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Don’t Rain on Weatherman’s DTC Success Parade

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Some products are new and cutting edge. They’re exciting and they make people rethink how they live or work. And then other products are … umbrellas. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with umbrellas, I just don’t find myself thinking about or buying them very often. And that’s one of the problems that Tyler Kupper says they are overcoming at Weatherman Umbrella. 

Tyler is the Chief Revenue and Partner at Weatherman, and on this episode of Up Next in Commerce, he told me all about what it’s been like trying to disrupt an industry that hasn’t really seen any innovation in 50 years. The conversation was really interesting, especially because Weatherman isn’t just thinking about making a product that protects people from the elements, Weatherman has big plans that involve data, apps, partnerships, custom features, and more. Weatherman is thinking long-term, and it’s already working out great because the company has inked major partnerships in the golf world with Arnold Palmer and the Ryder Cup, and has gotten its foot in the door at big box stores such as DICKS and Golf Galaxy. And Tyler says there’s just the beginning! So grab your rain boots and prepare for an epic episode.

Main Takeaways:

  • There’s An App For That: Products are designed to solve problems, but sometimes products come with extras that are unique or add value. Users need to be educated on those aspects of the product, and things like apps and experiences can help brands do that.
  • Howdy, Partner: Niching down within certain pockets of an industry or customer base is one of the best ways to start to grow a company. By finding strategic partners that can give your brand legitimacy and put you in front of your target audience, you will be able to achieve much more growth than if you simply relied on a single digital ad channel.
  • Can I Get A Sample?: There is very little a company can do that is more powerful than giving potential customers the opportunity to simply use your product. If it is high quality and meets a need, getting the chance to experience it for free and making that experience memorable — from the unboxing to the collateral included — is going to make that person receiving the sample much more likely to be a loyal customer. And this is true whether you are selling to an individual or chasing a PO from a big box store.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“I think a lot of my experience in business and life was actually shaped from [my Christmas tree delivery] company, as crazy as that sounds, because you only have one chance to make it perfect. When you’re delivering a Christmas tree in New York City to a very high end building, a very powerful CEO, there’s no make good, there’s no redo. And a lot of that experience, I also learned at the US Tennis Association where it’s a two week event, right? You come in, it’s the largest annually attended sporting event in the world and your guests have one chance to make it perfect.”

“Our long-term vision is Waze for weather. And how do we take the ability to collect real-time data from the umbrella, umbrella open, umbrella, close, and then matching that with location data and mapping out whether on a hyper-local basis. We haven’t deployed any of this technology yet, but we knew that in terms of weather and predictive weather forecasting, that there’s a void in hyper-local weather data. And we feel like Weatherman as a consumer product is unbelievable or Weatherman as an IOT product is a really cool concept just waiting until the time is right to deploy it.”


“We’ve had an unbelievable roster of partners that have allowed us so much credibility to go in and scale our direct consumer business… we’ve been the official supplier for the US Ryder Cup team in 2018, and again in 2020. And so for us to be able to supply the top golfers in the world at the largest event in the world, our product, and being able to use that storytelling capability and to use that to sell our product on the website, to sell more product at retail has been a huge thing for us.”

“We came into a category that hadn’t been disrupted in 50 years probably since the double canopy umbrella. And so I think product innovation is at the forefront of who we are and people want to align with that. And people want to align with a brand that is on the cutting edge of durability and quality. And we’ve been vulnerable. And that’s one of my things that I think has gotten us to kind of where we are, is vulnerability and asking for favors, but asking for the right favors. I think if we were just another umbrella brand that came around that had the same technology and the same features that everyone’s had, yeah, we wouldn’t have a chance. But I think putting time into the R&D and what makes a better umbrella and asking our customers all over the world, customer feedback, customer listening, it’s really allowed us to get to this next level.”

“Nothing speaks better for our product than actually receiving our product. We always say it’s like opening an iPhone box, where it has a lot of bells and whistles in the packaging and the hang tag and the booklet and the cost of us sending it out for the postage and the product. The ROI in that is probably 20 X, every single time, no matter what.”

“We’re always trying to figure out what’s next. I know at the end of the day, we only want to make amazing umbrellas. That is our goal. We never want to be one of those brands that has 3,000 skews, where if you look at the rack, you’re like, is the $10 one the good one, or is the $100 one the best one? We just want to be seen as, Hey, it’s Weatherman, it’s going to be amazing.”

“80% of our business has been direct to consumer over the last couple of years, but it only gets more expensive and harder to scale. So we started thinking about our other channels. To diversify into Amazon was one of them, custom and corporate has been a huge vertical for us. People want brands, right? You don’t want an umbrella anymore, you want a Weatherman, you don’t want a cooler, you want a Yeti. And I think as we position ourselves in the promotional industry, it’s been a great vertical for us.”

“We’re in Dick Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy around the country. And I think for a golf umbrella that’s $85, to be able to go in a store, open it up, experience what a better umbrella is, is going to do wonders for our ecommerce business. So I know a lot of people are scared of retail and scared of big box and sure we are only an eight person company, and a large PO from retailer is sometimes tough to manage, but I think us having the sampling of golf shops and Dick Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy to experience this product it’s been great for the brand.”

“We sometimes see a little bit of a struggle though — it’s an umbrella. As we talked about earlier, the connotation of umbrellas is like, ‘Oh, I don’t need it. I’ve bought a thousand things and an umbrella is not one of them.’ I think that’s our challenge. It’s am I going to go out and buy the last umbrella I’m ever going to buy at $55 to $85 or am I going to buy five $10 umbrellas on the street that’s going to basically be disposable and end up in a landfill? So it’s finding those champions inside these companies and these partners to allow us to get in.”

“We never saw this trend coming, but knowing that this is a huge ecommerce year, the holiday season, I think is going to be unprecedented in terms of buying, but also on precedent in terms of the shipping struggles and the delays that we’ve seen both internationally and domestically. I think we have to, as a company, put a lot of effort into communication and timelines. It’s going to be a very slow season. And I think messaging that ahead of time is going to be important, because at the end of the day, if the gift isn’t under the tree or next to the menorah, it doesn’t matter. I think getting it there is half the battle.”

Mentions:

Bio:

Tyler Kupper is the Chief Revenue Officer and a Partner at Weatherman Umbrella. Prior to Weatherman, Kupper had a history in the sports world, having served as Director, Properties & Sports Marketing at USA Today Sports Media Group, and Account Executive – Corporate Partnerships/Hospitality for the USTA. Kupper also founded New York City’s first and now largest on-demand Christmas tree delivery service.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

 

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hey there. And welcome back to up next in commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postals CEO at mission.org. Today on the show, we have Tyler Cooper who currently serves as the chief revenue officer and partner at Weatherman Umbrella. Tyler, welcome, welcome.

Tyler:

Thanks for having me, Stephanie. I’m really excited.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I’m very excited to have you on too. So I want to first start the conversation around Christmas trees, because I read a super cute story and I was hoping you could kind of tell me about your love of Christmas trees and how it has impacted your life.

Tyler:

That’s a great leading question. So Christmas trees, when I was a 22 year old, led me down a really interesting path. My first job out of college was working at the US Tennis Association and in sports marketing, they don’t pay a ton of money. So when I was 22, I had an idea after seeing someone walk down the street dragging their Christmas tree in New York city, which was to start a white glove on demand, Christmas tree delivery service that basically took care of all the hassle around the holidays.

Tyler:

Fast forward nine years from my sports marketing life. I delivered the last Christmas tree before I sold the company and I knocked on the door, the person opened, and it’s now my wife. So the story you read online-

Stephanie:

How did you get her? How did you even get that, get in with her, from delivering a Christmas tree? [crosstalk].

Tyler:

Megan had been ordering trees for five years and I had not been delivering for about seven years because I was trying to focus on my day job and I let other people run this night job. But then as part of the sale to my largest competitor in New York city, he asked me to get out there and deliver some trees. And literally the last one after 21,000 deliveries that my company did over nine years, I opened the door and it was her. And she asked me a question on a text message, that was, “How do I get sap off my hands?” As follow up to the delivery, and that was it.

Stephanie:

I will personally come over and help you wash your hands, and you’re in.

Tyler:

That’s it.

Stephanie:

Gosh, that’s great. That needs to turn into an entire Hallmark movie. Someone out there please make that, Tyler needs that.

Tyler:

Let’s do it. That’d be awesome.

Stephanie:

So you ran this business for nine years. I mean, tell me a bit about what was that like scaling the company up and I mean, it seemed like it was a pretty large operation in New York. Tell me a bit about that.

Tyler:

At the last couple of years, we had 45 delivery guys, 10 trucks running 20 hours a day. A lot of my delivery guys were golf caddies because it was December, they didn’t have work. They were used to dealing with super high end clientele. But I think a lot of my experience in business and life was actually shaped from this company as crazy as that sounds, because you only have one chance to make it perfect. When you’re delivering a Christmas tree in New York city to a very high end building, a very powerful CEO, there’s no make good, there’s no redo. And a lot of that experience, I also learned at the US Tennis Association where it’s a two week event, right? You come in, your guests it’s the largest annually attended sporting event in the world and your guests have one chance to make it perfect.

Tyler:

And I think between trees and my first job, it’s really taught me kind of everything I need to know. There’s a grocery store chain in Connecticut, where I grew up called Stew Leonard’s and they have a plaque when you walk in and it says, “Rule number one, the customer is always right. And rule number two, refer back to rule number one.” I just think about that with everything I do and how we’ve shaped Weatherman. It was really just the forefront of Christmas trees into this of, you have one chance to make it right.

Stephanie:

Oh, I love that. I mean, I can definitely see so many lessons being pulled from that company, even thinking around peak demand and trying to figure out the pricing around that. And then I mean, you’re essentially running an entire FedEx like delivery route and oh my gosh, it seems like a lot.

Tyler:

The supply chain side of Christmas trees is a wild, wild ride. Getting them in a 600 square foot lot, having only so much space, having to get them delivered at odd hours of the night, based on demand planning and everything you just said, it almost took me down, but I met my wife. It led to meeting my business partner in Weatherman, and so we think it’s unlocked a thousand things.

Stephanie:

Wow. That’s so fun. So you also have a history in sports, which I also kind of wanted to learn more about before we dive into Weatherman. So tell me a little bit of background there.

Tyler:

Yeah. So I started my career at the US Tennis Association doing corporate sponsorship sales and corporate hospitality sales. I ended up landing some really large partnerships in both the sponsor world and hospitality world. The US Open tennis is the largest annually attended sporting event in the world, and it’s only two weeks as I used to be four. So it’s really getting crazy hours. And then you have the rest of the year to recover. And from there, I wanted more media experience and I’m going to talk a lot about that hopefully today with Weatherman and the convergence of media and affiliate and editorial and the business side. I went to connect and USA Today Sports to oversee partnerships and properties to really monetize non-media assets across the company and put more IP and designations and sponsorship packages together instead of squares and rectangles that that connect’s used to selling.

Stephanie:

Yep. So now it seems like you were in a big seasonal place for a while. You’re doing Christmas trees, you’re doing tennis stuff. It’s like go hard for a few months. Now you’re at Weatherman, which seems like that’s all year long. So tell me a bit about what is Weatherman? What’s the technology there, what’s the product?

Tyler:

Yeah, it’s interesting because people are like, “Well, how often does it rain?” And I’m like, “There’ll be rain somewhere every single day.”

Stephanie:

Yeah. It’s not seasonal, this is a year long thing.

Tyler:

People are so local in their thinking. But no, it’s not raining in Texas today, but it’s probably raining at four o’clock in Florida.

Stephanie:

Yep.

Tyler:

So Weatherman was really born from this idea, my business partner, Rick Reichmuth, who’s a national TV meteorologist, he wanted to essentially just redefine the umbrella and how do we make it better, stronger make a brand out of it? And we always joke, Rick and I joke, he stood in a thousand storms all over the world, covering it on TV. I’ve stood in a thousand storms from, I played college division one golf and, and a lot of travel. So from my business experience, his meteorologist experience, we kind of put our heads together to figure out the secret sauce of how to make a perfect umbrella.

Tyler:

And I think we just wanted to make it where you never have it collapse. You never have it invert or break and then making it into experience. So we have packaging, it comes in a beautiful gift box. It comes with a hang tag and the story of how we’re born. It’s really just helping our customers take a negative experience of going out in the rain and turning into a positive one of the confidence it takes to take it outside, take it outside to our tagline, we put her on everything. And just changing that mindset of dreading going outside into, oh wow. I’m going to go tackle anything.

Stephanie:

I love that. So how are you guys different? Because I’m thinking like, what’s been holding up this market. Why have umbrellas stayed the same for so long, and how did you all go into it and be like, ah, obviously these things need to change and we’re going to do that?

Tyler:

Yeah. So we really we’ve put a lot of money and a lot of time into the R&D involved into a better umbrella. So there’s a couple of features that I think set us really apart. The thickness of the ribs, so the actual attachments on top of the umbrella. Ours are wider and stronger. There’s reflective piping around all of the sides of the umbrella. So in New York city, when you are under an umbrella and it’s a black umbrella and it’s raining sideways and the bus comes, it sees you, versus not seeing you. So every single one of our umbrellas, even if it’s the US Ryder Cup team umbrella to the one that I carry in my briefcase has reflective piping around. So you can get seen when it’s dark out at night.

Tyler:

The handle is a type of rubber that doesn’t get tacky. It doesn’t get wet. The fabric is a completely moisture wicking fabric where you don’t have to shake out the umbrella after you get home. It just dries off automatically. And then our golf umbrellas have the highest level of UV sun protection. So it’s UPF 50 plus on the golf umbrella. Also my golf background, we’ve added some features that are now patented in the golf umbrella. There’s a mesh pocket inside of it, allowing you to keep your golf scorecard or golf glove dry also on one of the ribs in the golf umbrella, there’s a sticky coating to one of the ribs. When you drape your towel over the top of it, your towel doesn’t slip off. And those are just some things that when you’re developing a product, you put everything you got into it and come up with some different ideas.

Stephanie:

Oh my gosh. I love that. What was also so interesting to me when I saw your company pop up on our radar was the fact that you all have an app. And you mentioned this experience thing, which you wouldn’t associate with an umbrella company. So tell me about how you guys are thinking about blending in technologies and apps and creating experiences along with the product.

Tyler:

Yeah. So when we developed Weatherman, we wanted to also alleviate the pain points that came with umbrellas. Which we felt are, you don’t know when you’re going to bring them and you don’t know where you left it if you did leave it somewhere. So the people that did proactively invest in umbrella, oh, crap, I didn’t bring it today and it’s going to rain. And oh, I left it in the taxi. And so we wanted obviously make a product that was durable and the last one you ever going to buy. And we always think of ourselves as trying to be Yeti for umbrellas. Or that all the cinnamons that you come with Yeti, all those amazing thoughts we want to put into this product.

Tyler:

So we then put it into an app that allows you to find it where you left it, tells you on days you need to bring it based on the weather forecast. And so if you’re going to invest in a 59 to $85 umbrella, those features are also there to help you out.

Stephanie:

Oh, wow. That’s great. And what kind of traction have you seen, are your customers really getting in there and downloading the app? Because sometimes, a lot of products, they have all these features and then customers don’t even know about them. Where you’re like, oh, no one downloaded the app or, oh, no one is using my golf hanger for the towel because they didn’t even know about it. So how has that been working from what you just said?

Tyler:

Yeah, it’s part of an education. I think the app adoption rate’s about 50% of our customers have downloaded the app, which we think is good.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Tyler:

We have a very wide variety of audience. We have a audience that follows Rick on TV. We have a golfing audience that sometimes skews a little older. Our top selling states are Florida, Texas, New York. So, the app adoption into that older segment hasn’t been there, but onto this more urban, the younger segment, the app has been great. And it’s a great PR story. It’s a great differentiating point when we’re talking about unique selling propositions, along with the physical features of the umbrella. It tells a nice technology story. And we also have a bunch of patents secured on the app and then the data side of things. So the ability to collect real-time data from the umbrella, we have secured all the IP and the patents around that. And we’re kind of just holding onto it now until we have the right strategic partner to deploy it.

Stephanie:

Okay, wait, back up. I want to hear about what do you mean the umbrellas collecting data? What’s your guys’ vision behind that?

Tyler:

Yeah. I mean, our long-term vision is Waze for weather. And how do we take the ability to collect real-time data from the umbrella, umbrella open, umbrella, close, and then matching that with location data and mapping out whether on a hyper-local basis. We haven’t deployed any of this technology yet, but we knew that in terms of weather and predictive weather forecasting, that there’s a void in hyper-local weather data. And we feel like Weatherman as a consumer product is unbelievable or Weatherman as an IOT product is a really cool concept just waiting until the time is right to deploy it.

Stephanie:

Wow. That’s cool. Yeah. I mean, I think there’s so much that people don’t even understand when they’re even interpreting the weather. I know just the other day, someone’s like, “Oh, that 50% doesn’t mean there’s a 50% chance of rain. It means like 50% of your area could experience rain at this time and maybe that’s wrong, maybe it’s right. I don’t know.” But I was like, I didn’t know that, I’d trust you if that’s what you say. And it seems like there’s so much that could happen because like you said, people just looking at a forecast might not even know what they’re looking at right now.

Tyler:

Exactly. Nailed it.

Stephanie:

So what other big bets are you guys making around technologies or earlier you mentioned media. How are you guys thinking about incorporating that and building out a community? Because it seems like you have some avid fans who your umbrellas.

Tyler:

Yeah. I mean, community it’s an interesting word that we’re trying to really work as hard as we can to develop this lifestyle brand and developed Weatherman outside of a physical consumer product, put into a lifestyle product and lifestyle marketing. We’ve been 80% direct to consumer through our website over the last three and a half years, since we launched in very late 2017. I think the ability to know who our customers are, to know their interests, to know that they’ve bought a bunch of umbrellas over the last lifetime value of the customer, has allowed us to develop into more of a lifestyle.

Tyler:

We think being a DTC company, the ability to use technology and affiliate and just going outside of our kind of core Facebook and Google customer acquisition roots is we’ve been really lucky to kind of crack open some of these other channels. And yeah, it’s been a crazy run over the last couple of years.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Cool. I could see partnerships being a nice angle too, of going to all the weather stations, every weather man gets to see now your brand of umbrella. Are you able to kind of strike up partnerships like that, or I don’t know how weather stations work, so maybe they’re like, no, it’s only my umbrella that my weather man uses.

Tyler:

There’s two really fun holidays in the weather umbrella space. There’s National Meteorologist Day and there’s National Umbrella Day.

Stephanie:

Oh, I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Tyler:

Yup, a lot of fun made up holidays that we can take advantage of. And so for both of those holidays, we do a really good outreach to a lot of local meteorologists. Get them our product, sampling has been huge for us. But on the partnership side, I think that’s really where we’ve taken off. And my background being in sports and golf, we’ve had a unbelievable roster of partners that have allowed us so much credibility to go in and scale our direct consumer business. So an example of that is we’ve been the official supplier for the US Ryder Cup team in 2018, and again in 2020.

Tyler:

And so for us to be able to supply the top golfers in the world at the largest event in the world, our product, and being able to use that storytelling capability and to use that to sell our product on the website, to sell more product at retail has been a huge thing for us. And not only Ryder cup, but the Presidents Cup and the Solheim Cup, the three largest team events in the world, we’ve been able to be their supplier. We’ve had an awesome partnership with Folds of Honor, which gives scholarships to fallen soldiers’ families. We’ve donated $225,000 over the last three years back to Folds of Honor, which has given us again, a lot of credibility. And then we have a really cool partnership with Arnold Palmer that we have loved doing over the last couple years.

Stephanie:

Tell me a bit about the last one, the partnership with Arnold Palmer. How did you strike that up and when did you guys partner on?

Tyler:

Yeah. So our partnership with Arnold Palmer, they actually approached us to be able to make Mr. Palmer’s logo into an umbrella. So his love has been around for 60 years, it’s an umbrella it’s on every ice tea can around the world. And so for us to be able to make this collection and this line honoring his heritage, is just so cool. It gives us not only a lot of visibility and eyeballs around his tournament and some of the big moments in his career, but we can’t keep these in stock. It’s so much fun because the designs are really, really cool and different.

Tyler:

He has such a loyal following around his tournament week especially, we see these things sell like hotcakes and turn into feeding frenzies, which our head of marketing loves from a customer acquisition standpoint.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I bet. I mean, how much of the work is kind of on them to promote and share and get in front of their audience versus you guys? What does that partnership really look like?

Tyler:

Yeah, it’s probably a 50/50 partnership. We certainly sell it from our website. So a lot of the work there is to go out and find the Arnold Palmer enthusiasts through different acquisition channels. But then Arnold Palmer does a great job of having us represented on site at their PGA tour event in March every year. They have done an unbelievable job connecting us with other partners.

Tyler:

We’re now making all of Cobra Pumas PGA tour umbrellas. So any of the Cobra Puma PGA tour player to see out there and their umbrellas now, a Weatherman it’s slightly co-branded. So Arnold Palmer group has been amazing. And I think us having these different temple partnerships from Arnold Palmer to Ryder Cup, to Presidents Cup has allowed us to really just build a big brand in the golf space. And we’ve seen golf sales just skyrocket over the last couple of months. And golf’s only one of the few COVID friendly things you can do out there, and we’ve seen that in our sales for sure.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I love that. I mean, that just shows the point of you get that one good customer or partner, whoever it is, once you get that one big whale, then everything gets easier. Especially if you’re getting introductions and you’ve got something to point back to kind of like your proof of work and yeah, that’s amazing. I mean, I want to touch on the branded content piece too, thinking about these golfers, walking around with your umbrellas and trying to figure out, how do you guys track maybe the ROI on that? Because you’re saying it’s doing really well and obviously it’s great product placement. These are semi influencers are definitely influencers in the golfing space. How do you guys track kind of how that’s doing versus maybe other marketing methods?

Tyler:

Yeah. So we’re not paying for any of these deals, which is, from a customer acquisition perspective, a big thing. So we’re really just getting supplier rights and designations and in return, it’s all kind of upside for us. We have for the last couple of years, gotten the Golf Digest Editor’s Choice award, where they’ve written about us as the best umbrella. And so then that kind of merges into affiliate, which has been great, but from an ROI, from a partnership standpoint, we have had unbelievable success selling out of a lot of these skews. And so, from a brand building and sales perspective, there’s really nothing better for our brand.

Stephanie:

Okay. So how would you advise a new brand to do that then? I mean, I’m sure everyone who’s listening is like, that sounds like a dream, how do I get top athletes to be wearing or using my product? I mean, how would you advise someone to do that from the outside?

Tyler:

So I think a lot goes back to when we talked about earlier is quality of the product. We came into a category that hadn’t been disrupted in I mean, 50 years probably since the double canopy umbrella. And so I think product innovation is the forefront of who we are and people want to align with that. And people want to align with a brand that is on the cutting edge of durability and quality. And we’ve been vulnerable. And that’s one of my things that I think has gotten us to kind of where we are, is vulnerability and asking for favors, but asking for the right favors.

Tyler:

I think if we were just another umbrella brand that came around that had the same technology and the same features that everyone’s had, yeah, we wouldn’t have a chance. But I think putting time into the R&D and what makes a better umbrella and asking our customers all over the world, customer feedback, customer listening, it’s really allowed us to get to this next level.

Stephanie:

Yeah. And then, I’m assuming you’re also sending out kind of products to where you want to be featured at. I mean, when you’re getting on these lists, when you’re getting these partnership deals, is that because you’re sending your product out for free to them?

Tyler:

Yeah. Nothing speaks better for our product than actually receiving our product. We always say it’s like opening an iPhone box, where it has a lot of bells and whistles in the packaging and the hang tag and the booklet and the cost of us sending it out for the postage and the product. The ROI in that is probably a 20 X, every single time, no matter what. And we see a ton of success when it comes to holiday gift guides, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas. Over 50% of revenue comes in the fourth quarter. So we know that the holidays are big. Going back to my Christmas tree roots, I could probably use a little pause on the holiday madness, but Hey, it is what it is.

Stephanie:

Yep. Sticking it with seasonality there.

Tyler:

Yeah. And then it’s taking those awards and these partnerships and turning it into affiliate deals where everyone is now a part of the upside.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I love the idea too, of niching down. I mean, you guys started with one product and then you’re like, and now we’re going to take it to the golf scene and kind of figure out exactly what they want. And I don’t see enough products doing that. I mean, a lot of them kind of start with one big overarching one and they just kind of stay there. So how are you guys thinking about doing that with yours and where else do you plan on going?

Tyler:

So when we first launched in 2017, we didn’t have a golf umbrella. We just had a small collapsible stick umbrella. And then about six months later, we launched our golf. And so I think we’re always trying to figure out what’s next. I know at the end of the day, we only want to make amazing umbrellas. That is our goal. We never want to be one of those brands that has 3,000 skews, where if you look at the rack, you’re like, is the $10 one the good one, or is the $100 one the best one? We just want to be seen as, Hey, it’s Weatherman, it’s going to be amazing. I think as we look at other products, there’s a lot of opportunities. But I think we really want to focus on other types of umbrellas. Sun umbrellas, kids umbrella, other licensed umbrellas, that’s on our roadmap for 2022.

Stephanie:

That’s cool. I was just going to say, I know you’re probably starting to think now with a two month old about, hmm, kids need umbrellas and with a two year old, three year old, I always think that. Every time they’re trying to struggle walking with it, it’s flying all over the place, it’s heavy, it’s too big for them. I’m like, Hmm, why aren’t there better kids umbrellas that are just actually kids umbrellas that don’t function well. They’re just cute, they don’t function.

Tyler:

Totally. They’re more of a novelty really and disposable, as we say. So the kids umbrella is a huge focus for us. We have a partnership with a very large well known TV show that’s going to launch in 2022 just on the kids umbrella and I think they’re going to do really, really well.

Stephanie:

Wow. You guys, with your strategic partnerships, like [inaudible] really good. I mean, I think when it comes to niching down in these certain verticals, like, how do you go about figuring out what exactly you want on that umbrella? Is it straight to talking to customers, doing surveys, research? How do you guys go about figuring out the exact bells and whistles you want on the new product or the version three product?

Tyler:

Yeah. So we do a ton of customer listening. It’s really important that all of us pick up the phone and talk to our customers. It’s something that I brought over from my Christmas tree days. Customer’s always right. So desk research from surveys, customer listening. We also ask a lot of industry players, whether it’s in the golf space or in the fashion space, we want feedback and we constantly get it. And so our golf umbrella, perfect example. Some of the feedback we’ve gotten is, “Oh, it’s too heavy.” Well, it’s heavy because it’s durable and really, really strong, but to make it lighter is definitely a focus of ours. So we’re going through that process now and changing the handle and changing the design. So it’s something that we always want to be innovating just to make it better and better.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Cool. I want to touch on Amazon as well. What is your guys’ strategy there? I know that you said that you lean hard into D to C and now it’s taking off. How are you guys approaching Amazon?

Tyler:

Yeah. So Amazon is going to be about 20% of our revenue this year. We only started it two years ago and it’s growing like a weed. So we wanted to get our web store and our ecommerce platform from Weatherman Umbrella set up and fully baked before we launched Amazon, really from a control perspective. We want to be able to control the narrative and we want to know who our customers were. Amazon, you’re going into this little bit of a black box and it’s been really successful. And we never saw the growth that we thought we would see, but it’s been great.

Tyler:

We recently changed over from Shopify to Salesforce commerce cloud to focus on the future of our ecommerce brand. But at the same time, we think that the Amazon growth and keeping a lot of our licensed products on our website and some of our core products, making sure they’re always in stock in Amazon has been a great strategy and it’s definitely paying off.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. So what were you guys maybe struggling with that made the switch for your commerce platform? What things were maybe busting at the seams that you’re like, we need to solve this and we have to switch right now?

Tyler:

We had a ton of band-aids in powering our previous-

Stephanie:

Doesn’t mean that things aren’t going well and you’re like, okay, everything’s a little quick fix here, a quick fix here. And [crosstalk]

Tyler:

And site speed and conversion rates were all kind of coming back into all of these different plugins and band-aids. I think as we saw 80% of our business has been direct to consumer over the last couple of years, but it only gets more expensive and harder to scale. So we started thinking about our other channels. To diversify into Amazon was one of them, custom and corporate has been a huge vertical for us. People want brands, right? You don’t want an umbrella anymore, you want a Weatherman, you don’t want a cooler, you want a Yeti. And I think as we position ourselves in the promotional industry, it’s been a great vertical for us.

Tyler:

And then retail, I think we have done a really good job. We’re in Dick Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy around the country. And I think for a golf umbrella that’s $85, to be able to go in a store, open it up, experience what a better umbrella is, is going to do wonders for our ecommerce business. So I know a lot of people are scared of retail and scared of big box and sure we are only an eight person company, and a large PO from retailer is sometimes tough to manage, but I think us having the sampling of golf shops and Dick Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy to experience this product it’s been great for the brand.

Stephanie:

Yeah. So when are you guys going to be live in Dick Sporting Goods? Side note, we just had them on the show. So everyone should go check them out, that was an awesome episode.

Tyler:

Yeah. So it’s just started and we are in most of their stores and 100% of the Golf Galaxy stores. It’s more of a test with our Arnold Palmer collection. So it’s just our Arnold Palmer collection. Mr. Palmer was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dick Sporting Goods is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and that’s where they wanted to start with.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s cool. I mean, how did you get in with Dick Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy, because I’m thinking, okay, eight person company, you guys are still kind of small maybe to them, how did you get your foot in the door to then be featured?

Tyler:

Oh, Stephanie, you talked about the power of a sample.

Stephanie:

Yeah, okay, yep.

Tyler:

Power of a sample. Showing up in our gift box with our messaging. And it’s a magical experience pulling out of the box and that’s how we got in there. It’s how we’ve just had a lot of successes getting the product handwritten notes. I’m a huge hand written note person and get it done.

Stephanie:

Gosh, that’s great. So who are you sending these samples to? Are you just going straight to the top? Are you going to the buyer? Who are you sending them to?

Tyler:

So it’s normally a parallel path, to be honest. I go straight to the top and then I go to the buyer and I hope there’s a communication back and forth. And with Dick’s there was. And with some of these other partnerships, it’s more kind of middle level. Someone that knows that they can move through a lot of these products on the shelf if they can be a champion for us. We see sometimes a little bit of a struggle though, it’s an umbrella. I think as we talked about earlier, the connotation of umbrellas, like, oh, I don’t need it. I’ve bought a thousand things and umbrella is not one of them. I think that’s our challenge. Is, am I going to go out and buy the last umbrella I’m ever going to buy at 55 to $85 or am I going buy five $10 umbrellas on the street that’s going to basically be disposable and ended up in a landfill? So it’s finding those champions inside these companies and these partners to allow us to get in.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yep. When thinking about retail right now, because it’s a newer thing for you, how are you guys preparing? I mean, are you worried about all of a sudden the surging orders or what kind of things are you doing right now to prepare for them?

Tyler:

Yes. I mean, on the golf space, demand planning is basically impossible. We never saw this trend coming, but knowing that this is a huge ecommerce year, the holiday season, I think is going to be unprecedented in terms of buying, but also on precedent in terms of the shipping struggles and the delays that we’ve seen both internationally and domestically. I think we have to, as a company, put a lot of effort into communication and timelines. It’s going to be a very slow season. And I think messaging that ahead of time is going to be important, because at the end of the day, if the gift isn’t under the tree or next the menorah, it doesn’t matter. I think getting it there is half the battle.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. When are you thinking about starting that messaging? Because I always see certain brands do it so early. You’re like, nah, okay, I’m fine. And then you’ve got the brands that are maybe a little too close that they’re definitely getting me to act more urgently, which seems to work better, but how are you guys approaching the holiday season? And what are you going to be kind of giving out those messages of like, it’s time to order if you actually want this for Christmas?

Tyler:

Yeah. So we started last year in very early November and I don’t think it was early enough. So I think we’re going to start probably closer to Halloween timing this year and just getting ahead of it and keeping it very transparent. We don’t want to be one of those brands that you order something and you never know when it’s going to show up. And so I think getting ahead of delivery delays and timelines, and if we have to do a pre-order, making sure people know what to pre-order and acknowledging it’s a pre-order, it’s just really important to us.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah. Idea of transparency, everyone wants that now. You don’t have to tell them exactly what they want to hear, as long as they just know what’s going on, they’ll be better off. So what are some big bets you all are placing right now where you’re like, I don’t really know if this is going to pay off this big campaign, this big launch, whatever it may be, what are the big things you all are doing right now behind the scenes?

Tyler:

So I think behind the scenes, when it comes to the marketing mix, we’ve relied really a lot on Facebook and Google. I think as we see some of the struggles impacting with Facebook and Google and third-party cookies, we really have to get past this and into some other channels. And so I think we have to redefine what a cookie less world is and performance channels outside of those and adjusting our attribution models to be honest. And so things like radio, things like Tik Tok are all things we’re betting on for a successful fourth quarter.

Tyler:

And then also taking on product innovation. Do we have some new colors coming out for the holidays where we have a neon collection coming out for back to school and a Christmas color coming out for holidays. And so taking more of a chance on newness and freshness and not being so kind of afraid to push the envelope who we are.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. I think so many people forget about radio too. I mean, many people might view that as like, oh, that’s the past, but I was looking at stats the other day and a large majority of people in the US still listen to radio. Far larger than podcasts are people who look at YouTube. I mean, it’s still a lot of people. And I think sometimes some brands are sleeping on that.

Tyler:

Totally. Traditional radio, satellite radio, it’s a total untapped. There’s so much saturation all over the place, but we think it’s a really great place to market.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. All right. Well, let’s shift over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by our friends at Salesforce commerce cloud. This is where I ask a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready Tyler?

Tyler:

I’m ready. I’m a little scared, but I think I’m ready.

Stephanie:

Okay. What one thing is going to have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?

Tyler:

So I think that the thing that’s going to have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year is really going to be shipping, believe it or not. I think the shipping horror stories that we’re hearing from both partners here in the US and overseas it’s really expensive. I think we’re going to see cost of products going up. And I think that the automation and ease of transactions is not going to be as smooth as it’s been because of the shipping issues.

Tyler:

And I’m not sitting here knowing the fix to all of it, but I think across the board, across consumer products, shipping is going to have more material difference in the next year than we’ve ever seen before.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah. That is a common answer that I get on the show. So many people saying, I don’t know how to fix it, but yeah, shipping and logistics and supply chain, those are going to be the biggest issues over the next year that are… There’ll be solved though. I’m optimistic. Eventually. All right. Next one, when you want to get creative, what do you do?

Tyler:

So I’m a huge believer in sweating.

Stephanie:

I’ve never heard that before.

Tyler:

I solve every life issue with sweating. So whether that’s hot yoga, whether that’s hopping on the Peloton, whether that’s hopping out and go and do a marathon, I’m going my 10th next fall. I just think that it’s the best place for me to do my work and to build a strategy. And so the power of sweating is pretty powerful for me.

Stephanie:

You can tell you’re a good marketer where everyone else would be like, oh, working out. You’re like, I’m going to catch your attention with sweating. I appreciate that. What’s up next on your reading list?

Tyler:

So next up in my reading list is Chris Voss’s Never Split The Difference.

Stephanie:

Oh yeah. I’ve I heard isn’t he a CIA guy.

Tyler:

Yes.

Stephanie:

Okay. Yeah. I want to read that too.

Tyler:

It’s all about the power of negotiation and communication tactics. I went back to grad school for communication after my undergrad was in business, just because I felt like it was the forefront and the foundation of kind of who I needed to be and where I was going. And I think there’s so many different communication tactics that I struggle at as a person, as a leader that I don’t know if Chris Voss is going to solve, but I think it’s just pushing the envelope, trying different things, trying different tactics that is really going to be important to me over the next couple of years.

Stephanie:

Oh, I love that. Yeah. I can’t wait to dive into that book too. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. All right. What is one piece of advice that’s always stuck with you throughout your career?

Tyler:

So the biggest piece, can I give you two Stephanie?

Stephanie:

You may, you may.

Tyler:

So I think the power of the .edu. I know it’s going to sound weird, but having a .edu tied to your name, hopefully there’s some people listening that are in college or in grad school to have a .edu. People want to help you when you’re in college. People love talking about themselves, one, and people want to help if they’re asked to help. And so I think college kids need to do a lot better of using that edu to reach out. Because I think when it changes to a Gmail address, your credibility goes away. And I think there’s a vulnerability aspect when you have that edu to reach out and ask for help.

Tyler:

But my biggest piece of advice is from my mentor, Barry Hyde he was with Wasserman Media Group. He always tells me if there’s an issue and you don’t tell me about it, you have a problem, if you tell me it’s our challenge. And I tell our team all the time. Guys, you got to let us know there’s an issue, because I can’t help you unless I know. And so if there’s an issue, please tell us, let’s address it as a team, because I don’t want you to feel like you’re an island trying to fight that.

Stephanie:

Oh my gosh, I love that. I love both of those. And I’ve never even thought about the .edu thing, but brilliant of course. Why didn’t I do that more when I was in college? I don’t know why the teachers don’t encourage you to do that more. Maybe some do, but that’s awesome. All right, Tyler. Well, this has been a very fun interview. I can’t wait to check out the umbrellas and become a lifelong user of them. Where can our listeners learn more about Weathermen Umbrella skew?

Tyler:

This has been awesome. Thank you, Stephanie. So we’re weathermenumbrella.com. It’s our ecommerce site. We’re also on Amazon, but we prefer you to go to weathermanumbrealla.com.

Stephanie:

Yep. Cool. Awesome. Thanks so much for joining.

Tyler:

All right. Thanks so much for having me.

Episode 135