An interview with Bryon Colby (@bcolby6), SVP of Digital Commerce at Cornerstone Brands. Cornerstone Brands is a billion-dollar omni-channel retailer comprised of multiple leading home and apparel brands including Frontgate, Ballard Designs, Garnet Hill, Chasing Fireflies, Grandin Road, Improvements, and TravelSmith. Cornerstone is a business unit of HSN, Inc.
We spoke with Bryon about his background, where digital commerce sits in the Cornerstone organization structure, how Cornerstone benefits from it's catalog heritage, the challenges and opportunities of customized products, and the future of personalization.
Bryon mentioned a custom product configurator for furniture on Ballard Designs, which can be found here.
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Episode 104 of the Jason & Scot show was recorded on Wednesday, October 11th 2017.
Join your hosts Jason "Retailgeek" Goldberg, SVP Commerce & Content at SapientRazorfish, and Scot Wingo, Founder and Executive Chairman of Channel Advisor as they discuss the latest news and trends in the world of e-commerce and digital shopper marketing.
New beta feature - Google Automated Transcription of the show:
Jason: [0:25] Welcome to the Jason and Scott show this is episode 104 being recorded on Wednesday October 11th 2017 I'm your host Jason retailgeek Goldberg and as usual I'm here with your co-host Scott Wingo.
Scot & Bryon: [0:40] Hey Jason and welcome back Jason Scott show listeners, in this week's episode where excited Futura guess that we have literally been trying to get on the show for over a year due to scheduling conflicts between the three of us that has been hard to do but today the stars have finally aligned and we are very excited to Welcome to the Jason Scott show, Bryon Colby SVP of digital Commerce at Cornerstone brands welcome brand.
[1:09] Where are you located in the world today in the home base of Cincinnati Ohio. Like being over usually on the road like you guys but I see your point stars align.
Jason: [1:23] And just to be clear Brian it hasn't taken a year because you've been doing a lot of other shows right you've been saving yourself for us.
Scot & Bryon: [1:29] Whatever makes you feel good then go for a Jason. Cook and I'm excited to see if I understand you have a Tesla now so we are in the Tesla owners the electric vehicle club together at this point. Loving it you know can't say enough good things about it I actually thought that was going to be at your giveaway 400 shall I was hoping to get a guest on that one but it was like Tesla's free to your listeners, yeah we we tried that and we ended up with some stickers that Jason printed on his LaserJet they're so close but we were quite able to get it to that level.
Jason: [2:09] It is a premium LaserJet though.
Scot & Bryon: [2:11] Is premium gas to color so it's pretty exciting.
Jason: [2:18] I feel like you guys have have a lot in common you both had the fancy cars and you both spell your first names unconventionally.
Scot & Bryon: [2:26] Yes it's one of those things that makes you very Google Bowl which is a double edged sword.
[2:32] I love you find that bread. So far 3 other people that spell it my you know my way you know one guy at the local. Movie theater that selling a popcorn was amazed to see his name tags felt the same way and he's the one there actually is a Facebook group for you know Brian's that's valid Bryon and this guy was it when it started. I don't know. If you ever need. You ever meet anyone else, I have met a couple other people there's a lot of Scott wings with two T's so there's that and then there's the hero of a popular novel, it is at his got Scotland 20 sets and wrestling. Yeah I run into like two or three every five years or so so so kind of price solar distribution I did I don't know if we have a Facebook group or not I might have to explore the Cradle. We left a check there about 5 of us on itself but that was a couple years ago is that Super Active like you guys just guy talk about. I'll leave it at that.
Jason: [3:48] And I think there's one other important piece of business we have to get out of the way before we we jump into Cornerstone big movie trailer came out this week.
Scot & Bryon: [3:59] Yeah yep the know some some people are keeping themselves spoiler-free so I have nothing to talk about it but I, where I draw the line is I try not to read rumor sites or anything like that but I do watch the trailers and this trailer was awesome. I'm very excited for the Last Jedi, tickets are purchased 7 p.m. showing December 14th through the Wingo Clan is locked and loaded for Last Jedi.
Jason: [4:23] That's awesome.
Scot & Bryon: [4:24] Scotty tractor your dress up you and your family for it. We don't we usually say that for Halloween and we're usually a bunch of Star Wars characters for Halloween but we're not cause players just never not not my scene but I'm more of a collector toys that canister.
Jason: [4:44] It's been interesting that there was some controversy coming up to the trailer about whether the director was excited or not about it but I feel like all the reviews of the trailer I've read even from people that are not like huge Star Wars fans are like it's one of the best. Made trailers of all times.
Scot & Bryon: [5:02] Yeah it's a misunderstanding so it's Ryan Johnson and he he was just kind of tweeting that if you want to stay spoiler-free don't watch the trailer and then a lot of people misread that to say, the trailer is not good or something so I don't know so then later he was like all caps watch the trailer people it's great I'm excited up moving.
Jason: [5:20] Heck yeah that was an odd thing to have had thought he said so that I'm glad you were able to clarify Force awesome, well with that Brian let's jump into the topic of the day we want to talk a little bit about about your business and what you're doing now but before we get to that it's always nice to hear about how you got there and what you're you're sort of digital background is.
Scot & Bryon: [5:46] Sure you know just thinking through it's been amazing and I've been involved so I guess any Commerce incident of 1996, where are you know it's part of the great team that we actually helped build some of the initial pay for Content sites football number Publishers including USA Today times-mirror the Usos, Associated Press this is where they had don't you know the publisher that don't websites had no idea how to monetize it and we're looking to monetize some of their archives they're all content people coming in search for so we had that. Company was called in Fanatics had you know had a technology Riri, purpose from our consumer consumer product that was out there in the marketplace and turned around handle the customer service the billing, you know all this is way back when in about 1996-1997 for these customers, since then you know what has really held the number of different you know a hats in the space but all focused on transactions including are running a digital marketing Consulting Group. I'm heading out by you know you asked operations of an SMS Commerce startup which was fascinating just about, it's Wednesday in the year about 2000-2001 so just slightly ahead of its time being able to buy things via SMS was also a managing director at fry and another you know, kind of Legacy in e-commerce space.
[7:17] Fantastic also group of e-commerce if we're all veterans right now that we had our own not digital eCommerce platform and we helped run some of the online businesses and Technology, multiple retailers across some. Different categories including Ann Taylor a good diver craft PC Richards and many others so you know after that for a while and actually said okay looking to jump over, to the. Pure retail side so you know the strong desire to actually own the project from start to finish so when I joined Marc Ecko. I was an apparel company and then of Last Stand and currently as he said at Cornerstone brands.
Jason: [8:08] Awesome and the fried that always brings a smile to my heart that I think there's still a few fry sites living in the world then it's obviously been defunct for quite a while.
Scot & Bryon: [8:21] Yep yeah they got you know purchase by Microcenter and of course mikroskop purchase so there still are some out there and it is that's all you go to you know shop.org you got any other conferences, it's one of those amazing get-togethers cuz you see people that you know of work with way you know way back when I just are now you know leaves and heads at all, under the different colors are other e-commerce companies out there.
Jason: [8:47] Yeah so let's talk about Cornerstone Cornerstone might not be a familiar name to some listeners because it's a, it's a house of Brands and then it has a familiar parents so can you tell us a little bit about about a Cornerstone and who you are.
Scot & Bryon: [9:04] Sure Cornerstone wasn't even familiar to me when I joined the head corner, Cornerstone brands it's a billion-dollar plus retailer it's comprised of a portfolio of different aspirational home and apparel brands that include Frankie Ballard Designs, Garnet Hill Grandin Road and improvements in overtime with awesome different companies with divested different companies we have a strong catalog heritage, that's our background but now we're at a point where over 70% of our overall demands is transacted via digital channels with an opening up some new retail store. So you know where as a whole it's again most people won't know Cornerstone but the brands very well-thought-of Rhymes doing very well. Well parent company is hsni which of course the other Division if they own besides Cornerstone is HSN which is more 2 Legacy broadcast. You know broadcast Commerce company that has course has also evolved into a strong digital Anthony.
Jason: [10:16] Very cool and one of the things that I was interested me about Cornerstone is the.
[10:23] Sort of portfolio is is interesting Lee diverse not so much in terms of. The offering a consumers although that's the first two but act like I think some of the Brand's don't have stores do I have it right into their pure digital some of the brands, have stores, some of the brand sell products that aren't super convenient to ship until I I sort of think about the whole portfolio and I go man there's a lot of unique. Different business cases for each of the brands is do I have that right or is it all pretty much the same thing.
Scot & Bryon: [10:59] No you're totally right on The Mark with it and it's to the point where it's at extended differentiation extends to the products or the the product photography. How to get out of quality or of the paper that the catalogs are printed on. People are usually amazing like oh yeah you know I never even knew that Ballard Designs in front they were quote related, what part of the same as the wall you know part of the model is and we really we do have a hybrid model here so I we share a digital platform, fat and other back and operation such as call center and supply chain areas where we would really get operational leverage but then. The majority of all the customer-facing aspects such as creative product pricing merchandising. That's all at the Brand level and the strategies for those are really formed at the Brand level so we may have some may say stores are the best, way for us to connect with our customers others may go with a different private label credit card and all of that ensures that you know, really strong Believers and keeping a unique DNA of each brand so while we are for a portfolio, we want to gain leverage everywhere we really focus on not wanting to lose what makes each brand special and their connection to the customer cuz what we normally hear when people come in and saying hey you know what we could save x amount. I may be consolidating, you know all the photos shot so you know all the models of the photo shots into one area and it's really ghetto people resisted overtime and you know it's actually been the right call is what we're learning.
[12:36] So I can practice walk us to how your piece works so let's see you have a front gate Ballard at cetera, you guys can operate as an agency that supports what they're doing or do you do help them with strategy and they have their own groups so so let's just use something kind of practical that that everyone doesn't e-commerce like like, I see my Google AdWords do you have a group that kind of like centralized does that say for the various brands or do they do it themselves and you guys, I had an evil strategy for the.
[13:08] It's really the latter each brand does have right now just for this specific example and it changes of course what you're talking about but for something like sem each brand has their own marketing department. Then their own people on the ground in a managing their ass Leon campaign. Where are the cross brand leverage and where my team myself and my team's role will come into play is one in Short helping to ensure, at all the brands are using the best technology. More info or let's say I see I'm dead management as well as you know making sure we're leveraging our relationships with our third-party Partners so okay this interests you know again where Billion Dollar Plus, company, I'm as a whole but if it was each individual they're going out there as a snow still larger but smaller entities so a lot of that is managed from a central location. As well as helmets Europe what you mentioned helping a form what maybe some of our strategy should be in the space, like okay you know it's part of letting you know the shifter increase mobile spend helping to highlight the importance of that and digging into the data so a lot of that is a partnership, other aspects of you know my team's role here that are shared services where R you know request. LeBron saying hey this is a project we need to do for our business. On the other hand it could come from a side you know my team and I resent the corporate level to say hey this may be a good strategy for the entity as a whole.
[14:45] Around where things are really pushed off down at the partnership model where the give and take on both sides. My specific role is again heading up the digital Commerce at the corporate level so it impacts you know what the overall digital strategy should be, as well as a day-to-day operations and management, digital platform and technology that is shared among the brands as well as you know what the team here driving learnings and leverage across the portfolio but if it's touching that and you deserve like I said before. Back in from the brand side so you know an overtime this model has evolved and you know we've looked at all the different, ways you can actually do this that there you know some organizations that say you know everything should be centralized some saves everything should be at the brands. We again it's a hybrid model is how we trying to tend to operate some things we didn't my team will get more involved in other times it's where the brands about it.
Jason: [15:48] Interesting you had mentioned that a lot of the the brand on the cornerstone portfolio had started as catalog doors and I wanted to touch on that for a minute cuz I think that's super interesting. Personalized was handled Walmart earnings report this week and Mark Lori mentioned something that I hadn't thought about before but he's like. Hey we've all been shipping products to Consumers homes for a hundred plus years that's not really the the new thing in that the e-commerce bring for the party. What e-commerce really changing the party is the the front end merchandising a product that essentially you know the whole delivery thing, it's something I've been doing for a long time and that you know cataloguers in particular have been doing and the new thing we've all had to learn how to do is use digital to merchandise products in so it like. Is that true at Cornerstone that you inherited. Good Supply chains and and facilities for shipping and that sort of thing because of your catalog Heritage or weather like a lot of.
[16:54] Sort of traditional methods that had to be had to be dramatically changed to accommodate your e-commerce growth.
Scot & Bryon: [17:02] Wiz. Cataloguers one of the inmates things I think would see know when I took on the role that I quickly saw was an advantage was that the wreck Market in skill set. Cuz it's a very different business in terms of prospecting customers and reaching out the customers and it maybe from Hyder having bread, and mortar stores or whether you're just starting a secure play without that direct marketing background so, you know a lot of our operations with always been selling direct the customers and ship into them there from the supply chain from a customer call center, that's always been in place I mean right now we have a small retail store for friends and that you know I'm like a lot of other companies, that was kind of a you know later stage move that we move that we went forward with so you know and have some of this goes back to. You know what you at you know your man crush Andy Dunn marriage a sin in terms of you know you're quoted him a number of times that a lot of these think eCommerce pure plays and I'm a big fan of eventually hit a wall. Because of stacking up with you in the fact of customer acquisition at the right price. Just so you know you you actually start to say okay we have to get other channels to go after customers but it starts are going to retail in the everyone now it's time to go in the catalogs and the thing is kind of hard work really well, you know you need that direct marketing skill set but the good part is once you actually have it.
[18:34] Working friends and now I'm really excited because I feel that a lot of digital channels are starting to catch up I mean you look at what Facebook is now offering what Google's offering me know and I've got in a little trouble, in the news recently just buy, how well you're able to Target in or if you're from Russia that you can actually buy specific keywords now on it and do respect of look-alike mod, look like modeling but now with you know you could have specially take what we've been doing for catalogs for a while and go out there and do it digitally. And the other part with catalogs is that fascinates me is you think okay on the filming of, you know you guys also we go at that we check our mailbox every day but there really isn't too much in it now and catalogs get a lot of the attention so. You know digital you. People have also asked well as digital going to kill catalogs and all that but the goal is actually to do a martyr sentence. Like okay Mel books a lot smarter and integrated with digital and that's what was doing so that's why all the back you know when you say a lot of the back office activities, you know we of course need to Reno and want to improve on it in terms of speed of delivery in terms of customer interactions but that's been there since day one.
Jason: [19:58] For sure so first of all tell me that wouldn't be a great selling book is the kgb's guide to Facebook marketing.
[20:07] She like we should write that right now the.
[20:12] Like so is it true like that you you have catalogs it like that are continuing to be good performers and that you've you've sort of evolved them to to fit better in the digital world that they're still a significant acquisition channel for you.
Scot & Bryon: [20:25] Yes they are you know that Nicole is always you whenever you you know if your mailing a lot of catalogs it's a. Numbers game where are you know a high percentage of them are not going to generate sales the ones that hit well generate you know you know I do a lot of sales so it's over time figuring out more and more. How to reduce the number of mountains that you do or else reduce unproductive maling. The Golan is to take some of those Savings reinvested in digital and with digital actually you know have different contact points for the customer. That is you know right now baby they real catalogs work well they do or the challenge of course is that they tend to be expensive. They tend to be some things that are out of your control you know what would a long-term you have cost of paper you have postage and all that, it's you know why won't you know what the start while I was saying you over 70% of our transactions happen digitally you know Catalina. Catalog for major marketing channel for us.
Jason: [21:29] It and it's interesting because you see it going both ways there there you know famous traditional cataloguers that has kind of gotten out of the catalog so you know I'm I obviously think it like a Sears or. Victoria's Secret and I think even come in your face Crate & Barrel me over Tire their catalog at one point but then at the same time you see a lot of. Companies including digital native Brands adopting. Catalogs as a marketing channel and so it you almost have wonder if some of those Legacy cataloguers missed the boat by turning them off when you know maybe there was just a way to to evolve them.
[22:08] I'd be.
Scot & Bryon: [22:09] And we started when you started keeping track of it where you know where the 90-day. Exactly you had some major companies such as Victoria's Secret they were out of catalog. Other companies saying we reinvent you know we're investing in and doing more so there really you don't normally you say okay there's a herd mentality one way this is where it's you know the really isn't, people argue no finding their own past but Summer Valley more summer mailing a lot less.
Jason: [22:35] And Scott do I have it right isn't Amazon even doing some catalogs and some categories.
Scot & Bryon: [22:42] Yeah yeah I've seen them experiment usually do a holiday catalog now which is kind of highlighting some offerings that are good gifts.
Jason: [22:49] Yep in Bryan I be curious the so when you talk about.
[22:55] Digitally infusing the catalogs I think of sort of two things. Obviously in a digital let us know our audience a lot better and Target are audio so I better so I can imagine using digital to you no have a higher hit rate and get more of those printed catalogs in the hands of the right people and fewer. In the hands of the wrong people but I also would be curious about sort of Prince. Two digital interactions like either their features you built into the print catalogs now to make it. Easier for someone to to make the jump from the printed page to the the product detail page or or is that not important.
Scot & Bryon: [23:36] But it's definitely important I mean we've you know over the past couple years we've tried out a lot of things you know we've done some basic you know, when I call you now. Barcodes what not you know when you have the codes in there that okay those were going to be the next stop where you can actually just Decor scan it and have the reader and instantly go to the website. We've also had different experiments in this some of these were great learning where you could pick your phone hold it over the catalog and actually the product reviews with Sprint. You can see the product reviews or if we had a couch in Ocala lots of limited space so let's save your show the couch and two colors you can hold your phone up to that page and it instantly scan and the other couches you could get, so it's done that you know and we'll try some other experiments.
[24:29] I really think we've reached a point where you don't need the coach people saying okay you have this physical catalog then here's what you need to do to get online or here's what you need to do if your phone people are at a point where they're doing it anyway. So in terms of actively trying to dry them online with kind of said hey you know what we're not trying to drive consumer behavior when I ride in that way.
[24:54] Michael O'Brien listener the show in any kind of heard us, talk a lot about the Amazon impact out there and, what is the best way to defend yourself from that is to make your own products you haven't heard it yet but the episode before this one was a deep dive on private label which is a strategy that that everyone's really employing a lot of people feel like even Amazon Whole Foods acquisition was driven by a desire to have a deeper private label offering and grocery so you guys are in an interesting position if I understand it correctly I think, bus your brands of Lee the manufacturer and the brand the seller of the brand it is is that correct.
[25:35] That's correct but the majority of what we sell all proprietary Goods. No we do still at the big differentiate or I personally believe this in that you know it. It gives us now more permission to generate brand Authority and connect with our customers so it also allows us to do a lot more with either you know product customization because it's all under our control, so it's something you know that we've been firm Believers in and I personally believe it that you know the worst thing you could do is become commoditized. So I'm doing our proprietary product and then I'm looking forward to listening to your next you know that the cell before this when it comes out but is, one of the ways that okay if you're looking to compete against Amazon or any of you know any of the other you know larger big boys out there think it's key, so these brands have been around since the catalog era has if you guys done explicit things with digital to kind of, accelerate that Loop because some of the newer generations of Brands like a Casper of bonobos Indochina you're one of the nice things about being born digital is you get that real kind of customer feedback very quickly because there's more of a, put it out quick and get feedback Rose I can imagine the catalog world you know what let's say 15 years ago it would be more of a you know, some of the product to do testing put it in the catalog and then probably takes 12 to 18 months to get any feedback is that something that you guys have felt in your brands that that your.
[27:10] You're able to close at Loop faster and innovate faster I mean that it's a great that you know part of the challenge always are catalogs is the lead time. Involved, actually got things in there so one of the things of course is scaling back okay the knock knock the number about the types of promotions you put in catalogs cuz you talk about being responsive to, the market needs and business needs a little tough you're putting an offer in a book that you know may go out okay 3 months from now that's going to be off. Doesn't mean it's not done so that's one thing where you can you know we're gaining more flexibility on mine as well as in the product reviews and then you know that. From Prague reviews from product feedback from customers even though I may be in the book we're taking that and wearing you know where it integrating work or messaging on the side about the Prada. So you know we still have again at Heritage we're okay it's still going out there ahead of time but we already know part of it is gaining learning from what some of the digital natives are doing and you know it's family.
[28:15] Yeah, see it flipping where, and I bet now you could probably you know let's see you have a catalog coming out next spring you're probably planning that one you do a bunch of digital quick things to test that out now and then you know maybe take the winners and put them in the catalog that is that is that kind of inverted with with the evolution of e-commerce. It's definitely something that we're exploring and yes it is I mean that's where it's great we're okay you could still. You could still have the print medium that has that lead time but you're able to accept feedback before it goes in there and it's involved in some of the older models, that had a catalogs get put together and you know what needs to be in them it's really I mean. That and I really trick it's the shift you know for merchandising as handsome as a whole. I know that's come up you know I'm different episode and you know the kind of merchant you know the merchandising Prince roll that that's a ball, now become much more data-driven and you know you use much more real-time feedback and all that are aspects that we.
Jason: [29:22] Interesting and you had mentioned that some of the products that you guys make our our customizer personalized for the individual consumer do I have that right.
Scot & Bryon: [29:32] Yeah yeah we've been we've been doing it for a number of years and we you know of the past couple years has really been expanding it you know, because the point earlier about okay if you're going to differentiate one how to differentiate it from Amazon but I know also how to fit the needs of the consumers, in the consumers really enjoy you know have a lot of trust in Our Brands and in and enjoy them but they also like, feeling that heavy I have the ability to make it my own Stafford's ample at Ballard Designs which has, very strong ties to the I'm designer Community with built-in house configurator and this configurator and you know you reviews, be able to build it where you can have a chair and maybe put the seat collar now you feel that you know you could configure on some, found my chairs at the 12 different configurations now heads this color. Alexis color of the you know the chair front and back the welts the seat skirt the chick I'm kick plate you can have all of that customized to it so one of the things we learned as hell you know.
[30:41] People are fat enough fascinated by using a stool or actually able to also expand the use of it in our store so that every Ballard store in their Design Services Center the configurator gets a lot of play You & Me now this is cat time, really taking it to the nth degree cuz of course knowing one thing by the way you learned at least I learned from this as I can make some really ugly chairs so not everything, you know how to volunteer to have me come in and do it and waited the three of us have a competition one of these days and it tool who can make the worst looking one but you know we also take a step back and we do a lot even just the basics of product monogramming. Across all of our all of our Brands we ask you know we do it all in-house there are really strong. Personalization Center within our DC and we also been expanded to it they stores that within some of the Ballard stores. Now you could also in-store monogramming. You could buy a tote there and then go and instantly get it monogrammed with what you want and we were able to turn around like with the recent Star of course hurricane, you know the first I hate you stand we went in and within 24 hours I mean two teams here that a fantastic job, wrabel to create customized totes saying okay this is you know it towed for Texas program purchase the toad x amount goes to, helping a local areas that were in pack, and you know what that was from a combination of having that monogram and personalization capabilities as well as a team that's always thinking okay how can we pick up products to the next level.
Jason: [32:17] That's very cool that we talked several times on the show about that that person was a ship being one of the good ways to to combat Amazon in particular you know it's probably not a perfect note forever but but certainly like. You know that. Customizing the product before you ship it to a customer negates a lot of the advantages that Amazon has with the the huge number of fulfillment centers that don't have personalization capabilities.
Scot & Bryon: [32:45] Yep and it's also I mean customers you know you still want to get it there as quickly as possible. Johnny Maddox fan of a custom shower at least this week maybe I'll change in another 2 weeks they're not expecting it to be delivered in 2 hours.
Jason: [33:00] Yep.
Scot & Bryon: [33:01] Because they recognize what goes into it and they're all so you know there's different price flexibility you have with that. So you know I know and I'm sure it's going to shift over time I was joking before that there will be no hiding expectations. Dodge customization is Major strategy for us.
Jason: [33:19] Cut in migraines customer expectations rarely ever get lower they do it's not for a good reason. The the other great thing about precise product though is you probably don't accept returns on that right there turn right it's probably zero.
Scot & Bryon: [33:35] Exactly I mean they're always circumstances but no matter what your name is for mothers out there almost customized products the return rate drops tremendously on it whether you allow it or not.
Jason: [33:48] Sure I totally get that and I mean. But I do feel like people sometimes underestimate what a big part of the economic equation returns are in most e-commerce businesses so even when you just. Dramatically curtail returns that that is a huge economic impact on you know if and when a company can get your profitable in e-commerce oh I certainly like that. That Trend overall I wanted this sort of flip. The personalization question for a second though with most people we talked about personalization we're not so much talking about, personalizing the actual product we're talking about personalizing the user experience of shopping for the products and we talked a little bit about that in the discussion, but where where do you guys sit in the whole spectrum of personalization are you doing some interesting things is it soda on your road map.
[34:45] You think it's worth it.
Scot & Bryon: [34:46] Yeah actually doing doing personalization for a while and you know we, we've been doing it in and what always fascinates me about is that if a company is doing it really correctly a lot of times, individual doesn't you know why they don't realize it it just hard to tell personalization unless you know what I do in my spare time if you have enough five different browsers open keep on hitting different categories On fight to doing different things and see if the sites about, what your behaviors are but we you know it, different brands of the brands we have you know on the website you go to the home so you can go to the homepage and after a couple visits it actually, call Paige Cadet personalized that we break it up into dista sites broken up into different if you know whether you called Widgets or different components, where Venice is you know some of this is basic wear if you're coming from you know a Colder Weather climate, we're going to show you different products but then that also could extend into what content you see at the ideally if you doing this right where we're also shooting, if you want to extend that until k then the kind of messages and personalization of people get on the back end if they're calling in to the call center. Or if they are also you know what day I'm outbound marketing materials that they got. So we've been doing a lot of that you know the way I usually say it is we've gone a lot better.
[36:18] Personalizing the individual The Experience excuse me at that point in time for that individual in one channel, where we see the evolution of that is okay then recognizing them on their mobile phone and doing the same as I said when I called to the call center they should have that same experience. Part of it is you know that challenge with personalization enough spoken to a lot of others about it is actually. One prioritizing what you want to do but then also had a scallop. You know it does require more creative resources they have to make an investment in it and it and you know it.
[36:58] It's rare you do personalization in something that you know your metrics just jump off in your the man jumps up it's a lot of singles and doubles. So you need to do a lot of them and they're you know and just hit a lot of the users to send you know in jail personalized ways and air companies out there, you know do a great job Zulily does a strong job with it where are you know, babe I forgot the exact number about how many you know personalized home pages of personalized emails get created every day and I do feel that again it is also the interact with the end-user customers going to start it's going to become table Stakes. Companies are going to expect that personalization it's just that I think it kind of got over height. You know really hasn't lived up to its potential yet but you know well of course we haven't spoken about it you know AI machine learning I think that's going to lead to really be the next. One of the next Generations of what e-commerce is and I'll be around personalization.
Jason: [37:57] Yeah it certainly I mean a basic premise is that that machine learning is the way you can you can you can scale personalization particularly when you even get into a I doing content creation.
Scot & Bryon: [38:12] It's at if that's true point.
Jason: [38:14] It it's interesting like the.
[38:17] Because personalization is such a big word like they're such a broad spectrum right like you could say hey we did a personalization on our site. And in that could mean you set up a data Lake and collected way more information about all your customers than you ever had before and produced you know thousands of a torn to pieces of content in are giving everyone a bespoke experience or I can also say. You know you added the words welcome Brian to the homepage right like.
[38:43] And so it's it's it's hard when people talk about having done a project at you and what was the ROI like there's not.
[38:49] It's not a binary thing like I didn't have ratings and reviews and now I do or you know I didn't have 360-degree Prada quotations and now I do, and you can you know it turn it on and measure the effectiveness. Personalization is it in my mind is a spectrum minute it's therefore much harder to measure the the ROI of personalization overall although. You can sometimes do it for individual tactics.
Scot & Bryon: [39:16] Right exactly knows individual tactics and normally do singles and doubles and you know I've written a number of round tables with all the retailers on personalization, you know it always fascinated me because you'll read whether it's our star Gardner you know any of the you know anyone that's doing their annual summations you know. Top areas that people wanted want to develop in the future next year we're going to spend money and personalization is usually up there but then when you get them, with the retailers you know on the ground sit around the table and you ask a question okay on a scale of 1 to 10 where is your company, you know on that where you view where on the road map of personalization I've never had anyone say higher than A3.
Jason: [40:03] Yeah.
Scot & Bryon: [40:04] And I'm sure you see that all the time when you're with clients that one it's a definition but there's just a lot of dish in there but it hasn't really taken flight yet.
Jason: [40:16] Yeah and I guess I would also even say that there are people that have like achieved a meaningful amount of personalization and it increasingly. Personalization just for personalization sake doesn't automatically win right and so the fact that you communicated uniquely with me. In and of itself isn't compelling it's if the communication with me made the communication more relevant to me. Then it's compelling right and sometimes the most relevant communication is exactly the same for a million consumers and when it is.
[40:53] That that's perfectly fine but the the fact that like.
[40:59] You said that a million different emails if it does it's something that's different in those emails doesn't make them. Resonate better with the audience is kind of a wasted effort and with you know sometimes we see people doing personalization as sort of a checkbox exercise where there you know. They're hell-bent on doing some personalization so they do something and you know they they can claim that it's more personalized but they haven't necessarily you know solve the problem for their customer.
Scot & Bryon: [41:27] I know tire and part of it is then tearing at personalization in an ongoing way and that's why you know the person could sue the email goes to the landing page and it could be personalized to them but then when they're throughout the rest of this site may not be. And that's where the whole experience you know it's not Barren you know maybe I'm older optimistic on it I think it we are going to get there.
[41:50] Again that's going to be in next week for.
Jason: [41:52] Yep I'll tell you one that drives me nuts and I'll pick on a company that's probably generally well-known for personalization that are, our friends at Adobe right so so that you know they do personalized retargeting advertising like like a lot of B2B companies and and you know so there I'm sure there's a marketing person there that would say hey we have a really effective personalized advertising campaign.
[42:13] And. So I get personalized ads on YouTube from Adobe and on the one hand that's pretty impressive but on the other hand most of those add show up when my two-year-old son is watching a.m. Like some kind of cartoon video on YouTube and. You go hey you know what they yes they personalized that that has something unique for me in it but they completely missed the contacts like why are they buying an ad trying to sell me Adobe marketing cloud in the middle of content design for 2 year olds.
Scot & Bryon: [42:46] And that's by that's good trivia it's tough.
Jason: [42:50] Yeah yeah I'm bi I'm not making fun of it because that was it you know any easy easy solved but I just I feel like that the state we're in right now is it still early days and getting all this stuff right. I do want to go back I'm neglected one question we are talking about the personalization of products and you mention the the the configurator that use a ballad for the chairs, did you have to build something unique that you guys use or were you able to buy some sort of off-the-shelf. Configuration package and then adapt it to your your products.
Scot & Bryon: [43:23] We we we looked at a number or item number of either off-the-shelf products are working with a third-party to build it and I've done some of this again earlier Mike we can figure Raiders and one of learning, back then was the toughest part about building a configurator is an ongoing support. As products change read so you know your systems change how you actually keep keep it running so based on that when we looked you know for the Ballard Designs one we decided to actually build it ourselves. Cuz you wanted specific ties and sir are back in systems who wanted a specific URI for it and for ongoing maintenance. That was to know something for you third parties for but that was a team here to felt.
[44:11] Cool one of the I saw one of your exact speak at a conference and they're talking about, kind of you know omni-channel in and store experiences and the digital native, Brands as you mentioned her are kind of catching on to this and the latest kind of catchphrases o + O which is online and offline and I feel like you guys have had stores for a while but if I call you're doing a lot more of these pop-up experiences, tallest Tuscan of the little bit of history of of the stores monster Brands and then some of the things that you're experimenting with around other, online offline interactions. Some reason retail footprint a small one though for a number of years that actually no predated my company but the majority of them. In all honesty we're not good and the customer experiences that some of them were, outlet stores which are fine but they were they look like outlet stores with you no products dumped all over the place and again they didn't really capture the essence of the brands and it wasn't any one person's doing it's just wives. You know a part of the business that most people did not pay attention to so a couple years ago though, when from doing surveys and talking to a customer's we start to experiment and Ballard Designs is one of the first this it wasn't a pop up but with a new design you know a new store concept. Focused on Design Services and you know one of the stories that.
[45:43] You know which is accurate that the present in the Ballard Designs frequently tells is that when we would go and you know we met with a lot of that people that design stores and they're well all I called Design Services that should be in the back corner of the store. You know what I go through out of the line of sight and you know the people at Ballard this is and this is why again that. You know the individual bran were the people that helped design the store cuz they are closest to the customer and they understood that it wasn't necessarily a corporate initiative to know that Design Services of watching porn. African what makes us different so they put that in the middle of the store and you know since then, and what we also want to look at his okay when we open the store what happens to the business overall and we're seeing in the surrounding you know msas are digital business also takes a little less. Pics of Bomb Pop, so you know Ballard that's open some stores in Roosevelt Field mall New York King of Prussia Mall Tysons Corner and we brought on you know some additional I people inside to actually run the retail business operations and, Hickenbottom doing a great job now. pain in front gate also by the way which it worth now testing it was Frankie just open the store and in Plano Texas brand new design concept cuz, Macatawa green our point of view of a beer at the Rack business and cataloger to grow you know Furniture businesses at the, now that I've grown Frankie Ballard improvements grandinroad without allowing people or giving people the opportunity to feel and touch it.
[47:18] And we Sunday our experiments and all that where it really isn't the same it's good of being there in the store that this seemed like the next and it was the next logical step. Garnet Hill what you were referring to his they did a great mobile Boutique. Today is kind of retrofitted a container and drove it around in South Street Seaport New York as well as about the Exeter New Hampshire and opened up the container and it was a mini on a store, it would help educate people to what the brand wise you know we, so when the container that we had over $5,000 to it we have local celebrity chefs we have book signings so we can Max an experiment doesn't mean we necessarily going to do it again but we also tried different you know Frontgate had different pop-up stores, it's a lot of issues learning. And we learn that customers definitely in a one it's amazing when you're at the store openings that people that have you know only bought from but they are mine. We actually are in the store it is just a log fast that open and you know you invite some of the top customers in your people discovering the store and just speaking to them about what the brand means to Diamond Phoenix physical location.
Jason: [48:31] They call it the show when you said you were traveling a lot is that because you're driving that that container around.
Scot & Bryon: [48:37] Exactly. That's fine that's my side stand.
Jason: [48:43] Other duties as a.
Scot & Bryon: [48:44] My responsibilities exactly so.
Jason: [48:50] Impressive impressive.
Scot & Bryon: [48:51] Kids dead call at your side hustle that's your side Hustle and I know who to clean a call of course. If I need it cleaned so that we're all set.
Jason: [49:01] That's a great time to mention not only if you need it cleaned but if you need it so oil changed mobile one.
Scot & Bryon: [49:08] Yeah yeah yeah we we announced a partnership with Exxon today so pretty excited about that.
Jason: [49:16] Scot doesn't feel like I follow him but I totally do.
Scot & Bryon: [49:20] Thin line between stock and follow their Jason.
Jason: [49:24] Yeah yeah but luckily he has a several State buffer to keep him keep him safe.
[49:29] Bryon like I know in your role you get pitched a lot from a bunch of different vendors and you got all these different brands that want to, try different things and different business users in each of those things and then like you know Scott and I are at a lot of the industry events hearing about the new things. Help us help us create a little bit like are there any sort of new Trans or up-and-coming practices or technologies that. That you're particularly interested in or excited about.
Scot & Bryon: [50:01] I've been seeing a lot more where.
[50:07] Companies that can and you know their name and some the specific ones that have traditionally come to the table and said, hey you know we could help you with email on drip campaigns are trigger campaigns or that even we could help you or personalization that becoming a lot more data-driven. Which excites me and now you know using data and you know new, that would say in different ways but really trying to maximize in and they're also Focus now on how they're going to tie into your photo ecosystem which goes fast and that's been the biggest challenge you know that if we had one company that did personalization, an email and one company that made them personalization on the site and they're not talking to each other. It's a fragmented experience but there's a lot more of that overall I mean for the overall where I seen the future and where companies are doing a lot more if that's why I said it before. You know I'm one hand I hate it because you know you said we go to all these different industry advance and now you know you it's rare I guess, Eddie pitched it doesn't mention some kind of machine learning where but I do think it's going to go over that high curves sometime soon but how we intelligently going to recognize, and I promoted and personalized experiences whether it's emotions Smyrna tractions inventory pricing, a lot of companies that are doing that now and it's still in its beginning stages but in that way I space.
[51:38] Very interested in and you know just looking around that okay you know. For Cornerstone in for Our Brands what is the right way to do that immediately I don't think we're at a point yet where I would recommend going to go all in on that. That you know would want to definitely test it first then that's what I also love it at the portfolio model here is that you know what we are normal, standard operating procedure is doing a new initiative or finding a new company like you were mentioning earlier its try it on one brand prove it out, and then actually roll it out to others. So I mean that other aspects are augmented reality we really haven't spoken a lot about but you know I mentioned it earlier that's not the same as being in the physical store but you know we launched and try with ad, I've got about a year ago now and the technology finally has reached a point where are you know beyond just Apple adopted it, states where you don't need markers anymore I mean you got to make this as easy as possible and just holding up the phone and it working is great so. That's the one area I guess. The last one if you know I got a whole other our discussion on and this is what I mean we don't have that sell for I'm not even going to pretend to myself that I do it's just.
[53:00] I look at it like okay. Five years are even ten years out it's so much and you've spoken about the somewhat about what you mean you know that there's going to be disintermediation in that things are going to be come between our brand message and the customer. We're going to lose some control of that contact and we're going to lose it to you know voice space services such as you know how to sign in Alexa Google Facebook. Yeah you at all so I no mention on an earlier podcast about you know what Scott Galloway talking about the four. They're going to control it it's going to have a fundamental impact on Brad's and.
[53:39] Companies that are I think they're going to start to ignore you know partners and vendors as they start to learn to how to solve an address those that was going to be really interested in.
Jason: [53:49] Yeah that that certainly is a a big disruption I'd be slightly curious so so we've done a rvr deep dive and I. At a high level. Like I think we feel like we are super interesting in the entertainment industry in the gaming industry but it's certainly overhyped for e-commerce. That you know a r has some really interesting in Store applications and in-home application but almost. Every vendor in the air VR space for Commerce, the demo use case that their nana laying is your products right like it's it's the sort of Home Products and Decor products in in you know products that are customized and require some visualization. Like does it feel like even in your space it's sounding like you're saying it's maybe even still a little earlier and we're just starting to get to the point where it might truly be viable.
[54:44] Is that.
Scot & Bryon: [54:45] Oh I think that I think the technology and I mean.
[54:48] Technology is Rihanna's is there in 2 years ago where I was at you no talking at companies that would provide a our services and I like always easy to use the customer just go to the website and imprint. Page.
[55:05] Pay back page for the wall and the phone of that page and then I'll be able to see it and I'm like you talked about friction.
Jason: [55:14] We've eliminated the Scotch tape from the process now.
Scot & Bryon: [55:17] So exactly from now and that's what it was yet to see steps and size you know and when, we went out with you know partner with a company and launched it and it was just really signed out it was really fascinating to me because we would test it out with users and we're going to our stores and show it to them and what really frustrated people as they kept on, wanted to take their fingers you know when do the pinch move on the product cuz they're like hey I'm trying to get it to fit in the space and it won't fit so I want to grow it and shrink it, the doll notion you can sure you know it's size on purpose to see if they can fit in so you know you were trying manipulated which just didn't work but.
[55:59] You know it gets a we found them you know what others are fine and I think you got a lot of you know customer interaction with it but you know and I do we did actually see them more customers to know what he'll conversion rate. You know there's a lot more testing to be done because okay I didn't know those customers were going to convert anyway cuz they were highly engaged so I think that. It's definitely there and you see all the way you know every really every home goods company now is coming out with it that. You know what even I mean house did it you know what I think it's great cuz that is multi again multi products in it I I think that and you know what I agree that VR is going to be you know it. Love Stocker Thrift we have here and everything it's all great but free Commerce application still a heart to you. The ones that I've actually experimented it that would be are a little wild on the road but they are is going to be here I think sooner than people think.
Jason: [56:56] Yeah and one thing that has changed since the Deep dive is both Apple and Google have released these very robust.
[57:06] Trap eyes in their operating system in so it's a good news bad news thing it actually makes it a lot easier to develop. AR applications in there much cooler cuz the programmer doesn't have to do all the. The heavy lifting they just have to Define their products and stuff like that so I feel like that's what it's going to be a huge enabler for AR the downside is from the time that Apple and Google like released. Stuff in their newest technology it still takes a long time before it's in every consumers hands right so you know. Apple gets most people to upgrade the operating system but it only works on the the phones that are one year older or newer and Google like nobody ever upgrade the operating system and said they're not getting. The Google AR kit until they replace their phone so it if you like we still might be an upgrade cycle or two away from from those. Does kids being Broadway to play but when they are it's going to be much easier and cheaper for developers to add those those kinds of features and I feel like that could really be a. Enabler a lot of this technology for for at least 4 retail applications.
Scot & Bryon: [58:14] Yeah I feel the same way me before it was honestly was a novelty. Oh cool you could do it but it was more people could use it it's going to start to grow with your point when the and I just. Okay with the adoption rate of the newer you know phones that it's going to be there but it's just easier to use the friction is much more minimum wage now.
Jason: [58:36] Yep and I think we know from almost all experiences that when she get that freaking out it makes a big difference in an adoption so, so hopefully we'll see some interesting stuff there in the future but Brian that is going to be a great place to leave it because it's happening again we've wasted a perfectly good hour of our listeners time, so I really want to thank you for joining us you know it's it's been a long time coming but. Totally worthwhile and we wish you all the best with Cornerstone and look forward to following your success I want to remind listeners that they're always welcome to continue the dialogue on our Facebook page and O'Brien hangs out there all the time so if you have any questions we can cajole him into participating as well, and of course if you love the show we desperately need that 5 star review on iTunes if you hated the show don't don't feel the need to write an interview at all.
Scot & Bryon: [59:29] Crack guys thanks so much again I really really really enjoyed it.
[59:34] Thanks Brian we really appreciate your patience on scheduling this so what kind of used grit and gutter done and really appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to share your digital experience with our listeners.
Jason: [59:48] Until next time happy commercing.