With guests from established enterprise companies to start-ups barely out of infancy to everyone in between - you’ll get the inside scoop on what’s Up Next in Commerce. New episodes come out every Tuesday and Thursday.

Subscribe to get notified of new episodes and our Up Next in Commerce weekly newsletter. 

EPISODE 4

How A Group of Martians are Using Omnichannel Experiences and Voice Technology to Impact eCommerce

With Amy Andrews, the SVP Business Development & eCommerce at The Mars Agency

You probably weren’t expecting to deal with Martians in the world of eCommerce. But that’s probably only because you’re not familiar with The Mars Agency. 

For those not in the know, The Mars Agency is an independent agency that combines the best of technology with the best human intelligence to provide solutions to businesses throughout the world of retail and eCommerce. And one of the Martians who leads the charge at Mars is Amy Andrews, the SVP Business Development & eCommerce. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Amy walked us through all the trends she’s been seeing in the eCommerce industry, including the changing consumer behavior, the rise of omnichannel experiences, and why companies that can crack the code of using voice plus video technology could see a huge payoff.

Key Takeaways:

  • There is an opportunity to merge eCommerce and influencer content in order to make a more relevant and personalized shopping experience
  • The amount of data in the eCommerce world is overwhelming and can lead to losing the humanity of the work, which Mars tries to avoid by having a blend of the best technology and the smartest humanity
  • Voice shopping still hasn’t reached its tipping point, but there is data that shows that voice technology is growing in the world of eCommerce

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 people are forming new habits, and even new preferences, so it’s definitely influencing how we’re advising our clients and where they should invest…. I think what will be interesting long term is… there will be a lot more interesting marketing opportunities, especially as you think about all those new users either to a retailer or to a brand.”

“Trying to rethink things like [sampling] that have been really traditional vehicles to encourage trial, how do we think about that in a new way? Either if that’s a re-plan in terms of, what do we do with those dollars and invest them in something else? Or what I think is maybe more creative and exciting is, how do we think about sampling in a new way? Or how do we think about demos in a new way? And that’s where we really see the in-store and the eComm world kind of colliding, and really creating some of these omnichannel experiences.”

“I think all brands can do this and adapt and pivot and do so relatively easily. The big question before the crisis was just how quickly should each brand, based on their category, be moving into this space? And a lot of brands were over-invested in eCommerce because they felt that that was going to be the future. So they’re a bit of a step ahead. And that doesn’t mean that other brands can’t catch up but, I think COVID has been a kind of internal tipping point for a lot of organizations to think about how they’re treating eCommerce and maybe prioritizing it a little bit differently.”

“Thinking about how we merge eCommerce and influencers has been really interesting. We’ve been working with our clients on taking influencer content from a particular shopper, since we’re in that space. For example, how do you leverage Walmart influencer content on walmart.com, and Amazon influencer content on their site? In doing so, you create an even more relevant experience for the shopper, because not only do they have those product details and reviews, but you’ve put all that influencer content in one place, so they can have more ideas on how to use your products, or just more relevant images and messages based on people like them.”

“In the marketing and advertising world, we’re one of the few independents who’s left…I think that having that independence and having a lot of that entrepreneurial spirit has allowed us to really adapt as the industry has adapt and, in most cases stay one step ahead. We talk a lot about our Martians and we really think that there’s a balance between, our people and our technology. So, over the years we’ve, of course, as most industries have invested more in technology and data, and all of that, we’ve also really balanced that with our Martians and having, what we say is the latest technology and the smartest humanity.”

“I think a lot of brands are placing a disproportionate kind of weight in the eCommerce based on their ROAS or their return on ad spend. There are some ways that you can get a very high ROAS, and that a lot of media companies or retailers will say, you had a very high ROAS and it’s typically because you are reaching people who would have purchased anyway. So I think that’s one where it does beg the question of sometimes having a person or maybe a smarter data set that’s kind of suggesting, why is that the case? And digging a little bit deeper to understand the why behind that metric.”

“We’ve had tons of great conversations around voice, we’ve seen tons of great data in terms of how it’s growing, but I don’t think we’ve reached the tipping point yet of voice shopping….But I think it just comes back to really the foundation of what we do, which is, how can we create better shopper experiences? And voice definitely has the technology to do that. I think it’s just about the adoption, especially in the shopping space.”

“I think having the voice plus visual is a different way that brands should be thinking about voice now, and something that we’re working with some of our clients on.”

“I don’t think [Amazon] is a place that brands can afford not to be, with the exception of maybe a couple of the really big ones. It definitely doesn’t have to be every brand’s number one eCommerce retailer. But I think it probably has to be part of the strategy, just because of the number of shoppers that are using that as their primary eCommerce destination.”

“In terms of what should the content strategy be, I think it comes back to, what’s going to be best and what’s going to be needed and relevant for the shopper in that environment. So, we’re really working with our brands in the eCommerce space on, how are you creating eComm content that typically doesn’t always exist in other brand channels? How are you creating content for your product pages with information that people need to know when they’re at that point of buying you versus buying a competitor? If you don’t have that right content, let’s create it.”

“I think coming out of this one of the disruptions will be what we go to a physical store for versus what we continue to buy online. I think there’s going to be a lot of differences in those categories, and even in subcategories within that. I think what’s going to be interesting about the physical stores is how do we deliver an experience in those stores that is worth leaving your house for?”

Bio:

Amy Andrews is SVP, E-Commerce for The Mars Agency, a marketing agency that accelerates growth through shopper influence. Andrews brings nearly 15 years of experience in Marketing Strategy and E-Commerce. She has led consumer-centric e-commerce campaigns and content development for global brands including Ubisoft, Campbell and Nestle, across digital platforms and channels.

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

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Welcome back to Up Next in Commerce, this is Stephanie Postles, co-founder of Mission.org and your host of this lovely podcast. Today we’re joined by Amy Andrews, SEP of business development and eCommerce at the Mars Agency. Amy, how are you?

Amy:

I’m doing well Stephanie, how are you doing?

Stephanie:

Doing great, yeah as great as can be. So, when I heard of the Mars Agency, I saw that you called your, was it your customers or your employees Martians?

Amy:

We call our employees Martians, very lovingly.

Stephanie:

Oh man, I love that. I was trying to think of a name I wanted to give our employees, but nothing comes close to that. Tell me a little bit about the Mars Agency and how all that came about.

Amy:

Sure. So the Mars Agency has been around for over 45 years, started by an amazing woman, Marilyn Barnett, and really our focus has been on marketing to shoppers over that last, almost half a century. And Marilyn was really a pioneer in this space, she used to be when she started kind of the grocery model who would hold the box of laundry detergent as people walked by. And really just, yeah, and talk about women in business. She was just such an interesting leader and saw that as a marketing opportunity for brands at retail, and started the Mars Agency. And we have a long history in shopper marketing, and shopper marketing is really just marketing to shoppers so, as that has evolved and how people shop has evolved, we followed them and led them to all those different places.

Stephanie:

Got it. So are you working with large brands to kind of teach them the trends in the industry and how to market to, like you said, the shoppers, is that how to think about the Mars Agency?

Amy:

Yep. We work with a lot of large consumer package good clients so, like Campbell Soup, Nestle Waters, several others across top retailers. So Walmart, Target, and for me in the eCommerce space, Amazon is definitely a huge player.

Stephanie:

Okay, cool. And what is your day to day look like there, what is your role look like?

Amy:

So I lead our eCommerce team, which I mentioned some of the retailers but we really work across all eCommerce retailers and digital platforms. If you think about things that some of you probably use more recently than others like Instacart and other delivery services. We help brands market to their shoppers in those spaces, and really anywhere that you can buy a product online. Which used to be physical stores would convert it online, or your kind of Amazon, Pure Play retailers, and now as I’m sure you’ve experienced definitely, there’s a lot of different options to buy online as you’re scrolling through. Instagram you can shop now and kind of always be almost we’re moving towards one click away from a purchase in any environment so, that’s really what my team focuses on, for our clients, how do we help them market and ultimately sell more online?

Stephanie:

Got it. Has everything with COVID-19 kind of adjusted your strategy of what you’re advising your clients to do? Or what kind of shifts have you made when it comes to that advisory role?

Amy:

Yeah that’s a great question. I think we have seen a lot of data as this, sadly continues for us. But it has definitely had a huge impact on the eCommerce space, particularly for grocery, since a lot of our clients are the CPG packaged clients. We’ve seen online grocery projections in the last couple of weeks reach what we thought they would be in 2025. So there’s been, yeah huge growth in this space, and a lot of new users to this space so, we know that’s out of necessity, but again as this kind of continues, we think that a lot of these people, like 60% of people tried a delivery service for the first time in the last six weeks. That’s a ton of new people who are buying new groceries online and, yeah there’s been a lot of experience as I’m sure you’ve heard with, not being able to find what you want, or having slow delivery time-

Stephanie:

Yeah. Being out of stock of my favorite matcha tea, very disappointing.

Amy:

Out of stock, yes. Which is a little bit easier to deal with than toilet paper but-

Stephanie:

Yeah, I guess.

Amy:

I guess it depends on where you are on both with your supply but, no we’ve had … Yeah, a lot of people are having to make different choices and having to try things but as this continues, I think people are forming new habits, and even new preferences, so it’s definitely influencing how we’re advising our clients and where they should invest. I think what’s also interesting is because of a lot of those issues, a lot of our clients and a lot of retailers have just put their marketing on pause, to make sure that they can get things in stock, and for retailers to make sure that they’re not price scourging or kind of promoting things in the wrong way that would send the wrong message.

Amy:

So I think what will be interesting long term is, some retailers and brands kind of catch that, and once they have products in stock, once, even Amazon this week has fixed some of their Amazon Fresh delivery issues. As those things start getting worked out, I think they’ll be a lot more interesting marketing opportunities, especially as you think about all those new users, either to a retailer or to a brand. I don’t know if you bought a different tea brand when you couldn’t find yours.

Stephanie:

I did, I did.

Amy:

Yeah, a lot of people are having that experience right, so then it’s like how does that new brand try and keep you and then how does your old brand try and get you back? So we’re definitely working with our clients on all those types of questions.

Stephanie:

Got it. Do you think clients should be turning off their marketing budgets? As you mentioned, a lot of them are doing that right now, do you think that’s a good strategy, or should they till be maybe thinking of ways to experiment because this is a whole new world, it might be actually a good opportunity to kind of experiment a bit without offending people if possible?

Amy:

Yeah, no, I think … Yeah, I think it is a bit of both. I think initially, not just marketing but a lot of businesses and industries, just kind of paused to figure out and make sense of what was going on and determine what they should do next. And I think that was, probably a smart move at the time, just to not make any rash decisions. But we’re definitely partnering with our clients now on, what is the right way to market. I think one of the trends that we’ll see is probably a lot more regional and geographic differences. Like we in the Bay Area are still sheltering in place for another month. So, online shopping here will be very different than other states that are opening up.

Amy:

And, marketing to those people might be very appropriate now, and I would definitely recommend testing and trying things in that space.

Stephanie:

Got it.

Amy:

So I think it’s going to have to be a combination.

Stephanie:

Yeah, completely agree. Do you see the companies you work with coming to you with similar struggles? Like other themes that you’re hearing and any advice around some of those struggles that they’re experiencing?

Amy:

Yeah. I think a lot of the marketing struggles, or just some of the struggles on a more macro level of just the unknown, especially in terms of timing and how long it will continue. And then we kind of have some of the same issues in terms of data, you know there’s so much out there, like when you turn on the news, you see so many different stories and different points, sometimes it’s kind of hard to determine what are the right guidelines, or what’s the right data that you should follow. So, we’re really treating this as an ongoing conversation with our clients. And it does differ by geography, it does differ by category or industry. So, I think taking a really custom approach and being able to adapt now, and have a strategy where you’re also able to easily adapt moving forward, is going to be really important.

Amy:

We typically do annual planning with our brands, and we’ve already been talking, you know we’re already in the stages of re-planning but, I think re-planning will be something we do all year now, I don’t think it’s kind of the pre COVID plan and the post COVID plan, I think it’s going to be continuing to adapt. And the brands and retailers that are able to evolve in that way are probably going to be the most successful.

Stephanie:

Yeah, completely agree. It seems like a good time to kind of pivot in certain areas, cut projects that aren’t, maybe as necessary, and thinking in a completely new light based on everything that’s happening. What kind of things do you see being cut or changes be made in these re-planning sessions at these companies?

Amy:

I mean, the big question now, which the Mars Agency is tackling with our clients is, what might come back in-store and what might not, in terms of marketing and planning around that? There’s the kind of legal or even not legal, but kind of the official guidelines or restrictions side of things, in terms of how people shop and how many people can enter the store at what time. But then I think there’s also a very real consumer behavior piece of it. So, one thing that has happened in stores and that a lot of our brands being food brands, we’ve done is, things around sampling and trying new products. And whether that’s a cooked piece of food outside of a wrapper, or a sealed up new product, I think in both of those cases, I don’t know if for myself, and if I think about other shoppers, I don’t know how eager we’re going to be to take either one of those samples now.

Amy:

So, we’re trying to rethink things like that that have been really traditional vehicles to encourage trial, how do we think about that in a new way? Either if that’s a re-plan in terms of, what do we do with those dollars and invest them in something else? Or what I think is maybe more creative and exciting is, how do we think about sampling in a new way? Or how do we think about demos in a new way? And that’s where we really see the in-store and the eComm world kind of colliding, and really creating some of these omnichannel is the word that we use a lot.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Amy:

Omnichannel experiences, so that we’re moving towards that anyway, and I think COVID has been an interesting tipping point to, as you said, kind of pivot and think about these things, and push ourselves to think about them even more differently now, to deliver the best shopper experience.

Stephanie:

Yeah, it seems like it could be with everything bad that happened, maybe a good forcing function to kind of push some brands into the eCommerce world who maybe weren’t fully utilizing it before, or not at all. Do you see them being able to adapt to some of these changes that you’re recommending them or being able to shift something that they’ve always been focused on selling in-store, always focused on someone having that in-person experience, like you said, whether it’s a sample, a demo, have you seen them be able to pivot on to eCommerce, or being open to that, or even having the technology to do it?

Amy:

Yeah. I mean I’m pretty optimistic, so I think yes, I think all brands can do this and adapt and pivot and do so relatively easily. I think that was a big question before all of this, and the crisis was just how quickly should each, brand based on their category, be moving into this space? And a lot of brands were over-invested in eCommerce because they felt that that was going to be the future so they’re a bit of a step ahead. And that doesn’t mean that other brands can’t catch up but, I think COVID has just been a kind of internal tipping point for a lot of organizations to think about how they’re treating eCommerce and maybe prioritizing it a little bit differently.

Amy:

So, yeah for brands or companies who weren’t thinking about it before, I would definitely say, now’s the time. And, because the whole industry and the whole world is really shaken up, it’s a great time to think about how you’re treating eCommerce differently, and then within the eCommerce space, what we can be doing differently there as well.

Stephanie:

Got it. Is there anyone that you ever looked to in the industry, where you maybe point your clients in that direction of being like, hey, here’s an industry leader when it comes to the checkout experience, or the shopping experience, or the unboxing, or anything like that? Anyone that you guys kind of look to as like a leader in the space?

Amy:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think there are a lot of examples of brands or retailers doing, I would say pieces of the puzzle really well. The one that comes to mind for me as someone who is creating a really holistic, best in class experience, is actually a retailer. I think IKEA does a phenomenal job in this space, in terms of just digital experiences. They have different digital technologies, and apps and platforms, and AI, and all of that, that is really just helping recreate the experience of going to an enormous, huge physical retail destination, I mean, I can’t think of a more traditional shopping experience than kind of browsing through those huge displays in IKEA.

Stephanie:

So many levels, at least here in Palo Alto.

Amy:

Yes, definitely. I think of like a huge retail footprint that they’ve had to translate into a digital experience. There’s one now where instead of IKEA saying, what’s the best .com site or digital catalog? They are thinking what’s the best shopping experience? And now you can as a shopper, walk through an IKEA store, through virtual reality, and pick different products, and then also using AI to see them in your own bedroom. So I think they’ve just done a great-

Stephanie:

Oh wow, that’s awesome.

Amy:

… Job. Yeah, I think I’ve just done a great job of thinking about it a little bit differently, and kind of doing it in a fun way that that’s the biggest piece for myself as a shopper as well, that’s sometimes missing from the online shopping experience. It’s so convenient, and there are so many wonderful, wonderful benefits that come along with that. But you do lose kind of the fun of shopping, and browsing around, and I think IKEA has done a nice job of bringing some of that physical experience in a fun, very branded IKEA way, to their shoppers digitally.

Stephanie:

Yeah, completely agree. I think sometimes people forget that it’s not just shopping and trying to buy the thing, but really, like when I go to IKEA, it’s my day. It’s a whole experience, I’m ready, I’m prepared, I’ve had my snack, and I’m ready to go through every single setup area to like look at their bedroom, and see how they set it up, and look at this living room setup and incorporating VR into that shows that they know exactly why their customers, at least customers like me come there, is to be able to experience it like I’m actually there. So yeah, that’s great. Are you advising other companies to kind of, not only think that way but maybe moving into technologies like that, that they weren’t utilizing before? Whether it’s VR, or AR, or any of that kind of stuff?

Amy:

Yes. And I would say just even more broadly, we’re advising our clients, and working with a lot of our clients right now on, how do we create the best digital content that’s going to be relevant for an eCommerce shopping experience? So, yes that could be an amazing VR IKEA type experience, or that could be a six-second video on a product page, that tells you exactly what you need to know about the benefits of this new water that you’re drinking. So I think it’s about, what’s right for those different brands and, then having that content strategy that then dictates what technology you might need to use to deliver it.

Stephanie:

Got it. Yeah, I definitely see that shift of a lot of companies, brands, turning into kind of their own media companies when it comes to producing their content, and focusing heavier on that, and not just on a paid strategy where maybe that’s been, how it’s been for a couple of years.

Amy:

Yeah, I think I’ve also seen brands, hopefully, using technology to deliver experience instead of just kind of using or testing, technology for technology’s sake, or to have something new. So, it used to be QR codes, and then maybe some AR that just, is just kind of there for the fun, cool factor, that’s interesting. In some cases, it’s kind of fun, but I think if you’re just doing it for the tech’s sake, and it doesn’t deliver a consumer, or a shopper benefit, it’s really a fad and kind of dies quickly. So, we’re always trying to think about, what’s the need first, and then what can we use to deliver against that?

Stephanie:

Yeah, it’s good to flip that mindset when it comes to that, because yeah I can think of, especially QR code, that’s a good example. I’ve seen random places it’s on there, like a cereal box or something that delivers no value, and I don’t actually want to even see what’s behind that QR code, it seems like it was just placed there because everyone was doing it. So-

Amy:

Right someone told that-

Stephanie:

… You definitely-

Amy:

… Told that marketer, “You need a QR code.” And they checked that box.

Stephanie:

They did it.

Amy:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

Have you, when it comes to content, I know a lot of brands right now like you said, are focused on that and trying to make sure they get, of course, new customers in that vertical, and also make sure they put out great content. Have you seen any best practices with their clients around like you said, short product videos seem to really increase conversions where you know, like something on YouTube, if you’ve never been on YouTube maybe isn’t the best way to go? Is there any themes around that?

Amy:

Yeah. I would say generally we always start with what’s going to be the right message for the type of media, or for the type of tactics. So, you mentioned YouTube, that’s obviously a very different format than say Pinterest, who’s also having quite a moment with everyone at home looking for inspiration and recipes, and all of that. Obviously, that type of content you would develop for that would be very relevant to our brands, but also relevant to that platform and what we know people are looking for there. Yeah, I think we’re definitely moving towards kind of more bite-size, or smaller content formats, in general. So definitely short format, we always give the example of, you don’t want to have your 30 second or 67, 60 second, excuse me, TV spot and just use that everywhere, on your eCommerce sites or on your digital media more broadly, we want to be tailoring it for the environment.

Amy:

I think another thing that we’re trying to do a lot more of now, in terms of a trend, is how are we leveraging influencer and user-generated content in a new way? So, if we talk about relevancy, especially in the eComm world where reviews are so important, and the new mom, you might go on and you’re testing the reviews of a stroller, or a really important product for your baby more than you trust advice from your own parent, or from your mom peer group even right? So, people play a ton of influence on that, especially in the eComm space. So, thinking about how we merge eCommerce and influencers, has been really interesting and we’ve been working with our clients on taking influencer content from a particular shopper since we’re in that space.

Amy:

So, how do you leverage Walmart influencer content on walmart.com, and Amazon influencer content on their site? And in doing so, you create an even more relevant experience for the shopper, because not only do they have those product details and reviews, but you’ve kind of put all that influencer content in one place, so they can have more ideas on how to use your products, or just more relevant images and messages based on people like them.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that completely makes sense. I wonder if right now, with how the market is, if it’ll kind of give the wrong signals to companies. Like maybe, you have all these people at home so, if you see content is very easy to get right now, you have people maybe at home who actually want the longer podcast and the longer clips. Whereas after all this starts to calm down, I wonder if it’ll be hard for brands to kind of pivot again, if all that reverses. And, all of a sudden there’s not many consumers who want to create content for free anymore, and long reviews and, people want those shorter clips, like you talked about. Do you see any problems coming up by brands acting too quickly right now, to kind of pivot to what the environment is now? To then it reversing maybe again in a month or six months.

Amy:

Yeah, I think that’s a good question, and that’s why I think, as I kind of mentioned earlier, we’re taking a proactive but kind of cautious approach. So, one thing we did for one of our brands was, we just went out immediately and pulled out content that, I don’t want to say offensive, because that’s almost too strong of a word, but pulled out content that wasn’t culturally sensitive. For example, a group of people in a home that was more than 10 people.

Stephanie:

Got it.

Amy:

We went in and took all of that content down, you know, just to make sure we were being sensitive, and we were also being relevant. Even if someone wasn’t particularly upset about it, and maybe they had no thought on it, but we want to make sure we’re giving them the most relevant message of how our brand can be used in their lives. So I think that it is going to be an evolution, it’s going to be really interesting to see kind of what behaviors stick. I think bread makers was one of the top terms searched on Amazon, the last several weeks. So, I wonder if we’re going to get burnt out on making bread anytime soon.

Stephanie:

That does sound delightful but I’m like, yeah, I don’t know how long that trend will last because, my mother-in-law makes bread, and man is it a process.

Amy:

Well, maybe she needs a bread maker.

Stephanie:

I know, she does.

Amy:

But yeah, I think it’ll be interesting to see how much of those are kind of the COVID trends that then people get sick of it, or people want to, I’m not sure, maybe people will want to race back to the stores like you said, it’ll be maybe really exciting when an IKEA opens, and you can go back in, and browse around and get your meatballs and all that. And I’m thinking people are going to do that in a different way. And I think that we’re going to have to continue to evolve. So, that’s what I mentioned about the kind of planning, I think annual planning is dead. I think we’re going to be planning over and over again, if that’s monthly if we can get kind of more on a routine, or maybe that’s just continuous as things change, and as the news changes.

Stephanie:

Yep, completely agree. So, the Mars Agency has been around for almost 50 years I think, how does the company and the Martians of the company, recognize trends and then act on it quick enough to help your clients?

Amy:

Yeah, I think, I honestly think that’s why we have been able to be around so long. In the marketing and advertising world, we’re one of the few independents who’s left, we’re still family-run, the company is now run by Marilyn’s son and Ken Barnett. And I think that having that independence, and having really just a lot of still that entrepreneurial spirit, has allowed us to really adapt as the industry has adapted and, in most cases kind of stay one step ahead. We talk a lot about our Martians, as you said, and really think that there’s a balance between, our people and our technology. So, over the years we’ve, of course, as most industries have invested more in technology and data, and all of that, we’ve also really balanced that with our Martians and having, what we say is the latest technology and the smartest humanity.

Amy:

I think some companies, especially in the eCommerce space, because there’s so much data there, and so many different tech platforms, I think if you go too far in that direction, well one, there can just be kind of data overload, and you’re not able to find the insights and all the data. But two, I think you just lose a lot of that humanity, and kind of that person who we like to be who’s saying, “Well, why is that the case? And, what does that data point mean?” And kind of taking it that step deeper, so that we can really understand what the human behavior is because I think that’s where you have the best marketing ideas that really resonate with people, instead of just kind of trying to attack a data point.

Stephanie:

Yeah, completely agree. Are there certain metrics or data points that you’ve seen many brands use that you’re like, you guys are all using this, but it actually doesn’t really tell you much. Instead, maybe you should look at this instead.

Amy:

Well, because we’re focused on shopper marketing and conversion, I mean, our ultimate data point is always sales. So we’re always looking at, how many products were we able to sell as a result. Along with that though, you obviously want to understand what other impact you might have had on engagement. Or, in some cases, there are other circumstances that are affecting sales that are out of our control. We, of course, want to measure all the other media metrics as well. I think to answer your question on, are there certain metrics that brands are looking at that they shouldn’t? I don’t know if I would say you shouldn’t look at this, but I think a lot of brands are placing a disproportionate kind of weight in the eCommerce based on their ROAS or their return on ad spend.

Amy:

And there’s just some interesting … There are some ways that you can get a very high ROAS, and that a lot of media companies or retailers will say, you had a very high ROAS and it’s typically because you are reaching people who would have purchased anyway. So I think that’s one where, it does beg the question of sometimes having a person or maybe a smarter data set that’s kind of suggesting, why is that the case? And digging a little bit deeper to understand the why behind that metric.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that seems like an easy way for someone to be like, hey, look how great those ads doing when you’re like, all those people were already previous customers so.

Amy:

Right if you’re … Yes, if you’re targeting past purchasers, you can typically get a pretty high ROAS so.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s pretty funny. Are there any new emerging technologies that you’re advising marketers to look at or other like eCommerce platforms that you’re telling people to check out?

Amy:

I don’t know if I would say this is an emerging technology, but just in light of all of the changes around COVID, I would say looking more at new delivery platforms or channels. And this is something that, we’re just having early conversations with our clients on now. But, there are a lot of what used to be in the world of retail, relatively niche players You see a lot of those platforms having really explosive growth now, kind of during this COVID period. So it’ll be interesting to see how that behavior might change over time.

Amy:

I think we’re also seeing some really interesting partnerships, so you can have your 7-Eleven order delivered by DoorDash. Or you can make a reservation to shop at a local store on OpenTable. Again, those aren’t new technologies, but I think it’s kind of new platforms and new channels that will be really interesting to test and learn as we go, as you’re suggesting, and then also as things, hopefully at some point, kind of start to normalize.

Stephanie:

Yeah, cool. And then how do you think about, I saw on your website that you were talking about getting the most out of voice technology and how to conquer Amazon? Do you think, I know voice technology, it feels like it’s been trying to … It’s been like that up and up for a while and no one’s really cracked it. Even when I was at Google, it still felt like they couldn’t crack it. How do you think about incorporating that into what your clients are doing? And same with Amazon as well?

Amy:

Yeah, that’s a great question and you nailed it. I think it has been growing, we have on my eCommerce team, a dedicated voice specialist has a background in user experience. And, similarly, I think we’ve had tons of great conversations around voice, we’ve seen tons of great data in terms of how it’s growing, but I don’t think we’ve reached the tipping point yet of voice shopping. I think it’s still, some of the data and it’ll be interesting again, to see kind of how this being at home more might change that. But, there are definitely different behaviors that have grown with voice more than shopping has. We’re still actively pursuing and exploring that with our clients. Mars is the preferred Alexa developer, we also work with Google Voice as you mentioned.

Amy:

But I think it just comes back to, really the foundation of what we do which is, how can we create better shopper experiences, and voice definitely has the technology to do that. I think it’s just about the adoption, especially in the shopping space. So to date, we’ve worked with our clients on, creating skills that can be useful to shoppers based on their different categories. But I think it’ll be interesting to maybe see how COVID changes the voice space as well.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I could see that becoming useful, especially as the catalogs get bigger of what the brands are putting on their eCommerce sites. It’ll be easier if you’re able just to tell the website like, I want to find this, instead of having to go through the whole catalog and try and find exactly what you want, and it probably growing by 50% from the time you were there maybe two months ago if they can crack, getting the voice technology to actually work and be seamless, and not an extra step.

Amy:

Yeah. And then I think another thing that’ll be interesting now is just, I even have to remind myself as we’re talking because typically we think voice and we think, speaking into the speaker, but with the combination of voice and video. Plus people being at home and maybe wanting more, we know there’s been a huge surge in recipe searches for example. I think having the voice plus visual is a different way that brands should be thinking about voice now, and something that we’re working with some of our clients on.

Stephanie:

Yeah, completely agree. And what about the conquering Amazon piece? I’m only thinking about how that maybe has shifted a lot, especially lately because of everything Amazon is doing of like, only surfacing maybe essential things, and changing shipping times, and maybe kind of burying certain retailers if they didn’t view them as essential. I could see a lot of people kind of getting scared about relying on Amazon as their platform to sell from, and maybe moving away from that and trying to build their own eCommerce store on their own, and just do their own thing. Do you see that kind of happening? Or what are your thoughts around Amazon?

Amy:

Yeah I mean, Amazon could probably be a whole nother topic or hour.

Stephanie:

A whole podcast one.

Amy:

Exactly, I’m sure there are millions. But, I think in terms of, we’ve been really digging into what has this last six or so weeks meant? And where have we seen new growth? Walmart.com in March was the number one downloaded app in the grocery space and surpassed Amazon for the first time. So, it’s interesting to kind of see all these stats and you think, oh, maybe Amazon isn’t as important. Amazon just still dominates the eCommerce space. Which is why you mentioned, we have it on our website. I would say even as of two months ago, people were using Amazon and eComm interchangeably, almost.

Amy:

So, it’s great and it’s exciting to see that, and as we have always advised our clients, we should think about this holistically across this space and across all different retailer dot-coms and delivery platforms like your eCommerce strategy should be comprehensive. But I don’t see Amazon ever not being a component of that, at least not in the near future. There are a lot of issues now from a user experience, from a shopping experience, also as you mentioned with brands and maybe being deprioritized for essentials or not being able to market in the way that they have been able to before. But it still really is the lion’s share, it’s still seeing the most growth during this time period.

Amy:

So it’s not, I don’t think it’s a place that brands can afford not to be, with the exception of maybe a couple of the really big ones. But I think the idea of trying to tackle eCommerce without Amazon, or without having a strategy around Amazon, and there’s by the way, a bunch of different ways that you can do that, it definitely doesn’t have to be every brand’s number one eCommerce retailer. But I think it probably has to be part of the strategy, just because of the number of shoppers that are using that as their primary eCommerce destination.

Stephanie:

Yeah, agree. So earlier we were talking about brands creating content, how do you think about the intersection, or what do you advise your clients when it comes to the intersection of content management system, their commerce platform, and their CRM? How do you see that working in their space are any best practices around that or advice?

Amy:

Yeah, I think, I mean one is to be thinking about the total experiences we’ve been talking about, and making sure that, no matter what agencies or, in our case, we’re oftentimes working with a lot of other agencies either at different parts of the funnel or that the brand is working with for different pieces of their advertising. A lot of our clients are large enough that they’re hiring multiple agencies. So I think it’s, having IT as planning processes that are very integrated, and making sure you’re connecting all the different partners so that you can leverage all of the different content and all of the different wonderful assets.

Amy:

In terms of, what should the content strategy be, I think it comes back to, what’s going to be best and what’s going to be needed and relevant for the shopper in that environment. So, we’re really working with our brands in the eCommerce space on, how are you creating eComm content that typically doesn’t always exist in other brand channels? So, how are you creating content for your product pages with information that people need to know when they’re at that point of buying you versus buying a competitor. If you don’t have that right content, let’s create it, we help our clients map that out on what’s needed in terms of assets, and videos, and enhanced content, and all of that.

Amy:

And then really track that over time to make sure that we’re constantly optimizing it. We have a new technology, an eShelf maximizer tool that uses data to look across different websites, and identify across thousands of skews for a lot of our brands, what product pages might have some issues or some areas of opportunity, and then we can fix those right away. And with the retailer’s constantly changing their algorithms and limitations, and all of that. This is kind of a huge pain point for our brands so, even though we’ll optimize content as brands change their packaging, or new products launch, there’s kind of continual issues and continued opportunities to optimize. So we’re using technology to make sure that we can stay ahead of that and be really proactive for our brands.

Stephanie:

Got it. Do you see them being able to kind of manage that in a way that stays organized? Because, I kind of view a lot of brands having their content management as one silo, and their CRMs another one, and their commerce platforms another one, it doesn’t seem like they’ve been able to integrate like, well, here’s how our content is affecting our customers and actual conversions. Do you see that kind of shifting now? Or are a lot of your brands already ahead and they’re already kind of all intertwined, and they got it?

Amy:

Oh, I wish that was the case. No, I think, I mean, I think we have silos within the Mars Agency, I think most companies have silos, I think most of our clients would say that they have silos within their companies as well. Unfortunately, I think that is a reality so I don’t want to gloss over that picture too much. I think it’s about, how do you look for ways to work and collaborate across those silos, for more of a common goal? So, I think eComm has been a silo for a lot of brands today. We’ve kind of siloed it off and said, let’s deal with that separately because we don’t quite know what to do with it, or maybe it’s still a little bit too new for our brand or company.

Amy:

And this is really a moment when I think we can be integrating it in, we certainly have done that at Mars. Our team is now integrated with our customer development team. So when we’re working on a Walmart plan, it’s not the Walmart in-store plan and the walmart.com plan, we’re all one team. So I think hopefully, that would be an outcome of this time period is kind of breaking down some of the eCommerce silos. But I think as you pointed out, there’s definitely still an opportunity for, I would say most brands, to kind of better connect. I think content and eComm are coming together much more naturally. I think CRM is still a piece that we could, as an industry, probably better connect to some of the other pieces.

Stephanie:

Yep, completely agree. Have you seen, like what do you think the first step is to that digital transformation? Or have you seen a company really do it well? Is it like start from scratch, throw everything away and start over? Or, how have you seen that work?

Amy:

I think that actually, most companies have kind of, that we’ve worked with, have kind of taken eComm out and brought it back in, or taking the digital team out and brought it back in. And I think that’s actually an okay approach in terms of, especially where you are with your company’s growth in this space, some kind of half joking that eComm has been a silo. But, in a way that’s been necessary for some companies because, as eCommerce has grown, it typically starts off as an add on within a current team, and then as it grows, it kind of gets its own silo, or its own little team on the side, and then as they get big enough, they come back into the integrated team, typically the marketing team, or in some cases, the sales team.

Amy:

And I think that that makes sense because, as the space grows for different clients, it needs different resources. I think a lot of companies are going to be fast tracking that now, so they might skip that step of having the separate eCommerce team and just automatically integrate it. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I think that could be beneficial to, instead of kind of separating it or starting from scratch, just integrating in from the team from the beginning.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that makes sense. That sounds like good advice. So, do you see any disruptions coming to eCommerce? Like one thing I’ve been paying close attention to, or reading up a bit is about these pop up retail stores. And I think maybe that could be a trend that a lot of retail stores are closing down right now, and people might be scared to actually set up locations for 10 year leases, after all this dies down. So I’m wondering how maybe that could influence the future of retail and eCommerce. Do you see any disruptions like that that is on the horizon that you guys are looking into when it comes to eCommerce?

Amy:

Yeah. I mean I think there’s going to continue to be a lot of disruptions, and probably a fast tracking of what would have happened anyway. So, some, as we’ve seen in the last several years, some really established big box retailers have closed down, or shut several of their locations, because that huge size of space didn’t make sense anymore, and to your point that frees up space for other types of retailer formats. I think coming out of this that, one of the disruptions will be, what we go to a physical store for, versus what we continue to buy online. So I think there’s going to be a lot of differences in those categories, and even in in subcategories within that. I think what’s going to be interesting about the physical stores is just, how do we deliver an experience in those stores that is worth kind of leaving your house for?

Amy:

And I think some of the best retailers, and some of the best brands have been talking about that for years, right? How do we create a physical experience of our brand? If you think of like the flagship stores, that’s meant to be bringing the brand to life and delivering on that experience, and then you think of retailers who have been improving their in store experience, to get people to browse other categories, or browse other sections. I think a lot of that was a trend that will now really be pushed and challenged, and fast tracked as we rethink about what that physical space means to a shopper. So, pop ups, as you mentioned, were great because they were delivering a different experience and that was a reason to go, see something new, or maybe see something that you could only buy there.

Amy:

I think exclusives will probably continue and be played around with in a new way in terms of what’s exclusive online versus in store. But I think it’s a little early to tell what disruptions are going to continue, and how people are going to use those physical spaces. I mentioned it earlier, but I could also see there being a big difference in geographies. The coasts have always been a little different anyway, but I could see the the retail experience on the coasts being a little bit slower to change at first, and then probably having more disruptions in the end.

Stephanie:

Yeah, completely agree. I can see also when they start streamlining the return process, I’ve already started see that at least with Amazon, where it’s like, you don’t even have to bring a box now or anything, just bring the good back there. Once that starts feeling easier, it seems like a lot of things could shift because, to me that’s been the biggest hang up of ordering things online and, not knowing how to really return it, and not knowing if I’m going to feel like doing it, and keeping the box, and printing out the label and all that stuff. It seems like that could be a big shift too, and it’s kind of already been forced that way over the past couple months.

Amy:

Yeah, no, that’s a great example of now people are having to get creative in how they do things, both retailers and shoppers. And also, just as you try things and get used to it, you might realize that the return process wasn’t as bad as you thought. Or the delivery window that your groceries came was actually more convenient than what you’d wanted before. So, I think some of those habits are going to change, which is always interesting to see, because now we’re still in kind of the survey phase of, what do you predict that you’re going to do? Or will you use this service again? And it’s always interesting of course, to see what people say versus what they actually do.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Amy:

And I think just over time as we all keep doing this, we could say, we hate it and it’s a pain. But some of that we’re going to be adopting those new habits that will stick with us in the longer term.

Stephanie:

Yeah that’ll be really interesting to see what actually comes from that. So before we move into our lightning round, is there any other thoughts you have for eCommerce leaders or trends or anything else you want to highlight?

Amy:

No, I think you’ve covered it. I mean, I think this is just such an interesting time for the eCommerce space that, if you talk to someone else next week, they might say something different, and that’s what’s kind of exciting about it is watching how quickly it’s changing, and just really being able to adapt quickly to stay relevant.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s why this podcast is so fun. All right. So the lightning round brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where you answer each question in a minute or less. So you have a minute, you don’t have to rush too much, but it’s kind of whatever comes top of mind. Sound good?

Amy:

Great.

Stephanie:

All right, I’ll start with the easier ones first, and then move to the harder one towards the end. What’s Up next on your Netflix queue?

Amy:

Oh, this is the lightning round. Let’s see.

Stephanie:

When your eight month old and three year old aren’t hanging on you.

Amy:

Exactly. I have to move into my adult entertainment mode which also doesn’t sound like the right phrase to use, so that shows that I’ve been watching a lot of cartoons lately.

Stephanie:

No more Daniel Tiger for you.

Amy:

I know I’m just glad that I can get off Disney Plus and over to Netflix. We are big fans of Nailed It, and with the at home baking, I know I’m a season behind on nailed it, so I need to get caught up on that.

Stephanie:

Cool. What’s up next in your travel destinations after the pandemic is over?

Amy:

Oh, we were supposed to go to Vienna for my husband’s 40th, so hopefully we can get that back on the agenda. But, next week I’m going to be driving from the Bay Area to Aspen to see my new niece so-

Stephanie:

Oh fun.

Amy:

It will be a road trip.

Stephanie:

Sounds awesome. What is the best shopping experience that comes to mind that you’ve had lately? Other than being in a store?

Amy:

Yes, I have not been in a store lately, nor had a good experience in a store lately. Well, just this week was the first time that I could get an Amazon Fresh order, and I am a pretty heavy user. So they had a lot of issues, so I was really excited this morning at 7:00 AM when my Amazon Fresh order arrived.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s game changing. I love seeing them come up and deliver it. I’m like, this is nice. Not having to do it.

Amy:

Yes.

Stephanie:

What was the last thing you bought from an ad? If you remember?

Amy:

The last thing I bought from an ad. That wasn’t one of my clients products?

Stephanie:

Yes, yep, that wasn’t one of your clients [inaudible 00:51:31].

Amy:

Yes, that I was actually buying as a consumer, let’s see. I bought some Hannah Andersen Star Wars pajamas recently for my three year old. They’re very cute and available now and actually they did arrive quite quickly so.

Stephanie:

Awesome-

Amy:

I’d recommend that for the-

Stephanie:

… For PJ’s.

Amy:

Yes for the toddler PJ’s, they are great.

Stephanie:

Yep, I know all about that. All right, and the hard one, what’s up next for eCommerce pros?

Amy:

Oh, that’s a big switch from PJ.

Stephanie:

I know, that’s why I saved it for last.

Amy:

Yeah, I think eCommerce pros are going to be … Have much higher regard in their own industries, and have a lot more influence. So, hopefully what’s next for them is being able to kind of take a greater role in that brand and marketing experience across retailers. I know we’ve talked a lot about Amazon, but I think it’s, how do we integrate eCommerce and into everything that we’re doing, and that should be really exciting for the eComm pros.

Stephanie:

Cool. Love it. All right thanks so much for coming on the show Amy, this has been fun.

Amy:

Thank you so much. Appreciate you having me.

 

 

Subscribe in your favorite podcast app.

Love this? Share it with your friends!

Facebook
Google+
Twitter
LinkedIn

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

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Get exclusive updates and new episodes straight to your inbox. 

Subscribe Now To Get

– Our daily newsletter designed to increase your wealth, health, and wisdom.

– Access to exclusive giveaways from The Mission full of awesome swag and prizes.

Our Podcasts