adopt a new product, especially an intimate one, requires a great deal of education, patience, and listening. Just because your product works flawlessly and it has certain innate benefits doesn’t mean that it will immediately be a hit. You have to invest in educating the consumer base and then listening to and incorporating their feedback into your products and messaging.Don’t Overlook the Obvious: It’s easy to fall in love with your product and spend time and money selling its unique features, but what actually makes people convert is if you can show them how to use it, how to install it, and lastly the value that can be derived from it. Those are the conversion areas that you should be laser-focused on, and highlighting any of the superfluous features can come later.Basic Building Blocks: There are three fundamental elements that DTC businesses need to start with before getting their company off the ground. They are: customer service, fulfillment, and a functioning, lead-generating website that has the ability to scale. Without these building blocks, your company is not ready to scale.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
29/06/2134m 19s

The Future of Transactions: The President of NCR Retail on Reinventing the Buying Experience

The stores of the future are being built today, and according to David Wilkinson, President & General Manager of NCR Retail, they will not be the types of stores that currently come to mind. We are living in a time that blurs the lines between digital and physical, and retailers are working with NCR to make every experience as seamless as possible. David explains how on this episode of Up Next in Commerce. He tells us how personalized shopping will be brought to the forefront through first-party branded apps that customize the shopping experience for you. And he details how retailers in all industries can start breaking free of the traditional shackles of standard point of sale technology and store designs. Plus, David and I nerd out about how cryptocurrency will be entering the mainstream sooner rather than later, and how retailers can prepare for what that will mean for their payments systems. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Tech First, Differentiation Later: Retailers in every industry are trying to find ways to differentiate themselves and create memorable experiences for customers. But in order to ensure quality customer experiences, the basics of how your store functions need to be flawless. Focus first on optimizing all point-of-sale technology and other digital or tech offerings so that however the customer wants to transact, they can without friction. Then, when that is running smoothly, you can begin to focus on the peripheral experiences that separate your store or brand from the rest.Freeform Future: Anyone looking to create a store or business today has more freedom than ever before. They are no longer locked into the old ways of doing things. Traditional points of sale can be rethought. The design of a grocery store can be revamped to cater to more personalized experiences. Fast food restaurants can completely forgo inside dining. So many new options are on the table because in 2020, consumers proved to be willing to adapt to all kinds of new experiences.Going Beyond The Loyalty Program: The days of trading your phone number for a discount code are long gone. These days, if a consumer is giving over personal information, they want something substantial in return. Brands have a chance to create loyalty experiences that are personalized and incentivize activities outside of the store, such as on social media, to give their consumers a unique reason to sign up.Crypto Checkout: Cryptocurrency is more than just a buzzword — it’s likely to begin infiltrating daily life, particularly how people buy and sell goods. Majority of cryptocurrency holders would be willing to pay for their goods with their crypto, and retailers have to start figuring out now how to create systems that would make those transactions possible and secure.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
24/06/2143m 43s

Getting in the Weeds of Expanding All Kinds of Businesses

There are very few industries that are growing as fast as the cannabis industry, which saw about $20 billion in sales in 2020, and that number is expected to double in the next five years. With that much potential profit and opportunity available, getting into the cannabis game is something that a lot of folks are starting to jump into. But as with any other industry, there is more to it than just the product itself. Manufacturing, distribution, expansion and regulation all play a role.Liz Wald has experience in all of these areas, and she is putting them to use as the Chief Strategy and Digital Officer for Good Earth Organics. Liz has a long and impressive history in the digital world, having gotten her start at places like AOL, Etsy, and Indiegogo. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, she guides us through all of it, including the trials and tribulations of turning an ecommerce marketplace such as Etsy into an international player and what other companies can learn from that journey. Plus, she talks about building partnerships, expanding into new markets, and how all of that will happen in the cannabis space. Enjoy this episode. And as a special treat, from 6/23/21 - 7/7/21, enjoy 20% at checkout on Good Organics orders by entering the code UPNEXT20.Main Takeaways:International Interests: Companies, especially ecommerce companies, can sometimes think they are ready for international expansion before they actually are. In order to not get in over their heads, companies or marketplaces that want to expand internationally should start with countries similar to the one they already operate in — they speak the same language, use similar payment methods, and have common standards and practices. Once expansion there is successful, they can continue to seek other opportunities abroad.Partner Up: Sometimes the best way to reach potential customers in a new market is to partner with companies that already have those customers’ business. In the case of Good Organics, reaching new customers in Oklahoma or New York means forging partnerships with distributors of other goods and services that target customers need, and bringing the conversation into that space rather than trying to reach them elsewhere.Work Smarter, Not Harder: There is nothing wrong with riding the coattails of a big industry boom. If you can position yourself as ancillary or as an offshoot to the main product or goods that people are rushing to purchase, then you have just as good of an opportunity to be successful, and you don’t have to compete with the big guys who are dominating the game in the main space.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
22/06/2155m 23s

Shake Shack’s Ecommerce Shake Up

When Steph So joined the team at Shake Shack in 2019, she was excited for the opportunity to grow the digital side of the famous burger company. She had set high ambitions, hoping to grow their digital channels between 25 and 50%. So when COVID hit, and all of a sudden digital grew by 400%, you’d think that Steph would feel like she bit off more of that burger than she could chew.Not so fast, because as Steph says, digital can scale, and much like you can uplevel your combo from a medium to a large, Shake Shack was able to handle the higher traffic while at the same time coming up with new, innovative ways to make the customer experience on digital even better. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Steph explained how she and the team handled an influx of 1.8 million new customers within a year and how they created the most seamless digital experience possible. Steph says that the secret Shack sauce on top of the digital experience all comes down to choice. The success of the company depends on giving the customers everything they need to feel like they are getting the full Shake Shake experience however they want it, whether that’s in-store or online and nailing that omnichannel strategy is Steph’s holy grail. Hear how she’s nailing it right here! Enjoy.   Main Takeaways:Digital Scaling Is Not Your Problem: When a company starts to see an increase in digital traffic and sales, the immediate thought is how will the backend systems hold up? What you should also be paying attention to is how will your logistics and operations adapt? Supporting a retail location is different than supporting a delivery-based business, and all facets of the company need to be ready to meet the new demands, not just the digital team.When Two Worlds Collide: Brands are trying to figure out the best ways to bring in-store and personal experiences together with the digital journey. When your brand identity is around being a gathering place for people to come to, it is a challenge to shift that messaging and that experience to a digital platform. By creating digital options and building physical spaces that work in conjunction with the online platform, the two worlds can become complementary.Long-Term Option or Short-Term Trend: Things like pop-up shops and ghost kitchens might seem like all the rage and offer a quick, simple way to scale, but the question remains whether they will stick around long-term. Quality is often the reason first-time customers become repeat customers, so if brands aren’t investing in creating the highest-quality experience and product, they likely won’t be able to stay successful long-term.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
17/06/2150m 35s

Brands + Influencers: A Two-Way Street

The relationship between a brand and an influencer is a two-way street. And even though that sounds obvious, even the most successful brands and influencers are struggling to see ROI from their content.Tessa Barton, AKA Tezza, has experiences on both sides of that spectrum. She is an influencer-turned-entrepreneur, whose company — also called Tezza — has seen its ups and downs in the five years she’s been working on it. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Tezza explains how she went from cold reach outs to Urban Outfitters to leveraging a following of more than a million people to building a company all on her own. She discusses how both brands and influencers should be thinking about putting their best foot — and content — forward and what kind of creative and distribution process has had the most success. Plus, she talks about the lessons she learned when she launched her very first product expecting immediate success and then being able to count her orders on one hand. She turned things around, though, and you’ll learn how she did that and more on this episode!Main Takeaways:Show Em What They’re Working With: In a world where everyone wants to be an influencer, brands need to know that whoever they invest in will be worth it. With brands being more scrupulous, the smart content creators and influencers are being more proactive and showing exactly what kind of content a company will get when it partners with them.Only One DM Away: Thanks to the myriad of platforms and channels companies operate in, there has never been a better time to get in touch with them on a one-to-one level. This connectedness is a mutually beneficial scenario because customers, potential partners and brands are all only one message away from forming a lasting relationship.Talk Their Ears Off: Even the biggest influencers in the world can’t just come out with a product and expect to sell out in the blink of an eye. Selling is a constant action, and whether you are a brand or an influencer, you need to constantly be putting your products in front of people, talking to potential buyers, gathering feedback and data, and pivoting as necessary. Then you have to do that all again.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
15/06/2138m 22s

Reimagining Retail

Traditional retailers are facing different levels of competition from all these new ecommerce brands that have popped up recently, and are now being held to new customer expectations that many predicted wouldn’t occur for years. Because of the acceleration of digital platforms and online shopping over the last 18 months, brick and mortar stores are in a scramble to catch up or risk being  kicked to the curb. Helping retailers take charge of their digital transformation journey and get in on all of the online action is Sensormatic, which serves retailers with IoT technology to help them with things such as inventory intelligence and accuracy, gathering shopper insights, converting foot traffic, and more. Subramanian Kunchithapatham (KS) is the Vice President of Engineering at Sensormatic and he’s been up close and personal with the brands as they implement the new technology that will allow them to compete in a digital world. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, KS tells us what he’s been seeing in the world of retail and how he anticipates the industry changing in the coming months and years. For example, he gives us the scoop on how Sensormatic partnered with Intel to turn already-installed store cameras into an A.I.-powered Smart Hub — basically an intelligent store that can provide insights into occupancy, foot traffic, track inventory, and even provide a personalized experience for customers if they have opted in. Hear all about that solution and others on this episode!Main Takeaways:So Trendy: Retailers have a number of new trends to keep up with if they want to compete with ecommerce. Thanks to the rise of online shopping, consumers are experimenting with and discovering new brands more than ever before, which means the customer loyalty traditional retailers have enjoyed is crumbling. Additionally, when consumers do show in-store, they want to do more than just shop, they want an experience. Retailers have to adapt to meet these new expectations by offering new omnichannel and cross-platform shopping experiences to meet customers where they are.Train, Train, Train: To digitally transform any organization means that there has to be an investment of not just money, but time. Employees need to be trained on new technology and strategies for using the data you gather, and the A.I. or machine learning systems you put in place also need time to be trained on the types of data and information they should be gathering and presenting to create the most value.A Future Full of Livestreams: Recently, retailers have been experimenting with the concept of livestream shopping — a brand will livestream an event and promote items, and those watching the livestream can buy the items right from that screen. This type of interactive and streaming shopping experience is going to become more popular as technology continues to advance and as the younger generation pushes that expectation forward.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
10/06/2140m 54s

Growing, Failing, and Healing: Stojo’s Journey in the Omni-channel Space

That first online sale plus the first time a retailer agrees to carry your product are always exciting. But when you can’t meet the demand of your online customer base or your design process is slowed and shipments are delayed, that’s when the headaches come twofold. But when your mission, and your product, is something you truly believe in and think can leave a lasting impact, you take all the good with the bad and keep on pushing forward. For Stojo, a company that produces collapsible, leak-proof cups and containers, there have been wins and losses of every kind, and CEO Jurrien Swarts has been riding the waves as his company tries to get a piece of a $22 billion industry. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Jurrien takes us through what it has been like to design, launch, and distribute Stojo’s game-changing product. Plus, he guides us through how difficult it is to scale and market a business, and what it takes to make hard choices like laying off and rebuilding a staff. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Digging the Design: When it comes to delivering a product out to the market, it has to work in a number of different ways. The internal team needs to be invested in the design and believe in that product, but you also have to be willing and able to take outside feedback from customers in order to iterate and expand. Find stakeholders who can contribute in meaningful ways and trust them to keep making the product better.Punch Above Your Weight: Sometimes you have to get scrappy and find ways to compete without the help of big budgets or a ton of staff. In these instances, there are avenues to explore that offer high returns for very little investment as long as you can find the right partners. Influencer marketing is one of those areas and, when small companies make the right connections, they can compete at or above the level of any big brand.Sharing is Caring: In the past, it was uncommon and even frowned upon to share information, best practices, financials, or anything else that could be seen as a competitive advantage. The younger generations, though, value transparency and many DTOC and DTC brands that are run by millennials and Gen Z are embracing the idea of information sharing in order to help themselves become more data-driven.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
08/06/2140m 55s

The Most Engaging Avocados on the Internet

It’s not easy to keep a digital audience engaged. And it’s especially hard when the product you’re trying to engage them with is … produce. And yet, Avocados From Mexico has set a gold standard for what it means to build a funnel and engage an online audience and it has somehow found the secret recipe for success (and also guacamole).On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I was excited to talk to Ivonne Kinser, the Head of Digital Marketing and Ecommerce for Avocados From Mexico, and learn her many tales about how the company has used out-of-the-box ideas to take something that rarely gets marketing love — produce — and turn it into must-engage-with content. She took us behind the scenes of creating one of the top digital campaigns for multiple Super Bowls, and she dove into what the future of digital marketing looks like, including why Avocados From Mexico has been ahead of the trends when it comes to things like NFTs and blockchain. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Impressions Matter: Impressions are a metric that often is hard to really judge the importance of. But when you can correlate impressions to search activity, it becomes clear that building an awareness of the brand through impressions and exposure can drive conversations on social media. This in turn leads to more Google searches and native activity on a brand’s page.Eternal Iteration: You have to iterate constantly in order to adapt to changing consumer behavior. Constantly changing your platform is not a signal that your platform is failing or wrong, in fact it’s a sign that you are staying on the cutting edge and trying to meet consumer expectations at every turn.The Powers That Be: When setting a path for the future, it’s important to differentiate between trends and fads that will come and go and the forces that will actually drive companies and consumers toward a new way of operating long-term. For example, rather than get caught up in the hot new social network or gaming platform, think about investing in the technology that powers that network (A.I., ML, 5G, AR/VR, etc).For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
03/06/2146m 28s

Reaching Higher Peaks: Lessons from Experiencing 100% YoY Ecommerce Growth with DICK’S Sporting Goods’ Scott Casciato

The online buying experience is always evolving, so it’s table stakes for companies to be on their toes and ready to adjust when the market tells them to. Especially when the company we are chatting about today was founded in 1948! But being prepared to adjust and actually making it happen are two different things. At DICK’S Sporting Goods, its customers, who are referred to as “athletes” are truly running the show, and Scott Casciato, who serves as the VP of Omni Channel Fulfillment & Athlete Service at DICK'S, is the man who takes their needs and delivers a seamless experience to them via DICK’S ecommerce platform and throughout their 700 retail locations. And with their ecommerce sales increasing by 100% in 2020, Scott and his team have had to rethink many things like: how to scale up operations during peak seasons, why testing every iteration on the website is key, how to perfect the buy online pick up in-store experience, and determine how to take their athlete's feedback and transform it into a funnel for change. This episode brought back a lot of nostalgia for me, thinking about the days of wandering the aisles of Dick’s in my high school days looking for a new lacrosse stick or soccer shoes. So it was fun to hear about how much has changed, and  what investments the company has been making lately in creating the best customer experience possible for its athletes. Also, tune in to the end to hear Scott discuss the importance of great vendor relationships, how to future proof logistics, and the new in-store experiences that Dick’s is betting big on. Enjoy! Main Takeaways:The House Don’t Fall When the Bones are Good: Having a strong foundation is the most impactful thing a company can do to prepare for surges in traffic that might come during peak seasons or after highly-successful campaigns. You have to do the work, go through the load tests and constantly be improving the technology stack because there are no shortcuts when you are creating a scalable platform that can withstand anything you throw at it. With last year being a perfect case study to reflect on, dive into the data and pivot if needed so you’re ready for the surge!Bet On It … Then Test It: Building out an online experience that works requires constant testing. You can plan for outcomes and bet on how you think people will react, but until you test it, you can’t ever be certain. As Scott mentioned, following the path the data reveals can be surprising and sometimes opposite of what your intuition is telling you.Experiences For The Future: The shopping experience is going to continue to change, and the strongest companies are planning for the future by paying attention to trends and then creating experiences — both in-person and online — that will drive engagement with consumers and build trust and confidence in the company’s authority in the space. By investing early into an experience or a specific market, you set yourself up as the expert in that specialized vertical and become the retailer of choice for consumers.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
01/06/2141m 11s

An Ecommerce Strategy (and Product) To Make You Feel Good

It seems like selling a product that is designed to make you feel good should be a cake walk. But as we all know, business is never easy, especially when you’re breaking into the supplement and nutritional bar space, which is overcrowded with industry giants such as Clif bars and KIND. So what’s an upstart company with a solid product and good intentions to do?On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, we found out when we talked to Chris Bernard, the co-founder, CEO and Chief Mood Officer for Mindright, the good mood superfood. As it turns out, there are a few ways that a small new company can make a splash, especially in the digital space. Chris explains how organic reach outs and authentic connections formed through his partnership with Rob Dyrdek has helped Mindright create an influencer and ambassador community that wins against influencer fatigue. Plus Chris, he digs into why a content strategy that blends humor and education is what gets the attention of the digital audience. Enjoy this episode.Main Takeaways:Be Serious… But Have A Laugh: Fun and funny content is a great way to build a relationship with consumers and to sell the lifestyle that you want your brand to be about. But you also have to balance real education and sales tactics into your content along with the comedic elements so that customers can get the full picture of what a brand is, why they should buy it, and to convince them to complete the purchase.Can I Get A Sample?: Free samples used to be a staple at grocery stores and markets everywhere, and those samples were a key way that new companies created buy-in with potential customers. Now that the industry has shifted away from that model, finding a new way to hyper-target customers with influencers, deals, and content is the best way to bring customers into the fold.Influencer Fatigue: Consumers are wise to the influencer strategy these days, and their fatigue is real when it comes to consuming influencer content. In order for brands to fight that fatigue and win engagement, building buzz around future products rather than current offerings is one of the best ways to do it.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
27/05/2134m 36s

Customer Loyalty as the Key Ingredient for Success

Repeat customers are the heart and soul of just about every business. But when your product is something that you purchase maybe two or three times throughout your life, how do you create a repeat experience that will sustain your company long-term? That was one of the questions that Chip Malt had to answer when he co-founded Made In Cookware, a digitally-native kitchenware company that launched in September 2017 and is disrupting this $17B cookware industry.And the solution he came up with was a good one: produce the highest quality products possible, have a deep understanding of the industry you’re entering into, deliver an all-around experience that goes beyond those products, then keep scaling to bring more must-haves to market.This episode was such a fun one because we dove into the history of the cookware industry, long term partnerships they’ve set up in France (their knives are made from the great-great-great-granddaughter of a French knife maker who invented the modern chef knife in the middle of Central France), secret recipes for their cookware ingredients, the best cooking tip he ever learned, and more. Enjoy this episode.Main Takeaways:Make It Memorable: Customers today are looking for experiences. In order to secure a sale or differentiate your brand, bringing a next-level experience to the table is a proven tactic. Partner with the people you are connected to in your industry — influencers, celebrities, etc. — who are fans of your brand and create something special for potential customers.A Living Legacy: Connections are made constantly in personal and professional life. Smart business owners use those connections to their advantage. When you can tap into a reservoir of friends, friends of friends, family connections or business relationships of the past who can speak on your behalf or join you in a new venture, you immediately start to create a sense of legitimacy that can spread more easily to those you have yet to connect with.First Time, Best Time: There are many examples of brands that have launched products quickly because they thought it was better to get a product to market than wait for perfection. But the opposite approach is also worth consideration. Rushing a product to market that isn’t up to your brand standards might be what dooms you with new customers who find you for the first time through this subpar product and then judge the entire brand based solely on that experience.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
25/05/2147m 4s

Knocking Out Knock-Offs: A Look at Crowdfunding and Copycats

Taking a company from $1 million to $100 million is no easy feat — especially when you have competition and copy cats coming at you from all angles. But Peak Design has fought off all those knock-offs — including a pretty blatant rip-off from AmazonBasics — and it has done it with humor and panache, which has only endeared the company more to its loyal customer base. Those customers are what took Peak Design from a simple camera utility bag company and turned it into a popular everyday bag and accessories outfitter for photography enthusiasts. Peak Design leaned into the idea of having a close relationship with its customers from the very beginning, by letting their customers have a say in their product line by way of crowdfunding and Kickstarter campaigns. And that, according to Elish Patel, the VP of Growth and Digital at Peak Design, has made all the difference. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Elish explains how building that loyal customer base has helped the company stave off the blatant and more subtle competitors. And Elish talks about how Peak Design is using unique marketing and content strategies to take people from browsing to buying. Enjoy this episode! Main Takeaways:It Speaks For Itself: Although Peak Design went toe-to-toe with Amazon after it knocked off a Peak Design product, more often than not, Peak Design lets its products speak for themselves against the competition. If your products are truly superior in quality and the value they offer, consumers will recognize that and make the investment. And when they buy the better product and see its superiority, they become more loyal to that brand long-term.Products Over People?: Hiring good talent is important, but you don’t want to prioritize growing your headcount over maintaining a laser focus on creating a good product. When you scale up your headcount, it’s easy to be distracted by the new focus on managing a large team and therefore your product design and development process can suffer. By relying on third parties and vendors or partners to do work you could otherwise hire internally, you are left with a core team who can focus on the part of your business that is truly important.More Than An Impression: With your marketing and content, the goal should be to achieve more than an impression or a like. Especially with a smaller or niche brand, being a part of the conversation your consumers are having on places like Reddit and TikTok is worth more than getting an influencer to post a picture with one of your products.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
20/05/2145m 17s

Migrating a Fourth-Generation, Family-Owned Business Online

Within the last five years, outdoor gear company Sherper’s has gone from less than one percent of its business revenue coming from ecommerce to now having a 50/50 split between in-store and online. And for this fourth-generation family business, that move to online has been both challenging and rewarding.As an old-school mom and pop business, Sherper’s has always prided itself on building personal relationships with customers and providing a level of customer service you won’t find with the big guys or digitally-native companies. So finding a way to create a digital experience that allowed Sherper’s to scale its operation yet maintain a personal touch was a top priority for the company. Leading the way in that journey is Nathan Scherper, the President of Sherper’s, who has come a long way from those days of scrubbing toilets for the family business when he was just 12 years old.On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Nathan takes us behind the scenes of how Sherper’s built out its ecommerce platform, what its competitive edge is over the Amazons and Walmarts of the world, and how the Sherper’s online platform performed when the pandemic forced more people than ever before online and in search of outdoor goods to cure their cabin fever. Plus, Nathan provides some insights into what it takes to keep a family business running for multiple generations, and why hiring talent is less about skills and more about personality. Enjoy this episode!    Main Takeaways:Hire The Person, Not The Resume: Personality matters and should be a driving force in your hiring process. Most people can be trained to do a job, so the key thing you have to do is identify the person you want to hire and understand their current skill set. Then, gauge what they are willing and able to do for the company and train them to do what makes sense.Compete Where You Can Win: It’s tempting to go all-in on paid advertising to try to compete with the big guys. But if you’re a smaller company or start-up, there’s no way that your budgets will be able to match those of the giants. Your investment is better spent elsewhere, like finding a niche influencer who can form an actual connection with your customers. So find where you get the most bang for your buck.Pent Up Demand: Many people believe that as the world opens back up, the desire to get out and shop is going to lead to a boom for retail, particularly small businesses. Customers have learned that they can buy necessities from the big guys online, so the weekend outings are more likely to be to local shops and restaurants and will lean more toward impulse buying.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
18/05/2142m 17s

Doubling Down: Stanley Black & Decker’s Investment In Ecommerce and Inclusivity

Most people would think that a company in the Fortune 500 wouldn’t have much work to do to stay on top and compete against scrappy start-ups. But in the world of ecommerce, companies large, small, and in between are all on somewhat level playing fields, and oftentimes, the bigger, legacy companies are running behind the younger brands. For Stanley Black & Decker, this was the case when it came to the company’s ecommerce business, which is why SBD announced a goal to double its online sales in order to re-establish itself as a leader in all areas. Katherine Bahamonde Monasebian  is the President and GM North America Commerce for Stanley Black & Decker, and she has been leading that charge since joining the company in early 2020. Katherine entered the world of  retail, having cut her teeth at places such as Lululemon, Barney’s, and Juicy Couture, but she’s always loved a challenge, and going from the hardest-hit industry in the pandemic (apparel) to the top-performing vertical (DIY and home improvement goods), was one of the biggest career shifts she had ever made. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Katherine explains why she made the decision to role up her sleeves and join Stanley Black & Decker, and how she has grabbed the company’s lofty ecommerce goals by the horns and got to work. Katherine discusses what it takes for a large company to experiment with new platforms, and how she measures ROI and attribution to assess risk, and she looks into the crystal ball to predict how ecommerce will continue to change, especially in terms of B2B innovations. Plus, we have a really meaningful conversation about how women are being brought into the fold at Stanley Black & Decker and elsewhere, and she explains why it’s so important for a company to practice what it preaches when it comes to its values. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Higher Stakes: Larger companies have a lot to lose if they make a misstep, and as such, they have to be a bit more cautious with the risks they take. But they still have to break out of their shells and explore all of the options, trends, and channels that are dominating the ecommerce space. To toe that line, looking at the data and the ROI of any experiment is the best way forward.Knocking on the Door: Since early 2020, the ecommerce industry has seen massive growth and acceleration, but the jury is still out on how much of the shift online will stick. Most experts believe that at the very least, digital platforms will be the “front door” for customers to discover and learn about brands and products.Trickle Down: Everything has to start at the top — from company values to operations to business goals and expectations, the leaders of the organization have to set the tone. If they do, and they practice what they preach when it comes to things like gender parity, diversity and inclusion, KPIs, work expectations, etc., talented people will be more inclined to join your organization, and they are more likely to stay for a long time as well.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
13/05/2141m 50s

2021 Trends: Ecommerce is Evolving — Are you Prepared?

In the wild world of ecommerce, the status quo is always changing. New companies enter the market to disrupt the norms. Legacy brands pivot to get a piece of the pie. Successful niche businesses get acquired left and right. With so much happening all at once, it takes a lot of work for brands to not only keep up but to get out ahead and win.Andrea Leigh and Melissa Burdick have made it their mission to stay on top of everything that’s happening and use their knowledge to help companies large and small make an impact in the market. Andrea, who you may remember from a previous episode where she discussed how to win on Amazon and the death of the category, is the VP of Strategy and Insights for Ideoclick, and Melissa is the Co-founder and CEO of Pacvue, a company that helps advertisers scale on big ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Walmart, and Instacart. A few customers of theirs include Unilever, Duracell, and Johnson & Johnson.These ladies each spent 10 years at Amazon “back when ecommerce wasn’t cool,” as Melissa says. Today, at their current companies, they work with disruptors and major brands alike as they come to realize that ecommerce is not just a fad, but the way of the future. And that’s why I was so thrilled to invite them on this roundtable episode to talk about all the trends they’ve been seeing recently, and to get their take on where things are headed. How are major brands moving to digital? Why are companies investing more in shorter product life cycles? What is the future of dropshipping and ad platforms? I wanted to know, and they delivered the goods. So sit back and enjoy! Main Takeaways:David vs. Goliath: In the world of ecommerce, it often boils down to small, niche brands competing against the bigger companies with a long history and much bigger budgets. In order to compete, small brands are forced to think differently, be more hyper-focused on product and customer feedback, and be intensely in tune with the ROI of any ad spend.Shorten That Lifecycle: Brands today are finding out the importance of being nimble and developing shorter product life cycles. When the unexpected happens, markets shift, or industry standards change, having a product already in process of a nine-month cycle puts you at a disadvantage to other brands that can pivot and change course quicker. Having a pulse on what consumers want, gathering data, and digging into feedback can help with the acceleration process.Show Me The Money!: In the past, measuring the ROI of advertising was a bit more challenging. Now, with the amount of data that you get from digital campaigns, measuring the return on investment of an ad campaign is much easier to track because you can correlate clicks and track customer journeys from ads. And with the number of new platforms that are constantly popping up, there is a bit of a new retail explosion that brands can take advantage of and track in unique ways. And today, regardless of the platform — new or old — brands will not advertise at all unless they can get a full view of the data and metrics from the ad platforms they work with.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
11/05/2147m 5s

Marketplace Madness: A Look at the Past, Present, and Future of Marketplaces

Mini malls, shopping centers, and large department stores all still exist and remain popular despite their digital counterparts But online marketplaces are where more and more brands are gathering to not just sell goods, but to get a better 360 view of their customers, and gain access to sell products from other big name brands that fit their marketplace niche. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I explored that idea a bit more with Jason Wyatt, the Executive Chairman at Marketplacer, a business dedicated to creating marketplaces. We dove into the various ways that Jason has seen marketplaces evolve, especially in recent years. Plus, Jason talked about some of the incredible innovation that he’s seen take place  thanks to marketplaces — including the birth of Providoor, an Australian marketplace for restaurants that was built as a reaction to COVID-19 and reached a $100 million run rate within 12 weeks. We talked about how the marketplace connections made that possible, and also how the B2B landscape can be revolutionized thanks to marketplaces. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Getting The Bigger Picture: By creating a marketplace, businesses can get a much deeper picture into the attributes of their customers, while also gaining access to inventory and products to sell from big name brands. The key to success? Curation.We Have A Connection: One of the greatest advantages of a marketplace are the connections that can be formed within them. Especially from a B2B perspective, because for so long those buyers have been left out of the ecommerce equation. They desire the same level of connection and ease that those in B2C have come to expect though, and marketplaces have provided a way to create community and engagement that has made B2B selling and buying much easier.Long Live Loyalty: Big brands have long tapped into loyalty programs as a way to earn customer trust and keep them coming back. By expanding point systems to usage within a marketplace, brands are now becoming even more trustworthy and respected in the eyes of consumers, who can all of a sudden get more bang for their buck. Additionally, the rise of wide-ranging marketplace loyalty strategies will likely become a new way for retailers to attract customers to newer marketplaces.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
06/05/2144m 42s

Biting Off A Piece of The Pie: How Bite Toothpaste Bits Disrupted a Century-Old Industry

Lindsay McCormick knows a thing or two about pivoting. After all, she went from planning to live in a van and travel around the country selling her sustainable toothpaste bits to launching a transformative and still-growing company that has taken the internet by storm and has left the big brands shaking in their boots. Bite Toothpaste Bits was the company Lindsay never meant to start, but a viral video helped launch her full-time into the world of ecommerce after she went from 6,000-lifetime sales to 200,000 in a single week. Needless to say she could no longer manufacture everything from her living room, and instead was thrown into the deep end trying to find production and shipping partners that could not only make her very specific products, but do so in a sustainable way that stayed true to Bite’s ultimate mission. There were challenges around every corner, but Lindsay navigated through them all, and on today’s episode, she shares that rollercoaster ride of a story . Plus, she explained why she thinks it’s so important to keep content creation in-house, the reason she’s always testing new channels and leaning into video content — I mean, it is what launched her company — and she reveals why she’s not scared at all about the big-name manufacturers making copy-cat products, in fact, she’s excited about it. Hear all that and more on this episode!Main Takeaways:Don’t Fight The Fog: Breaking into new channels means divorcing yourself from KPIs and metrics and walking into foggy and unknown territory. Embrace that journey because not only will you eventually be able to measure success, the opportunity cost of not taking the risk is too costly not to try.Pay It Forward: Going viral comes with its pros and cons. While the huge boost in sales is a dream come true, fulfilling orders becomes a major problem that has to be solved quickly or you risk losing all of your new customers. As a sustainable business and a small business at that, Bite fought many battles to find manufacturers and fulfillment centers to partner with that met all their needs and price points. As Bite has gotten bigger and found the right partners, the company has also outfitted those partners with some of the tools that they can use to help support and grow other small businesses.Teach Me Your Ways: Educating consumers is one of the most important things an ecommerce site needs to do, especially when the product offered is something that requires a change in habit and/or expectations. Customers who take the time to learn will be more likely to repeat orders, and they will also be more likely to be understanding of things like extended shipping times.Make Em Sweat: It can be intimidating to go up against giants in an industry, but showing even a little bit of success in grabbing market share is something that will leave those big guys feeling pressure to make a change. Not only should that be encouraging to you as a disruptor, but in the world of sustainability, when the big guys start making changes, the small impact of a disruptor grows exponentially.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
04/05/2150m 21s

The Secrets to Selling Luxury Goods

One of the hardest things to do in ecommerce is creating an online experience that truly showcases every aspect of a product. This is especially true in the world of luxury goods, where allowing customers to touch, feel and admire the craftsmanship of a product. And at the same time they are expecting an indulgent in-store experience which is tantamount to the story of the brand. Just the in-store experience can serve as the main selling point and create word of mouth like no other.  Throughout his career at places like Brunello Cucinelli and Boggi Milano, Fedele Sforza has had to meet that challenge head-on and figure out a way to create a luxury ecommerce experience that matches and works in tandem with the luxury in-store experience. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Fedele tells us exactly how he’s been able to do just that, and he explains why ecommerce leaders have to be evangelists within a traditionally retail-based environment. Plus, he details how to use data and technology as a window into the needs of your different customers, which you can then leverage to create personalized shopping experiences across channels. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Showcasing Luxury: The in-store experience is a much easier place to showcase luxury items and create a one-of-a-kind, high-end shopping experience. Online, there are fewer ways to showcase craftsmanship or cater to a consumer. But it’s not impossible, and it should be a priority to create a personalized and extravagant experience online that can match or work in tandem with what happens in-store.Friends, Not Enemies: When a company begins to prioritize and invest in ecommerce, often the retail side of the business sees that as a threat. An ecommerce leader’s job is to be an evangelist and show the ways that both retail and ecommerce can work together, share data, and create experiences that cater to customers in a more personalized way. If that collaboration happens, not only will customers have a better experience, but the business will see a boost on the bottom line because sales are being optimized across all channels.Curating Connections: Rather than making a list of channels in which you have to market, start to think about finding ways to form connections and create experiences with customers in the places where they want them. Not everyone is in the headspace to buy something when they are scrolling through Instagram, but they might be interested in purchasing something when they are at an event with friends. You have to find ways to connect with people in all places and in unique ways so that you are top of mind whenever they are actually ready to purchase.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
29/04/2153m 6s

Insights Learned From Digitally Transforming a $9B Company

No digital transformation is the same, but when a massive B2B organization embarks on that journey, you better believe that there will be a lot of lessons learned that can be applied to any other company. That’s why we wanted to talk to former Chief Digital Officer at Univar Solutions, Ian Gresham, who led the digital transformation and ecommerce implementation at this $9 billion multinational industrial distribution business. Look around at the things around you, make up, dish soap, skincare, solvents for your car. Univar probably has a part to play in that. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Ian tells us about the experience of bringing a massive organization into the world of digital commerce, and he reveals some of the biggest learnings from the experience that he is using now as an executive advisor to multiple businesses. For example, how should ecommerce leaders frame the building of a platform to get buy-in from the top down, and what kind of strategies should you implement to drive adoption of your platform? Interestingly, it’s a combination of moving fast but also taking it slow — tune in to learn what that means in practice. Plus, Ian shares more tips and discusses some of the insider details on the projects he’s currently working on. Enjoy! Main Takeaways:If You Build It, They.. May Not Come: When going through a digital transformation, many companies fall into the trap of believing that if they simply build and launch an ecommerce website, their customers will flock to it. In reality — and especially in the B2B space – there is an education and adoption phase that needs to happen to actually make an ecommerce site successful.M-V-P!: It’s wise to take an MVP approach to building an ecommerce platform because it forces you to focus on one specific feature that you can provide that solves a problem for a customer reliably well over and over. By offering that one solution, you can drive faster adoption of the platform because you are not overwhelming customers with a multitude of features, some of which they don’t want or need. New features can come down the road, but adoption needs to come first. And the entire organization needs to be on the same page that building a platform is an ongoing process with no set start and end date because there will always be new things to add or improve.It’s About The Journey: In businesses that rely on face-to-face interactions, the omnichannel experience is becoming more important than ever. To digitize some of the interactions and drive the adoption of more online tools, you have to start from the bottom up and understand every kind of customer and customer journey that exists within your business. From there, you can start reallocating headcount to digitize certain processes and send other resources to handle high-value customer interactions so that you know you are investing in the parts of the customer journey that are most in need.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
27/04/2151m 13s

Customer Acquisition Through Content Creation

Let’s be real, talking about sex makes people uncomfortable. But it shouldn’t! And that’s one of the driving principles behind Maude, a modern sexual wellness brand that is disrupting a taboo industry and making sexual health more a part of the overall health and wellness conversation. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I chatted with the founder of Maude, Éva Goicochea about how she built her company with a combination of excellent content, a growing and vibrant community, and a go-to-market strategy with patience and empathy top-of-mind. Éva also gave us some insight into the lessons she’s learned from bringing Maude into the retail market, and how she goes about assessing customer acquisition and community engagement. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Getting To Market: Ideate quickly, go to market strategically. Get to know who your customers are, what they want, and what problems they need solved before pushing a product to market. Not only do you need to take into account what your customers want, you also need to consider the associated logistics and cost that product will have to your business. You have to decide if your company is the one that should be creating it and whether the market size is big enough to jump through whatever hoops there are to actually bring that product to life.Content is King: Obviously, businesses want to sell goods on their websites. But it may actually be a better strategy to build a site that is less transactional and more content-driven and educational. In doing so, you can attract a casual audience, who are more likely to turn into buyers when they are already on your site.Bidding Wars: When wholesaling or working with retailers, a unique problem arises if those retailers try to outbid your brand for keywords and search terms in order to win more customers. Whether or not to fight to win those bidding wars comes down to assessing the value of the customer acquisition method. Is the customer more valuable as a native buyer or do you get the same or more value by having your wholesale partner see success selling your product?For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
22/04/2140m 26s

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

The Beatles told us that All You Need Is Love. Howard Tiersky says the same thing — but he’s talking about brands, not the whole of human existence. Howard is the CEO of FROM, The Digital Transformation Agency, which has helped brands such as Mattel, Barnes & Noble Education, Mall of America, NBC, Avis-Budget, and more transform to compete and win in a new digital world — and they succeed by getting customers to love the brands and everything they offer. Whether you’re a shiny new ecommerce start-up or a legacy brand with decades of history behind you, getting a consumer to actually love you is a multi-step process that is getting harder and harder as the digital landscape evolves. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, we dig into what the pyramid of brand love looks like and how companies should be working to climb their way to the top. Plus, he reveals the biggest mistake he sees companies making that causes potential customers to shop elsewhere, and he gives some strategies to rectify that situation and improve your bottom line. Enjoy!Main Takeaways:The Switching Cost is Zero: On the internet, it’s easy for a customer to move from one brand to another and it costs them nothing to do so. That means a brand’s first duty is to explain very quickly and clearly that it can and will solve a consumer’s problem. This is the area where most brands fail because they don’t have clear, simple messaging or content that tells their story and delivers their value prop instantly.Keep It Simple: Doing customer research is the best and easiest way to find the kinks in your website and processes. Setting up a simple focus group to watch how customers are using your site to see where their pain points are or where they are getting stuck can reveal the most basic and easy-to-solve problems that could increase your bottom line.Pyramid of Love: Creating a brand that people truly love is a challenge that has to be tackled in stages. There are specific levels of customer affection that you need to build up and that eventually culminates in love. But reaching those levels takes work and requires a brand to take specific actions. What are the levels and how do you reach them? Tune in to find out.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
20/04/2145m 4s

It’s A Trap! Why You Shouldn’t Sacrifice Authenticity on Amazon

Brands are facing fierce competition in this ever-evolving ecommerce landscape. More often than not, shoppers do a general product search on Google or Amazon, where hundreds, if not thousands, of brands fight for the sale. It’s a hard arena to win in, and every company is trying to find shortcuts and strategies to give them an edge.You’ve probably seen some of those strategies — for example, the products with a bunch of random SEO words jammed into the title so that the item appears higher in search. There are plenty more wacky Amazon tricks of the trade that brands have tried. Goal Zero is one of those brands trying to figure out the secret sauce but approaching it in a much different manner. Patrick Keller, Head of Marketing and Ecommerce at Goal Zero, may have finally solved the mystery — but the answer is not what you might be expecting.On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Patrick tells us that there are a few key strategies to unlocking more conversions on Amazon, and how they view authenticity and increasing brand awareness.TLDR: it takes great messaging, some big bets, and a lot of long-term thinking. Oh, and some pretty cool products, too. Hear all the details on this episode! Main Takeaways:Always Be Iterating: Producing marketing material is not a cut-and-dry process. Define your target market, set KPIs, and establish a timeline, then create a system that lends itself to AB testing and iteration. Don’t be afraid to create assets and then break them into pieces to test in different ways. You’ll learn more about your customers and the market in general that way, which you can then expand on when you embark on larger campaigns.Dream Big: Taking bigger advertising risks with a long tail is often a good way to get more bang for your buck. By investing in large-scale projects with a cinematic quality, you have more of a chance to use that content for much longer and build brand awareness with a larger audience that might miss a one-off campaign.Consider This: Figuring out a way to bypass the consideration phase on Amazon is one of the big challenges facing brands today. Because of the amount of options Amazon shoppers are presented with, companies that might have converted easily on their own site are losing out on Amazon. Whether through influencers or targeted campaigns, building brand awareness and loyalty is one of the methods brands are using to start bypassing that consideration phase and actually convert more.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
15/04/2146m 2s

Bringing B2B Into The eComm World and Other Industry Trends

Ecommerce has come a long way from its early days as a separate part of the company that you set up and just hope to see returns on. Now, ecommerce is pivotal for just about every organization — but there is one faction of businesses that still lags behind. There are $17 trillion dollars worth of B2B payments made every year. Yes, trillion with a T. And half of those payments are still being made manually. Clearly, there is a massive shift that still needs to happen in the B2B space, and Deloitte Digital is helping make those digital transformations a reality.Paul do Forno is the Managing Director at Deloitte Digital, and on this episode of Up Next in Commerce, he helped us understand the struggles B2B brands are facing and how moving them into the digital space could spell a massive change in the ecommerce industry. Paul also dives into some of the major trends he’s keeping an eye on in the ecommerce world, including how ecommerce continues to scale around the globe, most notably in Latin America. Plus, he shares some tips for businesses who are overwhelmed by the amount of channels and platforms they suddenly have to play in. Spoiler: he says do less. Tune in to hear more!Main Takeaways:Massive Call And Response: Bigger brands are struggling to stay connected to their consumers in a way that scales. Today, customers are looking to have a more authentic relationship and connection with the brands they engage with and support. For enterprises, connecting one-to-one is nearly impossible, so they are investing in tools like A.I. and conversational platforms to keep up with this newer generation of customers who crave connection.Dinosaurs Still Exist: So much B2B activity is still done manually, which means that there are trillions of dollars of transactions that could be moving online if/when B2B companies finally shift their activities to the digital space. The problem is that many B2B companies are miles behind their B2C peers in terms of optimizing the digital space for their many personas. It will take a lot of tools and transformation to bring those traditional B2B companies into 2021, but it will be necessary because the next generation is not interested in manually doing business and would much rather work with companies that have effective digital tools.Do Less: Brands can get caught up in the hype and the attempts to keep up with the Joneses. Instead, they should focus on being great at one platform or marketing activity. Plus, it’s critical to never forget the basics — like making sure your email list is generating the leads and engagement it should be to power your business.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
13/04/2152m 11s

Winning the UGC Battle

Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool, even in today’s digital world. And in this time of the ecommerce boom, brands are constantly working to build buzz for their products. Whether that’s through ratings, reviews, social posts, or unique ad campaigns. But there’s one highly coveted strategy that’s been bubbling to the top of the stack, and every ecommerce leader knows it is the way of the future. User generated content. And a company called Yotpo is here to help with that. Yotpo is one of the top platforms that companies such as IKEA, 1-800-FLOWERS, Chubbies and more lean on to help them build communities, generate UGC, and create loyalty programs that yield the kind of engagement most brands only dream of. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I asked the co-founder and CEO of Yotpo, Tomer Tagrin to give us an inside look at how Yotpo is generating 5X more engagement and content creation than is typical. Plus, we also dove into the future of loyalty programs and personalization. My one-sentence takeaway: definitely start leaning heavily into loyalty and maybe let off the gas a bit on personalization. Why? Tune in to find out! Main Takeaways:Do What You Know: Success in ecommerce is becoming more about the community you can build to support you. So the question founders are asking themselves — and Yotpo — is how do you build that community? The answer is pretty simple actually, you just have to follow your own interests. A founder starts a company for a reason, and they typically personify the exact target customer their company is going after. So dig into that link and create content and strategies that would resonate with you, the founder.Long Live Loyalty Programs: Every brand should have a loyalty program, otherwise there are opportunities and dollars being left on the table. The only way to access those opportunities and cash, though, is through a very brand-specific program. There are no one-size-fits-all loyalty programs. Brands need to understand what they want to incentivize for in their loyalty programs, who they want to target, and how they will reward the behavior they are trying to generate through the loyalty program.Partial Personalization: By deploying personalization tools, you can sometimes open Pandora’s box of never-ending adjustments and adaptations in order to create individualized experiences. At a certain point, the return on that investment starts to diminish. Customers are all different, but they don’t all need to be treated as unicorns. Create segments of customer types, and personalize the experience to those subsets.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---
08/04/2147m 55s

Fad or Future: An Inside Look at Shopping at the Edge, Implementations and Where Ecommerce is Headed

The world of ecommerce is constantly changing — this last year being a prime example. How people shop in 2021 is radically different from how they shopped in early 2020, so forget about thinking about comparing today’s world to a decade ago. Although that is fun to see how much has changed. Now, it’s all about keeping up with your customers, which is why for our first official roundtable episode of Up Next in Commerce we wanted to bring on two people who have been on the cutting edge of the industry for years. Ashima Sehgal is a Software Development Manager at Amazon Music and Jon Feldman, a Senior Marketing Leader for Salesforce Commerce Cloud. These two go way back to their days working together on ecommerce implementation at Restoration Hardware, which was a journey in and of itself, and while they remain close friends, they sit on the opposite side of the fence when it comes to certain aspects of the future of ecommerce. We get into all of it in this episode, including discussing whether shopping at the edge is the future of the industry or just a passing fad, and how to get buy-in when selling a new implementation. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did!Main Takeaways:Make It Easy: When pitching or selling an implementation, the key is to tell the right story and make it hard for the business to say no. Highlight the pain points that their business is facing, and play up how you will solve those problems from beginning to end and be a great partner throughout the process. But one thing to remember, don’t try to tackle everything from the start and be upfront about what is prioritized and what is put on the backburner.Edgy Opinions: There is a lot of debate on the future of shopping at the edge and whether or not it is a fad. Regardless of whether it sticks, businesses should be harnessing the power of meeting customers where they are and selling to them in those places, but the base ecommerce platform should not have to suffer as a result of those efforts.It’s All A Simulation: In the last year especially, there has been a lot of talk about the death of retail and the rise of an ecommerce-only economy. That is a myth. While 2020 and early 2021 undeniably changed the way people shopped, it was more of a blip in the timeline and not a true indicator of the future, which will more likely be a blend of in-person and online experiences.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
06/04/2145m 31s

The Big, Bold Future of A.I. in Retail and Ecommerce

Interacting with customers requires a level of finesse and talent that is beautiful when done well, and a tough sight when done poorly. There is give and take, and you have to flow through various movements and ups and downs to reach a satisfying end result. It’s like a dance. A tango if you will. At least, that’s how the folks over at LivePerson see it. Alex Spinelli is the CTO and EVP of product, technology, and operations at LivePerson, and on this episode of Up Next in Commerce, he broke down what that dance should look like, and how A.I. is taking the lead.  As Alex explains, LivePerson is a set of tools, technologies and platforms that enable businesses to have conversations with customers through messaging channels, and to detect where customers may be getting stuck or frustrated. Then, with a small immediate intervention, LivePerson’s A.I. routes that customer to a human who can make the buying process easier. It is a way to get to a better end result more often, and it works. Businesses using LivePerson have seen double-digit-percentage-point improvement in conversions and higher NPS scores than ever. But the power of A.I. doesn’t end there, and Alex dives deep into where we are headed with A.I. as a tool in retail, including the blended in-person and virtual experiences that seem to be overlapping more than ever before. And Alex gets into the nitty-gritty of the ethics behind A.I. and how everyone will have to be more involved going forward when it comes to defining their limits, wants, and needs. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Joining Forces: The future of A.I. in the ecommerce space is in the way brands can join together an A.I. experience with a human-based one. The way brands should be looking at A.I. is as a conversation-starter and a tool that can solve transactional problems, but when a deeper conversation is needed, it should be able to usher customers through a seamless transition to a real person who can build a relationship, form trust, solve problems, and ensure that the customer experience is a good one the has a positive end result.Let’s Get Ethical!: With any new technology, there are ethical questions that have to be addressed. This is especially true when dealing with A.I. Not only do you have to take into account the repercussions that A.I. will have on the labor force, but you also have to consider how A.I. is being trained, what kind of biases are being programmed into the model, and how and when to start and stop collecting data to build bigger and better A.I. models.Blend It Up: As we move further into the fourth industrial revolution, we are beginning to see more blending of virtual, digital, and physical experiences. Conversational technology will begin to follow us into physical stores and A.I., along with more targeting-types of technology, will be used in and out of stores.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
01/04/2146m 16s

The Pivot From Retail to Ecommerce

By now we’ve all heard about the thousands of businesses that pivoted to ecommerce in the wake of the pandemic last year. What we haven’t heard as much are the lessons both companies and consumers have learned in the process.On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I was excited to dive into those lessons and more with Israel “Iz” Moreira, the co-CEO of Doughp, a company that sells edible (and delicious) cookie dough. Prior to 2020, Doughp relied heavily on its brick-and-mortar stores and the foot traffic they delivered. But Iz saw potential in expanding the company through ecommerce channels, and, luckily, laid the groundwork for the infrastructure for that pivot even before COVID-19 forced Doughp to shutter its retail doors. With a now fully-online company, Doughp has started to centralize and increase its shipping capabilities and has seen success, but it wasn’t a cake (or should I say, cookie dough) walk. Iz explains some of the hardships Doughp faced on its journey to ecommerce success, including how little information-sharing there still is in the business world when it comes to cold shipping. Plus he dives into the recent revelations he’s discovered about whether free shipping actually matters as much as you think it does. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Secrets Are No Fun: Multiple players in the ecommerce space have reported struggles in optimizing the logistics of cold shipping. Some have figured it out on their own, while others have known the answers all along and have been keeping them close to the vest. Competitive advantages are still alive and well in the business world, so the level of information sharing when it comes to cold storage is still quite low in order for places like grocery stores and meal preppers to maintain their edge.Lead With Mission: Depending on your industry, you should be thinking about how to best reach customers in a differentiated way. Testing is required to find the right strategy, so don’t be afraid to experiment with personalization and messaging. And if you are in a more commoditized industry, finding that one thing that separates you from the rest of the pack is going to be the difference between a customer choosing you or not.Does Free Shipping Matter?: While 2020 was a struggle for most, there were some bright sides, including the education of consumers on the world of shipping and logistics. As more consumers became educated on the hardships businesses face when it comes to shipping and handling, the customers have become more willing to pay for shipping.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
30/03/2146m 26s

Differentiating Your Amazon and Native Website Strategies

If done correctly, a two-headed strategy of driving sales on Amazon and your native website could yield huge dividends. But what does that kind of strategy look like, and how can you create a scenario where one builds off of another?The answer lies in assortment and pathways into the brand experience. Ben Knox is a bit of an expert in this area and he’s here to share his expertise. Ben earned his stripes working on Red Bull’s ecommerce strategy, and now serves as the SVP of Digital at Super Coffee. According to Ben, brands need to come up with an assortment strategy that allows customers to get what they want, when and where they want it, but also leads them back to the type of brand experience you want them to have. He also details how beneficial a subscription model can be, if done right. Plus, he gives some tips on how to get the most out of your texting strategies and what is going on in the wild west of customer acquisition.Main Takeaways:Assorted Assets: When you sell on Amazon, as well as natively on your website, you need to decide on an assortment strategy and how each site can build off each other. Whether that is only placing a select assortment of products on Amazon, or having a full assortment across channels, but offering more subscriptions and sales on your website, it’s crucial to have pathways back to your branded channels.Gotta Flex: If you offer subscriptions, you can only achieve true customer success if you offer flexibility. Even if it means that your customers can cancel a subscription ten minutes after they sign up, those are the kinds of options you need to offer. Doing so allows your customers to feel unburdened and that the experience is risk-free, which makes them more inclined to sign up.Text Me: There are benefits to separating your text strategies in order to maintain the relationship you want with your customers. Having separate text numbers for subscription management and branded content will help customers differentiate the experiences they are having and allow you to cultivate a true VIP experience with those who opt into the branded company channel.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
25/03/2142m 20s

How Disruption Happens in Retail and Its Ripple Effects on Ecommerce

Innovation is risky business, especially if you’re a hardware startup. But it’s not just risky on the part of those inventing a new product. The early adopters of that product are putting a lot on the line, too. Which is why certain industries, like retail, have remained mostly the same for decades. Retailers only want to bring in something new if the operational cost of installing and using the innovation are minimal, and if it doesn’t require a massive overhaul of a retail space. This is exactly what Lindon Gao found out when he started exploring this space. Lindon has been on a mission to disrupt retail since his first application for a smart security tag was accepted by Y Combinator, and while that hardware didn’t take off, Lindon kept going until he landed on an idea that stuck. Today, Lindon is the CEO of Caper, a company bringing smart cart technology into the retail space with increasing success. In fact, Caper’s tech could be coming to a store near you, as the company recently agreed to partner with America’s largest grocery retailer, Kroger, to bring smart carts into chains all over the nation. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Lindon talks us through how Caper is finally bringing change into the world of grocery, and he explains how smart cart technology could have ripple effects on ecommerce, personalization, and the entire customer journey. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Where’s The Easy Button?: Implementing new technology isn’t easy in retail. The operational headaches of launching anything new often outweighs the benefit of most of the new tech being presented. Incorporating new tech as a retailer requires finding innovations that don’t need large system overhauls, already naturally fit into the customer’s store journey and provide an added benefit (i.e. more customer data, more opportunities to upsell, etc), to make the investment worth it.Do You Want a Receipt?: Smart receipts are one of the top ways to keep track of consumers after they make a purchase. Receipts offer a window into consumer behavior, and also provide a new area for personalization and follow-up conversations that keep customers engaged.It’s Not Either Or: When it comes to ecommerce and grocery, it is not an either/or question. Both in-store and online shopping will continue, and, in fact, the move toward ecommerce will only push the in-store experience to be even more efficient and streamlined.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce--- 
23/03/2144m 23s

Creating Commerce At The Edge With Conversational Commerce Applications

When people scroll through Instagram these days, they can’t avoid the ads and the influencers pushing products. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, more and more often, ecommerce is taking place in channels other than on a brand’s website, which is why so many companies are looking for ways to optimize how they execute commerce at the edge -- this means meeting customers where they are. Paloma has one way to do that, by turning messenger platforms into sales channels, which creates a more personalized shopping experience for customers, and a .5-to-10x higher conversion rate for brands.On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I was joined by Kelsey Hunter, the Co-Founder and CEO of Paloma, to give us the inside scoop on why brands should be investing in conversational commerce. In the last year, Paloma has helped partners convert $9 million in sales, and she explains how that happened by simply diverting ad traffic away from a website and into a chat instead. Plus, she discusses the future of conversational commerce and how the low barrier to entry into the ecommerce industry is forcing everyone to adjust quicker than ever before. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Website Woes: Moving forward, a brand’s website will become more of a secondary piece of collateral when it comes to driving conversions. It will still be critical to have a fast, highly-efficient website experience, but more of the interactions and conversion efforts will be focused on other channels where customers are spending more time.Get To The Party: The worst thing a brand could be doing right now is not experimenting with and setting up processes in Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps. Customer service and the customer experience are two of the leading drivers of conversions, and ignoring a channel that allows you to provide a proactive and personalized experience is a huge wasted opportunity.Far Out Future: The future of commerce is being written right now with shops that are opening with simple Instagram product posts and telling customers interested to go to a PayPal link. More new brands are foregoing the traditional channels and website launches, so the barrier to entry is much lower. As more competition enters the market in this way, traditional brands will have to keep up with their own easy, personalized commerce options.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---Transcript:Stephanie:Welcome to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postals, co-founder and CEO at mission.org. Today we have Kelsey Hunter joining us. The founder and CEO of Paloma. Kelsey, welcome to the show.Kelsey:Thank you, Stephanie. It's so good to be here.Stephanie:We're excited to have you on. I was just thinking I'm like, "How do I know I'm actually talking to Kelsey and not a chatbot?" She's put up a virtual screen and it might not even be Kelsey back there. I'm not sure.Kelsey:I have a history of pretending to be a bot, so.Stephanie:I actually, I read that. I read that you spent a little bit six weeks pretending to be a chatbot to learn how they worked.Kelsey:True.Stephanie:That's fun jumping off point. Tell me a bit about being a chatbot. What's that life like?Kelsey:It is wild. Let's see, I was working at a startup in New York that we offered mobile commerce solution for brands and publishers. So I was really deep in the mobile commerce space when the messenger API opened up. And as we're getting side projects, of course then, decided that messenger would be a good place to try to test things out.Kelsey:And before even building anything, I pretended to be a bot just to see how it would work. That's what sparked all of this. It was like, "Oh wait, if you can talk to people directly, people will talk to you about themselves." I'm asking people questions, they're telling me way too much information. That was really the spark for me. Then I said, "Oh, why are we making assumptions online? We can just ask people and they will very happily tell you things to help figure out what they should buy and why."Stephanie:That's cool. So you were doing this at another company. And then you're like, this is the business in and of itself. And that's how you went to create Paloma?Kelsey:Yeah. It was a totally side project outside of the company that I was working with. But all of the pieces tied together for me. That company is called Button, and when I left Button, I did a little bit of other experimentation in the channel. Actually, worked with a team to build a open-source software, to help people call Congress on Facebook Messenger, which was one of the first software tools that was like a MailChimp for the space, which is really cool. But brought it all the way back around to commerce and launched Paloma at the end of 2017.Stephanie:Cool. So tell me a bit more about Paloma. What is it? What does it do?Kelsey:Paloma helps brands turn Facebook Messenger into a sales channel. Essentially, we work with a lot of D2C and ecom brands across every product, category, audience, price point, and we help them drive traffic into messenger instead of their website where their customers get a more personalized shopping experience, that's powered by our software. So what that might look like for a furniture brand would be, they're running Instagram and Facebook ads and they can set them to open up a Messenger conversation instead of opening up a website landing page.Kelsey:And once in Messenger, our conversation, we'll ask them questions like what room do you want to design? What are the colors in that room? Do you have cats, dogs? Any other kind of style preferences. And then we'll dynamically route the customer to the right products based off of what they've shared. By helping the customer make the purchase decision, we're effectively seeing anywhere from two to 10X increases in conversion rates. And that's a little bit of very cap on, on how that works.Stephanie:That's awesome. I feel like just thinking about, I follow all these influencers on Instagram and they're always selling stuff, which normally I'm like, I want a lot of this. But if you respond to them, they definitely can't keep up. If you're like, does that size, would it fit me? Is that Off-White? Is that Real-White? It seems like there's a lot of opportunity everywhere to have a chatbot set up that personalizes the experience and also helps it scale.Kelsey:Exactly. And what you just described is one of the reasons that we see so much opportunity in that space. And the reason why customers messaged in the first place is because when it comes to online shopping people don't shop on websites. That's just where they transact now. But they're making decisions by what you're talking about, watching influencers, DMing folks, talking to friends, watching YouTube videos, TikToks.Kelsey:So you're basically piecing together all these different parties to figure out, should I buy this? What's the right thing for me? Whereas if you walk into a storefront, for example, you can get all of that figured out in a matter of minutes. You can talk to an associate, they're going to ask questions. Everything that you just described can happen there. There's nowhere like that online. And that's where messaging channels open up that opportunity for the brand to be part of that purchase decision process. So instead of leaving it up to all the third parties, the brand can do it themselves and they can scale it through these kinds of automated conversations.Stephanie:Very cool. And how do you go about setting up the responsive? Is it very custom based on the product? Like, do you work with a brand early on to be like, here's probably what they're going to ask you or they're telling you. What does that look like behind the scenes?Kelsey:We definitely curated a lot to the brand, a lot to the product type and to their customer demographic. So for example, Facebook recently published a case study of the work that we do with Wallow, which is a brand that sells titers, strollers. Basically goods for families and their kids. So they're really great products, but it's actually not so much about having a lot of skews. They don't have a ton of skews. It's more about why should somebody buy this Wallow stroller and how is it going to fit into their family and lifestyle?Kelsey:So essentially what we do is we'll work with them, look at the products that they sell and try to understand their customer type. In their case, a lot of their customers will buy for themselves, but there's a pretty good chunk that are gifting. So for example, the first question we ask is, is this for you and your family, or is this for a gift? Who are you gifting for? And then as customers answer these questions, we can speak to how it will fit into their lifestyle. How old is your little one? Are they eating solids yet or not?Kelsey:We don't actually need the customer to ask questions because by us asking questions first, we can preemptively answer how the value prop works for them. How it fits into their life. So we can say, "Well, they're eating solids is getting very messy. This high chair is very easy to clean." And so you're effectively accomplishing both along the way. It's basically just a really good sales conversation.Stephanie:Yeah. I mean, that's really smart and I think it's a different mindset where a lot of times, when you think about chatbots, the consumer has to initiate the conversation. Has to think of the questions. And it makes me even think about when I'm hiring... I'm trying to think what I was hiring. But they're like, "Oh, do you have any more questions?" And I'm like, "Well, what do people normally ask you? Like, what's the normal questions because I don't know what to ask you."Kelsey:What should I ask. Yeah.Stephanie:If I'm buying a house or whatever it is, what are the top 10 questions you get? And so that's great being like, we'll do all the work for you. Here's some of the questions that we know will start a conversation. So it's actually less work and less cognitive load. Where you can get to the end point and still leave being like, I know what I'm talking about now with this product.Kelsey:Exactly. That's 100% right. And it's actually a really classic UX design issue. Which is actually my original background. Basically, when it comes to any digital interface or any interface at all, if you don't know where you can go, you're not really likely to do it. You're not going to walk up to a pitch black tunnel and be like, "Yeah, I feel confident walking into that."Kelsey:That's like an open free from bot conversation or like you get on a customer support call and it's like, "What can we help with?" And you're like, "Well, depending on what I answer, what's the likelihood you'll have any idea what I'm asking?" It's not great. So we find that structuring and providing a really clear interface for the customers to navigate also makes a huge difference.Stephanie:We talked about this a lot on the show that shopping is moving to the edge. Everyone is shopping on Social, they're shopping on Amazon, Walmart it's everywhere and not always on the website anymore. Do you think that websites are going to become like a secondary thing, where it's like, yeah, it's a nice to have. But people are actually on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook. Going directly to Amazon, they're not really going to always go right to your website.Kelsey:That's exactly right. It's going the way of retail. And that's not to say it's going to go away. It's just that it's not the primary anymore. We see a website as like the catalog and it's a transacting location. In a lot of cases that's useful, but it's not necessary anymore. And we see that with how new sellers are starting today. Especially with COVID, everything accelerates so rapidly. But one of the really interesting trends is, you've got new shops opening up just with Instagram pages and saying, "Hey, DM me for this product and I'll send you a PayPal link."Kelsey:I think those kinds of very low tech indicators of the fact that that's where the market is heading. And, I think you're 100% right. The website's really not necessary. And there are tons of great antique shops I follow in New York that are doing just well without it.Stephanie:Yeah. That's cool. So what other trends are you seeing among sellers right now? Maybe anything new popping up and you're like, pre-COVID we actually weren't really seeing this and now there's a big trend to just opening an Instagram page and selling through DMs. What other things like that are you seeing?Kelsey:I think that's huge. I think that I'm really interested in these future QVC type of models. But that's just because I grew up watching those. I don't know, did you ever watched the knife show?Stephanie:I did not watch that, but.Kelsey:The show was wild.Stephanie:Well, there's a [crosstalk].Kelsey:I think it was on a lot when I was in college. We'd always end up like late night. The knife show would end up on at very late hour and it was just like, "Hey, here's some knives and we're just going to cut all sorts of stuff with these knives." Like the silliest thing. It was so funny, but-Stephanie:[crosstalk] the Blender show. It wasn't called the Blender show, but where they [crosstalk] random things in the blender and I'm like, [crosstalk].Kelsey:Exactly. The same kind of stuff.Stephanie:How much time do we have on our hands apparently?Kelsey:It was so silly. It was like cutting shoes and weird things like that. The humor of it, I think it was really fun. And I think that online, we're seeing a lot of that, like humor come into commerce in a way that I think it's really fun. And that's really what it should be. So I like things like that. But I do think that the new selling methods are probably what some of the most interesting things to me is just, what's the version of opening a store today versus before. And like the barrier to entry is just so low now. It's pretty phenomenal. So I'm excited for that.Stephanie:Yeah. Cool. And how do you advise brands to being proactive when it comes to starting conversations versus being reactive and just taking the inbound? Because if I'm thinking like, I'm a new brand, I don't have any inbound. What's the way to be proactive and like reach out to people with your product?Kelsey:What's really nice is that these channels are often first, which I think is really important for there to be a great customer experience. If we want these channels to succeed, if we want these brands to succeed, we need to make sure that we're being really mindful of the consumer. But what's really, really nice about Facebook Messenger while it is tough to work on another platform, play by someone else's rules sometimes, but there's a ton of great benefits there.Kelsey:And one of them is the acquisition funnel. So brands are currently running ads from Facebook and Instagram and stories, all those normal places. And all they have to do is set up the exact same ads, but they can change the destination of the ad click to open a messenger conversation instead of a website. And so we're able to say, "Hey, we're basically giving you a new ad type that you can leverage. It's going to drive to a higher converting destination." And there's no reason not to try that.Kelsey:Basically, it's a win-win from the standpoint of, it's really easy to test. We can guarantee traffic and make sure that we're properly vetting it and controlling the volume. And you can compare it one-to-one to your ads that go your website. So it makes it really easy for brands to get started. And it makes it easy for the consumers because they're doing what they don't normally do, which is click on ads. So that's the most common way to start.Kelsey:There are other ways of getting customers into the channel and you can do it with short links, with QR codes, we'll link from an email, a pop-up on your website. There's a lot of different methods there. And we have partners that do all of what I just described, but ads is a really common format because again, it's just a very seamless acquisition funnel.Stephanie:Cool. And is there anything that brands are doing right now in messenger or Instagram DMs, where you're like, that's actually the wrong way to do it? Anything that you would advise brands not to do or have seen things going wrong?Kelsey:Yeah, that's a great question. I think not doing anything at all is what I would say is the worst thing. Because, whether that's Instagram DMs and you're just not responding to the people that message you there, and that's a huge, lost opportunity. We understand that it's really hard to scale responding to people individually, which is why platforms like ours can help. But I'm just not doing anything, you're losing customers every time you don't respond to them because they want to engage with you directly for a reason.Kelsey:And every time they do that, there's an opportunity for that to become either a customer or a recurring customer. So let's say that's probably the worst, but in terms of actually doing things that are, are wrong, I don't like any of the spammy stuff and I don't like any of the things where it's not clear to the customer what's going to happen. Those are the things that I find frustrating, but in terms of how to do that, well, there's not as much going on with that anymore because Facebook really did crack down on some of it. So I'll say what I didn't like before was, there was a trend where there's an opt-in check box that you could put on your website that basically said, "I'm opting into Facebook Messenger with a business."Kelsey:And that's still something that you can use today, but at the time you could actually put it on your website pre-checked. Oftentimes customers wouldn't necessarily notice it or see that it was there or see that they had opted into something. But what was even worse was there were lots of sites that were putting them behind the scenes. So it wasn't actually visible on the page at all. So a customer would add something to their cart. And by submitting that add to cart, it was opting them into messages without them knowing it.Kelsey:And then they would get messages later if they abandoned their purchase that were like, "Hey, here's the 10% off. Here's a whatever go buy that thing you were looking at." Which inherently is not a bad workflow, but to do that without letting the customer know that's what's going to happen, really not great. I'd say that's the worst thing I've seen in this space, but you can't do that anymore. And I'm grateful for it.Stephanie:Yeah. Well, that's good. How do you keep up with the changes that Facebook's going through? Because it seems like they've been definitely on like a roller coaster where very popular. And then, I feel like they kind of went through a trough where it's like, does anyone use it anymore? And now I feel like it's growing again. Even among my friends, it's like people are using the groups now and Messenger.Kelsey:The groups are huge.Stephanie:That's the only reason I go on there for the most part, but how do you keep up with what they're even doing behind the scenes and how the buying groups on there just changing. And then coming back and then leaving, and then there on TikTok. How do you keep up with that?Kelsey:I think it could be really easy to get distracted or feel like that's very volatile. The approach that we've taken is actually just been to have our own point of view that is rooted in something just so fundamental that it doesn't matter what the policy changes are really. We won't be disturbed by them essentially. So we've looked at Facebook Messenger as a sales channel since day one of the business. And we've been around just over three years now. And of the platforms that were popping up at the time were MailChimps for Messenger, were abandoned cart notifications and things like that.Kelsey:And that is really easy to get disrupted by policy changes. But if you're fundamentally saying, this is a place where you can more effectively get a conversion from a customer and have a better experience for them. There's actually not a lot that that Facebook could do that would really interfere with that in a way. Unless they just fully said, "Hey, you can't actually use the API at all anymore." They just shut the API down. Then it'd be like, okay, fine. But even if that were to happen, the US market for messaging is inherently multi-channel.Kelsey:Messenger's not being first or last for us. It's going to be one of many. So, that's the way that we approach it as yes, we keep up with the trends. We are a platform partner, so we're pretty in tune with the roadmap and what's going to be happening there. And that's really important. The relationship is really important to make sure that you can prepare for your business. But at the end of the day, I think having a really just underlying fundamental platform approach to what we're doing, enables us to avoid a lot of the mishaps that we've seen affect other business models.Stephanie:Yeah. Cool. And you just mentioned like messaging is just the first, are there other areas that you feel like there's a lot of opportunity that brands can be selling in right now. Or maybe it's not even ready yet, but in the future it's coming down the pike.Kelsey:Yeah. I think anywhere where consumers and brands can have a direct conversation, you're going to see things evolve for that. And it might depend on the platform, if the platform is incentivized towards it or interested in it. Facebook supports this because they believe in messaging as the future of consumer behavior. It's something that's been around since the beginning of the internet, we've been chatting. I don't think that's going anywhere, but Facebook is also really highly motivated to monetize on it. And so, there's opportunity there.Kelsey:But would someone like discord do something like this? I'm not sure. I'm not sure if they're like motivated towards that or if that's part of the business that they want to be building. But I really do see that any messaging channel where you can have that kind of interaction, there's no reason not to produce a better shopping experience there and tried to scale that. It's kind of infinite, I think.Stephanie:I wonder if chatbots on websites, like native chatbots have muddied up a bit. Where it's like, we've all had that bad experience with a chatbot where they're talking and you're like, "Get away, get away. You're not going to be able to help me. I already know it Verizon, stop." [crosstalk]. I wonder if that has hindered the market, with certain people being open to buying via chat bot when they've had experiences that are subpar on maybe certain websites.Kelsey:At the start of these platforms opening up and these APIs opening up, you had people making bots left and right. And they were very low quality. It tarnished it a little bit. I think tarnished it a bit for the consumer and for the brands, because, when things opened up, brands started testing things and they weren't getting performance results. It wasn't their fault. It's really hard. It's like launching your first website and then not working super well. It's like, well, yeah, this is a totally new... It's where the start of websites existing. It's like, yeah, that's tough. It's tough to figure it out. It's a whole new learning curve.Kelsey:So I think that in terms of, what can happen there. It is very easy to tarnish their reputation, but again, it's not going anywhere. So as long as again, you have an opportunity to drive a better experience. You should keep iterating on that. And again, it's like if you have customers that are willing to do directly, it's always an opportunity to do better and to turn them into a better customer for you as well. There is also really huge difference between like the customer support experiences like that, and these types of sales experiences. I think there's a pretty clear line between the two and a lot of that depends on the customer's intent.Kelsey:If you're coming from an ad to shop driver, for example, you know that's what you're doing and you know that that's what you're being helped to do. And it's pretty straightforward. But if you're going in with any level of support need, there's a lot of opportunity to get that wrong. So it's really tough.Stephanie:Someone's already coming in with a heated mindset and one wrong word from chatbot. Ooh, I'm hot.Kelsey:Exactly.Stephanie:The one thing I think about too is the payment piece and how to make sure that customer journey is frictionless because even when I hear, Oh, some brands have a PayPal link, which I think is great. Or like an MVP, get something out there. And also, show there like, do I even know my PayPal login? Like, Oh, I don't know.Kelsey:Exactly.Stephanie:How do you think about, making the checkout experience frictionless where it's not a million different options and people know it's very be fast and easy.Kelsey:Currently we actually drive to check out on the brand site and we find that works really well because it's the trusted destination. You have all of the tooling and UI that you need to be able to have a good seamless checkout experience. And that works really well. Checkout is on our roadmap to be able to process that and manage that. And we won't be like a payment processor. We have partners we're talking to on end, but in terms of the checkout, there's a lot of ways to handle that.Kelsey:And I think that there's been so much best practice learned from mobile shopping as it is, that can be leveraged there. And there's also a ton of testing opportunities, but we really do look to... We're not trying to reinvent wheels here. Stephanie:That whole space is evolving so quick and just talking to the team at fast and continuing to be here and see what they're doing with the one-click checkout. I'm like, it seems like there's such an opportunity to have that right. In every form of like, you've got your cart already loaded in like your Instagram DM, and you can just hit checkout and all your payment information save and drop onto the next Instagram site.Kelsey:[crosstalk].Stephanie:There also seems like there's a good opportunity for Amazon there. I always look at all those Q&A sections, where it seems like how much time do I spend looking at toothpaste? Is it fluoride-free? It's for my kids, is it fluoride free? Does it not have this, that, that. All these questions, but I'm actually going through the whole product page for a thing of toothpaste so much time wasted. But it would be really nice to have a Messenger on there where you could just say, "Hey, does this have this and this?" Instead of me trying to zoom in on the ingredient list, or like, look at all the reviews for something that's like $6 or whatever it may be.Kelsey:Yeah, exactly. I hope Amazon's listening. They should come talk to us. We haven't seen anything quite like that, but we have talked to brands that sell on Amazon and we have done experiences in Messenger that link to Amazon product. That is something that we've experimented with before. And I think that you have to your point, why scroll through a million questions and answers that aren't necessarily relevant to you? And one might be, when you could just have the brand get to know you better and then tell you what you need to know.Stephanie:Yeah, exactly. So when you're first starting to work with brands who are implementing chatbots, what kind of metrics do you maybe advise them to look at to see if it's going well or not? Because a lot of people I could see being new to this, not even knowing like, well, what should I expect for conversion? Or like, what's good. What's bad. Like, how do you advise them around that?Kelsey:That's a great question. So first and foremost, and I think this is a little bit of what might have gotten wrong in the early days of the channel. Businesses care about performance. They care about conversions and CACs and return, and all those things. So, we want to make sure we're mapping to that because if you don't then at the end of the day, they're going to be worth your time if it's not performing on those metrics? Probably not. So first and foremost, we can own conversion rate. That's the KPI that we really truly measure against. Because essentially we're saying if you drive traffic here, instead of your website, it's more likely to convert. That's our thesis. And so if that's true, that's what we're going to start measuring against. And we'll do that by looking at what's your conversion rate from a standard click to site ad.Kelsey:So purchases you're getting out of link clicks. And then when you run a click to Messenger ad, we'll do the exact same thing. How many purchases are you getting out of those ad clicks? And that should be able to tell us if it's a higher converting channel for you. Fundamentally we've seen anywhere from 50% increases to 10X increases in one case and anywhere in between. So it's not abnormal for that to be the initial result. But then in terms of the other things like captain role, as they should benefit from that better conversion rate. It shouldn't be approached necessarily differently than any other conversion tests that you're running.Kelsey:That being said, we have a ton of insight into the full funnel that we can leverage to optimize. And so, all of our partners start with at least a three month program because we know it takes time to warm up and we want to make sure we can iterate. And we do that on a weekly basis. So you might start with X result in month one, by the end of month three, it should be much better. And so the way that we can do that is looking at everything from a customer clicks on an ad, they land into Messenger. Do they respond to the first message, which basically ops them into the channel?Kelsey:Are they completing like a quiz? If there's a quiz or personal shopper? Are they clicking on products back to the website? And then are they adding to cart? And then are they purchasing? So we have a slightly different funnel. You're going to get your ad performance from ads manager and see the link clicks and add to carts and purchases. Paloma is going to see everything in between. So we'll be able to know exactly where people are off and why. And be able to iterate on that much more efficiently than if it were traffic going to a website, where are they clicking? How are they browsing? There's like a ton of more opaque data from a website side. From our end we can literally just see, okay, you have too much drop-off on the first question. So let's not ask that question. Or, Hey, everybody is answering the same way to this one question, that doesn't need to be there.Kelsey:Or, people are clicking on the products. Maybe we need different product batches or whatever that may be. So we'll be able to get a lot more of a finer detail on that. And we have benchmarks for each. We expect our partners to get at least a 30% opt-in rate, maybe percent completion on any type of quiz or personal shopper experience. And then at least 50% of traffic clicking back to the website. And then from there add to carts and purchases depends on what they would normally expect to see. It's kind of a lengthy answer.Stephanie:It's good to know metrics like that to aim for. How do you plug into a brand's inventory system and then also make matches. That will be something that I want to look at. I can just imagine me going in there and not knowing what I ever want being like, "I want a picture." And then someone's showing me something and maybe like, "Oh, not that one." How do you guys personalize it and show something I want, but also make sure that you're not tapping into inventory, that's like out of stock.Kelsey:So we basically can ingest inventory into our system, keep that up to sync, keep that availability up to sync. And so anytime that we're building experiences, you're able to make sure that it's the right things getting shown. In terms of what to show customers based on their selections. We have this like start matching dynamic product matching system where basically the customer's responses get associated with the inventory.Kelsey:So all of your boots are associated with like a boot selection or all of your things that come and break colors would get associated with like bright colors. If you were asking about color preference. And some of these qualities are not things that would normally be tagged onto your inventory. So we're basically expanding on that. So we make the association between the two and as customers make the selections, we basically just filter down and display all the things that would then relate.Kelsey:So like Andy swimwear, for example, if you chose one pieces and some coverage and a lot of support, you're only going to see the products that, apply to all of those qualities. And it's really simple for us to create those. Something like that can take like 10 minutes to build, whereas a quiz to put on a website can cost thousands of dollars and take two months. And so, that's kind of part of the magic and secret sauce of our software.Stephanie:Yeah, that's cool. I was just thinking about, okay, to even create that kind of filtering and navigation options and all that can take a long time. And tagging it and making sure that it's actually can be searchable. And then if you can just have it in a DM or Messenger, that's great game changing.Kelsey:Yeah. It's really fun. It's a very simple, we have like own drag and drop interface to just jag product on to the selection options. They're tagged with that in the future. And then as customers answer, we just know what to show them.Stephanie:Cool. Where do you see the future of commerce headed or chatbots and commerce intersecting. What does that look like to you maybe three to five years down the road? Where do you hope it looks?Kelsey:Really, again, I like to look to what people are doing now when they're just starting out and also at other markets. So really in terms of the future of commerce, we believe very strongly that it's on messaging channels, that that is the next door front. And so, what does that look like? It's customers going to DMs, it's brands driving traffic to DMs and customers just getting much better shopping experiences there, converting there, checking out there. And new stores not having to even open up a website. Again, I don't think website's going to necessarily totally go away, but it's just going to be a smaller part of the puzzle. If you look at what's gone on in other markets like China with Weechat, they're way ahead of the game. And that works really, really well.Kelsey:And it's a huge chunk of the commerce ecosystem out there. So we've been a little bit slower to that, but it is happening. It's happening a little bit more multichannel, and I think that's really interesting and that's a really fun challenge is that, we don't have the monolith app that will do it all. We have a lot of [crosstalk] apps. I think it's great because everyone likes to have their own different way. We're always getting new social networks and apps out there and it's fun. It's really fun. So basically, I'm not sure how many different tools there will be in the future, but we very strongly believe that messaging is the next channel and destination for commerce to happen. And we're effectively building the platform to power that. Stephanie:That's great. It definitely begs the question about keeping things organized when you're selling on so many different channels. And there's probably going to be dozens of messaging platforms that people are using. I'm just imagining a brand, trying to keep up where, they go from selling on their website and then maybe dabbling in Amazon, maybe on Walmart. And then all of a sudden it's now, you can sell on Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook and TikTok. How do you think a brand would be able to keep up or do you see anything right now? Like any innovations that are allowing brands to organize everything in one central place that they can keep track of what they're doing?Kelsey:There are definitely a lot of interesting tools. I think that what comes before the tools are just the people, expertise. I think that's what we're seeing, services and agencies that will help with coordinating all of those things or know how to best launch on Amazon. And then once you've launched on Amazon and all these other places, then you go, okay, well now I have everything in too many places I need a more scalable system. And that's when you start seeing softwares get put in place. And I don't think any come to mind immediately, but I think there's some really great tools that are coming up to try to glue things together and basically to piece together, all the different supply chain and logistics issues.Kelsey:And there's some really great things out there for that. But we're also seeing new commerce platforms that are inherently taking those things in mind. So we have a lot of commerce players that exist that are trying to catch up and trying to add on these different channels. But then you have new players that are from day one saying, "We know it's not just about one place." So you've got things like, headless commerce and no code tools and platforms like Paloma that will from day one say, "Hey, this isn't just about a single source of shopping. It's about a lot of things."Stephanie:Yeah. I completely agree. All right, well, let's shift over to the lightning round. Lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce commerce cloud. I'll ask a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready? You look a little nervous. Wow.Kelsey:I don't know, that's scary. It's a little daunting.Stephanie:No, it'll be fun. It'll be fun. What one thing will have the biggest impact on e-commerce in the next year. I have a feeling you're say message shopping and Messsenger.Kelsey:Obviously messaging. I'll just be repeating myself a little bit, but I think messaging is a bit. It's already been exploding pretty quickly and it's growing faster than ever. We drove almost 9 million in partner revenue last year. And that's just as a small, early stage team, so there's a lot ahead of us.Stephanie:Yeah. That's cool. What, one thing do you not understand today that you wish you did?Kelsey:Just so many people things. I find people so fascinating. I'm constantly seeing how people chat, but I would just love to talk to people about their experiences with all of these experiences and with all these different kind of shopping channels. And, I think that it's not something that I don't understand. It's just something that I'm always eager to understand people's behaviors more. So that'd probably be it. [inaudible].Stephanie:What's up next on your Netflix queue?Kelsey:I am so behind, I need to watch Bridgeton and literally everything else. I've been doing a Buffy rewatch. So I'm just like living in a very different time.Stephanie:What is a book that has really left a very big impression on you? You're like, "I always think back to this book for either business or life."Kelsey:Oh, that is a great question. I'd say, well, what are the ones that comes to mind, it's Italo Calvino. [crosstalk] is the author. And basically, it's a person telling stories about visiting a lot of different cities. And when I was younger, I found that it was just... When you're reading, it's all about picturing what's going on. And as someone who, if you didn't grow up being able to travel a lot, it stuck with me. I was like, I want to be able to do that someday, but also just being able to picture it from a book is really, really nice. I still have like the images in my head of different passages from that.Stephanie:Oh, that's cool. All right. And then the last one, what's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for you?Kelsey:Oh my gosh. I feel like people are so nice. What is the nicest thing anyone's ever done to me? Oh gosh, there's too many things.Stephanie:Wow. You must be a very... People are sending all this nice stuff you way. [crosstalk] people around you, can I have some?Kelsey:When you run a business, or when you start a business, it's all about getting help. That's the best way to be able to succeed is knowing what you don't know and how to get help. So I will say I'm very good at getting help, but what's like the biggest part of that is having people be really nice and great. And so, there are just a lot of people that have helped along the way that I literally would not be where I am without that. From little things like making the introductions, not everyone has access to the networks that you need. And so, the people that believed in me more than the business or more than anything else, that's really huge.Kelsey:And so, I've just got like some really great, great people that helped along the way. I can't pick a single thing, but I'd say like some of our investors, some of just the people I've worked with in the past and they're really just root for you. And will be there when you say, "I have no idea what I'm doing. How does this work?" Or, "I need some help."Stephanie:I thought so. Good answer. All right, Kelsey. Well, it's been a blast having you on the show. I love learning about Paloma and your story. Where can people find out more about you and Paloma?Kelsey:You can learn more about Paloma, getpaloma.com, G-E-T-P-A-L-O-M-A. And me I'm on Twitter, LinkedIn at Kelsey Hunter. I think it's usually Kelsey AH. So feel free to message me, check out the site, chat with us. We're always around.Stephanie:Amazing. Thanks so much.
18/03/2141m 4s

Flipping Ecommerce on its Head

Imagine this: it’s Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year and you’re a brand with customers on your website pushing the buy button, but instead of moving them down the funnel, you stop them and interrupt the buying process to ask them, “How are you feeling right now?” Seems like a crazy thing to do right? Especially in a world that is dominated by closing sales and doing everything possible to get a consumer to hit buy. You’re literally pausing a conversion, making a customer examine his or her activity and second guess making a purchase. Nevertheless, that was the strategy Bearaby put into practice this past holiday season and the results might just surprise you. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Kathrin Hamm, the Founder and CEO of Bearaby, tells us that that mindfulness experiment, while risky and not advised by her industry peers, paid off in big ways. Bearaby was able to gain insights into consumer behavior and gather data that helped predict whether or not a customer was likely to return a product or not. And, most importantly, Bearaby was able to build more trust with customers and foster a more authentic relationship centered around mental health and the customer’s well-being, which in today’s world goes a long way toward creating a loyal base of customers. Kathrin also explains why adding more mindfulness and behavioral queues into the customer journey could have a positive impact on return rates, overall customer satisfaction, and your NPS score.Main Takeaways:Do You Need This?: So many brands are trying to optimize for sales and push people through the funnel, but what if you took a step back? At Bearaby, by introducing mindfulness into the buying process and asking people how they feel throughout the process of a sale, the company was able to build trust with its customers, understand the behavior of people who returned products, and increased the overall net promoter score of the brand. Making it Work: As a small, independent, DTC business, being agile and having the ability to accelerate a product are assets. But when you expand and begin to take on retail partnerships, your internal processes need to adjust. Rather than thinking a month of two ahead, you need to fit into a production timeline that is already planned two years in advance. To do that, it’s critical to have the right backend operations in order to analyze data and manage inventory so you can meet the needs of your partners. Stop Selling, Start Connecting: Most brands see social media and SMS messaging as tools to sell products and get information to customers about deals or products. But what if you used those platforms to be a resource to your customers and offered them help in ways unrelated to your products? Bearaby took this road when establishing itself on social media and found that sparking natural conversations led to more curiosity about the brand overall, and subsequently led to sales with truly engaged customers.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---Transcript:Stephanie:Hello everyone and welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, Co-Founder and CEO at Mission.org. Today on the show, we have Kathrin Hamm, the CEO and founder of Bearaby. Kathrin, welcome.Kathrin:Thanks so much for having me.Stephanie:Tell me a bit about Bearaby. I was looking at your website, I saw how amazing your weighted blankets look. They're knitted, they're awesome. I have a couple other weighted blankets, but they are nowhere near that, so tell me a little bit about the company and how you thought about creating it.Kathrin:The idea of creating Bearaby was really when I had sleep problems myself. I used to work for the World Bank as an economist, and I was just traveling a lot. I just had moved from Washington to the Middle East, and then from the Middle East to India, all within two years. I was traveling a lot and I was never a good sleeper, but this constant travel and jet lag really put me over the top. So I was just looking for a natural sleep solution. I tried many different things and at some point I came across this really simple concept of a heavy blanket that's supposed to be 10% of your body weight, that you put on top of you in an equal way, and it's supposed to help you calm, relax and sleep better.Kathrin:The concept itself is not new. Weighted blankets have been around for more than 60 years, especially for children that have sensory disorders. I ordered one of these blankets into India, and I tried it on a Saturday afternoon, and I napped for four hours. Which never happened to me before, and I was just sold on the idea. I'm like, "Okay, that's it. I can move on with my life, I just get this blanket and things will be good." The next night I woke up again and with the weighted blanket, but I was sweating and it was really hot.Kathrin:I think that's when I realized that all these weighted blankets are made with these artificial filling materials, so usually you find 20 pounds of plastic beads in it. Obviously it makes you hot, like an oven, but it's also really not good for the environment. At that point, I was really just searching for a product myself, and I realized there's nothing out there. Even though the product has been around for such a long time, somehow no one had really innovated on the concept. That's where the idea started to make something different and use innovation and design and at the same time try to come up with a product that's addressing these needs while being sustainable at the same time.Stephanie:That's awesome. So this was back in 2018 when you launched your company and you still had your day job and you launched it on Kickstarter, right?Kathrin:Yes.Stephanie:Tell me a little bit about that thought process. What was in your head when you were like, "Okay, I have a full-time job, I'm in India, and I'm going to go on Kickstarter."Kathrin:I think I'm naturally a risk-averse person. I know other entrepreneurs are like, I had my idea and I knew I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I just went for it. I went the other way. I'm like, "Let's try it as a little side hustle and see it more of a project at the beginning." So I really mapped out in a business plan, so what do I need to have first? How do I think about the product? How do I think about the IP? And at some point you come to the funding, and when you do the numbers you realize that it actually takes a lot of money to launch a product or a brand, and you don't know in the early stages if people even will like it.Kathrin:It's when I realized that I think crowdsourcing is a good way to fail really fast or get feedback really fast. So we put together a short video, with the initial idea, and within a month, we had more than quarter million dollars already on the Kickstarter campaign. And the feedback I got from people is that this is just a product that more people are looking for, and I think that gave me then the next confidence boost to say, "Well, it might be not only a project, but this might be a real business idea that I can start exploring."Stephanie:That's very cool. So, what did it look like after you had that money in your Kickstarter account, and you're like, "Okay, this is real." What did it look like after that?Kathrin:Well, the money didn't last really long. So I actually emptied out my whole retirement funds. After I had had left my job. I think at that site, I really believed in the product and I knew I was onto something that I wanted to bring to the market. So the next step was the manufacturing. At that point, I had a prototype that I actually had developed together with my mom who's a really avid knitter. And we came up with the idea that instead of using any plastic or glass beads to make a product heavy, it's like a knitted rug. And if you use layers upon layers of fabric, you actually also get to a heavy blanket that comes up to 20 pounds.Kathrin:There was a small piece of a blanket. And then I went around and I just had a list of different manufacturers. I think I had a list of around 40, and I just picked up the phone and were talking to people. "This is my idea. Is it something that you could help me produce? Could you help me make this?" And I think one of the issues was that most people didn't know why do you even want to make a heavy blanket? We've been working in the industry since 30 years to make a light product, a light blanket. So I think that was an issue. Then I also obviously didn't have any credibility in the space where there's like, "Okay, even if we're trying to make this, how many units would you take?"Kathrin:And I'm like, "Maybe 100." And then I think they already hang up the phone.Stephanie:[crosstalk] thinks.Kathrin:So I got a lot of nos at the beginning. Yeah, I just realized that nobody had done this before, even with apparel that said we have similar we don't have these machines bedding, we don't have these machines. So I actually went back to the drawing board and without before I actually launched the Napa our product, I first had to come up with a machine to make the weighted yarn that we're using. I was working with a manufacturer in Germany, a machine maker. At first was creating the yarn to then go into the final production.Kathrin:So that took me quite some time to really figure out that supply chain piece. And yeah.Stephanie:I think most people would have given up when they found out they had to make their own machine. That's wild. What was your mom saying during that whole process?Kathrin:They thought I'm crazy. Because I left a pretty solid job that I studied for a very long time for. I have a PhD in economics. And then suddenly in my mid 30s I'm telling my parents, I'm leaving my job because I want to sell these heavy blankets that nobody had heard of on the internet. So, even my friends thought this is just a phase or maybe like a midlife crisis. And when you have these dinners with friends, where everyone is sharing like, "Oh, I got a promotion." Or, "I'm on to the next step." And I had for a very long time, I had nothing to share where I'm like, "I'm about to build a website. It's not there yet, just give me a couple of more month."Kathrin:And everyone was like, "Oh, yeah, that's very cute. Good luck with that Kathrin."Stephanie:Yeah.Kathrin:Yeah, it was sometimes not an easy time. Especially like the first year.Stephanie:Yeah I can imagine that's such a fun story. So now, you're partnering with big brands like West Elm. You've got celebrities who love your product. I saw Rachel Zoe and others love it. So how many blankets are you selling today? Yeah, I want to get into the partnership piece after that. But yeah, what does the world look like today?Kathrin:When we launched in December 2018, we just had our website, and we got an article on Fast Company. I think just five months later, where they were describing that this is the most sustainable weighted blanket in the market, and it was just a category that people got notice of and that was the time where it's like, this is a sleep solution and there are these weighted blankets and then we came already in a market where it was a product that was different, it was something you want to keep on the couch, something designed worthy and not something that you might want to hide in your bedroom.Kathrin:Then we got a call from West Elm just literally a week later. Actually first it was an email, and at that point I thought, "Probably it's not real. Maybe someone is scamming us." But I thought, "Well, doesn't hurt to just jump on the call and have a conversation." And yeah, I ended up speaking with the buyers and they were excited about the product, they were excited about a category, and we're looking into it also for some time and they liked the idea of having a sustainable option that also fits with their interior design. While they asked me where's your showroom, and at that point, we're like, "It's actually my living room. So we don't have a showroom yet."Kathrin:But they still took a chance. And we were a very small company at that point. And they helped us work through the process of getting on boarded with such a big partner very early on and working on the color collections. I think we learned a lot from a design perspective and that now we've expanded the partnership, we're now also in Pottery Barn Kids with our kids collection and it's turned out in a really beautiful partnership which I never had expected or hoped for that early in the stage of the company.Stephanie:That's amazing. Have you already sold some blankets? Were you doing DTC before West Elm approached you?Kathrin:Yeah. So we started B2C as a primary channel. That's just for the reason that I wanted to educate people around the product, because I felt a lot of people still didn't fully understand what are the medical benefits of the product? How do I choose a product? I also wanted to create something that's different from other weighted blankets where it's really [inaudible] and into something, it's healthy to talk and there is actually joy in napping. So this branded experience, I knew I could only establish on our own website. So we didn't think about any other channels at that stage.Kathrin:Really we're focusing on how do we communicate that we're different? And how do you communicate the heaviness of the product without people being able to touch it?Stephanie:Yeah, that's tough. So how did you show that value on the website?Kathrin:I think that's still one of the most asked questions that we're getting why people are figuring out what's the best choice for them. We came up actually with a customized quiz, where we work with a sleep scientist, where people just ... we didn't keep it too long. But just a couple of questions that give people a guidance. Were this is the right product, there's a recommendation that comes out at the end of it. And then we also have a detailed section that goes into the fabrics, the different options that we have and how it makes you feel.Kathrin:But I would say it's definitely an advantage for us to have West Elm as a partner because if people are still unsure on, we don't know what a weighted blanket feels like, I can tell them, why don't you hop on a bus and go into the next West Elm store and to see and test it out there on the couch there when you come and you can try it out, and most of the people actually really go right away and enjoy trying it out.Stephanie:Yeah, that's really cool. So how did you go from being DTC to then all of a sudden, you're going to be ... you have to expand your stock, you have to start selling nationally. What did you have to do behind the scenes to make it work with West Elm?Kathrin:It's really a process that we needed to prepare for from an operational standpoint, because when you are a smaller brand and let's say you have shorter planning cycles. So when we have an idea, we're saying, "Oh, we would like to come up with this color, we want to try this." It usually takes us more or less like two months to bring that style on our website, because we're very agile as we're producing in house. But now with a retailer, we had to see ... when we talk January, we're like, "Okay, let's talk March guys." And they're like, "We're already in March 2022."Kathrin:Like a year later we're like, "Oh, okay so, just the planning cycle and then adjusting the volume for it means that we need to have the analytics in place the inventory planning." It forced us to some extent to really look for the numbers and have our inventory planned out and the analytics on what are we selling and how are we converting on the website? And then how do we allocate the volume to West Elm? So that was one piece. The other piece is obviously supply chain that became in the beginning just much more difficult. So we had to onboard an additional warehouse to just fulfill the requirements ... coming from the labeling and the other requirements that we had to do.Kathrin:So it was a really ... I would say stressful time for the team. But I think having a partner who guides you through it was helpful too. And I think now we've done it and we really learned a ton in these couple of months. It also helped us I think we prospectively just be better as from a operational standpoint.Stephanie:Yep. So, what happened this past year when it came to COVID and holidays and Black Friday? Was there anything interesting there that you had either planned for or that you found out after the fact?Kathrin:Generally we saw an increase in demand, especially with people being at home. People were more looking for the product. People had struggle with sleep and anxiety levels went up. So, we've seen really a spike in demand, which we try to fulfill from our end from a supply chain perspective. Then again, on Black Friday there was another spike. But this Black Friday, we actually decided to go on a different road. Usually as you know, Black Friday is the biggest sales day of the year, and every brand is getting ready. What we actually did is we literally slept through Black Friday.Kathrin:We came out with a black blanket a black Nappa for Black Friday. And we wanted to introduce the concept of mindfulness around it, because our hypothesis was that mostly we're buying a lot of stuff at a discount that we don't really need, it ends up in landfills and it doesn't make us happy. So we wanted to see first of all how would it be if basically our website is shut down, and people are sleeping through Black Friday. And then if you still want to come back the next day, we're still making it difficult for you to get the product. So we had designed a website experience where you only were able to access the product when you actually slept on it.Kathrin:In addition, what we wanted to see and we worked with behavioral scientists on a component of feelings, so you're evaluating your feelings and how you are mindful when you purchase. We work with Duke University and the Advanced Center of Hindsight. And basically how it worked was you come to the website and before you click to purchase, another question box pops up that literally makes you pause and asks you how are you feeling right now. And not like the normal, how are you and then you move on but we wanted to have people reflect on it and ask people do you really need this product right now?Kathrin:And if yes, how are you feeling? Are you anxious? Are you calm? Do you feel lonely, sad, happy? And what we found is that, first of all people were really excited about this campaign, that it made them feel like maybe I don't need a second blanket. And what's most surprising for us was that people who were anxious, were five times more likely to return the product afterwards. But people who were calm, or people who felt grateful while buying the product, we had close to zero returns on that. So this is something which I was really fascinated because I think for us as brands as we move through the learnings that we had in the last years, I think people are more conscious about what we're buying.Kathrin:But I think for brands we also think this is now expected and what can we do actually to take the customer experience to the next level and as more and more brands are coming on to ecommerce, is how do you establish the trust actually as a brand? I think that aspect of mindfulness and not pushing people to buy, and if there's a business case that we actually can show this is not only good for the consumer, but it's also good for the brand to actually have more mindful purchases instead of driving people aggressively down the funnel, this is something I was very excited about the results.Kathrin:And we will pilot and test more and work with our community to see how we can actually bring mindfulness into the ecommerce purchasing experience.Stephanie:Wow, that's such an interesting test. So it's different than I guess a lot of brands right now who are so quick to just try and optimize for that sale, quick conversions. And sometimes, especially the earlier ones and now you're even thinking about the returns later on that are very expensive. How are you taking those learnings and applying that into your business going forward? What new tests are you doing? How are you thinking about things differently now?Kathrin:So one thing is definitely the returns for a product that on average is 20 to 25 pounds. Our shipping costs are quite high. So how can we actually optimize that we really have an experience for customers that it's a purchase decision that is well thought out through. And that we're actually helping people to guide them through the decision. One is the science of sleep science quiz that we have on the website, where we really educate people along the way to make the right decision on what product they should buy.Kathrin:But we will systematically also test in the next couple of months on what are different interventions that you can take before you click on the buy button that has a calming effect on people. Furthermore, one thing is obviously returns. But then, would that also help people to feel more satisfied overall? Is the net promoter score going up of people who basically were in a mindful state while buying and testing different interventions? And we work obviously closely with the behavioral science lab on that to find these different ways on inventing on the brand, and inventing on the consumer experience and not only having a mindful product that should bring a relaxing effect, but also how can this be a holistic experience for the brand?Kathrin:Because if I'm sending you three abandoned cart emails, you have to buy it now it's gone. It's just also contradicting for what we stand for as a brand. So I think that's really something where I want to look into how we can expand that experiment, and bring it across every touchpoint in the brand cycle.Stephanie:Yeah, what are some example tests that you're doing that you're like, "I'm not sure if this is going to work, but we're trying out this to see if we can convince the consumer to get into a more mindful state and then come back when they are." What kind of things are you testing out or are the behavioral scientists testing out right now? Or thinking about doing?Kathrin:One thing is obviously connection with people. So, if one thing is you being aware about what you're feeling right now, but then the latest is that there is a digital map where you actually can see, it opens up and then you can see close in your area, there are 10 other people at the moment that feel similar to you. So, elements of community and connection. And if it's just on a website, seeing and that makes you actually realize, it helps you realize your own feelings to a larger extent that you're not alone in front of this website and trying to buy something, but it puts things into context.Kathrin:The other things is gratefulness. So one of the things we found is that if you're feeling grateful, that increases your happiness and your satisfaction with the purchase. So how can we increase that through for example like giving back and giving consumers the option of choosing a giving back component while purchasing while checking out? That's the second thing. Another interesting approach that we already tried for Black Friday was a poem. We worked together with a poet who created a really beautiful poem that just came up before clicking to purchase.Kathrin:The topic was not generally about mindfulness, but really reflecting on who you are as a person, why are you buying this right now? And yeah, it's a very beautiful, stunning piece that Adria had developed for us. I think that emotional reaction of people really is something that was stunning from a results perspective.Stephanie:Yeah, that's really cool. That's ... like I said, just such a different mindset than what's happening right now with a lot of companies. And not only is it good for consumers, but it's good for business. So, how much did you see returns decrease compared to before when you weren't doing that? What savings was your company experiencing from now doing this and trying this out?Kathrin:My initial hypothesis was that conversion rate would go down, because if you're making it that difficult for people to get a product, you're asking them to wait, sleep on it and you're ask them ... Listen to a poem, take a breathing exercise, tell me how you're feeling and then take into a consent form before you then finally can buy the product. So I was actually expecting that we don't sell any of these blankets. I was telling the team that was working on it I'm like, "I think if we're selling two blankets that would be already a good result." And we were quite surprised that our conversion rate was double than to our regular conversion rate.Kathrin:Now our return rates again, have less than half the return rates than our usual process. And we had the project run for three months to really collect a robust set of data, and I think we're really onto something with this whole concept of calm buying, that goes a bit in the opposite direction of optimizing and driving people down the funnel of thinking if there are actually other ways more authentic and honest ways as a brand to communicate, and I think so far is what we see actually the numbers really speak for themselves.Stephanie:Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, that's really fun. Such a different conversation that I've had so far on the show which is just really exciting. So what did your partners think about this test? Were you working with West Elm at the time? And if so, what did they say when you're like, "Conversions could go down to zero, but there's something better coming."Kathrin:So this was actually something we only tested on our website, because it's quite complex. So we couldn't roll it out. And I actually just got these results in last week.Stephanie:Got it.Kathrin:So everyone was like, "You guys go first." If we monitor and it's a nice idea. But let's see how that turns out for you guys. We were all nervous obviously. Black Friday is a big sales day and like having the potential that you are losing out on that day, definitely was making us uneasy. But our partners also said, "We're quite curious to see good luck with that." So I think that's why it's even more exciting now that we say, "Hey, we're actually onto something that we probably could build up on and maybe even share with the broader community of B2C brands." I know it's like a lot going on and there are a lot of shifts in what's happening and there's maybe an approach that ... yeah, we're happy to share the lessons learned that we have and maybe more people are coming on board and see if it works for them as well.Stephanie:Yeah you're reinventing the DTC playbook and thinking about it in a whole different way. Have you had other brands who are interested in trying this out or that you've talked to where you see an interest in the industry?Kathrin:I think the early conversations that we had especially brands that are focused on sustainability. That is, we had initial discussions where people are surprised that it really matters or it directly impact conversion and it impacts our return rates. So I think there is an opportunity to build that with a smaller group of friends and innovate on it. But yeah, it's early days, so I think we will work a bit more on getting some more findings and testing a bit more what works the best. And then obviously sharing it with everyone.Stephanie:Yeah, that's great. So where are you headed? What are you hoping to do with Bearaby over the next one to three years? What are you guys innovating on or looking into or trying out outside of the already cool work and behavior science that you're testing?Kathrin:Yeah for us, it's I think, looking into what consumers are expecting from us is definitely I think a lot of the things that happened during COVID will stay. People are expecting such deliveries from us, almost same day deliveries, so we were piloting on same day to our window delivery options. I think that's something where, how can we make it easy and comfortable for people to not leave their house yet, but still get their product in a timely basis? How do we set up from a infrastructure perspective that we're able to hold that pace? I think that's something that we're looking into. Then just generally, we're always interested in looking into new products and new product innovation in the wellness space.Kathrin:Obviously we launched last year the children's edition that we really also launched from a direct demand during COVID, what we heard from parents that were homeschooling children. And I think that just listening to our customers is one of the things that we also I think probably started. In crowdfunding you always stick to the principle. Whenever we have a new collection coming up or a early product idea. We have a small group of people from our loyal customers, we call them the Nappa hood club, that can try out products and where we get feedback and listen to it.Kathrin:And Instagram for example when it comes to color selection, we just discussed our fall colors that are coming out. And yeah at the end, we took two colors out that people on Instagram were not excited about and literally gave the whole vote to the community of the colors that they want to see. I think that's another interesting thing where obviously we always took feedback from people, but in a less systematic way, and now we're really putting the consumer first and the decisions that people are telling us and the colors we will put on the market. Even despite maybe some other designers that would go for other colors.Kathrin:And yeah, let's see how it goes.Stephanie:Yeah, that's great. How did you build up an audience on Instagram? Because I was reading it, quite a bit of it was organic and you were more interested in working on the supply chain stuff and sending out samples and get on people's radar. So how did you build up your Instagram now where people are actually commenting and giving you feedback?Kathrin:I think on the early days, I didn't have much experience on Instagram. So I really had to test and figure out what works. What I think what works well for us is one of the things is that, we're trying to be helpful for the community. So, instead of just us as a brand talking and sharing what we have new, especially during the last year, we realized a lot of the community is actually struggling with mental health anxiety. So what we did for example is that we used Instagram connect it to a SMS platform. Where usually you send SMS to inform people about the sales. But then we use it in a reverse way where we had actually an expert sitting on the other end of the line.Kathrin:Psychologist or this general mental health counselor where people could send in their questions that we got from Instagram but that also we got through SMS. So we connected both platforms and I think what the beauty of that was is that mental health often is a very personal issue, it's not something that you want to have on Instagram life, if you have a question. So that's why people could actually send the SMS question in privacy and there's an expert answering it expert from NAMI. I think that helpfulness and where people say, "Well, this is actually relevant content." And we're asking them, "So which expert do you want to speak to?"Kathrin:And ranging from people who have a longtime experience on how to homeschool children, now teaching people who just have to deal and have to get to learn how to get into that new mode. We brought all these experts and we had to message this community of helpfulness and chat. And I think that just sparked a natural conversation and I think then people stick on and want to see what else the brand is doing and I think if we listen to that and we are reciprocating and not shouting out but we're listening, it's just organically ... the community grows and is also excited about the brand.Stephanie:Yeah, and that's awesome. You're once again doing something in a reverse way. I love it. It's so contrarian but also yeah, amazing to hear how it's impacting the community. Would you take their questions or would the experts take them and answer them on Instagram Story or something so others could benefit from the questions coming in? Or were you making it more one-to-one where they were actually responding in a text to that person?Kathrin:So what we did at the beginning is like you're sending in a question and it's really a one-to-one answer. And then what we did for the community later is that we anonymized the questions and then have them on Instagram Stories for people to learn basically what the most common answers were. So you still have that one-on-one feeling especially for things that are personal, but then we're still making it available, and just routinely having these cycles where it's like, these are fixed dates where we announced this as the expert that we're having on the line. So people can share questions in advance. The experts can prepare for it because they have to take on a back end a lot of questions, because it's really this one-on-one conversations.Kathrin:But then making sure that we can scale it to a bigger community later so it's really helpful and it also stays there as a reference and as a helpful resource in the future.Stephanie:Awesome. I love that. All right. Well let's shift over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by our friends at Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I'm going to send a question your way and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready Kathrin?Kathrin:Yes.Stephanie:All right. First, what one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?Kathrin:I think the centralization of data. Where we have more different inputs from supply chain, from customization and customer journey and how do we actually get that centralized in one place and created experience for the consumer that's helpful and adapts to their needs.Stephanie:I love that. Have you seen anyone who is doing a good job in that space so far that you're watching?Kathrin:Generally I'm always looking at what Tesla has been doing. I think if you look at the example on how they really reinvented a space that no one thought it's doable, that you have no car dealers and that you actually have software on the car. I think just thinking about ideas that are a bit broader. So obviously we're watching what the latest trends are on B2C. But I think it's also really helpful to see in other industries that have been completely reinvented. And see what were the initial impetus that we can take as obviously as a smaller brand, we're not Tesla, but taking bits and pieces after thinking and put small bets and test what we can do to maybe reinvent the wheel at a small point and then scale it from there.Stephanie:Yeah, that's great. Yeah, Tesla's always a good one to watch. What's up next on your reading list?Kathrin:I'm just finishing up the No Rules Rules of Netflix, reinventing culture. I think now that we are getting bigger as a company, we're having a lot of similarities that I guess every startup is going through. You're a small group and everything is informed and you have no rules, and then suddenly you're more than 20 people, 25 people, and how do you actually keep the culture as it is without limiting people and the creativity and establishing artificial rules and too many approval processes? So how can we stay agile as a brand? Again, we're not Netflix, but I think there are a couple of things especially early on that you can take from the book.Kathrin:One is really the transparency that even if it's uncomfortable, if things are going wrong, is that we talk to everyone. So there's no hidden desk or anything with any documents, we keep our revenue information for example, for everyone visible on the board, so people can see how we're doing. So there are no secrets. And I think that just brings a level of accountability to the team, and without us having to establish rules that limits the strongest performance and people were actually most excited about driving things forward.Stephanie:Yep. Yeah that's great. That's a good book too. What's one thing that you don't understand today that you wish you did?Kathrin:I would say, some of the new channels TikTok is one of those where I wish I would be earlier to the game. I think there are a lot of interesting things going on, and I'm getting actually taught by people who are much younger than me. What's going on? So I think, for us going forward is like, how do we expand beyond the channels that we learned and we are good at and where we have an established community and how can we go about new things and finding out about it and placing small bets, trying something and see if it sticks? But yeah, I think that's something always good to be early to the party.Stephanie:Yep. Yeah, I agree. All right, Kathrin, this has been such a fun interview so different, which I loved. Thank you for coming on. Where can people find out more about you and Bearaby?Kathrin:Yes, you can find more about us on bearaby.com. And you can also find us on Instagram. And our handle is @mybearaby.Stephanie:Thanks so much for joining us. It was a pleasure.Kathrin:Thanks for having me.
16/03/2140m 52s

Expanding Through Collaborations and How to Move From B2B to DTC

Sometimes, it’s best to get back to the basics. Whether you are talking business or just general human interaction, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of overthinking things when really all you need to do is keep it simple. Ellen Bennett knows this more than most, and she’s built her company, Hedley & Bennett into an undeniable success by sticking to that principle. Hedley & Bennett produces high-quality kitchen wear that has been featured in more than 4,000 restaurants and cafes, adopted by celebrity chefs like Martha Stewart and David Chang, and is used by hundreds of thousands of home chefs every day. But the story started much more modestly.  Ellen began with a true grassroots approach, selling aprons out of her Mini Cooper, talking to and pitching every chef she knew, and working her connections to keep growing her business.On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Ellen shares the story of how she hustled to build Hedley & Bennett and all of the early struggles she had to work through to keep the train rolling. She gives advice to any young company dealing with production or shipping mishaps, and she explains how you can go about expanding through creative and authentic collaborations. Plus, she explains what it took to shift the company from exclusively selling B2B to now selling more than 80% DTC. Ellen brought a level of energy and ambition to the interview that didn’t disappoint, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Main Takeaways:Howdy, Partner: One way to expand your product line without taking on the entire risk and expense of production, testing, etc., is to form a partnership with companies that already make products you are interested in selling. By partnering with Madewell and Richer Poorer socks, Hedley & Bennet was able to expand its product line and grow its audience and customer base without having to add to or adjust the supply chain. Pick Up The Phone: As a young company, any mistake could be a dagger to the heart. But, things happen and sometimes you have to swallow the cost of a mistake for the overall good of the business. The best way to do that is to be honest, take responsibility, and do it one-to-one. Make the hard phone call instead of hiding behind an email. Your customer might be upset that their order was messed up, but you will build respect and trust when you show them you’re making a personal effort to make it right.From B2B to DTC: It may seem obvious, but moving from almost exclusively selling B2B to having 80% of your products sold DTC is a massive shift. Tune in to hear what that looked like for Hedley & Bennett, and advice for any company considering this move.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---Transcript:Ellen Bennett:Great. Hi guys. My name is Ellen Bennett and I'm the founder and CEO of Hedley and Bennett.Stephanie Postles:Hey everyone. And welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder and CEO at Mission.org. Today on the show, we have Ellen Bennett, the founder and CEO of Hedley and Bennett. Ellen, welcome to the show.Ellen Bennett:Thanks for having me.Stephanie Postles:Yeah, I'm very excited to have you on. You're the first person with a outfit change that we've had before getting on. So it's a good day to have a new thing occur on a podcast interview.Ellen Bennett:I love color and I brought a light yellow cat and I had a dark yellow hat. So I just changed to a dark yellow hat in case everyone's wondering, what the hell is she talking about?Stephanie Postles:Yep. This is working for me more now. So now I'm ready to get into it. So your company looks awesome. I saw that Hedley and Bennett, you guys are creating handcrafted aprons and you're in over 4,000 restaurants and coffee shops, which is wild and crazy. So your story seems like one that I want to go back to the early days. Like before, you're in all these restaurants and coffee shops, how did you start? How did you even get into this industry?Ellen Bennett:So I used to cook professionally. I worked at a two Michelin star restaurant, hated our uniforms, and I wanted to make them better. I wanted to make people feel empowered and awesome. And you hear, oh, she has an apron company and you might think frilly, curly aprons, but I need you to stop what you're doing right now, go to our website to hedleyandbennett.com and check it out because you'll understand pretty immediately that we are the polar opposite of that. We are a really awesome collection of colorful, very well-made, very high quality products, which are kitchens, gear and aprons.Ellen Bennett:And it began with this idea of just make a good apron for the restaurant world, make the perfect apron. And it quickly evolved into this giant community of chefs that also felt like they needed that same product. And it was just me out of my house, out of my mini Cooper, running to farmer's markets, talking to chefs, really doing a very grassroots marketing approach to everything because frankly, I didn't have any investors. I didn't have any outside capital. I had me, myself and I against the world and my product. So I began with that and just built off of it, reinvested every penny I made back into the business and grew it chunk by chunk brick by brick. And it took time, but I believe that the good things take time. So I've been happy with our journey. We are eight years in now.Stephanie Postles:Awesome. So for anyone who has not worked in the restaurant business, which I have but I've not been back in the kitchen. I was like server, bartender, shot girl, hey. What makes a bad apron and what did you hear when you're going out and interviewing people and kind of doing that market research to create what you have today, which is an awesome, but sturdy looking apron. I saw one on your website with really cool pockets, but it was very trendy, but also look [inaudible]. How did you get there and what were you wearing before we were like, this sucks?Ellen Bennett:Yeah, totally. So before Hedley and Bennett was born, aprons were very much just a commodity as something you didn't think about, you didn't look at, it was just a very, very thin piece of material probably made out of polyester with a strap that wrapped around your neck. And that hung probably below your boobs, like really not fitting on a man or a woman or whoever. And it also had like shoe lay strings around the waist. It didn't adjust in any way and that was it. There was nothing else to it. And what I did with Hedley and Bennett is we made it a whole world. We made it a community. We made it mean something. And from the get-go we had people like Martha Stewart and David Chang and Nancy Silverton. And if you watch any show on TV right now from Top Chef to any show on the food network you will see this little red and on the chest and that is the heavily amended apron.Stephanie Postles:Wow. Okay. You [inaudible] right to the crazy success story now. Now, [inaudible] how did you get in front of Martha Stewart? How did you secure all these partnerships like that, that's crazy.Ellen Bennett:Believe it or not. And this is the 80 year old within me. I always say I'm like an eighty year... I'm secretly an 80 year old man, because I do things the old school way sometimes. I believe in really high quality always. And from day one we made a product that really worked and I've always listened to our customers deeply. Do you know what an NPS score is?Stephanie Postles:Yeah.Ellen Bennett:Yes.Stephanie Postles:Net Promoter Score.Ellen Bennett:Yes. So our NPS score is 80. And that's very high above industry standard, which ranges in the 60 camp. And we are constantly at 80 plus. And the reason we're in that camp is because we've never skimped on the quality of details. The fabrics that we use are everything from Japanese denims, to Italian chambrays to materials that you can beat up again, and again, and again, and this thing is going to last you forever. So you have the craziest chefs out there in the world wearing our products for so many years. Believe me, I got feedback throughout the years. So these kinds of guys, they just love the quality. They loved that it had a point of view and that you could have your own vibe. You didn't just need to be wearing a white apron. Why not have yourself have an identity in the kitchen that was more than just strap a white apron on.Stephanie Postles:Yep. But how did you get in front of them? Did you send them free samples to try and show them quality? How did you even get in front of these top shows?Ellen Bennett:A lot of it was word of mouth. So one chef would take it to an event and another chef would see that little red patch on the chest and be like, "what is that?" And then they'd say, "oh, there's a girl, her name's Ellen." They would call me the quote unquote apron lady. "Oh, you got to contact Ellen. She's making awesome stuff. These were the early days of Instagram. And when I went and met with David Chang, for example, in New York, I was introduced to him by a chef I met in LA. The chef from LA was like, "if you're ever in New York, let me know." And I of course let him know. So I reached out before I showed up to New York and I was like, "chef, I'm coming to New York. I'm so excited to come see your spot."Ellen Bennett:I was very interested in what he was doing and I happen to have aprons with me. So I obviously was going to show him when I was in New York. And he said, "yeah, come by my restaurant." I stopped by, I showed him aprons. He bought some from me and then he's like, "well, how else can I help you?" I was like, "you know what, I'd love to meet a few other chefs who do you know?" And he's like, "oh, David Chang is a good friend." Like, "can you reach out to him right now for me? I'll come over today." And he was like, "yeah, sure." And so then that chef emailed David Chang. He responded in like an hour later. I was standing inside Momofuku, convincing David Chang to buy aprons from me. And David was like, "I don't know who you are."Ellen Bennett:He was really nice, but there was nothing about Hedley and Bennett that existed the way it does now in the industry. But I was so excited at the idea of getting him aprons that I was like, "all right, do you need it on consignment? Do you need net 60? What do you need? I'm going to give it to you, but I'm not walking out of here without you wearing Hedley and Bennett. Because, I promise you're going to love it." And I had enough conviction in my product that I knew once he actually had his team wearing it, they would love it. And sure enough, David Chang and his restaurants have worn Hedley and Bennett for six plus years now.Stephanie Postles:And did they buy that day when you-Ellen Bennett:They did. They ordered 50 aprons, custom aprons from me. And he's like, "I don't even know how you did that, but all right, I'm excited." And I was like, "yay." And then I took a picture with him, put it on Instagram. Just using what I had, honestly, it was like focused on what you have and not what you don't have. And I was like, I have myself, I have this great product and I have a new customer. I'm going to talk about it. It was very basic, but I kept doing that again and again and again. And the flywheel just started spinning.Stephanie Postles:Yeah. That's such a good reminder too, about asking your current customers or your network for referrals. I think a lot of people feel awkward and uncomfortable about doing that. Especially when you make a sale to someone to then be like, and now I'm going to ask for that extra thing. But I found that usually people always say yes, like "yes, I'll try and find someone else in my network to help you. Yes. There's someone else that I know," but they wouldn't think about offering that up right from the beginning. But when you ask it's like all these doors open, I think not enough people ask though.Ellen Bennett:I agree. And one of the things that I've always championed within our organization is never treating people like a transaction. So when you are being friends with people and you actually care about them, and you're not just caring about making that sale, people are willing and much more willing to help you. And also if you are excited about what you're doing and you genuinely are there because you're trying to help in some capacity, I've just found that everyone is willing to get on that bandwagon. Like when that chef reached out to David Chang, he's like "this girl she's got hustle. She's figuring out. She's got this business." They appreciate when people try. And so you just kind of want to help people that are out there going out of their comfort zones.Stephanie Postles:Yeah. I completely agree. So how did you go about, getting back to the earlier days, like you're not a designer, you didn't have background in that. What was it like getting into that industry and trying to figure out, how do I get a product manufactured? How do I pivot that when I have feedback? Somethings going wrong. What did that look like? And what were some of the lessons from those early days?Ellen Bennett:I had some orders go south very frequently at the beginning. And they were very expensive as a tiny, small business. One of them being Bryan Voltaggio he ordered the biggest order I'd ever gotten. I think it was 150 aprons. And we had a mishap in sewing land and the sewers just didn't get it done in time. And we were on them and we were hounding them and they had a restaurant opening. And so you can imagine delivering 150 aprons after the restaurant opens on the other side of the United States is not right. And we had to just suck it up and make it right. I refunded part of it. I overnighted stuff. I covered the cost of it. I called the assistant and spoke to her personally and said, "I'm so sorry. This is what occurred. It's on us. We really messed up and we're going to make it right." And just owning your mistakes, especially when you're a small business hiding behind emails, this is where my 80 year old man comes out, pick up the phone.Ellen Bennett:There's nothing like human contact, especially when things go South. Do not try and resolve a problem or a deeply rooted issue on an email, have the balls to call the person and fix it. And people really appreciate that. For as technologically savvy as we all are, human connection will never surpass an email. I mean the other way around. So, that was a lot of what I did at the beginning when things went South. I would pick up the phone and call people and be like, "tell me what happened. How can we make this right. We'll take care of it." And we bid it many times where we covered costs on stuff.Stephanie Postles:Is it usually delays type of issues that-Ellen Bennett:It was delays, or there were errors on the fabric, or maybe it was a new fabric we were testing. We didn't test because we didn't even know to test fabrics. And so it may be a bled on their clothes. You name it, it happened. And there were times when customers absolutely were like, nope, you ruined it. And we had to go out and find other customers. But overall we were always very humble about our mistakes and just listened, fixed and course corrected pretty immediately. So if there was an issue with one type of material and we had several customers, we would proactively reach out to the other customers and say, "hey, it turns out there's something wrong with this. We need to fix it. We'd like to recover those products. We'll send you other ones. Let's make it right."Stephanie Postles:Yep. Got it. So how do you go about ingesting feedback now that you're in the 4,000 plus restaurants and locations? How do you take feedback like you did in the early days, which was probably much more like, one-off where you're like, "oh, good tip. I'm going to change it." What are you doing now with everything coming in.Ellen Bennett:Right. Yeah. Back in the day I was the windshield to the business. So I could kind of take it all in every single bit. Now we have a pretty extensive set of meetings and spreadsheets from every part of the business. So our social team online is feeding information in from Instagram and TikTok and direct messages that we get. My platform at Ellen Marie Bennett is pretty front and center too. So people will reach out to me directly and say things. When things are wrong, you hear about it. So I funnel that over to our social team, and then they aggregate it all and have a weekly meeting like an interdepartmental meeting between marketing and sales and production to ensure that those things are getting changed or fixed.Ellen Bennett:You can put a lot of technology behind that and aggregate surveys and things of that nature too, which we do. But I've found that just getting the right people on a cadence of a phone call has been really helpful to ensure that our e-comm team is making corrections to the site where things are difficult for customers or our product team hears about that one trending topic where this one apron is wrinkling in a way that none of the other ones do, so then we start course correcting on that. One of our values as a company is never stop improving. So we are constantly tinkering, and fixing, and tweaking, and editing and adjusting. And because we're also controlling the supply chain, it's easy for us to do that. It's not like we product one year out and then we can't adjust it. We're constantly adapting it.Stephanie Postles:Yeah. That's really great. Controlling that entire process from start to finish. As you've started to scale and grow, and you bring on more executives onto the team, you've got a CFO, have you ever felt a pull to kind of sacrifice quality here and there in the pursuit of better margins, because that seems like something a lot of businesses struggle with as they get bigger. Sometimes there's a point where you're like, eh, I remember the early days it used to be this and now... Have you felt any of that pull yet? And if so, how do you think about that?Ellen Bennett:Such a great question. Honestly, I've found that because we have a bigger team, we are able to scale with more infrastructure. It's just easier. And we actually have time to negotiate and we actually have time to buy in bigger volume on raw materials. So it helps our margin in the long run. So we've actually been able to maintain a lot of the same suppliers we used from the get-go, but grow with them. And because I started with them with one roll of fabric, and now we're buying tens of thousands of rolls monthly it's a very different relationship and they really appreciate us. Because also, back to my being an 80 year old man days, I never had any debt and I always paid everybody on time. So our vendors really valued us and value us to this day, because we're not on net 60 terms or anything with them. We pay them every month with no delays. So, that creates a lot of partnership. They want to help you because you've always helped them.Stephanie Postles:Yep [crosstalk].Ellen Bennett:So I've actually found the margin has gone up as we've scaled versus gone down. There was a long time there in Hedley and Bennett that we sacrificed quite a lot of margin to hit the quality that we wanted. And we did it anyway because we believe in quality first and foremost.Stephanie Postles:Yeah. That's awesome. And such a good point, too, of like, if you're scaling and growing your margins should get better. You don't always have to sacrifice on quality, but especially leaning into that relationship with your partners can really work wonders which is great.Ellen Bennett:Exactly. And just because somebody's price, what they offer you is the price that they're offering you doesn't mean you can't have a conversation. Just like I asked that chef do you know anybody? It's like, hey guys, is there anything else we can do to get this down? Are there other costs that we can adjust to bring your costs down? Is there anything we can do on our end to help mitigate some of this? And you find ways of being collaborative and your partners tend to say, yes. It's not just the hard balling them and trying to squeeze a penny down, but really listening to them and listening to your needs and finding a happy medium, a solution.Stephanie Postles:Yeah. Awesome. So at what point did you start to think about introducing new products? When were you like now's the time to have a new product come live?Ellen Bennett:Yeah. When we first started everything was pretty much B2B. So business to business and the company, all of these restaurants that we were in, and chefs we were outfitting like that was our bread and butter. And it created a lot of great cashflow because we would take a deposit at the beginning and ship the product once it was made, collect the other half. And the business was able to grow in that way. Organically though, behind the scenes, our D2C our direct consumer business was growing because all these people were seeing us on Food Network or Top Chef, you'll see that little red square ampersand patch on the chest and say, what is that? Oh, my favorite chef is wearing, I want to wear it.Ellen Bennett:So we were building this like online presence without even meaning to in a way. And I wanted to make product that resonated with all of our newer customers online and make something special for our restaurant customers. So I thought collaborations, that's the best way to do it. And that's where I got our toes dabbled into the world of new product. And we started with I believe one of our early collaborations was with The Hundreds, which is a really cool street wear brand here in LA. Then we did something with Parachute home, we've since gone on to do a collaboration with Vans and Madewell. But every single one of those collaborations brought us new eyeballs, it brought us new community and it brought something really fun to talk about.Ellen Bennett:And we never did it with anyone we didn't actually believe was a good partnership. It's like when you see a brand team up with, I don't know, they could be something totally different. And they team up with like an airline. And you're like, what does that even mean? What are you guys doing? We never did that. It always had to be genuine. And that really helped us get into new products because we were able to test and see what people responded to. So we launched a line of chef socks with this one company called Richer Poorer and everyone was like, "chef socks. What do you even mean with that?" And, oh my God, these chefs socks to this day, we still sell them. And we have an ongoing partnership now where they make our socks.Stephanie Postles:What are chef socks? Is it just comfy or thicker.Ellen Bennett:So you could wear them. They have compression but they're super colorful because obviously Hedley and Bennett is a really colorful fun company. And they also have fun sayings at the bottom. So it'll say like wake up and fight or whatever. So you've got, put your socks on and get out there and like kick at life.Ellen Bennett:So, that was a way that we got to test a new product be resourceful. Because, we didn't have to go make our own supply chain to create SOPs. And then we were able to tap into their network of community and world.Stephanie Postles:What does the breakout of work look like when you're partnering with someone like Madewell, because maybe it's not a sock company. It's like, we'll make the socks you target them to your audience, we'll do our thing. What does it look like if it's more of a big brand or like a Vans where it's like, okay, you've got your designs and things like that. Like who's doing what work?Ellen Bennett:Yeah. Such a good question. So when we did our collab with Madewell, we created the aprons. We manufactured them and they manufactured all of the apparel. So we did a jumpsuit and shirts and bandanas and a few other items. So things like a 12 piece collection and all the aprons were made by us. The designs came from their design team, combined with our input and edits. And the way we did it was we brought the function and the core base. And then they brought the design elements that they wanted to kind of plug in from the world of Madewell, and those are the best collaborations. When you find somebody that does something that you don't do and vice versa.Ellen Bennett:So with Vans, it's like they make shoes we don't. We made aprons, they don't. With Madewell we make really high pro-grade, high function product that's really beautiful and lasts forever and they have great designs. So you bring those two together and you end up with a jumpsuit that's made out of a beautiful stretch denim that has a towel loop on the side for towels for when you're cooking. But its also snaps instead of buttons so you can get in and out of it because if you're going to go pee while you're cooking or whatever, you don't have time to sit there and unbutton 40 buttons. So just thinking about it from a function standpoint, it really ended up being a perfect collaboration.Stephanie Postles:Got it. And do they feel pretty similar or is it very one-off, like very different kinds of relationships because I'm even thinking about like how do you break up the sales or who gets what on the backend?Ellen Bennett:I think it's really important when people are doing collaborations to be very open at the beginning about what your end goal is. And for Madewell we really wanted to tap into their audience and they wanted to tap into ours. So it was like, "okay, we're going to go heavy into marketing." I also really wanted to make a jumpsuit. We had never done work wear in that capacity. And so they were like, "great, we'll make those products. You make the aprons, we'll hit that consumer from a home and pro angle, but with the same product" and it was a perfect split. So you work it out based on what everybody's needs are. And you kind of like lay out all your cards on the table. And if someone is a bigger company, typically the larger company will cover more of let's say the marketing costs.Ellen Bennett:So Madewell did a lot of the photo shoot for our collaboration or when we did our launch with Vans, we did a huge party with them. We had it at our 16,000 square foot factory in LA, but then they brought people from the strokes to perform. So it is-Stephanie Postles:Go Vans!Ellen Bennett:Go Vans! I mean, music is their world. So that is how it ends up being really effective. You have to both pull in and pitch in from both sides or else it's not really a collaboration, it's not really a partnership. You're inventing some false thing behind the scenes in marketing land for a good reason to talk to your audience, but everyone can smell through bullshit these days. Like if it isn't genuine, don't do it.Stephanie Postles:Yeah. Have you had any partnership fails? You don't have to say any of the names that have been like, oh, this didn't work out and here's maybe why or what I would avoid next time that this is why it didn't work out well.Ellen Bennett:Yeah. I love that you asked me that because truthfully at the early days of Hedley and Bennett, we did so many partnerships with so many people. And we said yes to everything because we were learning, we were exploring, we were trying things. And I found that a lot of times we had the kind of chutzpah and initiative to make it work and sometimes the other side didn't. And so we found that we were doing a lot of the work, a lot of times. Not in any of the partnerships I mentioned, but somebody would reach out and they'd say, "oh my gosh, we love your brand. We'd love to collaborate." And next thing you know, we're like throwing them a party and I'm like, "wait, why is our marketing department throwing a party for a brand that doesn't even have any of their people coming in to support or help."Ellen Bennett:So we kissed some frogs and learned what we needed to ask. And I don't fault anyone for it, but learning to say no is just as important to learn than to say yes. You need to be able to draw the line. But if our team hadn't done all those different events, I don't know that we would have learned that. So we learned it the hard way, but sometimes experience teaches you.Stephanie Postles:Yeah. I love that. And how long does a... I'm diving deep because I've not talked about partnerships a lot on the shows that's why I'm really going in.Ellen Bennett:Oh, yeah. Go for it.Stephanie Postles:When do you start seeing the ROI kind of trail off? At what point does the excitement die down and then you kind of are like, okay onto the next partnership or how long does it normally last?Ellen Bennett:Oh yeah. That's great. Let's say it depends on how much ramp up you make to the partnership or the collaboration, and then how quickly the product sells out. So I'll give you one example. We did a big print with a print collection with a company called Rifle Paper Company. I don't know if you know who that is, but if you Google that you will recognize the floral print. Ellen Bennett:So we did a print with them and we had a 40,000 person sign up waitlist for when the product launched. And that was done three weeks before the product launched. And so we were able to pull in all these people top of the funnel and bring them in and have them be excited about it. And we were hitting them with different emails, talking about the product and when it was going to land. And then once the product landed, it was pretty exciting for I'd say like about a month, it was that time. And that product sold very well and drove a lot of traffic for the entire period it was not sold out. So we had it up, I think for two and a half months. And this was three years ago.Ellen Bennett:Now everything feels so accelerated. It's like, you get a product up, it's cool. Then something happens. And then the United States implodes in some way. And then we're off to the races. Talk about that. And then something happens on Reddit and then it goes over there. So I don't know, I think the news cycle and everything else has sped up dramatically from 2017.Ellen Bennett:So, I'd say a good two-ish months is usually the range. And with them, we did lots of social media posts on both accounts. And so she was posting about it. We were posting about it and that helped just build the hype and momentum on it. And then once it sold out, it was gone and then people were bummed because they didn't get it. So when we brought it back, like almost a year later for a limited drop, it sold so fast. I think it was gone in a couple of weeks.Stephanie Postles:So I want to circle back a little bit to the B2B, to D2C transition and talk about, how did you guys think about your tech stack and your website, because when you're doing B2B orders, they're probably used to a different, sometimes archaic system of I'm used to logging in and making my purchase or talking to my guy at this location. How did you think about that switch? And did you really change the user interface and how customers were interacting or did you just let it go and see if they would adapt to your new D2C way of selling?Ellen Bennett:We have a pretty unique kind of split in our organization because you have one team managing two very, very different channels with very different customers. And when we were smaller, it was manageable and you could figure it out. But now that we've grown so much and that we are, we're now 80% direct to consumer, it's a dramatically different tech stack. It's a dramatically different backend.Stephanie Postles:80% because the pie just grew bigger. You still probably have a lot of those B2B ones the pie just got bigger. Yeah. Okay.Ellen Bennett:That's right. So it used to be 50/50, and now it's 80/20, but growth on all levels. To your point, the 80% D2C really surpassed the B2B. So we would blend everything, which was really painful. It was really hard because you had one customer service team servicing a chef who needed something for his opening and then you had Maria from Minnesota, calling in who needed a strap change on her apron. And you had two people helping both so that was a little confusing and convoluted, but we were too small to be able to do anything more and to resource it fully in a different way.Ellen Bennett:And now that the business has expanded, we actually broke out B2B and created its own P&L. It has its own P&L, it has its own team and its own sales force that... We've always had a separate salesforce, but it was blended into the rest of the company now it's fully broken out. And on the backend, we are automating it. So we're creating a portal where our B2B customers can go log on, get the discounts and have it be a little bit more easy and automated for them.Stephanie Postles:Yeah. So what portal are you finding success with? Because, I could see a lot of businesses wanting to go the other way. Like there's a ton of D2C right now. And B2B is sometimes where people also, they wish to be. So what backend, what tech are you using to make that easy from a log-in perspective versus consumer?Ellen Bennett:We have basically cloned our site and have done a wholesale site as a V1 and are working based off of that, seeing what works and what doesn't. I've also gone the polar opposite direction when we added new things on like last year, we built a brand new site from head to toe and everything was new and we tested nothing. And that was not great either. So we kind of, over-indexed on like, let's go really basic with the B2B portal and learn what is and isn't working and then build off of that with surveys and conversations with our B2B customers to learn what is working and what isn't.Ellen Bennett:Sometimes you don't have the resources. Sometimes you don't have the time. You have to find what works for your company. And perfect sometimes gets in the way of progress. So for B2B, we just said, let's do a portal. It'll be easier. It'll help our sales team. A lot of our leads are inbound because people just love our products, so they reach out to us and we have a way to have them just buy straight from inventory without talking to someone.Stephanie Postles:That's great. I always hate when it's like contact us and we'll let you know the pricing on things. I'm like, what if I just want to buy?Ellen Bennett:Exactly. And we got that feedback from our customers where they're like, "hey, I have a restaurant I'm working all day. I don't always have time, even though your staff is awesome. I don't have time to wait for Kate to get back to me. I need to just order this and be done with it." And so we thought, oh, okay, let's just do this online and take it from there. So that's how B2B has kind of evolved and began to stand on its own two feet next to D2C.Stephanie Postles:That's cool. And do you allow for customization within that platform.Ellen Bennett:Offline, online that would have cost us a $100,000 to build that feature and I'm just not sure that we're ready to make that commitment because we're still on V1, but we'll learn. We'll learn and see how much demand we get. We have an entire ERP system offline that you can do customization within Hedley and Bennett, but you do have to talk to a sales rep.Stephanie Postles:Yeah. That seems like a tricky place. I'm even thinking about companies like Swag.com which we've had on the show. And I've used them before and thinking about trying to even get this logo, I'm pointing to my hoodie that I'm wearing, like what's hard for... And there was many times back and forth and it was a [inaudible] they were like Steph that's like weirdly centered or that's like too big. It was actually helpful having someone tell me, that looks crappy let us help you.Ellen Bennett:Yeah. So it is definitely merging an old school industry that required a lot of hand holding to optimizing it in ways where people are willing to make a few concessions because they want to ease or they want the speed and they're like, "okay, fine. I won't talk to Kate, but I'll get to order it right now. Maybe I won't get embroidery, but I'll get the aprons by Monday." And so you just have those trade-offs and people are willing to make them.Stephanie Postles:Yep. All right. And the last thing I want to talk about before we happen to the lightning round is your facility in LA it's known, and it's kind of famous for its features. I think I read it had tree houses or zip lines. And after meeting you now, I'm actually not surprised at all, but tell me a little bit about how you thought about building your facility in LA and why you built it that way.Ellen Bennett:Yeah. So when we got the factory, about six years ago, it was an awful giant, ugly, ugly building. And my team thought she's lost it. What are we doing here in the middle of Vernon and next to downtown LA. So I thought, "no, guys, we're going to build a kitchen and we're going to add a zip line and there's going to be a slide and just tree houses, and it's going to be amazing and everything's going to be done here." None of that existed in the building, but I had a vision of how I wanted it to be.Ellen Bennett:And sure enough, we now have all of those pieces in here. And we teamed up with Samsung and built this gorgeous kitchen where we've hosted a lot of events. And it's been a really wild evolution of Hedley and Bennett going from this very chef oriented company to now this very home cook oriented business with so many more customers than just our restaurant customers. But at the heart of it, it's still a kitchen. And in our factory, the kitchen still brings our B2B and our D2C customers together.Ellen Bennett:Now we shoot videos for TikTok and social media and Instagram out of that kitchen. Yet we also used to host cookbook events for a chef that was launching a book. So kitchen is at our heart, no matter what we do and Hedley and Bennett land, whether it's B2B or D2C it will always be connected to that core which is empowering and inspiring people to cook.Stephanie Postles:That's awesome. Yeah. And such a good reminder too, of how to really get the most use of a space. So many people buy it for just one little small purpose and then when that purpose is gone, they're like, "oh, shoot, I shouldn't have maybe gotten that retail location," but for you, it's like you're using it for social, and video and events, which hopefully will come back soon. So yeah [inaudible].Ellen Bennett:Yeah, exactly. I think that's in Hedley and Bennett's DNA. We're all about multi-use, being resourceful and having everything have a dual function. Our aprons are not just for chefs they're also for home cooks, they are for potters and painters and designers can wear them to protect their clothes. So it's kind of for everyone, but built specifically with chefs in mind.Stephanie Postles:Awesome. All right, well, let's move over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I'm going to ask a question and you have 30 seconds or less now to answer.Ellen Bennett:Okay.Stephanie Postles:All right. First one, what one thing will have the biggest impact on e-commerce in the next year?Ellen Bennett:Ooh. The one thing in e-commerce. It's such a cliche word, but it's the truth. I do believe that authenticity and brands that are real brands, not just pretty packaging and then you get a shitty product inside the pretty packaging. I believe those are the brands that will survive. There are people that care about what they're actually making and they believe in that product having longevity in life and more than just one click and then your customer is upset because they bamboozled. So, quality and authenticity in the products that you are making are always going to be important in e-com. Next year and the year after.Stephanie Postles:Yes. I love that. What's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for you?Ellen Bennett:Every person that has said yes and no to me has always... I believe all the yeses and nos that I've ever gotten have been the nicest thing that I've ever gotten because they've opened and shut different doors along the way that have forced me to be resourceful. That have forced me to experience hardship and have forced me to experience amazing feelings. And when you have a robust set of life experiences, you can tackle more things, never think about, oh my God, woe is me. This happened to me. It's like, hell yes, that you got through that. And that you now have that notch on your life belt of experience. And I believe you got to live life and feel life and go through the ups and the downs of it to come out on the other side with that much more context. And then you have that much more to pull from.Stephanie Postles:[inaudible]. That is a good one. That's one of my favorite answer so far. What's up next on your reading list?Ellen Bennett:My book.Stephanie Postles:Tell me about it.Ellen Bennett:I wrote a book. It took me two and a half years and it launches in April.Stephanie Postles:Interesting.Ellen Bennett:Yes, it launches with Penguin Random House and it's called "Dream First Details Later: How to Quit Overthinking and Make It Happen."Stephanie Postles:[inaudible].Ellen Bennett:That's high up on my reading list. Also, I'm obsessed with the entire series of Lencioni books.Stephanie Postles:Okay. I actually don't know what that is.Ellen Bennett:It's very nerdy, but it's like "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," "Death by Meetings," "The Advantage."Stephanie Postles:Oh, got it.Ellen Bennett:They're all these story telling books that are about business and they're digestible and easy read. So I make my entire leadership team read all of them when they join.Stephanie Postles:That's good. And I can't wait to read your book that also sounds really good. What's your favorite e-commerce tool that you're experimenting with right now or you're having success with?Ellen Bennett:So it's not directly e-comm, but it really helps it. And it's called Dash Hudson. And it is a really incredible social media tool that drives a ton of data and analytics and helps show your team how much... We have a hard time figuring out how much traffic is being driven from social and where and how many purchases are coming from it. So this has given us a heavy dose of visibility. You're more empowered if you have more data and you can track things. So I really love Dash Hudson.Stephanie Postles:Cool. I have to check that one out. All right. Ellen, well, it's been a blast having you on, obviously you're super fun. Your company is amazing. Where can people find out more about you and Hedley and Bennett?Ellen Bennett:Yes. They have to go to our website, www.hedleyandbennett.com. And that's H-E-D-L-E-Y. And then our Instagram and our TikTok is also Hedley and Bennett. And my personal account is Ellen Marie Bennett. Our TikTok is highly amazing and packed with great videos about tips and tricks for the kitchen and how to just make you a bad-ass when you're cooking, whether you like cooking or not. So go follow all of them. And I have a pet pig that's 200 pounds.Stephanie Postles:That's enough of a reason [inaudible].Ellen Bennett:That one's on Ellen Marie Bennett. So just go join our wild world on the internet and say hi and say you heard me on this podcast. And thank you so much for having me, Stephanie. This was so much fun.Stephanie Postles:Yeah, I agree. We'll have to have you back and then maybe you'll bring your pet pig and we'll call it like a round table with your pet. That's great.Ellen Bennett:With Oliver.Stephanie Postles:Oliver, that's my son's name, how perfect [crosstalk].Ellen Bennett:Oh, my Gosh. Amazing.Stephanie Postles:All right. Thank you so much, Ellen.Ellen Bennett:Thank you.
11/03/2144m 22s

Easing The Transition To DTC

Moving into the DTC space after operating only in retail is a tricky tightrope to walk. You have already-established partnerships that you don’t want to jeopardize and a consumer base that you don’t want to cannibalize. But you also want to bring innovation and new products to your loyal customers, and you want to build more personal relationships with them along the way. So how do you win in all areas? Or can you win in all these areas?Andy Judd is the CMO at Yasso, Inc., and finding the answer to that question is currently at the top of his todos. . Yasso sells frozen yogurt bars, which side note, are the most delicious thing I have ever tasted. Yasso just recently began its journey into the world of DTC. Ultimately, Andy knows that building a profitable DTC arm of the business is one of the toughest challenges in the ecommerce industry today, especially when shipping frozen goods, but he’s done it before, and his tapping into all his knowledge he’s built up from prior roles at companies like ONE brands and Campbell's soup!On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Andy tells us what the move to DTC has been like so far, including the added challenges to logistics when it comes to shipping frozen novelties, what strategies he’s been using to ensure transparency with retail and third-party partners, and why he wants everyone listening to understand that ROAS is not the same thing as ROI. Enjoy this episode … and maybe also a Yasso bar!Main Takeaways:Deep Freeze: The logistics of shipping frozen foods are still being fully fleshed out. For certain products, such as frozen fruit, or even cartons of ice cream, you have a bit more leeway in temperature states and the risk of thawing and refreezing. With something like a frozen yogurt bar, you have absolutely no wiggle room, which means that there has to be multiple layers of pressure testing, route optimization, and quality control in order to ensure that customers are getting the product they expect instead of a puddle of froyo. It is only after you have optimized every step of that process that you can feel comfortable moving more to a DTC space.ROAS Does Not Equal ROI: In ecommerce, ROAS is one of the metrics you hear about often. And while it’s important, it’s also critical to note that ROAS does not equate to ROI, because ROAS often does not account for incrementality. So be very careful when you are measuring your success and be sure to take into account all of the other activities that bring in revenue and returns. Doubling Down: As Andy put it best, “I have a general principle of double and double and double and double until it breaks. You double until that ROAS really starts to decay at a rate, and then you know where your ceilings are.” A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: When you are selling DTC on a third-party platform, it is important to be upfront and transparent with your retail partners. Talking through who you’re targeting, how you’re pricing and why bringing incremental customers into the business helps all parties — more brand-loyal customers will buy across all platforms, including in retail — will make for a much more productive relationship.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---Transcript:Stephanie:Hey, everyone. Welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder and CEO at mission.org. Today on the show, we have Andy Judd, the Chief Marketing Officer at Yasso. Andy, welcome.Andy:Thank you, Stephanie. Great to be here and look forward to today's discussion.Stephanie:Excited to have you here. Like I said, I am getting hungry now thinking about this conversation. My stomach actually just rumbled. I don't know if anyone heard that, but that's how I feel about this conversation today. It's going to be a good one.Andy:Yeah, no, I'm excited. I think we've got a lot of exciting things happening on the business that I think we can offer some interesting perspective to the community.Stephanie:Cool. So, I saw that you have been in the CPG space for over a decade, starting all the way back at good old Campbell's Soup, which I'm like, that's a good history there of really knowing what you're talking about.Andy:Yeah. I've been extremely blessed and fortunate to work with some great companies along the road, those large blue chip companies like Campbell's, down to smaller emerging businesses like Yasso today. Each of them is definitely different culturally, business model, go to market, marketing approaches, not only from the size of the businesses, but also what's taken place over time. I appreciate you said one decade. In that lead up, it is a bit longer than that, but-Stephanie:I think I said over, but I didn't put numbers.Andy:Over, yes. I appreciate you not going all the way to, but yeah, I've been very blessed to work at great companies, great, amazing teams and leaders that have shaped a lot of my thinking. And now I'm happy to hopefully give back some of whatever wisdom I've collected back to your community too.Stephanie:Cool. Well, to start, I want to hear, from a very high level, how do you view the food and beverage industry today compared to maybe even just a couple years ago? How has it changed and how did that lead you to creating Yasso?Andy:Yeah. The speed of change is definitely picking up pace, and I'm not even talking about the realities of the past year, because that's a whole different kind of situational change, but the speed of change has definitely changed a lot. When I started my career, there was a very set number of customers, and we had a lot of customer consolidation happening, but then really, the marketing landscape started to evolve. Obviously, around 2008, 2010, Facebook came on and just rewrote the playbook dramatically. It took a while to internalize that, particularly in the food space, I think we were a little slower to adaptation.Andy:Analytically, I don't think we were quite ready for that moment. But once we kind of got our feet underneath us as a space, it really took off, and now it's how fast can you run to the newest platform to get the most efficiency before the system goes, particularly as an emerging brand, finding those places where I can flank, get the most bang for my limited dollar set versus some of the larger spenders is really important. And I think it's bred a new capability set for today's marketing leaders, that is constant evolution. While, yes, I run, to some varying degrees, the same purchase funnel, the activity that's happened within it, wildly different.Andy:I gave a speech to my alma mater and some marketing students and walked them through like, "When I started my career, here's what we did. We ran TV commercials and a newspaper based FSI. Waited 18 months to see if it worked, and then probably made a decision before we even got the results to do it again, and it's just wildly different from how we activate today."Stephanie:Yeah, that's great. So, you have all this experience, I'm guessing you're starting to see opportunities. What led you to Yasso and what did that process look like?Andy:Sure. So, I joined the Yasso team a little over a year ago and had known the founders for a bit, and known our CEO for even longer. And like many moments where they recognize the step change from kind of the what got you here won't get you there, brought in a new management team to implement a double down on the growth strategy. So, great product. I won't talk too much about the product because you are hungry, but it is a fantastic product. Super creamy, super delicious, great nutritional, clean label, it really does have all the components. But really, it was a bit landlocked on the East Coast, founded and formed in Boston. And this team is rapidly building out that distribution footprint, investing and building the brand.Stephanie:Yeah. Also, how can you go wrong when the founders are kindergarten friends? I mean, that sold me right away.Andy:Absolutely. Yeah, Drew and Amanda, I will say this, have been just fantastic to work with, both in the principles they've set as an organization from a company culture perspective, and how we value employees, and what benefits we give them, to how we make an impact in our community. We do have a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Game On! Foundation. That's a big part of it. And then just this amazing product. As a marketer, I love that moment where it's like, "Build a brand. Here's this amazing foundation."Stephanie:Yep. So, what did your first 90 days look like? Of course, you always come in and kind of study things, see how things are working, but then what did your first 90 days look like? What did your playbook look like to start solving some problems there?Andy:Sure. It was a busy first 90 days. I had just come off of another transaction and was one of the last management members to join the organization. And so marketing, to some extent, needed to catch up. We were also moving the company from Boston to Boulder in that moment, and so there was definitely a team rebuild that happened there. So, first 90 days was establishment of strategy, getting the structure identified and a lot of recruiting, whilst simultaneously starting to build the components of activation to get us to ice cream season in 2020, which I'm sure we'll talk a little bit about, the sheer pivot that took place. Andy:So, strategy, put the playbook in place, get the key components, the critical components lined up, get the right team. Stephanie:Cool. So, you were just mentioning old school close tactics. What are you talking about [crosstalk] for anyone [crosstalk]?Andy:Yeah. Literally, couponing. I mean, I'm not kidding. Now, that evolution of incentive based activation has changed, right? The platform in which you may do that today looks a lot different than the platforms that we used to do that a while ago on. But yeah, I think there's reality to finding consumers and giving them incentives into trial and activating that personal truth in retail. It is not our largest investment, but it's an important one as we think through that funnel, particular in a category like this where taste is so critical that if I can get someone to push past that by giving them a little bit of an incentive and then know that my product is just lights out, is a great way to do it.Stephanie:Yeah. And are these coupons digital? Are they emailing coupons out? How are you doing that?Andy:Yeah. It's a number of different... So, we definitely operate that on owned basis through CRM. So, we definitely give incentives through kind of consumers that we've got into our ecosystem. That is, by far, the most valuable ones, which is keeping those people moving. Then there is outreach programs like Ibotta, that we've used, Shipt, Instacart, which also have, obviously, a shopping mechanism to them to drive trial. I'm sure we'll get into that at some detail as we talk about our omnichannel applications.Andy:And then some in-store placements, tried and true, IRCs, at shelf, to draw the consumer our way. This is definitely a very open trial based category where y'all want to try new things, and I'm looking for options, and if I can grab a millisecond of that scan at shelf by violating that with a save, definitely can do that. So yeah, it's definitely all components digitally, organic and owned, as well as in retail.Stephanie:So, let's dive into omnichannel, which you mentioned a little bit ago. Tell me a bit about how you guys had to potentially pivot post COVID, how you worked with your retail partners. I mean, I know that we're talking about how it can get kind of tricky too when you're, I guess, overly heavy on retail, and then all of a sudden, you're maybe trying to shift to DTC, and you don't want to make your retail partner sad. How did you guys think about that and explore that, especially over the past year?Andy:Sure. So, this brand was, I don't want to say 100% retail when I joined, but for this purposes, let's say it was 100% retail. Very limited investment, even on concierge based programs like Instacart, or even no investment on your platforms like Fresh, or walmart.com, it was very limited in that regard, and there was no DTC at that moment. Some of that is driven by frozen temperature state, right? I don't think... no third party platform has fully figured out that last mile in full temperature state. Retailers are definitely getting their closer and closer, Fresh is definitely pushing the boundaries there and building out an incredible footprint now. And I think COVID has exacerbated or built a lot of momentum to figuring out that for refrigerated and frozen temperature state products.Andy:We already had that in our plan. I think that all indicators of the consumer behavior was headed that way. COVID just made that evolution go faster. So, per my earlier point on change is just getting faster, COVID made this change faster. And so the dramatic shift that we saw, we knew we had to run pretty quickly. So, we were already strategically aligned to what that would look like, and for us that is four primary components of omnichannel. One is obviously DTC, and we'll talk about the intricacies there. Two is the concierge based programming and making sure that we're actively engaged there. Three is third party, and four is partnership with retail, primarily through online pickup and delivery.Andy:And so when we think about DTC, that's one component, but given that we're frozen temperature state, we really have to think broadly because of logistical challenges of working through shipping individual frozen Greek yogurt bars to a consumer's home and making sure that it gets there and it's not a puddle of Froyo is really challenging, particularly in an environment where FedEx is flushed with volume, logistics providers still haven't fully come to terms with the incremental volume in the system. So, it's definitely not without its operational, logistical challenges, but four components for us as we thought through that strategy, and we're diligently building each of them up, some of them simultaneously, and some of them we've kind of said, "Hey, we'll come to that one in a bit because these are more critical to success in the short term."Stephanie:Yeah. So, before we get more into the four pillars and the omnichannel piece, I do want to maybe jump into the operations aspect of how did you figure out this frozen shipping in a way that maybe others haven't so far?Andy:Yeah. So, let's start with our product DNA first. We make frozen novelties in a bar shape, so there's no forgiveness in that delivery, and we have to be pretty flawless against that, unlike, let's say, frozen fruit or even frozen ice cream pints, right? That can have a little bit of give, and the pint carton will hold its shape and kind of refreeze, no different than when you come home from the store. Novelties does not have that. If I have a little bit of give, that's not going to refreeze in what I believe our brand lives up to from a taste and sensorial experience.Andy:So, first and foremost was, we did a ton of pressure testing through a pretty in-depth thermal testing program. We vetted a number of different logistics partners, different packaging constructs, weights of dry ice, amounts of dry ice, what happens in delays, because we saw a lot of delays on ground shipping, hey, should we ship in air freight and taking discounts until the volume's figured out. We did a ton of pressure testing. And each of our products is also different. We make frozen yogurt bars, we also make frozen yogurt ice cream sandwiches. So, we've got a lot of different forms, even within our portfolio, that require a lot of diligence.Andy:So, a ton of diligence upfront, because at the end of the day, when we're asking consumers to buy our product, it is not a small price point for us to get over the hurdle, the cost of that seamless experience, it's not small. So, our goal is definitely very, very low fail rates through that. So, a lot of operational diligence upfront, a lot of understanding of routes and what geographies we do. We have a retail sales rep that was in Phoenix, and he got a lot of product in those early days, because we use that as our... that's the worst case scenario. If we can survive to Phoenix in August, I think we'll be okay. So, a lot of upfront thermal testing.Andy:And then engineering on the actual platform was also a good amount of diligence, and we're still evolving that as you always should be. Your selling platform, in my opinion, should be a living platform, for lack of a better word. It should never get complacent with the architecture that devils in the details on winning the SEM game, winning how consumers work through your sites, winning on how you keep them in the fold and get to repeat levels. We have a really high repeat level. That's really important to us. So yes, diligence upfront operationally, diligence on making sure the platform works right. And then once you start activating, the worst case scenario would be having someone have an experience that's anything less than superb.Stephanie:Cool. So, what does, from a high level, that back end look like? We settled on dry ice, or we didn't. We settled on a really good cooler. I'm thinking about this one cooler that shipped breast milk, it stayed frozen for four days for me. I was like, "Wow, this cooler is like a Yeti," but sadly, there was nothing you could do with it afterwards. So, what did you guys land on and what does that behind the scenes process look like now?Andy:Yeah. And also sustainability was an important factor for us and making sure that whatever format we were delivering in, we didn't want to deliver a format that would have a negative footprint on the earth either. So yeah, we had that extra variable, both the products, sustainability, surviving... like what happens if there's a day delay, right? If there's a day delay on an ambient product, if there's a day delay, most consumers don't get terribly upset by that. If there's a day to lay on a frozen Greek yogurt bar, that is a melted product, because that dry ice won't last forever.Andy:So, for us, it was a lot of diligence. We settled in on a really good package. We do use that insulated foam that put water on it, and it will dissolve. And so it was important for us to get that right. But we're talking about nuances of a half of an inch of that insulation, nuances of two to three incremental pounds of extra dry ice to ensure that. It really was fairly detailed, and I hope if our third party partner is listening or ever does listen to this, they know, one, I'm appreciative, and two, we definitely put it through the ringer on getting those details right.Stephanie:Yeah. Awesome. Let's move over to the four pillars, because I think that's a really tricky balance where you were talking about DTC, third party, retail, concierge, and I want to hear how you balance all four of those in a way that keeps everyone, including you guys, happy.Andy:Yeah. And we think about them a little bit about who we want activating through each of those. For us, incremental reach and incremental consumers into the Yasso franchise is really important. I mean, each of them plays a little bit of a different role in who we're targeting. Our DTC business is primarily pretty deep loyals because it's a pretty big price point, as well as our current baseline standard pack is an eight count. It takes up a little bit of room in your freezer too, so you got to love Yasso bars, which as we launch, we found that wasn't a problem. We definitely found some people that love Yasso bars and could take that volume on. So, that was a deep loyalty pool. It enabled us to get long... some of our tail skews and smart fan favorites available to people, get innovation in their hands early, those things.Andy:Concierge, to us, was a big win, particularly in 2020 when a lot of consumers ran, and we were able to pivot some of our investment and marketing dollars over there quickly. We had played around on the platform, and then back to your 90 days question, I had brought on someone on our team that was able to get in there, get into the self service side of things, had experience with that on other platforms, able to work in partnership with partners like Instacart and Shipt and really build that up, and we started running dollars to that. I have a general principle of double and double and double and double until it breaks, right? You double until that ROAS really starts to decay at a rate, and then you know where your ceilings are.Andy:And so for us, that was a really important one, particularly in the present temperature state. We knew consumer behavior is rapidly changing, we knew we could activate because we have the structure and the people in place to do so, and really win, particularly on buy it again. We knew that as new consumers were coming to that platform... I don't remember the stat I heard. It was something like they'd anticipated 30 million new households for the year of 2020, and they achieved that by April. And so it was definitely a double down on those types of platforms.Andy:And then we had had some initial discussions with Fresh, but it really was at a pretty good standstill. And so we knew we weren't operating on that platform relative to how we operate a retail, and brought in a new partner to help us [inaudible] on the platform, begin doing some more focused work on our side for advertising and in building out detail pages, etc, and really getting to a much better landing place there. And that has been a really nice win for us.Andy:And then the last pillar is that retail piece. And that one I think is evolving, because I think customers... there were definitely some customers that were ahead of that curve more in general merchandising, though, than anything, and definitely in some food categories, but definitely not in frozen and refrigerated food. And we've seen a definite increase from the prioritization of customers wanting to ensure that their platforms are in a good place. And we've seen a lot more requests for dollars flowing to help them build those platforms out. And so right now what we're trying to balance is, how do I see each of those platforms or pillars working together, and how do I spend the dollars accordingly? A lot of analytical rigor to that.Andy:But it's important to be really ready and flexible and flow those dollars to where you can get to the lowest CPCs, the highest ROAS, highest incrementality of households. We have third party analytic partner that helps us to look at ROIs, because ROAS does not mean ROI. If I could impart any wisdom to marketers out there that haven't lived that yet. ROAS doesn't take into account incrementality. So, it is a complement of different analytical approaches to help us flex those dollars across each of those pillars.Stephanie:Yep, I completely agree. So, are there any good lessons or learnings from going onto all those platforms, figuring it out, trying to pull them together eventually, are there any good lessons from that that other people can take away and hopefully avoid?Andy:Sure. I'll give you an example, not necessarily from my Yasso days, but some prior learnings that I had at a previous company. It is a gray space. As much as we're operating in these environments, whether it's DTC or third party platforms, retailers are also operating in these, and a lot of the questions we get is like, "Are you going to be sourcing volume from my retail in order to sell on these platforms directly?" And I think having those conversations with particularly important retailer partners upfront is important to help them understand how you're targeting, why it's good to bring net incremental people into the total business, and that helps all boats rise, how you're going to work with them through pricing strategy, in particular, how you're going to work through them with promotional and merchandising that doesn't create overlap.Andy:I have an example on Black Friday from a couple of years ago. There was a retail partner that was a very important retail partner, it was protein bars, and they operated heavily on Amazon, we operated heavily on Amazon. They were going to have their Amazon push for Black Friday, we were going to have our Amazon push for Black Friday. And we didn't get far enough ahead with them to decide who's doing what and how that may collide at the buy box. And thankfully, we decided to start our promotion early on Tuesday, because if we'd started one day later, that collision would have happened and no one would have been in the office to try and rectify it.Andy:And so what happened is they ran kind of a site-wide promotion across a number of the different brands that they sell as a broad retailer, and that discount stole the buy box and eroded a lot of your media metrics, we had obviously, some inventory challenges lined up in that. But thankfully, we were able to work through that and get it cleaned up. It had some implication with Google Shopping as well, so it was a multifaceted problem. It also gave us the opportunity to use that case as a way to talk through that with that retailer in the future, about lining up merchandising collectively, not independently. And that's not to suggest that we were comparing pricing, it was just more about talking through our approaches and what the implications on their platforms would be, our platforms, Amazon as a platform overall. I thought it led to a really collaborative place overall, but it is sticky, right? It's a bit of a frenemy reality, right? They are competing, but they're also your partners in retail.Andy:And so establishing guardrails and being transparent we found has been very helpful. Because, again, I operate from positive intent, we're all here to do the same thing, which is to drive growth and to give the consumer the right product that they want at the right time.Stephanie:Yeah. So, how do you go about talking to your retail partner to explain the incrementality piece, and this is good for me everyone type thing. How would you go about doing that in a way that makes sense to everyone?Andy:Yeah. Luckily, in the last few years, I've worked on some great brands that do have great stories about bringing in higher value consumers into the fold and figuring out ways to create total value that they may not get. And some of that is, "Hey, you don't have this portion of the portfolio on your catalog for whatever site you may be selling to, that's something that we can have...": I talked earlier about innovation as a way to get ahead. If a retailer doesn't opt into that innovation, that's okay. We definitely want you to sell our core business and operate there, but we want to give our most loyal consumers our innovation. It's also use of proof cases that we can then go back to the retailer and say, like, "Hey, this is a platform that's a little more vetted and has been cleared by our consumer," that, "hey, it's got proof here. This is an opportunity now for you to take that set to new consumers.Andy:It's also important for us to draw clean mapping to that consumer persona. Who's shopping online, and who shopping and retail, what they're looking for. And we've been very diligent about keeping that cleans. And here's who this is on my platform, here's who this is on third parties, here's who this is in your store. And collectively, that is a really nice store. And that's, I think, why we've had some success recently on outpaced growth relative to the marketplace.Stephanie:Yeah. I mean, it seems like it'd be really tricky keeping track of those consumers, seeing the online versus offline, and where are they originating from, and who's attributing to what sale? How do you go about managing all that data and keeping track of it, especially since you're on so many platforms?Andy:Yeah. I mentioned it a bit earlier, but we do have a partner that does regression based marketing, real-time marketing mix analyses for us, and we use them as a way to delineate the incrementality. That gives us a broad view to our mix, but that also helps us to understand which platforms to bet on, one from the other. I think we're at 18 different variables in that modeling, and some of those variables are literally platform level variables, and some of those are different types of campaign level variables. And so it is not without a lot of rigor, but building the model upfront... and I apologize if I'm using some of those key words, but take the diligence to really think about what the data sets are that are going to come at you and establish what they really tell you, back to my comment ROAS is not ROI. It doesn't mean it's not important, but it's not. And having a data system, and a dashboarding approach, and an operational cadence by which you analyze those and bringing all partners into that for transparency, it clears the air.Andy:I think I worked with partners before that have given us feedback that, "Nobody ever tells us this," right? "And our objectives are never your objectives. They're always different." Right? And so getting alignment upfront and clarity of data flow I think is one of those pieces, no different than the diligence we talked about earlier on frozen fulfillment. A lot of diligence upfront pays off down the road, and actually enables a ton of flexibility. It's just really painful. If I could offer any guidance to winning in omnichannel, it's details, focus on details, because the more detailed oriented you are, the better your system will be and the better you'll understand implications of changes.Stephanie:Yeah. I could see partnerships being lost because of you guys maybe coming in there and being like, "Here's the data points we need. Here's kind of how things work," which maybe needs to be lost if someone doesn't want to do that. But what are the most important data points that you asked from a partner that maybe they weren't comfortable sharing at one point, but now many are on board with doing that? What do you go in saying like, "This is the requirements, here's what we need," and which ones were they maybe more hesitant to share?Andy:Yeah. The propensity or the default position of the retailers is not necessarily to share, and that's not, I don't think, in the spirit of not being a partner, it's in the spirit of, obviously, their goal is to build a category, not necessarily an individual brand, and they're trying to optimize the total pool of brands to elevate their entire category. And so obviously, they don't want to do anything that could be detrimental to the totality of that category growth or detrimental to other brand partners that they may have. Some of that is opting in, some of that is dollars and cents.Andy:There are a number of retailers that have really great platforms for data, and some of that is opting in to those. We've made it a purpose to be data centric in how we approach, not just our retail business or our ecommerce business, all of it. And that may lead to a little bit of a higher non-working/working ratio for what it may be. But that makes us a lot more efficient with all the working dollars in that. And so some of it is dollars and cents and opting into their platforms.Andy:Some of it is having a clarity of that strategy that I mentioned earlier, like, "Here's who I serve by platform," and almost drawing a line that says, "Here's how I view the world. How do you view the world?" And soliciting that. But sometimes it means going in with a point of view. And they may not share that point of view, but at least they'll declare, "I don't share this point of view." And so opt in, have a point of view, and then you'll share results. Also, I think it has to be a two-way street. If I'm unwilling to tell them, "Here's how I'm operating in a direct model," why would I ask them to then tell me what it looks like in an online pickup or delivery model? So, I think there has to be some reciprocity that comes along to that. So, don't be scared to buy data and be more data centric, be clear about your point of view, and then you'll have a partnership, and be okay with some transparency that you otherwise may be not wanting to do in the first place.Stephanie:Yeah, I love that. So, let's talk a little bit about customer acquisition. How are you guys acquiring customers and what are your most successful channels right now, or what are some big bets that you're making in new platforms or maybe you're like, "We weren't on TikTok before, but now we are"? What are you exploring right now?Andy:Yeah. Yes is the answer always. Our team has got a great, I think, pulse for that and a great flexibility for adapting to that. And sometimes it's not just new platforms, sometimes it's new activations on current platforms. I think Reels taught us all a good lesson this year. Obviously, TikTok was a great piece of the puzzle over the last couple of years. So yeah, organically, yeah, definitely continuing to build that out. I think from a paid perspective on new platforms for us, I would say the retail environment is definitely pretty evolving. Andy:Other retailers are pushing their platforms more and bringing on new media partners. Target had their big push. I think it was two years ago when they made their media change. So, yeah, I think retail is an ever evolving world because they're recognizing different to sundry, the Amazons of the world that they're both, yes, retailer, but they're also media marketplace. And if I can get a little more down funnel awareness, consideration and purchase, they're operating in that consideration bucket, because I'm already actively involved in food buying behavior. And so I think that's a really interesting place to be playing.Andy:Yasso in particular at this life stage, though, we are moving significantly in that top of funnel place. And so it isn't necessarily new platforms, but it's new to us because we're reaching growth levels, which is such an exciting moment for any brand, where we have the opportunity to make investments in larger platforms. And so this past year, we did a lot of betting on awareness based platforms that otherwise we wouldn't have probably bet on. But streaming audio was a big win for us in this past year. I think COVID definitely helped consumers even more so get into that space.Stephanie:Like podcasts, you mean?Andy:Yeah, like podcasts. Well done. Yes, like podcasts, and even just music as well. But I think those platforms have become a bigger play, which for traditional food, probably hasn't been top box consideration for media plays, but have done really well for us. And then OTT, I think, continues to build. And so those are not necessarily new platforms, but new to us. And when we think about where we are in our life stage, that gives us opportunities to rethink our total funnel, and that's really exciting, right? So, it's, hey, we have the availability to anchor to spending dollars that are scalable on some of these platforms that we otherwise probably wouldn't have been able to afford originally, and now really evolving our down funnel work with retailers in a different way. So, it's evolving, but it's pretty exciting, actually.Andy:I think that is one of the benefits I've seen from this past year, is it's moved our industry forward and our retailer partners forward. Obviously, it's not to suggest that they were at zero state by any means, but I think it's definitely built a lot of momentum.Stephanie:Yep. And when you're thinking about creating good creatives for these new platforms that you're on, how do you go about making something that really differentiates you guys? I mean, it feels like your space is pretty competitive now. How do you stand out? How do you make ads and audio content that really sets you apart from everyone else?Andy:Yeah. Since we came on, we've thought diligently about the balance of internal external creative capabilities, where we need a differential expertise, where we need flexibility internally, and again, diligence upfront, right? So, that declaration of your brand, what it stands for, what it looks like, being very clear with that, so that as you disseminate across the internal and external content creators, whether that's influencer based or UGC, or whatever it is, you know this is it and this is what it looks like so that your brand identity is well done.Andy:And then I think voice is an interesting place, and voice in two ways. One, is having perspective. I think brands that are able to separate themselves, to your point on the competitive environment, have a really clear voice and perspective on things, and they're willing to take a stand and say, "Here's what we believe." Because consumers, from an engagement perspective, are much more likely to go there. It could bring polarization components to it, definitely, that's a possibility, but it won't bring engagement, right? So, if you don't have voice, if you don't have a perspective, you won't have engagement. So, it's kind of one of those. So, perspective is one.Andy:And then, for us in particular, in our category, I think having a definitive sense of humor. It's a joyful snacking experience, right? I typically don't see a lot of people eating our food without the intention of elevating their mood.Stephanie:Yeah. You can't eat it with a sad face.Andy:No. I mean, you can. I mean, there's the old adage of the breakup with the ice cream-Stephanie:Okay. That's more ice cream.Andy:... but you're doing it to elevate yourself, right? So, most people don't enter that space without the intention of enjoying the experience. And so I think it's important for us to bring that levity and humor to our voice. So, having perspective, having a good sense of humor that's definitive and unique, and having clear sense of art direction is really important. And the last piece I would just say is contextual, right? So, not all creative is the same across. Our organic content team I think does a great job with, "Here's what works in Twitter, and here's what works in TikTok, and here's what works on stories, versus reels, versus feed," and bringing that to the game as well.Stephanie:Yeah, I agree based on some of the things I've seen. All right, let's move over to the Lightning Round. Lightning Round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I'm going to ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready, Andy?Andy:Yes, I'm ready.Stephanie:I wish my knuckles cracked so I could do it.Andy:I can't do that either, but I'm ready.Stephanie:We tried. All right.Andy:Yes.Stephanie:First, what one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?Andy:What one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce? I would say, for me, last mile. I think the last mile is going to take a big step forward this next year. I think a lot of companies got caught flat footed on it. They spent the better part of last year figuring it out, and I think you're going to see more retail platforms figuring out last mile and betting big on it.Stephanie:Yeah, I agree. That's a good one. What's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for you?Andy:I love the two words, to of my favorite words. Thank you. So, I will always take a thank you and I always try and give them just because everybody's working really hard right now, personally and professionally, and I just think the smallest thing you can do is just to say thank you. So, thank you for having me, Stephanie.Stephanie:Okay. Thank you for coming on the show, Andy. What one thing do you not understand today that you wish you did?Andy:What one thing do I not understand today that I wish I did? There's so many things that I don't understand. I think the biggest one I had a better feel for honestly was how to get ahead on new organic platforms. That's definitely one of the tougher ones. I think we've built a good flexible ability to adapt to evolutions within platforms, but which ones to bet on just because there's so many, I think that's one I wish I had a better gut feel for it, to be able to jump there faster. As an emerging brand, I feel like that's one of our core competencies, is the flank approach and not getting trapped in the big game. And I wish I had a better feel for emerging organic platforms.Stephanie:Yeah, that does seem tricky to stay on top of, to be the first one on there and to be the one that can organically grow, because it does always say there's a lot arbitrage to be had on platforms in the beginning, especially when they're trying to figure out their maybe advertising programs. I know TikTok for a while there, you can get really good maybe ROIs because the platform was so new, they're figuring out their program. Maybe that's gone now, but that's a good one.Andy:And that's the exact point, is that it does happen quickly too. And I have seen brands be very successful in getting there first and grabbing that attention.Stephanie:Yeah. What's up next on your reading list?Andy:Right now, what is next on my... I'm looking over at my books. It is... and I'll show it to you, here. It is Hello Darkness, My Old Friend, by Sandy Greenberg. This is a book recommended by my father-in-law about the story of Art Garfunkel's college friend who went blind in college and his journey. He's a lawyer, and it's just an incredible story. So, that is next on my reading list.Stephanie:Wow. I'm writing that down. So, what was it? Hello...Andy:Hello Darkness, My Old Friend by Sanford Greenberg, or Sandy Greenberg.Stephanie:All right. I'll get it [crosstalk].Andy:Foreword by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by the way.Stephanie:Oh, sweet. Okay, now, I'm definitely checking it out.Andy:Yes.Stephanie:All right. And then the last one. What ecommerce tool or piece of tech are you experimenting or most bullish on right now?Andy:Yeah. I'm going to go back to our logistics because I'm bullish that there's going to be a lot of progress on sustainable packaging over the next coming years, and as I mentioned earlier, having sustainable frozen packaging is just fantastic. It makes us feel way better about continuing to grow in this space. But I think there's going to be a lot of technology in the packaging constructs. There's a ton of waste in this space. I think brands are getting way more savvy around designing their first rather than trying to re-architect the other retail packs and then doing the best they can. So, I'm excited to see what comes in kind of more the the operational side as much as anything. That's a personal passion for me, but I'm excited to see how that continues to evolve.Stephanie:Awesome. That's a good one. All right, Andy. Well, thank you for coming on our show and sharing your insights. Where can people learn more about you and Yasso?Andy:Yeah. So, you can find us at yasso.com, for sure. Instagram @Yasso, are the best places, and you can find me on LinkedIn, for sure.Stephanie:Amazing. Thanks so much for joining us.Andy:Absolutely. Thank you, Stephanie.
09/03/2146m 27s

Democratizing Investments in CPG Companies

The world is moving toward being decentralized in every area from the internet to big business. What that means is that the way we do things will change, and in some cases, those things are already vastly different than the norm we all have grown accustomed to.Funding and investments are one aspect of the business world that for a long time have operated in silos. But the tide is shifting, and David Koifman is helping to democratize the world of investment through his work at Kickfurther.Kickfurther is an investment platform that uses the power of crowdfunding to help CPG companies fund their inventory and production runs. Most of the deals on Kickfurther are fully funded and closed within minutes, which proves there is an appetite for this kind of investment in the general market. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, David explains the model and its benefits to both businesses and investors, and he explains how crowdfunding will continue to make an impact on ecommerce companies in the decentralized future. Main Takeaways:Democratizing Investment: For too long, companies have been at the mercy of financial institutions to help fund early production runs or other operational costs. And while that solution works for some, we think that new solutions are still needed. Opening up investment opportunities to the general public is a peek into where the world of funding is headingKeep Proving Yourself: When a company gets a bank loan and pays it off, the business is seen as more successful and its credit rises. A similar thing happens when a company uses crowdfunding for inventory: by delivering the inventory the crowd has purchased and then opening up a new round of funding, a business is building credibility with a consumer and broad investor audience that it otherwise would not have been able to reach.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---Transcript:Stephanie:Welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is Stephanie Postles. And today we're talking to David Koifman, the head of growth at Kickfurther. David, welcome to the show.David:Hey Stephanie. Great to be on the show.Stephanie:I'm glad to have you. So I was looking through your background and I was hoping we could start there because I saw that you've been in sales and partnerships and business development, and it seems like you've had a wide ranging career. So I wanted to hear a little bit about what you did before Kickfurther, and what brought you here.David:Before Kickfurther? I was in marketing right out of college. And then I went into the world of startups in financial technology. I began as a sales rep and grew within a small organization to a much larger organization, led the team, and basically built out sales account management partnerships. And then we were getting to a stage of growth where I wasn't feeling the excitement that I initially felt and joined the team at Kickfurther to do it all over again. So I've been here three and a half years. It's been awesome. We've grown tremendously, and I'm very excited about the next few years to see where it will go.Stephanie:Awesome. So you've always, always had the startup bug, where you're looking for that crazy hectic environment, fast growth.David:Yeah. It's like I see myself as a sales guy who doesn't like just selling. What I like is building the sales process, building the team, understanding the customer. So a little bit more beyond just knowing individual customers and building a book of business.Stephanie:Yep. Got it. So tell me a bit about what Kickfurther does.David:So Kickfurther solves a unique problem that every consumer goods business faces in their early stages of growth. You'll see a lot of companies are funding on platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo. These are crowdfunding platforms where businesses raise money to fund their first production run. Production run is when a business is producing inventory. Inventory is the product that they sell. So as that business completes their crowdfunding campaign or determines that they have product market fit, they will need to come back and order more product. Sometimes, they're buying that product from a supplier, maybe a manufacturer in China or here in the U.S., somebody that produces a finished product, and then they receive it in their warehouse and they sell through it. Sometimes they're buying a bunch of raw materials and making a product themselves. Usually that's the case in food or some health and beauty applications.David:But the bottom line is that costs a lot of money, and the faster the business grows, the more they have to invest into inventory upfront. You have to pay for that inventory, it takes months to produce, and then you get it into a warehouse and then you start selling it to customers. And then your customers start paying you. So there could be a long amount of time from when you need to outlay that cash to produce the inventory until you're able to recoup that revenue and put it into the next production run. So as businesses grow, they encounter this cash flow pinch, and Kickfurther solves that pinch. We have developed a marketplace on kickfurther.com, where we will vet companies and structure deals. And then a community of users will come to those deals and participate in purchasing the inventory for that business. The business will then produce the inventory, sell it, and pay back Kickfurther and the users who participated in the deal; we'll make some money and get to do it all over again.Stephanie:Yeah. Very cool. It reminded me of, I saw quite a few real estate investment platforms like this too, where you get the fund, the next three or whatever it may be. So it seems like they're popping up in different ways to have a Kickstarter approach, but also getting people in the market who have the funds to be able to fund this inventory or investments or whatever it may be. So is that the main way that Kickfurther is different, where it's sourcing investment from the community instead of traditional lenders or actual investors?David:Yeah. So I mean, what we're doing is using the power of crowds rather than financial institutions. There's a lot of solutions out there that take money. They borrow money from banks and other financial institutions, and then present it to businesses and take a cut. And what we're doing is creating that opportunity for any individual on the internet, somebody who has money sitting in their bank account, and they want to use that money to make money by participating in a purchase of inventory for a consumer goods business. And so what we do is, it's not a loan. It's not an investment, it's actually a consignment agreement. So what we're doing is purchasing inventory for a business and consigning it to them to sell on our behalf. And as the business sells that inventory, then that triggers the consignment, and then we invoice them for it and they buy it back plus their cost of funding.Stephanie:Got it. Okay. So how do you make sure that you're bringing on companies onto your platform that won't make you nervous, where it's like, are you actually going to sell all this inventory? Because I'm not trying to cover that cost.David:Yeah. Well, there's a pretty thorough diligence process that we go through for every business that goes on the platform. We evaluate everything from their revenues to their supply chain, to how they distribute that product. And it's all verified through documentation. So it's not like anybody can come to us and say, Hey, we need money," and then just go up on the platform. There's a diligence process, just like there would be going to a bank or any other financial institution. I would say our uniqueness is we look at supply chain and distribution, and we assess risk in a very specific way. It's different from a bank. So some of our customers, everybody wants to go to a bank. Bank money is the cheapest. You want to go to a bank and get a line of credit and fund your business that way.David:However, if you're a small business, whether you're a restaurant or a clothing store, the bank looks at you the same. They say, how long have you been in business? Are you profitable? How much have you sold? Whereas we're looking at a very specific sector of small businesses that are consumer goods, businesses with supply chains. And we understand the intricacies of that supply chain and then how they get that product to their warehouse, get that product from the warehouse to the customers, and collect that money through their distribution channels. And so we use that information to determine who has access to capital on Kickfurther.Stephanie:Got it. Yeah, what's cool is that you guys are acting as like the trusted source, so that the community doesn't have to do as much due diligence, or I don't know if they do any at all, but you're acting as like the mediator, to be like, "We've done all the research. We know this company, and it's for the most part trustworthy," and then people can come in and fund that based off of your research and due diligence.David:We do verify all the information that's presented about the company. The individuals still do decide which deals they participate in. And that's based on what they read in the public profile. Some of them will go investigate more. Some of them will actually ask questions on the platform. So you have the ability as a participant to ask the owner or CEO questions before you participate, or during the deal, about distribution or how they're making products, or what if they're worried about competition? Any topic is welcome. There's a lot of additional diligence that an individual can conduct before they make the decision to participate.Stephanie:Cool. And is there a risk rating of, okay, this company is more of a startup one, this is going to be their first time raising money here; we're going to give them a risk rating of this? so maybe you have a higher payoff because of that if they end up selling all the inventory, or how do you guys think about the risk-based approach when it comes to getting investment?David:It's not as simple as just boiling it down to a one to 10 scale or something like that. But there's a lot of categories which each one of the customers that we fund will be shown in. And so you can look at how many years in business, what their revenue range is, how many different wholesale buyers they have, how many times they've gone through the supply chain and produced with their supplier. So there's a number of different elements that, that are categorized in terms of risk.Stephanie:Got it, cool. And what is the average return for someone? If I were to go in there and invest right now in a deal, is there an average range of what you make over one year or that a longer time horizon?David:So the deals range in duration from two to 10 months. So the way we compare deals is on a profit per month basis, and businesses will offer anywhere from one to two percent per month. And so you can annualize that in a way where, if you participate in a deal and then that money comes back to you, then you can redeploy it into another deal. And if you continue doing that, let's say 1.5% a month will translate to about 18% per year.Stephanie:Got it, cool. So what kind of struggles do you see ecommerce brands having right now when it comes to ... Obviously not having money to fund inventory is the high level problem, but maybe what kind of sticky situations do you see brands getting in by either waiting too long to get funding or not even thinking about it. What are some stories that you have around the whole inventory funding?David:Yeah, I think the biggest thing to do is to be proactive and understand what solutions are out there and how to use them before that need comes around. Because being desperate is the worst time to be looking. And if you've run out of inventory as a business owner, you're missing out on opportunities to sell. So like you could have a really successful Q4, and then you get to Q1 and people still want to buy your stuff, but you're all out. And then you placed an order with your supplier, and the supplier takes two months to produce. And then maybe you're in a position where you have to air freight instead of going on the water and you have to pay a lot more money to get it there faster. So there's all sorts of obstacles that come into play. And that's ecommerce.David:A lot of the businesses that we work with are multi-channel sales. So they're selling ecommerce and then they're selling to target or Best Buy or REI. And those companies will place orders, if you don't deliver those orders when you say you will, then you're probably going to lose that opportunity or at least jeopardize it in the future. So it's important to make sure that you have the inventory ready when you're going to need it. And you also don't want to have way too much. So if you buy a lot, and then you don't sell at the rate that you expected, you have a lot of cash sitting in the form of inventory in your warehouse. Sometimes it's going to go bad, if it's a crude product or it's just cash that you want to spend on advertising to sell the product, but you can't because you don't have it.Stephanie:Cool. So if I'm a new brand and I'm looking to crowdfund my inventory, what are some best practices that attract the investors in the crowd? What kind of things do you see connecting with people? How would I write up a good post right now to attract funding for someone to help with my inventory?David:The most important things are that you've done it before. So we don't work with businesses that are doing their first production run. We did in our very early days, and, as you can imagine, it's much higher risk. So we only work with businesses that have at least $150,000 in sales. And once they've demonstrated that, it's good to talk about how you work with your suppliers, what sort of things you do to ensure that you're going to receive the product that you want to receive within the timeframe that you plan on receiving it. So being conservative with time estimates, making sure that you have testing in place so that once your supplier says the product is ready, that somebody goes in and looks at it and you don't get a bunch of broken stuff.David:And then once it arrives, it's important that you have reliable distribution. People want to see good reviews. People want to see lots of reviews. And I would say, if there's somebody who's selling to a wholesale customer and they just have one customer who is placing large orders, that's pretty high risk. Because if that customer decides they don't want to buy anymore, who are they going to sell that product to? So those are the kinds of things that users on Kickfurther are taking a look at, reading through the profile, to decide if they're going to participate. One thing I will say that we haven't touched on is how fast these deals fund. So it's good for us at this point. It means that there's an imbalance in the marketplace in our favor. So the deal flow that we put up gets funded oftentimes in minutes.Stephanie:Yeah, I know. I noticed that, because I'm like, "Hmm, maybe let's see if I should investigate these deals." And I think it looked like everything was sold out, or it was all met to the limit. At least the two I was looking at. And it seemed like it happened really quick, where I'm like, "Hmm, this is competitive."David:Yeah. It's super competitive. So we have the ability to scale our deal flow pretty substantially without having a concern for deals funding fast enough. And as a user, if you're thinking about participating, you're going to get emails, you got to act on it fast. And so we put deals up. They have about 24 hours before they launch. And they always launch at 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. And if that, there's hundreds of people that are clicking, trying to get into deals like within a minute or two of 5:00 PM, when they usually fill up.Stephanie:Wild. I think you need more deals then for people to get in on.David:Yep. That's my job. I've been working hard on it. So we we've grown quite a bit. We have aggressive growth goals for 2021, and so far we're on track. It's early, but it's an exciting time to be at Kickfurther.Stephanie:That's great. So what brands are you trying to get on the platform right now? Who are you trying to convince to get on there?David:There's a lot of repeat customers, and we have really good retention. We average over four deals per customer, but they're all across the board. We're pretty product agnostic. We serve anybody who either buys or makes physical goods and then sells them with the exception of regulated things like alcohol, tobacco, firearms, THC, anything that's temperature controlled or perishable. Because of the consignment agreement nature of the contract, the inventory is our collateral in these deals. So we don't want it to go bad. And we want to make sure that it is available to anybody who participated in the consignment, they have to be able to purchase it.Stephanie:Yep. Oh, got it. So if the inventory doesn't sell out, you guys essentially have it in a warehouse, and me as an investor could be like, "I want one of those t-shirts then." Is that how to think about it?David:Yes, that is a way to think about it. So if the business is unable to sell the inventory, and they're unable to pay back Kickfurther and their users for the cost of it, then Kickfurther, based on our contract, will require a delivery of that inventory to us, at which point we'll attempt to sell it, and all the proceeds of that resale goes to the participants in that agreement.Stephanie:Have you had to do that yet?David:We have had to do that. We've been around for seven years. So it's happened, but these days it's very infrequent, and that's why these deals fund so fast as people who are participating on Kickfurther have great returns and they tell their friends about it and they the deals. So the performance, overall, is strong.Stephanie:Yeah, got it. So when I'm thinking about, as a business myself, getting credit and working with banks, you're building up your business credit worthiness. When you get traditional loans, I know we had to take on a couple of last year and it does help being like, "Oh yeah, we took on this size loan, we paid it off." How do you view crowdfunding in that kind of sense? Is it building up a business's credit worthiness or is it so siloed still at this point that it doesn't actually build up the financial view of the businessDavid:In some ways, it does, and in some ways it doesn't. It isn't considered debt to them. So it doesn't operate the same as taking out a loan and paying it back. But there's a lot of transactions that still occur that show the business is selling and making money. So their business credit will improve as a result of that. But yeah, it's kind of a mixed situation.Stephanie:Yeah, yeah. That seems tricky. Because it seems like a really good avenue to not only help the businesses, but then also bring in a lot more players. It seems like it's much more decentralized, which is great. The whole world's moving in that way, but if you can't really use it, be like, "Oh, look at these three different loans I have right now, the market funded them." I feel like the world needs to move to that place, the more of that crowdfunding and the decentralized approach is coming to the forefront.David:Well, the world is moving in that direction, but what's really cool is Kickfurther moves in that direction with the clients themselves. So as we establish a relationship with a business and they come back for repeat deals, we increase their limits substantially. And they have access to lower rates. Basically, they're earning credibility with this community. So let's say they offer one and a half percent per month on their first deal and they complete on time, and then they come back, they can offer less. It's really in the hands of the business owner what they want to offer, and the community, the marketplace, will decided if that business has earned that rate and are able to fund it at a lower cost. So as a customer at Kickfurther, as your revenues grow, you'll be able to take on more funding with Kickfurther, buy more inventory, and do it at a lower cost.Stephanie:Got it, okay. So you're building up that credit worthiness, just in a different hub, but you're doing that by just performing well and, yeah, that makes more sense.David:We will work with businesses who are starting at 150,000 in annual sales, and all the way up to 30 million. So there's quite a range of growth in service by Kickfurther. There's businesses that, once they reach a certain stage, either they're not accelerating as much as they used to and they have the cash flows to fund their own inventory and continue producing, or there's other businesses that have been long and around long enough where they are now exciting to banks and other financial institutions that have very low cost lending.Stephanie:Yep. Is there any guidance or any point where you're like, "Oh, you should probably just reinvest revenue or profits instead of getting a loan." Do you ever give guidance on that? Because I could see a lot of businesses always being like, "Oh, at such a low rate, why don't I get loans?" But then quite a few businesses have a lot of cash on their balance sheet too, and they don't know how to fully deploy it, but they're just so used to getting low interest loans. Is there any point where you've actually advised a company like, "You guys are good. Maybe you should reinvest profits." Or do you even see it from that angle?David:I don't think anybody's coming to us if they don't want additional capital. And I am always very transparent with everybody, and [inaudible] make sure you know, what your options are. We don't make money off convincing you to do one deal. We want that long-term engagement [inaudible] coming back. But I think the reason people come to Kickfurther is they have an opportunity with a buyer, or sales are growing so fast and in a channel where they want to launch a new product, they just don't have the cash to be able to do that. And that's why they're looking for funding solutions. And maybe they go to their equity investor and they say, "Hey, I need some additional capital to be able to take advantage of this opportunity." And the VC says, "You know what, why don't you seek some non-dilutive capital for that? That's a much better use of, why give up five or 10% of your ownership just so you can produce the next run when you're going to have to do another one and another one and another one after that?"Stephanie:Yep, yeah. That makes sense. So, since you're deep in the crowdfunding space, I'm sure you just see opportunities all around. So much stuff could be crowd crowdfunded. Where do you see that world headed? What kind of new opportunities do you see popping up in that space? Or what do you think is missing right now, where crowd funding could be meeting a need?David:I think there's a lot of money and power in crowds. And there's the ability to cut out middlemen and big entities that have been around for a long time and empower individuals to help these business owners grow. It's also not just the money that's coming from them. Why are people deciding to participate in these deals? A lot of them believe that they have an advantage and they have the knowledge in the space. So maybe they want to help the business owner. I've had plenty of users come to me and say, "Hey, I actually work in this space. And I have a couple of distribution opportunities that I'd like to connect with your client about." And I'll make a direct introduction, and all of a sudden they acquire a new sales channel. Or somebody who's got a lot of money and they want to do a side deal. Yeah, I am looking for equity investors, let me connect these two people.David:So those kinds of things happen rather frequently. And that's not going to happen when you're working with a sales rep at a bank. Because everything's coming from the bank's bank account. And actually the money that the bank is using is just coming from account holders and their deposits. So if you're storing money in a bank, the bank is using that money to lend to businesses and whoever else. So we're cutting that out of the mix. And I think it's good for everybody involved.Stephanie:Yeah, I think it's a good reminder too, about diversifying investments and why finding opportunities. Yeah, you don't want to just keep your money in a bank and let inflation just wither it away to nothing. So, yeah. It's cool to hear about opportunities like this that are very different, but will definitely help diversify your portfolio.David:Yeah. And it's really fun, from our standpoint, to work with all these young business owners. I mean like the business is young, not the individuals per se, but some of them just started a few months ago and they've had some real success. Some of them, it's a family business that's been around for a couple of generations, and all of a sudden they're discovering that ecommerce is a way to skyrocket the business. They have a really good product; they just haven't put it in front of the right audience. And they're figuring out how to make this happen financially, and we're there to help them. And it's just really great to be side by side with them as a partner and see that growth.Stephanie:Yep. Yeah. It seems like there's also could be a lot of international opportunities. I know that's a lot more risky once you start going that route and finding people who are doing much smaller scale ventures and being able to help back that, then turn into a bigger thing. But I have read a few stories of finding people doing amazing things in other countries, but they just don't have any kind of funding. Or they can't buy inventory for even 10 things to sell. And yeah, it seems like there's a lot of opportunity around the world, but of course it'd be much more risky trying to vet those projects and companies.David:It is definitely a challenge. It's something that we're considering doing down the road. You probably start with Canada and some EU companies, but there's different regulations in different countries. And also, if we get into a bad situation with a client, we have to pursue them legally. So working in a foreign legal system is very costly, and we try to help businesses out, and so our margins are pretty slim. So being able to afford that kind of activity is probably a ways down the road for us.Stephanie:Yeah. So what are you guys looking forward to for the next, maybe, two to three years? What are you planning for? You said you were going to be growing really quickly this year. What kind of things are you putting in place right now and where do you want to be in the next couple of years with Kickfurther?David:I'd say we want to be a household name for inventory funding. A lot of people are starting their own businesses. And we want to create an opportunity for them to grow at the rate that they're able to grow and have access to capital. And so our goal is to put our name out there in a way where it becomes recognizable to all business owners who are in the right space for us.Stephanie:Yep. Very cool. Yeah, Amazon be a good space, but then sometimes those one-off products that are being sourced and sold on there. So maybe that's not the best space. I'm not sureDavid:Those people are business owners and growing too. So if you have one product that's selling really well, and that's what you want to focus on, sure, that's great.Stephanie:Cool. All right. Well, let's shift over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I'm going to ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready, David?David:I'm ready.Stephanie:All right. What one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?David:Probably the state of the world. So the ability that people have to shop and travel and continue to live their lives the way they did before lockdowns and quarantine.Stephanie:Yep. All right, cool. If you had a podcast, what would it be about, and who would your first guest be?David:I don't think I would have a podcast.Stephanie:What would you have then, a clubhouse? What would you have then?David:A clubhouse. I think that, honestly, I was a little bit foreign to this whole world of supply chain and inventory finance when it came to Kickfurther, and I've discovered a passion for helping these business owners. So I think the clubhouse that I would have would be one where business owners get together and talk about different solutions that help their business grow, and what vendors they use and what are best practices, just an exchange of information across business owners and vendors.Stephanie:I like that, because yeah, I think even thinking about, "What manufacturer should I use? And how do I even source those people?" Still always feels like a black box and it's referrals. Or you have to know someone and that'd be a good one.David:We make quite an effort to make those resources available to our customers. So, as we go through our diligence process, we cover a lot of topics, and oftentimes customers will identify pain points, and we will say, "If you're interested in these, this is a partner of ours, or we've got a few different options or people you can talk to, to learn more about the solutions in this space."Stephanie:Yep. Cool. What's up next on your reading list?David:Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins.Stephanie:Okay. Nice. Where are you traveling to next when it's easier to travel again?David:In two weeks, I'm traveling to Salt Lake City to go skiing, but that's a drive for me.Stephanie:Yeah.David:Big skier. And whenever the snow comes, I'm out there.Stephanie:I love that. All right. And then the last one, what is your favorite piece of tech that you're using right now? It can be personally or with the business.David:Don't hate me, but it's my iPhone 12 Pro.Stephanie:What's to hate? I have the same thing. It's my favorite. It has the best cameraDavid:I bought it for the camera, but it's really fast. It's a computer in my pocket that does pretty much everything my actual computer does.Stephanie:Yeah.David:Super valuable piece of tech.Stephanie:Yep. I agree. All right, David, thanks so much for joining the show. Where can people find out more about you and Kickfurther?David:Kickfurther.com is the best place. You can find me on LinkedIn, David Koifman, and I look forward to connecting with anybody who's interested. Also, if you're a business owner listening and you're interested in funding with us, you can go to our website, fill out an application, or you can just email me david@kickfurther.com.Stephanie:Yeah.David:Thanks so much, Stephanie.Stephanie:Cool.David:It's good to be on here.Stephanie:Yeah, thanks, David. All right. See you.David:Take care.
04/03/2130m 49s

Building A Relationship with Customers When You Can’t Access Them Directly

What happens when you can’t own the direct relationship with your customer? In the ecommerce world, you would think that’s pretty rare, but companies in big and highly-regulated industries deal with this problem daily. Anheuser-Busch is one of those companies and its team has had to be innovative in the ways they gather insights and create relationships with customers. Arabella Watters leads Category Development and Insights for ecommerce at Anheuser-Busch, and she is helping bring creative solutions to understand exactly who AB’s customers are, how they shop, and what they’ll want in the future. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Arabella dives into the roundabout ways that AB has had to gather data, and she explains how important it is to have a two-way relationship with retailers in order to share data that is useful to both parties. Plus, she explains why we can all learn a little bit from our international peers and what sorts of innovative approaches ecommerce brands can implement on their own right here in the U.S. Oh, and Arabella teases some exciting influencer content coming up soon that AB put together with Travis Scott that you’ll definitely want to check out. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:It’s a Two-Way Street: With retail partners, sharing data goes both ways. Whether it’s out-of-stock data, landing page placement, or general consumer insights, there’s information that both sides need to have access to. Establishing a reciprocal relationship of data-sharing will not only take the partnership further but transform how you can serve consumers.Digging For Data: Accumulating and then analyzing consumer data is the only way to get a 360 view of who your customers are and how they shop. But in industries that are heavily regulated, such as alcohol, having a traditional ecommerce experience is not quite possible, which means you have to get creative. Put on your creative hat and listen in to hear the many tactics you can use to get intel on your customers in a fun and unique way.Take What You Can: Although China is far ahead of the U.S. when it comes to ecommerce adoption, and how it has permeated through just about every industry — alcohol included — there are still points of inspiration and innovation that can be brought to the American market. Creating full omnichannel experiences and engaging with customers at every touchpoint on the customer journey are just two examples.Premiere Partnerships: Influencers are a dime a dozen these days, and it’s easy for a brand to pay for someone with a big following to promote a product. But the ROI from that is negligible. What works better is a more authentic strategy in which a brand forms a true partnership with an influencer or celebrity who is truly connected to the product and the campaign in a personal way. That authenticity resonates with audiences better than most other marketing activities.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---Transcript:Stephanie:Hey everyone, welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder and CEO at Mission.org. Today, we're chatting with Arabella Watters, the Head of ecommerce for Category and Insights at Anheuser-Busch. Arabella, welcome.Arabella:Thank you. Happy to be here.Stephanie:I'm excited to have you on here. Is it too early for a beverage? Or ...Arabella:Yeah, it's only 10:30, otherwise, I'd definitely would be having a seltzer next to me, for sure.Stephanie:Yeah. So speaking of seltzer, I was think that you're the perfect person to talk about all things D to C alcohol, not just because you're working at Anheuser-Busch, but because of a company that you actually started out of college that I saw you were taking an entrepreneurship class, and you actually took your project and ran with it, and I want to kind of start there because I thought that was really cool, and I was like that's impressive. Probably no one does that that I know of unless maybe you're at Stanford that's a little bit more normal, so tell me a little bit about that.Arabella:Yeah, definitely. I think it's a good segue into how I got to AB for sure. So I founded that company, Mojo, with my partner, exactly like you said, during college. So we were taking an entrepreneurship class, had this idea, and just decided to run with it because it felt like a really kind of rich and impactful idea that could actually go somewhere. I'd say it's super interesting when I think about how it kind of came to be and came to fruition. My partner and I at the time had both been studying abroad during our junior year. We actually were in South Africa, and had just a lot more exposure to kind of the alcohol and drinking culture in a less regulated place, which sounds really interesting and funny, but in South Africa, you can buy wine whenever, the drinking age is a little more relaxed and people are getting a bottle of wine, having a picnic, going for a hike, all of that.Arabella:Kind of more casual, outdoor, daytime drinking behavior. And we found it very, very, one, fun, and two just interesting and kind of something that was missing from the alcohol market in the US. So I've always liked wine. I grew up in California so it was something I was familiar with, but we kind of had the realization that wine in the US was very much so kind of stogy, a lot of different options without a lot of different differentiation, and the majority of the time it's very heavy red wines that make you fall asleep, and hard to drink.Arabella:So the insight that I kind of had was that there really was this growing opportunity for more easy to drink, lighter, social beverages that could be portable, you could take them on an adventure, you could drink during the day or during a more active activity. And I'd say so that was really kind of the thought that led to Mojo, which was basically a wine spritzer based off of this drink in Spain that was wine and Coca Cola. I think it actually was such an amazing experience to have and to dig into those insights and build that brand because now that was five years ago, but we're seeing that same trend of easily more portable, lighter, more sessionable drinks like seltzers or canned cocktails are really growing at such a huge speed. So I do feel validated that one, that was an insight that was definitely something that was a real trend that was growing, and two it really kind of exposed me to the alcohol biz early on.Stephanie:You were just ahead of your time. You're just a futurist.Arabella:I like to think of that too. It's funny though, now looking back when we were pitching it, it was kind of just this counter culture idea of oh you want to put wine and make it sparkling and you think people are going to drink wine outside during the day? And now people are chugging seltzers left and right during the day, so it's pretty much the same thing. So it's nice to feel validated now for sure.Stephanie:I'm sure that was a really good experience. So what ended up happening with that?Arabella:So I think the other less fun and more kind of realistic part of the experience was getting exposure to A, the legal landscape of alcohol in the US, so super challenging, a lot of barriers to entry whether it's getting permits, getting the ability to be registered as a wholesaler and selling to retailers and all of that stuff. So I'd say that in itself was challenging. We got through it, but the bigger challenge was just in order to really have the scale to get a beverage company off the ground, you need to have a lot of capital, and like you said we were pretty close out of college, had done a couple entrepreneurship pitch contests to get some funding and had gotten some funding through crowdfunding sites, but didn't have a huge amount of money at our disposal.Arabella:So I think what kind of is full circle for me is while we had to make the hard decision to not continue pushing on with it since it was so expensive to be getting a proof of concept, now I get to be at AB where it's such a huge scale operation where those things aren't a problem. So I like to think I can take some of those learnings and apply it to my job now.Stephanie:Yeah. I was actually just going to say you were in this kind of D to C world if you would have been fully launching and everything, and I'm sure Anheuser-Busch saw that and they're like that's exactly what we need, someone who was ready to start talking one to one to a consumer, like have the idea to do that. How was it when you transitioned to Anheuser-Busch and you're working on ecommerce for category and insights and all of the sudden you're like oh I actually can't talk to my consumer directly, it's like a roundabout three tiered system that I don't even know who I'm selling to really.Arabella:Yeah. You hit the nail on the head. It's definitely adjustment, it's definitely different. I think when I was thinking of joining the team, what I was really drawn to was exactly what you were saying, that there kind of was this gap in understand of who the ecommerce alcohol shopper was, and I love insights, that's definitely my passion point of my job. I love the whole job, but understanding the shopper really is what kind of gets me up and going in the morning. So yes I was drawn to this new channel that it was a new way people were shopping, that there really wasn't a huge amount of information available.Arabella:I think now being actually faced with it and not having access to direct sales data and to actual onsite metrics because we're working through the three tiered system with retailers definitely has been a challenge. Although I do think it's really kind of forced me to think creatively and think about how we can structure our research and our insights approach, and take directional insights that we have from in-store and take them to online and say what is similar here, what's different? It's pushed me to kind of go above and beyond to think about how to approach the problem of who the shopper is and that in itself has just been incredibly valuable.Stephanie:Yeah. I was thinking that too, you really have to get creative to get data in your industry, and I thought what AB is doing around merchandise and shops and all that is really interesting. I saw a quote where someone at your company said, yeah, we essentially launched these stores and we consolidated them so that we could get shopper data, because we really can't get that easily anywhere else on ecommerce. So tell me a bit about that approach and do you think the people buying merchandise are the same ones probably buying the alcohol in store?Arabella:Yeah. I mean it's super interesting to think of that. I don't know if it's the exact same shopper always, but what I do know is that anyone who's probably buying merchandise from us is definitely a brand loyalist, because you're not going to want to wear a Bud Light sweatshirt if you don't really love Bud Light and feel really strongly about the brand.Stephanie:But I saw a crop top in your store and I'm like that's cute. I don't know if I ever would have worn like a Busch branded T-shirt, but that crop top, it's something. I like it.Arabella:Yeah. You know what, the Bud Light merch is actually really fun. I have a beanie that I wear sometimes and I get endless teasing from my friends but I love it. So yeah, I mean I think it's definitely brand loyalists, or to your point, people who feel, each of the brands that are within AB have such strong brand voices and such legacy and such power pretty much in the market, and so I think the merchandise, while it doesn't directly relate to us selling beer, it does do I think some great work in furthering the brand awareness and people feeling like they're connected to the brand and want it to be something that's part of their day to day, and I think the ability for us to, I think where I'd love to do a little bit more work with the merch business is thinking about how we can kind of create more of a one stop shop experience, so how can we partner with retailers to get that Bud Light crop top paired with a Bud Light six pack and get it bundled together so we can merchandise and sell that in one fell swoop, because I think that sort of would be the ultimate goal that we can get the shopper having the actual product and also that brand loyalty experience.Arabella:But I know that's a huge, huge priority, because to your point, we can't capture the data, but I know with the merch biz, that's a big focus for our next year in 2021.Stephanie:Yeah. So what other creative ways are you all going about to find customer data so then you can personalize that experience in one way or another, like what are the things that you're trying out that you're having success with right now?Arabella:So we pretty simply just work as an insights-driven org to be bringing as much data that's specific to the retailers as we can. Stephanie:Yep. And how do you think about out of stock issues? So we just had a guest on from Intel where they were saying they're trying to work with all these retailers, he was from the internet of things group, and he was saying there's so much opportunity with retailers where they oftentimes don't understand their inventory, things can remain out of stock for an entire day and they'll say that they're on it but they actually had no idea, how do you handle that from a tracking perspective to make sure that your retailers are keeping your stuff in stock and it's being tracked properly?Arabella:Yeah. So that definitely has been one of my big goals for this year is to really get more of a data specific perspective on out of stocks, on how we're doing on the shelf online, everything that you're saying. So we actually just partnered with a digital shelf tracking company, Profitero, I feel like you guys maybe have heard the name before. So our big plan with them in the next year is basically to take on all those things you're saying and give it more of a data lens so we can be reporting out weekly and tracking what products are out of stock and what we should be communicating to the wholesalers to be getting them updated and fixed, because we know that from an ecommerce perspective, out of stocks are a huge, huge issue because in store, you're out of one pack of Bud Light, well the shelf is stocked in a way that Bud Light is a brand that has multiple SKUs, you could easily just grab the other one that's there and go on your way.Arabella:Online, when something is out of stock, a lot of retailers will simply remove it from the site so you don't even see it, so that recognition that we get with our brands is completely gone if the product doesn't even show up on the site, and then you see them moving to a different competitor or substituting in a different way. So I think that really it's a huge, huge piece, and it's especially huge with our pure play partners, so those who are only online retailers, because we're able to have a little bit more of a direct connection to them as well and work through those things.Stephanie:Got it. Cool. So the one thing I'm thinking about too is attribution around marketing campaigns and things like that. How do you think about seeing if something that you're doing out in the world is actually impacting sales, if once again you have to be like let's look at our retail partners and see what's happening, or how do you think about attribution in your industry?Arabella:Yeah. I mean it's definitely a challenge.Stephanie:[inaudible].Arabella:It's a challenge, it's a constant challenge. It's something that I'm always working on to try to, again, thinking creatively and outside of the box, I think one way that we are working on thinking about how our campaigns are performing is we track our placement on the shelf on retailers, so what percentage of the first page we have, what percentage of the first five spots we have, and the way that a lot of algorithms work with the retailers is that they're based on sales and conversions. So what you could do is sort of back into how a campaign or product is doing by looking at the change in where you're placed up on the site, and that's something that's like of course, it's definitely there's room for error there, but I think from a directional standpoint we're able to see, okay we ran a campaign on Michelob Ultra Seltzer all of January and it started at the bottom and now it's at the top. That means that if we were driving to that retailer, it worked. Right?Arabella:So it's a little bit more binary in that we're not able to get so, so granular, but that's one way I think from the category and the retailer perspective we're able to either check or not that something is working. Stephanie:Man, you're in a tough industry.Arabella:Yeah.Stephanie:I haven't had to ask questions like this on any of my episodes, but it makes me wonder, oh actually except for Haus, when I was talking to the Haus founder.Arabella:I listened to that one.Stephanie:Okay yeah, that was where I learned about the three tier-system, but it makes me wonder is a three tier system going to go away? Because it seems like there's companies right now who are kind of just working to get around that system, and once that starts happening it's like maybe that system's just broke, and with the move to D to C, why would it still be there then if everything else can have access to the consumer, it seems like this industry should too, with the proper protections. Stephanie:Yeah, that just feels so odd to me. Especially the world that we're in today, and just thinking that you can make something and then not be able to sell it on your own just feels very archaic in that you have to go through a retail location or whatever it may be.Arabella:Yeah.Stephanie:It just feels not very business friendly, but that's [crosstalk].Arabella:It's super interesting also to think about as marijuana is going to eventually I'd imagine be legal on a federal level, then how are they going to regulate that as well, because it's sort of a mirror industry to us, is that going to be something you also have to go through a wholesalerArabella:But I think that's another probably will give us another opportunity to have the bigger conversation because it's sort of like if THC and marijuana is able to have this direct to consumer business relationship then why can't alcohol as well?Stephanie:Yeah. It sometimes seems like older industries are punished from the older times, where as you're new and up and coming, you move so quickly where it's like you can get much further ahead where it's hard to pull you back in when you're already like well now I'm out delivering everywhere in California.Arabella:No, it's so interesting. I think that's such a great point when you think about the Ubers or AirBnBs or the share economy of the world where they just absolutely turned old industries on their heads and didn't really think about the regulations, and then they're so big now that it's harder to go backwards.Stephanie:Yeah.Arabella:Exactly. And overturn those things.Stephanie:I think it's good sometimes. It's good to push the regulations forward and bring them up to the times.Arabella:Yeah, I agree.Stephanie:So the one space that a lot of guests have talked about is what's happening in China. And what was interesting is I saw that AB was looking at China now as kind of the market that they use to bring a lot of learnings from ecommerce back to the US. So what are you guys seeing there and what kind of learnings have you actually been able to bring back to the US and apply versus what have you been like whoa that's just such a different market, it's very different there and we kind of keep it siloed when it comes to what we're doing there versus in the US or in Brazil or all around the world?Arabella:I'll start off by saying that while I work on the North America business, we do have a global e-retail center of excellence where we meet frequently to talk about best practices and get inspiration, just like you're saying, from markets where while it may not be cookie cutter to our market, we're able to see what they're able to do and how it performs and think about how we could apply it to what we do. So China is definitely an amazing example. I'm always thinking about what they do kind of as the best case scenario for ecom, I think we have to always take it with a grain of salt just because there are legalities, to the convo we were just having, they can sell directly to shoppers at any point I believe in the shopper journey.Arabella:So that's amazing. And we've really been able to I think one of the things that struck me the most, we had the China team present to us last year on double 11, the singles day, and what they have been able to do with our brands there like Budweiser being one of the huge ones, and kind of just creating this huge omnichannel event where we're taking over every single possible touchpoint for the shopper, whether it's a vending machine, or the apps on their phone, or the actual grocery store, doing activations where there is a concert and then you can click the video and get your Budweiser delivered. Things that sort of feel to me like this crazy world of digital, physical connection that I think in the US we just don't have yet in general, and we definitely don't have for alcohol because it's so regulated. But I think that's something that we try to take inspiration from and think about okay, while we can't have a Budweiser delivered in three minutes from someone's cellphone, we can think about how important it is to take over from a branded perspective like multiple touch points from the shopper journey, and communicate with them not just during the shop on the retailer, but with a more interactive experience before.Arabella:I know our D to C team has done some awesome things like international beer fest which was I think in August, and then a New Years Eve concert festival series, those kinds of things, where we're getting shoppers on, they're interacting not only from a transaction point of view, but from just feeling close to the brands, having an experience in a time when we need them even more so, and those have been hugely successful. So I'd say that China is an amazing example. I would love to go over there and work, I think I would learn so much. It's kind of the pinnacle of not having to be regulated versus we're much more in that regulated space.Stephanie:Yeah. I was just chatting with a guest, Andrea, yesterday, where she said they brought an influencer from China to Harvard so the Harvard students could see it in live and action, so they pulled her screen up so they could see what was on her phone or something, and then she was selling Harvard shirts and sold like thousands of them in minutes. She's like that's when I realized that's crazy. And I don't know if that is the same thing that would happen here. You definitely see influencers driving sales, but I don't know if it's to that degree of and I have a pen, and now 10,000 of them just sold because I said I had a pen. I don't know if it's to that degree, but it's very interesting to watch.Arabella:Yeah. That's a great question. I know that influencers, they've been trying to make all the social platforms so much more shopable this year, and I feel like I don't have stats from Instagram, but I feel like it's not quite there yet to the point of what you're saying where an influencer can just be selling things and have this huge, huge power to be creating transactions. But I think another interesting thing about the whole China piece with that is that so much of their tech is just integrated in whether it's the social media, it's with your payment system, it's with the equivalent of Amazon, and so it's just a lot more seamless. But yeah, the power of, we certainly have people in the US who can sell things. Actually an amazing example would be we're doing a seltzer with Travis Scott that's launching in the next month or so, Cacti. I'm super, super excited for it, and I think that's a great example of he partnered with us to create it and he has such star power, so I think it will be incredibly fascinating to see how that does.Stephanie:That'd be cool to bring you back and hear how that campaign went, because I think a lot of people have been debating around do big names, of course they will drive sales, but at what point is it authentic versus not authentic? How do you structure the campaigns to make it, sometimes you'll see certain people being like oh I always use this teeth whitener, or I sure love this whatever it is, and you're like do you though? That's very inauthentic. So it'd be interesting to see how you guys create a campaign in a way that's a partnership instead of just a one off, like okay go put this ad on your Instagram and see what happens.Arabella:Yeah. It's a great point. I think there's so much influencer marketing that can be so disingenuous, exactly. It's like I love this product. Cool, that's great. It doesn't have any emotional resonance with me. I think with Travis Scott, what the team did was really, exactly what you're saying, partner with him. So he was so in lock step with the creative process and the brand building and the actual liquid itself, that when it came time to, we announced it about a month ago, when that was kind of coming to fruition, he was incredibly invested in having it be successful, and it feels really authentic to actually who he is, like the whole Cacti, Cactus Jack thing, and I think that definitely is part of the hopeful success of it, and yeah I'd love to give you guys an update when it launches in March. I think it's just going to be super, I know the initial stats that we've seen like on social media, it's already the top alcohol following of any brand that's out there.Arabella:It's really an amazing testament to how, to your point, how powerful people can be and what is it about Travis Scott that's so resonant with so many people. Is it he's incredibly creative? Is it the whole kind of eclectic side of his brand? Is it because he's Stormi's dad-Stephanie:Probably.Arabella:And Kylie's baby daddy. Arabella:But neither here nor there. He's incredibly powerful, and I think it will just be a good whether it is a smash hit or not, it's a good test to what you're saying about can a person really be the driving force behind a brand?Stephanie:Yeah. I would also like to see the lifetime value of that person, is it a one hit like I'm going to try this out? You obviously have to have a great product behind it, which it sounds like you invested heavily to make sure it was good in partnership with him, but how do you keep those people around after maybe the excitement is kind of dying down, how do you make that an everlasting brand and something that people actually come back to? Arabella:That really is, exactly, that's the special sauce, that's what's going to make people feel connected to it, and also that the liquid is filling some need for them that they actually like and want to continue drinking. Because there's only, I feel like with consumables, what's always kind of driven me to be interested in food and bev and alcohol is that while there is the branding and the specific need that it's filling, it's also there's a piece of it, you're eating it, you're drinking it, it has to be good, versus I think with a lot of the disruption with D to C brands across kind of industries, there's a lot of copycatting going on and things that are not product driven and really brand driven which is not always a bad thing, but there's not really room for us to do that because if it tastes bad nobody's going to re buy it.Stephanie:Yeah. Yep. Love that. So how are you thinking about maybe the next couple years in your industry? You guys had to shift really quickly, I'm especially imagining how big the company is, how maybe certain processes were maybe a little outdated, how did you shift really quickly to focus on ecommerce and where do you want to head over these next couple years?Arabella:Yeah. So I think we're in a really strong position because AB has felt like ecommerce has been something that's important for I believe the team started five or so years ago, so really when building the foundation for this channel for a while, but totally to your point, this year has completely transformed the way that we do business, just because the sheer volume of interest from players wanting to get online, the amount of people who are entering into the category online, so it's double the amount of households in the US of people who are buying alcohol online, and just the sheer simplicity of that and the size of the way the industry has grown, our category in the channel has grown, has definitely been a big change.Arabella:So I think we were set up for success going into it and it kind of was more of an accelerating and scaling everything that we were doing, so making sure we were supporting more regional partners versus just the Walmarts and the Amazons and the Instacarts of the world. Thinking about how to optimize what we were doing in a really fast way, so just like what we were talking about before, trying to track campaigns and get a green light or a red light on whether it is actually doing well. I think one thing that we worked on during COVID that was a big pivot and I'm very proud of is we created a site called buy beer online, and it is designed, basically during COVID huge boom but not everyone knew exactly where to go to find their alcohol online. We found that a lot of people were searching in Google beer delivery, how do I get beer delivered, buying beer online.Arabella:So we created this site that is designed to be bridging that gap and so it has all of our brands on it, and it also links to an ecommerce product locator. So you come on, you can find craft brand that you like, click it, and it will tell you where you can order it for delivery or pick up near you.Stephanie:That's smart, so you're optimizing on a new search trend which I know myself personally has been like how to get wine delivered, and being like where do I even start, and I have to download this app or this one, and this one's going to take four hours, that's too long for me.Arabella:Yeah. Oh totally. Exactly. We actually should have it where it's like 30 minutes or less.Stephanie:Yeah. Important. Sometimes you need it right when you need it.Arabella:It's true. I just actually saw a piece of research where it was like a quarter of people are immediately consuming right after, which makes sense. Sometimes, exactly, you need it. But yeah. So that was I'd say something we created like within a couple months during the beginning of COVID to make sure that we had a tool like that to be helping shoppers, and I'd say it's been really strong for paid search like we're saying, and then also for a lot of our craft brands that really relied on regionality and that on premise bar experience, brewery experience. During COVID it was sort of a big issue where shoppers didn't know where to get the craft brands that they loved, so we were able to in a way make our craft website, so a Goose Island, or a Karbach, we live in Austin, make those sites shoppable by linking out to buy beer online so you could get the shopper to an actual place where they could find the beer.Arabella:So that's been really impactful and very cool for us to be doing during COVID and I think the more we can do things like that where we're owning the full experience because to your point, we also capture all the data that comes through too. So it's like win-win on both sides.Stephanie:Yeah. I just love those stories because it really does highlight the creativity and innovative thinking at AB that maybe you wouldn't have done if you would have had it easier. Like if you would have had that easy one to one consumer relationship you wouldn't have had to think about what are other creative search terms we can go after and content we can create and ways to reach our consumer that a lot of brands don't really have to think like that, so it's really cool.Arabella:Yeah. It is really cool, and I think that's one reason I love AB is it's very creative and innovative place. Which I don't know if everyone knows that, but it really is. And I feel like if it was direct to consumer, there's also you can really kind of get caught up in the tactical pieces of things. So to your point, I would just be obsessed with the open rates on my marketing emails and how I'm converting people, which those things are amazing and important but I think we're forced to, like you said, think outside the box and figure out more about our shopper in a way that's kind of a little bit unorthodox.Stephanie:Yeah. That's cool. So the last piece I wanted to touch on before our lightning round is how does AB think about their tech stack for, because it's B to B to C, how did you guys have to adjust, if at all, to all the sudden be able to let all these retailers maybe order online in a fashion that was not happening before, like pre COVID, did you have to adjust your back end to make it simple for people to come on and order and make that an easy relationship or what did that look like?Arabella:Yeah. So luckily because we have the three-tiered system, we're not actively funneling any sales through our own tech side or back end. Actually what we try to do though is as a lot of retailers have come on in the last year or so is leveraging our knowledge and our partnerships to offer them the best connections. So whether it's connecting a grocery store with the best on demand delivery app, GrubHub or Drizly or whatever it is, and creating those relationships so that they can get on board I think is really what we look to do. I know that that's not a techy answer, but it's definitely what we try to optimize. And then also helping them with the payment platforms too, so helping them onboard with a Stripe, or an Apple Pay, or just at least giving them the tools and the information, it's something that they have to do on their side as the retailers, but we like to try to optimize and help them get to the strongest place to launch as possible.Stephanie:Yeah. Very cool. All right, let's move over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by our friends at Sales Force Commerce Cloud. This is where I'm going to ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready?Arabella:I'm ready. Scared.Stephanie:Yeah. Dun-dun-dun. What one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?Arabella:You know what I actually feel very strongly about is the presence basically, the fact that retailers and D to C companies are moving towards creating not just the shopping experience on their sites, but more of a content hub. And what I mean by content hub, not just to say buzzwords, is a place where not only are shoppers coming to buy your products, but maybe they're looking at recipes, maybe they're doing mixology, if it's retail, maybe you're giving them styling options or more information about your products. Really, I've seen more and more companies do this this year as I think it's a two fold thing. It's become the status quo is people know that shoppers love content and social media has been so big in the last few years. And then secondly, as people are more and more at home, more on their phones than ever before, and that's not a COVID answer, it's just true, that if you can capture someone's attention to actually get them engaged and interacting and making everything on your site shopable, I think that's really going to be kind of the bread and butter that can really change your experience or not. And I know that for us, for ecommerce with alcohol, that's especially huge because we're not quite there yet and I really want to get there.Stephanie:Yeah. I love that. All right, next question, what was your favorite virtual event that you did at AB in 2020 and how do you think about success for these virtual events that you're saying performed really well?Arabella:What a good question. Yeah, I think that the international beer fest that we did in August, so I wasn't leading that, but our general direct to consumer team was, and I think that was incredibly successful because it came at a time when people were A, really starved for that interaction and the feeling of connecting with people and doing something and having something to look forward to. And B it worked in a really strong way where it connected with our brands. So international beer fest had, there was music happening, a few artists who were sponsored by our brands, I think Post Malone did a thing, sang, so there was that element where it was a little more passive, it's encouraging you to crack open a beer and watch the concert. Super strong, but then also just other things, like I believe we had a cooking tutorial and a mixology thing, and trying to create something that is for everyone without stretching yourself too thin and also being true to the brand is super key, and what I know was also a great add to it is we were able to leverage buy beer online to also direct you during the event so that people could find places to shop for the products.Stephanie:What did the traffic look like going to the buy beer online during that event or afterwards, what kind of conversions did you see going to that?Arabella:Yeah, so I believe we actually saw a lot more conversion coming up to the event versus actually during it. Which is interesting for sure. I think we're in much more of a place where shoppers are still shopping for a little bit in advance, like planning ahead, like I saw this ad for this thing, I'm going to buy beer for this weekend to watch it, versus looking and saying I'm going to get drinks late in 20 minutes to get delivered. So we saw a lot of traffic leading up to it definitely and then a lot of live interaction during it, but not as much I think quick conversion onto those on demand platforms, which I think just speaks to the fact that click and collect and pickup is just a little bit stronger right now than the delivery aspect, but I think we'll probably see that grow as Uber just bought Drizly literally yesterday, so that's going to be a big game changer for scale.Stephanie:Yeah, everyone's trying to figure out last mile delivery and how to make it work. There's been quite a few interesting articles about why some of those companies like the DoorDashes need to expand. Very cool. What's up next on your Netflix queue?Arabella:Oh. What a good question. I am currently making my way through Grey's Anatomy. I've been watching it for so long, since it started, so it's kind of my comfort watch and after a long day with a little Zoom fatigue and talking on the phone all day it's nice to just relax to something that I know is reliably dramatic and juicy.Stephanie:That's great. If you were to have a podcast what would it be about and who would your first guest be?Arabella:Good question. I think, you know what, I'm kind of a fitness buff a little bit, and I've gotten really into it during COVID just as like a distraction and a thing to keep me sane. I love Pilates a whole lot. I find it very, very, it focuses my brain, it's challenging, I don't have to jump around. I don't love HIIT, it's not my fave. So I would love to do a podcast that kind of explores the relationship between human psychology and exercise and how those things are so entwined because I really believe they are. And I think as my first guest, I'd love to bring on someone, I actually just read a great book about endurance running and ultra marathons where they run like 200 miles-Stephanie:Wild.Arabella:I don't run [crosstalk]-Stephanie:Two miles sounds like, whew.Arabella:Yeah, exactly. I'm like one mile. I find it so, so fascinating how you really can push yourself. So I don't know a specific name but I'd like to bring on someone who's an endurance athlete to kind of pick their brain.Stephanie:Yeah. Very cool. Aright Arabella, it's been awesome having you on the show, such a fun conversation. Where can people find out more about you and Anheuser-Busch?Arabella:Yeah, definitely. So you can check out my LinkedIn I'd say if you want to find more info about me. And if you're curious, please check out buy beer online, we have a lot of info about the biz and all of our brands on there as well. And you can feel free, if you'd like to reach out to me, I don't know we can maybe put my email address somewhere, I'm happy-Stephanie:[inaudible].Arabella:Yeah, that say it's being risky, but I'm always happy to chat with people and connect. I think that's really kind of what is the bones of business and makes the world stronger. So shoot me an email.Stephanie:Amazing. Yeah, thanks so much for coming on the show.Arabella:Of course. Thank you.
02/03/2144m 1s

Building the Ultimate DTC Marketplace

If it seems like a new DTC brand is launching every day, that’s because it’s true. In every industry, across every vertical, on every channel, the next “big thing” is competing for your attention, your clicks and your cash. As a consumer, sifting through all that noise and filtering out which companies are worth your time can be a daunting task. And as a brand, it begs the question: how do you set yourself apart from the ever-growing pack?One option is to find a trusted source to vouch for you. Matthew Hayes can be that source, and his new marketplace, The Fascination, is where he wants to lift up some of the most worthy DTC brands coming to market.The Fascination is a product recommendation and reviews publication focused on emerging and purpose-driven direct-to-consumer brands, large and small. Users of the platform have the ability to filter through vetted brands, digest the company’s story, and even transact all in one place.On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Matthew dives into lessons he learned while building Leesa Sleep, why curation is so important in the rapidly expanding direct to consumer space, and gives his take on why the convergence of media and commerce will be the one thing that impacts ecommerce the most. Plus, I even pull out a few stories from his trip to Richard Branson’s Necker Island.Main Takeaways:Curation Station: The saturation of the market with a new DTC brand every day is creating issues for consumers and brands alike. With so much clutter, it’s hard to stand out. Through measurable metrics, in-depth reviews, and by holding brands up to certain benchmarks, The Fascination created a space that customers can trust, and brands want to be listed. Layers of Use: For a brand to stand out, The Fascination has found that being mission-driven, promoting social good, and leaning into and highlighting the unique aspects of your business will be the most effective strategy. Lessons Learned: While not everyone can pick the brains of the biggest entrepreneurs in the world, when you get the chance, it’s wise to listen. Matthew was able to visit Necker Island and spend time with Daymond John, Marie Forleo, Tim Ferris, Seth Godin, and Richard Branson. Tune in to hear what advice they gave that has been helping him to this day.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---Transcript:Stephanie:Hey everyone. And welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder at mission.org. Today, I'm chatting with Matthew Hayes, the co-founder at The Fascination and previously on the founding team at Leesa Sleep. Matt, welcome to the show.Matthew:Thanks for having me.Stephanie:Yeah, I'm very glad to have you on. So I was hoping we could start with maybe Leesa Sleep. Because when I saw that I'm like, "Whoa, you were like an OG in the D-to-C space," and I thought they'd be a good jumping off point.Matthew:Yeah. So I was part of the founding team at Leesa. Yeah, we launched it back in 2014 before everything exploded. Right? So we were very early. We were one of the first BedInABox brands to get out there, Tuft & Needle came maybe, I don't know, six months to a year before us. Casper was literally right before us. And then we were out right around Thanksgiving of 2014 and that whole industry just exploded under our feet. We had the wind at our back for most of our tenure, especially our growth years. But things are a lot different now and t's a different ball game in terms of launch and growing a D-to-C brand in 2021.Stephanie:Good. Tell me a bit about the differences. I mean, obviously the world is very different and there's a lot of new trends coming out about what to expect over the next couple of years, but are there any lessons that you took away from Leesa that are still relevant or is the world just like in such a different place now?Matthew:No, I think it's still really relevant. I think a lot of the stuff that we were learning as we grew is incredibly relevant to the way that we launched The Fascination, the way that brand founders are thinking about things now. When we first launched in 2015, cost of acquisition were beautiful. Like all day we could scale the auctions across Facebook and Google, were very, maybe a fifth of what they are now just in terms of competitiveness. Just, I mean the mattress industry specifically there was 180 entrants after we launched, so a huge amount of volume coming into that space and just generally in D-to-C. So the cost of acquiring just pure play digital customers was going up and people were seeing the writing on the wall and starting to diversify into brick and mortar.Matthew:And so I think that was one of the things that we realized, is we've got to have a diverse channel mix. And so we struck the partnership with West Elm, we leaned more into Amazon. We looked more at international and we actually set up our own brick and mortar stores. So I think the combination of that brand awareness and exposure helped our brand tremendously. Whereas a lot of brands stuck it out, stayed pure plays and they learneD-to-Costly less and overspending on acquisition.Stephanie:Yeah, that's definitely the biggest thing that I see from the past couple of years or past decade is like before you could just focus on paid acquisition, like throw a bunch of money at it and one's really, they're going to come to you either way. And then now it seems like a lot of the, I guess the brands that are ahead are more media companies now, and there's a big spectrum between paying for people versus organic or versus starting a community and then launching a product to them. So it does feel like a definitely a different world than just like pay, and grow, and scale up as you go.Matthew:Yeah. I mean, we're seeing that a lot actually. And I think our notion of how to build a profitable business with The Fascination is quite a bit different. No, we're not a pure play own D-to-C brand selling our own products, we're essentially a marketplace, but what we've done is we've seen the success that media companies have had in building an audience that's super loyal whether that's The Hustle, or Morning Brew or The Scam, all of this audience aggregation and demand with these customer demos, there's so much that you can do with it. And so, we saw a bit of an opportunity and the fragmentation that was happening across D-to-C brand for popping up literally every day. And you start to become a little leery of, is this a good brand? Is this is a good product? Does this align with my values and tastes? And we saw this need for curation across all spectrums of D-to-C really. And we saw an opportunity to really create a media platform and a commercial platform around that.Stephanie:So let's dive into The Fascination a bit. So it's a marketplace. You guys are curating D-to-C brands. I saw you have filters focused on the product technical quality, also the soul of the company. Tell me a little bit more about The Fascination. How do you allow brands into the marketplace? Yeah. And any other details around the platform?Matthew:Yeah, so I mean, people are basically referring to it as a marketplace meets magazine, which I think is an accurate description. It's basically at its core, it's a product recommendation and reviews publication specifically focused on emerging and purpose-driven direct to consumer brands. So in much the same way that Wirecutter or the strategists reviews top products and writes those objective third-party reviews and recommendations, as a media publisher we're really doing that, but we're focusing in on a subset of these D-to-C brands that are new and emerging and have purpose driven values.Matthew:And the idea is to create a single platform where people can come and discover new brands, they can read reviews and research those brands and products, and they can shop deals all in one place. So it's a linear play from discovery all the way through to purchase.Stephanie:Yep. So who are some of your favorite brands on the platform right now?Matthew:There's so many good ones.Stephanie:[inaudible].Matthew:Yeah, I know I'm going to get in trouble for this. We've got badges across the site, which are really cool. The badges call out things like women and minority led businesses, or organic, or made in the USA. And so like Girlfriend Collective is one of our women and minority led brands. Haus is another-Stephanie:Even Haus on, yeah.Matthew:... Yeah, they deal the [inaudible] and great products, great brand story.Stephanie:Delicious.Matthew:Delicious. Yeah. I was just chatting with the founders of Huron, which is a men's skincare line. Awesome story. And then we've got the big names that you'd expect. Like we've got Allbirds on the platform. We've got Warby joining soon if they're not up already any day now. We've got UNTUCKit so, those it's a nice mix of the old school D-to-C incumbents with a lot of really cool emerging brands that honestly I'm intimately involved in direct consumer and a lot of these brands I hadn't heard of for the first time.Matthew:So if you think about like, as it broadens out the halo from the bulls-eye of our tightest demos, there's going to be so many people that are discovering these brands for the first time. And that's really what we want. We want some of these big names to attract people into the site, and then we want a lot of our awesome emerging brands and products to be discovered while you're there.Stephanie:Yeah. That's great. So how are you convincing these larger brands to join the platform? Because I'm thinking your space, I think also is very competitive. I mean, the world right now is headed to a place where everyone wants curated collections. I mean, they don't want to spend a bunch of time everywhere. They want it all in one place. We had the CEO of Fast on talking about, you need the one-click checkout and be able to allow people just to check out instantly and not have to bulk it into a cart. It seems like your space is very competitive too. How are you convincing the Warby Parkers? And the older brands who probably are approached by quite a few marketplace platforms to, "Oh, join us." Why are these brands going with you?Matthew:Well, I think we've really a ton on the story and the user experience and just the overall look and feel of our digital product and what we stand for. I think it's also in our favor that we have been D-to-C operators ourselves and we can really empathize to what these founders need. And we've been fortunate to be in the community for several years now. So we had a few close partners that our spring pad, if you will. Not to mention Nick Sharma as an advisor, who's great at pulling in brands.Stephanie:He was on our show too, man, I was just-Matthew:Yeah, I know.Stephanie:... fortunate.Matthew:And so yeah, between that, and we had some really amazing brands reach out the first day that just totally shocked us. We have a type form application that comes through and we had a couple of 100 brands, including some of the biggest names in the space on day one, which it was super exciting. And just a lot of founders getting really excited by seeing their brands mentioned in our round ups, or seeing products being shared. So I think that the validation that we're starting to provide, and really empathizing with what brand founders need is something that they're really clamoring for. And I think word it gets out fast.Stephanie:Yeah. That's great. So is there any trends you're seeing right now around what customers are most excited about? I mean, I'm guessing you have all this data now and you can see, okay, a bunch of people are coming on during quarantine and buying Haus. We need another type of Appertiff or something to offer that's similar because we see so much engagement there, any trends?Matthew:I think that one of the things that we've seen that's really interesting is our roundup pieces on brands that are making an impact and just the social impact stories are really, really resonating with consumers. And the brands are sharing the stories, which is just amplifying the message that much more. So the general consumer sentiment that we're getting from a qualitative perspective is that a platform like this is very much needed and like, thank you for building it. So I don't think it's even halfway to where we want it to be, or it could be in terms of the overall product development evolution, but we're going to get there quickly.Stephanie:Yep. So how, when you're... You just said that certain stories that you're telling around the brands and the social good aspect of it are really resonating. Is that your main play when it comes to acquiring new customers on your platform is by writing good pieces of content, having the brand share it to get in front of their audiences as well, or how do you think about acquiring new customers?Matthew:Yeah, I mean, customer acquisitions, it's always a challenge for a marketplace like this. And that's why from day one, we didn't approach it as a pure play commercial marketplace where you're just aggregating and selling products. From a consumer perspective, that's really not serving the overall need that we're trying to address, which is discovery, research, and shop and convert. And so the research aspect of that is really where we're going to focus a lot of time and attention and work. And what I mean by that is writing really in depth, thorough product reviews that are authentic, that are meaningful, that consumers value and ultimately Google values that content really highly as well. And so, what I'm getting at is the SEO and organic traction and such. It's going to be a big part of how we grow organically, keep our acquisition costs low.Matthew:There's a lot of performance marketing things that we can and will be doing. Brands have had tremendous interest in doing paid marketing partnerships, whether that's white listing on Facebook, or sponsoring newsletters, or any sponsorships. I think there's a tremendous amount of demand for that. And we really are just dipping our toes into the very first test there. And then I think PR and having, as I said, our brands amplify, our content is also, it's just going to be a latent, organic way to continue to build low cost audience. I mean, I think if you think about the way that Leesa scaled and a lot of those 2015 brand scaled, we know that we can't run the same playbook and build a sustainable business.Matthew:And so as we were launching in early days, it's like being a media company is really hard, right. Coming up with really engaging content every single day, pumping it out, like the Morning Brews and Web Smith's of the world, I take my hat off to those guys because it's not easy, but I think you can already start to see the rewards that we're going to reap from that.Stephanie:Yeah. So what channels are you... Well, maybe actually first, let me talk about the content piece, because that's top of mind for me is, a lot of people say you just need to create good content and that's the key to finding great people. How do you go about brainstorming something that will resonate? Are you actually going through maybe search trends and starting there to see what's going on in the industry, and then writing articles around that? Or is it purely, just like, I want to talk about Haus's story and we're going to talk about what they're doing behind the scenes? Like, how do you brainstorm content?Matthew:It's a mix of all of that actually. So we've got a number of things that we're covering at any one time. A lot of it is when we have new brands onboarded, we've got to write the brand story and we've got to review their products. That's phase one. And that's like an ongoing process as we get up and running. But yeah, we're also looking at industry trends, category wide trends, search trends around specific products or competitive products to see how we can write really compelling content that meets that need.Matthew:And then we're thinking about the cultural relevance, things that are happening topically in everyday life. And we've got a couple of different personas that we look at. And so what are our personas caring about, what's their headspace, and then what are the things that are happening in their specific lives at this very moment in mid January? So as we think through those things, you start to surface really relevant content ideas, and that's where our social content, a lot of our editorial content comes from. And that's generally how we do it.Stephanie:Cool. And what are some of the channels that you're most excited about right now, or you think that there's untapped potential? Are you sticking with the Facebook where of course stick the Facebook? How is sticking with-Matthew:Afterthought.Stephanie:I like that. Hey, they used to be though. Right?Matthew:Yeah. Drop that.Stephanie:Yeah. I mean, when? It's still pretty relevant, but yeah. Are you sticking with Facebook? A lot of other brands still say that's the best place to reach customers. Are you trying out a bunch of new channels and experimenting? How are you thinking about that?Matthew:So Facebook isn't a priority for us right now other than to the extent that we use it for paid social advertising. I would say it's there. Of course it's there. But when we're thinking about building audience, Twitter has been a nice surprise for me, I'm really bummed that I didn't get myself on Twitter several years ago, but Sharon, our audience development team's doing an awesome job of engaging that really passionate community.Matthew:I think LinkedIn has sneaky, organic reach and potential. And we found that a lot of our brand founders are sharing our content there and we're getting a lot of engagement.Stephanie:They're more organic then, right, because LinkedIn is super expensive when it comes to advertising.Matthew:Yeah. All organic. And then stuff like TikTok is interesting as we look at really organic product reviews doing things with founders, I think that's something that we're going to be looking at as well as Clubhouse.Stephanie:Yeah. Clubhouse. I think that's where it's at. I'm on there. I listen to people. I think you can connect with a lot of great people on there. I'm still not sure about the unstructured format sometimes where things can go on for hours and hours, but yeah, it seems like there's a lot of potential there to at least connect with new people. I don't know about selling.Matthew:A lot of untapped potential.Stephanie:Yeah. So I saw that you were also an investor in GRIN. Right. And that's the influencer platform, which is... That's the right brand. Right?Matthew:Yup. [inaudible].Stephanie:Okay. So our guest yesterday that we had on was, that's her favorite new tool that she's looking into and I had not heard of it before. And I'm interested to hear a little bit about how are you thinking about influencers? What attracted you to GRIN, where's that market headed over the next couple of years?Matthew:Yeah. I mean, we've been doing influencer marketing since 2012, honestly. And I think there's going to be a lot more regulation around it for one. So you've got to be buttoned up as you execute itMatthew:So I think that's just part of the industry growing up. A lot of these minors are now celebrities in their own right with huge followings and PR teams. And so the days of just engaging with an influencer that way are over. It's really about adopting a micro/nano strategy where you're activating pockets of a couple thousand followers up to 50 to 100,000 followers and doing it more strategically at scale. And that's where I see a lot of brands and agencies having success doing this stuff. So GRIN is just a really awesome tool for managing that entire workflow. Keeping you really on top of things, you can search for look alikes of an influencer. So if you have someone or something that you want to find influencers around, it's great for that.Stephanie:That's awesome. And how did you think about attribution and analytics around utilizing influencers and seeing if you're really getting the most bang for your buck?Matthew:Yeah. I mean, well, especially with iOS 14 and everything that's going on there, it's always been an imperfect science, we never assume that we would have even close to perfect attribution on influencer activations. So we always treated it very top of funnel and you do what you can in terms of attribution. So you give them trackable UTM parameters, you give them a bespoke promo codes with their name. You give them a landing page experience, everything that you can do to cookie the user on your website and get them into what feels like an authentic customized experience for that loyal following. That's going to increase conversion, I think as much as anything.Matthew:And the vast majority of influencer activity is probably happening on mobile anyway. So wherever you're sending them, it's got to be very mobile optimized because if they switch over, your attribution's lost at that point.Stephanie:Yeah. And I think that authentic piece you're saying, I mean, it has to fit your brand. The person has to not just be saying something just to say it. And I think taking that longer-term approach more of like a partnership and someone who is going to be a part of your brand, even if they start out smaller and grow with you, will be way better than just trying to target a big name, because I normally don't really put any weight in products that large celebrities are showcasing, just because I'm like, I just know how much money you're getting paid and I highly doubt you're using that teeth whitener.Matthew:Yeah, I mean to that point and a lot of grants are basically incentivizing on the CPA or per sale basis with, like you're saying a subset of really loyal influencers and affiliates that they can send that influencer their fall collection of bags and apparel or whatever, and they can get 10 or 15 posts out of it if the influencer continues to see performance. And so I think that's the new way of doing things nowadays.Stephanie:Okay. So yeah, viewing it from a content generation perspective of, they're not just posting once trying to get their product off, but they're also creating an article or blog posts that you can repurpose and pull quotes from or whatever it may be.Matthew:Yeah. And more frequency drives more conversion. So the more you get that brand in front of your audience, the more likely it is they'll finally take action.Stephanie:Yep. So I want to talk a bit about mentorship, which I always love asking questions around this. I saw that you went to Necker Island a few days ago... a few years ago [crosstalk], really? Few years ago. And of course Richard Branson's Island. So I want to hear, what did you learn there? What advice did you hear? I saw, I think Damon John was there, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Marie Forleo, a bunch of great people to learn from. And I want to hear about the stories behind going there. What did you learn, all that?Matthew:Yeah, I mean, it was a life changing experience for sure. Damon is still pretty close to us in the business. He got involved with Leesa after we met, especially with their 110 program, and I really just learn from him the hustle, the grind. He told his story about how he came up with FUBU and really built that business from zero. And so, talking about fundraising with him is a different thing.Matthew:Tim was on the Island too. I was fanboying out when I met Tim actually, because I was obsessed with four hour workweek, four our body and here I'm chatting with him in person. We actually started talking about going up against Casper. At the time, we were pushing pretty heavily into podcasts and Casper was buying up literally every podcast that we could find, that we wanted to go after. And funnily enough, he would really push a micro strategy to us. He said, "You need to go after these very small podcasts that aren't affiliated yet, that have nascent, but growing followings." And we did, we found 10 of those, especially in comedy and gaming, and we stayed with them for years and they ended up crushing for us.Stephanie:Oh, that's great. And did you secure long-term partnerships with this company?Matthew:Yeah, I think we're still working with a few of them honestly.Stephanie:Oh, that's great.Matthew:We just completely sapped the audience, an everyone's got a Leesa now. Yeah. And then we talked with Seth. David and I chatted with Seth Godin, who's a marketing genius. He's like the professor of modern day marketing. And at the time, we had done around 30 million in our first year of sales, which was just crazy. And he was talking about making this leap called crossing the chasm. Basically when you're attacking the early adopter market and you're doing quite well, there's a point at which you have to "cross the chasm" and reach the broader demographic of people. And so I don't remember the tactics that he talked about, but he always impressed that idea of our okay, now we've got to broaden our sphere of influence. We still use that phrase today.Matthew:And then Marie Forleo was there and we had a lot of really good, we like chatted one-on-one several times, because I was incredibly anxious. I've always dealt with anxiety issues in my career, in my past. And so we had some frank chats about vulnerability and putting yourself out there. And once you do that, it just eases the tension, eases the anxiety. And I still use that to this day.Stephanie:Yeah. I was going to say, does it help now? Because I mean, I definitely feel that too. I remember when we first sold this podcast, then they're like, "Oh, Stephanie can new host it?" And just being like, oh, I usually always would have our other team members host the shows and yeah, I liked working behind the scenes and it definitely was hard being like, okay, you just have to do it. You have to get yourself out there. Did it help afterwards thinking through about her advice?Matthew:Yeah, it totally did. And I always think of this idea of demonstrated performance, where it's like, you're nervous about something, you're anxious, you step on stage or you sit in the seat, you put yourself out there and you have a really good performance. And then that just gives you one more step, one more piece of confidence and you keep going and building. And now stuff that I do every day without even looking at my calendar is stuff that I would have just freaked out about all day five years ago. So I think it's just about experience.Stephanie:Yeah. Now I agree. I remember even just thinking about doing video meetings, like when I first was starting out in the corporate world and being like, "Oh, my gosh, my first meeting." I was just so scared and sweaty and nervous and then now taking like 10 a day and being like, not even thinking twice. So yeah, I think just doing the work and pushing past and knowing you'll probably fail a couple of times and who cares?Matthew:Exactly.Stephanie:That's great. And did you meet Richard Branson when you were there?Matthew:Yeah. We met briefly. He gave us a talk which was awesome. He talked a lot about Virgin's impact program, and what he's doing there. And so that was really important to us at the time, because we were setting up our Leesa 110 program and that was cool to hear from him.Stephanie:That's great. So where do you see the next couple of years headed for The Fascination? What are you guys building for? What are you doing in stealth mode right now? What are you planning for the world to look like in a couple of years?Matthew:Yeah, I mean, right now we're really heavily focused on getting the digital product where it needs be to really deliver on a full transactional marketplace that's cutting edge for consumers. So in the next couple of years, we want to have a destination that is super engaging. We want to have brand founders engaging with consumers real time in the platform. We want to have people shopping and reading and researching brands and products all seamlessly, and to be able to buy those products in one click, right? Right on The Fascination.com. And so a lot of things have to happen in the background to obviously make that work.Matthew:And then we're always thinking about, how can we acquire the best customers, bring them in most cost-effectively? And it's always on my mind of like, delivering really solid, meaningful content to the audience, not just fluff stuff, but stuff that's really, really valuable. And so that's what I think we're trying to win.Stephanie:Well. Yeah. It also seems like there's such an opportunity to... I mean, when you have all these brands and they have access to a lot of insights on their customers or who's coming to their website to then build lookalike audiences off of those brands, and then all of a sudden you have access to customers and you're coming from a different angle where maybe if Leesa would have already gotten in front of a customer two times and they're like, "Nah," they then see The Fascination comes in and they're like, "Hey, check out this mattress. It's like a third touch point. That's very separated." But it seems like there's a lot of opportunity there to get insights at a much more accelerated rate than you would get just by yourself.Matthew:Yes. That is the goal. Yeah, there's a whole data infrastructure that we really need to put in place to get the most out of it. And honestly, coming from Leesa for so long, I'm still trying to wrap my head around what that all looks like in terms of affiliate click attribution and how we create audiences and how we do product recommendations. So we're only a month old, but we'll get there. And I can tell you that there is such tremendous demand for what you're talking about. Just leveraging lookalike audiences, leveraging audiences across categories that aren't competitive with one another. At the end of the day, everyone that comes to The Fascination as an interested consumer if we do it right, it's always going to have similar demographic profiles, right. Whether they're a man or a woman. So as you aggregate that at scale, there's a ton of value for brands to be able to tap into that.Stephanie:Yeah. It seems like eventually they'll have to be tools for the merchants as well, to be able to interact with all the platforms they're on. Or like, I mean a lot of sales are moving towards the edge. There's a lot of people say and how do you keep track of that? Like, how do these merchants they're selling on The Fascination, they're selling on Fancy, they're selling on not that Fancy is the same, but there are quite a few places popping up where these brands might be like, "Yeah, I want to sell on that platform or over here," but I don't know if enough tools exist right now to keep track of what you're doing and consolidating it all in one place.Matthew:Yeah. I mean, it's got to be a challenge for these fairly young brands. There's product feed software that'll handle some of that, but at the end of the day there's manual stuff that's always needed once you're drop shipping and wholesaling and you have retail partners. So yeah, we're going to be thinking about it from the other side, just the same, how do you manage 100, 200, 300 merchants and keep them happy?Stephanie:Yeah. Crazy. All right. Well, let's shift over to the lightning round. Lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce commerce cloud. This is where I'm going to ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready, Matt?Matthew:Yes.Stephanie:One minute to answer. All right. Yeah. Prepare, drink your drink, whatever that may be. All right. First thing, what one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?Matthew:I think the convergence of content and commerce is, is going to have one of the biggest impacts. You've got media companies that are converging in the commerce, they all want to be transactional. They all want a bigger slice of the pie. They all want more lifetime value extraction from their readership. And then I think on the commerce side you see brands and retailers who are obviously seeing the cost rising of customer acquisition in the traditional sense and creating really rich content. It's the only way to do that. So we're diving in right at the intersection with what we're doing at The Fascination and that's where we saw it going. And that's why I think we're bullish on where we're headed.Stephanie:Yeah. Well, it'll also be interesting to do a recap episode on what's happened since some of these brands got into mixing media with commerce. I mean, I'm thinking about NBC, I think did a whole shoppable TV thing. And I remember seeing them launch that maybe in February or April last year, but I don't know what actually happened. So it'd be fun to do a recap of like, here's who launched in 2020 when it came to mixing media and commerce and here is status update.Matthew:Hopefully we will be one of the givers.Stephanie:Yeah. Hopefully. What's one thing from 2020 that you hope sticks around in 2021?Matthew:I think that we've all had to embrace things like this, just getting on video conferences, not having to present ourselves through this façade, in the office I would have never thought about wearing my hat backwards and rolling around in athleisure. And now that's just the norm for everybody. And kids are on work calls and it's just, the whole thing feels a lot more familial. And even if we do go back to offices, I really have loved that work now feels a little bit closer to home because you're in your home, but also because just the interactions, you see more than you would if everyone was in an office environment.Stephanie:Yeah, I agree. And I think it definitely brings a more human perspective too. Like you're saying, working together, knowing someone's kids, seeing them in the background, and then you also have more, I guess, empathy when a mom or dad's like, "Hey, I got to go do this with my kids." It's like, "Oh yeah, I saw your kid connection." Of course you can, whereas I'd say prior to this. Yeah. Not as much of a leniency, I guess for that. Yeah. That's a good one.Stephanie:What is the funniest story or best story you can think of when it comes to either building up Leesa or building up The Fascination where you're like, "Oh, this is a good time or a good story that really sticks in my brain from those years."Matthew:We've done so many like gimmicky things at Leesa. We were growth hacking like crazy and we were throwing stuff against the wall and not all of it stuck. We did a ton of stuff with Barstool Sports. We maybe did a few influencer integrations that wouldn't go over so well today with certain influencers.Stephanie:And with Barstool, I feel like they're so edgy that they can get you in trouble all these days anyways.Matthew:They're very edgy and we purposely like with all of those podcasters and creators, we're like, go be very authentic. And so you can't tell Barstool like, tame it down and not be authentic. But they were a huge converter for Leesa for several years.Stephanie:That's fun.Matthew:So we did a lot of fun stuff. We sponsored Larry at the gambling goldfish, which was a gold fish swimming around in a tank on Barstool sets, they pulled a mattress behind a truck with a Santa Claus riding on it. But we've also done a lot more admirable things, like we did a sleep out for the homeless. We've done a lot of cool things at Leesa just in the experientials side of things that made it fun.Stephanie:Yeah. I mean I have a love for the gambling goldfish. I want to go check that out. That actually sounds pretty funny.Matthew:Yeah. One more thing that we did is I think it was the 2017 NFL Draft, it's shown on ESPN and all the players are interviewed in their homes. And so we sent the players that we knew would be interviewed on TV, on ESPN Leesa mattresses. And we had them put their Leesa mattress boxes behind them and their families. And we got millions of impressions that night because we had Leesa mattresses all over the air on ESPN Draft.Stephanie:Oh, that's fun. See, I love creative stuff like that, where I mean, as long as it actually converts too, I always have the question about TV, does it actually convert or what happened after everyone saw the mattress behind them? Did you guys see a big uptick in sales, or?Matthew:I don't remember if we did or not. I think we saw a bit of an uptick, but I mean, it was such a low cost stunt to do that. It wasn't a swing for the fences, but we also did a ton of TV in heyday at Leesa. And you can really see the brand awareness effects the TV has even though it's insanely hard to track.Stephanie:Yeah. I agree. What is next on your reading list?Matthew:I'm probably going to do Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.Stephanie:Such a good one. I love that book. Yeah. So inspirational. I highly recommend. If you were to have a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?Matthew:Well, that's an interesting question because we may very well have one soon.Stephanie:Oh, nice.Matthew:Yeah, I don't know in what format it will be. It may be a podcast. It may just be like Instagram TV stories, but we really want to interview, just do flash interviews with our brand founders, asking about their origin story, asking about what makes their products different, fun facts. And I think a groundswell of really interesting stories like that would be fun.Stephanie:Cool. That sounds good. And then the last one, what's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for you?Matthew:Oh, that's tough. I mean, I there's been so many instances of generosity. I think honestly, giving me a chance to make the career switch that I did, and this is a bit of a shout out to David my co-founder, but he really took a chance on me. He's been super supportive of me for years, and it's really gotten me to where I am today in terms of my career and the place that we're at collectively. So him and the people around me that pushed me to make that leap out of the traditional corporate world of consulting. I was really hesitant to do that coming right out of my MBA and looking at a nice salary, and he was one of those people that pushed me over the top to do that. And I'm thankful for it.Stephanie:That's really cool. Great story. All right, Matt. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. Where can people find out more about you and The Fascination?Matthew:So about me, you can find me on Twitter at MattDHayes, all one word, and then The Fascination.com. Go check it out.Stephanie:Awesome. Thanks for joining us, Matt.Matthew:All right. Thank you.
25/02/2141m 5s

More Than An Influencer: Turning a Community Into A Company with Deepica Mutyala

You’ve heard it time and time again on this podcast: That influencer marketing not only works, but could be the key to unlocking massive business potential for your eComm business. Influencers have the power to take a product – or an entire brand – from unknown to a trending topic product overnight. And sometimes, the community that they build is so valuable, it creates a jumping off point for a business of their own. That’s what Deepica Mutyala did when she launched LIVE TINTED. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Deepica takes us through how she progressed as an intrapreneur at BirchBox before she took the plunge and set out on her own journey. And it all started after one beauty video that she made went viral on YouTube. Deepica explains how she went about building a community based on a mission to bring more diversity to the industry, and how she’s been able to tap into that community to create content and launch a successful business with products designed specifically for her community. Plus, Deepica reveals some of the advice she got from her investors and mentors like Bobbi Brown and Andy Dunn. Enjoy this episode!Main Takeaways:Deprioritize the Big Channels: It’s okay to deprioritize big marketing channels such as Facebook in order to explore and engage with users elsewhere. Facebook will always be there, but you might catch lightning in a bottle if you are willing to adapt and explore new platforms. It’s Not a Dirty Word: Influencers tend to get a bad rap, but the truth is that anyone can be an influencer, and that influence can be nurtured for the good of a community and a business. By tapping into the power of a community, growth becomes much more attainable.Start Where You Are: Intrapreneurship is an avenue you hear about less often, but is a strategic way for anyone with bigger dreams to learn the ins and outs of business. By embedding yourself in a business that works, volunteering to help in every department, making connections, and taking all of your learnings to build an initiative internally or on the side, you can advance as a true entrepreneur much faster. More Than A Check: Fundraising isn’t just about filling your bank account, it’s also about adding to your knowledge bank. Deepica tapped into mentors and investors like Bobbi Brown, Andy Dunn, Payal Kadakiam, Hayley Barna and others to learn from their experiences and invite them to be a part of her own growth. Tune in to the episode to hear some of the advice they each gave to Deepica!For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---Transcript:Stephanie:Hey everyone, and welcome back to Up Next in Commerce, this is your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder at mission.org. Today, we're talking to Deepica Mutyala.Deepica:There you go, you nailed it.Stephanie:The CEO of a beauty brand, LIVE TINTED. Deepica, welcome.Deepica:Thanks for having me.Stephanie:How many times do people pause when they're like, "I'm about to botch your name, I know it, I know it, ah, there it goes?"Deepica:I mean a lot, but I appreciate the pause and effort to get it right, versus just blatant lack of attempt to try and get it right. So, I appreciate you trying. Thank you.Stephanie:Good. Yeah, thanks. Stephanie:So, I was doing a bit of research, as I always do on my guests, and I'm fascinated by LIVE TINTED. I mean, you have such a great story, so much stuff [inaudible] want to dive into, but first, I think it'd be fun to kind of talk through how you got here, your background, What did you do before you founded LIVE TINTED?Deepica:Yeah. So, I actually started my career on the corporate side of the beauty industry. In college, my first internship was at L'Oreal in New York, and post-college I had a brief stint at Limited Brands, which is now L Brands at Victoria's Secret, which is no longer there because they went bankrupt. So, I was there for a brief stint, but the whole goal and end game was to one day create my own beauty brand. I was that 16 year old girl who grew up in Sugar Land, Texas who said that... I was going to change the narrative of what I saw when I was going down the beauty aisles.Deepica:When I was a kid, I shopped at Walmart predominantly, honestly, that's where I shopped for beauty because, going to shop for beauty wasn't really a thing in my family's life, so when we were just getting groceries at Walmart, I would divert to the aisles and go look at makeup. And I would find myself not reflected in the ads, and I would also not see any foundation shades that worked for my skin tone. And I literally, remember telling my family at 16 that I was going to change that narrative one day, and everything I've done for my career since that point was to get me to starting LIVE TINTED.Deepica:So, it's kind of crazy being now back in Texas, like I was telling you earlier, that it's just really full circle being here, and finding doodles of me writing out what I thought my brand name was going to be, and talking to family members who are like, "It's just crazy that you're actually doing it." Because this is what I wanted to do. So then, after nine months at Limited Brands, I quit my job to take a risk on a startup called Birchbox, which at the time was the hottest tech company... Not even just beauty, but I think overarching, they created a whole category of subscription model that really created a whole new category.Deepica:And so, that was really cool, incredible experience working for two bad-ass female founders who, in my parents' eyes, were really okay with me working there, and taking a pay cut, and going for my dream, because the two founders went to HBS.Stephanie:Oh my gosh.Deepica:And so, they were like-Stephanie:I also read the quote from your... You were saying, "Oh, my dad all growing up would hand me a stethoscope," and then you would instead grab lipstick or something, and I thought that was really funny.Deepica:[crosstalk]. Yeah. It's kind of an Indian tradition where... There's this ceremony that happens... I think it's after your first 100 days, and we just did it for my nephew, where they put things in front of you [inaudible] like a book versus different things to see what you would gravitate towards. And instead of me gravitating towards anything that was in front of me, I was grabbing my mom's lipstick in her [crosstalk].Stephanie:In the purse digging over there.Deepica:Yeah, yeah, which is so funny, and crazy, and full circle now, but yeah, this was always the dream, and it's wild for me to look back and reflect. But I worked at Birchbox, and in true startup culture, you can create opportunities for yourself at a startup. And so, I made it very clear to the founders that I wanted to one day create my own beauty brand, and they gave me opportunities in the company to do that. Then, I had to do it a lot of the times, in my free time, it wasn't like... I still had to do my day job, but if there was projects that I could work on in my free time, I did it, because I saw it as Birchbox was my business school.Deepica:And they always said it as founders, right? But I truly felt it. I really felt like working there was an incredible network of really smart people, and I got to... Literally, you have an idea, you can test it, and just go for it. And so, I got to work on product development at Birchbox. I got to work on influencer partnerships at Birchbox. And when I did that, was my first time being like, "What is going on in this influencer world? And how much are these girls getting paid? What is happening?" Some random girl at Iowa getting paid this insane amount of money to do a YouTube video, and I was just like, "This is wild."Deepica:So, as I was doing that, was when I realized there was nobody who looked like me on YouTube creating content, and I kind of just saw it as a fun hobby. I was like, "You know what, Deepica? At the end of the day, you're not quitting your job, just do it on your weekends. And at the end of the day, all the people in your life that text you questions about makeup and things like that, you can just say, 'Go to my channel, stop texting me.'" So, really, I didn't think much of it. And so, January of 2015, I picked up my iPhone... Because again, I didn't know what I was doing video content wise, I had no clue how to... Ad revenue wasn't even activated. I didn't know.Deepica:And I picked up my iPhone and held it vertically instead of horizontally. The production, it was like I knew IGTV was happening before IGTV was happening. I did it in a vertical mode, and I used red lipstick under my eyes to mask dark circles... And people who are hearing this are probably literally so confused, but-Stephanie:I read that too, I was like, "Well, it'd be funny if I showed up with red lipstick under my eyes."Deepica:Oh my God, that would have been awesome. Yeah, no, I used red lipstick under my eyes to hide dark circles, and I guess that was crazy to 10 million people, because that video went viral, and yeah, has millions and millions of views.Stephanie:And it worked. For anyone who's like, "What did that look like?" I looked at the pictures and the video, it actually works.Deepica:Yeah. So, here's the deal, I basically... That was my biggest beauty concern my whole life, how to hide my dark circles? And it wasn't talked about, people didn't talk about it because it's such a specific problem to specific communities of people. And so, I just did the video that I had learned when I was on set one day, where a makeup artist was using a color corrector under my eyes, an actual product made for under your eyes, and I was like, "What are you doing putting red lipstick under my eyes." And she was like, "Oh no, it's a color corrector, it cancels out the darkness, so when you put on your foundation, you really can mask your dark circles, because you have extra pigments that require kind of additional correction." And I was like, "Well, what's the difference?"Deepica:My brain is always thinking about hacks and simplifying things, and so that doesn't change with my beauty routine. I want to always simplify things. And so, she basically, said, "Not much." And so, I filmed this video and it went viral, and when the video was at 4 million views, I got a call from the Today Show to come on to do the segment on air, and I quit my job that day. I kind of just had this moment of, this could be a cool 15 minutes of fame, or I could turn it into my dream career. [crosstalk].Stephanie:That's amazing. What did the founders say? Because I'm guessing, you had a pretty close relationship with them. I mean, they were letting you essentially, be an intrapreneur within their organization, and test things, and learn, and try, how did they feel about that? Because I saw that they were some of your first investors along with Bobbi Brown, which I'm like, "What? How did you get in front of her?" So, what was that process like leaving and getting them to invest afterwards?Deepica:Yeah, it was really tough. There's two co-founders, and they just had different mindsets, right? One of them was more like, "You are all on a Birch tree, and you're all acorns that will fall into the world." I remember she said... And she's the one that's currently an investor in my company, "I want to see you grow and thrive." And the other one, it's not to say that she didn't want the same thing, but she was really excited about me growing within the company. And listen, she had every reason to feel that way. She helped me get so many opportunities within the company to be able to create what I have been able to do today, and she gave me those opportunities, but it was more like... I was really close to her too, I worked more with her directly. So, of course, it was like one of those bittersweet things, but they're both incredible and really supportive.Deepica:But it was really scary to... I remember when I got... The day I got the email from the Today Show was when I pulled her into a room that day at 6:00 PM, towards the end of the day, and I just was like, "I feel like I have to go for it." And she gave me a really big hug and said, "She's really happy for me." But you could tell it was like a bittersweet thing, which I appreciated, because at the end of the day, that means she felt that I made an impact at the company.Stephanie:That's great. So, what was the Today Show like? Did you go on there and do a tutorial? Tell me a bit about that.Deepica:Oh my gosh, it was wild. So, my sister came on and was my model on air. So, she flew in from Texas. My dad was backstage sitting next to Kid Rock, which was hilarious. Picture this immigrant Indian dad who's like, "What is even happening? My daughter is on national television. And who is this guy with a beard and long hair, what's going on?" It was the moment where I realized that I was meant to do exactly what I'm doing in that moment. I was not nervous, I felt like that was... I was just meant to be there, it just felt that way. You know that Eminem song... What is it? Lose Yourself? You get one shot, one opportunity. I was listening to that backstage, and I literally felt like I had four minutes on national television to show people that a brown girl can do this.Stephanie:Mm-hmm (affirmative) Oh, that's great.Deepica:Yeah. I felt like I could be the Indian Hoda, and just be the next news anchor on the Today Show. I still feel like... I love doing live television, I think it's like... There is a beauty in the imperfections that come with it. And it was surreal, is what the word is, and incredible. And I remember after it was over... The hustle and bustle of live television is very real. The second the segment is over, they're like, boom, boom, boom, moving onto the next thing. And I was like, "That was so fun, let's do it again." Most people were just like, "All right, lady, we're moving on." But then, there was this senior producer who came up to me and she was like, "You should do it again."Deepica:And I was [inaudible] around, and it's so cool because my dad is in the background recording it, so I have all this on camera. But she just was like, "We can't believe it was your first time doing national television, we'd love to have you back regularly." And that was really cool for me, because everyone told me that when you go on national television, it's a cool moment in your life and you move on, and I feel like I proved the exact opposite, that if you have what it takes, you can make things happen for yourself. So, I became a regular doing beauty segments on the Today Show, and was a full-time influencer, which is a thing.Stephanie:Yeah, I saw that. That was one of the first things when I was looking into your bio a bit, and it's like, "Oh, Deepica is an influencer, and I think she's just signed a deal with WME." I'm like, "Oh." So, tell me, now you've got the status, and you're super popular, how did you think about capitalizing on that, and to get out of just being an influencer, and then being like, "I'm going to create my own stuff?"Deepica:Yeah. Well, here's the deal [inaudible] I never grew up saying I wanted to be an influencer or even be famous, but I did grow up saying I wanted to be a CEO and run my own business. And so, when you fall into something like this, it's very weird. But I think what got me through the years where I was just an influencer and didn't have the business side of it was, the end goal was the same. I wanted to change the face of representation for people who look like me, period. So whether that's in the media, or through my own beauty brand, the net goal was the same, and it still is the same.Deepica:And so, what I realized was, I had this opportunity to create a brand around myself that was really once in a lifetime, honestly. And I was just like, "I want to focus in on this and really learn everything I can about the beauty industry." Which at this point, I knew a decent amount. I worked at Birchbox, I had a lot of beauty brand contacts. And really, what I did was, after I quit my job, I emailed all my contacts and I was pretending to be my own assistant, and I was like, "Hello, I'm the assistant to Deepica Mutyala, beauty influencer with 10 million views, Today Show beauty expert, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, if you want to work with her, whatever."Deepica:And for every 100 emails I sent, I got one reply, and that one reply led to my first job where they asked me my rate, and I had no idea what to say. And then, when they said, "Okay," I realized, damn it, I could have asked for triple. You just learn as you go, and you're your own assistant, producer, editor, manager, agent, sometimes lawyer, which I don't recommend.Stephanie:Nope.Deepica:I'm like, "Bad idea."Stephanie:Yeah.Deepica:But you just learn as you go. And so, I think for me, what got me through being the girl who was waking up and taking selfies, and posting it for literally a career, I got paid to do that, was that I really saw a narrative in the beauty industry that didn't exist when I was growing up. There was no token brown girl, there was always... And even then, there wasn't really a token black girl growing up, that was still in the... Now, I feel like we're finally... It still has so, so much work to do, but I do think that we now have representation happening more than I ever saw growing up, but there still is this tokenism that happens where... I felt like for three years, as grateful as I am, that I've been able to work with every beauty brand under the sun, like a L'Oreal commercial to a Samsung ad that aired during the Golden Globes, and just any beauty brand I could have dreamt of.Deepica:I also realized there's plenty of people out there that deserve the shot to also do that, and there shouldn't just be one of me. There is not just one white girl on the campaign, why shouldn't there be more brown girls in the campaign, more black girls in the campaign? That experience as an influencer is what led me to launching LIVE TINTED as a community platform prior to launching the actual product itself. I didn't plan for that, again, being a community brand wasn't a thing growing up either, but it was lived in experience that truly inspired the idea that, before this launches with a physical product, let's create this united community where they dictate our future decisions.Deepica:And really, for me, honestly, I was craving a home where people were talking about things in the beauty industry that was not a thing, heavy topics like colorism. But then, other topics like facial hair, and things that you just didn't say. And so, we created this almost like collective home where every day we were just posting about faces that I felt like you didn't traditionally see being shown in campaigns. And it just started to organically grow into this very, very engaged community, which then at a point, I was like, "Let's create products for them, it's time." And that's kind of what led to our first product launch in may of 2019.Stephanie:Yeah. We had a really cool company on... Food52, same thing, they build up a huge community first, and then, afterwards, she was like, "Oh, it was only right to then start creating products to service that community." But my biggest question is always like, how did you build that community? How did you transfer the audience from TV to then go into your community? Or from Instagram, or YouTube, or wherever you were, how did you pull them in and get them engaging in a way where you're like, "They're here for the long haul and now I can move on to phase two of a product?"Deepica:Yeah, no, it's a good question. I think for me, I feel very grateful that those three years as an influencer, I created a community of people who felt very connected to me, because again, there wasn't a lot of brown girls doing this. And so, I felt like they would be ride or die for anything I put out into the world. But that is, to me, a huge responsibility, and it was like, "Okay, so now, if I create this brand, I don't want it to be about me, I want it to be about something so much bigger than myself."Deepica:So, if I had just launched it, which a lot of investors in the beginning were saying to me like, "Why do you have to create this community first and spend money on creating content as a community platform and things? You already have a following, create a product, show proof of concept, and build it out." I just didn't listen, and I felt really strongly that LIVE TINTED was bigger than my own identity, it was about a larger multicultural group of individuals coming together and finding common ground in industry where I felt like people were so divisive.Deepica:And so, I really wanted to kind of bridge that gap and create a really powerful, I think, warm home for people. Which, I think, a lot of brands are saying they're doing now, and it's awesome, right? I'm not hating, I think it's all for the greater good. But people are smart, and they can understand when some people are being performative versus not. And I feel very grateful that since day one, we've had values and core beliefs that we've... Of course, they evolve, but the core belief around diversity and inclusion is the pillar that has stood strong since the beginning.Deepica:And so, for me, on an actual tactical level, the first 20,000 followers, I would say, came directly from my following, from... I remember before we even launched it, I was trying to find photos of deeper skin brown women online, and it was virtually impossible. I was just searching and the team was searching, and I was like, "You know what? Let's use the power of social media." And I just posted on my Instagram, "I'm working on a project on stories, if you see any deeper skin melanated brown women, use #livetinted." I'm not even kidding, within minutes, the #livetinted was flooded with just tags. It was just like this community of women who have been thriving to be seen. They are just craving for this industry, who has neglected them, to pay attention to them.Deepica:So, when you ask, how I did it, sure, my following definitely helped do it, but what really did it was that there was just a natural need. These people didn't have another home, and they were excited to finally have it. And so, I also think that it grew from just being a South Asian Brown collective to being much larger. Because again, I talked about topics that were very specific to me and my life. I didn't force it and try to speak to something that I didn't know personally. And with that, I recognized colorism is not an issue in just the South Asian community. To be honest, I'm learning so much as we build this brand that... I had no idea, this is something that so many different cultural backgrounds face around the world.Deepica:And that actually, excited me, because I realized that there is an opportunity to create a brand with pillars that, like I said, unite people from all different cultural backgrounds rather than divide. And so, it just organically grew from there, just by talking about things that I lived in and experienced in my life.Stephanie:Yeah. That's very cool. So, how many people are in your community now?Deepica:Well, it's a tricky number, because I say 600,000 because I include my community as well. Because quite honestly, my whole brand has shifted to just LIVE TINTED stuff, Which I love. Yeah, we're a little over 600,000.Stephanie:Cool. And how do you think about keeping them engaged on the different channels? What are you doing now that's maybe different than when you started out in what? 2015, 2017?Deepica:I mean, yeah, because my brand started in 2015, and then LIVE TINTED started in 2018. But you have to evolve with the times. Perfect example is, hello, TikTok.Stephanie:Yeah. Actually, my favorite influencer is an Indian girl on there with her dad.Deepica:Oh yeah, she's amazing. I love her.Stephanie:What's her name?Deepica:Sheena? Is it Sheena? It's starts with an S.Stephanie:Yeah. She's so funny. But you never see her dad, it's always just his responses to things that she's doing. I've never seen her dad anyways in any of her videos. But she's my favorite. She's hilarious.Deepica:I'm obsessed with her. And yeah, I feel like there's this understood brown community bond where you're rooting for each other, because it's like, so many of us were told to be doctors and go down this traditional path. Yeah. One of my goals for the brand is to spotlight not your traditional beauty influencers, but people like her who are just creative creators. I think there's this incredible creative community that I've come across just from building LIVE TINTED that deserves so much spotlight. We have big plans to only continue to spotlight them in a bigger way as the brand continues to grow, Which I'm excited about. What was your question, again?Stephanie:[inaudible] Yeah. Okay. So, [inaudible] I like to derail things every once in a while, but back to saying... You said you had to change with the times, from what you used to do to what you do now, and you said, of course, TikTok, what are you doing today to keep your audience engaged? And how do you think about treating the different platforms different, [crosstalk] people right now are connecting with them best?Deepica:Well, I think, first and foremost, I don't try to pretend like I know something that I don't know. And so, luckily, at this stage in the business, bringing in an intern that's in college that can do TikTok for us, because I'm like, "Wait, what is this dance move? What's going on?" So, I think hiring subject matter experts is something that I feel like, finally, oh my gosh, because I've been just doing everything for the longest time that now, it's like, let's hire for people to do what they're good at.Deepica:But of course, you have to have a pulse and know what to even hire for, right? It's like, am I looking for an email expert? You have an X amount of budget, if you're going to focus in on email versus... Social versus paid versus all these other marketing levers, you know what makes sense? For example, for us, influencer is such a critical part of the business, because a lot of them are my personal relationships, but we need to continue to grow that network to the people... Just like the girl you just mentioned, there's a whole community of people that are continuing to create and build every year, and so, for me, it's about staying on the pulse and making sure you feel comfortable evolving with the times.Deepica:Facebook is still a powerful, powerful sales channel, for sure. And so, we do need to be relevant on there. But if you're a small team, and you have to pick and choose your efforts, for us, it's been deprioritized, and eventually, we'll get back there. But I'm way excited about LIVE TINTED impacting the next generation and helping them be a more tinted future, where everyone sees beyond the hues of their skin.Deepica:And so, I get really excited about tapping into a younger audience because they are the future of this entire industry, than going towards maybe an older audience. So, these to me, are just the little things you have to keep your mind on, what is your goals? What is the audience you think that you can really tap into? And what are they doing? And then, you decide your marketing leverage based on that.Stephanie:Yup. So, how are you thinking about tapping into TikTok then? I mean, you're mentioning partnering with an influencer who isn't a beauty influencer, but could still probably drive results. And I know earlier you said influencers, and you kind of cringed too in thinking about that. So, tell me a bit about, how do you partner with them? Does it work? How do you make sure that it works? All the details behind them.Deepica:Yeah. I cringed because I feel like the word influencer has been so like... It's been created into this like comedic relief for people, and I think that's what makes me cringe. But one thing that I feel really, really strongly about, is the value of these creators. I think of them as creatives that are just really changing the landscape of marketing. And I think that it's just the word influencer used to really make me cringe because I felt like it wasn't respected. And as somebody who went through being an influencer, and I still am an influencer, at the end of the day, [inaudible]... By the way, something people forget is influencers have always existed, they were just called celebrities before.Deepica:The definition is evolving and changing, and it's going to continue to evolve and change. If you have a platform and an audience, you are an influencer, you have an influence of some sort. And I think it's actually a really powerful thing, if you think about it, because it makes you realize, anyone can be an influencer, and it makes people empowered to use their voice. But the part that I get really excited about, like I said earlier, was this creative community, and how we can work with them. The same way I told you, these girls were just wanting to be seen. These creatives are just wanting to be seen, and they've never been given the opportunity to be seen. So, how is it that LIVE TINTED as a brand can tap into these people, and really invest time and effort as an internal team to search for these people, and work with them, and not go against the grain, and go against who everyone else is wanting to work with?Deepica:Listen, we're still a small company, so paid partnerships is something that I can't wait to be able to do. It's like, are you kidding? I went through it, I want to be able to do it for other people. So, we're working on trying to grow those relationships now. So, when we have a full budget in place, we support these, I would say, underdogs, versus going towards the people that everyone else was going to, because that's no fun.Stephanie:Yeah. And I mean, that's a big theme that I'm hearing too, is finding more of the micro-influencers who have a very engaged following, but they might only have a few thousand followers, versus a million, but those few thousand are ready to convert and really buy the products, and do the things that you're doing. How do you go about finding those people? I mean, it seems hard to have to go through TikTok and Instagram, and find people that might not show up on your feed right away, if you are kind of searching through all that.Deepica:Well, there's a lot of cool tools now that we've actually just invested in, which... Honestly, for me, my plan was to do it the old school way, of just investing the time, finding people, and I think, that to me, was the way to go, but there's supplemental tools, like there's this new platform... I sure don't know if it's new, it's new for us, called GRIN. And it's a way to manage your influencer partnerships and relationships, so you can actually have data and analytics to back up why you're doing certain decisions. And it's like, traditionally, in PR, you send products out, you hope somebody posts about it, who knows if they do? Tracking that is really... It's just a lot, so you need to have the manpower to be able to do it.Deepica:And now there's these tools in place that make it a little bit more scalable, which is really great. But I don't think anything can beat the just human aspect of finding a gem of a person and saying, "This is who I want to grow with." And I now, luckily, now that there's a team in place, I can spend my time doing those things, because, first of all, I truly believe that is the special sauce that comes from a brand, is those little efforts you put in that take time, that really set you apart from the others out there. I don't want to be the person who partners with the biggest TikToker, and not just because of the financial reason, which I think... I don't want to speak for other people, but I think a lot of times, the theme is to go to micro or nano influencers because of budget reasons. And to me, it's really exciting that they're untapped, and have a voice, that they're... You just want to continue to empower that voice, I guess.Stephanie:Yep. Yeah. I love that. So, how do you think about strategic partnerships, or when it comes to when you're getting investors? I mean, I'm thinking, okay, you have Bobbi Brown who is very big in the makeup space, what did that look like? Did you have that in mind when you partnered with her, like, "Oh, maybe you can kind of showcase my line along with your brand?" How does that work? And how did you think about picking strategic investors instead of just going with the first person who might give you money?Deepica:Yeah. That's