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Put a Ring On It: How Ring Brought Home Security into the Ecommerce World

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The ecommerce industry has historically been dominated by some familiar verticals: apparel, footwear, home goods. In 2020, the world of ecommerce exploded to include a few more at the top of the list, including grocery and fitness. One industry, though, hasn’t necessarily emerged as a leader in the ecommerce zeitgeist: home security. But just because you don’t always think about an industry as a part of ecommerce doesn’t mean that it isn’t making waves among its digital peers. 

The perfect example of this is Ring. Ring was founded in 2013 as a company called Doorbot, which failed to get the investment of any Shark Tank sharks, yet persevered to become a leader in home security before being acquired by Amazon in 2018. Today, Ring is valued at more than one billion dollars and, through its website sales, is bringing home security to customers everywhere. 

Robin Choe is the Head of Ecommerce at Ring, and on this episode of Up Next in Commerce, he explains how Ring has built a successful business through creating a community of neighbors and what it means to be driven by a shared goal. Plus, Robin touches on his past experience working in ecommerce overseas and what the differences are between the Asian market and what’s happening stateside. Robin also details why he believes that companies that are able to foster a sense of community and safety are the ones that will rise above the fray in the business world.

Main Takeaways:

  • If You Stand for Nothing, What Will You Fall For?: Leadership is critical in any organization, but it is even more important in one like Ring, which was acquired by Amazon, one of the biggest companies on the planet. Creating specific team-by-team missions that all ladder up to the top of the organization and then also falls in line with your parent company is a difficult task, but a necessary one if you want to have long-term success and buy-in from all parts of the company. Having those shared missions also sets up the possibility of setting measurable goals and a true north to strive for and build toward.
  • United Nations: China has been ahead of the curve in its ability to build a digital landscape that permeates throughout its society. The country is more adept at creating social connections via technology, building direct, dynamic marketplace models, and optimizing the supply chain. But other countries, including the U.S. are starting to close the gap and create more widespread access to those same experiences.   
  • Avoiding the Upsell: Customers don’t want to be sold to, they want to be offered solutions to real problems. Rather than trying to push products on people, a better approach would be to understand each customer’s specific use case and deliver personalized solutions to meet those needs. That technique is much more likely to lead to a sale than simply shoving the newest and coolest products at potential customers.

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

Key Quotes:

“It’s very digitally connected in most of Asia. They are well advanced in terms of being able to stay connected from a digital platform perspective, but also connecting with consumers in unique ways. So, I feel like what they’ve done in terms of social commerce, for example, or being able to find ways to navigate supply chain challenges or complexities, they’ve done a great job to accelerate that. I think they’ve been ahead of the curve in terms of the US. They’re probably ahead by one or two years, but I think the US has been catching up.”

“The first thing I want to do is, ‘Let’s establish a shared mission. Why do we exist? What’s our purpose? Why are we here? Why do we get up every morning?’ As an ecommerce team at Ring, it’s something that is really critical, because we’re moving so fast. There are constant updates and changes and features and functions and migrations and transitions and new product launches, you name it. So we have got to slow down and establish, ‘Why are we here? Why do we exist?’ …The second thing I also do is look at, ‘What’s the shared vision look like? Where are we going? Where do we want to be three to five years from now? And establishing values, that’s really what we center on. We’ll spend time and it doesn’t take a one-hour session. It takes multiple days and hours and dedication to really grind through and work through the rigor and discipline of saying, ‘Okay, this is why we exist. This is how it ladders up to Ring’s mission of making neighborhoods safer. This is how it ladders up to Amazon’s mission of being the Earth’s most customer-centric company.’”

“People are people at the end of the day. They’re not machines. They need to be cared for. They’re not human doings. They’re human beings. So, my philosophy and approach [employee relations] has always been around empathy and just trying to put myself in their shoes and understanding, ‘What are their goals? Are they aligned to our goals? How do I listen to them in ways that can really make them feel that they’re heard?’ If there is anything that may conflict or go against the mission or the goals or values, let’s talk about it. If it’s something that you feel differently and you’re not aligned to this, maybe you don’t belong here.”

“As they come to the site, we want to make it as easy and seamless. I think this is the goal of every ecommerce company. As your portfolio… It’s more around, ‘How do you help them find what they need?’ That’s the easy question to ask, but a hard question to answer. So, that’s one where we’re constantly thinking through user research and test.”

“I think what’s most important is that you’re not just trying to upsell, but you’re really trying to deliver on a solution….We’re thinking about, ‘How do we recommend the right products for you? How do we surface the right recommendations for you? How do we help you differentiate which doorbell to buy? What’s right for you based on your use case?’”

“I think about companies that offer a product or a specific service, and it’s just that one thing. They’re all about selling that product. I think the mental model and the approach that we have is quite different at Ring, which I love, and I totally respect. It’s one where we’re constantly thinking about the mission. So, everything ladders up to that mission. So, whether it’s a new product, whether it’s a new service, whether it’s a new feature on the site, or whether it’s a new experience that we want to deliver that’s thinking outside the box, that we’re constantly trying to think outside the box, so that we can deliver upon that mission.”

“In this environment, like in any environment, we need to embrace change. But I would say overall, the ecommerce future is bright. There are capabilities that continue to just wow me….The times today have forced us to really think bigger and to embrace the change and to pivot and be flexible and agile. No idea is a bad idea. I think any idea is relevant, just because we’re trying to figure out how to address customer pain points and needs, especially as the times have evolved.”

Mentions:

Bio:

Robin Choe is the Head of Ecommerce at Ring. Prior to joining Ring in 2019, Choe spent more than 11 years at Mattel Inc., where he finished his time serving as the Sr. Director of Ecommerce. Choe has a B.S. from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona and earned his MBA from Loyola Marymount University, College of Business Administration.

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:

Everyone, this is the Up Next In Commerce Podcast. I’m your host, Stephanie Postles, Co-Founder at Mission.org. Today, we’re chatting with Robin Choe, the Head of Ecommerce at Ring. Robin, thanks for joining us.

Robin:

Thanks for having me.

Stephanie:

So, I was looking through your background a bit. I wanted to start there, because I saw that you had worked previously at Mattel for a while. I think it’s a good starting point. Then we go through your background in the world of ecommerce before coming back to Ring.

Robin:

Sure. Yeah, so I started in Mattel in 2008. My first role there was customer strategic planning, so everything around retail strategies and working closely with retailers to try and drive share of voice, market share, and ultimately, sales and brand growth at the retailers. What was unique around the starting point there was I had a hodgepodge of different channels and accounts. So, everything from Kmart, believe it or not back in the day, which is a much bigger retailer back then.

Stephanie:

Wow, bringing it back.

Robin:

Exactly. Also, working across what they call the emerging channels. Part of that emerging channel group, everything from grocery and department stores, drug channel, tried to grow our leadership share there. But Amazon was the one that really stood out to me back then, because it was still evolving, it was still smaller, but it was one that was growing substantially year over year and starting to catch the attention of our leadership and obviously something that I was preaching about internally to make sure that we’re aligning and prepping ourselves to grow with them.

Robin:

From there, for about five years in the US, I moved to Hong Kong. I became the Head of Shopper Marketing or Customer Marketing for the Asia Pacific region. So, did that for about two years, and was also playing a hybrid role where I was the ecommerce excellence, best practice lead for the region, working closely with our regional accounts, our specific local accounts that are a lot bigger today like the Tmalls of the world, Lazadas, which are growing and ultimately trying to drive greater ecommerce best practices across the region.

Robin:

From there, I pivoted to a general manager role. So, I’ve had an unconventional career, where I was asked to take on the Country Manager role for Korea. So, everything from leadership across all the various functions, supply chain, finance, accounting to marketing and sales. And then my role expanded from Korea to North Asia. So, I had Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which are all the best food markets, still residing in Korea. My role expanded to the North Asia cluster, again, driving all the sales and marketing commercial activities and leadership there.

Robin:

And then in 2018, decided to come back after being five years in Asia, and take on the role of Head of ecommerce for Mattel, which was quite unique. It was a newly formed role, where they consolidated a lot of different functions under one leader. Four different pillars that I would say we focused on, the first one was our direct-to-consumer site. So, think about Hot Wheels collector and Barbiecollector.com and trying to drive our sales and our engagement with them. Also, all websites across the world was under the first pillar. The second pillar was CRM acquisition, analytics and design to everything regarding fueling the acquisition efforts, engagement, and also the experiences on our sites. Also, even our retailer sites, believe it or not.

Robin:

Third one was digital operation. So, this is a team that really was sourcing the best-in-class assets and copy, everything that really fuels a great merchandising experience on our own sites, but also on our third-party retailer sites. So, we are basically managing all the PDPs, the brand stores for our bigger retailers like Amazon and Target and Walmart, and syndicating and deploying assets there. And then the last pillar was around digital customer marketing and digital shopper marketing, where we have a team that was specifically focused on growing our share of voice, our leadership share with Amazon.com, Target.com or Walmart.com.

Robin:

So, we had this full end-to-end scope of responsibilities where they were all connected. They were all in need of similar assets and strategies. Obviously, there was nuances between what we were doing internally and externally. But overall, it was a challenging experience but a great one, because it was broad, but also, we could see how things were lifting each other up as we’re going through the process.

Robin:

And then about a year ago, made the move to Ring. Really the objective behind that was to go deeper into this ecommerce in general. I think I had a pretty broad role at Mattel. Even in my previous experience, I worked a lot with digital retailers. But being able to just dive into a brand that I love and that I was able to use as well before I even came to the company, just the mission around the brand of making neighborhoods safer, it was just one where everything just made sense for me to go in.

Robin:

It’s pretty clear, and I made this clear with my boss back then. I’m not the most technical savvy guy. I’m not the guy that’s going to be doing your coding and development. But I’m a guy that can come in and really drive some vision and strategy in terms of, “What are our immediate needs? How do we serve them? At the same time, how do we identify a vision for the mid- to long-term, so that we can be ready and planful and execute against what we believe to be the evolving changes that will happen and we can embrace them and ultimately deliver upon them in terms of customer expectations?” So, it’s been quite a ride. Happy that I’m still here and that things are relatively going well.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. Yeah. So, I have Ring cameras around my house. Specifically, the one I love is the front camera with the floodlight on it, because it would blast people if they walk by and I think they’re a little bit shady. But yeah, I really like Ring. It seems like a very different transition, going from Mattel to Ring, especially when you were for a little bit there focused in Asia, which in a lot of ways, I think Asia is actually very ahead when it comes to ecommerce and social stuff and community building. Were there any best practices that you learned throughout that journey that you’re maybe bringing to Ring now?

Robin:

Sure, I think there is a ton to learn. Like you said, you had a variety of different business models out in Asia. For example, you had the direct model, which was unique. It wasn’t normal like it is here in the US with Amazon, for example. But it’s one where it’s more of a marketplace model, where you’re basically the manufacturer that’s selling on a respective third-party platform. So, whether it’s Timo, whether it’s sites in Rakuten, in Japan or even in Korea, where you have coupon, you have such a dynamic and a different approach as it relates to how to connect with a customer.

Robin:

So, I would say some of the things that I was able to carry over here is you’re right, it’s very digitally connected in most of Asia. They are well advanced in terms of just being able to stay connected from a digital platform perspective, but also connecting with consumers in unique ways. So, I feel like maybe what they’ve done in terms of social commerce, for example, or being able to find ways to navigate supply chain challenges or complexities, they’ve done a great job to accelerate that. I think they’ve been ahead of the curve in terms of the US for probably another… They’re probably ahead by one or two years, but I think the US has been catching up.

Robin:

So, I would say best practices, back to your question, it’s basically how do you connect with the consumer in a way that is relevant for what they’re looking for? For example, PDP pages in Asia are very long and extensive, meaning you could scroll for miles. That’s what they’re expecting there, because they want to make sure that they know what they’re buying, that it’s quality, that it’s a trusted brand.

Robin:

Here in the US, it’s not as long, obviously. You do have some scrolls to get to the bottom of the page, but you’re not looking for as much. Maybe ratings and reviews are more important here in the US. It’s also important there, but they’re also featuring, “Is this the best seller? What’s the ranking on the skew versus the category?” So, that’s a good question. I think, for me, it’s connecting with communities and also just best practices in terms of merchandising and how they do it differently and how we can take some of those and deploy that here in the US.

Stephanie:

Yes, yeah, I love that. I always think it’s something good to watch, because I mean, they are much more mobile first. Whereas a lot of people here-

Robin:

Sure.

Stephanie:

… grew up on desktop. All those people actually just leapfrogged past desktop and have just been used to doing everything on mobile. I know especially around the podcasting space, it’s an area that we also keep an eye on, because they have so many social functions that they’re just used to. That I’m like, “Why don’t we have that here?” So, it’s always good to keep an eye on what other markets are doing.

Robin:

For sure.

Stephanie:

So, let’s get back to Ring a little bit. So, Ring’s owned by Amazon now, right?

Robin:

That’s correct.

Stephanie:

So, I think that would be really good to talk about how that relationship is working, specifically around earlier you mentioned leadership. I want to touch on what that transition looked like from Ring being its own separate company to then being acquired. I’m sure you had new teams that you’re working with. You had to really distill your mission and the shared values and everything that you had, the influence with the new team or company in general. So, I want to hear a little bit about how you led that or how you’re leading it now.

Robin:

Sure, yeah. I think the beauty of Amazon and Ring is you’re taking the strengths of each company and you’re marrying them together. I’ve worked for big companies like Mattel. I’ve also worked for small companies and startups as well. So, I love the mash up between the two where you’re able to be entrepreneurial. You’re able to really be nimble and agile in this small setting of what Ring actually started off as, as a startup.

Robin:

And then taking the successes of a startup and then marrying that up with this successful company, Amazon, the biggest ecommerce company, at least in the US. In the world, I would say at least a leader. It’s one where you’re able to leverage the infrastructure, the resources, the mechanisms and the processes that they’ve been able to deploy, and they’ve been so successful with. So, that’s something that I find to be very interesting.

Robin:

I think with Ring, we still are led by our founder today. He’s our CEO and our Chief Inventor. It’s one where he does drive a lot of vision and strategy in terms of not only the mission of establishing that, but also everything around products and services. That continues to grow as we speak. In terms of team and leadership, I apply the same model that I do in every circumstance that I’ve been in. It’s like I spoke on earlier, I’ve moved to three countries in a matter of five years. That’s not easy with-

Stephanie:

That’s crazy.

Robin:

… a family of kids. Being able to embrace change and being able to pivot and establish yourself amongst different cultures and teams and environments and business models is quite hard, even with language barriers as well. So, I think coming into Ring, I applied a similar approach in terms of leadership. It’s one where we have to pause as a team, because the team could be in any sort of condition in terms of their history. Whether they were without a leader in the past or they have gone through significant changes where they we’re acquired, whatever the case may be, what I typically do is I come in. I spent some time, just parking time with the team and our leadership to say, “Hey, look, how do we get focused on what matters most?”

Robin:

The first thing I want to do is, “Let’s establish a shared mission. Why do we exist? What’s our purpose? Why are we here? Why do we get up every morning?” As an ecommerce Team at Ring, it’s something that is really critical, because we’re moving so fast. There’s constant updates and changes and features and functions and migrations and transitions and new product launches, you name it. It’s one where we got to slow down and establish, “Why are we here? Why do we exist?” I think that’s even more important today, especially as we’re navigating this pandemic.

Robin:

The second thing I also do is look at, “What’s the shared vision look like? Where are we going? Where do we want to be three to five years from now?” Also, establishing values. So, we typically pick three values, whether it’s trust, whether it’s communication, whether it’s collaboration. That’s really what we center on. We’ll spend time and it doesn’t take a one-hour session. It takes multiple days and hours and dedication to really grind through and work through the rigor and discipline of saying, “Okay, this is why we exist. This is how it ladders up to Ring’s mission of making neighborhoods safer. This is how it ladders up to Amazon’s mission of being the Earth’s most customer centric company.” So that’s really important.

Robin:

I think, because we did that and we do have an ecommerce Ring-specific shared mission, which is something that we identified and we have not just put on a wall, but it’s really something that needs to live in our hearts. But I’ll share that with you. So, our ecommerce group at Ring exists to communicate to our current and future neighbors, how we provide products and services that protect what is important to them. We do this by building strong relationships with our partners to deliver the best digital experiences for our neighbors. We call our neighbors, our customers, because it’s just that important. So, that’s really something that I do.

Robin:

I think what’s been great is not only is it the shared mission and vision and values that you build upon and that you live by and you keep each other accountable to in terms of the way we behave and operate day to day, but it also helps to step back and say, “What are our key priorities? What are those big rocks that we need to move in the mid- to long-term? What are those things that we need to do in the short term to address the business needs and the evolving changes that are happening?”

Robin:

So, I would say that it starts with the team. It starts with having an aligned and a shared… It’s not just my mission. It’s a shared mission and vision and values. And then being able to build on processes like mechanisms, whether it’s quarterly, weekly business reviews and roadmaps, and align that across not only the internal team, but across the organization. So, that you can drive success and make sure that your communication, your execution is as consistent and aligned to all objectives, at least the key priorities, that we deliver on a day-to-day basis.

Stephanie:

Yeah, yeah, I love that. I’ve definitely seen and heard of quite a few experiences that are full of friction when companies are getting acquired and on both sides. So, how do you work to garner trust from the employees who are getting acquired, where some people might not really want to go to a big corporation? They might want to stay at that startup vibe. On the other side as well, what do you do to actually get them to be on your side, be ready to move forward with the mission? Because I could see some people being not really on board with it, not really caring about the vision, being like, “Oh, that’s just all words.” How do you get in the weeds with them to really get them on the same page?

Robin:

Yeah, back to just leadership, I think it’s really important that we stay in… This is my philosophy as well. It’s servant leadership. It’s also compassionate leadership. So, being empathetic, right? So, there’s people that have come from all backgrounds and different experiences. Whether they were at the company before they got acquired, whether they joined afterwards, even for those that we haven’t even seen in person post-COVID, it’s empathy. It’s about caring for people. People are people at the end of the day. They’re not machines. They need to be cared for. They’re not human doings. They’re human beings.

Robin:

So, my philosophy and approach has always been around empathy and just trying to put myself in their shoes and understanding, “What are their goals? Are they aligned to our goals? How do I listen to them in ways that can really make them feel that they’re heard?” That anything that may conflict or go against the mission or the goals or values, let’s talk about it. If it’s something that you feel differently and you’re not aligned to this, maybe you don’t belong here. Maybe this is not the right place for you.

Robin:

But in general, I would say the majority of the team and I guess the team overall, they are bought into the mission. I mean, we defined it together, which makes it powerful. I think that’s where you nip that bud up front. You’re able to just journey with each other through the ups and downs and challenges, but ultimately, the successes as well.

Stephanie:

Awesome. So, I was looking through Ring’s website before this. I didn’t even realize how many products you guys had, because like I was mentioning, I only have these two. I want to hear a little bit about, “What is the customer journey look like on the Ring website? How has it evolved, especially over the past maybe six months?”

Robin:

Sure, I would say the Ring website is quite unique, where Ring is not just the doorbell. Ring is a multitude of products that have continued to expand to meet and deliver that mission. So, if you look across our products, we have not only doorbells. We have security cameras. We have alarms. We have accessories too that attach to these various devices. We also got the Smart Lighting. We have third-party partnerships. I don’t know if you recently heard about the announcement that we made, but we’re coming out with even new categories, whether it’s Always Home Cam, which is an autonomous drone that flies across the inside of your house.

Stephanie:

Wow.

Robin:

You can basically train it to go to certain parts of your house to check on whether your stove is on or your pet food has been eaten or any other areas where you may not have a camera setup. So, I think it’s again innovation and evolving to a customer need or pain point that we’re trying to deliver on.

Stephanie:

Okay, I need one of those.

Robin:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

Does it stay flying or does it go back to its little nest and then like get up-

Robin:

Yeah. So, it stays in the nest. And then based on whether if it’s alarm, trigger or notification, it’ll basically come out of the nest. There’s obviously a sound so that you can hear it. We think about privacy always and security and keeping that in mind. It’ll go to specific places of your house that you trained it to. So, you have to map that out-

Stephanie:

Got it.

Robin:

… and then ultimately, come back to its nest. So, I think it’s going to be-

Stephanie:

Can it go outside?

Robin:

… amazing. Right now, we’re not building it to go outside. I think it’s one where it’s not an actual design drone to go outside, but for now, we’re keeping it in the house. We’re calling it Always Home Cam.

Robin:

But yeah, so new categories, even car security. So, we’re starting to expand there, because we’re hearing a lot of times from our neighbors as well feedback around, “I wish you guys had car security that connected with my Ring app and my overall Ring ecosystem.” So, that’s really exciting as well. Whether it’s your Tesla or card dash cam to even just the 99% of cars that are out there, just being able to have a peace of mind around bumps or doors opening are areas where you’re not feeling as safe. So, that’s another cool category we’re entering into.

Robin:

Also, my favorite, which maybe is not everybody’s favorite, but I love it, is like our mailbox sensor. So, imagine when you open your mailbox, you get a notification. That’s also could be connected to your devices, whether your camera turns on in a specific area where your mailbox may be or your Alexa Echo Show 5 also is all integrated as well. So, that turns on. You can watch it and say, “Hey, Alexa, show me my front door. Show me my mailbox,” whatever the case may be. It’s one where you can again see and review and just make sure that you have a total sense of peace of mind.

Robin:

I would say also, to add to that, we also have our subscription plans as well, which you can view, record, share out, and also do professional monitoring. So, I think that’s a really big benefit. We’ve heard countless stories. I also have my own use cases as well where neighbors are feeling so thankful that they had their alarm on at home. So, that they weren’t going to show up when the burglar shows up or they’re able to record specific event that leads to finding somebody or something or whatever the case may be. There’s countless stories that you could find and you can hear about I’m sure when you talk to your friends and neighbors that do have some of our products that just really speak to the power of the brand and products and just the services that we provide.

Robin:

And then we also have our Neighbors app, which is great as well. That also lives within the ecosystem of being able to connect with your neighbors and understanding who they are and any notifications or alerts around the community and even also partnering with those in your community, especially in a time like this. So, I love the brand. I love the products, but I also love that it lives within this ecosystem that connects us to each other and gives us a peace of mind like never before.

Stephanie:

Yeah, so that was actually a perfect point where I wanted to touch on, the neighbors piece to it, because I think it’s brilliant from a UGC perspective of your neighbors are generating this content that you don’t even know them. I mean, I am addicted to watching what’s happening to my neighbors. Like the other day, some dude was trying to break into their storage locker, someone’s bike got stolen. I sit there. I will watch the video and see if I know the person. Obviously, I never do. But it’s really good from a content generation perspective.

Stephanie:

I mean, I see you guys are using some of those videos on your website, which is very fun. And then also from, like you said, a community building perspective. So, I want to hear a bit more about, “How you guys are pursuing that UGC perspective? Is it mainly just for security, or do you see a community building aspect and actually turning into a social network is how it feels to me?”

Robin:

Yeah, I think it ladders back up to our mission, making the neighborhoods safer. It’s one where it plays a role there. So, whether it’s like public announcements around COVID to fires in your area or different ways to have safety preparations around different use cases. Yeah. So, I think it’s a combination of trying to serve solutions for specific needs or things that may come up that we want to make sure that we are prepared for and also just connecting us with our neighbors.

Robin:

As people are home more than ever, whether it’s working or school from home or shopping at home, it’s one where our neighbors are critical for connection and also a peace of mind and watching out for each other. So, I would say that the Neighbor app definitely is a point of connection and also sharing relevant and pertinent information that can help to make neighborhoods safer.

Stephanie:

What’s the craziest video you’ve ever seen? I guess that’d be real crazy.

Robin:

I think the fun ones for me are around animals. When a bear comes and just starts to get on top of a car and wants to get in there to eat some food. Where I live, there are a lot of coyotes. So, I get a lot of neighborhood posts and notifications that there’s a coyote roaming around early in the morning. They’re all in these different pockets and areas and just make sure I’m not jogging or walking that area during that early time in the morning.

Stephanie:

That’s great. I’ve also seen little neighborhood tips breakout on my app anyways, where neighbors will argue about whether it was real or not. I don’t know if you guys have seen that. It’s pretty entertaining. Like I said, it feels like a social network sometimes.

Robin:

It does. I mean, it just shows you the reality of what people have to deal with and navigate every day. I think, if anything, it’s like making neighborhoods safer. That’s important to everybody. I have a family. I have kids. Especially as everybody’s home more, it’s like, “How do we help each other? How do we make sure that we can create a community that is in support of each other and ultimately safer neighborhoods?” So, I find that to be really powerful. It’s one where I’ll do everything in my power and I’m sure my neighbors will to help each other out during these times.

Stephanie:

So, maybe let’s touch on the subscription model a little bit. So, a lot of people right now are interested, of course, in subscriptions. Everyone is thinking about trying it if it’s right for their business. Tell me how you guys are exploring it and maybe any hiccups you’ve experienced and things that you’ve pivoted or changed, anything that other people could learn from?

Robin:

Today, we have two different subscription programs.

Robin:

I think as we continue to expand in various categories, we’re constantly thinking about, “How do we offer a similar experience and that peace of mind, so that you can access and even store?” So, thinking about the car category, I’m sure they’re thinking through what that could look like as well there. As we expand our categories and services, subscription will definitely be top of mind as part of the services that we’ll look to offer.

Stephanie:

Yup, how do you position it in a way that a customer will sign up for a subscription before something bad happens? Because I know I’ve experienced this, before I had Ring, I had a bunch of cameras. I didn’t feel the need to store things really until one day when I was like, “Oh, I actually wish I would have access to that.” So how do you position maybe the language or the sell to actually get someone to sign up for that subscription before there’s a catastrophe?

Robin:

Sure, I mean, the benefit is like when you buy device and you activate it, you’ll get 30 days of free, call it, subscription. That’s the Basic Plan. And then you get the choice after that to opt in or opt up to a Plus Plan. So, it’s one where we try and make it as user friendly and in the control of the user, ultimately, to make that decision.

Robin:

I would say also that the benefit of the Ring subscription plan is that you’re not locked into some contract. So, you get to basically opt in and opt out in any time of the month. Again, we’re trying to create flexibility and user control, ultimately; versus locking them into an annual account where you pay hundreds of dollars, but you’re frustrated because you’re not being able to use it in a way that’s easy and intuitive and also beneficial for your needs.

Stephanie:

Yeah. During that trial period, the one thing that I oftentimes see happening is that a user isn’t interacting with the services until they’re done. And then they’re like, “Oh, I never got a chance to try it.” Are there certain methods that you’re trying to get the user to interact and learn and figure out the platform to see the benefits of it before these 30 days are done?

Robin:

Oh, for sure. I mean, that’s really the efforts around different marketing levers that we’re trying to deploy to make sure that they see the benefit of turning it on and the different features available. Whether it’s a nudge here or email there or different types of messaging, that we’re trying to make sure that they are not only purchasing the device, but they’re utilizing it in its full capacity.

Stephanie:

Yup, got it. So, for your guys’ website, specifically, tell me a little bit about how you guys think about selling on there? Are you selling mostly on desktop? How are you finding customers? How are you bringing them in? What does that process look like?

Robin:

Sure, sure. So, obviously, you have direct where they’re showing up. I think Ring today is a very prominent brand, or at least, top of mind brand that has awareness, especially in a category that our Founder created, the video doorbell. Obviously, there’s other folks that are in this space, but I would say Ring to me would be… That’s the first thing I think about is Ring when I think about home security and starting at the doorbell and being across different parts inside and outside your house, for example. But I would say yeah, it starts with the direct.

Robin:

Also, there’s a lot of obviously acquisition efforts to try and be on top of mind in terms of whether it’s people searching for our products to different types of campaigns to drive traffic to our site, whether they’re social related, UGC, like you said. We do a lot of social care types of activities to make sure that whether it’s responding to different posts or things like that will point them to solutions that are being offered on our ecommerce site.

Robin:

And then as they come to the site, we want to make it as easy and seamless. I think this is the goal of every ecommerce company. As your portfolio grows, how do you make sure that you can train… Not train, so that’s probably the wrong word. It’s more around, “How do you help them find what they need?” That’s the easy question to ask, but a hard question to answer. So, that’s one where we’re constantly thinking through user research and test.

Robin:

Yeah, I think what’s different today is that a lot of companies are always trying to attach this or grow a market basket. It’s all about increasing EOB. Those are all important. But to me, I think what’s most important is that you’re not just trying to upsell, but you’re really trying to deliver on a solution. So, meaning, having a camera at your front door, for example, a video doorbell at your front door, that might be good for the first three months and then you may move to a bigger house. You’ll need, for example, a floodlight cam like you have. So, that you feel a greater peace of mind that surrounds your house. So, you have this whole home solution, security solution that you could leverage and apply across different parts of your home as you continue to evolve and potentially move, or you want to just expand.

Robin:

So, it’s one where we’re thinking about, “How do we recommend the right products for you? How do we surface the right recommendations for you? How do we help you differentiate which doorbell to buy?” Because we do have quite a number of doorbells now. What’s right for you basically, based on your use case? Or even the alarm, how big is your house? We have a quiz on our Alarm page, for example, that people engage with that they want to know like, “This is my square footage. This is how many windows I have. This is how many doors I have.” How do we make sure that we get them to a place where we offer up a package solution that they can feel confident about and then purchase and ultimately experience the peace of mind that they were looking for?

Stephanie:

Cool. So, to talk a little bit more on Ring before we move into general ecommerce, I want to hear how you guys are staying ahead of the competition? Because there are other security companies out there, how do you really show that you’re the best?

Robin:

Yeah, I mean, I can’t really speak on the competition. I would say that our priority is to constantly push ourselves to empower users with affordable, effective ways to monitor and secure their home. So, back to the making neighborhoods safer, everything ladders up to that. I think about companies that offer a product or a specific service, and it’s just that one thing. They’re all about to selling that product.

Robin:

I think the mental model and the approach that we have is quite different at Ring, which I love, and I totally respect. It’s one where we’re constantly thinking about the mission. So, everything ladders up to that mission. So, whether it’s a new product, whether it’s a new service, whether it’s a new feature on the site, or whether it’s a new experience that we want to deliver that’s thinking outside the box, that we’re constantly trying to think outside the box, so that we can deliver upon that mission.

Robin:

That’s the way that I would frame it up for you. That’s different than just looking at the competition and saying, “What are they doing?” I’m sure we can learn a lot, but it’s one where we’re really focused on our customers and working backwards from them and ultimately inventing and delivering effective, affordable, easy-to-use products, all in pursuit of delivering on our mission.

Stephanie:

Cool. Yeah, I’m sure you guys get a lot of customer feedback. Do you implement that as you hear what customers are looking for? Does that have an influence on maybe products or the subscription model or the app or anything?

Robin:

Yes, we do get a lot of customer feedback. I think what’s unique about Ring just even in my past year is our Founder’s email is on every product. It’s even on our websites. He is probably one of the most customer obsessed individuals that I know. I really respect that about him. It’s one where he wants to hear feedback.

Robin:

We also get feedback internally that we can share and a way for us to facilitate that and hear it, because ultimately, our goal is we want to make the customers feel safer. Whether it’s buying our products, calling into our customer service line, whether it’s a recommendation on, “Hey, I didn’t know that this product was featured with your subscription plan. You had this rich notification that comes with it,” how do we surface that up in a way that’s clear and transparent on our website, so that people don’t have to ask a lot of questions that they can get everything they need in one place?

Stephanie:

Yup, cool. All right. So, you’ve been in the world of ecommerce for a while. So, I think you should have a good answer to this. What does the future of online commerce look like to you, maybe in the next five years or so? What does that world look like?

Robin:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the reality is, is ecommerce and digital adoption has been accelerating rapidly. I hear all the time from colleagues in the industry, “The past six months, eight months, basically, we’re able to accomplish what we would have in five years.” A lot of that is just based on the times-

Stephanie:

Yup, a lot of guests have said that too.

Robin:

Yeah. I agree with that. It’s one where, obviously, to lead in this environment, like in any environment, we need to embrace change. But I would say overall, the ecommerce future is bright. There’s capabilities that continue to just wow me. It could be simple things to complex things, whether it’s complex things like personalization.

Robin:

With all the millions of customers that are coming on your site, how do you make it as frictionless and just a great experience for them to get the checkout and personalizing that experience for them based on who they are as a cohort to even simple things. I see the simple things, especially in the area of digital retailing, meaning a lot of folks aren’t going to stores as much, obviously. It’s one where they’re constantly thinking about how to pivot and embrace the change.

Robin:

I love recently what I saw with Target and how they were able to create this Halloween activation, where they are taking select stores. They’re able to convert it into a Halloween environment and pass out some goodies and basically doing it all through the comfort of your car. So, imagine, Halloween is going to look very different this year. So, they’re able to provide something that is going to be a memory and a delightful experience for users. But at the same time, they’re directing traffic back to the site to say, “Hey, if you can’t come to this event, maybe we’re not featuring in your hometown. We got everything you need from a Halloween perspective.”

Robin:

So, I think it’s one where you can get very innovative and capabilities are there. The times today have forced us to really think bigger and to embrace the change and to pivot and be flexible and agile. No idea is a bad idea. I think any idea is relevant, just because we’re trying to figure out how to address customer pain points and needs, especially as the times have evolved.

Stephanie:

Yup. Yeah, I completely agree. It’s been fun seeing the levels of creativity that have come into some of these campaigns. Like you said, people now have to think on their feet and think of new ways to do things that they’ve never had to before. So, it seems like there’s a lot of opportunity coming out not just in marketing, but just the way of doing business in general.

Robin:

I agree. The other thing I think there is boomers and how they’re obviously being forced to shop online. I had my mother call me the other day, because she doesn’t shop online as much. She was like, “Can I put my name and credit card number in there and shop?” I’m like, “Of course.”

Stephanie:

No, mom. No.

Robin:

Yeah, exactly. So, it’s one where they’re not as digitally savvy, but they’re being forced to be. It’s one where how do you take the traditional models today, whether it’s direct mail or whether it’s phone calls or just the ways that are comfortable with the past and deliver that mixed with the digital experience?

Robin:

So, I’m thinking of things like virtual consultation. For example, the doctor, the hospitals, they call you now and they do a virtual consultation before coming in. It’s one where how do you bridge the gap between folks that are coming on to the side for maybe some of them the first time, but getting them comfortable in ways that can help them transition into being fully digitally capable? So, those are things I think that are exciting as well in terms of getting back to a mix of the past but also the future.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to say is that you’ve got this whole new group of people who never would have been your customers, probably at least not in five years. They’re here. So, now, you have to adapt to that. But then I also think what’s old is new. I mean, I’ve had quite a few people talk about direct mail. I think they’d have done some surveys of younger individuals who say they love direct mail, because they’re not used to it. It feels very personal. It’s fun to get something in the mail. Maybe older generations would be like, “What? That’s normal. I’m used to getting catalogs, I’m used to that stuff.” But maybe bringing that back might be a way of the future. It’s a more personal things than maybe everything digital all day.

Robin:

I agree. I mean, I think some folks, especially parents, are probably limiting screen time for kids these days. Maybe there’s some fatigue behind that, even for the younger generation, but it’s one where I think companies are being forced to really think outside the box. Direct mail may be the way to go for certain categories.

Robin:

I just think about what Amazon has been doing. I was in the toy business before. Everything was digital, whether it was a holiday toy book. When Toys R Us and even the toy industry was disrupted with Toys R Us going bankrupt, that business model being gone from the overall environment, it’s one where Amazon started doing physical holiday toy books along with the digital experience. They’re trying to make it as they want to have the physical touch to the toy, because kids like writing down what they want for Christmas. They want to flip through the pages. At the same time, Amazon has a PDF toy book where you click on an item, and then it takes you directly to the PDP. You can purchase and add your products there.

Robin:

So, I just love seeing how things continue to evolve over the years based on the shifting of consumer demands. Also, it’s staying true to what the patterns are in terms of behaviors around people using toy books and still wanting the physical touch and also providing it digitally. So, that you can transact and get it in your household in two days or one to two days.

Stephanie:

Yup. Yeah, completely agree. All right, let’s jump over to the lightning round brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I’m going to ask you a question. You have a minute or so to answer.

Robin:

Okay.

Stephanie:

Are you ready?

Robin:

I’m ready.

Stephanie:

All right, the first one, what one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?

Robin:

I would say, the supply. What I mean by that is we’re always going to have Christmas holiday, which is very big for respective categories. But it’s one where the demand has shifted throughout the years based on people or companies being able to pivot and offer up Black Friday in October, for example, and starting early and trying to manage the flow of traffic to the stores and being cognizant of that. So, I would say supply. The second one just to add to that is contactless and touchless experiences, I think that’ll disrupt the ecommerce industry.

Stephanie:

Yes, completely agree. What do you not understand today that you wish you did? It can be an ecommerce or at Ring, whatever comes to mind.

Robin:

There’s a lot of things from that list. I think we’re all a work in progress in terms of learning and growing. I have a ton to continue to learn and build on. So, I don’t think there’s one particular thing I can put my finger on, on that question.

Stephanie:

All right. What’s next on your Netflix queue?

Robin:

My Netflix is controlled by my kids. So, the next one is The Octopus Teacher.

Stephanie:

Sounds intriguing.

Robin:

Yes.

Stephanie:

All right. If you were to have a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?

Robin:

I value leadership. I have mentors across different areas that I reach out to. So, to me, I love leadership, because companies are about people and not profit in my opinion. This is why I love Ring. It’s one where leadership is really what helps you to emerge and helps you to navigate whether it’s crazy times or great times. I think that’s what holds true and keeps you grounded and successful.

Stephanie:

Cool, love that. The last one, what piece of tech are you playing around with right now that you’re loving? It can be just personally, or it can be ecommerce tools that you’re trying out or having success with.

Robin:

Yeah, I would say that one that I’m being forced to use nowadays is chat bots, just because of the inability to connect with the customer service agents at different companies. I mean, some of that is obviously trying to drive efficiency and automation, but it’s one where it is pretty fascinating in terms of being able to try and address your question or your request, for example, into chat bots. And then having this AI, back machine powered on the back end that try and answer and address solutions.

Robin:

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Some people prefer just the person on the other side of the phone. But I think the chat bots and that area in terms of automation is something that I’ve been looking at. That’s been pretty fascinating, but also at the same time, thinking through, “What would somebody really need that they want to just call the customer service line?” That’s even great as well.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s definitely an interesting area. I think I was just reading a research report that was talking about how most consumers would prefer a chatbot, if nothing. If it’s no chatbot or having one, they want one, but then also make sure that you get it right where I feel like there’s definitely still room to grow to make sure you can at least answer a few questions, especially if they keep coming up. And then if not, okay, go to a human or call or something. So, that is an interesting area. All right, Robin. Well, thanks for joining the show today. Where can people find out more about you and Ring?

Robin:

Yeah, so you can look me up on LinkedIn. You can go to our website, ring.com.

Stephanie:

All right. Awesome. Thanks so much, and we’ll see you next time.

Robin:

Thank you.

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Episode 61