Join us for VISIONS Summit NYC  - June 11
Episode 184
November 27, 2020

Robot Work vs. Human Work

What if retailers didn't have to spend precious time and massive amounts of money in research to break into a new audience? Surge is a real-time market research platform that helps brands quickly identify and target new audiences on search and social platforms. Ferris Jumah, Founder and CEO of joins the show to talk about Surge and its role in Future Commerce's newest report, The New DIY.

<iframe height="52px" width="100%" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" seamless src=""></iframe>

this episode sponsored by

Today we talk with Ferris Jumah, CEO of Surge.AI, about big data, AI technology in consumer insights, and the evolution of purchasing funnels. 

The New DIY

  • DIY used to have a connotation of poor quality or poor craftsmanship but today, it’s more indicative of participation.
  • Online marketplaces are booming with consumers and creators having more meaningful connections with items that could otherwise be more easily purchased. 
  • “There is a cycle of inspiration that leads to education online, that leads to participation, which ultimately shapes the purchases that a person makes, which leads them back to inspire others into that same virtuous cycle.” - Phillip Jackson

The Consumer Insights Data Scientist and Surge.AI

  • Feris started out in CPG and retail, then ending up working at LinkedIn and joining the startup world. 
  • “I’ve always been super focused on growth and [asking] how do we use data to generate actionable insights to help a business grow and to help businesses grow faster?” - Ferris Jumah
  • Surge is a real-time market research platform that helps brands quickly identify and target new audiences on search and social platforms. Surge helps businesses understand what those new audiences want and what they’re engaging with—and then ideates, creates, and distributes content for those audiences.  
  • Surge was birthed from Ferris’s frustration with how long and expensive the process was of researching new audiences and figuring out how to market to them.
  • “Having fresh information is the biggest competitive advantage a company can have… your future audience is always evolving and digital channels [are changing] really quickly.” - Ferris Jumah

Robot Work vs. Human Work

  • Ferris says that in order to keep up with the ever changing data, businesses need AI—what he calls ‘robot work.’
  • “That’s robot work. [Surge] exists to create those robots for you so we can give you time back to do human work.” - Ferris Jumah
  • Surveys and panels are a useful tool for consumer and market research, but they don’t scale very well. Surveys and panels are reactive but there’s a lot of consumer behavior that is subconscious and free of biases that wouldn’t be found through classic consumer research. 
  • The pandemic has accelerated the trend of DIY, which was an already existing consumer trend—and that trend is mapped in a cycle of inspiration, education, and participation. Surge helped to research the trends, provide real data, and tamp down on our own personal biases.

New vs. Old Purchasing Funnels

  • “We’re all familiar with the classic funnel… it’s just an analog to thinking about how people shop in the real world and trying to translate that to digital. And it’s not at all relevant anymore.” - Ferris Jumah
  • Ferris talks about reframing how we see the commerce funnel—not as a digital version of real world shopping, but as an amalgamation of the right audiences, the right searches, and the right content all at the right time. 
  • “The new funnel is all about what’s happening on social, what people are searching for, and tying all of that together [to keep] track of it… You don't want to be reading about [the current trend] in an article because by then, you’re late to the party.” - Ferris Jumah
  • Ferris explains that search is now contextual because of its increasing number of channels. What used to be searched on Google might now be searched for on social, on marketplaces, or YouTube.

Robot Work vs. Human Work (Pt. 2)

  • Everything begins with ‘human work,’ in ideation and knowing a general lay of the land. Surge helps take that original input and give instant feedback on whether it’s trending, if there’s a related idea or more interesting idea, and giving that data back to be fuel for more ‘human work.’
  • An example of this would be a recent DTC office product brand wanting to focus on whiteboard sales because of their current demand. Surge was able to quickly identify that the communities most engaged with whiteboards as a product, particularly on social, are the workout/athletic community and the homeschooling community.
  • Given this data, Surge is able to give even more niche data such as the growing popularity of search trends with whiteboards: ‘portability’ or ‘reflective’.


Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Brian: [00:02:11.39] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about next generation commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:02:16.01] I'm Phillip. And man, we are talking about the next generation of commerce because today we have a very special guest and one of my new good friends in the world of eCommerce and retail and dare I say, big data. Oh my gosh, that's a douchy. I haven't said big data in like... Who even says that anymore? What is wrong with me?

Brian: [00:02:38.75] Data lakes.

Phillip: [00:02:38.75] Ferris Jumah is the Founder and CEO of Surge.AI and is one of the more interesting people I have had the pleasure of meeting remotely, at least here in 2020. Also, Surge has represented a great new partnership for us at Future Commerce to unlock some new super powers and being able to define the new trends in consumer signal and figure out what people are thinking about what they're shopping for and what they care about, and maybe predicting what the next trends will be on Tik Tok and Instagram and all the rest. Ferris, welcome to the show.

Brian: [00:03:08.30] Welcome.

Ferris: [00:03:09.74] Thanks for having me on. Really excited to nerd out on all this.

Phillip: [00:03:13.07] It's going to be a nerd fest. There's a nerd for everything. And what kind of a nerd are you, Ferris? Give us a little bit of a rap sheet or give us your credibility ranking. Tell us what makes you have street cred in the world of consumer insights or data. What's the word here that I'm looking for?

Ferris: [00:03:34.97] I think data really nails it, and I'd like to say that my t-shirt is where I'm going to start. I'm wearing one of those I love New York t-shirts, but instead of New York, it says data. It's like the nerdiest thing you've ever seen. If you want a good, good laugh, you can go check out my LinkedIn profile. I've got a photo of that there. But yeah, I think at my core I'm a data scientist, and I love solving problems using data. I've been doing that for about a decade, started in CPG and retail and ended up in big tech at companies like LinkedIn and a bunch of startups. And I think really at my core, I've always been super focused on growth and how do we use data to generate actionable insights to help a business grow and to help a business grow faster. And I have hacked on that all over the place, from direct to consumer to CPG and B2B. And I've really found that at its core, I was really frustrated with the lay of the land and what's there for growth and understanding potential audiences and target markets. And that's really what brought us full circle to Surge. And I can dive into that a bit. But...

Brian: [00:05:04.97] Yeah. Tell us about Surge.

Phillip: [00:05:07.46] Rock and roll. Rock and roll. So Surge is a real time market research platform. So we help brands quickly identify and target new audiences on search and social. We help them quickly understand what those audiences want, what they're searching for, what they're engaging with, what really drives them, and then quickly create, ideate, and distribute content and making sure you're going to get it in front of them. And this was really, like I hinted at a moment ago, birthed from a lot of my frustrations working in growth over the past 10 years. I think a lot of that came from just how long and expensive the process was of researching new target markets and potential audiences and then figuring out what they want and how to get in front of them. It was always this, I like to call it like a vicious cycle. You'd go in and do a bunch of market research panels, surveys. You'd buy a bunch of information, and you'd go out there and put up a ton of digital add spend and efforts and do these really complicated tests and experiments with tons of different types of content and creatives and messaging and targeting. And you go through this for like two months and you come to something at the end of it. You spent all this time and money and effort and energy. And by the time you've come to something, things have kind of changed. And you are back to the start of the vicious cycle, and you're starting really all over again. And I just grew increasingly disillusioned with that whole process. And when I stepped back, I realized if there's anything that my career in data has taught me, it's that having fresh information is the biggest competitive advantage a company can have. And I really think at the core of that is that your future audience is always evolving and digital channels change really quickly. And that's really hard to keep up with. Like a meaningful percentage of searches happen for the first time each week, like things happen every day.

Brian: [00:07:22.37] Wow.

Ferris: [00:07:22.37] Right? Content gets produced every day and put out there. So there's so many new things being searched and engaged with and there's so many new things coming back. So like what's actually connecting with consumers and everyone who's using search and social is also changing. And that's just virtually impossible to keep track of. And you need crazy data science and artificial intelligence to do that. And now that's just not really readily available to most companies. And frankly, I like to say that's robot [00:07:58.16] work. Keeping track with everything, making sure everything is getting in front of you, understanding and researching your audiences what they want, that's robot work. And we kind of exist to create those robots for you, so we can give you time back to do human work. And I'm not saying that we're going to handle everything. We're just making the whole process more effective. I think at the end, you still have to do the hard part, and that's focusing on building a good brand and great products.  [00:08:31.82]

Brian: [00:08:34.73] So much to unpack.

Phillip: [00:08:36.37] It sounds like it's pie in the sky, but it's really not because we've actually used Surge.AI. We partnered with you, I think back in the summer before back to school, we put an essay under Future Commerce Insiders that was powered by some of the insights out of Surge, and it was called The New Formal. And we used some of the data that we found to validate our hypothesis. But I think that there's something that's like kind of more powerful, which is what you were suggesting, which is the market research angle that's lengthy and takes time and but in reality it's a hypothesis in search of validation. Like you start trying to tell a story and then you go in search of validating that your story can be convincing to someone else. And in reality, the thing that I found in working with you all is that there are things that you would never go looking for, that you could happen upon in a platform like this that would be truly unfettered by your sort of having steered the insight or steered the customer into telling you what you want them to say. I wasn't very eloquent in saying that. Maybe you can sort of help me, Ferris, outline how this might surface things you weren't intending to look for and how that might be useful for a brand.

Ferris: [00:10:00.83] Absolutely, absolutely. And you could be the smartest person on the planet about something, but you couldn't possibly think of all the things that are being talked about, searched for, engaged with, because there's just too much of it. And that's really what I was getting at earlier, too. So rather than having to think about all the things, you put out what you're thinking about. So it's like I'm not trying to maximize and think about everything in the first place. I'm just putting out my raw thoughts, and I want you to give me things to think about more specifically. So that's our angle is we're making that a lot more accessible. So rather than you saying this is what I think, or this is what I know, it's like this is what I'm thinking about. All right, here are some search and social trends that are specifically relevant or interesting and might help drive your hypothesis or your narrative and either help you better understand your customer or create better content to get in front of them. And I think something you hinted that to as well there is this is something that's really challenging with classic consumer research and market research, particularly with surveys and panels. They're really useful tools, but right now they're kind of like a hammer to solve everything about understanding target markets and audiences. And the big challenge there is that they don't necessarily scale. Just a lot happens. You can only survey so many people. You can only get such a large panel. And we really want to focus on removing that. And the impetus for that really is that right now, when you're designing a survey, you're designing a set of inputs that you want to get your triggering something, you're asking something, a purchase has happened, it's very reactive. Whereas what people do online, like what you and I do, we're jamming on social, interacting with things, searching things all day. That's a lot more subconscious. You're doing it really free of biases and thoughts and that's all being put out there. So you're getting a real picture, if I'm making any sense with that.

Phillip: [00:12:15.05] Yeah.

Brian: [00:12:15.51] Yeah, definitely. I think there's so much to unpack here. I love this concept of like by the time you actually get to the data that you want to have, that data is outdated and useless or not as useful as that could have been. And how Surge gets you to that data almost instantaneously. I'd love to talk a little bit about the DIY report and put some sort of like a practical application to some of the things we're saying. So talk to us about the inputs that we brought to The New DIY and the hypothesis involved and sort of how we leveraged the platform and what we were able to do that I think could shed a lot of light on other things that we're talking about here.

Ferris: [00:13:07.24] Absolutely, absolutely, and I think really the DIY report is important for a couple of reasons because the hypothesis there and what we worked on together there is really also generally applicable outside of Do-It-Yourself as well. So the original hypothesis was that the pandemic has really accelerated what was an originally existing consumer trend towards Do-It-Yourself. And really, in addition to Do-It-Yourself, being a cheaper thing to do, you save money doing something yourself instead of buying something or paying someone to do something. You also get these intangible benefits like an increased sense of ownership and the creative outlet. And the idea that with the report was can we map that journey to Do-It-Yourself? And the hypothesis was that it's this virtuous cycle of inspiration, education and participation. So now you're inspired initially. And that's really represented by social media. You see someone else doing a project, you're inspired to get more insight into that, to get more information on that, you decide to educate yourself on it. So you may go to YouTube, you may go to Google. You're searching for more information. You'll watch some videos. End to end what does this Do-It-Yourself process really look like? Why is it interesting? Is this something I can do? How long does it take? You've got just a lot of questions. And by the way, how all of that is searched is particularly specific and changing really often. But finally, you've decided, hey, I saw this happening. I'm inspired. I educated myself and now I want to do it. The actually doing it process, is that participation. Now I have to actually go buy things and make it happen and really the input for that really just trying to understand the life cycle was using all this information out there from the consumer web. So inspiration was very much focused on social media and seeing the finished output or really the process. That was something we've seen a lot. There's a lot of content that was sped up and just the process. Then the education, really the how-to, seeing all that happen, and getting more in-depth and understanding it. We paid particular attention to YouTube. And that was really our big input there. And then participation. If you want to buy something, you go to Amazon whether it exists on Amazon or not. That's where you first search for something. So that's where we really explored understanding what translated.

Phillip: [00:15:54.89] So what's interesting about that cycle it's a cycle, meaning one phase feeds to the next.

Ferris: [00:16:08.09] Yes.

Phillip: [00:16:08.09] And I think we can certainly visualize that in the report. And if you want to check that out, I think it's really intriguing where you can actually visualize how social media spurs education into long form content that come from creators ala YouTube and how that will spur a purchase intent on, say If you want to see that spelled out in the report, you can get the report right now at But there were some examples that I feel like didn't really make it into the report that I thought were really interesting in and of themselves. I know we had talked very specifically in DIY about how it's an expansive thing. It's not just crafting, but there are definitely some crafting centric good examples of this, like crocheting and knitting, which I think hits on a broader topic that we've been covering in 2020 that was in our Vision Report called like The Rise of the Grand Millennial, and it's pretty expansive. Maybe you can touch on some of those areas that we didn't get to in the long form of the report.

Ferris: [00:17:20.59] Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think it's really helpful to just hint a bit at how we went about this, very much in line with what we were discussing earlier with consumer research. Rather than going in with too much, we just knew that Do-It-Yourself was an existing trend that's getting accelerated. So we began formulating questions and understandings around the concept of Do-It-Yourself, rather than going in with too many assumptions on what it was. So we looked at what communities are oriented around it, and there's some really interesting visualizations in the report about that. What consumer categories do they cover? How active are they in the growing and then what actually translates? What do consumers actually attempt? And yeah, we found a ton. This is a real, real big trend. And to your point, we found a bunch that didn't particularly make it in the report, or at least this one. I think some of the more interesting ones were music production. And that almost seems obvious in hindsight. Of course, people are just doing more music at home to keep themselves occupied. You can't go see shows anymore, or especially during the last seven months or so. So music production and home studios as a category really took off as the pandemic progressed and lockdown's started happening. It started on social and very much in line with our hypothesis here. [00:18:50.99] Ableton and related communities started trending up at the end of May. That pretty quickly progressed to search. So we saw pretty big upticks for music production software, things like Ableton Live, Pro Tools and FL Studio all in June. And that really kept working its way into Amazon into early July, where we started to see folks trying to purchase accessories and things to help with that. We saw the whole cycle of music production happen. But then that also came back full circle on social. So those communities kept growing and kept iterating and it really jumped all over the place. [00:19:32.48] I think another one, you touched on it as well, where Grand Millennial come to these activities that your grandparents might have been doing. I love that term so much and I'm guilty of quite a few of them. But those activities have really been popular ways to cope with the pandemic stress.  [00:19:52.22]So something we observed is that knitting and crafting, those communities on social media really started increasing, especially on Instagram. But their emphasis has really been on mental health and that's seen really sustained growth. So things like crocheting is my therapy. Quilting is my therapy. Those have seen double digit growth every month since the pandemic started. [00:20:16.25]

Ferris: [00:20:17.63] And similarly baking. I mean, we've probably heard some of the baking trends and things like banana bread being really big early on in the pandemic. But those also started to get framed around mental health. So baking therapy, pandemic baking, quarantine baking, those are all communities. They're really active and growing fast as well. I think the last bit to hit on two here is face masks. Those really started like let's just get one. But more recently, they've started to differentiate. They're turning more into specific product differentiation. So form, feature, things like adjustable breathing, cooling, shield, kids, adults, women's men's, design, nose wire, ear loops, and the parts themselves. So it's really starting to differentiate as a product line.

Brian: [00:21:15.98] It's funny, one of my sons kind of combined two of these trends into one. He knit himself a face mask, which also his whole knitting fad all started during the pandemic as well. So we're part of the process is what I'm saying. Anyway, I think it was the really, really interesting. There's so much data that we could have drawn on because of the platform. You just mentioned a few. There were more, even more. DIY beauty and a bunch of other stuff. And Surge sort of gives access to it. What I think is really interesting about Surge is that, and we kind of touched on this a little bit earlier, but when you go to it you are bringing your own bias, but like you also sort of just get back stark data. You have no ability to influence the questions or the answers or any of that. Like once you start looking for the trends, they're either there or they're not there. And so it really helps tamp down on the bias a little bit, I feel like, to have that sort of like very cold stark data in your face. Like there's no escaping it when you look at it.

Ferris: [00:22:44.03] Absolutely. I think it's entirely spot on. Really it's something that surprises me continually seeing what search terms are trending, what particular communities are happening, what sort of content is being put out there and who the influencers are, even that are sharing them. And I think that surprise really accelerates understanding and innovation when we're researching and trying to understand something. And it's really, at its core, giving you back that time. With this report, we probably could have gotten to a lot of the same results. So maybe not all of them, but it would just taken longer with any of the traditional methods. And we might not have worked out all the assumptions and biases that we had going in. So I think the idea that you go in with what you're thinking about, you enter it and you get back all relevant personalized trends from across search and social media that just show you what's actually happening and help you really frame and ideate just get you accelerated starting. And then once you've started, you can zoom in a lot more. You can be more specific. So we knew Grand Millennial was the thing. We started there. Then it showed us all these different aspects. Like, you're right, we didn't even hit on all of them. Jarring was another one as well. There's just so much info and it really lets you decide what's most important to focus on, but also what's least competitive. A lot of this pops up and a lot of it is really about making sure that you're getting in front of the right person at the right time, the right search with the right content, and you're engaging them and you're saying all the right things. But you also have to be mindful of the fact that other brands are doing that and making sure that you're keeping up with what's happening, but also you're being able to find competitively opportunistic trends to take advantage of. So that's really my initial glance. And there's a lot of exciting things to talk about next as well.

Phillip: [00:24:58.95] Yeah, when you're talking about the competitive opportunist in a consumer brand who might be looking how to, let's say they missed the the ocean spray long boarding moment. Can't always ride on the back of a viral trend. What's next best is to maybe predict when the next wave is coming or when the next trend is coming. How would you think about the new marketing funnel? Or like how do you actually, like, realize there's sort of the classical model of AIDA. Which is, we're trying to drive people to a decision point and purchase. But my sense is that that doesn't really quite work that way much anymore, right? There's a new funnel for purchase consideration and sort of the passivity of the buying experience and sort of the always buying everywhere you are all the time because shopping is everywhere you happen to be, because you have access to everything in your pocket. What is your thinking around that and how marketers might be changing the way that they get in front of customers?

Phillip: [00:26:11.38] Really, really spectacular question. We could probably spend a couple of hours just talking about this. I think we're all familiar with the classic funnel, the cyclical structure that starts. And really it's just an analog to thinking about how people shop in the real world and trying to translate that to digital. And it's not at all really relevant anymore. And I think that was really the beauty of the report and a lot of interesting things we elaborated on in there in particular. But [00:26:45.67] this whole concept that the whole exposure starts on social and when you're interested enough in something you go search for it, is how shopping happens today. It's the start of the funnel and really the start of the consumer journey. It's that phase where you get exposed to something and you want more information on it. And it's not actually all that, it's not always cyclical. [00:27:11.83] And that's something we learned as we were doing the report, is that sometimes it's starting in participation and sometimes it's coming back to education. So you might start your search on a marketplace and go look at the products, then you might go look at some content. Then you might go scroll on social and you're bouncing around constantly. And I think that just understanding that that's what shopping looks like today and the real opportunity is making sure you're getting in front of the right folks with the right search and the right content at the right time is just the reframing of the funnel as hey, shopping now is just looking at a bunch of social media and searching a bunch of things across a bunch of different websites. Can we help structure that and understand it quickly? And I think to your point on the trends, big trends will happen. You can actually see them happening because they very much do start on social. One that we talked about earlier this year was the Dalgona coffee trend. That started as a thing on Tik Tok. And that really quickly became like a macro trend in coffee and the biggest thing. But you didn't see it on social. But that doesn't mean that new trends don't start all the time. And it's really just about staying on top of it, understanding that the new funnel, if you will, is all about what's happening on social, what people are searching for and tying all that together and making sure you're  keeping track of it. And seeing what's happening first and early, you don't want to be reading about it in an article, because by then you're a bit late to the party.

Phillip: [00:30:05.70] There's something to be said to you about like validation in that don't just take our word for it, that the Surge platform shows a ton of searches that result in the key ingredients to making Dalgona coffee on We actually had in the announcement and the press release for this piece, we reference for The New DIY, we reference a Bloomberg article that shows an uplift, a 65% uplift in instant coffee sales in South Korea, where Dalgona was originally popularized.

Ferris: [00:30:42.21] Wow.

Phillip: [00:30:42.21] And that right there alone shows, I think, the sort of like the post validation. But anyway. Sorry I always cut you off, Brian. You were going to say something, I think more valuable.

Brian: [00:30:56.34] It's really interesting. These aren't the days of let's just analyze our Google analytics, because search just starts on Google anymore. I think what I hear you saying, Ferris, is that Google is just part of the cycle now of search. Like intent and discovery and we've put so many dollars into optimizing our Google marketing spends. We've actually kind of missed the point. And I mean, it's a bit of a bold claim like, you know, search doesn't happen on Google alone anymore. I guess talk to me a little bit about all of the different channels that are involved in this.

Ferris: [00:31:45.57] Absolutely, and [00:31:47.37] I think it's really more contextual now. Search is contextual. You search, or rather you choose where to search, based on what you need. And there are an increasing number of channels for that. [00:32:02.93] A few years ago, it was just Google. But now if I want more information on something, I'm going to Google, but frankly, I'm more likely to go to YouTube. It's by far the biggest website on the planet for good reason because there's content you can see. It's not something to really read and digest. It's something you can see. And that's video. And that's really, I think, just at the start of this year. And if you want to watch something, you go search for it on YouTube. You don't really search for on Google. If you want to buy something, you go search on a marketplace, most likely Amazon. It's really, really just depending on what you want. And if you want to browse, you'll go to social. If you want some inspiration and you want to understand what folks are putting out there, you'll be on Instagram, but you also might go to Pinterest. And if you want to search particular niches, you want to understand more about something specific, like if you're looking for more about video games and you want to understand a bit more about what's happening there, you might go to Reddit or Twitch. So it's really contextual. It's based on what you want.

Phillip: [00:33:15.51] There is something to be said that I just realized, but this idea, which, by the way, isn't the fact that Brian basically just said Google is dead, just mark it. Time of death. November 3.

Brian: [00:33:29.01] Did I? I kind of did. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:33:32.88] But I think you were talking about this idea of like the context in which you might go searching for something. I just realized a behavior that I have. And I'd love to see if anyone else does this. When I go to YouTube to search for something, when I want to learn something, I sort by views. Like I go in, I search for something and I'm going to get a bunch of relevant content. Then I go and I filter that and sort it descending by how many other people found this to be validated. Like I need the social proof around the content as well. And that is something that happens nowhere else. I can't sort Instagram by views. I can sort Amazon by product rating. But there's something to be said about the social proof of other people having engaged with this content makes me trust it more or makes me want to view it first that I find to be incredibly powerful. You cannot do that on I don't know...

Brian: [00:34:34.98] Google sort of does it for you. That sort of the point.

Phillip: [00:34:37.38] Yeah. Right. Yeah, well, yeah. In Google's land you pay for that sorting and you get it up to the top.

Brian: [00:34:44.46] Correct.

Phillip: [00:34:44.46] The first four places now. You know, how many years away are we from every spot on page one results is just not for sale? Anyway. I'm sitting here pontificating that was in no way useful to anyone but me.

Brian: [00:35:00.63] So I have another place to take this. Ferris, if you will, like maybe even critique how we used the platform a little bit with The New DIY and talk about like if someone wants to use Surge to go do what we did all over again, how could we have done it better?

Ferris: [00:35:21.45] Absolutely. And I think it wasn't really too much of a different angle, just going and getting what content is engaging and then doing that on every channel. That's just a lot of work. That's a lot of research. And that's like I hinted at earlier, that's robot work. Thinking about what comes back and being inspired by it is the people work... So with The New DIY report, what we did when we worked with the platform was really put in the inputs in that same way. Where you go to YouTube and you search something and you get a bunch of results back, but instead of it just being specific to that channel and whatever popped up and you have to do a lot of work sorting it and understanding it and what's trending and how that lines up otherwise, really what we did is we just inputted DIY and we asked the platform to tell us what's happening. And that worked out pretty well in the sense of understanding the different categories of where that's happening. And I think we got a lot of inspiration for certain things that we focus on the report. I want to talk so much about musical instruments and some of the stuff that's in there, particularly on a certain instrument. But we found so much and we were able to discover specific trends that both validated a lot of our hypothesis, but also surfaced a bunch of brilliant, highly engaged content. We were able to this fast. I think that was the key aspect to that. We were able to do this quickly, and you could get to it eventually otherwise. But I think the challenge, though, really is it's so much information. And what do you want to focus on? What's most interesting and that was a bit challenging for us and really deciding which specific aspects to focus on, what specific categories or specific trends. We chose something over some of the Grand Millennial trends. And that was a hard choice. They're all really interesting. But which ones are most relevant and valuable and immediately actionable? That's really the part that was a bit challenging for us. And then also we did go in with some assumption on the cycle and really just that whole we start by being inspired and then go get educated and then we go participate. But we were surprised that it was more like all over the place. It may actually start one or the other and all those were more part of the same phase, and you bounce around across the place. You might go search something one place, you might go search something another place, and you're doing a bunch. So we saw really trends going both ways. So that's really one thing that in the future, we've got to do a better job of making sure that we rank things by interest and make that a bit more personalized.

Phillip: [00:38:19.82] Gosh, this is so great. I feel like I'm going to have to put a little disclaimer at the beginning of this, Brian, that says we're not being paid in any way whatsoever for this because it's coming off in sort of a gushing way. I would love to follow the thread a little bit around what are ways that we could critique the... Is it like a simplification to say that this is truly a cycle? I think you touched on it there, Ferris, of folks come into the journey and in different areas. But I feel like we had found some data where it's not always so linear. The social media long form content to purchase... And I think that that's an interesting point that you just made, which is the data sometimes proves that folks might make an impulse purchase, might start with the purchase, and then work backwards toward education to kind of make the purchase valuable. That's something that I feel like we could have dug down further on.

Ferris: [00:39:22.08] Definitely, and I think that was most evident in the DIY beauty that we saw. A lot of it would be purchasing some of the products and then going back to get inspired on what to do with it. And really understanding that a bit better and making sure that our assumptions weren't entirely off there and just really framing better was probably something that we could have done better. And I think on our end, too, just making sure that us as a platform, we're choosing the right and most actionable trends. We learned a ton working with you on that process.

Phillip: [00:40:02.28] What's next for Surge? Are there sort of untapped opportunities here? I know that the data that you're gathering is immense. I think that's even understating it a little bit.

Ferris: [00:40:16.55] Six hundred billion signals a day.

Phillip: [00:40:20.35] Oh only 600 billion?

Ferris: [00:40:24.78] We really have to step it up, don't we?

Phillip: [00:40:27.26] That's a lot. Yeah. I mean, how are you sort of building this out and what are the challenges you have to overcome?

Ferris: [00:40:34.45] Great question and very top of mind right now. I think really what's next for us is we're focusing a lot more on influencers and competitive analysis. We have a pretty good pulse on content, how it's discovered, how it's engaged with, and how it's searched and really happened upon. And we're developing our understanding of where it starts with who and particularly on creators and how they create trends and content and how they make it happen. Where does it source in the first place? And how do they keep that engagement? How do they maintain their audiences? And I think something that's really important to highlight here, too, is there's just more content. There's just more content being created every day. And there are more content creators coming out and creating content every day. And before it was a big name, influencer might really get you everything you need as a brand and getting your product out there. But now it's more about influencers who have really particularly engaged niche audiences. But then finding the right ones and making sure that they have the right audience for you is the challenge here. So we're working on speeding that up and turning this two month research process into something that you can do in 20 minutes. I think separately to a competitive analysis, our platform is just able to track anything. We want to make sure that we give you a good sense of what everyone else is doing. That's where a lot of ideas and inspiration and just being able to track is going to come from and making sure that we give you the ability to really benchmark. And that's one of the hardest parts with really putting putting any anything out there, any content in your campaign. Understanding your categories, making sure that you can appropriately say, hey, is this good? Did we perform well? And you really only get an arbitrary sense of that right now. And just making sure that you're staying on top of that and able to compare and contrast. Those are really the big two initiatives that are next for us. I think the challenges with this are really some of the things we hit on earlier. We have so much information, and we're getting all of it very much in real time. And for us, the big challenge and why it was brilliant to work together is just making sure that we're getting the right stuff in front of you at the right time. In the exact same way that we're helping brands, agencies and eCommerce firms get in front of the right customer at the right time with the right content in the right search. We want to replicate that here with our engine because it's really us building the same thing for you and you search something and we're making sure we're servicing the right stuff at the right time and it's immediately actionable. That's very much top of mind for us right now.

Brian: [00:43:36.86] And in that vein, so one of the things you talked about is robot work versus human work. It would be really interesting to hear your take on what the human work looks like as well. How do humans best come to the table and create like a story with this? And obviously we did it with DIY. But what are some best practices that you can think of for how the practitioners can come to the table?

Ferris: [00:44:12.91] Great question. I think it's really about putting time back in your hands and saving you the process. Right now it's a process. You have an idea. You have a hypothesis. You know that you want to target a specific community, a specific audience, or you need to find them in the first place. And a lot of it is just time researching, processing, gathering data from everything you have access to, from your Google analytics, from your eCom, from your Facebook campaign manager and downloading all that, joining it together, looking for the opportunities and then thinking about what to do. We want to get you to the and then thinking about what you do faster and make sure that you have all the equipment to feel confident in what you're doing. I think from start to end, it's really here's what I want to do. And here's my company and here's what we're focused on. What is happening? That's really the first step. Give me a lay of the land. What are the content pieces that are really engaging the audiences that I want to capture? Who's putting it out there? How do they search for my products? And I'm providing a solution to their problem, solving a problem for them. How are they actually searching for that and what's coming up? So starting with just understanding the lay of the land. Then when you have decided what to particularly focus on and what is really going to resonate with your crowd, just being able to quickly say, OK, this is the content I want to make. Now, what messaging might work well? What's really going to resonate? I have an idea on this. Let me input into Surge and get some instant feedback on whether or not that's a good idea or what might be a related or more interesting one. Or great, I was right. And now I have data and I feel confident in saying and using that messaging. And going back and putting it out there, and once it's out there, optimizing it, making sure you're having the right targets, making sure you're keeping up to date with that, and tracking it and really removing that whole element of any of the process here and just making sure we're surfacing everything that's interesting and all the metrics that are interesting, in particular. And I think maybe a more specific example might be helpful here. We are currently working with a direct to consumer office products brand, and they honed in on whiteboards and they decided that that's what they want to focus on. So we started by just getting a sense of, hey, whiteboards are in demand. And right now that's not too surprising with home offices and things of that sort. That's how they honed in on it initially. But really what's happening and who's out there? And we were able to really quickly identify that the communities that are most engaged with the whiteboards as a product on social media, but particularly on Instagram in this case, are focused around fitness. Whiteboard Workouts is the fastest growing, most engaged community on social media when it comes to whiteboards.

Phillip: [00:47:30.64] Oh my gosh. This is like super on brand for me because I just literally bought a whiteboard to put it in my garage for my workout. But go ahead. Yes.

Ferris: [00:47:39.82] And with the whiteboard, how did you search for it? I bet you searched for something with wheels or like you can stick up on the wall, right?

Phillip: [00:47:46.36] That's exactly right. Yeah. Yeah. I wanted something that was able to be put on a concrete block wall. {laughter} That's an amazing.

Ferris: [00:47:55.00] Actually, "concrete whiteboard" specifically is one of the fastest growing search terms. So this is amazing. This wasn't planned at all. I'm kind of amazed it's happening. And this is really it. So we discovered the particular communities that they should focus and target. I'm also home school. Homeschool in the Wild is also a really engaged with whiteboard community. And then, yeah, we turned around and OK, we have a sense of communities. Now, how do they search for it? A lot of it was portability. So portable, mini, concrete, wheels. And then also how do you do this now? OK, I've got my whiteboard now, how to zoom whiteboard, how to share a whiteboard, how to hold whiteboard. And there's not a lot of content for this frankly. This is something that's a new demand that isn't necessarily exactly being met yet. And really just getting it out there. And then the content that does exist, what's actually hitting. And this part we really love. But I actually want to pose the question to you two. What is a good piece of whiteboard content or what does a good whiteboard ad look like?

Phillip: [00:49:02.23] Oh, gosh, I don't even like... Maybe one that wipes clean with one swipe. I'm not sure. I can't even think of it. I'm on the spot. Brian, come up with something.

Brian: [00:49:11.38] Good whiteboard ad? Oh, my gosh, I don't know. That doesn't reflect in your camera when you share it on the... {laughter}

Phillip: [00:49:20.10] Actually reflecting on something... That's in there.

Brian: [00:49:22.11] No kidding. {laughter}

Ferris: [00:49:24.08] Yeah. OK, that's like 30 people this. And that was the first time someone hit something. Awesome. {laughter} But actually, the really big thing and the one thing that's hitting home with the concept that it does exist and is resonating is animation. So the content actually shows the process of putting something up on the whiteboard and showing to the camera, so you can actually see. It's like whiteboard video, whiteboard doodles, whiteboard animation. Those are all the fastest growing, most engaged searches and communities.

Phillip: [00:49:58.26] Wow. And it should be very clear, I mean, not to hit people over the head with it, but it should be very clear how you take something like that that you represent as a lot of demand and growth in a trend and and how you might be able to put that to action in a given segment on how you could get in front of you. I mean, I even think about like there might be somebody out there listening and saying, well, it would be nice if I were a whiteboard manufacturer. Well, people that search for whiteboards probably buy other things, too. And [00:50:30.71] I think that that's a really interesting sort of untapped market here where we've sort of abandoned, in the direct to consumer space, we've abandoned organic engagement in favor of paid acquisition and thinking that we'll let the algorithms drive our engagement for us. But in reality, there's a ton of untapped content out there that really you could be getting in front of if you were extremely creative. [00:50:53.63] Someone is going to figure this out. Lululemon will figure out how to create a whiteboard ad specifically for the yoga moms out there.

Brian: [00:51:00.53] Yes.

Phillip: [00:51:00.53] And that's I think that's the key. Right?

Ferris: [00:51:04.23] Yes, spot on. And you will get to it eventually with enough spend and enough time, and you'll have to do it for every channel, every digital channel. I mean, or the data is already out there, and we can make it easy. Like this whiteboard trends that I just discussed with you, it took us two hours to put all this together rather than months of research and spend to learn all this. And yes, exactly to your point. So much happens every day. So much. Like I wasn't kidding when I say a meaningful amount of searches that happen each week are new. So by the time it really comes full circle and you've trained the algorithm and you're really hitting some demand, it works eventually, and you're putting in spend. A bunch of new things have happened, a bunch of new opportunities, a bunch of new available areas for growth, a bunch of unmet demand, a bunch of not competitive search terms and social groups and communities have been created. And then just as many have dissipated. All of this really moves quickly. I mean, the best example of this is Tik Tok. Things happen overnight there. And just being able to stay on top of that is quite an enormous effort. No matter how big your team is and your resources.

Phillip: [00:52:24.03] We're talking about the sort of the short half life of trends that live on certain social media platforms, the velocity of it. I also think about the almost quantum entanglement of how trends live together and are sort of interdependent. And that's something I found really interesting in Surge is its ability to recognize the interrelated sort of nature of homeschool and whiteboarding, versus fitness and whiteboard. I couldn't even think of what else might help surface that in the world. Like that should have existed a long time ago. And it's surprising to me that that doesn't already exist in the ease by which you can come to it through the use of this platform. Ad is now over. I'm a big fan of what you guys have built.

Brian: [00:53:06.84] We got to use it. We're blown away by it. We're excited to continue to use it in the future. And you're going to definitely see some more incredible content come out of our usage of the platform and our partnership with Surge and Ferris and his team. Ferris, how can people find you so they can also partner with you and do the same with their businesses?

Ferris: [00:53:30.93] Surge.AI. That is us. You head over there, we've got a pretty easy way to sign up and get some more information. And also we've just launched a COVID tracker that will let you see what, just get really a preview of what particular trends are lining up with COVID. And we've been unfortunately blown away by a lot of things there. So, yeah, go ahead, check us out on Surge.AI. We're really looking forward to saving you time, giving you this fresh information so you can stay competitive.

Phillip: [00:54:10.49] Awesome. Well, I appreciate all your time, Ferris. I wish you the best of luck and I can't wait to see what's next for you guys in the future. And I hope you can come back and tell us what the next big trends are that we should all be paying attention to sometime in the near future.

Ferris: [00:54:25.91] Thanks so much for having me on. That was so much fun.

Brian: [00:54:29.04] Yes.

Ferris: [00:54:29.82] You have seen my full nerdness on display and that's just how I am. So if you want to nerd out with us, check it out. And also, a lot of the interesting stuff is in The New DIY report and lots of things we didn't talk about today that I want to make sure you check out.

Phillip: [00:54:47.57] Yeah. And you can get that report right now. Go and visit And we'd love to get your feedback on that. I feel like it's extremely actionable and very timely for this moment. And also, it's a trend. The DIY era is not going to stop just because our report came out. It's actually picking up steam. And we're going to build on that in our forthcoming Vision Report, which will be available in January. And so you can look for that. Best way to find out when that drops is to be part of our Insiders list. Go subscribe, go get on the list so that you never miss anything that comes out from Future Commerce. You can get that today at All right. Well, thank you for listening. And remember we all have to engage in commerce, right? Commerce can change the world, and we believe that we can shape our future. And that's why we are here. We want to help shape a future together. Thank you for listening to Future Commerce.

Recent episodes

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.