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EPISODE 51

Insights From The First 50 Episodes

With Stephanie Postles and Albert Chou, of Mission.org

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Haven’t had a chance to listen to our first 50 episodes yet? Never fear, you’ve got time and they’re not going anywhere. In the meantime, we’ve created an epic recap episode to keep you up to date with this ever-changing world. Throughout the first 50 episodes of Up Next in Commerce, we’ve chatted with some of the fastest-growing startups – like Thrive Market and Haus – to the more well-known companies like Puma, Rosetta Stone, Bombas, and HP. 

Our guests have shared everything from their toughest lessons, to their secrets to success, to the must-know advice for every ecomm leader. And while every company is different and every story unique, over the last 50 episodes, several common themes have emerged. 

On today’s special episode of Up Next in Commerce, host Stephanie Postles is joined by Albert Chou, the VP of Operations at Mission.org, to dive into some of these top trends.

The two discuss the supply chain shakeups companies have had to face this year, and they do a deep dive into the world of influencers and how brands can work with them in a way that leads to lasting ROI. Plus, they look into their crystal balls to try to predict how DTC companies will work with and compete against Amazon, debate on how voice search will impact shopping, and discuss what the future of shoppable worlds might look like.

 

Main Takeaways:

  • Supply Chain Shakeups: Everyone is competing against the hard-to-match expectations set by Amazon — but it’s not all about fast shipping. Processing returns effectively and managing every step of the supply chain so you are left with margins that actually allow you to grow are the main areas that all retailers are, and will continue to be, focused on. 
  • I’ll Take One Order of Influencers: Because influencer marketing has become so in demand, there are more strategies than ever to try to get the most ROI out of influencers. What is likely to happen in the future is the creation of a marketplace where brands can buy verified influencers, who are themselves driving the demand for more upfront payment. 
  • Make It Worth It: Building an omnichannel strategy is about more than just offering a brick and mortar location for people to buy your products. Today’s shoppers are looking for experiences that are memorable and entertaining. But it’s important that while brands create those memorable experiences, they don’t forget that little goal of converting potential customers into real buyers.
  • Turning Virtual Into Reality: Shoppable video and the increased offerings of digital products is going to set the stage for future commerce. The next generation is already using real cash to buy virtual products for their avatars in various games. In years to come, not only will you have the option for your avatar to have that virtual product, the real-life version will be offered in tandem for the user behind the screen.

 

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

Key Quotes:

“Everyone’s competing against what Amazon has created. Amazon has created this expectation that you can get what you want, when you want it pretty darn fast. So if you’re any direct consumer brand, or any brand out there, if you’re a retailer, that’s what’s becoming the new norm.”

“Influencers themselves have created this marketplace. If you claim you’re an influencer, and you have hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, now influencers, they don’t want to work on commission, they want to work on upfront fees. So, there’s this new network which you’re now going to see tools come into place of helping merchants buy influence — that’s the next wave.”

“[The problem with influencers is] the signal to noise ratio is still overwhelmingly noise and the ones that have tremendous signal, well, the problem is you can’t afford it. So, I think the tools have to try to figure out by budget, almost, like how much ROI are you going to get per $1,000?”

“The real delicate balance is how do you educate, entertain and inform but also do it in such a way that a person purchases the product versus just coming in there and staying all day long?”

“This is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy of what’s happening with consumer behavior and curation, which is, the more curated things become, the lower the tolerance a person’s patience becomes for browsing.”

“One of the opportunities influencers see is that it’s now easier than ever to make and source their own products under their own brand labels….that’s something that brands get nervous about because if you sponsor somebody and they do a really great job, well, what stops them from cutting you out of the equation?”

“Brands and products companies are probably trying to figure out how to create a subscription community. I think that is going to be a trend that you can capitalize on now because it doesn’t require, I don’t think, as much technology that doesn’t exist, but it’s more like how do you build ongoing services at a price point where customers never want to leave you?”

 

Mentions:

 

Bio:

Albert Chou is VP of Operations at Mission.org and host of the popular podcast IT Visionaries. Mission.org is a podcast network dedicated towards accelerated learning and is known for producing multiple B2B podcasts that have ranked in the Top 10 across Apple Podcasting charts and were named the best of 2018 by Apple. Their business podcasts earn over 4 million downloads per year.

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

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hey everyone, and welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder of mission.org. Today, it’s a new and interesting episode where I have our VP of ops, Albert Chou on the show, where we’re going to go through the previous 50 episodes and talk about highlights, and then talk about future trends that maybe no one has talked about on the show so far. Albert, welcome.

Albert:

Yeah, thanks for having me. But to be clear, we’re not going to go by the 50 episodes one by one because-

Stephanie:

We’re doing one by one.

Albert:

No, that’s terrible. We can’t do it. Cannot do it.

Stephanie:

So, Albert, tell our listeners why did I invite you on the show?

Albert:

Well, I do have my own ecommerce business, www.[inaudible 00:00:41].com, I’ve also helped out on a couple others. The biggest one got to 10 million a year. And I worked for an ecommerce startup. One of the co-founders was a guest on the show AddShoppers. So, been working in the game of ecommerce probably since 2016 and still operating today, so learned from painful mistakes, as well as seeing other people have great success.

Stephanie:

Yeah, you always have some really good feedback and comments on our prep docs. Our amazing producer, Hilary, will put together an awesome prep doc for every episode for me, and then you come in along with all your other job responsibilities at mission, with the VP of ops, you do everything here, but you also come in and add some good questions and comments, and that’s why I thought it would be fun to bring you on. So, thanks for hopping on here with me.

Albert:

Yeah, let’s do it.

Stephanie:

So, to start, I thought we could kind of go through just some high level trends, because through all the episodes that I’ve had and all the guests we’ve had on the show so far, there’s actually quite a bit of similarities that I heard. And starting with the first one, I think talking about supply chains is really interesting, because so many of the guests who’ve come on have talked about the shake up in supply chains that they’ve seen and how they’re kind of pivoting and what they’re experiencing, and I think that might be a good place to start.

Albert:

Well, when they talk about supply chain, everyone’s competing against what Amazon has created, right? Amazon has created this expectation that you can get what you want, when you want it pretty darn fast. And so if you’re any direct consumer brand, or any brand out there, if you’re a retailer, that’s what’s becoming the now norm, right? Can you send it to your customer really fast, and can you take it back? That’s like probably the most painful part of ecommerce is the fact that you do have a percentage of tolerance for returns. So, the tighter your supply chain is, the more margins you can create in the process, the more able you can take a return without losing everything. So, it makes total sense that every business is trying to figure this out, how to get closer to the consumer, how to make things closer to the customer, how to make sure that they can take back whatever is being sent back. So, it’s just matching what the new customer expectation is.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I think it was also very interesting, talking to the ShipBob guy where he was talking about how you can basically tap into different fulfillment centers by using them, whereas before, everything with COVID, a lot of people actually were shipping all the way across the country and not really looking at maybe location based ordering. Maybe some people were, but I found that kind of a good shake up that now people are starting to think about how to do things more efficiently and how also not just to rely on one supply chain, because a lot of them maybe are going out of business right now, a lot of the warehouses are having issues, there’s a lot of inventory issues. So, it’s good to have not all your eggs in one basket.

Albert:

So, it’s not just that. So, there’s companies out there that are investing into logistics infrastructure specifically for other people to share. So, similar to ShipBob, there’s other competitors in that field. But it goes further than that. If you take a look at some of the publicly traded companies, one of the larger ecommerce platforms, they have invested heavily in infrastructure and warehousing. I know that ChannelAdvisor did the same exact thing. They literally bought a warehousing logistics company. And ChannelAdvisor, for the longest time, has been a company that helps you as a merchant, list your products across the different marketplaces. So, if Stephanie’s t-shirt company wants to list their product across Amazon, they want to list it across Rakuten, they want to list it across eBay, and maybe some others, she would still have to ship and fulfill from her own store.

Albert:

Now, why did ChannelAdvisor build that tool so you can list one product and get it plugged in everywhere? So, why did they invest in all these warehousing companies? Now, it hasn’t come to full service yet but you can kind of see it down the road like the supply chain is where the innovation is going to occur. And I think you’re going to continue to see that, you’re going to see more entrance in it, and it’s just non stop, that race will never stop. Basically, a customer can never get something fast enough. You know what I mean? There’s always going to be this push to get it there faster.

Stephanie:

Yeah. It’s also interesting hearing about certain companies trying to compete with shipping models against Amazon and trying to have one in two day shipping. It feels like such a hard thing to create from scratch now, but if you can figure that out, you’re going to win.

Albert:

So, I don’t know if you know this, Steph. I’ve also sold through FBA Amazon.

Stephanie:

I think you told me that?

Albert:

Do you know [crosstalk 00:05:37]?

Stephanie:

What did you sell, first of all?

Albert:

It was an adult card game.

Stephanie:

I don’t want to hear anymore. This is a kid friendly show.

Albert:

It was not kid friendly. But how it worked is, so I got my order in China, and I had 5,000 pieces, literally shipped it to an FBA Center in New Jersey, never touched the product, and then Amazon automatically redistributed it across as its fulfillment network. And I would get updates like, “Oh, we’re moving two boxes to Texas.” “Why?” Because we predict, in Texas, someone will buy this, and therefore by moving it closer to the customer, we can reduce the shipping with our internal [crosstalk 00:06:20].”

Stephanie:

Do you have an influence over that prediction model.

Albert:

No.

Stephanie:

Because now more than ever, I’m like, how can anyone predict anything? I mean, there was a really good quote about like, should we be preparing for more people to buy Inkjet printers because they’re all working from home, or extra freezers to prepare for the worst? It feels like there’s no way to predict for that, so how do they even know that there’s a couple in Texas who might want that?

Albert:

So, add to cart. I think add to cart is what they’re doing, right? They’re looking at how many people are adding to cart and then they’re also looking at the percentage of conversion over time of people who do add to cart. So, if you see a bunch of cart adds for this product or a bunch of search volume increasing for a product in a specific area, you can automatically assume that that product is going to be in demand in that area. They’ve probably gotten it down to a super exact science.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I’m not going to question them. I’m sure they got it.

Albert:

Yeah. And since they’re always moving products within their own fulfillment network everywhere, they see that there’s a probability that this is going to happen, they just move it closer to you so that when they finally rely on last mile logistics, they’ve got it as close as possible so that they don’t have to pay so much.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that makes sense. All right. So, the next one I want to kind of move into is influencers. So, first, we did a survey of our audience and a lot of people wanted to hear about influencers. How do I use influencers? What’s a good way to actually get a good ROI on it? And a lot of our guests actually mentioned influencers as well. Some people were trying it out and were like, “I don’t actually know if this is even working.” Other people were having great success but were trying different models. So, I don’t know if you’ve listened to the fancy.com CEO, Greg Spillane episode.

Albert:

I did.

Stephanie:

Okay. Well, first of all, that guy’s a badass. I mean, making that company his stories. Like did you hear about how he went into a warehouse or a storage locker and found a bunch of credit cards that the founders were giving away with like $1,000 on it, and they were just giving it away to influencers just to try and get them to use fancy.com? Did you hear some of the stories that he was going through about what he experienced when coming into the company to try and turn it around?

Albert:

I mean, it’s the classic, right? It’s the classic problem in marketing, right? You’re pretty sure some of it is going to work, some people say it’s up to half, you just don’t know which half, right? And so you’re just blowing money trying to get more movement, but I get what they were originally trying to do makes total sense. I mean, you read about the stories of businesses like Gymshark, which built their whole business model off of influencers, and I think they just got a private equity valuation into the billions, so everyone wants to jump on that train.

Albert:

The problem is influencers themselves have created this marketplace, right? So, if you claim you’re an influencer, and you have hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, now influencers, they don’t want to work on commission, they want to work on upfront fees. So, there’s this new network which you’re now going to see tools come into place of helping merchants buy influence. And so that’s the next wave, right? Because I mean, there’s a lot of influencers that are frauds or they have no influence on their audience whatsoever, they just have a big Instagram following for whatever reason.

Stephanie:

Yeah. They just [crosstalk 00:09:30].

Albert:

That’s why the merchants are so frustrated.

Stephanie:

Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s hard to know. You can see someone with a million followers, and something that I saw that was actually a good reminder for anyone with a small business was they’re talking about how you can see if those followers have an intent to buy. So, if you have some influencer on there and they’re showcasing some purse, or some lipstick, or whatever it might be, and the people in the comments are like, “Oh cute,” or, “Pretty” or just liking it, they actually don’t have followers who have an intent to buy. Versus you might see more micro influencers, like people that follow from around the area or something, and the people in those comments are like, “Where do I get that jacket from?” Like, “Please link up your shirt.”

Stephanie:

And those are the kind of influences you want to go after because you actually know that if you’re in front of their audience, they’re ready to buy because they trust that person, which seems like it’s kind of shifting, whereas before it was like just get the big name, the big followers, and now it’s more like, “Let’s make sure we get an ROI. How do we make sure to track this stuff and see some good conversions from it?”

Albert:

Yeah. I mean, you don’t know what you don’t know, so all you’re looking at is what you assume is a big audience. And so that’s the biggest misconception in social media, it doesn’t determine their purchasing behaviors. It’s just, “I like this person because I think she looks good, or I think he looks good, or I think he’s funny. I’m not going to buy anything.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I can definitely see tools coming out soon, or maybe they’re already out in the world, showing like here are kind of the demographics of this person’s followers. So, you can sign up with an influencer and also see the income level, the job title, so you know that what you’re getting with that influencer is going to have good results because you can see the profile of their followers.

Albert:

So, interesting, right? Platforms now that are creating marketplaces of influencers. So, I’ll name one. We have not had their CEO on the show, but grin.co, you should join the show.

Stephanie:

[crosstalk] here.

Albert:

Yeah. GRIN is pretty fascinating, because they’ve built this marketplace where you as a merchant can then log in and you can see all the influencers, you can search by category. Let’s say I want surfing, or you want food, or you want outdoor, whatever it is you want, it’ll pull up a list of influencers and then it’ll show the basic vanity metrics. But it also has ratings of probability of sale, because they’ve already maybe done a campaign for another brand, so you as a brand kind of see those numbers. Now, the problem always is, as a consumer is, you kind of always get drawn to the big numbers, right? So, you’ll see like, let’s say, the superstar TikToker, girl Charli D’Amelio. How do you pronounce her last name? D’Amelio?

Stephanie:

I don’t know, and I’m surprised you know anyone on TikTok.

Albert:

But Charli D’Amelio, you’ll see her name and it’ll show you significant likelihood to influence dollars, it’ll be significant, right? But then as a brand, you have to determine can you afford her, because she doesn’t tweet or TikTok for you for nothing, right? It’ll be hilarious. It’ll say her agency, and of course, she’s repped by a huge agency. So, that’s where even tools like that, the problem is, let’s say, the signal to noise ratio is still overwhelmingly noise and the ones that have tremendous signal, well, the problem is you can’t afford it. So, I think the tools have to try to figure out by budget, almost, like how much ROI are you going to get per $1,000 of spend or something like that? That’s probably going to be the next wave of measurement.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think also the platforms are trying to catch up to be able to actually attribute sales to these influencers. I know TikTok is trying to do that right now. Instagram’s been trying to do that, but I think they are still implementing a lot of features to actually allow the influencers to get paid. So, I think with that, you’ll see a whole new wave of new influencers and micro influencers as well because now they can actually get paid.

Stephanie:

I mean, I saw someone, they were talking about some… I think it was some coffee mug or, I don’t know, a cup or something on TikTok, and it was on Amazon, but didn’t have any links or anything, and it sold out on Amazon because this one girl was talking about the functionality of it and how much she liked it, and people were like, “Oh, how do I buy through your link? I want to make sure you get a cut of it.” And she was like, “I don’t need that. I just review stuff because it’s fun.” And so it’s interesting seeing how you have influencers who really do care about that attribution and won’t work without it versus the people who maybe are big influencers but aren’t actually looking for that, at least not right off the bat, or maybe because there’s friction right now, with setting up that model.

Albert:

Well, I think the bigger you get as an influencer, the more you could charge for your time than results. So, if you’re a superstar, like, let’s go with professional athletes, the original influencers, right? If you’re LeBron James, you’re Michael Jordan and someone wants to buy your name, you just charge them for the name. Like you’re like, “I don’t know if you’ll get $1 of sales, I’m just telling you right now that I’m not repping your product unless you pay me this much money.” Right?

Albert:

So, it’s still this push and pull where brands want all this information, they want to know your audience, they want to know all that stuff, and then influencers themselves are getting so big. Like, we’re reading about how these people on TikTok, kids, I call them kids, I’m old, but they’re making 100 grand a month, and that’s considered an average influencer. What are talking about? 100 grand a month to make TikTok dance videos, and yeah. So, I can see a brand wanting to be like, “Well, how much will I get for sales,” and I can just see how tough it is when the kid on the other end says, “Well, I won’t TikTok dance for you for under 100,000.”

Stephanie:

I just read that the next generation is getting paid more than ever right now, not just for being influencers but just for a lot of things. They’re demanding higher payment than any other generation before them. That’s good, good intense though.

Albert:

Yeah. Listen, ask for whatever you want. If you can get it, you might as well ask for it. Why not?

Stephanie:

Very, very true. So, I think the high level summary for that one then it’s just that most brands should be exploring influencers in your market, but also making sure that you’re setting up the ROI and tracking it correctly, and maybe looking for those new tools that are coming out or that are already out to make sure that wherever you’re devoting your budget to you actually can track it, where in the past maybe it wasn’t as required by your company or yourself to have that many metrics behind it, but now you actually can, so I think it’s worthwhile.

Albert:

Yeah. I actually think some of our other guests that really talked about investing significantly into the product and making sure that the customer experience from the moment that they sign up, to buy it, to they receive it, that that experience is airtight, because that’s where you’re going to find your influencers, right? I think a couple of the men’s shaving companies like Supply and Beard Brand talked about how they built a community of people who move these products. Well, that’s the ultimate influence right there, right? Constant good reviews of your products. And if you get lucky enough to find a Dogface 208, then you win.

Albert:

Dogface is the guy that skateboarded while singing Fleetwood Mac and drinking cranberry juice.

Albert:

Well, cranberry juice sales, all time high. So, this wasn’t a paid campaign or paid activation, sales are at an all time high. They’re talking about it might see Wisconsin cranberry farming industry. That’s how much in demand cranberry juice is right now. So, if you have a great product, your likelihood of catching a wave I think is much greater than if you’re just constantly paying influencers.

Stephanie:

Yeah. And I like that idea of make sure all your other ducks are in a row first before you start going after influencers. I think we’ve had a couple of guests who talked about you really need to make sure everything from start to finish, to unboxing, to follow up, that needs to be airtight before you start trying a bunch of other things, because then you are at risk of getting distracted and actually not being able to focus on, not only your core product, but also your customer experience.

Albert:

You got it.

Stephanie:

All right. So, the other thing that I think was interesting that a lot of people have talked about is, of course, like omnichannel, and one of our guests is talking about the reinvention of brick and mortar stores, and talking about how it’s now turning to be more about experiential experiences instead of just going there to buy something, because so many people now are shifting to a place where they’re actually very comfortable buying online, even if they never did before, and going into the store is more about having a good experience and something to draw them in there versus actually making a purchase in store. I think it’s all about experiences now and people are going to expect something very different going forward than they ever expected before.

Albert:

Yeah. I mean, that’s the magic question, right? People are trying to… I’ve read articles about re-envisioning the mall of the future. If I think about current present retailers that are doing a pretty good job, I mean, obviously, Apple Store seems to be like one of the leaders where I had not admittedly walked by an apple store recently, but I do remember back when I did, six months ago, there were a lot of people in there, a lot of people in there touching the products, getting a feel of the products, they made it a very hands-on experience. I can think of other businesses that have done a really good job. Like, why does every Bass Pro Shops have a giant aquarium in the middle of the store? Because they want you to go and look at it. You know what I mean? To pull you in. They know you’re a hobbyist. So, I don’t know how good businesses are going to be at doing that, but I know that they’re all trying. I mean, they have to.

Stephanie:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, when we had little burgundy shoes on, they were talking about how they were actually partnering with other people, other shops or people that are on the same street as them, even if it was a bank they’re partnering with, and they were kind of doing giveaways or doing just different social business events or things like that, to make sure to get people in the store because they’re like, “We don’t really mind if you buy, but just coming in and getting that customer experience that we have, and being able to get in the vibe of the music, and actually experiencing our brand, even if it’s only for a moment, is worth so much more than… Buying online is important, but we also want you to know who we are, and if that means partnering with other brands around us to give you an added benefit…” I mean, that’s where I can see a lot of other brands doing that partnership strategy to try and get different customers that you would maybe never touch before in the same place.

Albert:

Yeah. Really, it remains to be seen that it’ll work, because I always think, when I hear about the people with the rain experience, I don’t question it at all, but I think also to Borders Books or Barnes and Nobles books, I felt like those are really inviting places. They got nice couches, good coffee, it smelled great, there’s always baked goods there, you can read whatever magazine you wanted, or check out books, and they never kicked you out or nothing if you’re hanging out there, but it didn’t work. There weren’t enough people buying the books, they were just chilling, I guess. So, I guess that’s the real delicate balance, which is how do you educate, entertain and inform but also do it so much in a way that a person purchases the product versus, I don’t know, coming in there and staying all day long?

Stephanie:

Yeah. That makes me wonder just about the business model, though, of like, are you encouraging people to buy, because… I mean, I don’t know how the Amazon bookstores are doing now, but when I went in to them when we were in Seattle, it was just a very different experience because what you could get in the store was not what you can get online, not what you would get at any other bookstore, because there was actually, “Here’s a review that we picked out,” so you can kind of get a feel for this book, or, “Here’s some of our top charting books right in front of you.”

Stephanie:

So, it was kind of like it was bringing an online experience offline as well but in a very different way where I wanted to go in there, I wanted to hang out, but then I also found myself buying online afterwards. I was taking pictures of books and then I was just going on Amazon and buying. So, it seems like they figured it out there, and they don’t have too much inventory to where they’re holding a bunch of books and expecting them to sell, but it seems like it needs to move more to that model instead of thousands of books hoping someone comes in and buys.

Albert:

I can see that in a more curated… I know Amazon’s experimenting with their five star stores where it’s only physical products that have earned an average of four and a half, five stars. So, it’s more of a curated experience, which is what we’re more used to online, instead of looking at your whole catalog of crap, we see exactly what we’re looking at what we want to see or the best stuff right up front.

Stephanie:

Yeah. And that’s also something a lot of guests have mentioned, it’s about that personalized experience and making sure that what you’re showing the new customers, what they want to see. And I think the idea of curation too. I mean, people are trusting, not only these influencers, but also just people that they trust in general, where it’s like, “Oh, my friend likes this.” So, making sure that you can kind of show that or have that curated experience I think will be important going forward.

Albert:

Yeah. So, this is interesting, because I think this is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy of what’s happening with consumer behavior and curation, which is, the more curated things become, the more likely or the lower the tolerance a person’s patience becomes for browsing. Because I’ve read stats about how the average web browser, or consumer, whatever, spending less time on pages, clicking through less links, because they’re constantly being served, let’s say, what they want sooner, faster, so then they react that way. So, it’s like feeding itself, right?

Stephanie:

Feeding the beast.

Albert:

Yeah. The consumer expectations. Like, if you don’t know what I want within two clicks, I’m bouncing.

Stephanie:

You’re done.

Albert:

I don’t got time for those three clicks. I’m out.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s tricky. I mean, it is kind of like building up a monster in a way where everyone’s going to have to keep leveling up their game with how their new customers or current customers experience their shops.

Albert:

Yeah, it’s going to be painful for merchants to do this, I think, it’s going to be very painful. Or they can look at it the other way. There’s an opportunity for a technology vendor that can do it. You know what I mean?

Stephanie:

Oh, yeah. Anyone who’s got those good recommendations, yeah, they’re already ahead of the game if they’re implementing that.

Stephanie:

All right. So, the next trend, which actually no one really talked about, but it’s more around partnerships, but I saw a very interesting partnership. I don’t know if you have heard of that show on Netflix called Get Organized. Have you? Where they were going into homes, Reese Witherspoon, and they’re organizing her house, and it’s very popular now. Maybe your wife watched it. Have you heard of that?

Albert:

I can conceptualize what it is but I have not seen it or heard of it.

Stephanie:

Okay. So, they partnered with a Container Store, and they did it in a really good organic way where, of course, they’re putting everything in containers and organizing it, and it made the container sales jumped by like 17% after this series went out, and I thought that’s a really good example of not just product placement, but doing it in a way that wasn’t annoying, and having, not only a partnership from the product perspective, but they also partnered with Netflix in the marketing aspect.

Stephanie:

So, it’s like a good, well-rounded approach, but it also didn’t make the content suffer. And I haven’t seen a lot of companies do it that well. You always can think of other companies… I mean, there’s product placement in almost everything, but you don’t walk away being like, “Oh, I really need that to complete my experience.” And I can just see a lot of more or a lot more unique partnerships forming like that in the future, where people are thinking outside the box and are not just doing the typical like, “Oh, let’s just try this and see how it works.” I can see more people experimenting with this, maybe not on that large of a level, but I thought that was a really unique partnership, and especially being able to see the sales jump right afterwards, it shows that it paid off.

Albert:

Do you think that was because they were actively solving a problem? Right? You’re disorganized. I’m going to show you how to get organized. So, inherently the audience that watches it is looking to solve that problem, so inherently they then go purchase those products, or source those products.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, they definitely, of course, nailed the perfect person who would have an intent to buy as someone who’s also trying to get organized, but I think the way they did it just wasn’t like hitting you over the head with it, it was kind of like, “Well, here’s what we use.” It was like, “No big deal, if you want to use it too, this is what we use.”

Stephanie:

And I think that’s actually the perfect strategy of like, “We’re not going to push this on you, and we’re not going to be annoying about it, this isn’t an ad, but this is just exactly what we use to make this look perfect.” And I think there’s a lot of opportunity for other brands to think about that, like, how do you do it in a way where the content is still good? It’s not making you feel pressured, but it’s in the back of your mind of like, “Oh, this is what I could use to be like Reese Witherspoon,” which she’s the best.

Albert:

It’s the classic, like, is this a threat or is this an opportunity, right? Because it just depends on the eye of the beholder. But one of the things, to your point, that makes it a threat to existing brands is if they’re not good at it. One of the opportunities influencer see is that it’s now easier than ever to make and source their own products under their own brand labels, right? Think of the power that Chip and Joanna Gaines have gained, right?

Albert:

Now it’s to the point where it’s like they’re going to be almost impossible to buy because Magnolia products is coming, and it’s already here, and it’s going to keep getting bigger and bigger, where they’re going to… You already know they know how to organically insert their products into all their content of you already think their style is the best, you already think their builds are the best, you already think their personalities are the best, now they’re not even doing the partnership deal, right? Now it’s not like, “Oh, go to Target to get the Magnolia collection?” No, go to Magnolia to get the Magnolia collection, right? They’re going to cut the distribution network out and just be like, “We’re the distributors of this.” And that’s always a challenge, I think. I do think that’s something that the brands get nervous about is because like, if you sponsor somebody and they do a really great job, well, what stops them from cutting you out of the equation?

Stephanie:

Yep. Which is also what a lot of brands are scared about with Amazon. I mean, we heard mixed messages about that where some people were very excited about partnering with them, they were getting championed on that platform, Amazon was promoting them, and they weren’t really worried too much about it, they’re like, “Why wouldn’t you be on Amazon, because that’s where everyone said you should be selling on there?” And then we heard quite a few other ecommerce leaders who were like, “No way would I get on there. You’re not going to make as much money. You can’t control the experience. You can’t control where it’s being seen. And I want to make sure my DTC company is being portrayed how I want it and I don’t want it to be knocked off on Amazon.” So, the same kind of thing there.

Albert:

Yeah, that’s it, and that’s never going to stop. Constant threat market share takeover.

Stephanie:

Oh, I know. Constant battle, but interesting to watch. I think those people should be on Amazon, though, because I do think that is where so many people are. It seems like, yeah, it’s where you need to be.

Albert:

Yeah. Here’s what’s interesting. The biggest players have kind of stepped off, but like Nike, Nike has got so much… Nike has enough power, I think, to step off that platform, but if you’re trying to be discovered, I mean, it just does seem overwhelmingly hard to do it without that distribution network. I think it’s just tough.

Stephanie:

Yeah. When we were talking about ShoppableTV, I’m also thinking about… I mean, you might know this better since your kids are on some of these gaming type of platforms, but having Shoppable worlds, whatever that may be, seems like something that could be coming in the future but we’re not there yet, probably. I mean, I know we are when it comes to virtually shopping for things, that like, “Oh, I want to make sure to get this. Whatever this is in this world, I want to buy it,” but it seems like there could be an opportunity as well for implementing your products into those worlds that are being built up right now.

Albert:

Yeah. Personally, I’m not as bullish on that because I still think people want to… I don’t know. I don’t really know, maybe because I just don’t do it myself, because I definitely see my kids being drawn in when they’re playing games, like they recognize products. What’s weird is, when kids. To me, it’s what’s weird. So, for anyone who has kids that play Roblox, my kids see things on Roblox and they want to buy them, and they’re digital products.

Stephanie:

Yeah. What are they? What are they buying?

Albert:

Like the new sword? They’re like, “I want this sword.” It’s like, “What sword?” It’s like, “The digital sword.” It’s like, “What do you mean digital sword.” It’s like, “My character can carry this sword if I buy this with real cash.” And that makes no sense to me. What are you talking about?

Stephanie:

Exactly. I think it could be transitioning eventually. I mean, yes, people will always want those digital swords, I heard that people are buying t-shirts in there. I want to make sure my little avatar guy is wearing the coolest t-shirt. I don’t really understand that, but then I don’t know if you heard about Fortnight had Travis Scott do a virtual concert and was watched by millions of people.

Albert:

Yep.

Stephanie:

There’s a very big reason why people would be like, “Whatever he was wearing, I want to wear.”

Albert:

Now, did you hear about Travis Scott’s McDonald’s deal?

Stephanie:

No. What’s that?

Albert:

It was like the number one selling meal for the last couple months.

Stephanie:

Just McDonald’s in in general or what’s his meal?

Albert:

The Travis Scott meal. I don’t know. It’s literally his meal. You know what I mean? You can have a number one, you can have a number two, you can have a Travis Scott.

Stephanie:

It says the Travis Scott meal is a quarter pounder with cheese, lettuce, and bacon.

Albert:

I’m just saying that’s the power of you talking about a digital world. Yeah. There’s the power of influence too, but he’s already a mega celebrity, right? But I view it as this, it’s like, what people are into, and this is why, like I was saying before, I feel like I age out of this stuff very quickly, and we’re talking about ever evolving change. I came from a time where if I didn’t have a physical product in my hand, I didn’t think was real. I remember when mp3s first came out, I was like, “Why would I buy an mp3?” It’s like, “It’s a digital version of your songs.” “What if I lose it?” They would be like, “What if you use your CDs?” “But at least I’m in control of my CD.” You know what I mean? Like, that’s my CD. I know where it is. I take responsibility for it. I was slow to convert there.

Albert:

And I feel for me, I’m always slow to convert to digital products, but when I watch my kids, it’s just unbelievable. I don’t even think they’re interested in physical products. They keep wanting digital things. They want more games, they want more currency for their players, they just want this stuff. So, that’s why I kind of didn’t answer that because I was thinking simultaneously in my head, this is never going to work, but I think I mean this is not going to work on me but this is going to work on my kids, because it’s happening right now. I get things all the time on my Google Play app, iTunes account, like, “What is this?”

Stephanie:

Why don’t you buy one more virtual sword?

Albert:

So, will company start integrating like t-shirt… All right. So, let’s take one of our t-shirt clients, right? We’ve kind of asked our guests on Up Next in Commerce, we’ve asked this to all of them. How do you convey that your product is soft, silky, whatever their product descriptors are, to someone without them touching it? And so it makes you wonder, in the future, is someone going to see a yellow hammock in their virtual world and be like, “Huh,” and it’ll pop up a ding like, bing. “Not only can your character have a yellow hammock, you can have one too.” It’s like, “Oh, okay, cool.”

Stephanie:

Yeah. Especially if you can kind of see it blowing in the wind, or you can see that shirt like, oh, that’s form fitting on this person in my virtual world that I really like. If you can kind of see things and details about it that mimic it. I mean, it seems like there’s an opportunity there, it might not be here just yet, and you definitely have to figure out the demographics behind it, because, yeah, I mean, like you said, you might not be interested in that.

Stephanie:

However, I was listening to a pretty good interview with this guy, Matthew Ball, he was the former head of strategy at Amazon Studios, and he had a really good episode talking about how he was the same as you like, “Oh, this just isn’t my world, however, I see actually a lot of companies, they will start being able to adapt these same types of technologies to where the older generation will actually start adopting as well, they just are trying to figure that out right now like, what will they feel comfortable with and what are they looking for? Like, what problems can you solve to get them there?”

Albert:

It’s going to be pretty fascinating when someone’s upsell customer journey path is actually get the digital avatar to consume this product first and then offer the physical. You know what I mean? When we talk about the hammock, can you imagine that, like, “Oh, my avatar really likes this hammock. He seems great. I think I might get one for myself in real life.” What?

Stephanie:

I mean, I kind of would. I would do it. You need to get in these worlds to really experience it, but I mean, it does just seem like that is where the world is trending right now, around these games. I mean, a company I follow really closely is Epic Games, I think they’re-

Albert:

They’re in out neighborhood. [crosstalk 00:35:26].

Stephanie:

I think their leadership team is brilliant around what they’re doing with their platform and how they’re essentially giving away almost all the underlying technology that other companies have been charging for for a really long time, and they’re kind of building this really big moat to be able to expand in a bunch of different ways. So, I kind of keep tabs on them, and that also, of course, influences my commerce hat when I’m thinking about too like, “Oh, wow, these two worlds could blend together in a really unique way and whoever gets there first…” Usually, the first movers are the ones that can get that arbitrage. So, seems like an interesting spot to watch.

Albert:

Yes, the Unreal Engine, for our listeners that are not familiar. Epic built a platform called the Unreal Engine of which you can build your gaming world on so that you could use… think of it as less code, you had less code, less character development, it’s all built for you, you just add your characters and they can build worlds for you. How they do it is they charge you a royalty fee, I believe it’s like 5%, but only if your sales are over a specific number.

Stephanie:

Yeah, it’s very beneficial to creators, and that’s why a lot of people are moving to that platform now because they’re used to having these apps where certain stores, they’re taking like 30 and 40%, and if you move to Unreal, you’re essentially keeping the majority of your sales.

Albert:

Yeah, and you don’t have to pay until you reach a certain number. So, by the time you’re paying Epic, you’ve already made it, and then you’re fine with it, I guess. The number is tolerable. By the way, if you follow Epic Games founder, Tim Sweeney, on Twitter right now, he’s in a constant fight with Apple over [crosstalk 00:36:56].

Stephanie:

Oh, I know.

Albert:

He does not like it.

Stephanie:

I wouldn’t either.

Albert:

It’s a fun follow, though. It’s a great follow.

Stephanie:

Go, Tim. I’m going to follow you right now.

Stephanie:

All right. So, the last one that I want to talk about is… I think this is interesting. You might be like, “That’s weird.” But I think there’s such a big opportunity for optimizing, not only your website for voice searches, but also potentially building out custom Alexa skills to solve a problem. I see people doing that right now, but not really in ecommerce as much, but think about having an Alexa where you’re like, “Hey, Alexa, tell me what wine goes best with this kind of recipe.” Or, “Hey, Alexa, suggest some outfit for me based on the weather today.” And you kind of build a tool that’s actually helpful that’s also you know, of course, very close to your brand. And so you can become top of mind by building out those skills or just implementing voice search in general. I just think the world is headed in that way because the technology is starting to get better, but I don’t see a lot of brands jumping on that right now.

Albert:

I think the ability for AI to understand intent and meaning isn’t quite there yet. I’m trying to think of myself using my own consumer behavior, right? Do I use voice to text right now to enter searches? Yeah, because it’s a lot easier than typing it in or swiping it in, right? So, if I want to ask Google a question, I will just click the mic button and talk. Would I do that to solve problems? I don’t know, but I think I haven’t yet because contextually, it’s very difficult, but it won’t be far, right. So, right now, I think a lot of people Google best. Do you know what I mean? Like you said, best way to do X for Y, right? And then the next level is going to be can NLP technology, AI technology, whatever it is going to be that understands the nuance and intent and meaning start making it super personalized recommendations?

Albert:

So, can you imagine if you went to Home Depot, because what you’re talking about would be super cool, if you go to Home Depot and say, “Hey, my garbage disposal broke. How do I replace it?” And it just comes up with like, boom, “You’re going to need this, this, this, this,” and then it gives me a how-to guide of how I buy a garbage disposal, I’m going to need these tools, I’m gonna need the sealants, and getting them-

Stephanie:

Can you imagine saying that, like, “Here’s exactly how you’re going to fix it. Let me send you a video to your phone.” And like, “You need like Albert’s brand of screws.” Like, they’re literally dropping your own products in there like, “This is how I would fix it, and also, here’s a how-to video,” and you walk away being like, “Wow, I not only bought that brand stuff, maybe, or I didn’t, but they’re top of mind now. They actually helped me fix my garbage disposal.” How cool would that be?

Albert:

So, speaking of this, there was a while ago where I believe it was the president of O’Reilly, I’m pretty sure it was. The O’Reilly Auto Parts basically came out and said that Amazon was not a threat because buying car parts is very complicated. I’m not saying he’s wrong, right? Right now car parts really aren’t bought on Amazon because you have to know what model you have, you have to know the year, the make, the model, you actually have to know something about fixing cars to even begin to find the part. But can you imagine a future where you can ask it a question like, you go to O’Reilly or wherever you go and you say, “My air conditioner is not cold,” and it remembers your car models, “Oh, you’re going to need X, Y, Z. Would you like me to book you an appointment if you can’t do this yourself?” Like, “Yeah, book me one. I don’t want to do this?”

Stephanie:

Yes, please. Yeah. No, I mean, that’s where I think the world is headed. And I mean, we did have a good interview, it wasn’t our first 50, it was one of our more recent ones, talking about the world of identity and how you should be able to go places and you shouldn’t always have to refill in your info, it should know maybe what’s your brand of car if you put it somewhere else before. I’m trying to think of what episode that was.

Albert:

Fast.

Stephanie:

Oh, yeah, Fast. Yeah, that was such an interesting episode. I mean, now it’s coming up right after this one drops, but [inaudible 00:41:10], so interesting where he was going through. Not only are they doing payments and identity, but where the world was headed around you should always have a Buy Now button on every single one of your products and that you shouldn’t just make people add stuff to cart and then do the shipping and all that, you should let them buy when they want to buy it. And he was talking about the conversions behind that. But all that gets back to the identity piece, which is what you’re talking about, going into an auto part store, you should be able to say, “Here’s what I’m looking for,” and it should know, “Okay, based on the information I have about you, here’s what I’m going to recommend for you,” and make it seamless and frictionless.

Albert:

Yeah, everyone wants that.

Stephanie:

My future. I don’t know what yours is, Albert?

Albert:

Well, I think it’s going to get there. It’s not a matter of if, but when, but I still know that NLP… for anyone that’s used an AI chat bot yet and been frustrated because you asked a simple question and it’s like, “I don’t know what you’re saying,” it’s like we’re not there yet, but I think it’s coming, for sure it’s coming. The technology providers, though, are going to be the ones focusing on that the most. I don’t know when the merchants can start tapping into that resource.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s why it’s interesting to kind of keep an eye on these new startups and new tech companies that are launching around this stuff, like Fast, or even like the technologies like GPT-3. When that came out, I was just reading a whole article about how this guy created a program where you essentially can just talk and it’ll build a website for you. So, you can say, “Create a red button, have the drop down say this, have the picture do this, grab the picture from here.” And it is no code. You are speaking and it is coding for you in the background.

Stephanie:

I think the world is headed there but you just have to try and stay on top of those trends or the companies and try things out, honestly, experiment with it and see if it could work without bogging things down. I know you have been the first to say that the amount of plugins that you add on your website are just going to bog it down, and website speed is number one, so there is that balance, but I think it’s interesting to stay on top of the trends outside of just your current industry.

Albert:

Yeah. Are we going to get to the part where we all have our own Jarvis? I don’t know. But if that happens, it will be cool. Jarvis from Iron Man, for anyone that’s not familiar with what I’m talking about, right?

Stephanie:

I was actually familiar with that one.

Albert:

Yeah? There you go. Look at you watching movies and stuff.

Stephanie:

I know. Look at me. I’m so trendy.

Albert:

It’s not trendy. It’s definitely very old. I think it’s like a decade old now.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Still great, though.

Albert:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

All right. Are there any other forward looking trends that you think are interesting right now. So, we essentially covered the things that were in the 50 episodes, which were awesome and really cool, high level themes, but all the episodes had really good, juicy nuggets in each one. And then we looked at some of the forward thinking themes that maybe weren’t covered, but I just think are interesting. But anything else you can think of where you’re like, “I think a lot of people aren’t thinking about this or aren’t paying enough attention to this world that could help an ecommerce store owner”?

Albert:

Well, we got to do a big shout out to my awesome producer, Hillary, who loves Peloton.

Stephanie:

She does.

Albert:

Because Peloton is a very fascinating-

Stephanie:

[crosstalk 00:44:23].

Albert:

So, I bought stock in Peloton, and here’s the reason why. I’ve never encountered a brand that I can think of where people so emphatically talk about it. Peloton and maybe CrossFit. Everyone says, “The first rule of CrossFit is you can’t stop talking about CrossFit,” I think that’s also applicable to Peloton, because people who have Peloton love Peloton. So, I think this concept of building community so that your product extends beyond the purchase of the product, meaning like you buy a physical bike but you would stay subscribed to Peloton services. Because I think every brand, or not every brand, because could you do it with a ball? I don’t know.

Albert:

But brands and products companies are probably trying to figure out how do I create a subscription community? I think that is going to be a trend that you can capitalize on now because it doesn’t require, I don’t think, as much technology that doesn’t exist, but it’s more like how do you build ongoing services at a price point where customers never want to leave you? So, like, I don’t know. Let’s use my example of kitchenware. Should fork, and knife, and bowl companies have active cooking communities? I think they should.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, that was our interview with Food52, Amanda Hesser, that’s exactly what they did. They built up this huge online community first and then they started reselling other people’s products, drop shipping them, and then they created their own brand, and they did it in a way where they’re like, “By then we had this huge community that we were doing cooking things together.”

Albert:

Yeah. They could already forecast their sales. They were like, “Oh, we can automatically assume how many people are going to buy this.”

Stephanie:

I know. And that was a long haul for them. I mean, she was the first to say that, however, I’m like, you essentially are launching to an audience that trust you, trust your content, you have this love for just anything that you’re doing after you build this community, but trying to figure out how to do that right or figuring out what actually keeps people coming back and how to keep them engaged I think is really difficult without being annoying and without pushing your product too much. When you start in a more content focused way, it seems like it can be a lot more organic to build up those followers to then shift into a product where you have that trust. But it does seem hard when you’re launching a new like DTC company and also trying to do content at the same time, it seems hard to figure that piece out.

Albert:

Yeah. And if we go back in time, right, Michelin figured this out. Michelin figured out that people weren’t driving enough, so they created their star review system because they wanted people to drive and experience things all over the world, to the point now where here we are today, people still talk about Michelin star ratings for restaurants. It’s still that important. People can’t put two together and say, “Why would a tire company create that?”

Albert:

So, if you have that today, I think that’s probably the next biggest trend, and you can already kind of see it happening. I think more products are going to try to create worlds or problems that their products and services solve, or whether it’s exploratory or problem solving, I don’t know. But when it comes to Peloton, I just think about the community that they’ve built, the fact that people just rave about the product. We got our buddy Hillary here, she’s got a bike, it’s not broken. She says, “They launched a new bike. The screen tilts so I can do yoga and then get back on the bike.” It had a price point, a really high price point. I mean, Hillary was considering getting a loan to get this thing, which, by the way, they offer, they offer financing.

Stephanie:

We’re going to put Hillary’s… her like affiliate code, I don’t know if she one. She needs one.

Albert:

Well, I’m telling you, the brand love that she has… But it’s not just her. I say Hillary because, Hillary, we obviously work with her, but people love this product.

Stephanie:

There you go. Are you looking at our prep doc? She says h_tag24. Peloton all the time.

Albert:

Okay. If you want to buy, h_tag24. If you want to follow our buddy Hillary on Peloton, not only will she kick your ass in all these calories, or I don’t even know what you guys measure.

Albert:

However you score points, she’s scoring all the points.

Stephanie:

I don’t know if that’s a thing.

Albert:

Outputs. I don’t know.

Stephanie:

Okay, outputs got it. This has gone into a bad hole. I’m not sure what we’re talking about here.

Albert:

Well, we were saying like, what’s the next thing to be aware of? I mean, I think that is closer than all those voice searches and things like that that you talked about, which I think are coming, I think you’re going to see more companies build communities, and I also think you’re going to see more companies burning out customers by trying to make everything like SaaS. Because one of my favorite Twitter handle to follow, everyone check it out, it’s called the Internet of Shit, it’s just non stop products that don’t work if you aren’t subscribed to their services. So, businesses out there that try to make me subscribe to make my refrigerator work, I’m anti-you. All right? Definitely anti-you, don’t want to hear about it. So, follow the Internet of Shit, if you guys are curious.

Stephanie:

I have follow that one.

Albert:

But that’s the delicate balance, right? How do you build a community of value that you charge for versus, I don’t know, putting someone in entrapment where you’re forcing funds out of them every month just to use your product?

Stephanie:

Yeah. I especially think after everything with COVID, people are also going to be dying for that community, even if it has to be online, I think it’s going to be bigger now than it ever was before, because people have been cooped up and haven’t been able to have that community like they may have been used to or they’re actually maybe cherishing it in a different way now and they’re trying to look for that. So, I think it’ll be a big opportunity.

Albert:

There you go.

Stephanie:

All right. Anything else on your mind? If not, I think this was a fun episode. It was a good one.

Albert:

I hope so. I can never tell.

Stephanie:

You’re really not, yeah. You’re almost like, “I’m not sure.” But yeah, I think this episode was awesome, it’s really fun just kind of reminiscing through all the episodes we did. I can’t believe we’ve already had 50. If you have not given us a review and a rating and subscribed, please do, because that helps spread the word, and we would love to hear how we’re doing. We also have some really good interviews coming up, like we were mentioning earlier, the CEO Fast is coming on, we have a really cool company, Handwrytten coming on with [inaudible 00:51:04], Sheets and Giggles, Ring. We’ve got some big names coming up here, and yeah, I’m excited to do this next recap after the next 50.

Albert:

Until then.

Stephanie:

Right. Thanks, Albert.

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