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Roundtable

Roundtable: Keep Calm and Digitally Carry On

There is a necessity and an opportunity to lean into digital experiences in these times. Peter and Molly talk it through.

TRANSCRIPT

Peter: Welcome to Unpacking the Digital Shelf where we explore brand manufacturing in the digital age. Hi everyone, Peter Crosby here. Although the Digital shelf Institute and Salsify offices worldwide have gone remote, I have snuck into our studios in Boston with all sorts of Purel and we are going to keep calm and carry on with our weekly round table episode. Joining me from her usual remote location is Molly Schonthal. Hey Molly.

Molly: Hey Peter.

Peter: So crazy times. How is a social distancing going for you and your family?

Molly: So far so good. How about you?

Peter: We are, we are hanging in there. This is a weird story. So we actually had tickets for tonight and so we obviously, my husband and I, are in Boston. We had tickets for Six the musical tonight and Tina Turner, the musical tomorrow night.

Molly: No.

Peter: And Dave was actually driving down to see his family yesterday anyway, and then I was going to join him today and we were all super nervous about it, but we were like, Oh, they're still having it. So, and then of course yesterday's announcement was that Broadway's closed down. So the,

Molly: And it went from maybe Broadway should close down to Broadway has already.

Peter: Yeah. Not like individual shows making a decision. But just if you, you know, over 500 people can't gather in New York right now. So I actually feel better. Like I really did not want to go to New York, but I also really wanted to see those musicals and those are expensive tickets. So…

Molly: Peter interesting tradeoff there.

Peter: Well for me, yeah, it is. Anyway, so that's my social distancing is now vastly better than it was going to be based on, on the governor.

Molly: I feel socially distant from the plans you would have had.

Peter: Do very much so. But luckily Six is out on available on Spotify. I'm not sure about Tina Turner, but we'll be fine. But clearly this is a time, you know, we are here doing the digital thing and it's a time for everyone to be leaning into digital right now. Right. It's, and certainly as a way to connect and to learn. And, and more than ever really to shop and buy. So that's why I wanted to announce we, we've made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel our own digital shelf summit and customer conference in may. It's just really obviously something we had to do protect the health and safety of the entire community that was going to gather here to talk about how to innovate on the digital shelf. So, you know, it's a, it's a bummer Molly, right?

Molly: Yeah. I mean it's a huge bummer. I had to cancel something myself, but at this point in time it's absolutely the right thing to do.

Peter: But the cool news is you know, just like we're talking about the importance of digital, while we may not be able to gather in person, it, it has galvanized us to transform that agenda into an online digital shelf summit series, a virtual educational opportunity. So we'll be mixing a bunch of content experiences, videos, webinars, interactive digital round tables for smaller, a smaller gatherings that will come, that will present a lot of that content as we were planning to do in Boston in may. In a virtual way, in a way that can be shared in a much broader audience too, about how to set your commerce strategies on the digital shelf for the rest of 2020 and beyond. So over the next few weeks, we'll, we'll get that agenda together. So if you're interested in early access to that lineup, you can go to digital shelf, summit.salsify.com/virtual and again, that's digital shelf, summit.salsify.com/virtual you can just throw your name on a list to get there early heads up early access to this content as it comes out.

Peter: So we're really excited about kind of regathering everybody that you know, had agreed to speak and, and all, certainly other people that already registered to come and then a broader audience beyond to be able to bring this content to you. So we're, we're bummed that we won't be able to get together in person cause you know, networking is actually the best part of it all. But we're going to try and do our best to make them as interactive as possible. And then that content will live on forever Somali. You know, you're, you're also going digital with some of the stuff you were thinking about. It just seems like you know, an exciting pivot to be able to do.

Molly: I am, I was actually reflecting on when I started my career and how a lot of what we're doing now wouldn't have been possible then. The transition to virtual working is actually pretty seamless.

Peter: Yeah, I think it is. You know, I mean we are lucky. We are all lucky that we're in technology, forward industries where we can work from home. You know, obviously my heartbreaks when I see all of these conferences that are being canceled, I mean from ours, you know, which is 800 people, but all the way up to, you know, South by Southwest and the Adobe summit. And when you think of all of the, the taxi drivers, the hotel people there, I mean, it's just heartbreaking the, you know, the number of lives that are going to be impacted by these cancellations. But I think like, you know, like I said at the top, all we can do is kind of carry on and do the best we can to deliver these things as, as best we can. So I'm psyched about figuring it out and really psyched to, to have this audience be part of it.

Peter: So that's our news to how we are pivoting to adjust to this new reality and expand access to this content. But at the same time, we know out there all of you and your teams are equally rising to the occasion and figuring out the way forward for, for your people and your businesses and, you know, been hearing about some of these efforts. And I think, you know, Molly, it seems to me to make sense to, you know, you've got to start aside from the health and safety of employees with a supply chain Michael Bryan and multichannel merge. Yeah. Multi Michael Bryan and multichannel merchant wrote a great overview of the impact of coronavirus across brands and retailers. And he did, he talked to him. Mitchell Bailey, who's the chief operating officer at E tails with a Z. They, they work with marketplace sellers. They say they've been seeing many brand partners and we've been hearing this from our customers as well, are seeing between 30 to 50% reduction in factory production output.

Peter: And and Matt Leonard at at supply chain dive wrote about Costco talking about their point of view is that it could take several weeks to reach, you know, routine supply chain operations. We certainly have seen, cause China was on the forefront of this epidemic and have been responding that some of their factories are starting to come online and certainly over the next few weeks I will be sure. But then the, you know, I was reading an article about the you know, the the depots where all the ships come in from China to offload in LA and other ports and those are going to take, you know, then they need to be ready to. It's able to accept that, you know, those materials and a lot of Costco is, is switching over to a air freight in a lot of cases. And so everyone's doing it seems like it's doing what they need to do to, to get the supply chain as, as up and running as fast as possible.

Molly: Yeah. I saw that article about Costco and it seems that they're squeezed on both ends so they have some increasing demand while people are preparing to stay home and then they're having issues with the supply chain on the other side. So it must be difficult.

Peter: Yeah. I saw again in the multichannel article that James Thompson who's a partner at at another Amazon seller from buy box experts, he said that a lot of brands may need to think about their channel prioritization because we know that on Amazon, if you go out of stock, and I don't know whether Amazon's going to do any adjustments to their regular algorithm to respond to the fact that out of stock is in a lot of cases not under brand control right now. I think that would be a wise thing for them to do. But in the current situation, as you know, if you go out of stock on Amazon, you will disappear from, you know, from the, from the a search algorithm. So if, if people are thinking about how to prioritize their platforms, it may be that Amazon is one you'd want to think carefully about being there just because their, their algorithm is so based on, on being in stock and, and other retailers may not have that level of sophistication. But I, I would, I would, I'd not that Amazon is listening to me right now, but I certainly would call on Amazon to think about how to respond to that situation in a different way than what their usual algorithm might be. You hear me, Jeff Bezos,

Molly: I hope he's listening because I do think that some special rules of the game apply when there's out of stock. Now it is not because a brand isn't necessarily not completing their responsibilities to manage their business on a business as normal sort of routine. I get why Amazon would be penalizing businesses on a normal day for not being able to keep up with average demand. But this is a special time and recovering business will be hard enough, let alone being set back algorithmically on the place that people most look to discover you in a virtual setting.

Peter: Extraordinary times call for extraordinary algorithmic measures. Ordinary algorithms. Yes, exactly. At the same time, you know, when you then turn around from the supply chains are things working, are, are can product get to the digital shelf? Then you turn around and think about ad strategies. You know, companies obviously have had long long planned ads in market and I saw a couple of articles on ad age. Alexandra Jardeen at ad age wrote about KFC. They have suspended a UK campaign that focused on finger licking after they'd read the advertising standards. Authority had received multiple [inaudible].

Molly: I saw that and I was like, have we also lost our ability to understand a metaphor?

Peter: You know, I guess the complaints, it feels like, I think their people are really on edge about what are the messages that we as a society are sending out to each other. And I mean, I get what you're saying, which is we ought to be able to see that and go, Oh, okay. But if for KFC as a brand, if the first thing that pops into your mind is, Oh, you shouldn't be doing that right now. Is that the, is that what you want from your, you know, from your, is that what you want the consumer's first response? Even if that first response is sort of, I don't know. Is it, I dunno, I don't know about you. I walk around and every time I see, you know, I see people, you know, everyone going through the door is like using their sleeve instead of touching it.

Peter: And there's a, you know, there's, so everyone's attunement to how we interact and how germs are passed, I think is at Epic Heights. So I can totally understand this even though, even if you feel like, Oh, really? But yeah. And also at the same time, Hershey had had a bunch of ads that featured celebrities handing out Hershey bars to strangers often with hugs and handshake. So chief marketing officer, Joe Baskin said to ad Jessica Wall there we have decided, sadly, she said we have decided to temporarily replaced two of our ads, a feature human interaction, you know, due to the sensitivities of the virus. So they replaced those ads with product centric spots. Just, you know, obviously featuring the joy would be to eat a Hershey bar in these times. So I'm, I'm totally up for that. Yeah. I mean I get it. You are skeptical. I can tell. What do you wish, like do you feel like we ought to be able as society to be able to go ahead with ads like this and it,

Molly: I mean it's really hard. It's really hard to say where, where it's too much. You know, I, I think that, you know, you talk about the Broadway shows and the stuff that we were sort of eye rolly about last week is become like, yeah, you absolutely would cancel that this week. Right? So when I saw the ad headlines and I was a little eye rolly about those two and I thought she is like, maybe they don't understand our ability to understand, you know, to pick up creative and context or like understand adjectives and metaphors. I mean, but then like next week maybe I'll be like, yeah, absolutely. But that was the absolutely that was the absolute right thing to do. So honestly, when the emotional climate changes day by day, who's to say,

Peter: And I, and I do think what the word you just said is super important, which is emotional. And that's really what I think these changes are responding to, which is that right now people's emotions are focused on a sensitivity around around the spread of the virus. And that's the first thing they may think of when they see your commercial about your product. And the first thing, the emotion that both of these things wanted people to feel is, is yummy and and love and excitement. And instead it will be, Oh wow, that reminds me, I shouldn't be doing those activities of hugging and finger licking. And so I get it. I feel like do something that produces the emotion you want because you're spending a lot of money on those ads. And so spend them where you think they'll ha they'll produce the emotional reaction you want, not the emotional reaction people will have right now. Yeah. so Molly, you had said you saw an interesting article on how this might be what influencers have to do with with the [inaudible]

Molly: Just so there, was it an interest, something interesting on DJing daily, which I found from the business of fashion, which I really like as a source. They were, the headline is coven 19 has hurt China's influencers or has it,

Peter: I love those clickbait.

Molly: And the funny thing, it was like a, the whole first part of the article was like, yes, it has her China's influencer. So I'm waiting for the like, or it has it, you know, and then, you know, brands brand revenue goes then something about, well they're influencers so they can just like work from home, right, with their smart phones. And they would have the most autonomy of, of any kind of business that we could think of. Or do they write? And then it goes into in order to put up these, what looked like trite little influencer campaigns through a a video or a web video or a live stream and actually takes dumped into a production crew. So what looks like someone just holding a smartphone inside of their house is actually way more Yancy than that. Yeah, yeah. Like a tripod and someone doing lighting and you know, maybe someone arranging their like home to make it look like it's supposed to be their home and you know, so stuff that we hadn't thought about, stuff that is supposed to look kind of unofficial behind the scenes may have more production behind it, which will slow it down, including Chinese influence, our live streams and web stores.

Peter: Yeah. It's interesting, I think about, cause you had started out by saying that it has influencers have been affected and you know, people's I'll be interested to see people's receptivity to is, does shopping and connecting with influencers over this period. Like be the, because more and more it's going to be such an isolating time for people. And so do these inter into, do these a digital relationships that people have become even more and more important during [inaudible].

Molly: So listen to this. Okay. So from Jen daily, again views of videos tagged with the word funny.

Peter: No, I'm sorry. I just have to stop because you might've heard a sort of Russell and a thump right there. Molly's cat actually climbed up on her desk and Molly took the cat and threw it. So sorry. I had to stop and and just enjoy that little moment that you weren't able to see on the video. All right, Molly.

Molly: Yeah, I that was, that was the sound of me yelling for someone to try to take he, you know, cats are, you know, our, our boss would say cats are a bleep poles and they kind of are they tend to sense when you need a alone time or you need to focus and they like to jump on your computer during those times.

Peter: So they do the opposite. Yes. I,

Molly: I hear you. Yeah. They're like, they are, you know, they're sort of like a karma, like in a feline body. They're like best laid plans. Anyways, so I was going to say that okay. From Jim Daley videos tagged with the word funny grew by 905% between January 23rd to February 5th. So this is in China. People needing a bit of humor and levity in their lives. Meanwhile, influencers who have been able to appropriately incorporate a virus related content have also seen tremendous growth. In February 2nd, a video, a video by popular science, KOL paperclip, educating people about Corona virus went viral influencers with content completely unrelated to the virus. Have seen massive growth as well. Fan bases increasing by 10% and the likes. So this sort of engagement is going up where people are able to produce content, but then again, if it's related to selling there's, there's an impact and fulfilling.

Peter: Yeah, I think all of this message, I, I think, you know going digital with our summit, certainly not the most important of things, but, but one sign people needing to rely on these digital interactions for contact and comfort and information. I think all of these trends are going to be important at this time. And, and that's why I'm glad we're here and I, I really value our audience and I hope this pivot to bringing more and more of this digital commerce content to you virtually will, will help this. So Molly, thank you for for reducing your social distance long enough to be here on the podcast. I really appreciate it. It's great to see you.

Molly: My pleasure. What you can't see, viewers is that we've all been experimenting with green screens. So in the spirit of things that you can do when you're at home socially distancing yourself zoom has a setting where you can project a image behind yourself. It works better if you have a green screen. It's still works if you don't. Our very own Sean Cronin has shown us how you can actually put a picture of your own from the web behind yourself. So he had himself displayed with a ravage supermarket behind him this morning and gave us all good.

Peter: Yes. A lot of empty shells behind Sean Cronin.

Molly: Yeah. So keep yourself laughing as well. It is. Okay. It is good for your [inaudible]

Peter: Well gang, that is our show for today. Definitely listen in on Thursday where we get back to the regular course of commerce topics. We're going to feature Russ Deringer from Cleveland research. Ross has new research on how to evaluate and execute a strategy in the world of rapidly evolving retailer ad platforms. We all can see, every retailer is trying to up their game look for a source of additional revenue, but also provide you with the opportunities to lean into how these ad platforms can be used as both trade and media opportunities. But Russ has some really great new research around that, so keep calm and carry on. Join us on Thursday. In the meantime, please follow us on the institutes. Linkedin page tweeted us at wind digital shelf, and as always, if our content is useful, please leave a review wherever you get your podcast. Thanks for being part of our virtual community.