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It’s A Trap! Why You Shouldn’t Sacrifice Authenticity on Amazon

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Brands are facing fierce competition in this ever-evolving ecommerce landscape. More often than not, shoppers do a general product search on Google or Amazon, where hundreds, if not thousands, of brands fight for the sale. It’s a hard arena to win in, and every company is trying to find shortcuts and strategies to give them an edge.

You’ve probably seen some of those strategies — for example, the products with a bunch of random SEO words jammed into the title so that the item appears higher in search. There are plenty more wacky Amazon tricks of the trade that brands have tried. Goal Zero is one of those brands trying to figure out the secret sauce but approaching it in a much different manner. Patrick Keller, Head of Marketing and Ecommerce at Goal Zero, may have finally solved the mystery — but the answer is not what you might be expecting.

On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Patrick tells us that there are a few key strategies to unlocking more conversions on Amazon, and how they view authenticity and increasing brand awareness.TLDR: it takes great messaging, some big bets, and a lot of long-term thinking. Oh, and some pretty cool products, too. Hear all the details on this episode!

Main Takeaways:

  • Always Be Iterating: Producing marketing material is not a cut-and-dry process. Define your target market, set KPIs, and establish a timeline, then create a system that lends itself to AB testing and iteration. Don’t be afraid to create assets and then break them into pieces to test in different ways. You’ll learn more about your customers and the market in general that way, which you can then expand on when you embark on larger campaigns.
  • Dream Big: Taking bigger advertising risks with a long tail is often a good way to get more bang for your buck. By investing in large-scale projects with a cinematic quality, you have more of a chance to use that content for much longer and build brand awareness with a larger audience that might miss a one-off campaign.
  • Consider This: Figuring out a way to bypass the consideration phase on Amazon is one of the big challenges facing brands today. Because of the amount of options Amazon shoppers are presented with, companies that might have converted easily on their own site are losing out on Amazon. Whether through influencers or targeted campaigns, building brand awareness and loyalty is one of the methods brands are using to start bypassing that consideration phase and actually convert more.

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

Key Quotes:

“There are a ton of stories that we look at and say, ‘How can we tell a story that aligns with our core values, that aligns with us as a brand, and then softly references some of our products in the background?’ It’s mostly a question of is it authentic and is it engaging? And is it engaging to a mass of people? If we can answer those questions and then we can say it has a loose tie to a specific product or to a group of Goal Zero products, then yeah, we’re looking at producing higher-quality content, more cinematic-style content that we can then use on TV, we can use in a variety of ways.”

“We want to actually find people who their very first search for backup power or home resiliency is on Amazon. Attracting those people and then working them down the funnel… What we’ve seen is we’re really good at driving the traffic and we’re really good at converting the traffic. Where we get stuck is in that middle phase, the consideration phase, where people are like, ‘Well, geez. There’s 25 different power stations I can look at.’ And we convert some of them, but some of them get spun off into competitors. I think one of the things we’re looking at is saying, how do we actually take that middle consideration phase and almost eliminate it? Can we bring people back from Amazon to goalzero.com, where they learn without all the noise of the marketplace, the myriad of ads, and have them really get the full Goal Zero experience, see our differentiators, see why we as a brand have succeeded, and then bring them back to Amazon to convert?” 

 “We’ve just started dabbling in driving traffic to Amazon with influencers. Normally, we drive them to goalzero.com, again, going back to the fact that we just have a much better experience on goalzero.com than we do on Amazon. But if we can take people who have big followings of trusting people that say, ‘Hey, this is why I use Goal Zero, this is how I use Goal Zero.’ There’s videos, there’s content. It’s real. They’re actually using it and then we drive the transaction to Amazon, that seemed to be a good way to bypass that consideration phase and get them adapted in saying, ‘Yep, I’m absolutely buying Goal Zero because it reflects my core values, because it aligns with who I am as an individual.”

“One of the things that we got caught up in was trying to play the Amazon game, right? As a premium brand, we’d be like, ‘Well, let’s keyword our titles, and let’s try to figure out how we’re going to drive thousands of reviews,’ and all these things that you just felt you had to do on Amazon. We took a step back and said, ‘All of the stuff we do for goalzero.com is going to absolutely work on Amazon. We just have to do it the same way. We have to be ourselves and be authentic to our brand.’ We stopped talking about keyword stuffing and started talking about hey, we’re designed in the USA. Our offices are in Salt Lake City. We give back 5% of our profits to humanitarian efforts. Come check out our social impact and what we stand for as good citizens and stewards. We started talking about who we are, why we’re premium, what we are and what makes us different from the rest of the competition, specifically on these budget brands on Amazon. And we’re starting to see improvements.”

“There is no magic bullet. Success in ecommerce is a ton of elbow grease. It’s a constant hustle and just always working a little bit harder and a little bit better. Because there’s no technology, there’s no new platform, there’s no new thing that’s just going to solve all your financial troubles. It’s elbow grease.”

Mentions:

Bio:

“Patrick is the Head of Marketing and Ecommerce at Goal Zero, an NRG Energy company, and oversees all aspects of the marketing division including: direct response marketing, creative services, ecommerce, social media and influencer marketing, PR and advertising, product marketing, and tradeshows and events.

Patrick has a long history of building brands and being a catalyst for growth in multi-channel organizations. He is passionate about Goal Zero and introducing the brand to a wide array of customers under the firm belief that Goal Zero products make lives brighter. Prior to Goal Zero, Patrick held leadership roles at Sundance Catalog and Orvis.

Patrick was born in Salt Lake City and grew up fishing, hunting, skiing and climbing in the Wasatch and Uinta mountains. After leaving Utah to pursue career opportunities throughout the west, Patrick eventually ended up in Manchester Vermont where he met his wife. In 2013, Patrick and his wife moved back to Utah to raise their two boys in the mountains. The Keller family is outside whenever possible skiing, climbing, biking and fishing.”

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:

Hi, everyone, and welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. I’m your host, Stephanie Postles, CEO over here at Mission.org. Today on the show we have Patrick Keller, Head of marketing and ecommerce at Goal Zero. Patrick, welcome to the show.

Patrick:

Hey, thanks for having me. It’s fantastic to be here.

Stephanie:

I’m excited to have you on. I think I needed Goal Zero back in the snowstorm in Austin. So I’m in Austin, I forgot to tell you that. But we did not have power. We were struggling over here, and I did not have any products that I apparently needed. Now I went to Goal Zero’s website, and I realized, this is all I needed. I just didn’t know about it.

Patrick:

That’s it. That’s it.

Stephanie:

I’d love to start there. What is Goal Zero?

Patrick:

Yeah, exactly. Goal Zero makes portable power. It ranges from small portable power to use to back up your phone all the way to really massive energy storage that you can use to run key segments of your home for days. We play in that portable power. It’s all battery based, so it’s clean, renewable and really easy to use. That’s it in a nutshell.

Stephanie:

Yeah. It also looks nice. I mean, I saw in some of the product pictures it’s on your counter. You have this huge battery power portable battery station. I’m like, “Okay, I would have that around because it’s not a big, huge thing like other energy sources,” at least like backup generators and whatnot that I know my parents used to suggest that I get back in the day.

Patrick:

Yeah, no. It’s new technology, but exactly right. I mean, I think that’s one of our differentiators, and our industrial design is something we’re proud of and we spent a lot of time working on.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s great. Before we dive more into Goal Zero, I was hoping we could walk through your background a bit. Because I’ve seen you have had an interesting ecommerce journey, and I’d love to hear where you started and where you’ve been.

Patrick:

Oh, man. I hope we don’t take up the whole interview with my background because it wasn’t a straight shot, that’s for sure. I left college with a marketing degree and became a fly fishing guide and then followed my passions to a company called Orvis based out of Vermont, where my first role was really analyzing the performance of catalogs. Now, do we give pants more square inches? Do we give shirts less? This product needs to be more heavily promoted. This was back in 2005, 2006, when ecom was still in its infancy. It was a lot of educational resource. Yeah, we should have a website, but we don’t really know exactly what to do with it.

Patrick:

My next role really was, well geez, you’re doing a good job of building the overall conversion rate on our catalogs. Can you do that with our website? So we started building out the early days of web merchandising. Can we promote products and boost and bury and use common metrics like sales per page view to actually drive a significant improvement in website conversion? Honestly, it was a huge success. That was big.

Patrick:

That led to eventually me taking a side step into catalog, and I managed the Orvis catalog business for a few years as well as their email. That was really good at understanding customer segmentation, how to go through and parse lists, how to find demographic overlays and psychographic overlays and just really use customer data to make sure your catalog was mailed to the right people and the right message was delivered. That set me up really well for a foray into digital advertising. How can we make sure that our digital ads are as focused as our catalog ads? Ran the digital advertising for Orvis for a few years.

Patrick:

Then I’m from Utah originally, and I wanted to move back out West to the Wasatch. So I took a job with Sundance catalog. Same thing, grew their whole ecom business and then eventually Goal Zero approached me after about four years at Sundance and said, “You want to come work for this scrappy startup down in Utah?” I said, “Yeah, let’s give it a shot.” It was absolutely awesome. It’s been just a rollercoaster of a ride, and Goal Zero has in the last five years, has 4Xed their revenue, so really explosive growth and really fun.

Stephanie:

That’s really fun. What does your best day in the office look like at Goal Zero? What are you doing these days versus when you first joined this scrappy startup?

Patrick:

Yeah. Well, I mean we’re a lot bigger, so we have more resources and we’re doing a lot of different techniques that we’re just… We couldn’t even imagine these types of techniques four years ago, mass media, television, some of those things that we’re stepping into. A good day at Goal Zero we still like to be outside, like to be active people. So a couple of us will go and do a backcountry ski in the morning, come down to the office, have some meetings, talk strategy, talk about how we’re going to deliver messages, who we’re going to target, what’s the best way to convey a message about this somewhat nascent product and category. And then finish it off with maybe a beer after work and call it a day.

Stephanie:

Man, this is the life. I need to come over and join you guys for-

Patrick:

It’s not bad. I’m telling you, we have a lot of fun.

Stephanie:

… banging beers.

Patrick:

Yeah. We have a lot of fun.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. How does it differ? I mean you’re at Orvis. I mean, I think they’ve been around for like 150 years or something.

Patrick:

Exactly right.

Stephanie:

Okay. You’re selling a fun, leisurely fly fishing type products and all that, then moving to a utility product where you feel like you don’t really need it until you need it, like my Austin experience. Did you have to shift your mindset to selling a product like that?

Patrick:

You know what that hardest part is, is everyone knows what a fly rod is. Everyone knows what a pair of khaki pants is. There’s no explanation. You start at a certain just understanding and then you talk about benefits. With a portable power station, very few people in the US know what a portable power station is, so you actually have to start a step back and say, “Let me introduce you to something you have never heard about, and then let me convince you why you need this anywhere from $400 to $5,000 thing in your home.”

Patrick:

It’s a much longer burn and really, it’s a lot more complicated in how we educate customers. It doesn’t start with oh, do I buy an Apple iPhone or a Google Pixel? It’s just not that simple. You have to say, “Hey, let me make you aware of this thing and that this thing exists and then walk you down the funnel for just a long consideration?” A few people will buy who have done research offline or through other various means will buy the day they come to the site. Most of them, it’s a 90-plus day transaction.

Stephanie:

Wow.

Patrick:

We’ll see a slow burn for 90 days and then a lot of conversions.

Stephanie:

What are you doing in those 90 days to bring them down the funnel? What do those tactics look like behind the scenes? Because I’m even thinking of me, me trying to explain the product at the very beginning. I’m like, I don’t even know what you would call it and how do you even explain this, because it’s just not something that I’m even used to buying and talking about. So I’d be interested to hear, what does that look like behind the scenes for you?

Patrick:

Yeah. We break it into two parts. There is the before you’ve come to the website, and that could be PR. That could be trade shows. That could be television, radio, podcasts, a variety of ways where we’re just trying to say, “Here’s something that could be really beneficial to you and your family and just all the things you like to do. Come to goalzero.com.

Patrick:

Once they’ve come to goalzero.com, then we can open up a whole host of opportunities of how do we get educational messaging? How do we do differentiation between us and our competitors? How do we do differentiation between us and gas generators? We’ll spend a lot of time reviewing our website saying, “I’m not sure this is the best way to talk about home energy storage. Let’s change that up.” We’ll put you through and try to get you to sign up for emails. We’ll do a bend and browse. We’ll do a marketing display. We’ll try to find you on Amazon. We’ll try to find you in retail stores and say, “Hey, if you want to actually see this thing in person, check out our retail finder.”

Patrick:

We use a company called Locally, which actually does an inventory feed to us so that we know now what do they carry at Goal Zero in a blanket statement, but we know that this product specifically is in stock at this store at this time. So we can drive customers to go see it in person and give them a chance to touch, feel, pick it up, explore it a little bit before they transact.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s really interesting. In talking about top of funnel, you’re saying you guys are trying everything, like TV, mass media, podcasts. What are you exploring there and how do you view things like TV versus podcasting, which everyone is seeming to try and lean into that now? What are you guys seeing on that front?

Patrick:

Yeah. It’s funny, we’re definitely stepping our toes into it. We’re not doing anything full scale national wise yet. I think the first one we’re doing is probably a national podcast. Last year in 2020 we did a lot of TV commercials. We said, “Let’s start with something that seems to have a high level of success, so there was two areas. Number one is California with the power shutdowns, right? Any time the winds get over 20 miles an hour, Northern California shuts the grid down to prevent fires.

Stephanie:

Oh, I know. I lived through that.

Patrick:

Yeah, exactly.

Stephanie:

I moved to Austin, and then a snowstorm hit. I’m like, “What the heck?”

Patrick:

Exactly right, right? We said, “Geez, if it’s going to work, it’s going to work in California first. Let’s try that.” So we did a really kind of cool TV commercial. We spent a lot of time walking customers through the versatility and just showcasing this product and saying, “Come to… ” Then we hit them up with immediately social media messaging. We had a custom landing page where they could come to and just really say, “Chances are, you’ve never heard of this. Let me just explain and walk you through all the benefits this product provides.”

Patrick:

We got them to sign up for emails. We were able to hit them with display. Then we mirrored some of that over on Amazon as well saying, “What we’re doing at goalzero.com, should people choose to shop on Amazon because it’s easy and convenient, let’s make sure that a lot of that content is transferred over there as well.” We also did the Gulf Coast, so Houston all the way down the Miami. We targeted a lot of TV ads there as well. It was a record year for storms, for things like tropical storms and hurricanes, and so we wanted to make sure that this is the people who are highly aware of power outages. Their power was out for a good portion of weeks on end in some cases for a good portion of the summer.

Patrick:

We targeted those two areas, and we had very specific metrics all the way through. Some of it was how much traffic are we going to drive to the website? Based on that traffic, what does the conversion rate and the AOV need to be in order for us to hit our sales goals? We worked closely with other agencies to say, “As we’re planning this out, do you think we can drive this much traffic? What are the reasons or what do we need to do differently? What is the call to action?” Then we did a lot of AB testing.

Patrick:

We would have the full 30 second commercial, and then we’d cut that down into 10 and 15 second shorts that we can do a lot of YouTube and digital advertising with. We’d have five different variations that we could just go through and say, “This one seems to be driving the most traffic to the site. This one seems to have a higher conversion rate. Let’s blend these two together and target those.”

Patrick:

Long story, I think that it was a really cool experience. We learned a ton and I think the results were promising enough that we’re excited to continue to push into broader audiences and more and more mainstream.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s a really cool test. How did you think about attribution from TV, whereas YouTube, very easy running your 15 second clips on there, but did you have a certain CTA on the ads on TV to be able to go somewhere, or how did you think about tracking that? And what did that ROI look like versus just something anyone could get into, like a YouTube or yeah, direct advertising?

Patrick:

Yeah. We did a lot of it in just comparison saying, “Here’s the geographic DMAs these things are running in. How does that compare to areas where it’s not running? Do we see a lift over time?” And then just measure that. I’ll give you an example. We took a look and said, “During the time these ads were running, what was the daily average traffic to goalzero.com from California?” Right? We said, “Oh, we saw a 300% increase.” What was it on non-target DMAs? Oh, it was flat. We’re down five. We can get some just basic looks at saying, yeah, it appears to have driven high levels of traffic.

Patrick:

From there, we went through and said, “How many of those people came specifically to our landing page that we had set up,” which used power landing page. That was a good indicator of whether they were just randomly coming or were specifically coming because of this. In the case of the Gulf Coast campaign, it was nice because even within a specific state, there were some DMAs that got it and some that didn’t. California was all of California. You had to make a few more assumptions about yeah, this appears to have really increased traffic over the control group.

Patrick:

But with the Gulf Coast we could say, “Well, geez. We hit Houston, but we didn’t hit Austin. What are the differences between there?” We hit Houston but not San Antonio. So we could go through these specific DMAs and see lifts. It was a rudimentary kind of AB test that we learned a lot from.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s great. What was your favorite campaign that you guys ran? Because I could see some really fun, creative ways to sell Goal Zero. So what kinds of things did you guys experiment with, or any fun campaigns that you’re like, this is a good one?

Patrick:

No. I came from a highly analytical background, so when I took over the creative team, I was always like, “Well, we got to put numbers behind it, and we need to… ” And that learning to embrace my creative side has been really cool. We ran a campaign for our 10-year anniversary called Ode to the Road where we went on a two-week road trip and stopped at all these cool places and produced a lot of really cool content. It was this traveling video blog, and we could follow along as you went. It was so much fun. I mean, you have to watch it.

Patrick:

It’s just really cool people, really engaging content, and just again, it goes back to showing the versatility of what we can do and what our products could power. It’s things like we set up Dometic fridges full of cold beer and ice cream in the middle of the Pacific Crest Trail. So people would be coming out of the desert after these long, arduous miles and they’d say, “Do you want ice cream? Do you want a cold beer?” It was like, “Oh my God, trail angels!” It was just fun, cool stuff. We had a massive outdoor dinner on the coast in Santa Barbara, and the entire thing, the grills, everything was powered by Goal Zero. Yeah, it’s creative, cool, engaging content. It’s a lot of fun.

Stephanie:

Wow. Yeah, that sounds really cool. I mean, that also just makes me think branded content, and it could be full on series, Netflix series is the way of the future. I mean we’ve heard from so many guests that organic and natural is definitely the way to sell nowadays, but also having your product integrated in a way that doesn’t feel salesy. To me, branded content like that seems like the way of the future. Have you guys thought about exploring that even more? I mean, which also goes back to the whole companies turning into media companies and thinking that way now going forward. How are you thinking about that for the next couple years?

Patrick:

Yeah. Well, I think a lot of it is we’re listening closely to the voice of the customer, right? One of the things I really like about Goal Zero and I really like about my job is it’s just, there’s surprises around every corner. Right? You’ll hear these stories about, “Hey, I used Goal Zero to power this obscure, weird thing,” that you just never even thought of. Suddenly, you hear that there’s a ton of people doing this and you can start building campaigns and start building content around that.

Patrick:

One of the things we like to do is we’ll run periodically a how do you Yeti. Yetis are portable power stations, it’s been called. You get these great stories back of people being like, “You know what? I use it to power my insulin pump when I’m outside. Normally, it’s prohibited. I can’t be more than a couple of hours away from an outlet because I need the power for my insulin pump working. Now I can go backpacking.”

Patrick:

We had a story on that Ode to the Road. A man was powering his prosthetic limb with some of our products to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. So I think you’re right. I think there is a ton of stories that we look at and say, “How can we tell a story that aligns with our core values, that aligns with us as a brand, and then softly references some of our products in the background?”

Patrick:

It’s mostly a question of is it authentic and is it engaging? And is it engaging to a mass of people? If we can answer those questions and then we can say, it has a loose tie to a specific product or to a group of Goal Zero products, then yeah, we’re looking at producing higher quality content, more cinematic style content that we can then use on TV, we can use in a variety of ways. Then at a larger scale, we always partner with cinematic expeditions. So a lot of our ambassadors will go out and say, “We’re climbing Everest. We need to power all of our RED cameras and power our drones and power all of the backup storage.” Our stuff does that, and so we’ll sponsor that movie or that Nat Geo episode or whatever.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, I think that’s also just much longer term thinking than quick hit campaigns and always having to think about adjusting ad units every single day and ad fatigue. I feel like sponsoring or creating content like that will have longer ROIs and could be relevant if you have them shot in an evergreen way for years to come, which I think is why it’s such an exciting angle to be thinking that way.

Patrick:

I think for us, what we always look at is brand and category awareness. It’s one of those things going back to what we discussed earlier, which is nobody knows what a portable power station is. It is a really long burn to get somebody to understand it, identify that they need it, and then pull the trigger on a very expensive item. We do, we go back and just realize that part of that brand building, part of that awareness is just, it’s critical. We have a product that when people get it and they’re like, “I need this,” yeah, it clicks. But we have to continually get that word out there through really engaging, authentic content.

Stephanie:

Yep. Did you have to make any quick pivots when the pandemic hit? Because I could see in person, like you’re mentioning, touching it, being able to pick it up, see how light or not light it is would be an important part of the sales process. Did you have to pivot to a different strategy when people could not as easily go in stores and maybe even now are still reluctant to go out and see it in person?

Patrick:

We saw a massive shift to online, for sure. Our partners were selling predominantly online. Our goalzero.com and Amazon increased dramatically. I think the biggest shift we had to make was just the unexpected surge in business. We didn’t plan for 100% growth as a result of COVID, so our inventory was an issue. Kudos to our supply chain team. They were pulling in orders and doing whatever we could to actually get enough inventory to support it, and even then, we still ran out for periods of time, long periods of time.

Patrick:

I think that was probably the biggest thing we faced was it wasn’t a lack of interest or people weren’t willing to buy online. It was yeah, they easily transitioned and then we just managing inventory, managing expectations, how do we alert people that we’re back in stock? Those are all things that we had to deal with as well as just managing growth internally as an organization.

Stephanie:

Yep. Did you have to change anything substantially around your inventory management and the logistics and the backend that now are completely different than what they were maybe a year ago?

Patrick:

Yeah. I think that we set up an allocation meeting between all the departments and just said, “Here’s how we’re going to look at this and make sure that we’re trying to service all of our wholesale partners, make sure we’re servicing our utility partners, make sure that when people come to goalzero.com, they can use Locally to find product or hopefully be able to buy it there as well.”

Patrick:

I wouldn’t say that it was a massive shift in how we did things, but it was a lot more focused. We would have meetings twice a week with the executive team specifically on that topic of are we servicing our customers to the best of our possible ability? I think that was just the amount of time spent, it used to be a monthly meeting, and now it was two times a week. So really, more than anything it was just the focus was always on, when’s our next shipment coming? When will it arrive? When can we start selling it? When can we get this out to our wholesale partner? I mean those were very common conversations.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That definitely seems hard, especially when you’re growing as quickly as you all were, to try and scramble. But I also think that now customers seem to be okay with things, inventory, maybe not having something in stock as long as it says it’s going to be in stock this date. And you can buy it now and I’ll ship when it’s ready. It just seems like that messaging maybe was missing before all this where it’s like, if I have clear expectations and I know when I could get it, I’m fine if it’s not in stock right now. But a lot of times you would just try and order something a year ago and it just wouldn’t be there and you wouldn’t know why. And is it coming back? It was just kind of like a black box.

Patrick:

Yeah. We stubbed our toe a bit on customer service side of things. So Goal Zero, we measure NPS religious. It’s just something that we really hold near and dear. We have best-in-class NPS. The last few years we’ve averaged about 70, which is Costco, Apple, in essence, leading NPS levels. A big portion of that is our solution center. People can call in, ask questions. And just the inundation of calls, it was taking half an hour to answer the phone. So having to rapidly staff up as well as just implement new technology, the ability to have customers leave their number and we would call them back when they finally met their queue.

Stephanie:

And changing…

Patrick:

Changing the verbiage on the website saying, hey, our call center’s completely swamped. Can we chat with you here? Can we answer you in an email? There was just a whole bunch of things that we had to implement very quickly and very effectively because just the unexpected volume that came through was a bit shocking.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean that’s cool to think about how you guys pivoted, though, to just send customer service requests in different directions depending on where the resources were strapped at, which I think a lot of companies still need to do that or even just a simple, “Let me call you back,” type thing, as long as you call back.

Stephanie:

Now that you’re out of scramble mode, what are some of your favorite things that you’re testing out right now? It can be around the website. It can be around logistics. What are you most excited about where I think this could have big results on conversions on reducing the 90-day sales funnel, but we’re not sure yet?

Patrick:

Oh, totally. Yeah. I think there is endless opportunity. I think it’s not a matter of opportunity, it’s how we prioritize it. What is the biggest bang for the buck? We’re actually in the process of re-platforming right now as we speak.

Patrick:

I think the thought process there is we have the ability to… We’re currently in a lockstep environment, so we have to outsource all of our dev work. It’s just, it’s slow. I think we want to be a lot faster, a lot more nimble, and the ability to go through our funnel and make sure that we are converting at the best possible rate is a key strategy for 2021. Right now we have a group of executives, my ecom director, and some of my senior staff all focused on how do we explain our home energy storage, right? Because, it’s complicated.

Patrick:

I think, Stephanie, you said, “I was in Austin. I could’ve used your stuff.” But if you would’ve come to the site, you would’ve been like, “Geez, there is 40 things I can choose from here. What’s the right one for me?”

Stephanie:

Yep.

Patrick:

The questions we get all the time are, “What will it power and for how long?” On a singular item, that’s easy. Oh, this will charge your cellphone three times. This will run your full-size fridge for a week. But when you start putting in mixes, hey, I want to run my fridge. I want to run my kitchen lights. I want to run my ceiling fan. There’s all these circuits you can wire in or hard wire into your home. Now you start complicating things and making a very complex process.

Patrick:

So we’ll go through that process of saying, here’s all the things that a conservative user can power for how long and this is the kit for you, all the way to hey, if you want to just live high on the hog with power usage and not conserve at all, yeah, here’s the kit for you. There’s various myriad of things in between. It’s a complex, complicated conversation that is very easy in store. It is very easy at a trade show. It’s really hard online, and so we spend a lot of time thinking about how to best say that.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, it brings me back to my Google days trying to think about how to explain how much storage people need on phones or what that looks like and talking more technical terms of how much storage you need. No one knows you need this many gigabytes, this many. Who the heck knows?

Patrick:

Totally.

Stephanie:

Versus you could say, “This’ll hold 20,000 pictures and all the podcasts you could ever download,” or whatever you want. That’s when you’re like, “Oh, okay. I’ll just choose that,” or I don’t need that much. And putting it in more layman’s terms or just pictures, I can imagine you just being like, “Steph, you can power your whole house if it’s under this square feet and you have this many appliances and you’re good.”

Patrick:

That’s it.

Stephanie:

I’m like, “Okay, great.” I just want to just know that and nothing too technical.

Patrick:

That is absolutely it. On the flip side, there is absolutely people who want to get crazy in the weeds. Some of our engineers, because we bring them into the conversation, they’re like, “Oh, this is not enough data. I need to know exactly the watts and the amps and the voltages.” They’re dissecting everything. Then there’s me, who shows up, to your point, I’m like, “Just tell me what to buy. I want it and we’re good to go.” So we have to find that balance of providing both customer types, both shoppers the experience they’re looking for.

Stephanie:

Yep. You’re just like, “Will this run my kegerator?”

Patrick:

That’s it, yeah. After I get done skiing, will my beer be cold?

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s all I need. That’s all I need in life. That’s cool. Are there any other big things like that that you’re also focusing on other than the messaging? Which I think a lot of brands struggle with that, especially as they approach something more technical or when they’re trying to… We’ve heard a lot of them talk about the difference between selling your mission and selling your product. How do you think about that and all that, so it’s definitely a theme that I’ve heard. But is there anything else that you guys are working on that you’re excited about?

Patrick:

Yeah. We’ve got a couple big initiatives. I think the next one is looking at how we target potential customers and really getting deep into the not just demographic but psychographic conversation. Our current customers I think we have a really good understanding of. And our ability to target them, to message them, to find out how and where they’re shopping, why they buy our products, I think we do a reasonably good job of.

Patrick:

People who are not in our current sphere but are absolutely looking for our product, we got to get better at saying, how do we speak to these people who may not be on social media? They may not be Amazon customers. How do we find them, engage with them, speak to them? That’s a big push for us and something that we’re spending a lot of time on. Some of the other things we’re looking at is, again, expanding our mass media campaign, doubling down there, continuing to push TV, podcasts, radio, billboards, just getting on a broader level again all through this kind of brand awareness.

Patrick:

Then lastly, we’re coming out with a new content series, to your point. Super high-end cinematographic-type shooting and camera work and really robust, engaging stories that we’re excited to share with our customers.

Stephanie:

How do you think about selling on Amazon? Because to me, people who are on there, they get a much different experience versus going on your website, they can go through all the video series and really get in with your brand and go from start to finish in probably a better way than when you’re on Amazon. And you’re clicking around and browsing, and you’ve got competing products all around you. How do you approach those two different platforms?

Patrick:

Yeah. That’s a recent discussion for us. Historically, Amazon is always an afterthought like, hey, we’re just going to throw our things up there and people who want to shop on Amazon could shop on Amazon. If they want to buy from Goal Zero, that’s where they’re going to find the rich content. That’s where they’re going to find all the great stories and the great videos. We’re going to send them to retail stores where they’ve got experts. So Amazon was like, yeah, we’ll put it up there. And for the people who want to just type in Goal Zero, buy our product, we’re there.

Patrick:

We went and did a sizing exercise, and we said, “What is the size of the power station market on Amazon?” It’s grown tremendously, significantly. We said, “Well, we got to start playing here meaningfully.” So this year, specifically, we’re doing a lot of work around top of funnel. Can we look at attracting customers and making them aware who are starting their shopping process on Amazon? Normally, what we’re saying is, “Start it via TV, PR, trade shows, goalzero.com, and then eventually come and transact on Amazon.”

Patrick:

We’re saying, “We want to actually find people who their very first search for backup power or home resiliency is on Amazon.” Attracting those people and then working them down the funnel, I think that we’re a premium product. Amazon is a marketplace that really stresses on lower cost value products. So what we’ve seen is we’re really good at driving the traffic and we’re really good at converting the traffic. Where we get stuck is in that middle phase, consideration phase, where people are like, “Well, geez. There’s 25 different power stations I can look at.” And we convert some of them, but some of them get spun off into competitors.

Patrick:

I think one of the things we’re looking at is saying, how do we actually take that middle consideration phase and almost eliminate it? Can we bring people back from Amazon to goalzero.com, where they learn without all the noise of the marketplace, the myriad of ads, and have them really get the full Goal Zero experience, see our differentiators, see why we as a brand have succeeded, and then bring them back to Amazon to convert.

Patrick:

I think that in conversations with Amazon and just around, I think that’s one of the things that premium brands struggle with across the board is geez, we’re really good. Our content’s good enough to capture them. Then people who see the premium differentiators are going to buy. It’s that consideration phase where just you lose a lot in the shuffle. That’s our focus is make them Goal Zero diehards before they actually are ready to convert on Amazon.

Stephanie:

Yep. It does seem like Amazon’s also changing when it comes to customer expectations of going there and being ready to buy more expensive products. I mean, I do think back in the day, like you said, you would just go there and just be like, “I just want the cheapest commodity type good. It’s probably on Amazon.” And now I mean Amazon’s selling high-end furniture and live plants that are really expensive.

Patrick:

Totally.

Stephanie:

It seems like they’re shifting their customers. They’re adapting to their needs and being ready to sell higher end things, which to your point, is maybe a great place to start when it comes to getting the people right where they start searching in there and then targeting them afterwards to get them to convert in either place maybe, as long as they just don’t lose sight of why they were looking for, potentially, your product to begin with.

Patrick:

Yeah, no. I agree. I think Amazon is making a concerted effort to not always be the budget brand or the value brand. I think that from my own personal experience and just talking to consumers, sometimes you get burned on Amazon. You’ll go and you’ll buy a product because it’s the cheapest, and it’s a knockoff or it doesn’t work, or there’s no instructions, or there’s no customer services. It’s just a poor experience.

Patrick:

I think Amazon is recognizing that and saying, let’s make sure that it’s not only price that’s driving the flywheel, that service and that credibility and that it’s going to be right the first time is there. Because they’re super focused on customer service, and these bad experiences are bad for them and bad for the other brands on the marketplace. Yeah, we’ve had that engagement and that conversation with Amazon, and they seem like they’re willing to help us as a premium brand reach our goals.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah. I think when talking about credibility, to me user-generated content is a big part of that, of being able to go on Amazon or on your website or social, literally wherever you are, seeing someone who looks like yourself maybe or reminds you of your situation. And being able to see them having that product is exactly what is needed, especially for a product that’s maybe harder to sell, that’s more technical.

Stephanie:

If I saw someone like me, single mom, three kids, living her best life, but then needs something like that, I’m like, “If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.” I think that’s the way of… Amazon, I think, is trying to head in that direction, but I still think needs more help when it comes to encouraging people to continue to post their organic photos in a way that’s going to help your brand sell.

Patrick:

Yeah, no. I agree. We’ve just started dabbling into driving traffic to Amazon with influencers, right? Normally, we drive them to goalzero.com, again, going back to the fact that we just have a much better experience on goalzero.com than we do on Amazon. But if we can take people who have big followings of trusting people that say, hey, this is why I use Goal Zero, this is how I use Goal Zero. There’s videos, there’s content. It’s real.

Patrick:

They’re actually using it and then we drive the transaction to Amazon. That seemed to be a good way to bypass that consideration phase, like get them adapted in saying, yep, I’m absolutely buying Goal Zero because it reflects my core values, because it aligns with who I am as an individual, absolutely.

Stephanie:

Yep. Have you seen higher conversions or did you do any split testing between having an influencer drive to your site versus to Amazon? And did you just see higher conversions on Amazon, I guess, because that’s a platform that everyone recognizes, you trust the shipping on there? Is that what you saw, or did you see something different?

Patrick:

No. The campaign is actually just starting, and so the early read is yes, we are seeing that we can effectively drive consumers at a less expensive rate to Amazon. They’re going to convert at a higher level than what we’ve seen in the past. We’re not doing an A/B test per se, but if our conversion was X percent, it’s now gone up by three or four or five points.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah, okay. Very cool. Then how do you think about interacting with your customer if they came from Amazon versus if they came from your website and they are much more knowledgeable already about your brand and your mission? Do you approach those customers in different ways?

Patrick:

Yeah. That’s a good question. I think that we definitely approach customers in an educational standpoint, meaning if you know exactly what you want, you’re a lifelong Goal Zero fan, we’re not going to talk to you and force you through this funnel of education and learning about the brand and all our differentiators. We’re going to fast track you right to the buy box. But absolutely, we’ve increased the number of videos. We’ve increased a lot of our A-plus content, and we’re actually going through and just really talking about our differentiators.

Patrick:

I think one of the things that we got caught up in was trying to play the Amazon game, right? As premium brand, we’d be like, “Well, let’s keyword stuff our titles, and let’s try to figure out how we’re going to drive thousands of reviews,” and all these things that you just felt you had to do on Amazon. We took a step back and said, “All of the stuff we do for goalzero.com is going to absolutely work on Amazon. We just have to do it the same way. We have to be ourselves and be authentic to our brand.”

Patrick:

We stopped talking about keyword stuffing and started talking about hey, we’re designed in the USA. Our offices are in Salt Lake City. We give back 5% of our profits to humanitarian efforts. Come check out our social impact and what we stand for as good citizens and stewards. We started talking about who we are, why we’re premium, what we are and what makes us different from the rest of the competition, specifically on these budget brands on Amazon. And we’re starting to see improvements to…

Patrick:

I think more than anything, I think just we’re getting back to doing what we know how to do, which is really good marketing and just applying that really good marketing to Amazon versus trying to be like, “Let’s say it completely different and be this whole and weird alter ego on Amazon,” and just getting back to our roots. I think I’m proud and I’m happy of where we’re heading.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s a really good reminder, too. Yeah, get back to your roots and not get caught up in the frenzy of the platform. I mean yeah, I’m thinking about the certain listings on Amazon with the titles of so many keywords, and you’re like, “Wait, is this the newest iPhone cover or not? I don’t need to see every single iPhone that’s ever existed since 2000.” Yeah.

Patrick:

Totally.

Stephanie:

A good reminder for anyone, large or small companies, to stay grounded and focused on what your goals are and not get caught up in the platform.

Patrick:

Yeah. And it’s easy. You’re like, “It’s Amazon.” It’s going to make or break you. What we found is Amazon, fortunately for us, Amazon has always been a small channel for us. It’s never been a primary channel. Our wholesale, our utility, our goalzero.com are all significantly larger. The ability to come back to center on that is easier than if you are an Amazon brand and 90% of your revenue is flowing through there. I can imagine it’s a very different conversation, but my recommendation is absolutely, stay true to your brand and do the things that got you there in the first place.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I love that. All right, let’s shift over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I ask a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you read, Patrick?

Patrick:

I hope so.

Stephanie:

All right. What’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for you?

Patrick:

The nicest thing anyone ever did to me was early in my career I got a bit of advice that has helped me throughout my entire journey. It was the CEO at Orvis, and he said to me, “Success is easy when people want you to succeed.” I’ve built my entire career around that saying, how do I add value to myself, to the organization, to everyone around me in a way that makes a lot of people’s lives easier, makes people lives better? If I can do that, then yeah, success just comes naturally. That bit of advice has stuck with me for 20 years, and I still, I think about it daily.

Stephanie:

Okay, that’s a good one. I like that answer. I’m going to start thinking about that too in my daily walks of life. No, that’s great. What’s one thing that you believe around ecommerce that many wouldn’t agree with you on? It can be a trend. It can be something you’re bullish on right now. Maybe you get pushback from your current CEO.

Patrick:

Yeah. Yeah, no. I don’t know if a lot of people disagree with me, but I think there’s a tendency to have a hard time differentiating between common practices and best practices. For me, a common practice is something that everybody does and it’s just easy to say, “Oh, we should do that too. We should absolutely have an email signup box when the popup the second you come to the homepage.” I hate those comments. I always say, “No, let’s test it, make sure it’s right for us.” Sometimes they are and sometimes they’re not. I think that making it a best practice means it has to be for you and your business and your company and the ability to differentiate is really critical to success.

Patrick:

Secondly, I would say there is no magic bullet. Success in ecommerce is a ton of elbow grease. It’s a constant hustle and just always working a little bit harder and a little bit better. Because there’s no technology, there’s no new platform, there’s no new nothing that’s just going to solve all your financial troubles. It’s elbow grease.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah, that’s great. If you were to have a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?

Patrick:

If I were to have a podcast, it’d probably be something outdoors, skiing, fishing, whitewater rafting. Let’s see. Yeah, I think my very first guest would probably be Steve Rinella, and we would talk about hunting. I think we would go and talk about the nuances of it. Not the harvesting of animals per se, but the higher level just headiness of it, like how you be able to get out there and become a true conservationist, to truly explore nature in a way that’s just so much more intimate than going for a hike with your dog. It’s a really cool experience, and I would love to just pick his thought on it because he aligns with me.

Stephanie:

That’s great. I know nothing about hunting or any of that, so I would for sure listen to that episode. What’s up next on your Netflix queue?

Patrick:

Oh, geez. I’m probably way late to the game, but we’ve been watching two shows. I think the first one is Outlander. It’s like this woman travels through time in Scotland and it’s a cool story. Then the other one is just more comic relief because it reminds me of my big Irish family. It’s called Derry Girls.

Stephanie:

Okay. I have not checked out that one yet. That’s great. All right. Then the last one, what one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?

Patrick:

In the next year or long term? I think-

Stephanie:

In a year.

Patrick:

In the next year. In the next year, I think just the shift… The aftereffects of COVID are continually forcing customers who were brick and mortar to jump into the ecommerce space. I think that’s going to drive competition. It’s going to drive awareness. It’s going to elevate the whole ecommerce world. I think that it’s going to be a big push, and I think that we’re going to see people realizing that you have to be on ecommerce. You can no longer be solely a brick and mortar. Now, you can do both, but I think that’s going to be the biggest thing we see in 2021 is just the continued rapid growth of ecommerce as a whole.

Stephanie:

Great. Patrick, thanks so much for hopping on the show with me and spilling all your secrets. It’s been really fun. Where can people find out more about you and Goal Zero?

Patrick:

Yeah. Go to goalzero.com. I have a bio on my management page, and you can also find me on LinkedIn. Yeah, I think that’s the best way. Thank you for having me. This has been fantastic, and I really enjoyed the chat. Hopefully, we can, post-COVID, go skiing and have a beer.

Stephanie:

I hope so. I would be so down for that. I need that in my life right now. Thanks so much.

Patrick:

All right, thank you.

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Episode 99