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Cooking Up DTC Success with Cuisinart

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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.

Key Quotes:

“When I first started, we were so focused on print advertising. And we matured into things like understanding the value of TV advertising. I actually built a model for the company to show them the impact of TV advertising on sales and the trajectory that you can get from that. And so we forayed into that and really started building out, strengthening multiple channels. Today obviously it’s a whole new world. And I like to say I consider myself a modern day marketer because there’s so many things you have to be not just aware of, but understand, now that you didn’t then. It’s kind of like, back in the day, you knew what the impact was on business, but now you really know what it is because you have hard data, where in the past you would rely on your retailers or sell through retailers.”

“We started to hear things from our retailers, like they were looking for goods that they maybe weren’t looking for before, like bread makers, waffle makers, more coffee makers, coffee grinders because people during the time when lots of places were closed, they still wanted a great cup of coffee, and they had to make it for themselves… In the past, we always knew we had stock and buffer stock and we never had to drill down. If we knew something was out of stock, it wasn’t like 10 or 12 items, might be one-offs or something. So we ended up going from an annual planning phase to quarterly, to monthly, to weekly, to daily. And we spent a lot more time and effort on operational issues, just moving inventory to our D2C business…So it took a lot of juggling. We had to push things out. We had to keep our eye on incoming inventory when it was going to be available, when retailers were going to have it. And so it became very tactical.”

“My personal belief is that when you empower your team to own their business, they’re more committed to it.”

“Those big [marketing] campaigns, tent-pole type things are planned months in advance. And so I was already having those conversations a month ago, basically like, ‘These are the items I think we should focus on, but I also need to have confidence that we can have product.’ So we honed in on the items that we’re pretty sure that we can generate demand, but also have appropriate supply of goods. And we’re also making sure that we are doing some other things which involve our retailers, like aligning our retailers so that they are working in the same playbook we are because it’s compounding interest. I tell our sales team, ‘Look, if you were smart, you would take advantage of this. This is what we’re working on. And we were very transparent about it with our retail partners and our sales team, because the more we’re all pushing in the same direction, we are going to be more successful.’

“People want to be inspired. That’s why they’re on these channels. They want to be inspired, they want to educate themselves a lot of times. People are very visually inspired.” 

“As people who make appliances, we have to be helping our consumers understand how to actually prepare those foods when they get home and they’re using our equipment f you just look at conventional meats versus grass-fed, versus organic, they all cook differently. So there’s some work that has to be done there to educate the consumer.”

Bio:

Mary Rodgers is the Director of Marketing Communications at Cuisinart. She has more than 20 years of experience in the housewares and tabletop industry, and has been with Cuisinart since 1996 and currently oversees all consumer communication touch points for the brand portfolio from market research to social media and overall marketing strategy. Since joining the company as a one-person marketing department, she has significantly expanded the marketing communications department while spearheading industry-first initiatives that have given the company even greater stature as an innovative leader.

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. I’m your host, Stephanie Postles, CEO at Mission.org. Today on the show, we have Mary Rodgers who currently serves as the director of marketing communications at Cuisinart. Mary, welcome.

Mary:

Hi, I’m so glad to be here today and join you. I’m really excited about talking all things marketing.

Stephanie:

Yes. I can not wait. So I’d love to kind of, before we get into Cuisinart and your role there, I want to hear a bit about your background and how you even entered the world of housewares and cookware and all of that.

Mary:

So back in the day, I actually worked for a retailer and they worked in the housewares department and I went up through the ranks there getting to the level of assistant DM. And so that wasn’t my favorite thing is, was involving a lot of scheduling people and logistics. And that was kind of my foray into the home goods’ area. And then I also did work for publisher for short period of time because my background was basically literature and journalism up to that point when I was studying in college. And then I transitioned into marketing at that point in the publishing world.

Stephanie:

Okay, cool. And when did you get introduced to the role at Cuisinart?

Mary:

So I worked for a company who is much more of a legacy company. I work for a company called Farberware. They were really well known. They had a manufacturing facility in the Bronx. And they basically did everything there. We did product development, engineering. It was a really great learning experience. And my previous boss, I worked for another company called Dansk, who is now owned by Food52, they just bought them recently.

Stephanie:

Cool.

Mary:

And my boss there went to Farberware and he asked me to join him there. And then that got sold and dismantled in ’96. And I had always had Cuisinart on my radar. I thought it was a really great up and coming young, kind of small organization that I felt had a lot of growth potential, which turned out to be true. And so I actually reached out to them. And I didn’t know it at the time, but they were looking to fill a marketing communications position for quite a long time. Their previous person in the job had left. So I was the only candidate. But they loved my background and obviously my experience in housewares and also the fact that I had pretty deep product development experience. That wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in permanently. I mean, I’m glad I know that process and I’ve done it, but my real expertise is marketing communications.

Mary:

So it’s really interesting because when I joined in ’96, as you can imagine was very, they really hadn’t done any real marketing, not much advertising. They just really were just scrappy entrepreneurs. I think of ourselves, is that still today, but for different reasons. And it was like, the media channels then were like five channels unlike today. So obviously, as you can imagine over time, things have changed dramatically compared to when I first started, when we were so focused on things print advertising. And we matured into things like understanding the value of TV advertising. I actually built a model for the company to show them the impact of TV advertising on sales and trajectory that you can get from that.

Mary:

And so we forayed into that and really started building out, strengthen multiple channels and not just one. And so, today obviously it’s like a whole new world. And I also like to say I consider myself a modern day marketer because there’s so many things you have to be, not just aware of, but understand, now that you didn’t then. It’s kind of like, back in the day, you knew what the impact was on business, but now you really know what it is because you have hard data, where in the past you would rely on your retailers or sell through retailers. And so things are much, much more sophisticated now. And you also have many different avenues to test and learn too.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Seems like too, over the past couple of years, I mean, especially the past year, I’m sure everything’s had to be rethought, replanned and planning cycles kind of go out the window. Annual plans turn into quarterly, turned into daily. And how did you guys adapt to that, the changing consumer preferences of all of a sudden people are at home, they’re cooking, they need all the things to make the recipes? And I’m sure a lot of things had to change on your side as well to going to keep up with that.

Mary:

Yeah. One of the biggest challenges we had in the last, basically year and a half, the challenges are similar now, but for different reasons. So basically, we keep our eye very closely on trends. And when I get up in the morning, I’m reading all kinds of articles and information and just everything changes on a dime now. So you have to be on top of it all the time, but we also started to hear things from our retailers, like they were looking for goods that they maybe weren’t looking for before, like bread makers, waffle makers, more coffee makers, coffee grinders because people during the time when lots of places were closed, they still wanted a great cup of coffee. They had to make it for themselves basically.

Mary:

So what happened for us was, and I’m really very proud of our team on this because it took a lot more effort because in the past we didn’t have to worry about like, “We’re out of inventory of this, we’re out of inventory that. We sold out every last ice cream maker we had.” In the past, we always knew we had stock and buffer stock and we never had to drill down. If we knew something was out of stock, it wasn’t like 10 or 12 items, might be one-offs or something. So we ended up going from an annual planning phase to quarterly, to monthly, to weekly, to daily. And we spent a lot more time and effort on operational issues, just moving inventory to our D2C business, which became a whole hoo-ha.

Mary:

And then also just making sure that we had inventory. We at least had certain amount of retailers that had inventory of an item. And with every marketing program we did, we did that. So it took a lot of juggling. We had to push things out. We had to keep our eye on incoming inventory when it was going to be available, when retailers were going to have it. And so it became very tactical to be completely honest with you. Like something that you think is your strategic, but it doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, you’re going to have all the strategy you want if you don’t have the goods, right?

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Mary:

And we also, I personally noticed this with some of our retail partners, because a lot of the retail partners in the very beginning went into complete shut down. They shut the stores down. But they can’t easily turn things off. And so they were running campaigns for things they had no product, which is the one thing that makes me crazy is to know people are spending time, money, effort, and resources marketing something that you can’t sell because you’re not going to convert if you don’t have it. So whatever data you do get is not going to be very valuable at all. And then it becomes no history. Right?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mary:

So you look back at that program, and you’re like, “Well, it didn’t do well.” And then you have to remember all the things around it that happened. The reason why it didn’t do well. And then you just wasted a lot of effort for no-

Stephanie:

No return.

Mary:

… benefit.

Stephanie:

Yeah. So when thinking about a daily planning process, what were some of the key lessons when you look back, you’re like, “Oh, this would have helped make it easier,” and are you still doing that today right now? Because that sounds insane, looking every day at the trends and hearing from the market and being like, “Oh, people want this, and now it’s shifting here and we need a marketing campaign around this.” And also getting all the backend right and making sure that you’ve got the inventory and it’s all tied together. How would you set it up today? And would you still advise on daily planning processes?

Mary:

Yeah. So I would say to you, it’s not the way we like to do things. But it was just, we just didn’t want to be spending time, money, and effort on something that wasn’t going to produce for us. So we felt it was necessary. And I would still do it today because we were, I mean, we are nimble. So the fact that we could say, “Hey, bread makers are doing really well right now. Let’s make sure we’re making people aware that we have bread makers and we’re selling them.” And I mean, that was not that big of a challenge for us, but when we ran out of bread makers, I had to say to our team, I’m like, “Well, you know what? Even though you don’t have a bread maker, you can still mix dough in a food processor or you can use one of our stand mixers.” And so change the storyline basically and look at it from a different direction.

Mary:

Or the other thing we did is when there was a yeast shortage start giving people ideas on other things that you can make that don’t have yeast without having to go into the whole sourdough trend which would have been, not exactly making bread today. Right?

Stephanie:

Yeah. I love that. That’s like, making do with what you got and just shifting the storyline. I mean, because I think the amount of searches I’ve always put in to be the replacement for soy sauce, the replacement for eggs, and really leaning into that trend of being like, “We can’t help you here, however, you don’t even need that thing. And now maybe you do need it.” How do you get your team thinking in that kind of mindset? Because I’m imagining when you come to daily planning processes, you really have to decentralize the entire team structure to let them make these quick moves and throwing campaigns and setting them free to do what they know is best.

Mary:

Yeah. So I mean, my style, my leadership style, I’m not a micromanager. I don’t believe in micromanagement. My personal belief is that when you empower your team to own their business, they’re more committed to it. And so that’s the approach I take, but I’m definitely involved in all aspects of the business and guiding them in those ways. Trying to help them think a little bit differently about their approach. But at the end of the day, they’re the ones coming up with the alternative content based on those comments. I’m not the one doing that. I’m definitely letting them own all of that themselves. And we work with a lot of external agency partners. So we work really, really closely with them and they are also working with each other.

Mary:

So it’s not a siloed system, basically. All our agency partners know each other. We are really good at making sure that we’re having constant lines of communication open based on whatever’s happening in our business. And also down to any aspect of marketing that we’re using to promote product. And then the only thing I would other say is that you had asked me earlier about what’s changed compared to last year? So I’m sure you’ve heard that the marketplace, the supply chain marketplace is still highly disrupted, but for different reasons now. So the reasons now are basically raw material shortages, huge increases in the price of containers, cost of containers.

Mary:

And most people in the durable goods category, they are bringing goods into the country. And then a lot of people are spending time trying to diversify their supply chain in order that they’re not heavily reliant on one point of reference for their goods. But that’s also something that can’t happen overnight. That’s something that has to be, it’s long-term. That’s a longterm position. But we’re already hearing in the marketplace that some competitors are basically not going to have inventory of certain items. It’s not going to happen. So we also then look at those opportunities and try to capitalize on those opportunities because if we do have supply of similar product in the same category, we are going to try to help out our retailers and make sure that we get them supply to fill those holes for them. And so our team, we have a decent-sized planning team that work really closely with the division heads to make sure that they’re focusing on the items that have the greatest need.

Stephanie:

So how do you create a open conversation with retailers or other partners to figure out what they’re missing? Because it seems like in a way, once you would structure a partnership where they’re like, “Oh, you always give me bread makers. That’s what I know you for.” I would think that they wouldn’t think like, “Oh, I should share that I also need this isn’t this,” because they’re so tunnel vision on like, “My partner does this with me.” So how do you even go about developing that relationship? Or they will say, “Here’s some gaps right now in inventory that we just can’t get, can you help us?”

Mary:

Yeah. I mean, that happened last year. So those conversations were had over the last year and a half. And our sales team works very closely with their retail partners. And so they’re having those conversations on an ongoing basis. And it also helps out our retailers and it also instills us as making sure that we’re helping them protect their business too, because I’m sure you realize this, if you went around six months ago and you went into some of the retail establishments you would see empty shelves and you would see big places in the home goods’ area, where there was not a lot to purchase in person.

Mary:

And so those are ongoing for us because we also work really close with them planning ahead because encouraging them to make sure that they get their forecasting done months in advance so that we can buy against that forecast and protect their orders so that they have good supplies, especially as we go into the back half of this year, which for us, my team calls it our Super Bowl because that’s our peak season basically. And so we want to make sure that all the stars align. And our marketing is pushing the items that we can focus on, but we also make sure that, like I said, inventory is essential for us.

Stephanie:

Well, if that’s so, is there anything, any big bets that you guys have made, or that you’re implementing right now, especially around supply chain or something that’s just totally different than how you used to do things, and you’re not really sure about the outcome, but you think you’re ahead of the game? Because I’ve heard a lot of people come on the show and talk about this as a big issue and there’s room for disruption in the whole logistics and supply chain and warehousing and all of that, but I haven’t heard many people be like, “We’re doing it this way now and it’s working.” Or, “We’re going to explore it this way. And we think there might be opportunity around adjusting these things.”

Mary:

Yeah. I mean, I have those conversations all the time. It’s like, “Okay, we need to get our fall marketing plan locked down,” because, and you know this, it’s not something you turn on in a day. It has to be those big campaigns, tent-pole type things are planned months in advance. And so I was already having those conversations a month ago, basically like, “These are the items I think we should focus on, but I also need to have confidence that we can have product.” So we honed in on the items that we’re pretty sure that we can generate demand, but also have appropriate supply of goods. And we’re also making sure that we are doing some other things which involve our retailers, like aligning our retailers so that they are working in the same playbook we are because it’s, I call it compounding interest. That’s kind of how I look at it.

Mary:

I tell our sales team, “Look, if you were smart, you would take advantage of this. This is what we’re working on. And we were very transparent about it with our retail partners and our sales team, because the more we’re all pushing in the same direction, we are going to be more successful.” And we’re also doing a lot of other things like digital audits and making sure that our digital shelf, not just for ourselves, but for our retail partners are clean and tidy and neat and organized the right way and they have the right data specs and content and all of the things that they need to make sure that they’re successful on their side. So it’s not just about the marketing that we’re doing, but it’s the support that we provide to the sales team and the retail partners that extend basically.

Mary:

And like I said, I call it compounding because for every one of those partners I can get in line, the more powerful the campaigns are across the board.

Stephanie:

Yup. I mean, I definitely understand that. It’s like, “Why wouldn’t you all be kind of rowing towards the same end point? If you guys are having a big campaign push why wouldn’t they also invest in the same thing instead of having diverse efforts?” What are some of the biggest gaps that you see on retailer websites when you’re saying you want to make sure it’s clean and tidy, they have all the right information. What are some big missing pieces that when you go in and you do your digital audits, you’re like, “Ah, once again, you’re missing this or you’re doing it this way. And we know that it’s best to do it this way.” Because I’m sure you’re not the only one who is struggling or finds those kind of things on the retailers websites.

Mary:

Yeah. So basically our focus has been along naming conventions and search. Those are the two things that we’ve put a lot of effort into. So on-site search for retailers, every retailer could be using a different partner for search or self-developed search, or however doing it, it’s just that, it could be different for every retailer. So that has been a big focus for us. And then the other thing too is making sure that any content that we’re developing much more. So in the lifestyle area, that we are making that content available for all of our retailers and sharing out because that’s become a big, I don’t want to say burden, but it’s been, every retailer has different specifications. Like, “I want seven lifestyle images and I want this and I only take this size and only take that size.” And just the whole logistics end of it because as retailers are not developing content for every product that they sell on their digital shelf. They’re not doing that. They’re repurposing content.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, how do you know, first if they’re using it, using it in the correct way? And also, do you see them putting their own spin on it? Because there’s been a few times when I’ve seen, maybe I go to Cuisinart and I’m like, “Oh, that was an epic video product placement.” I just associate it with you guys potentially. And then maybe I go to, I don’t know, HomeGoods and same content. And I go to Macy’s, same content. And then you start being like, “Wait, who started this content?” I’ve seen that happen a few times with brands where they’re all reusing the same stuff. Are you encouraging your partners to repurpose it, put your own spin on it, put your own voice on it, use it how you see best fit, or are you just like, “Here’s the box that you need to work within?”

Mary:

Yeah. So how we protect ourselves against that is we develop our own custom content for ourselves. So that’s how we set ourselves apart.

Stephanie:

You’re the original. You like [crosstalk]?

Mary:

Yeah, instead of… I mean, sure, you realize this is duplication of that, it doesn’t necessarily help with SEO related things. But retailers have so many products and they’re so big. When you think about, what one retailer, or how many SKUs they have online versus an in-store environment, they’re heavily reliant on brands to use that content there. They’re just not going to develop that themselves. The sheer amount of resources that they need to do that is, it’s not going to happen basically. And obviously we’ve put more emphasis on it ourselves because not only, do they need the content, but we need more content ourselves because we’re not just using the content on our website, we’re developing it for social, for digital, for every avenue, for work that we do through our PR agency. It’s used in every channel.

Mary:

But like I said, the way that we differentiate in that area is that we are also developing custom content for ourselves. And we do also have retailers that they will change up their hero copy and this and that. I mean, when we do those audits, we also make sure that the information is correct and they don’t go off the deep end.

Stephanie:

Yup. Yup. I can imagine there being a lot of value in what they’re seeing on their side around the kinds of content that’s working. Maybe they’re getting some kinds of content from you in one way, and then different styles from another brand. Is there any data sharing there where they give feedback of like, “Oh, we see this toothbrush brand doing this and it’s working really well. Our customers like this.” Do they ever share that feedback and then help you rethink the content that you all are headed or going to create?

Mary:

Yeah, interesting that has never happened, but what we have done ourselves is that we obviously keep our eye on what content performs best and then we produce more of that type of content. So like most brands, user-generated content tends to perform much better. We work with a lot of influencers who obviously built custom content for us. And that’s the stuff that performs much better than… I’m not saying our stuff doesn’t perform, but in comparison, that material. It’s also, somebody, it’s brand appropriate, it has the proper brand essence to it, but consumers like to see other people’s material and they gravitate towards it. And they’re more engaged in it. And so we put more of a focus.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Are there any big bets that you all are making in marketing campaigns or content that you’re like, “This might not pay off or this could be taken the wrong way, but we’re going for it?”

Mary:

I mean, not really in that sense, but in the sense of social shopping, we’re putting more of a focus on social shopping and being able to track that. And we also just launched a campaign and we had positive ROI on it. So that’s where everything’s going. It’s like making sure you have a positive ROI that you are testing and learning and being able to quantify. It’s the benefit of the digital world. You can actually see the results of your efforts and what they produce.

Stephanie:

So earlier you mentioned influencers. And that’s something on the show that I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews around of what’s an influencer? Who actually classifies as that? When does it deliver results? And how are you guys going about finding the right influencers and partnering the way that you get a long-term ROI?

Mary:

Yeah. So we’ve been working in this area for quite a long time. We don’t focus on celebrity influencers. That’s not our thing. We are most interested in aesthetic and brand alignment and also the fact that our consumers are very oriented around food and food is a big part of their life and they’re very interested in recipe ideas and things like that. So we have a whole, we’ve developed an entire set of guidelines for influencers and also for any work that we’re doing in social media for ourselves and for our licensed partners.

Mary:

And we have also over time found a few influencers that we’ve had ongoing partnerships with instead of one-offs. I’m sure a lot of people that you talk to talk about where this is going, where the influencer marketing field is going, because obviously there’s a lot more brands using it in comparison to even one or two years ago. It also, when you get into that situation, you can be driving a pricing and a few other things. And those are all obviously concerns for everybody. And then also the fact that you also want to have separation with competitive brands which is a big concern. And we stay on top of all of that.

Mary:

We’re not currently using a platform to vet influencers. We don’t do that. We work with our PR agency Magrino, and they are basically doing the research and handpicking appropriate influencers. I mean, they know our guidelines and they know what we’re looking for. And we also work with the influencer and also get their stats from them and making sure that they’re in line. We also get contacted by a lot of people directly through our social channels, or even just through email wanting to partner with us and we explore all those opportunities, but at the end of the day, it also has to align with our needs and our guidelines and also the needs of our consumer.

Stephanie:

Yeah. We’ve heard quite a few brands saying, “Anyone can be an influencer essentially, and it’s not the big celebrities of the world anymore. It’s anyone who has even a couple of thousand followers, if those followers are engaged and ready to buy.” Are you seeing those more, the micro influencers working better than just, like you said, you don’t even go for celebrities? So what do you look for when you’re trying to find someone who’s going to be a good fit for the brand and also deliver good results?

Mary:

Yeah. I mean, our biggest thing is engagement. That’s what we are interested in. We’re interested in engagement. We also have a certain level of followers that we’re interested in, not in the small thousands per se, but those are all key vetting points for us. And then also we check their handle, make sure that the work that they’re doing is aligned with what our consumers want to see also. We don’t want to see overly promotional. We want to see some separation. We also want to see, like I said, engagement is a key factor for us too.

Stephanie:

Yeah. And it seems like that’s where the world as a whole is headed around organic content, authentic UGC, not the way that it used to be even just a couple of years ago around, you see a channel, wherever it was and being like, “Oh, obviously their whole goal here is just to sell, sell, sell.” I rarely see that working anymore. And if you see people doing that, they quickly start falling down the ranks of, “Why am I even here if you’re just selling this one haircare product the entire time, and there’s no other content. I don’t feel connected with that.” So it seems like everything’s kind of shifting in that direction.

Mary:

Yeah, it definitely is. And people want to be inspired. That’s why they’re on these channels. They want to be inspired, they want to educate themselves a lot of times. People are very visually inspired and they want to… I mean, I even know myself the types of things that I use social media for, it’s education too. It’s about, I happen to study Italian, so I’m very oriented. I follow a lot of people in Italy and cookbook authors and things like that. And I’m there to learn. I’m there to be inspired by their knowledge and the recipe ideas. And it doesn’t matter, it just matters what the consumer’s passionate about. And that’s what you have to deliver to them. They don’t want to be hammered over the head every day with, “Buy my blah, blah.” I mean, that’s not why they’re there. And then, as you said, what happens is over time they tune out.

Stephanie:

Yup. Are there any, what maybe some would call competitors that you’d be open to being shown up against, because I see that being a world where you’re like, “Oh, I really want this influencer. They’re really big in the food scene, but they also use a semi-competitor products.” Are you all okay with that? Or are you like, “Oh, it has to be semi-exclusive,” or, “You can’t feature other competitors on your channel as well.”

Mary:

Yeah. We wouldn’t do that.

Stephanie:

You wouldn’t do that? That’s hard no.

Mary:

We’re too competitive.

Stephanie:

Yep. Hey, I like it. That’s great.

Mary:

Yeah. I mean, we even go to the point where we, “When you’re taking photos, we don’t want to see competitive product in the photo.” I mean, and I assume people over time also do the same thing. But yeah, we’re very competitive. We want to see separation. We don’t want to work with somebody who is like, been all over every competitor known to man. And hey, I know for a fact that people probably go on our channel and see who we’re working with and use us as a free game for not having to find their own influencers for all I know, and we don’t do that. We don’t do that at all. I would not encourage that. That’s kind of the lazy man’s way out. But yeah, we don’t do that.

Stephanie:

That’s not a long game [crosstalk].

Mary:

No, it’s a short game. And the thing is, it’s like, if you’re in this for the long haul, you’re going to do it from a strategic perspective and not a tactical perspective. And to me, that’s tactical because you’re assuming whatever I’m doing is going to work for you. And your brand’s, different brand. Your consumers have different needs and wants. That’s what you need to focus on.

Stephanie:

Yeah. And it’s putting way too much trust in another team that you don’t even know what they’re talking about. Why they’re doing that. You don’t even know what they’re partnering with that person.

Mary:

And the other thing is, you don’t even know what the stats are, how it produced, how it performed. I mean, now at the end of the day, you really don’t. So we don’t do that. It’s not even in my mindset to be completely honest with you, but I’m not saying that other people don’t take that tactic.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. Got it. Earlier you were talking about creating these shoppable experiences. And before the show, I mentioned also headless commerce and you’re like, “Oh, I mean, is that even a term anymore? We’ve been doing that forever.” I want to hear what you guys are seeing around what some would still say is a trend. And we’ve had some people be like, “That’s not even a thing,” or, “It’s here to stay.” And I’d love to hear your perspective since you guys are the maybe OGs in this. You’ve already been doing it.

Mary:

And it was one of those things where we did it for a different reason. Well, it was similar reason, but different. So this is like years ago, our shopping cart aspect of our website is completely separate from the web property and the reason it was done like that was that we were working with a fulfillment company. We’ve been selling direct-to-consumer for years and years. It’s just that we use a fulfillment company. Consumer have this shopping experience on our website, but the orders were sent to a fulfillment organization. They fulfilled them. And we kept the consumer in our ecosystem because I wanted it to be able to own the data.

Mary:

So this was like more forward-thinking. Now, this is like all the trend. People are like, first-party data, first-party data, but that’s how I protected my first-party data years ago. And so in a way, thank God I did it because when we wanted to bring the D2C business back in-house in late 2018, I didn’t have to restructure my entire website. I basically just had to plug in a shopping cart basically at that point. And then last year in the middle of the year, we transitioned our entire web property to Episerver, it’s a DXP, and still kept the shopping cart separate. And what we ended up doing, it was you made as much of the site [CMSable] as possible so that the marketing team can virtually do any day-to-day operation that we need to change a price, add a new product, build a landing page. We just finished building out blocks so that we can build custom landing pages. We can literally do anything ourselves.

Mary:

And so the idea was we wanted to be a masters of our own domain basically, because in our previous situation we used one web development company and they did everything for us. And unfortunately, over time as the brand became more mature, it didn’t make sense for us anymore because we really needed experts. We needed experts in SEM, SEO. We needed experts in web development, in the latest best platform to use. And we also wanted to be more in control of our business. So we didn’t have to open a ticket with IT. And the SDP emails me, is like, “Hey, I think we changed the price on blah, blah, blah, can you fix it on the website?” I’m like, “On the fly.” Kids do it in 10 seconds, and not even… So this way we’re in control of our destiny, basically. We’re not heavily reliant on any one thing or any one agency. And this way also, if we decide to change agencies, we’re not stuck.

Mary:

And that’s one of the things that is really important for us and for our business. And not having to get in line at the deli stand. No seriously, I say I’m a point A to point B person. I don’t want to have to go through five people to do something. I want to be able to control my destiny and the destiny of the company and the brand. And that’s how I look at it. And that’s how, it’s more work for us because now instead of dealing with one agency, we’re dealing with multiple agencies, but that’s what’s best for the company. And that’s what’s best for the brand because when you get to a certain level, you need to be reliant on experts in the field.

Mary:

And this is where vertical integration is not necessarily the best thing for your business. And so it depends. I know some people are all up for vertical integration, but what happens over time is when you’re not continually developing those people and making sure they stay best in class and they only have one client, you get denigration over time, basically, in my opinion.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, there’s no incentives to keep doing better and better if you’re getting paid the same amount to, essentially, if you can make it less work. And I mean, and they’re not going out to the market and shopping it and doing our piece. They’re like, “This is what we got right here. I’m doing a flat line thing for anyone.” Obviously it’s like, “Would have stepped in with our hand.” But I mean, I also think about it’s the company, the age of the company and where they’re at in that life cycle. And it seems like it always starts with, you’ve got the founders and then it’s very dispersed and you’re hiring all these agencies and, “I need social, I need this, I need that.” And it’s all over the place. And then you start to bundle it back up again and bring things in-house.

Stephanie:

At what point do you think that companies should start considering pulling things back in-house, controlling their own destiny a bit more and not relying on just one or two agencies to control what’s happening and where they have to wait in line at the deli stand, as you’d say?

Mary:

Yeah. I mean, I think it depends on your business because for where we are and where the brand is now, it’s more important for us to be working with what I call best in class. And the thing is, unless your organization is continually investing in talent and adding head count and all those things that companies are not necessarily looking to do. The sheer amount of people you need to keep that train running is probably unreasonable. And so for me, I can’t even imagine us bundling this all back and bringing it in-house. I just think our needs are greater than that at this point. But I’m not saying it’ll never happen. Things change every day, but at the end of the day in my experience, when you have some of these in-house organizations, it slows down your business. It’s slow. It’s like, “Okay, here’s a common service area. There’s nine divisions. And we all have to use the same point, the entry and get in line.”

Mary:

And it’s like, things never happened. It’s like the slow boat. It’s not easy. And the other thing too, is what ends up happening sometimes with organizations is, “Let’s have so-and-so do it.” And they have no expertise, they have no experience, they have no knowledge. And so that person’s not really the right one to be there, but they’re handed the thing and it’s not necessarily the best outcome. So for me right now, I’m not intending on rebundling and bringing anything back. And first of all, the sheer lift on that would be insane. And you’re also talking-

Stephanie:

And you also let the team go and hire too, which I love. I mean, the team be on a find a cool vendor and find a cool agency to work with it, and maybe executives would have never had time to even stumble on. I mean, that’s how we even got our start with Salesforce, was one team within Salesforce betting on us and being like, “Let’s try this company. It’s small, but they want to make a podcast. Let’s go for it and partner with them.” And just getting that one opportunity to then spread within the company and do a good job and prove yourself. I think that’s how a lot of innovation can happen by just letting the teams go and source those cool opportunities or companies to partner with.

Mary:

And the other thing too, is you have to remember when you’re working with agency partners, they have other clients that you learn from. They are bringing you ideas that they’ve seen possibly be successful with other clients in completely different industries. And so there’s a lot of built-in advantage there. There’s built in knowledge, there’s built in advantage. I also think that they understand our business. We’re teaching them over time, our business. And so they’re invested in it. They’re invested in making sure that we’re successful and we’re doing the same. I think sometimes when you vertically integrate, the motivations may be different. And there’s maybe not necessarily that hunger over time. And so depending on what that situation is like internally depends on how successful that is.

Stephanie:

Yep. I totally agree. Love it. 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 ask a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready, Mary?

Mary:

I’m ready.

Stephanie:

Awesome. All right. So pull out your crystal ball, what one thing will have the biggest impact on e-commerce in the next year?

Mary:

I think social selling.

Stephanie:

Yeah? Tell a bit more. What are you thinking?

Mary:

Well, because it’s a new channel. It’s getting to the point where we have ways to prove it out. I believe that it’s definitely a new area. When I look at statistics in social selling, it’s like the last year, I think it’s like 57% of the consumers bought something off social office, social channel. I mean, that’s a big opportunity as far as I’m concerned.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s where I source a lot of everything, by Instagram, TikTok, I’m like, “Oh, cute shirt, cute outfit. That makeup set, you said, that’s good? Okay. I trust you.” Yeah. I definitely agree on that. What is your favorite Cuisinart product outside of the air fryer? And me, I was like, “I know she’s going to say that again.”

Mary:

That is by far my favorite product, but I have several. So we have a product called the griddler which we’ve had in the line for a really long time. We have a couple of new versions of it. And so that’s, now I’m going to go into the pitch, but-

Stephanie:

Do it. Do [crosstalk].

Mary:

It’s an indoor grill. It has, basically, can take you from breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It has reversible plates. You can make a panini. And the great thing about it as the plates go right in the dishwasher. So you make a meal in minutes and there’s little cleanup. So that’s another one of my favorite products. And I couldn’t start my day without my Cuisinart single-serve coffee maker. We have multiple coffee makers in this house, but don’t judge me, I happen to work for a company that makes a lot of great ones, but we use the single-serve one when we’re in hurry, but we also use a grind and brew when we want to linger over a pot. So definitely coffee would be, can’t start my day without it.

Stephanie:

Wow. So many products you need to invest in. I don’t even know where to start. Great. What is one brand that you watch that helps you stay creative or innovative, or you keep an eye on what they’re doing? And it does not have to be in the cookware industry of course, it can be very different.

Mary:

Keep my eye on a lot of companies. So it’s hard to distill down. And I would say, a lot of them are not in, I mean, not that I don’t keep track of my competitors, believe me, I do, but they’re several. I would say Peloton is one of them just because of, I mean, they’ve been in the news a lot lately, but that’s not my reasons. The community aspect of it, I think that’s what the product is really about. It’s not really about the physical products. So I think that’s really cool. Obviously, Apple, who doesn’t keep their eye on Apple. I would also Amazon because they’re into everything. There’s every day I open the news and I’m like, “What don’t they do basically.”

Mary:

So let’s say that’s a few of them. Then I also keep my eye on a lot of startups, small startups, especially in the food industry right now. I really love what’s going on in plant-based food and there’re so many food startups out there. I really am very intrigued by the work that they’re doing.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I love that. We just did a whole episode too on why your best ideas can come from looking outside your industry and how that’s a lot of innovations happen, especially when you have a similar problem that maybe has already been solved. If you’re thinking like, “Oh, I have something around employees in this and how to set it up. And I’m in the food industry. Let me go look at the, I don’t know, space industry and see how they think about this or even military or something. How do they do team structures?” And yeah, it was very interesting to think about how other industries can influence creativity and solving problems.

Mary:

Yeah. The other thing too, what I think about is, there’s so much work going on in the plant-based food business. There’s so many competitors. The same thing with meal kits. At some point consolidation has to happen. But the other reason I keep my eye on that is, we have to be as people who make appliances, we have to be helping our consumers understand how to actually prepare those foods when they get at home and they’re using our equipment and all those types of things. I mean, if you just look at conventional meats versus grass-fed versus organic, they all cook differently. So there’s some work that has to be done there to educating the consumer.

Mary:

So that’s another reason why I keep my eye on the food industry. And just food in general, it’s changing so fast. And also people have much more, such interest in ethnic foods and discovering new foods. And there’s an entire process of what happens to consumers when they travel somewhere and taste something new and try to recreate it at home. So I keep my eye on all those types of things.

Stephanie:

Yep. That just made me think about something that needs reinvention that maybe you guys can tap into, the microwave. Why does it still have presets that just say potato, popcorn. I’m like, “I don’t use any of those. And this is 2021. People make many different things, not just baked potatoes and meat or whatever it has on there.” So if you also helps with that.

Mary:

It’s funny because, I’ll tell you something about myself. So we have multiple air fryers, there’s digital ones, which have a zillion options. I have the, this is going to make me sound analog instead of digital completely, but I actually like the dials because I like to decide myself how it should be cooked. But yeah, so I agree with you though, like, “How many cups of coffee do we need to reheat before we know that’s what it is?”

Stephanie:

Yup. Yup. Man.

Mary:

Baked potato popcorn.

Stephanie:

Yep. [crosstalk].

Mary:

But they’re also the most used functions, which is, kind of drives why they’re there.

Stephanie:

Wow. Yeah. Okay. Maybe I’m just not their typical user.

Mary:

Maybe you’re not making enough baked potatoes.

Stephanie:

I know. I guess, I need to get on that. What am I doing with my life? All right. And the last question, what one thing do you not understand today that you wish you did?

Mary:

Oh, Bitcoin, please.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I’ve had so many people say that on the show.

Mary:

Cryptocurrency, I don’t get it in. And after watching Elon Musk on Saturday Night Live, I still don’t know anything.

Stephanie:

Man, I think this is just going to push me to start a crypto podcast because so many e-commerce guests have said that and trying figure it out and how it’s going to impact their work or their point of sale systems or payments or any of that, or even supply chain, which I think it’s going to have a huge impact on.

Mary:

Yeah. It’s interesting. Because I think I’m smarter than the average doc and I just cannot follow that at all. It’s not that I haven’t tried, but I definitely need an education there and I’d appreciate if you help me with that.

Stephanie:

All right. I will find a sponsor. Anyone come on in and sponsor the show, I’ll get it going and Mary is going to be my first guest to ask all the questions.

Mary:

I’m there.

Stephanie:

Well, all right, Mary. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been a pleasure chatting. Where can people find out more about you and Cuisinart?

Mary:

So you can find out more about Cuisinart at cuisinart.com. So follow us on all the social channels under Cuisinart, except for on TikTok, it’s cuisinart_official, which we’re just starting that right now. So we’re testing the waters as they say.

Stephanie:

It’s going to be air frying all the things on there I bet. That’ll do.

Mary:

Exactly.

Stephanie:

That’ll be hot on that channel.

Mary:

Just started. So we’re just getting our feet wet. And then you can follow me on LinkedIn, it’s Mary Rodgers. Easy to find.

Stephanie:

Perfect. Thank you so much.

Mary:

Thank you. It’s great being with you today. It was a lot of fun.

Stephanie:

Same, and I agree.

Episode 128