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EPISODE 91

Differentiating Your Amazon and Native Website Strategies

With Ben Knox, SVP of Digital at Super Coffee

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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.

Key Quotes:

“Customers just shift in to Amazon, because everybody has a Prime account these days. It’s very easy, very dependable, great return policies, so there’s a lot of trust there. You’re already doing a lot of shopping there. So oftentimes, you’ll just find your customer base moving to Amazon in that somewhat uncontrollable way. There’s definitely things that you can do to maintain a more healthy mix.”

“We really want the consumer to be able to have perfect availability of our products and to be able to purchase our products when, where, how often, from whom they like.”

“We actually offer subscriptions on a limited basis and when we do only the 5% funding amount on Amazon, whereas our website is 15%. So naturally, loyalists and people who are really engaged with the brand will come over to us. And there’s other things like special bundles and different content and things like that the website offers that Amazon simply can’t.”  

“We offer ultimate flexibility. You can add a subscription to cart, checkout and then, go and log into your account and cancel that subscription, five minutes later and while that’s not ideal, it’s okay. And really the function of subscription itself, we’re modeling a loyalty program, in a sense.” 

“[Our texting] is actually two separate softwares that power it, which we would like to synthesize over time. So two separate phone numbers that these communications come from. So, we let people know that this is your subscription phone number and then, this is the Super Coffee personality brand phone number. And on that second one, we really nurture that as a VIP audience and so, when we do a product launch, things like that, we let people know if they want early access to the new products or early access to, let’s call it a Black Friday, Cyber Monday sale, or what have you, you’re going to get a 24 hours heads up, to everybody else, to get that early access if you’re opted into our text message database.”  

“One that we continue to own is a comparison style ad, which is putting us up against a really delicious looking, we’ll call it a Starbucks or a Dunkin Donuts cafe drink with foam and cream and swirl and things like that. And then, putting our product directly next to it, and saying, ‘Hey, everything about these two things are the same, actually, except for,’ and then we flashed through the nutritional profile, the calories, the sugar, the carbs. That works really well. And, that’s not only driving value for us from an ecommerce perspective, but that’s driving global value for us all the way, through the omni channel environment.”

[On a successful content strategy] “I think it’s quality, it’s relatability, it’s authenticity and above and beyond all that, it’s having something to say that really speaks to somebody and makes them feel like they’re engaging with a personality, engaging something that means something to them, that makes them feel a certain way.”

Mentions:

Bio:

Ben Knox is the vice president of ecommerce and growth at Super Coffee. He is also the Founder & Chairman of Keto Farms. Previously Ben was the Director, E-Commerce & Digital Marketing for Juice Served Here, and he spent nearly six years at Red Bull, where he was National Manager, E-Commerce.

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Transcript:

Stephanie:

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 Ben Knox joining us. He’s the Vice President of ecommerce and growth at Super Coffee. Ben, welcome.

Ben:

Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Stephanie:

I’m really excited to have you on. So, you have a very long background in ecommerce. I feel like you’re a veteran when I was looking through your profile. And I was hoping you can start there and go into where you’ve been and how you got here.

Ben:

Absolutely. I think that’s a great foundational question. I started my career at Red Bull at the headquarters in Los Angeles. And looking back on it, couldn’t be more thankful of a place to start my career. Obviously, one of the most exciting and powerful brands that CPG has seen in the United States, if not worldwide over the past several decades. So learned a lot there. Started in brand marketing, rotated into corporate strategy, eventually distribution, before finding my way into a special project on ecommerce and at Red Bull at the time And even today, the entirety of ecommerce really relates to Amazon.

Ben:

For one reason or another, Red Bull only wants to sell merchandise and things like that in a direct consumer way. Everything else is for retail and Amazon would be considered there. So, that was my first experience in ecommerce was leading global Amazon strategy for Red Bull starting in the United States and then, exporting that to Western Europe which was a really exciting opportunity. Great way to learn ecommerce from really the best and brightest, Amazon. Spent a lot of time in Seattle, working with the vendor team there and the related marketing teams. But eventually was really interested in going deeper in particular on direct consumer, paid media, things like that. And so, found my only real opportunity to do that was to leave that great brand, leave the company and join what ended up being several other startups and companies since where I’ve gotten deeper.

Stephanie:

Cool. So what does your day to day look like at Super Coffee and what is Super Coffee?

Ben:

Yeah, absolutely. Super Coffee is an enhanced Coffee Company playing really in almost all consumer packaged goods coffee categories. So, we have bottled coffees, can coffees that really tastes like delicious frappuccinos but don’t have any of the calories sugar or carbs and other added positive ingredients, functional ingredients for health. And we also sell similar super espresso product. It’s like a double shot espresso, more portable, more on the go, less liquid, same performance.

Ben:

But also, as of last year, we’ve moved into ground coffee with added vitamins and antioxidants, k-cup coffee pods and then, previous to that we had been selling creamer, super creamer, similar profile, very decadent, indulgent, but high on health, low on sugar and calories and all that working together as one stop coffee shop for the health minded consumer.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. And then I saw… so the company was started by three brothers. Right? Was it when you were in college?

Ben:

Yeah, Jordan as the youngest brother, Jordan DeCicco and his brothers Jake and Jim, his two older brothers, founded the company together. Jordan actually formulated the first Super Coffee in his dorm room and enjoyed it himself and then was sharing it with his former basketball team players. He was a college athlete and got an insight that there’s really nothing like this out there.

Ben:

They didn’t enjoy… they enjoyed the flavor and the taste of Starbucks drinks and cafe drinks, but not the way it made them feel, nor the sugar and the calories. And they also liked the idea of energy drinks, but again, not great ingredient profiles and tons of sugar and those things too. So they didn’t want to put that in their body and that’s really why they started Super Coffee. And, like mentioned, Jordan formulated it in his dorm room for the first time, and then, slowly but surely convinced his brothers to join in on his mission of disrupting the coffee industry. And now, five, if not six years later, here we are and and it’s really amazing what they’ve accomplished.

Stephanie:

Yeah, it’s definitely huge progress. I saw that they were on Shark Tank back in 2017 and then, now recently, they received investment from like big NBA stars and NFL quarterbacks. And then, I think most recently, the company is valued at like 200 million in June or something which blows my mind for something that started in a dorm room. That’s amazing.

Ben:

Yeah, let’s not forget J.Lo and A-Rod are our investors and partners in the company and it’s no big deal.

Stephanie:

No big deal, J-Lo. What is up, girl? So, obviously, this company is awesome, which is why you’re there, what does your day to day look like as the VP of ecommerce and growth? What do you do?

Ben:

Yeah, it’s varied. So overseeing the sales division of ecommerce so, the actual divisional P&L for Shopify, Amazon, and then, that long tail of third party online retailers. Thrive Market is really awesome standout, actually a new partner of ours, early this year and really great partners so far. So really excited to go deeper on that relationship. Walmart.com is in the mix there as well. So, that’s from a sales, divisional responsibility. That’s what we’re working with. But then, also responsible for the 3PL, whose services all of our ecommerce order fulfillment, the 3PL also services our Amazon business, so is basically, [inaudible] and inbound logistics to Amazon for FBA. And they also do some managed services for us. On top of that, also responsible for overseeing all of our acquisition or retention marketing efforts to really drive both of those two strong horses.

Stephanie:

Cool. So, what is the breakout between selling on Amazon, selling on your site, selling on other websites, what does that breakout look like? Are you favoring one area right now? Has it changed in the last year?

Ben:

No, it’s the… the really interesting thing about it for us and it’s funny now, having done this with a few different brands, it’s so brand specific, where your consumers desire to shop from you and for us, we really maintain a very consistent mix so what you might often see is a brand, start strip consumer, then they start moving into Amazon and customers just shift in to Amazon, because everybody has a Prime account these days. It’s very easy, very dependable, great return policies, all that so there’s a lot of trust there. You’re already doing a lot of shopping there. So oftentimes, you’ll just find your customer base moving to Amazon in that somewhat uncontrollable way.

Ben:

There’s definitely things that you can do to maintain a more healthy mix. And I would say a lot of those, factors and criteria are in place at Super Coffee and so as a result, we maintain a really healthy mix, let’s call it 60%, Shopify, 40%, Amazon, and both both scaling pretty consistently against each other and maintaining that mix and we expect that to continue this year.

Stephanie:

So what are some neat tricks with selling with Amazon because we’ve had a lot of smaller brands on here, DTC players who… we’ve, of course, talked about Amazon creating a white label version of their product and we’ve also had a couple people be like, there’s nothing to worry about as long as your product is strong. How do you guys think about selling on Amazon? And what opportunities are there that maybe people are missing?

Ben:

Yeah. So, there’s many ways to skin a cat there and again, it’s very brand dependent on what’s right for us. Our context is we really are a retail brand first. So we’re now, I think, in over 30,000 outlets across the United States, approaching 60 to 65% ACV so we’re getting pretty ubiquitously available. But obviously, nothing compared to a Red Bull that, at the time I left the company over 300,000 outlets, so you can stumble and buy a Red Bull no matter where you are.

Ben:

Super Coffee is a bit earlier in that lifecycle, but still predominantly retail brand. I think in relative to our category, we really want the consumer to be able to have perfect availability of our products and to be able to purchase our products, when, where, how often, from whom they like. And so from, this is leading into an assortment strategy, from an assortment perspective, maybe another brand might have only select assortment on Amazon and then, to get the full brand experience, you have to go to the website. So, that’s a natural path toward toward direct consumer.

Ben:

There’s other ways that we do it. However, we provide the best subscription experience and discount on our website. So, we actually offer subscription on a limited basis. And when we do only the 5% funding amount on Amazon, whereas our website is 15% and so, naturally loyalists, people who are really engaged with the brand will come over to us. And there’s other things like special bundles and different content and things like that the website offers that Amazon simply can’t.

Stephanie:

Are you oftentimes finding your customers on Amazon and then, speaking to them in a way that brings them to your website afterwards, top of funnel, they come there and then, you pull them in to create a loyal customer base and retain them?

Ben:

Yeah, there’s a master design for that to occur. It’s almost though in practice a bit of pushing a boulder uphill, in that people are demonstrating an intent to purchase somewhere, and there’s something there, right? And so, if they are starting to buy on Amazon, that’s really an Amazon customer, most likely and then, the factors that would drive somebody from Amazon to our website are a bit more natural and gradual per se. That being said, we do nurture that behavior but it’s not a really aggressive, offensive strategy that I would say we’ve unlocked. Even though I would like to say that we’ve unlocked that as a massive arbitrage opportunity on the platform, we do find that people tend to stay where they start.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, what would the ideal state look like to you, if you were to make it into the perfect funnel? How would you have it work, if you could just choose?

Ben:

Semi-limited assortment on Amazon, full assortment, full experience on the direct consumer website. And then, different mechanics and communication strategies in between that Amazon experience, that trial opportunity into the direct consumer experience. Again, slightly different for us, since we’re beverage and consumable, or really on the go and post product, retail product, but a brand that’s maybe less oriented in that way, could more aggressively attack that type of opportunity.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Cool. And how do you guys think about subscriptions? Because that was a thing that I feel like everyone wanted everyone to have subscriptions to their products? And then, I feel like a lot of people realize, okay, that’s actually not best for our customers, because they don’t need a subscription for whenever we have t-shirts or something so we are going to drop that from their offering. And now, it seems like it’s making a comeback, but only with certain products. So how did you guys think about that as part of your customer retention strategy?

Ben:

Yeah, subscriptions for us are paramount, I would say. So, again, a very consumable product. Ideally, we are 50 to 100% of your coffee consumption, obviously, when you’re on the go on the weekends, you’re out with friends, things like that, pop into coffee shops, you can’t avoid that, of course, but relative to… especially, from being at home and through the pandemic in the last nine months, we really want to be that one source coffee solution for you at home, irrespective of your on the go behaviors. And so, for that, subscription, works perfectly on that repeat purchase behavior.

Ben:

And it’s great because you don’t have to recruit or remind that shopper to come back and buy every single time they’re running low. It’s actually right… it’s going to happen anyways. But then, we give them the opportunity to say, Hey, not right now, I’m not quite through my last order or we give them the opportunity to say, Hey, I blazed through that order. Let me get my next one, ASAP. So there’s that opportunity to modulate on the consumer side of things, that makes it an ideal situation.

Ben:

I think the technology is not quite there yet to make that a perfect experience, that 30 day cadence is not always perfect for the amount of units in a case and the amount of units in a case is going to last you longer or less time than it would, me. So it’s not perfect, but we are working on communication strategies and software and technology to help improve that subscription experience for our customers.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I think that flexibility is key, I even think about something like Stitch Fix where they say you can pause the orders, you can start it up again, you can take a vacation from it, whatever you need to do. And, I think that feels very risk free like you mean, I can just try it once and then, pause it for three months, and then, try it again? And it’s just so different from how it was, I would even say a year ago, where it felt very, cut and dried, you’re in it or not. You can get six months in or you can’t have it at all, which shows so much has changed a lot.

Ben:

You’re committed. Yeah, we offer ultimate flexibility. You can add a subscription to cart, checkout and then, go and log into your account and cancel that subscription, five minutes later and while that’s not ideal, it’s okay. That’s okay. And really, it’s more modeling less than, in a way, the function of subscription itself, we’re modeling a loyalty program, in a sense. And so, if our subscription customers get 15%, every order, don’t really care if they’re actually on a subscription that auto bills them, or they’re managing that bill on their own. So, we find ways to incentivize and give rewards and give backs regardless of the way that they are actually going about that.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s cool. So, what are some of the biggest driving forces with the program that work well? Is it just the cost savings that usually attracts people and then, something else, once they’re in it or what do those incentives look like?

Ben:

Yeah, it’s the cost savings and then, the stated flexibility, the money back guarantee, things like that get them in and interested. Thereafter, one of the things that we invested in six or nine months ago, was basically text message based subscription management. And so essentially, three days before re-bill, an automated text will go out and say, hey, your order of, fill in the blank, is set to ship in three days, would you like to make any changes? Gives the opportunity to opt out, cancel, gives the opportunity to say, ship it right away. Thank God, you messaged me. I’m ready for it now.

Ben:

They can add products that are not even subscribable. So, they can add season or one time products to try, things that might not even be subscribable. They can modify quantity. They can do all kinds of stuff. It’s just as easy as a text message back and forth. So, that’s the experience that we’re trying to create both at managing and an automatic and dynamic concierge experience for the customer. To really make that experience carefree, really feel like they have as much control as they want over the experience and to steer away from what you were mentioning, which is the old history of you opt into a subscription, you get a deal. And then, you try to go log in and cancel, you can’t even figure out how to cancel the dang thing and that’s not-

Stephanie:

Call our customer service representatives and [inaudible].

Ben:

My gosh, yeah. Email us or okay, that’s crazy. So that’s not the business that we’re in. We’re in it to spread positivity, create a great connection with our consumers because now, they’re not just buying from us on our website. They’re buying from us in stores and they have family members and friends and that kind of experience goes a long way and, the opposite experience also goes a long way.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I agree. What did it look like after you implemented the SMS stuff? And then, all of a sudden, the customers can easily just be like, and cancel. What did the results look like? Was there anything surprising there?

Ben:

Yeah. So you’d think, okay, you’re would go through the roof. And because you give somebody such an easy way to cancel, it’s almost a fear mindset rather than an opportunity mindset and what it actually did for us is it didn’t increase cancels, but it decreased cx inbound. So, it actually decreased our costs on the customer service, customer experience side of things, because customers could then, choose their own adventure, right? And self service.

Ben:

And, philosophically, we haven’t gotten the data yet until a software, right? The customer has a great experience, doesn’t have to email support, all of that back and forth, they’re probably more likely to come back later because there’s less thrash, less risk of a negative experience. So all in all, great from that perspective, and great from the perspective of allowing people to increase quantities, add new products, things like that. So AOB subscription has also increased.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. Is there anything else that you do in the text message arena where you’re like, this is also working well, or another way that you communicate with your customers outside of just your orders coming up from a subscription standpoint?

Ben:

Yeah, we do. We do marketing blogs so to… the other part of our text message strategy, and I like calling it a text strategy, not an SMS strategy.

Ben:

It’s pretty much what everybody calls it, but I even see it sometimes where companies or brands, call it that to consumers. And I see it printed on packaging or it’s like, send us an SMS. I don’t know if any consumer knows what an SMS is.

Stephanie:

Calling on a landline.

Ben:

Yeah. Exactly. So, relative to that, it’s actually two separate softwares that power it, which we would like to synthesize over time. So two separate phone numbers that these communications come from. So, we let people know that this is your subscription phone number and then, this is the Super Coffee personality brand phone number. And on that second one, we really nurture that as a VIP audience and so, when we do a product launch, things like that, we let people know if they want early access to the new products or early access to, let’s call it a Black Friday, Cyber Monday sale, or what have you, you’re going to get a 24 hours heads up, to everybody else, to get that early access if you’re opted into our text message database.

Ben:

And so, that’s largely how we use it, get early access to things like that product launches, seasonal products and then, the occasional motivational marketing push, things like that that are more conversational, less, we’re trying to sell you something. And, I think that’s the direction that we want to continue to go deeper on, is driving personalization, driving value, as opposed to asking so much. I think that’s something that the industry is striving for as well.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I agree. It definitely is a tricky channel to where you see a lot of people doing it wrong. And I can see brands being hesitant to even try it out because they probably have experienced something not so great themselves. And they’re like, I just don’t want to get it wrong. Because I mean, I’m sure you get the random text where you’re like, I don’t need that coupon right now. I’m in bed, watching Bachelor, which, Ben, I know, you’re doing the same thing. I just don’t need that right now. It’s unhelpful.

Ben:

There’s this… I don’t know, who invented it is probably decades, if not 100 years old but this concept of, I think Gary Vaynerchuk might have popularized it, but this concept of give twice, or give three times or five times before you ask for anything. So, it’s all about that, giving value and that can be modeled through social media, that can be modeled through email marketing, and that certainly, I think, should be modeled in text messaging but it’s tough as marketers or as business owners, business operators, as soon as you stop being consumer, sometimes it’s hard not to become incentivized as the business owner and want to sell, sell, sell.

Ben:

I think sometimes as the business owner or the operator, it’s easy to forget what it’s like being a consumer and slip into that sales mindset. But I think it’s important for us to all, empathize as much as possible with being on the other end and really think about what you would like to receive from a brand as opposed to just another sort of promo?

Stephanie:

Yeah, I definitely agree that as a business owner, seeing all this data, it’s easy to slip into that mindset to, you people like that and, especially, if you’re being measured by certain KPIs, and you’re like, well, if I send out three random poems or jokes and my boss sees that, they’re going to wonder what I’m doing and I can explain it versus my marketing message, which is very kosher and by the books, might not perform as well, but less explaining, just-

Ben:

Yeah, exactly. So, I think depending on where you are in your organization, or who’s listening to this, doing this correctly could require a lot of education upward or throughout the organization. And it’s tough, because it’s a long term thing. And it’s building trust with the consumer, but you also have to build trust internally, to give yourself that runway to operate like this. So there’s no silver bullet here, but something to strive for, for sure.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I agree. So what do you see right now, when it comes to the customer acquisition landscape. What has so far 2021 looked like? Is it very different than prior years?

Ben:

Yeah, it’s interesting, I think… two things happened last year and people started spending more time on the Internet and on their devices as a result of the pandemic. So in a way, there’s now more reach, more impressions, for sure. And then, there is definitely a surge of people buying more heavily online in certain categories than they ever were before. But I think, we’re moving toward the back end of that and reverting to a new mean or a new normal. And, now we’ve also had nine months for advertisers and brands to catch up to starting to sell and advertise on the internet. And so, there’s a crowding from the brand side of things and certainly over the last… [inaudible] always but even now, in starting the year, things are just continuing to escalate and get more expensive on CPM and CPR basis.

Ben:

So putting increasing pressures on cost per acquisition, and overall customer acquisition costs for a brand new business that might have been previously very reliant on paid digital advertising to find new customers. And so, at least what we’re focusing on is diversifying, not only just in channel, so testing obviously, other advertising channels to acquire customers. But diversifying away from paid and more into owned and earned and shared, obviously, longer term investments, things like Content Marketing blog, or let’s say, diving deep and building an organic presence on TikTok, which is a buzzword and everyone’s very interested in right now.

Ben:

Pinterest is another area. Pinterest is really the third search engine of the internet, I would say, behind Amazon and Google. So that’s something that’s been hiding in plain sight for a long time and strategies like that to nurture a healthier upper funnel and then, Paid may be more of converting, retargeting remarketing engine, than a prospecting engine is probably the best way forward. from our perspective currently.

Stephanie:

Yeah, and I think that’s a really good viewpoint, especially when you think about what’s happening around the privacy rules and what people have relied on for a long time when it came to Facebook ads and like what IOS is coming out with, it seems like a lot is changing but brands are going to have to rethink how they find new customers just like you’re mentioning.

Ben:

100%.

Stephanie:

Crazy. So, when you’re talking about, right now, there’s also a lot of crowding from the brands who popped up, who either came online that weren’t or a lot of brand new DTC companies that all started last year, a lot of them did, how do you think about making sure that Super Coffee shows its value in a way when there’s a lot of other coffee players popping up and keto brands and butters that you add to your coffee, it feels like the space is getting very saturated. How do you know keep showcasing your value and why you’re so different than a lot of other brands?

Ben:

Yeah. 100%. We tested so many different creative strategies, and this is… we’ll talk about paid advertising for a second. Ultimately, we’ve come down to a few key creative formats or messaging strategies on the paid side that work really well for us. One that we continue to own is is a comparison style ad, which is putting us up against a really sort of delicious looking, we’ll call it a Starbucks or a Dunkin Donuts cafe drink with foam and cream and swirl and things like that. And then, putting our product directly next to it, and saying, hey, everything about this… these two things are the same, actually, except for and then we flashed through the nutritional profile, the calories, the sugar, the carbs, that works really well. And, that’s not only driving value for us, from an ecommerce perspective, but that’s driving global value for us all the way, through the omni channel environment. So we’re really happy about that type of communication and that creative strategy, very hard working. That side of things-

Stephanie:

It’s hard too because you’re instantly anchoring yourself to a brand that everyone already knows about. So you don’t even have to explain, it tastes like this, it’s got its own, you don’t even have to worry about that when you anchor yourself to a larger brand like that.

Ben:

Exactly. It’s interesting. It’s a strategy that has being successfully used by the Magic Spoons of the World, maybe a bit easier, right? Because we’ve all known for a long time now that cereal is not good for us but we love it, right? I grew up on cereal. I’m from the Midwest and I subsisted off the cereal. So when I learned Magic Spoon came out and Catalina Crunch and different brands like this, it was like, no brainer. I’m ready to try that because I’ve been dying to eat cereal for a decade and I told myself I couldn’t anymore. That’s a great comparison.

Ben:

Ours, we were comparing it against a bottled product in the past. But less household penetration on those types of products, what we really found success in is actually comparing it to the cafe drinks, actually looks like they get an indulgent frappuccino from Starbucks and maybe less people actually, these days are getting frappuccinos than they did so it’s moving toward that sterile example, as opposed to bottled or canned coffee drinks, we might still in a way not know that those are super unhealthy for us.

Stephanie:

What are some other creatives like that that you guys are leaning into?

Ben:

Yeah, otherwise, we really lean into UGC style creative, raw stuff, really focused on the product this year. So our product, we do have packaging that really distinguishes ourselves from the category, a lot of white in our packaging, we have that Angular slash to our packaging that really stands out. And what we found is really just a standard iPhone style photo, tightly cropped bottle or can is oriented such that the user can actually read it, if they’re scanning through the feed. And, with some situational context that could feel like it’s a real person, right? It could actually be real UGC, could be manufactured, etc.

Ben:

Either way, it gives that sense of, okay, I learned that this product in comparison to this other drink is a lot healthier for me. And then, okay, on my second impression from the brand, I’m seeing that this is actually a real thing that exists in the world. I can see myself holding and consuming this product. Let me click through and give it a try. So, that’s the funnel, oversimplified, how we think about things currently but both of those creative styles have been very hard working for us historically.

Stephanie:

That’s such an important shift. I’ve even seen personally like when I’m on Instagram or Tiktok, and I see people using something or they have something in their room, where I’m like, it’s like my living room right now. But I don’t remember thinking that way, a couple years ago, where I was looking for that more, I really want something to look formal and official. It’s already the real deal if you spend a lot of money on it, where now I mean, our best performing ads for Mission are, I’ll be walking around with the iPhone, doing the ad and that movement, and organic look does way better than anything that we’ve actually produced in a formal fashion.

Ben:

Totally. Yeah. People are turning off the advertising these days. The more polished it looks, the worse it performs, in a way, which is so ironic.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I agree. So, what channels are you most excited to… I mean, I know you mentioned like TikTok and Pinterest but then, everyone’s talking about TikTok, where are you guys zooming in on for this coming year that you’re really excited about?

Ben:

Yeah, we started investing pretty heavily in podcast advertising, as of the start of the year. So we’re advertising on shows like Armchair Expert and Pod Save America and Sibling Rivalry and a whole basket of great shows that have partners that represent our brand and are a great fit for our audience. So that’s been going quite well. And that’s exciting, because it’s supportive of the total business, again, maybe moving from a singular ecommerce mindset to more of an omnichannel view on on the world and the market.

Ben:

So that’s been great, we’ll continue to invest there and work that into our ongoing marketing mix, a bit more upper funnel. And then, I think, yeah, as I mentioned, really thinking through a Content Marketing Strategy holistically as an upper funnel driver and obviously, there’s different distribution channels, but really owning an editorial calendar, owning our perspective, leveraging our partners, and then, distributing that in the channels that are applicable, and really bringing all that to the world of Super Coffee to life, through our partners and through content, I think, is going to be our bleeding edge this year. And really write the ship relative to upper funnel, mid funnel, bottom funnel, and create that healthy balance that all of us are looking for in this industry.

Stephanie:

One thing I have been thinking about lately is how… in the next coming years, all these brands are turning into essentially, like media companies creating content, and everyone’s going to be trying to pull the consumer back to their blogs, to their hubs, and it’s like, instead of just going to Instagram feeds and seeing it on there, you’re going to be pulling people back to your websites. I mean, how do you think about that landscape because it feels crazy, thinking about hundreds of brands going to be like, come back to my blog to see content that we’re creating. And you have to kind of go in a million different places to find it.

Ben:

Yeah, I think it just puts an increasing pressure on, I will say quality, quality is in the eye of the beholder, right. So, it’s, again, like we mentioned quality from designer or creative director of yesteryear is perfect, polished detail dialed whereas quality these days is on a YouTube channel or TikTok account and from a mobile phone and not really produced and published and polished. I think it’s quality, it’s relatability, it’s authenticity and above and beyond all that, it’s having something to say, that really speaks to somebody and makes them feel like they’re engaging with a personality, engaging something that means something to them, that makes them feel a certain way. And so, it’ll just put an increasing pressure on that confusing definition of quality for the consumer, to really create that connection and say, hey, it’s worth subscribing to us directly, as opposed to all these other 100 brands that offer X, Y and Z to you. In order to do that, you’re going to stay focused and attention on us and not the rest of them.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I think about the amount of newsletters that popped up last year where obviously, that whole industry is very much democratized. And now, anyone can make a newsletter and charge for it and I subscribed to quite a few of them. But then, now, I’m like, whoa, what’d I do? I mean, now they’re coming in, I’m having to send them into different categories and filter them so you don’t hit my inbox. And it makes me think that could be an eventual future for brands too, if you don’t figure out how to write something, create something that someone is eager to open and actually wants to hear what you have to say and doesn’t just drift over to a corporate create marketing message over time.

Ben:

Yes, exactly. It just all goes back to giving and creating value and it’s dependent on the brand and the Tim Ferriss mindset, which is tools, tips, practices, all of that he gives his audience, that’s why you go listen to Tim Ferriss. It’s contextually different for a brand or for another personality in a podcast or what have you. So, it’s all about knowing what you want to say, knowing what you have to give and share to the world and then, give it as much of that as possible.

Stephanie:

I agree. All right. Let’s shift over to the Lightning Round and Lightning Round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. And, this is where I ask a question and you give an answer under 30 seconds.

Ben:

Wow. Okay. Exciting.

Stephanie:

What one thing from 2020 do you hope sticks around throughout 2021?

Ben:

Wow, not much.

Stephanie:

I know, that’s a hard question.

Ben:

Well, I think, this is going to be a firm answer but a lot of people are of the belief that COVID accelerated transic technology, transic consumer behavior that would have otherwise taken 10 years to happen so, I think, as a digital marketer, as an ecommerce professional, I think thankful and excited for all the change relative to consumer behavior and online commerce that happened in 2020 and I don’t think we are going backward on that so excited and thankful for it and excited for what’s next.

Stephanie:

I like that. What’s your favorite resource or resources to stay on top of, like the ecommerce industry as a whole?

Ben:

There’s great podcast like yours. I’m not talking to other podcasts because I was on it, DTC podcasts, I think it’s Pallet House labs and speaking to these others, they’ve got really great newsletters as well.

Stephanie:

Cool. Sounds good.

Ben:

[inaudible]. Yeah, they’re killing it.

Stephanie:

What one thing do you not understand that you wish you did?

Ben:

I feel like I wish I understood almost…I don’t feel like I understand anything, ever, in a way especially in this industry, everything is always changing and you would speak to somebody, you had such high confidence over something that you feel like you don’t know anything about and that’s just the constant feeling that you’ll have and so, I think, always maintaining an extreme curiosity over things, continuous learning. You’ll never know it all so I think that’s in the DNA of somebody successful in this industry in ecommerce and digital is, that needs to be a big thing.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I agree. What’s the last purchase you made online that you normally would not have, online prior to 2020?

Ben:

Well, I’m a new dog dad.

Stephanie:

Congrats. What’s the dog’s name and what kind of dog is it?

Ben:

Her name is Honey because she’s so sweet and she’s rescue pup, about six months old and we think she’s a lab mixed with jindo which is a Korean breed.

Stephanie:

Okay. I’m like, I know what kind of dog that is.

Ben:

It’s almost like a Siberian Husky that’s more slender.

Stephanie:

Okay. So you bought that offline or you bought something for her online?

Ben:

I buy everything for her on the internet now. I never bought the pet category before in my life and certainly not online so that’s opening me up to just a completely different world of industry and I think, the number one ecommerce category is vitamins and supplements, number two is pet supplies, number three might be pet food and over 50% of pet products are bought online so pet is the most endemic ecommerce category there is besides vitamins and supplements.

Stephanie:

Yeah. All right, Ben. Well, this whole conversation has been a blast, thanks so much for coming on and sharing your knowledge. Where can people find out more about you and Super Coffee?

Ben:

Yeah, Super Coffee is easy, drinksupercoffee.com or just type us in the search bar, Super Coffee in Google or Amazon, they’ll find your way to us. Myself, really the only place I exist is on LinkedIn. That really means in any social profiles. I don’t have a newsletter or a blog myself but feel free to find me on LinkedIn and make a connection and reach out and love to connect.

Stephanie:

Perfect. Thanks so much, Ben.

Ben:

No, thanks, Stephanie. It’s been great.

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