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September 3, 2020

Rick Busby of Georgia Pacific: How to Develop Agile and Omnichannel Marketing Strategies

Written by: Jason Fidler
Everyone is the CEO— the chief experimentation officer … The expectation is not that every experiment is a positive outcome. You want to have failures because that means your pushing, testing, and thinking beyond the safe ideas.
Ricky Busby, Director of Ecommerce and Website Content Strategy, Georgia Pacific

It takes a strong direct-to-consumer (D2C) team to support any of the brand sites, marketplace strategies, or tech stack improvements you are going to undertake to invest in D2C and hit your goals.

Ricky Busby, director of ecommerce and website content strategy at pulp and paper manufacturer Georgia Pacific, and Kerry Curran, managing director at performance marketing agency Catalyst, recently spoke about D2C organizational strategies as part of the D2C Strategy Playbook Series, a virtual program of expert-led sessions.

How to Set Up Your Team to Succeed in D2C

In “How to Develop Agile and Omnichannel Marketing Strategies,” they went through three ways Busby has set up his ecommerce organization to succeed in the rapidly moving area of D2C commerce.

Align Around Objectives 

Busby and Curran agree that no fledgling D2C investment will get very far without an agreed upon set of objectives

“We always start with, ‘What are your objectives?’ You have to make sure that everyone agrees to the same objectives and the same measurement,” says Curran. 

A clear set of objectives can be easily communicated across stakeholders. Curran notes that other business units might have their own assumptions of the purpose behind investing in D2C. The entire organization needs a shared definition of success and an understanding of what that means for each team’s goals.

Identify People Who Can Act Nimbly

Once the key stakeholders are bought in, determining who is on the D2C team often leads to an internal debate about whether to hire outside expertise or invest in existing employees to develop the requisite skills. 

Busby recommends looking at existing employees for a specific quality: agility.  Namely an ability to be nimble and an inability to be pigeonholed into specific job responsibilities. 

“Native direct-to-consumer brands tend to do this quite well,” Busby says. “They start small. They move quite fast. Everyone wears different hats just by the nature of their organization … If you’re in a larger organization, look for t-shaped talent: People with a deep knowledge in one area, but with a broad base of skills.”

Balance Risk and Rigor

Once the team is established, it’s important to instill a culture of risk-taking and learning. “Everyone is the CEO — the chief experimentation officer,” Busby notes. 

However alongside the culture of experimentation, Busby complements it with a culture of discipline. While every employee is required to consistently perform experiments, they must first develop a hypothesis, the requirements for testing, use the same shared vernacular in writing progress reports, and then share learnings with the rest of the organization in a standardized and repeatable way. 

While Busby says that putting this regular process into place required a lot of training and hand-holding, he now believes that both he and Curran believe that his team can now learn at a much faster rate. “You need to fail fast, take your learnings, and move on,” Curran notes.

Agility in Action: How Georgia Pacific Seized on New Brand Opportunities

Busby shared the example of Georgia Pacific tackling a brand awareness challenge. While people were familiar with their public automatic towel dispensers  in airports and restaurants few recognized them for as an at-home appliance. When Busby received word that Amazon had begun offering livestream capabilities, he saw an opportunity. 

Busby and his team went to work, buying a tripod themselves and writing out a rough script about consumer automatic paper towel dispensers. They used a friend’s kitchen for a film set and went live with their smartphones.

Through the course of the 30-minute live stream, they received valuable consumer feedback and questions, which informed future content production for the brand. They also learned that, while they were able to complete a few sales during the livestream, ultimately it was not an effective channel to meet their goals for awareness or sales.

The information gathered was so valuable to the broader organization, it was a valuable use of their time, even if their goals weren’t necessarily met by the experiment. 

When teams are kept small and nimble like Busby’s, D2C represents an opportunity for those in larger companies to think and act like a startup. With the right team in place with the right goals and culture, the result can be startup-type growth and excitement, coupled with the brand awareness and resources offered by larger companies. 

“The expectation is not that every experiment is a positive outcome. You want to have failures because that means your pushing, testing, and thinking beyond the safe ideas,” says Busby.

Watch the full session to learn more about how D2C brands successfully reach consumers across the entire funnel with agile and omnichannel strategies.