eTail: Boosting Omnichannel by Designing a Holistic Customer Journey
eTail: Boosting Omnichannel by Designing a Holistic Customer Journey
In this week's episode, Alex George, the lead business content strategy for global business marketing at Honey, is joined by Cathey Curtis. Cathey is the general manager for digital content at Boardriders. These two dive into effective strategies for customer engagement, and Cathey shares trends that occurred throughout the pandemic and whether she thinks those trends are here to stay or not.
Cathey CurtisGlobal General Manager
Speaker 1: Hey everyone, in today's episode of the Honey Buzzcast, e- commerce industry trends and insights, Honey's Alex George is in conversation with Cathey Curtis, the general manager for digital content with Boardriders, the retail brand that powered iconic brands like Billabong, RVCA, and Quicksilver. In today's conversation, Alex and Cathey deep dive on effective omni- channel strategies to engage customers at crucial touchpoints in their shopping journeys. Enjoy.
Kristen: Okay, I'd like to thank Salesforce and Sally Beauty for a great presentation, and now we're moving on to a fireside chat. We'll be talking about boosting omni- channel by designing a holistic, personalized customer journey. And we have with us today, Kathy Curtis, the general manager for digital content with Boardriders, and Alex George, the lead business content strategy for global business marketing at Honey. Welcome both of you. Thank you so much for joining.
Cathey Curtis: Thank you.
Alex George: Thank you so much, Kristin.
Kristen: I'll turn it over to you, Alex, to get started.
Alex George: Sounds good. Great. Thank you. Cathey, great to be with you today. So excited to talk to you. I know that you guys are doing really great things. So, if you could, give us a little bit of a heads up on what you guys are currently thinking about in terms of the customer journey with your company and your brand.
Cathey Curtis: Yeah. Great. All right. Well, thanks, Alex. So happy to be here. Kristin, Alex, and thanks Alex for facilitating this conversation. Boardriders, just so everybody knows, is the parent company for some brands that likely many of you grew up with. They are Quicksilver, ROXY, Billabong, RUCA, DC Shoes, Element, Fun Zipper. We're based in the surf and action sports industry, and we are apparel manufacturers. As we look at the customer journey, I think the first thing is, I work at the Boardriders enterprise level, but we have these different brands, and we're very careful to keep our brands' point of view, from who they are and how they appeal to the customer, very different from each other. And so, in essence, each customer profile for each of the brand may look different, but the truth is, the journeys that we're seeing are relatively similar across all the brands. For a long time, it was very Google driven where customers would find us and we'd see traffic coming to our products, and certainly a smaller percentage in organic social, and paid social, and display, and affiliate, that type of thing. In terms of the customer journey today, when we look at an e- comm business, that is flattening out. So we're seeing organic social and paid social continue to increase in importance, certainly influencer marketing, continuing to increase in importance. So when we look at the customer journey today, we see all of these places they may find us, in terms of our online business, and that's everywhere, right? It's everywhere from a paid social feed to an influencer, to an athlete, to something that they're, just a Google search and keyword search. At the same time, we have a very large scale brick and mortar business too, both that's run by ourselves, as well as more than 7, 000 brick and mortar partners out there. So customers find us from a variety of places and it's, I guess, one of our biggest challenges is serving that customer in where they are looking.
Alex George: That's interesting. So to that point, now the customers have so many choices in terms of where they are living and existing online, how are you finding them? How are you reaching them in all of the places that they're spending time online?
Cathey Curtis: It's certainly a big challenge. Over the years, we always put certain social media platforms first and they've become a really major advertising vehicle for us, not just in the paid side, but organically and through all the athlete and influencer networks that surround brands that have sports as a passion base. So we've, for many years, put out a lot of content on those channels. Today, we know that we've got to go the next step further. With algorithms that have put barriers between us and our fan base, we're looking at how do we capture data as much as possible, about our consumers as early as possible in the journey? We also see privacy laws and social being a challenge there, too. So we need to focus a lot on data capture. So ultimately, we're looking at trying to connect directly with them in as many places, in ways as we possibly can. That's really a critical part of our journey. And then, as we do that, we are looking at how do we expand the amount of content that we put out there, so that no matter what they search, they're seeing something that excites them or inspires them or motivates them around our brand. So we're looking at content expansion. How can we build out our PLP pages, our PDP pages, put out blog content every single day? How can we be on multiple social media platforms, in... in more ways? How can we expand our influencer network? We're... with a large- scale influencer marketing tool now. We just kicked that off to expand how... influencers are talking about, how many people are talking about us. So reaching all of people in all the different places they want to, they are, with what they want to see, is a big challenge. It's a giant content expansion challenge. This is a new role that I'm in here at our company, and that's a big part of our goal with that.
Alex George: Totally, totally get that, Cathey. As a content person over here at Honey, I get that it's a continual challenge. And it really is about generating fresh content on a continual basis and ensuring that you're meeting people in a number of different ways and hitting their passion points as best you can. So, totally get that. Shifting gears just for a moment here. If we think about how shopping behavior has changed and evolved, just in this past year, as a result of what everybody understands has been this global lockdown and pandemic, what are some of the trends, firstly, that you've seen with your brands in terms of how customers are engaging? And are there some of those trends that you believe are here to stay, once the world... We're already beginning to open back up, but once we fully open back up.
Cathey Curtis: Yeah. A great question. I feel certainly, no business anywhere has not been affected in some way, shape or form. So our journey with this was almost instantaneously as the retail stores around the world... were run by us or our partners, started shutting down, our business went just crazy online. So we had massive online growth, which was actually really exciting, because it's a place where we can definitely get to know our customers better. So in many ways, that was really exciting, but it's really hard on our retail partners and, obviously, on our retail stores. So that was the biggest single change. But here's the other thing, with the shutdown of team sports and most of sporting activities, people took to skateboards and surf boards. We have a lot of data that in the last year skateboarding has become the biggest single growing sport in America, with surfing as number two. And so there's something like 60% more people skateboarding now and 35% more people going in the water and surfing. So at the same time, though one- half of our business was really struggling, the other half was just the demand got really high for products like wetsuits and board shorts and swimwear. And even now, if you're in the market to find a wetsuit, doesn't matter, our brands or somewhere else, grab it if you can find it, because there's a massive supply shortage of wetsuits out there right now. So we've had some positive results in some areas, some real segments and areas of our business, as have our partner retailers. As they've started to open back up, the demand is there. So in the future, I would guess that there's a lot of people that probably didn't shop online traditionally, who now shop online. It's probably the same for most everybody who's gone through this pandemic. I would say there's a really good likelihood those people will stay as online shoppers to a certain extent. But there's also, people love going to brick- and- mortar stores and there's probably a lot of pent- up shopping angst out there that people want to just get out and about again. And so I would expect that we're also going to see our retail stores get stronger pretty quickly after this. So some of the behaviors on the online shopping will be permanent and some it's just too... and in some segments maybe that will be a big change. But it's a little bit early to say exactly what this is going to look like.
Alex George: Yeah. So fascinating. I was talking to somebody who works on the brand side at REI recently, and they were saying that the surge in camping as well, has just completely taken off, and it's been really good for their business. Yeah.
Cathey Curtis: It has been. There's been some of these little lucky industries that actually saw a real strong increase in just popularity around these activities. So that's good. I think there's a lot of good that's happened in that regard. At the same time, I really would love to see... We've been in business with these small surf shops and mom and pop stores, from day one, 40- plus years, and they are really important. They're your local community spot, and we don't want to see anymore of them suffering. It's time. We're looking in a hopeful that they're going to be able to really bring back their own businesses and still thrive and serve those communities, and we can be there to support them. So it's important.
Alex George: Sure. Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Cathey, can you speak a little bit to both, in terms of internal organization and resourcing, and also technology? What has changed for you in terms of what you're leveraging to reach the customers in all of these different places? Now, we've talked about reaching them in different places and generating a bunch of different content, to ensure that you're connecting with people's different passion points. How are you leveraging technology to do that? And what does the team structure and organization look like internally to be able to activate on those initiatives?
Cathey Curtis: Yeah. Great question. Okay. This is a big part of what we're doing right now, big projects. So, of course, we're a larger- scale corporation. So if anybody's here is working on a smaller scale, you may or may not be able to identify with some of what we're doing here, but there's a portion of it, probably, at a smaller scale that could be replicated. So we looked at the challenge of content expansion, and massive amounts of content expansion, which meant in the past, we've maybe sent out three emails a week, three or four emails a week for a brand, and it's gone to the whole database. Well now, I'll talk a little bit about those personalization tools and segmentation tools from a tech side that we have to support. But what we knew, what was coming is, okay, we've been sending out four emails. Now that four emails could potentially be 40 emails. As we're starting to personalize and segment, and beyond that, we've looked at, how can we take every single PDP page and talk about the technical specifics of that product on that PDP page, so that customers are more informed? If they just Google and they land right into the shopping spot for that board short, they can find out, " Well, what makes that board short different or better or unique? What's the sustainability aspects? What are the stretch fabric aspects? What are the tech aspects of that?" All that content, we're realizing that we needed massive amounts more of iterations of content, slicing and dicing of content, output of content. And we had to measure that against brand health, which is critical important to us. I'll talk a little bit about that. So here's how we went about it. We took a look at our portfolio of brands and we had some brands that were great content creators. They're already creating a lot of content and it's really serving the e- comm business. And they're creating content that is matching to what the e- comm buys are. Then, we had other brands that were still stuck a little bit in the past where they were not really creating enough content for the e- comm business. They were creating more at a brick- and- mortar level, and certainly, we all know digital is a content- hungry beast. So we had a disparity, and then there's some brands in between. So we needed to bring these brands to here, and then we needed to take all the brands and, and expand it out. So what we built was something we're calling the content hub and we added a role called the content architect, and this is the group that I'm now leading. And our goal is first to work directly inside the brands and find out what are their pain points? Why are they challenged to create enough content right now? If they're a brand that's here, how do we help them to move up to get enough content? What kind of people and resources are they missing, and how can we close the gap? How can we put somebody in the middle that does the busy work that says, " Here's what we're driving the most sales off of." And in apparel industry, there's so many SKUs, right? " Here's what we're driving the most sales off of. Here's what we need you to create content, and let's put a plan together that says,'Okay, here's how much we need, and here's how we're going to slice and dice that in paid social, and email, and ads and PDP pages, and everything else.'" So we put that structure together with a person called a content architect, who literally's the hand- holder to that brand, between e- comm and that brand. And then those content architects across each of the brands also talk to each other and they're learning from each other. They're developing, " Well, this practice worked really well for this brand. How do we do it in a brand way over here?" This practice worked for this brand. So we're also sharing playbooks and best practices across the multiple brands to just continue to educate everyone up. Without Hemant, we're not creating any content for them. You don't want to homogenize anything, we just want to educate them and hold their hand to increase the amount of content they're doing. On top of that, we established a digital production agency. So this is the group that's going to literally create the multiple iterations of content. And so these are graphic digital designers that sit under this content hub, but we assign them to the brand, and that helps with the brand's acceptance of that individual. Across brands like this, nobody likes shared service, marketing, graphic design services. Nobody likes that. So we made sure that each of the designers linked to a brand. And so now they have this person, content architect that understands the best practices and really holding their hands on the briefing. And then, we have the digital designer person that is connected to that brand as well, that they can breathe content into and say, okay, now take this that the brand created and build it out a hundred ways. So that's how we're getting the exponential growth of content out there. And then, we've invested in a new digital asset management platform and the application of metadata, because now with the expansion of content, we need really good metadata into the lifestyle assets. So there's that side of things. We're investing into a good platform there that's going to be spread. And we put a project management system over the whole thing and some project managers in each of the brands to help them. And this is the infrastructure to help them really grow the amount of content we put out there. So that's on the brand side. On the tech side, on the e- comm side, even prior to the pandemic, we invested in a CDP platform. It's an internally grown one. Took us about 18 months to get that going. And I don't know if we're early or late on doing this, but I'll tell you, once you have one, you don't ever want to live without it. The CDP basically, is the centralized data platform, and it is a source of endless insights around content. On top of the CDP, we put a software platform that, in essence, helps you to interpret all of that data and links that data to Experian and social media platforms. So it takes not only your data on the inside, but all the data that you can get from Facebook and Experian, and puts it all together, so you can understand how your current consumers are behaving and apply those understandings to consumers you haven't met yet, and then have multiple iterations of new journeys that can come from this. So we may learn from that. Somebody who buys a dress is really likely their next purchase to be a sandal. So we now know, okay, for every dress buyer, let's them up sandal content, and/ or every potential dress buyer, let's make sure sandals are in the mix. So you can come up with endless combinations of personalizations and segmentations and journey building with this tool. We match that to how the team is expanding their content creation ability, and this is how we're attacking it.
Alex George: How cool.
Cathey Curtis: It's cool.
Alex George: You've totally got ear- to- the- ground listening aspect going, all of the measurement of behavior, both within your owned and operated ecosystems online. But also, it sounds like, beyond that on social and other places as well. And then that's really, if I'm understanding you correctly, informing and fueling insights that drive the types of content that you're creating to best be able to engage with those customers and future customers and the most relevant fashion, apparently.
Cathey Curtis: And in a personalized way.
Alex George: In a personalized way.
Cathey Curtis: Yeah. Exactly. That's that's how personal segmentation will happen. We're relatively getting started with this, but as this builds, what we're learning is sometimes you think you got the greatest insight ever, and you're actioning on this greatest insight, and let's personalize and segment this piece of it, and it totally fails. And instead, you find out the consumer didn't want to be segmented and personalized and given only this amount of information on these types of products, they'd like to see everything. So we also are learning across the platform, even though personalization and segmentation is a thing and it will continue to grow and be important, there are times when customers don't want to be put in a box and we want to make sure that we can understand the nuances of that. And that'll take some time. There'll be some demographics that'll probably come out of that, that tells us these types of customers just want to see everything, because they're just so into your brand. But these types of customers are shopping for a specific technical reason. Beyond that, we're also going to be able to use the platform to segment. We can take a product, like a wetsuit, and today, build out all the 20 different journey points for somebody who's a wetsuit buyer. Wetsuit's an expensive product, right? You're thinking about buying a wetsuit, and so you're thinking about it on social media. So we can serve them up social media from there. Then they're maybe in our ecosystem and we're able to capture their attention by wetsuit technical information on a PLP or PDP page, or a wetsuit collection informational page, or filtering. Then, you can serve them up an email, " Okay. Hey, you're thinking about this wetsuit, here's some more information." Or, they've got the wetsuit in their cart and you can serve them up specific wetsuit information. Now they've bought the wetsuit, you're stoked. " Amazing, you've got your wetsuit. How you loving it?" Here's how to take care of it. Then two months later, they've bought a long suit, full suit, and we've got our short suits have come out for the season. " Hey, did you love your wetsuit, get a short suit." Then we put them in the journey for two years later for their next long wetsuit purchase, and then you throw them into a platform, like our influencer marketing platform, and ask them for user- generated content. And so all of these ecosystems are how we're pulling this all together. It's really fun, I would say.
Alex George: Incredible.
Cathey Curtis: Yeah, it's super fun.
Alex George: That's so great. It's taking the strategy of a drip campaign to exponential levels, and you've got that customer nurture campaign in a 365 full- cycle swing going, which is really incredible.
Cathey Curtis: Yeah, thanks. Yeah.
Alex George: Yeah. Really good to hear all of this. So we've got just a couple more minutes left. I've got one more question for you, and it's a little bit of a obtuse question, but I'm sure to some of our folks out there that are watching, you do have a bigger infrastructure builds out. You portfolio is encompassing a lot of really wonderful, known, beloved brands. For some of the smaller folks out there, what would you say are the first two or three steps that they can take to begin to build something similar to what you've built with these brands?
Cathey Curtis: Yeah. That's such a great question. I feel like the first thing is, I suppose my filter for our world is, we're always focused on brand health. So there's always a short- term way to get a dollar. I don't think that that's the best strategy, but some brands that might really work well. But as soon as you go down that promotional aspect on a regular basis, you've trained your customer. It takes years to dig yourself back out. So the first thing I would say is, who do I really want to be, and who do I want to be in the long run? What do I want my brand to mean in the long run? Because every brand has a story and every brand has a meaning. So if I know that my brand is something that I'm going to investing into for the long run, and I want it to have that storytelling, the first thing I would do was tease those stories out. I have a friend who works for a company that does interior design, relatively small- scale company here. And we talk about their storytelling all the time. There are stories in every brand, there's founder stories, there's designer stories, there's product stories, there's inspirational stories, there's challenge stories. Figure out how to tell those stories. What are all those themes around those stories? And then how do you find the people that can help you to authentically tell those stories? Whose voice feels most authentic to you? Is it your founder? Is it a sales team member? Is it a designer? Is it an influencer? How do you find those authentic voices? And so tease those stories out and those voices, and then figure out which channels you want to be really important in. At the scale we're working, it takes a lot of people, and a lot of staff. If I was at a small business right now, it'd be like, where are most of my customers? Let's make that channel great. Is it Instagram? Is it Pinterest? Is it Facebook? Make sure Google's set up. Get those few channels and make them great, because there's always more you can do on those channels. Every new social media channel is like a shiny object, but you have to build a new audience on it. Go into those channels, and then figure out how can I get those people to sign up to learn more about us? What are all the services, options, gifts, sweepstakes, whatever. What can I do to get them to engage with me? Owning your own database today, having a direct connection with your customer should be a very high goal for no matter how big or small you are. So those would be my steps. Get really authentic about who you are, what you want to be, your voice, your stories, pick channels, and then go after just really getting a personalized connection with your customers.
Alex George: How cool. Wow. Cathey, thank you so much. It's been really great. Getting to chat with you today. I feel personally, I've learned so much. I'm going to take back these learnings.
Cathey Curtis: Thank you.
Alex George: Absolutely. I'm going to these back to my-
Cathey Curtis: I'm learning every day. Honestly, you guys, it is such a journey, and every day I'm surprised at how much there is to learn. And there may be more resources where I am, but we're just as much feeling we've got a lot of growth to come.
Alex George: For sure, for sure. You're awesome.
Cathey Curtis: That's why we're here. But Alex, thank you so much.
Alex George: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It's been a real pleasure. Thank you.
Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Honey Buzzcast, e- commerce industry trends and insights. To learn more about how Honey can help grow your business, reach out to. And be sure to follow us on Apple Music, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.