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THE SALSIFY SMARTER MERCHANDISING BLOG

Conversations in commerce: How retail brands succeed at contextual commerce

Posted by Salsify on 10:58 AM on November 2, 2017

Recently, Salsify co-founder Rob Gonzalez sat down to a conversation with Jamus Driscoll, Executive at Residence at Underscore VC, about the challenges facing brand manufacturers. Prior to his role with Underscore, Jamus held a number of executive roles at commerce platform Demandware, spanning a decade that took the company from a startup to Initial Public Offering and ultimately an acquisition by Salesforce.com in 2016.

Here are some of our favorite moments from their conversation:

Rob Gonzalez: There are a number of major trends in retail affecting how brand manufacturers go to market, the way they interact with the retailers, and the way that they go direct to consumer. What is your view of the future of retail brands?

Jamus Driscoll: You know, it's a fascinating question. We've gotten a lot better at doing things for consumers on the Web and our internet experiences are so much richer. The real thesis of retail hasn't changed a great deal, which is a lot of advertising a lot of brand marketing, a lot of communications to the consumer and then turn a march her along a path which used to be linear toward one of our mediums whether that's a store or the Web site. And what we've seen explode over the past couple of years is the awareness of the nonlinear path that the consumer takes and the way that time and attention is divided. Of course, we've all heard this she's got no time, she's encountering lots of interception points along journey but we've now seen is real fragmentation of how consumer and a brand can relate.

"How do we start to work the non-linear way the way we all think as consumers engage?"

Ultimately, brands are going to sort of appear or not on the mediums at which consumers decide to transact. The really cool thing that's happening now is the thought process about well this should work. How do we start to work the non-linear way the way we all think as consumers engage? I'm spending a lot of my time thinking about what is that next gen of commerce look like. How can we actually take commerce and branded experiences to consumers wherever they are less than bringing them to somewhere to then deliver them what we think if an optimized experience?

Rob Gonzalez: Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. Google's got this concept of the micro moments. Micro-moments are not just at a point a transaction or a point a product launch. They're meant to be wherever the consumer is on their buying journey at that moment of time. You want to have something for that that matches where they are. And I think there's an element of this that really impacts the way that brands launch products that breaks with the traditional brand marketing. If you're trying to come up with a new set of razor blades, you know it takes years of R&D and marketing preparation, and partnering with retailers to create great wholesale contracts and all this stuff. There is the prime time TV commercial and the endcap show up at all the retailers and it can be a big bang launch. And the idea of a launch is that everyone's aware of it at the same time and they can transact with it. There's a clear correlation of one to the other.

Scrappy brands are doing it differently. They are not just doing a big bang product launch with the primetime advertising. Instead they are launching a product on Amazon with no reviews, with nothing and then rapidly getting it working one step at a time. Through Twitter, through Facebook, through Amazon. They are merchandising through all of these different places. It's not linear it's just they throw it out there and iterate and try everything.

"Scrappy brands are doing it differently. They are not just doing a big bang product launch with the primetime advertising."

Jamus Driscoll: It's so fluid. We've got this evolution of the web. It is now a transaction channel which is terrific. But we're moving into the web as being much more of an experience media. The web is the medium of experience for a consumer. Advertising dollars have shifted from the physical world, of course. But now those even the experiences themselves are evolving to be less about one-way communication and more dialogue.

The question now is how do we string all these experiences together in a way that makes sense for a customer journey? How do we follow the shopper as she goes through her experiences with the brand and find the appropriate time to transact, the appropriate time to serve, the appropriate time to inform, and the appropriate time to just respond to a service question? It's no longer about the broadcast to prove that event which proves motion which proves purchase. It's about the dance. That's why it's one of the most exciting eras of retail right now.

Rob Gonzalez: So, the interesting part about that is I think there's an element of contextual commerce, which is necessarily a dialogue. It is necessarily back and forth. There is an element to trying to decrease friction. A lot of people are talking about decreasing frictions to create a buy moment. You're talking about decreasing friction to have a dialogue and increase engagement. Is there a good example somebody who is actually working across all of the different channels in context today?

Jamus Driscoll: I think there's certainly plenty of examples of people who were doing moments well. What we haven't yet figured is consistency with lots of moments. Pull those moments together in a way that is relevant whether I was in a physical store or whether it was under your commerce web site.

The challenge is also to make sure that we don't have a preconceived notion as a brand for how they will transact. Make sure you're providing that option. If they're in the moment and they want to buy then we should it make that easy and as frictionless as possible. The whole purpose of brand marketing is to sort of build up that affinity. I don't think it's an either/or. It's about matching the ultimate of convenience and simplicity and logic for a consumer, such that when she's ready to buy, she pushes the buy button.

Rob Gonzalez: That makes sense. So, here's the challenge for a traditional brand. Before they can even get to the point where shoppers want to buy from you in a frictionless way, they actually have to discover your brand in the first place. I'm not sure that brands are treating Amazon with the respect that it deserves from a discovery perspective. They're treating Amazon as a sales channel and they're there authorizing it as a sales channel but they're not treating it as air cover for every other sale of their products anywhere their products might be. I think that is the right way to treat Amazon. So if it's your brand how do you manage? How do you deal with that? I think there's an inherent conflict here between Amazon as a search engine and Amazon is a sales channel.

Jamus Driscoll: Excellent question. And I'm not sure I have the very simple answer to that. I do hear this question a lot with brands. Most of the brands I have this conversation with have a very high emotional quotient. They stand for something. There are actually sort of monetizing their experience through goods but that the consumer is buying the experience and monetizing the physical objects. And that's a really powerful important thing for them. And certainly there is an opportunity to experience some brands on Amazon and many brands and maybe in the future more and more and more. But the convenience of Amazon and the value you build as a brand and a consumer are two very different things. And I have a very hard time imagining the future where brands are giving up on their control over the relationship that they have to have with each consumer.

 


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