SMS Marketing Podcast: How COVID-19 is impacting eCommerce marketing

SMS Marketing Podcast

Nate and Drew give a round-up of how the eCommerce marketing landscape more than two months into widespread economic shut down.

Recommended reading for this podcast:

https://venturebeat.com/2020/04/29/spotify-listening-habits-during-the-pandemic-make-every-day-look-like-the-weekend/

https://www.businessinsider.com/shopify-ceo-says-retail-changes-expected-2030-are-happening-today-2020-5

https://fortune.com/2020/04/20/coronavirus-retail-industry-ecommerce-online-shopping-brick-and-mortar-covid-19/


Drew:
I’m just looking at Shopify’s history over the last two months. Insane. Just…


Nate:
You know, who else, you know who else is absolutely crushing it right now is Avalara.


Drew:
What do they do?


Nate:
They’re the the Seattle company that does sales tax automation and because like they’ve like that was, that was like my big project in the early days was getting more, getting Shopify and the Magento integrated with Avalara and so and all those e-commerce ecosystem partners and every eCommerce transaction hits Avalara is service and then generates and calculates tax based on all crazy amount of rules. Well, in a world where every business now needs to have an eCommerce presence right there, their business is going to explode.


Drew:
Yeah, that’s, that’s insane. I mean, it’s so telling where, where sort of the markets and the money are shifting in terms of spend. Like I have, I have friends that are working on fake news like sussing out fake news and like doing and even like my friends that are in like architecture, technology, all that sort of stuff. These companies are just cutting those budgets and pumping it into especially larger ones, ways to make the eCommerce marketing experience quicker, faster, better, more online, more from home. And it just happened so quickly. Yeah. It took everybody’s plans and just threw it right out the window.


Nate:
Yeah, that’s right.


Drew:
Which I think that that’s a good place to start.


Intro Music:
[Inaudible]


Drew:
Hey, this is Left on Read and my name is Drew and I’m here with Nate Odell.


Nate:
Hey, Drew.


Drew:
Hey little bit of a cold open there for everybody, but today’s topic that we’re going to discuss is, you know, the 800 pound gorilla in the room and that is the COVID-19 pandemic and how it’s impacting marketing and eCommerce. Across the board. There have been some crazy success stories over the past two months. There’s also been really scary and sobering events going on. I mean, massive unemployment, all that stuff. That, that’s really, it’s really scary if you’re a worker. Mmm. If you’re in a growing business or if you’re in a, to be frank, a, a giant, you know, a giant corporation that maybe is a dinosaur. But that’s what we’re going to talk about today. And, you know, I kind of wanted to turn it over to you, Nate. I think that you’ve been pretty good at having your finger on the pulse of, of sort of the trends and everything. That has been going on.


Nate:
Yeah. Yeah. No, thanks Drew. The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly changing the world as we know it and the sobering, you know, reality and truth of it all is that what we thought was business as usual. You know, in the past it won’t be business as usual in the future. Right? I think that it’s natural as human beings for us to want to go back to the way things were. But this, this event is so big and so massive and is impacting so many lives. You know, not only from a, from a, obviously the, the most concerning part from a from a health resources perspective and just, you know, overall life and death situations as it relates to not only people in the United States but globally, but it’s fundamentally changing the way that we interact with each other. It’s fundamentally changing business models that, you know, have been completely rewritten have been thrown away to, you know, completely different new innovations for and pivots for companies to try to adapt to this new world. And again, I am a firm believer that there’s going to be tremendous growth and opportunity that comes out of this cycle. We’re stuck in it. It’s difficult, it’s scary, but as history has repeated itself over and over and over again, great, huge innovations, great progress comes out of times of hardship. And so planning for a world where we have a vaccine and we have different business models and we have different approaches, that’s where we should all be focusing, is focusing on innovation. So you know, I think that so many of us are adapting to this new way of life, you know, with temporary shutdowns of businesses through your social distancing. I mean, shoot, draw, it’s been, we, we elected to go fully remote as a business in Seattle prior to COVID, you know, to the widespread coven 19. So I don’t think that I’ve actually seen you in person in almost 12 weeks, which is right around 60 days. Yeah. It’s nuts. So, you know, that’s crazy. And then and then obviously the, the remote working and remote living is, is totally in full effect. Yeah.


Drew:
A couple, a couple of things there that I wanted to tug on. I saw that Spotify is reporting that as more people are working from home that almost every single day is the weekend.


Nate:
You mean Shopify?


Drew:
No, no, no, no. I’m talking about Spotify not Shopify. And what I mean by that is they, Spotify took their data pre-COVID listener data and applied, you know and compared it to how listeners are, are consuming music, digital media just a mere 60 days afterwards. And what they found is that what we’re listening habits for the weekend have now become daily listening habits. So podcasts and songs and and I guess length of, of, of listening, which is typical, which was previously typical for the weekend are now happening earlier in the day and more often throughout the week. So like, you know, I guess you know, people are listening to their Kanye a little bit earlier in the day and more often it’s basically what, what, what, what the data showed. And I think that it’s, Hey, it’s, it’s telling of a larger habit changes that are occurring on a consumer level that marketers, any eCommerce companies can tap into.


Nate:
Yeah, yeah. To not only you got, in that particular example, you’ve got more, you’ve got more listeners listening to Spotify more regularly. So if you’re a marketer, right, you know, for a consumer brand and you’re not advertising or marketing on, on podcasts, right. What better time, right to do that. Yeah.


Drew:
And I think that it’s, it’s really, it’s really crazy because you know, you’re budgeting out quarter year and then you’re road mapping maybe a five year growth plan, a 10 year growth plan, and all of that is now condensed. I mean, and completely thrown out the window. I was reading last week and you actually shared this with me that Shopify is condensing their 20, 30 plan in the next 18 months. Can you talk a little bit more about that?


Nate:
Yeah. So Tobias Lütke who is the CEO of Shopify has made some, you know, some pretty interesting commentary over the last couple of weeks or so as it relates to how certainly how COVID-19 is positively affecting Shopify as a business. Um but more so you know, big picture thinking in terms of what we started this, this discussion was, you know, around innovation and polling, you know, sort of future business models and future ideas forward almost a full decade, right? Meaning, you know, the things that we drunk dream about in a future world 10 years down the road because of [inaudible] is going to be fast forwarded drastically. And the things, and the flip side of that is the things that we’re slowly decaying, you know, like, yeah, big box retailers that, you know, have thousands of large real estate stores across the country that are struggling. Like, I dunno, like the Sears is of the world and, you know, Macy’s and you know, certainly others, like those businesses were already decaying because a lack of a, of a true lack of innovation around how to build meaningful relationships with consumers, how to change business models, how to bring products to market in a way that doesn’t require a consumer to go into a store. And all of that is because those businesses are going to decay at a faster rate. Not to suggest that the brands that I mentioned are themselves are going to, but businesses like that, that were already struggling will find themselves struggling faster. If they don’t figure out how to pivot and they don’t figure out how to innovate digitally, like every brand, every business needs to invest in digital marketing now and do it quickly and do it effectively. And I don’t say this because I’m a marketer that it happens to be, you know, working for a business that sells marketing technology. Like there is no underlying agenda. There is very much a reality grounded in the fact that if you are not, if you don’t have a good solid digital presence, you’re going to really struggle in, not only in a coven reality but in an a post-COVID reality. Um and that’s something that people, my business businesses better like, you know, take to heart because it’s, it’s the difference between it’s the difference between being, being around and being successful and growing a business and not, yeah,


Drew:
I mean it took a really long time for Amazon to start encroaching on, you know, the big box stores.


Nate:
Um Oh, forever in Seattle, like in the previous .com bubble era in the early 2000’s. That’s a great example. And the previous com bubble era you know, I remember this vividly, like Bezos struggled with Amazon and all they were doing was selling books, right? They were trying to compete with, you know, the Barnes and Nobles of the world and you know, the other big, you know, a retail bookstores and that was it. And he struggled for years trying to grow that business and tell, you know, a pivot happened or an inflection point happened where consumers became more and more and more comfortable buying products online. And I think we’re going to see another inflection point. Yes. Because of COVID.


Drew:
That’s, that’s where I was going. Right. I mean, and it’s going to be accelerated. What I think, what, what, what I envision is with Shopify’s new you know, what they’ve, what they’ve been signaling for the next 18 months. And then also I think there’s a lot of consumer reticence to, to just sort of lie down and just solely shop at Amazon, right? What Amazon does really well is create extremely flawless post order like, like the innovations with Prime are, are incredibly genius. But I think that there’s a lot of consumer reticence to just adopt that across the board. I mean and so what I, I think you’re going to see is an opportunity for direct to consumer brands that might be selling over Amazon to make their direct to consumer businesses, whether it’s over a Shopify and then there also their social media channels. To grow those because the most platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and then also just web traffic is showing high right now. And the only way that people and consumers are able to, shop is online. So making sure that your brand is in front of people. Both, maybe, I mean, I would say that Amazon is now the big box store both on Amazon and from your own personal storefronts and making sure that your digital marketing efforts are easy for the consumer to digest, immediate and engaging…. Is incredibly important because as humans we are predisposed to want that level of intimacy with, us with our, you know, with, with the things that we, we purchased with the people that we want to be surrounded by, with the brands we want to be associated with. And that challenge is, not only harder when you can’t go into a physical store, but it prevents, it presents a lot of opportunity to think about where you want to point the direction of your specific brand and, and who you want to be, engaging with the digital landscape.


Nate:
Yeah. You know, there’s a couple of things nested in there that you know, I want to bring to the surface. One is Amazon, develop the model and then perfect it right to your, to your previous point. Everything from I’m going to go to Amazon, I’m going to get the things that I want and that I want right away. You know, relatively speaking, and then I’m going to be kept in the loop. After I make this transit transaction, when my product ships where the product is and when it’s scheduled delivery date is, and like, it’s just phenomenal customer experience. And if there’s a problem, I know that I can go to Amazon and say, I’ve got a problem with this and they’ll fix it. They’ve done a remarkable job with that. The crazy thing is, like every eCommerce business and every brand out there that’s selling products or services online today have the tools and have the mechanisms and the technology in place to replicate that very thing. And so why, why put yourself in a position where you don’t have a, have a direct relationship with the consumer and that you’re, but all you do is just sell your products on Amazon. You’re, you’re okay with that? Like, right. There’s a model for that. And if that works for your business, that’s awesome. But you can do both. Mmm. And then the other thing that I was going to say is, Mmm, I’m a veracious Amazon user. I wasn’t always that way, but I find I find Amazon to be super convenient for my, my family and my home. Yeah. With that said, there are things that I can’t get on Amazon and there will always be things that I can’t get on Amazon. For example, I am building a garden right now. I just built a greenhouse. I’m planting stuff and I want pepper plants, but I don’t want to leave my house and go stand in line at a Home Depot to get pepper plants or to get seeds. And I happened to find a guy that’s selling pepper plants. His name is pepper Joe Pepper Joe. We have no affiliation. I’m just free press for Pepper Joe, I guess. But like he’s an Iowa and he’s got this huge pepper plant operation and I bought pepper plants. Mmm. Yeah, they were shipped to me. I got them yesterday. They came in a box and I put them in the ground and it was an amazing process. And the post order experience was really good. And I’m like, here’s a guy, right, that has established an empire selling pepper plants all across the world. Who’s figured this out? There are these other brands that just are stuck in, in not innovating. And I think that’s the, the disparity that we’re seeing is that like, sometimes you can be too big to move fast enough. Mmm. And You got to figure out how to change that because there’s no reason not to have to deliver an awesome customer experience from pre purchased through transaction to post ordered notifications, delivery. Aye. That’s better. I think that’s really, that’s really important.


Drew:
Um I think that it’s also like, sure. It’s easy right now to feel paralyzed. And I, I get it. I understand it. Mmm. There it’s, it’s really, the landscape is really tough. Waking up every day. No, really, you know, being able to go anywhere. It’s tough, I would say 99% tough on everybody out there. And I think that one of the most important things to understand right now is, you know, you gotta have empathy for your consumers. You have to have empathy for your yourself and your coworkers and your you know, your company as a whole.


Nate:
I’m going to go ahead and, and declare that I am, I’m putting a stake in the sand and saying that I’m coming up with, we’re living in the age of empathy. Sure. Yeah. And it’s true. I mean, listen, we’re all human beings. We have an invisible enemy that is attacking our way of life. It’s attacking the way we do business. And every single thing that we do should be, I’m realizing and practicing empathy for, for our fellow human beings and business in particular. We need to be empathetic. We need to figure out how to help each other grow our businesses. We need to help each other figure out if you’re a, you know, a direct to consumer brand, how can you empathetic to your consumers? How can you, how can you reach them? How can you communicate to them? That isn’t a buy my stuff message email or you know, or I don’t know, like, you know, even a mailbox flyer, shoot, I got this, I won’t mention the brand, but I got a flyer in the mailbox, the other yesterday.


Drew:
And I was like, why are you wasting money on this? Like, it’s crazy. Mmm. But the point is if you’re a marketer and you work for a direct to consumer brand and you want to figure out how to reach consumers, who by the way are spending more time researching other products and other alternatives to maybe the products that you’re selling, how do you build an empathetic relationship? And, and ask yourself, do you have the marketing tools to do that? And if, if you’re solely relying on email, I’m sorry, it’s just not, it’s not going to cut. It’s not going to cut it. That’s right.


Drew:
And really important things to think about. I mean, I sort of want to close here by just saying like, I hope that everybody is staying healthy and sane. It’s, it’s pretty, it’s pretty wild out there right now. But as Nate said, it is the age of empathy. We’re all in this together. And if, you know, regardless, right? Like we’re where people here. Like if I just like to say, you know, if, if you’re looking for any sort of advice or you’re looking just for somebody to talk to, right? Like I’m always here regardless of whether or not, Mmm. Whether or not, you know, we have a product that fits your needs or, or anything like, just reach out to me on LinkedIn. You know, I’m always available. I always want to make myself available and I think that it’s really important.


Nate:
Yeah, absolutely. Totally agree. Any, you know, marketing advice or no business discussions are always welcome. You know, whether or not you’re looking for, yeah. Texting services are not from Chatitive. We just, as Drew mentioned, we just love to, to talk and help with helping people the best we can.


Drew:
Yeah. Cool. Well, thanks Nate. Really interesting topic. I say that we should give it another maybe a month and revisit it.


Nate:
Yeah. No, that’s a great idea. Thanks, Drew for setting this up.


Drew:
Yeah, thanks.


Outro Music:
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Conversational Messaging Evangelist at Chatitive