x

READY TO BECOME A MEMBER?

Stay up to date on the digital shelf.

x

THANK YOU!

We'll keep you up to date!

Interview

Interview: McCormick Shows Brands How to Make Every Moment Shoppable with James Seidl, Vice President Digital Commerce & Alt Channels

Join James Seidl, VP of digital commerce at McCormick, to learn how he built a powerful ecommerce organization while leading the transformation of its direct-to-consumer (D2C) strategy. Explore McCormick's wins and lessons learned on this D2C journey, as well as Seidl’s actionable insights on how to build and execute a winning D2C strategy.

SHOW NOTES

Link to the original webinar

TRANSCRIPT

Peter:

Welcome to unpacking the digital shelf where we explore brand manufacturing in the digital age. Peter Crosby here from the digital shelf Institute. One of the DSIs most popular webinars in our direct to consumer series was this conversation. I was lucky enough to have with James Seidl, VP of digital commerce at McCormick. I love McCormick's vision to bring flavor to the meals of every consumer on the planet and even more. I love their vision for digital commerce, make every moment shoppable and their D to C strategy is a key component of delivering on that vision. Here's that conversation. So, James, let's start with the business case for D to C what's the, Devacy why for McCormick.

James:

So when you think about a lot of the disruption that's been happening from a retailer landscape standpoint, even pre COVID, you know, creating a direct to consumer platform, um, was really a means of driving a much broader digital marketing strategy for us, which is about creating more intimate and one-to-one relationships through our digital experiences. So as you think about direct to consumer on that was one way of us, um, managing some of that disruption, but it's also, uh, another means of just getting some really rich learning. Uh, as you think about, you know, what you can learn about consumers, learn about building relationships with consumers, through a transactional platform. And for us, that's, that's a shoppable platform, uh, and how you can engage with brands and really think about, you know, simply means of creating other valuable branded experiences. Um, as part of a broader relationship, it's not just about the sale online, it's about how do you, you know, really make those meaningful. Uh, and you know, that said, you know, more and more consumers are expecting frictionless one click shopping experiences, uh, and that's really helped shape our thinking as well as our vision for making all branded moments, shoppable. Uh, and we're, we're certainly, we're not where we want to be yet. This is a, this is a journey. Uh, you're not perfect

James:

But that vision really became our beacon for where we want to go with direct to consumer. Uh, and it's, like I said, it's, it's provided us a lot of really rich learning experiences that we're applying back to some of our core business, um, applying back to our agile innovation initiatives, our CRN social channels, and really other communications for the brand.

Peter:

Yeah. So much of D to C, right. Is, is getting yourself into an agile environment where the wheel is always turning. The learnings are always happening and, and having that sort of feedback loop set up and it can be really valuable. Yeah. Yeah. So, um, given that, Y you know, um, you had kind of, uh, your, your, um, your first big experience in D to C was, uh, kind of a, be careful what you wish for kind of moment. You might get it right. Um, and that's, uh, and your CEO has talked about this on CNBC, but old Bay hot sauce you're sold out in 24 hours. So just walk us through, walk us through that sort of early stage experience and what you took away from it besides maybe an ulcer or yeah. What, what happened there?

James:

Yeah, like I said, we're very much in the early stages of our direct to consumer journey, but we use learn a lot in a very short period of time. Uh, I think the internal step that we use, we, we actually sold out in less than about an hour, believe it or not, you're going to crash the site, uh, with good learning, whereas, uh, but all my hot sauce, uh, launched back in January this year. And it was a limited edition. So people that are maybe not familiar with what it is, it was a limited edition, hot sauce, uh, that was greeted in partnership with our brand instant service business. Uh, and what, what that original launch was, is actually a pre-seed. Uh, and it was part of a preceding with restaurants, uh, through our branded food service business. And we said, you know, here's an opportunity for us maybe to create some early on buzz, uh, and do some sampling online.

James:

And we use the direct consumer platform that we had launched a few months beforehand as a, as a platform for crane, some additional consumer awareness in trial before the retailer launch, which was certainly planned a little bit later, but the nature of being a limited edition and preceding, we had limited quantities products, uh, and there was really no way with this platform. We were, we're not at a place where we were sophisticated. I announced to be able to think about DTC forecasting, right. That we've got our core business. Um, so there was not much really guiding us in terms of how quickly we're going to sell through. Uh, and, and that's where a lot of learning, uh, grew a very start. It was, it was a much bigger success. It got a lot of buzz. Uh, wait, it's the final stab. We've got over a billion impressions overall, which is, um, pretty, pretty exciting, uh, and, and pretty much at the end of the day.

James:

Uh, and, and that was not just the minute line, uh, which I think also speaks to the power of, you know, where your brain followers are and where your brands are, are sometimes in unexpected and not, not necessarily always in obvious places. Uh, so when it, when it did launch is of our preceding plan, the story got picked up nationally, and that really accelerated it. And I think when we looked at we're following this live, uh, within about an hour after that getting picked up, uh, the traffic on the site had such a, a surge that it was literally about 30 minutes or so. Uh, and it was by the end of the day, uh, we had people reselling it on eBay, open marketplaces for much, much more than we were originally signed it. Uh, so, but it, it showed the power of bringing together really, I think a, a beloved brand, uh, together with passionate users and, and consumers on social media together with our restaurant partners, but then also that shoppable brand insight, because they had an outlet to go that they didn't have to wait anymore. Uh, and it all, it certainly generated a lot of excitement. Um, and at a point where once we did have, once we did sell out, um, we had over 50,000 consumers sign up for notifications when we were going to be available.

Peter:

Wow. A 50,000 email list.

James:

Yes. Which was a good learning for us. When you think about we now, you know, people that are up to opting in proactively opting in, uh, for a branded site, pretty, pretty exciting to us. Uh, but at the same time, we wanted to make sure that, you know, you build a relate, you want to build a relationship. You want to respect. We want to make sure that we're, we're not going to disappoint those people once we do have, uh, products available. Um, and we felt it was, it was really critical to make sure that people were notified as well. We should think about just being a good communicator in a relationship. You want to make sure that we as a brand we're community proactively communicating so that we're helping kind of manage those expectations with consumers. Uh, so we got inventory backend, uh, and relaunched or launched officially, uh, both in retail as well as our consumer on June 22nd.

James:

Uh, and we decided to cascade communications out over time. So people still had, you know, quote unquote kind of ex exclusive access to some of the product that they wanted to sign up for it, um, from the preceding. Um, but one to make sure that that was an optimal user experience, uh, because it's, it's delicate when you think about that, right? The people that signed up, uh, and we wanted to make sure that they were going to get, uh, get the product, uh, and certainly be happy because it's, it's a fantastic product. Uh, and it was also launching in brick and mortar as well. So we also thought through, look, if we can't get enough product for those people and their networks, um, we also wanted to be able to guide them, uh, to other places where they could buy it, uh, which is also part of our plan. So, you know, we were really surprised as we watched the orders come in, live after June 22nd. Um, and they were really spread across the entire us. So it was not just a minute line thing was not just Maryland. I think, I mean, this was really pretty widespread as you think about, um, where consumers were looking for this kind of a product. Uh, so that, that was one exciting, uh, piece of it, but it also gave us some insight into where our consumer base and where our fan base, where we is for that brand.

Peter:

I mean, I love the fact that it started with a partnership with your food service teams that, that bridging is that, was that an unusual partnership to, to be sort of crossing the silos a bit in that way? Or, or was that something you normally do? It's just, you brought this D to C element to it.

James:

Uh, we're, we're doing more and more of that, particularly with, uh, the RV foods acquisition, we're trying to scale, um, the ideas are grouping them out of branding and service. And we saw started having the conversations internally between brands and service together with consumer business and said, there's a bigger opportunity here. Uh, and that's really where we brought in the idea of going direct to consumer, as well as strengthening those, those relationships through, through our restaurant partners.

Peter:

So I would imagine, uh, you know, as VP of digital commerce, you probably have to do a lot of, um, or inside your organization education and, and cheerleading for the value of digital. And I was just wondering, could you turn around and saying, janya I told you this would work or was the old Bay HotSauce experience a chance to maybe bring some people onto the sort of selling direct side that maybe had either not seeing the light or wasn't sure that it would actually impact the business sufficiently to be worth the investment or anything like that?

James:

Sure. I, I think it was certainly a proof point that the potential of, of using shoppable moments of using a direct to consumer platform to build a relationship, uh, and, and certainly was, you know, successful in that sense, we're very much, uh, early on in this journey. Um, but you know, one of the things that we did do was also look at some of the external case studies, um, and bringing outside, learning in, uh, looking at what were other companies doing in this space to try to get pretty smart about this before we launched into it. Uh, you know, I engaged with several different consultants in this space, uh, read a lot of one papers, uh, talk to a lot of peer companies about, about their journey along the way. Uh, but that's the, you know, we moved pretty quickly, uh, in the sense that we hit our first version of this platform or the first iteration of this platform back in November, 2018.

James:

And it was really launched within a matter of a few months. Uh, and in hindsight, you know, I think we would, we'd do it all over again. I'm not saying it was certainly not perfect. Uh, and that, that is a mind shift for us, always having to be perfect, particularly if you're using this as a learning platform together with a shoppable, uh, or, or sales platform as well. Uh, and we've gone through a lot of different iterations about what that site needs to look like. Um, but also trying to get the right value proposition such that you can drive people to a branded site. Um, and, and just understanding the why behind that.

Peter:

Yeah, you really, uh, so much of it is involved in, it goes back to the business case really, like, what is the differentiation you're going to introduce in that experience that, that sets it apart from what they can do out in the retailer channels that you, that are important customers for you, and that are important ways to reach your consumers. So it's, it's not like it's, it is not the either. And I mean, it's, it's, it's doing all those things well and deciding what that interaction is. Um, and that's something that you're still, you're still investigating. Is that a constant

James:

We're still learning? I would say, uh, I talk about we're constantly in beta mode in this business. So the mindset of quickly testing and learning. So when we first got started, like many other CPGs, we started with gifting and bundling and trying to find that unique value proposition, uh, that is not however, a longer-term more repeatable business. Um, it's actually important for our category is you think about gifting, um, and a lot of seasonality around, uh, the fourth quarter. So it was a good star for us. And actually when we launched the site, it was right around that time. Uh, but when you think about something like obey hot sauce, uh, that's a prime example of where McCormick and our brands can give a unique value proposition. Um, and we're continuing to explore more and more of those types of product initiatives, such that you can continue to build that relationship.

James:

Um, and you can continue to use it as a means of creating a branded, uh, experience, uh, through shoppable platform. Uh, and you know, the other, the other thing that I would say is we're constantly trying to learn and get better on technology plays a really key role in this. And we've had a lot of learning about how you can use technology so that the branded experience all the way through checkout and delivery, uh, is, is easy. And, and it's not just removing barriers and removing problems actually, along the way, um, are really key enabler for making what we want to make all branded moments shoppable. Um, but we didn't necessarily fully appreciate that, I think, early on in our journey. Uh, so you also asked about, you know, continuing to sell this end, we've had to do a lot of reframing, um, meaning reframing the opportunity for a lot of our internal stakeholders.

James:

And some of that has been about how do you think about eight using a shoppable platform is just an additional branded touchpoint and as part of the branded experience. Um, so we needed to, to move from kind of multi-year planning in many ways to launching within, like I said, like this beta mentality and a beta mindset. Um, so we, we simply stopped talking about it as a branded selling platform. And we started talking about it just as another branded experience or another branded moment within a relationship. And that shifted our conversations, um, to be more about what are the tactics that we want to go after. And we're about how does this platform support our broader digital ecosystem? And one of the, one of the examples that I, I think that just to bring it home with a real life example is, you know, grilling season last year.

James:

So that's one of our key selling periods during the year. And we started with a hypothesis. So think about what's your hypothesis, how you gonna prove it out, how you're gonna measure it, and how do we just make it easier for doomers to find grilling products and recipes that are already being promoted online as part of our growing plans, and that led us to different options for those products and how do we drive people through that branded experience onto a DTC site. Um, and really a, a simple principle just from online shopping overall, and frankly it worked in our conversion KPIs starting to improve overall. So we started with, and sometimes from a tactical standpoint, sometimes it's just making buy now or buy here, available on the right products on our brand site that you can then turn into a shoppable moment. Um, so that that's one example, you know, another is, uh, you think about tapping into the brand and ecosystem social, uh, in, in our category, social was a really important engagement point for consumers. And, you know, we started digging into what are people saying about, um, about some of our brands and our products on the site and, or I'm sorry, through some of our social channels, which has also led to new product insights that we're using direct to consumer, whether that be through bundling existing products or completely new products, uh, and leading them to, uh, the direct to consumer site.

Peter:

Yeah, I mean, I think it, it all goes when you talk about sort of the difference between thinking of it as a brand selling platform, uh, versus an adjuster, another experience in the journey, it just goes back to how much the consumer is in charge of their own journey now. And so they too, you're making every brand moment shoppable. They get to decide when they want to press that when they're ready to press a buy button or a learn more button or a search bar. And, and so you want to be, I would imagine of available to offer them the options that they want in that moment everywhere. And we're still in the early stages of being able to make that happen, you know, just technologically let alone procedurally process-wise, but it's an exciting future to be able to think about that because to your point, any friction can result in a loss sale. And so the more across the ecosystem, we can reduce that friction, the more successful, I think the happier consumer you'll have in the more successful business.

James:

So

Peter:

You talked a bit about technology. Can you, can you, um, go a little bit into the tech stack that you, that you're using to power your direct relationships?

James:

So tech tech was a big shift for us, uh, just as an organization, as you think about what's needed to be able to have a shoppable moments and, and sell directly to consumers. So I mentioned that we went really fast in the beginning and what we did was months into it. We actually slowed down a little bit, um, because we wanted to make sure that our tech stack was supporting the ambition that we had much longer term. And we, we brought some outside thinking in to help us look at, uh, different options, um, evaluate several different platforms. Um, but that really proved to be an essential step for us. Now, again, we haven't realized the full potential of the choices that we've made. Um, but very early signs are showing that because of some of the changes that we have made in our tech stack, it is creating more frictionless checkout.

James:

For example, that was one of the, the, the challenges that we had very earlier on, it's enabling a better kind of browsing experience on the site, um, and even important things like shipping and tracking all the way to home, uh, and, and having those capabilities, uh, in your tech stack is, is now really going to help us unlock a lot of the plans that we have in order to get to our longer-term ambition. Uh, and, you know, I, I have to give a lot of credit to, this is one of my own personal learnings coming out of this is, you know, collaborating with our it organization very early on, bringing them along in the journey about what that ambition is and, and how do we get there. Um, they've been incredibly agile, uh, throughout this process and some of the changes that we made. Um, and I think it's actually one of the functions that really quickly picked up what that commercial imperative was direct to consumer business and really rallied behind a plan and a much better place. So early wins. Uh, just to give you an example are not only the structure of how we've, uh, organized that site, but even with just improving that checkout and spirit experience, we've seen improvements in overall conversion in our banishment rate, which is exciting to see because we're just scratching the surface.

Peter:

Yeah. It's, uh, a couple of thoughts there that, you know, you can sort of do marketplaces as a skunkworks thing without maybe it necessarily knowing that it's happening. I'm not offering that as advice. I'm just saying it's possible. You really can't do a direct to consumer site, even if you're doing like a Shopify or a big commerce, I think you need your, it partners at your side, cause the implications across your systems, uh, of, of shipping eaches and all that I would imagine are pretty complex. Um, and also I think choosing the technology partners, I would imagine, uh, the, the accent probably is on the word partnership, because this is changing so quickly, the technologies that you are investing in, I would imagine you need to have confidence that they will be changing with the speed of that and can bring you along through that journey. It's, you know, it's no more probably the monoliths of the world that are going to solve these problems. It's it's, um, maybe the more nimble technology partners are you finding that?

James:

I think it's, uh, for us, at least it's, it's probably a combination of, of both. Um, so we want to leverage and get as much, um, that we can out of our existing capabilities out of strategic partners that we have on the tech side, as well as working with and learning from, um, third parties that are much more agile, you know, things that just to give you an example of things like fulfillment, um, and tapping into third parties that do have an expertise in drop ship and in very agile, um, things to be able to create those unique experiences for consumers that oftentimes are outside of shipping, pallets and more about in each, uh, mentality. And that's where we have, um, partnered with other third parties. And it's been a really good learning. I think we're getting, we're getting smarter. We're, we're not all the way there yet. Yeah.

Peter:

Uh, I'll just remind everyone that the, the Q and a tab is open. So if you want to pop questions in, please do so James, I'd love to move to, you know, the, as you said, the, the DTC stuff is just one part of your overall channel strategy. And when you thought about your direct to consumer channel strategy, I mentioned marketplaces earlier, did you start with marketplaces first or was branded site always the, the objective that you have and how does that fit into your overall channels?

James:

Gotcha. So as we define digital commerce in McCormick, it really falls into three buckets direct to consumer being one of them, but it's also a pure play marketplace strategy, as well as a omni-channel. And what I mean by that is, uh, the brick and mortar on digital properties that we sell through as well. So it's very much all three, uh, I think is you think about, oftentimes CBGs will start with, uh, both marketplaces as well as Omni. Um, you know, and I hear a lot of conversation, uh, externally as well as internally that a lot of people will think about all three of those is a zero sum game. Uh, and that is not necessarily been our experience now COVID and the pretty massive shift in shopping behavior has certainly accelerated a lot of this. But what we're seeing is that you can actually create broader category growth across all three with the right strategies and the right plan and execution.

James:

Um, so even though we've seen pretty massive, uh, acceleration as a result of COVID, you know, much of it is certainly coming from those changing shopping habits. But the data that we're seeing is also that it's not likely going to go away and therefore people are having a very positive online shopping experience. And then for it's likely going to turn in, into repeat, and for us, that's, that's a, that's a broader category, um, growth story. So we, we have made the choice that we want to have a presence in support all three of, of those, uh, different buckets, uh, and do that with best-in-class content, do that with on, on platform investments, uh, on retailer platform investments, as well as different, uh, digital shopper programs and the right innovation, uh, across those different channels.

Peter:

And I would imagine that the intelligence you're able to bring from your learnings in D to C and bring to your retail experiences with your retail partners must, must be a beneficial, you know, you are coming to them when you bring a new product or something like that to them, uh, that your learnings from those tests and learns bring a better result potentially on your retail and the platforms.

James:

That's right. I think new product innovation is one example of that, where we have been able to do it. I think there are several examples around content, uh, and, you know, I mentioned social is another example of where we're mining insights from our social channels and bringing those back and impacting NPD example or a new product example we are using, um, searches as one way of identifying different product ideas. Um, and we're using that in a way to also make the case for not only launching through e-commerce in our direct to consumer platforms, but it's, I think retailers more and more are recognizing that that is also building points of proof for potential expansion in market success. You know, the, the most rapid example is all the hot sauce, uh, other examples out there of, of where we use this model and it's been successful for expansion. So again,

Peter:

I think in this context, we have a question coming in. Uh, how did you handle going from a B2B company to a B to C company? Did you have pushback with companies, systems not integrating smoothly into the D to C platforms

James:

Is not necessarily

Peter:

Was pesky adjective?

James:

I think it comes back to, uh, you know, when we originally launched, uh, it connected, we needed to do an assessment of what are we going to use? What are we going to leverage out of our existing capabilities? And then we recognize that there were certainly gaps. I think the example that I shared with, um, our tech platform and our tech stack up against, uh, the direct to consumer platform is probably one example where we said, we're probably gonna need a different solution, um, and identify something that's going to help us, uh, get there. You know, the other, the other thing that I would mention going from B2B to B to C uh, our innovation model needed to be different. Uh, so I mentioned using search as an example of how do we, how do we use search that is already in market demand essentially is how I think about it and turn that into product ideas, but we can't give the same rigor, uh, outside of things that are, non-negotiables like food safety and all those kind of the right things to do, but how do we quickly get into market, uh, with product ideas that we know already had a demand for?

James:

So we, we created different, we created an agile innovation team to remove some of the things that were slowing us down, uh, and give the appropriate amount of rigor behind taking ideas and getting them into market faster.

Peter:

Yeah, I mean, that goes to the, to the organizational willingness to, to test and learn and building those muscles, which may or may not. It depends on the organization have been in place prior to deeding to, to adjust to this new, new opportunity. So how, how did you develop these muscles and McCormicks, and, and how do you use the, the metrics and the data that you get out of it to keep that, that, um, that virtuous cycle going? So

James:

Within McCormick, we have a pillar called driven to innovate. Uh, it's, it's part of fundamental part of our business and our heart culture for this work. In particular, though, we really needed to shift the mindset, uh, to be much more of a beta mode mindset, uh, and knowing that there was not any one playbook for success, particularly within our category, we needed to get functions and people comfortable with being a little bit more uncomfortable. Uh, and, and that started with creating a structure for how we're going to take, uh, turn them into tangible experiments, pause, evaluated, learn, and then iterate. Um, and we applied an approach in McCormick that is called, uh, the smallest executable step. So don't, so the idea being don't think about just yet multimillion dollar platforms that you want to launch, but think about, what's something that you can test today that can be small, but can give you learning that can get you up to, um, the, the multimillion-dollar platform.

James:

Uh, and because it's very easy to fall into the same processes and the same behaviors, uh, that the rest of the business has. And, and those are all there for a purpose and they have their role, right. Uh, you know, to mitigate risk and, and make sure that we're maximizing the opportunity, but in these platforms, we, we needed to break through that mold a little bit. Uh, and that's why we needed to think differently. We created a, a smaller, more agile team to be able to go after that. Um, and we worked in sprints, uh, and what that did was we go through a sprint, we do the hypothesis, we test it, and then quickly learn in a matter of weeks about how an idea a bundle, a product idea is working in market. Uh, and then we iterate it and then that gave us confidence. Okay. And, uh, it gave the organization some confidence that this can work and that there's, then you can see where scale can come on on the horizon.

Peter:

And certainly in your, in your categories, specifically food quality and safety is prior paramount. And, and I'm sure, you know, you can, I think you're proving that you can do that and still obviously keep to the rules and make sure that your product is safe and right. I mean, that's an important part of, of your mission.

James:

That's right. And that's, you know, we take quality very seriously, uh, and certainly taking care of those are not things that we can negotiate on. Those are non-negotiables for any kind of innovation, but what is negotiable is how quickly you can take something, maybe a formula or a path or a communication that's already been proven out. And how do we get these into, into these platforms for testing?

Peter:

So once these muscles started to get going, and you got your first kind of successes from the testing model, how did that change the way you were able to work?

James:

So, one of the things that did is we started to get some points on board or proof points in this model is we didn't have to ask for as much permission. So going back to some of the questions about B2B B to C, um, in a large scalable business, um, there's a different mentality of how you mitigate risk. Uh, we were able to start proving that out in a small way and get some of those successes. And by the way, failures too, we had, we've had some small failures that we've learned from that we've been, been able to iterate and turn them into, um, actually some, some better ideas at the end of the day. Uh, so things like, um, product bums, we tested a subscription plan. We've tested, uh, you know, different product forms based on some of the search insights. Um, we found new ways to kind of bring back more loyal consumers for harder, find, get very passionate and loyal following items, uh, believe it or not.

James:

And, and it's really challenged, conventional thinking and made some functions pretty uncomfortable. Uh, as you think about, it's not just about a traditional route to market, uh, and a truthful qualification plan. Um, and it's kind of turned that on its head. Uh, and, and that's how we've been able to garner some of the wins within, um, within the organization, but we're just, we're getting very, very close. Uh, and, and I'd say just scratching the surface yet, uh, on, in that sense, uh, I think part of what we need to continue to learn about is how will we continue to look at, uh, data differently, uh, which, uh, think about a large B2B business and how do you look at data through a BDC lens is, is different. And, uh, we're, we're just getting started in that sense.

Peter:

One of the, one of the questions, and I should say with these questions that are coming in live, of course we respect any confidentiality and just so you can choose to answer them or not, but I'm going to throw some of them out to you. Um, and thanks for doing that, uh, uh, Christina asks, do you have any KPIs or success measures that straddle across all three digital commerce platform?

James:

So KPIs that go across all three? Yes. And they're not going to be, I think, anything proprietary. It's going to be top line sales. Uh, we measure across all, uh, we also look very closely at conversion rates, uh, because you think about different investments in levers across each one of them. We do have KPIs set up around, um, conversion. Uh, and I I'd also look at, I'd also say loyalty, uh, is another one that tends to go across kind of all three of those.

Peter:

So, um, there's another interesting question here. Uh, it made me wonder, so someone said that your D to C site looks like a separate site from your content sites. How did you decide to do that? Uh, did you find that your existing traffic site is going into the shop side or do you drive to drive separate traffic? Like how do those work together?

James:

So I would say our in-state will be much more seamless, but I think it's a fair observation as there are some things that look and feel a little bit different. Um, I think that's, there's still some things that we're working through, uh, but our larger reviews that look and feel very consistent in that we were miss actually going back to the other question, but a content and having appropriate content, KPIs and metrics, and making sure that you've got the right content to replace across all of them. So I think that also plays into the content that we're serving up on our branded site, as well as on the Shaw, um, which is embedded within the onsite, that it does need to look and feel very similar to some of the choices that we've made with some of the tech changes, uh, over the past few months have had started to enable that, uh, you know, the, the other observation that you're probably gonna see is, uh, we've got from an assortment standpoint, we don't have a hundred percent connectivity back with every product that is on the.com site yet. Uh, you know, part of that is a lot of the disruption that we're living through now is COVID. However, as you think about the capability in to be able to put in place creating any recipe that shoppable any product that shows up that a consumer would be interested in shopping, a lot of that conductivity, uh, is, is perfectly at the ambition that we have and where we want to go. But it's fair observation. Yeah.

Peter:

Well, I'm, I'm sure many of the brands on, on this call are, are trying to figure out that same, that same thing. We have this thing, but over here, we need to move fast and try things. And you may add to your point, you may need to keep them separate and then figure out how to bring them together over time and, and be willing as an organization to sort of live with that, uh, discomfort. I think, you know, even as a, as a technology provider in my day job, I've, I feel those, those pains sometimes. So I totally understand. Um, there's one question that's coming in here, um, D to C is, uh, is an investment and it can challenge profitability for businesses. And one of the attendees asked her, how did you tackle this originally? Like, how do you think about that as an investment?

James:

I think he needed to take a long-term view. That's my short answer. Uh, and what I mean by that is a long-term view, as you would think about a branded experience investment okay. And creating branded experiences should have both short term ROI metrics, uh, as well as longer term brand building metrics. So the, the view that we do take is we want to build out this business as quickly as possible, but know that it is going, it is going, there's no hockey stick, at least in, in our model, um, for that type of world, this is likely a business that we are going to continue to build in, as you get the flywheel going for our branded owned and operated platforms, and then turning that into shoppable moments for us. That's, that's the longer term view that we're taking.

Peter:

I think it's super important. And, and, uh, and it can be a challenge in these unknown areas. And, and when there's an established part of the business that is in the bulk of the revenue, how you think about balancing that and investing in the longterm and shareholder value. I mean, I'm sure those are all very complex, uh, complex conversations. Um, interesting question from KJC, uh, are your customers okay, paying shipping, going to the, sort of the cost of doing business and, and expectations, um, or has that been a barrier for you?

James:

I don't think they're that, that different than what you would see in an open marketplace. Uh, no, that knowing that this is a branded site, I think there's a bit of a different consumer expectations for that. However, um, we have taken learnings from our, our open marketplace business and understand that being, if you can remove that as a barrier we should. And so that's where we do have certain thresholds. We do have, we've done some testing around offering free shipping on, on various types of order amounts, uh, and, and it, and it has proven out to be pretty close to where a worker places and that type of behavior, uh, actually it's showing up. So when you think about scaling, we would love to have, you know, higher we're selling prices at the, at the end of the day, uh, because that will help certainly with refined needs a model to be able to pay that out

Peter:

Earlier, you talked about the, the, some that it wasn't a zero sum game, and that the sum was greater than the sum of its parts. Niru asked, how do you define incrementality of digital efforts, particularly from marketplace and direct to consumer?

James:

So if you're talking about incrementality from a sales standpoint, uh, and I'm assuming that's where the question is, uh, we, we look at it independent of channel and customer, and that's where we're seeing. When I talk about category growth, we're seeing broader category growth across multiple channels. How do we define that? Um, you know, we look at things like household penetration. We look at unique visitors. We look at unique on purchases, uh, with the data that we have to be able to understand, is this a completely new shopper, uh, and or is this a repeat shopper potentially from another channel? Um, so there are ways that, that we do look at that, uh, and particularly with grocery and particularly over the last six months, um, we have seen a lot of, um, increases overall in grocery shopping online, which we're we're benefiting from as, as the entire category is benefiting from. Um, but we're also seeing, particularly with home cooking and we're, most of our products play a role in, in home cooking. That's not just a spike, we're seeing a lot of, uh, ongoing consumption as a result of that. So that's where we're seeing a lot of the incremental consumption. We're seeing that across channels, and we're seeing that disproportionately in these channels.

Peter:

And, uh, before we close out, James, I just want to go, uh, Jake asked a question and I think we kind of, I mentioned the, the mission of having shot everyday, every moment be shoppable and I kind of glossed over it. I didn't kind of ask you to define it, but in McCormack parlance, what does a shoppable moment mean?

James:

So a shoppable moment, as, as we define it is any branded touchpoint that could be a click away from a transaction click away from a transaction is as very simple as that. And that's how I talk about it internally within the organization. So when you look at our properties today, we're not there yet. Uh, but you can think about the potential of once you start bringing that kind of a vision to life, uh, across our own and operating platforms.

Peter:

I love the vision. And I think I must admit, I imagine that that focuses so much of your strategy conversations and also investment decisions when you returned to that North star. I think that's so important when you're innovating like this.

James:

It is, uh, Peter. And one of the things I would say, you know, is as a B2B business, that's going to be in seed a lot of assets that you can use to be able to get to that vision that a startup doesn't necessarily have. And that can be real growth. That is really powerful, uh, in the sense of, of how do we take a really highly engaged audience, uh, and, and going back to the whole Bay HotSauce example and people that want to engage with us, uh, and that's not, that's not always paid, okay. They're painted otherwise their pain in terms of and move the brand. Yeah.

Peter:

And I, and I think it also is a way to engage, you know, um, a highly motivated workforce that believes in the products that you're bringing to market. It channels their efforts. And I would imagine the excitement as sort of harrowing as it might be sometimes, uh, when sites go down or something, the excitement of knowing that, um, you're innovating your relationship with the consumer and they're responding must be super gratifying.

James:

It is. And I think a lot of, a lot of the engagement through social that we've seen, some of it sometimes was early on, was a little bit negative, but you've got to take that learn from it. Uh, and that's why I talk about the, what we learned from the time that we did the preceding through, um, following up with having the right inventory. Um, you, you need to be able to continue to have a conversation with consumers, uh, and then certainly deliver on the promises that the brand has been in, in our case, that lives makes sure that the product was available through our properties.

Peter:

So a Ricky Busby who was on our last webinar, uh, from Georgia Pacific, who, uh, was very kind about contributing their path to DTC, he, he asked, how does your vision for connect back to and support each brand's marketing objectives? And it sounds like DTC and shoppable moments are a key part of all of their brands, or are some in different points of maturity, or how do you sort of handle those connections?

James:

I, I think it's, there, there are different places. Um, however, I would say over the past year or so, we've made some intentional choices about making sure that we're integrating not only direct to consumer, but also, um, online shopping and our marketplace in digital fundamentals is part of our overall brand plans, um, which has been a pretty major shift for us, uh, in, in certainly marketplaces, responding, consumers are responding. We're seeing that the changes in shopping behavior as a result. So we're, we've been ready for that.

Peter:

So, uh, this is the last one. We have time for the back to the idea of first party data. Um, how does the value of first party data fit into your overall strategy and are you using acquired first party data to inform marketing targeting itself?

James:

So I think I mentioned we're very much at, at the beginning of this, we made your tech choices and tech stack choices, uh, over the past few months that are just starting to give us first party data. I would say, what has been a key learning for us is being intentional about how you want to mine assets, um, and the analytical capabilities that you need to put up against those. Um, and planning ahead for those. Um, so what are the questions or hypothesis we want to answer and then getting the right people internally perfectly from a data analytics standpoint, to understand how we're going to answer them with that first party data. Um, so I, I know that's not a complete answer. Uh, it's just, we're, we're very much getting started there, um, with, with first party data through, through that platform.

Peter:

Well, thanks for answering, uh, the, these, um, questions that are coming at you fast. And I really appreciate that. And just to close out, uh, you're talking to your self two years ago and all the lessons that you've learned, uh, what, what advice would you give to your prior James that you've learned along the way?

James:

I think it's grounded in this idea of a B2B going to a, B to C. Uh, you need to take a long-term view on this disruption, uh, but you need to act with a lot of urgency and, and learn and be curious about what is possible for the brand, because that has been critical for us to know things that were not obvious at the beginning, but it just took a lot of curiosity, uh, and thinking much longer term about this opportunity.

Peter:

And I know you wouldn't say this, but it requires a leader who's willing to invest in the relationships and the communication and the constant transparency to, to make that vision come to life throughout the organization. So thank you. And part of that is sharing back out and, uh, at the DSI, like we are so grateful for anybody that takes the time to, to share back out what they've learned along the way. And it's a really generous act. And James, I really appreciate you being part of this series. You're thank you so much. Happy to be here. Thanks again to James for contributing his expertise to the DSI. Please share this episode with your colleagues and leave us a review wherever you get your podcast. Thanks for being part of our community.