Episode 294
March 14, 2023

Healthy Cynicism, Best Practices, and the Everyman

How can we both challenge the idea of best practices while also not throwing the idea completely away? Why do we need guardrails and how do those serve the customer best? What are some shifts in culture that can lead to better outcomes in the supply chain and in the commerce ecosystem as a whole around fast and cheap manufacturing and distribution? Listen now to hear this and more!

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How can we both challenge the idea of best practices while also not throwing the idea completely away? Why do we need guardrails and how do those serve the customer best? What are some shifts in culture that can lead to better outcomes in the supply chain and in the commerce ecosystem as a whole around fast and cheap manufacturing and distribution? Listen now to hear this and more!

“Best Practices” can’t be a function of stasis

  • {00:05:24} Jesse offers a challenge to our take on best practices saying he doesn’t think there is a way to provide the distinction, ease of use, and seamless customer experience without best practices being in place, but agrees they should be challenged (i.e. don’t buy into the “cult of best practices”
  • {00:20:58} Kravet is experimenting with generative AI and looking at ways to incorporate new ideas and technologies or not, and AI is really a tool to add to your tool belt to augment your skillset as a company
  • {00:24:48} “If you don't empower your team to use tools, they're going to use them anyway. They're just not going to tell you about it.” - Phillip
  • {00:30:13} You have to have a healthy sense of cynicism when it comes to technology and what you’re being told because of how much technology is an open experiment now before it matures and can actually potentially do what is promised
  • {00:43:29} What is Jesse’s Archetype according to our quiz and how does he feel about it?
  • {00:51:20} The push-back now is completely informed by the eCommerce expectations of the pandemic. So there's this really exciting opportunity to really bring the online experience in an exceptional way into the store and really, truly merge those two functions together.”

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Brian: [00:01:27] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the next generation of commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:32] And I'm Phillip, and today I'm really excited. We have one of my favorite people who has been tuned into the show for a long, long time, Jesse Lazarus, who is the Chief Process and Innovation Officer at Kravet. Welcome to the show, Jesse.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:01:46] Thank you, guys. Happy to be here.

Phillip: [00:01:47] I did like a really big build-up in the pre-show. I was going to like, really puff you up and then I just flubbed the intro here. For people who don't know Kravet, Jesse, what is Kravet and what do you do there?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:01:57] Kravit's a fifth-generation family-owned distributor of home textiles and furnishings to the interior design trade. So we're B2B: residential interior designers or our main market. Sell textiles, furniture, floor coverings, etc. We cover the gamut of soft home furnishings. And my role here is a few different hats. I oversee our corporate operations as well as what we refer to as digital experience. That's website design, in-store technology, digital advertising outreach, or anything to that effect?

Phillip: [00:02:32] One of the faster movers in that space. It's a generational family-owned company, is that right?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:02:40] Yeah, fifth generation. And we are the largest company within the industry. We cover the widest selection and really serve a number of markets. And really one of the ways we do that is because the family is committed to innovation. One of our constant charges is not only how do we operate the business well, but how do we continue to push the needle forward in the way we service our customers and the way our customers experience us in the world and in the industry in general and at large.

Brian: [00:03:17] That's true. Yeah. I think actually that's really known throughout the industry. I've talked to a lot of furniture brands and whenever I mention Kravet, they're like, "Oh, Kravet. Oh yeah."

Phillip: [00:03:30] That's how it's always, always a response there. Yeah, yeah. Really well-known and respected, especially if you're in the interior design trade. I think today we're going to cover a wealth of topics. I think it's really important to, I think you have some perspectives, especially on AI and some of the biases inherent in AI and how it might be used in the enterprise. And I think today we're also going to cover some things like how the world works and why we have an explosion of things like DTC rugs or even mattresses over time. Lots of really interesting things here to cover today, but I think first I have to pick a fight with you first on the show. Jesse, I think you have a problem with the fact that I want to tear down the world of best practices. I think you want to challenge me on that. But best practices are kind of core to how you've built the business over there at Kravet.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:04:24] Yeah, I mean, I don't want to be like the staunch defender of homogenization in the web, but you published a piece, I guess a couple of months ago at this point talking about how the adherence to best practices has essentially homogenized experience and has eroded creativity. And maybe it's from the position that I approach the marketer that we sit in the market, but to me, best practices are the guardrail that a brand really establishes themselves on service, on experience, on touch. And when a customer hits a website, the last thing they should be thinking about is "How do I buy this?" They should have to not think about anything on that site and the digital. Not to say that there shouldn't be inspiration or content to help inform them and drive them forward. But to me, that's what best practices are about. It's removing, [00:05:24] I hate to use the term "friction points," because it's overused, but it's removing all of that and making the transactional process as predictable as possible so that they're there, they're making their decision, they're moving on. And it's everything else that you invest in that I think creates the brand distinction, relationship, loyalty, investment, etc, over time. Should be my service experience. It should be my staffing. It should be the culture of my company. It should be the creativity and content perspective that I bring. And they should be able to find something, add it to cart, and check out without having to think about it. And I don't know how you do that without best practices. [00:06:03]

Brian: [00:06:03] So this is why, if you're comparing this to an in-store experience, this is why we've used the exact same shopping, browsing, and checking out process in a store for the last 30 years because if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Use your products to differentiate. Use your content to differentiate. Use experiences within those best practices to differentiate as opposed to changing the best practice itself.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:06:32] From a consuming standpoint, there's nothing for me personally worse than buying into a brand because of what I've seen in their social media or what I've seen possibly in store and then hitting their website and being challenged by the transactional experience. That's like an immediate abandonment for me.

Phillip: [00:06:51] Name names maybe. I want to know who really?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:06:54] No.

Phillip: [00:06:55] Okay, Who really chaps your butt?

Brian: [00:06:59] "MSCHF. I don't shop at MSCHF." {laughter}

Phillip: [00:07:01] {laughter} "I wouldn't know. I've abandoned. They don't take up any thought of mine whatsoever." I would like to remind our listeners, though, the article's title was "The Cult of Best Practices." And I think the thing that I don't know that I've communicated very well and something that I think is a valid critique is that it's not that Martin Luther nailed 99 theses to a door, it's that there was a cult that followed him that killed people in his name. And I think that there's a really interesting paradigm around things like the Baymard Institute, which does a lot of really deep insight and research. I've declared war on them, but they do a lot of research specifically with actual users, not just a guy with a podcast who just makes stuff up, but they actually sit down with people and they determine what works best for most people. And they've actually been really great proponents of things that I do care about, like accessibility and making sure that everybody can have an accessible experience. So it's not that Baymard and its ilk are making the world a worse place. It's that there are people who use that as a weapon to tear down other brands and to leverage themselves into service-based relationships and sell them services that I think can be overwrought and never actually questioning how we arrived at those best practices, to begin with, or thinking through how we arrived at them. And maybe that's just the nature of how we drive adoption in new things like technologies. That's a necessary component of an ecosystem, but it's a boring one.

Brian: [00:08:45] It's interesting, I think back to my "How Now Brand Cow" article that I wrote a while back about how running right up to the edge of something actually, and having those boundaries allows you to actually do more. Whereas if you say there are no boundaries, what ends up happening is you don't take advantage of everything that you do have. One of using best practices and leaning into how technology actively works today are actually really similar to each other because a lot of technology pieces are built around these best practices. So we talked about Phillip, the quilt, and 80% of what can be on a on a brands page isn't actually an experience built by them. It's built by someone else. Those experiences are built if you lean into them, maybe you don't have to innovate against them so hard. You just live within the squares that are already created for you.

Phillip: [00:09:53] Friendship Quilt of eCommerce.

Brian: [00:09:56] {laughter} Jesse, I'd love to hear...

Phillip: [00:09:57] Jesse, you have the word "process" in your title. So I would understand why thinking through these things deeply is is important to you. But yeah, sorry. I think you were trying to get in there.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:10:09] No, no. So I think to the point of the cult of best practices, I'm not necessarily preaching enslavement to them. And one of the things we talk about internally, me and my teams, is understanding when to evolve based on what customer activity will tell us, what user activity tells us. So I think best practices are a guardrail, but they have to be a living principle. They can't be a function of stasis, right? So you have to be able to take them, deploy them, and then understand when they need to be tweaked and moved forward in a paradigm because of what you see is changing predilections and behavioral patterns with end users. So it's not that we should never push against them. I think they should be pushed against, but I don't think a world where they're eradicated makes sense. I think that breaks the shopping experience. And I do think I just have to go back. I think Martin Luther had 95.

Phillip: [00:11:11] 95. Sorry, 95.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:11:12] Jay-Z had 99 problems.

Phillip: [00:11:14] {laughter} I had 99 theses.

Brian: [00:11:18] {laughter} Wow. I like the correction.

Phillip: [00:11:19] Thank you very much, Jesse. You're exactly right. You can tell I'm a theology dropout. If I'd actually finished my degree, I would know that. That's really funny. Amazing. We're going to keep all this in the show. This is fantastic.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:11:32] Listen, I'm an atheist, so it's important to know all of the competitive mindsets.

Phillip: [00:11:35] Thank you for clarifying.

Phillip: [00:12:29] It's a really important mindset too. It's like an atheistic approach to like eCommerce platform development and adoption because they become cults unto themselves too, right? As sort of, I would say like a critic class in eCommerce, you know, if brands are a form of art and we are an emerging critic class among that art, what we're looking at is who is changing the nature of the art and the form and the medium in which we make that art. And so I think the future of commerce is, as I see it, is that the boring nature of our language of the web causes more wild reactions and response to that to create more dadaistic MSCHF type brand creation, because we're power testing. We're challenging the those in power and we're challenging their narratives whether we know that or not. This is just human nature, right? So I just think it's important for us to to recognize that that's the behavior that's taking place in the world. And we tend to then adopt and parrot that behavior back in small ways. MSCHF is a good example, who just launched a site this week, redid their site this week, very shopping centric. And the buy button is at the very bottom right. It's very tiny. The call to action is not is not quite visible, not really apparent what you're supposed to do. It's one single page, infinite scroll. It's like there's no happy path. There's like challenging the norm. And I think a lot of others in the industry sort of look to those, they're aberrations, but they look at those as a form of power testing to say, "Hey, maybe there're elements there that we can incorporate."

Brian: [00:14:24] Yeah. What happens when you go over the line and go past the fence and that's MSCHF's whole brand. That's sort of their job. Whereas it's not necessarily Zara's job. And I feel like if we if we're going to name one site that's like kind of thrown the world into a tizzy, Zara's probably the one that that took the most heat. And I think maybe even that's a form of power testing, though. Zara commands a lot of money through their site.

Phillip: [00:14:54] And they drive a lot of revenue. We could actually... Let's get back to you, Jesse. Sorry. We went off on a on a tangent.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:14:59] I think it's very valid. Right, Because with MSCHF, I mean, it's their DNA. Everything they're doing is challenging the convention. So the product, the brand, I would imagine the shopping experience should match that. I don't know that Brand A who's not selling giant cartoonish red boots could pull that off and expect to be successful in those functions, right? So I think  [00:15:23]if it's part of your cultural build as a brand, I think it makes sense to blow up the conventions of eCommerce because you're blowing up the conventions of everything else around you. It fits in, but as a recipe for a brand who's looking to build a lasting transactional experience that is supporting maybe a multi-channel function, then you more and more have to adhere to those common practices. There's got to be a normative cultural exchange to understand how to trade those goods. And that's really what those eCommerce best practices become at scale. [00:15:57]

Phillip: [00:15:58] When you change things in your own customer's experience that introduces a little bit of friction there, what are the steps that you go through to sort of ease that transition for them? Is that front of mind when we're talking about things like this, like, "Well, you have to really think about the on ramps for the customers." Like digital shift. That's a big deal for a lot of customers. Just moving the buttons sometimes creates a lot of friction that creates a lot of CX and support ticket exchanges. So like what are the kinds of things that, in reality, in real life that you have to deal with that would be counter narrative to what we talk about sometimes?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:16:37] Yeah. I mean, I think that's all very valid, right? As a industry, interior design is one that is technically laggard. You're dealing with an audience that is creative individuals. They're not a a traditional B2B audience. I'm not selling to like procurement officers in a purchasing group. So they're creative artists who are happen to be running a business. Oftentimes they are not necessarily up on latest tech trends. eCommerce is still an emerging function in many facets of that industry. So when you do have them online and operating, the experience has to be as easy and have as little change over time as possible, so it's really important for us to be very considerate in the changes that we make, and make sure we test the hell out of anything that we do to validate that we are not negatively impacting the experience at any time. And very often we do slow introductions when we're changing existing experiences. If something's telling us if we move this button three inches to the right, we would see a higher conversion rate. We're going to a/b test that to death to make sure that we're not interrupting or breaking the habitual transactional function that's happening on the website. If I'm introducing something completely new, we'll go a little more aggressive and I would say uncontrolled with it, meaning we'll just go out there and we'll do some experiments with it. But if I am tailoring something that already exists in space, I really have to be very measured and considered about what's going to be done there and really pay attention to feedback loops to make sure we're not endangering that functionality in any particular way.

Brian: [00:19:59] Innovation is also in your title. Process and Innovation, which is really interesting. You actually do introduce a lot of new stuff. I've known your roadmap kind of intimately over the years and you've done a lot of stuff before other people have. For real. And I feel like maybe you're doing something kind of new at this very moment. What's one of your most recent introductions that you've brought to the table to Kravet.com?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:20:31] Yeah. So just to your point, yes, I have the great benefit of having a remit of not just delivering the core function of what we're doing, but also constantly pushing what we're doing into the future. And we joke around that what we do is bleeding edge generally is like three years away from the cutting edge of retail, right? Like we're three years behind. But we experiment all the time. Right now we're experimenting with AI. As a consumer of technology, all you're doing is getting basically buffeted from every side about how AI is just, if you don't adopt it right now, you're going to lose out. Of course, there's a track record of if I didn't move my whole business to blockchain, we were going to lose out. If I didn't start selling NFTs immediately, we were going to lose out. If I didn't decorate the metaverse, we were going to completely lose out. Now, if we don't have AI in place, we're going to lose out. But there's some real, I think, real effective application for it. So we're starting to experiment with how we utilize it to help support some of our product data. We've experimented with it in some support services, internal support services, especially. The new advances in generative AI are at both times, I think amazing and incredibly scary. And trying to figure out what works and what actually serves in a business environment I think is very important for anybody right now in the field. So that's one of our major experimentation areas right now.

Brian: [00:22:13] And how's it going?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:22:14] It is interesting. So I get, I don't know, 30, 40 calls a day, emails a day from SaaS people who are going to sell me open AI based functionality use. It's interesting when you look at Microsoft talking yesterday about their Bing integration, they're having to curtail the sessions because it's starting to get abusive and aggressive with people. The Google demo going wrong right from the beginning because of it being factually incorrect in their demo... I think if you go into it with open eyes that you're dealing with an imperfect product and you're in an early phase, then you could start to break down and really see where there could be real world fit for it. So we've started experimenting with product copy. I have copywriters on staff. We launch a ton of SKUs in a year. We want to be able to bring as much content to those SKUs as possible when they come online, and there could be a real fit for using AI to augment those capabilities. But I think that's the key of it, right? You get sold AI as the solution, but really it's just another tool in the tool belt. It's an augmentation of your skill set already. It's not a replacement of anything that you may be doing and not at least at this point.

Phillip: [00:23:28] Brian, did I ever tell you about my first web design job? I was hired as a web designer, a couple decades ago now. And one of the jobs was creating these very long form SEO article pieces. And back then we used to just publish raw HTML on the website. And the way that these were assembled was we had an Excel document that eventually finds its way to the development department. We had to put the document together or take elements of that document and sort of copy paste it with HTML and Bob's your uncle. Now we have an SEO page we can publish. And as you know, they say like the best developers are lazy. And so I got tired of copy/pasting. So I wrote a program that would just read the document and output the correct... I created a tool that output it in the correct format. Eventually someone comes to me and they say, "You have the lowest number of errors of anyone on the team. How do you do this?" And I said, "Well, I'm so glad you asked. I made a tool." And then the tool eventually became the thing that drove a bunch of innovation. And if you don't... So why do I tell this story? A very long story for no good reason. [00:24:48] If you don't empower your team to use tools, they're going to use them anyway. They're just not going to tell you about it. [00:24:54] And I feel like we're kind of already there. We were sitting at a dinner, I think, Jesse, you were there in New York a few weeks ago, and we had CEOs of some of very large and recognizable fashion houses that are saying, "Oh, no, we started using that on like day two of its release." This might be one of those moments where it has enough cultural awareness that many, many people are already putting it to use in practice without really raising their hand to say so, which creates both a benefit and it could have potential issues depending on the practical, the actual nature of the work that you're doing. In my case, I happen to be in the wellness industry, it's probably not the greatest place to be employing AI because you don't know what might be coming out the other side. Jessie, you we've had some conversations in the past around sort of the nature of this generative AI and its training set and sort of the biases that might be inherent. How are you thinking about those when it comes to copywriting and are those concerns of yours, maybe other applications that you're using and support and some other channels?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:26:09] Yeah, they are. I mean, I think it's again, if you go into it eyes wide open, if you get access to ChatGPT, the first thing you get hit with is "We're not liable for any of the negativity or abusiveness that may come out of this platform. And it doesn't know anything after the year 2020." These systems are building pattern libraries based on the data that is publicly available from the Internet in some way, even if they're walling that data off before they start building their model, they're farming the information that is publicly available to them. And the Internet is a sewer. It is a dark mirror reflection of humanity at best. So for every digitized copy of Shakespeare that you'll find out there, you have a thousand trolls that are writing just the absolute baseless muck that's out there. And these things are all being in some way considered in these pattern builds. So you do have inherent biases in these in these models. You do have bad data or misinformation that is part of the minefield of information that's being built into these patterns, into these models. And I think in the history of AI, for what it's worth, the one thing that always becomes the complexity that is most challenging is the human that is interacting with the AI. If you think about like early self-driving experiments, most of the time they failed not because the software didn't know the right thing to do at the right moment. It was because the software couldn't anticipate the complete random act of the human outside. Are they going to jaywalk? Are they in a car and are they going to make an illegal right turn? And I think it's no different from what you're seeing now in the generative AI, the conversational AI functions, the Microsoft issue yesterday is because they're not anticipating the complete randomness of the human interacting with the AI. So while that is the case, while these things are still in a very immature state, I think the at least from my perspective, the best way to look at them is as a tool set. It's an augmentation. It's not something I would ever put facing somebody external to my company without a human buffer in between. I don't want that technology answering a question directly from a customer. But I would love that technology to empower my staff to be able to more quickly and more accurately answer that question to that customer and let them get on with higher and more strategic work, and remove those that type of function from them. So, I mean, that's my thought process. And until that function can be addressed, I don't really know how you make it an open, public facing function otherwise.

Brian: [00:29:08] That's such an interesting point. Do you feel like this is spurring any backlash? technology is moving so quickly, things are getting released and they could potentially, if someone used them in the wrong way, they could harm a customer or a relationship with a customer. It could cause trouble even in your own staff. There are these tools that are moving along very, very quickly and they're being put in front of people very quickly. Is this going to create almost like... So we've seen like Luddites over the years. And Philip and I have a lot to say about the new Luddite and what that looks like. But do you feel like businesses might become kind of Luddite-ish in some way?

Phillip: [00:30:00] This is happening already. Instagram just removed live shopping and its shopping tab. That is a form of Luddite. They're tearing down something they built. Although that's not AI-centric.

Brian: [00:30:11] It doesn't have to be AI-centric.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:30:13] Yeah, I mean, I think you have to have a healthy, again, as a consumer of technology, you have to have a healthy sense of cynicism about what you're reading about, what you're being told, what you're looking at any one time. If you think about it from a couple of different angles you have technology companies that are either naive to the impact of their technology or chasing the milestones that will continue their funding flow. And so they are, I'm going to say, reckless. I hate to sound like casting aspersions, but they're carrying out mass experiments on participating public who are very willingly surrendering their data to those mass experiments. If it's self-driving automation with Teslas or if it's people utilizing these AI generative AI tools and basically just surrendering everything over in their conversational function with the AI, it's an open experiment so that those platforms can try to improve and learn and better their product. And I think that you're getting technology to market that is way less mature than it used to be because they have the ability now to experiment openly rather than have to do that experimentation before they deliver. The other half of it is. I feel like the hype cycle is gone, right? There used to be that kind of sine wave of the hype cycle where you had the run up the thrill and then you had that trough of disillusionment where people would kind of realize the faults and then you would have a slow work and perfection of the product before it came to the marketplace. I feel like that's like an isosceles triangle now, and it's mostly a sales function because in the SaaS world, they're selling these technologies so hard, so fast, so quickly without them actually being mature. As a business consumer, you have to be able to look at that and cut through that. You have to be cynical about is it really going to do what you're saying it's going to do? Because most likely it's not and it won't for a number of years. So yeah, I think if you don't have that cynical approach, I think there is a real pullback at some point. I think there are people who are looking at I just can't possibly expand my tech stack any further for another tool that is going to do another thing that probably won't deliver and just create more internal labor right? So I will start to pull back. If you're cynical about it, then you go slow and you experiment and you see what works and what doesn't, and you go to market with what has. But it used to be... I don't know how familiar you guys are with Thomas Kuhn, but his theory of scientific revolutions was all about the paradigmatic shift that happens as norms are challenged and people start to experiment and push those norms and then create that new paradigm of knowledge. That's how science moves from one knowledge point to another. And that's almost subverted in today's environment, because basically, you're trying to force the paradigmatic shift without ever actually having the experimentation and evolution behind it to bring maturity to that product. So to be a consumer of the technology it's a tough marketplace. You really have to be able to defend yourself and try to educate yourself and experiment as much as possible.

Phillip: [00:33:36] Recently there was a trade journal, I think called Business of Home that was answering a question about everyone launching a rug brand in 2022. And it sort of speaks to the nature of not just consumer demand, but maybe supply side changes in the way that supply chain and supply side dynamics work and sort of creating fads, creating hype, creating opportunities for manufacturing demand to some degree. We saw that in one run up in the home space with foam mattresses and the explosion of brands there. Do you think that there's a similar paradigm shift in sort of the way that those consumer fad cycles run and we're trying to make markets instead of actually listening to what consumers are wanting? Or is that a completely different effect at play?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:34:27] At the dinner event a couple of weeks ago, we talked about kind of the knock on effect that fast fashion has had over a number of years. I think what you're talking about is also a result of that fast fashion concept that there are so many companies entering spaces like these because they can get commodity at fairly low value. And through social media, people are learning that they can get an aesthetic, but that aesthetic becomes disposable, so if they can get it at a relatively low entry point and within a couple of years it becomes fungible, they could replace it with something else, Then it creates that trend and it starts to move that ever faster. And there are problems with that. I think it erodes the sense of luxury that goes with some of those products. I think fast fashion heavily erodes that idea. There's there is a value to artisanal goods that can't exist in the fast fashion concept and is lost in that disposable nature. And rather than people making an investment in goods that have a quality and an artisanship and a value denoted to them by the way they are created, by the methodology, by the cultural that's imparted to that, you just kind of get into this rote of just buying and replacing, buying, replacing, and it's all mass-produced tools. So there's a I think a hardship on artisanalship. [00:35:53] There's an erosion of the idea of luxury in those spaces. I think an unrealistic attitude towards the way those types of goods should work at quality. Those expectations start to get formed that they should be able to get fast now and at a price point, regardless of the quality that they're looking for, because that's what social media is pushing. That's the message that they're seeing through advertising and through these channels that come through. [00:36:17]

Phillip: [00:36:18] I'll ask you a really pointed question. But don't companies like Kravet also benefit from that sort of fast fashion sort of cycle in that wallpaper is back in fashion all of a sudden. You sell a lot of wallpaper. Doesn't that mean that people want the higher stratification of whatever that social media cycle is providing? They're going to buy the luxury version of it too. It should diffuse through the whole of the ecosystem, not just support the cheap Chinese knockoffs, right?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:36:45] It only does if you can cut through that noise and educate the consumer as to why graduating up through the ranks to a luxury good makes sense. When do you pivot away from the "I need a lower price point and I don't care if it lasts three years," to "This is an investment I'm making in my home. I'm making in my career..." Whatever that is. And it's looked at that point. I would venture to say that's a small percentage of the consumer base that makes that graduation through that belief function. And unfortunately, I think it's a growing percentage of the consumer base that is just habituated to what they see today because, again, they're hammered with that message. They're hammered with that availability, etc, that those goods are so, in theory, yes, you would have that kind of benefit across the chain. But I think there's a real challenge to cut through that messaging and create that kind of education and understanding of what it means. What's the difference between buying a sofa that's manufactured overseas, shipped over in container, probably is made from fairly cheap wood and will break down in five years versus a sofa that's made by an artisan in North Carolina who trained for a number of years in how to hand apply fabric and hand tie springs into the bed of the sofa. And that's a piece that will last 25 to 30 years and will never physically break down. It'll just last past the decorative aesthetic that you've applied to the sofa. That's the challenge is making that educational jump and bringing people along the chain to that.

Brian: [00:38:28] Yeah. And Rugs in particular came up at the salon we did recently. I thought that was really interesting. And, Jesse, coming out of textiles, I think you had some pretty good thoughts on that. You were mentioning this Business of Home article from January 25th about everyone launching a rug brand in 2022. It seems like this whole fast fashion industry is coming for home now, and you brought up wallpaper, Phillip, and couches and furniture. It's all kind of infiltrating out to other industries. Why in particular rugs though? It feels like that one was we kind of harped on that a little bit.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:39:11] I mean, I think there's a number of reasons that rugs have become popular as an area for that to be in. One is definitely pandemic related as people were more in their homes and looking around the floor and the ceiling generally or the areas that aren't really paid attention to and area rugs, rugs that are precut and pre sized are fairly easy to shop. They do lend themselves very well to an online transaction. I think they're a much easier supply chain function. It's easier to source those types of rugs, stock them and get them shipped and supplied relatively quickly. But again, there's a breakage point, and what I mean by a breakage point is Wayfair, as a company, probably sells, to use a technical term, a boatload of rugs, right? But what they're selling are lower price point quality rugs that again that are generally replaceable over a few years. A brand like Ruggable who does a really nice job, they've got a really good digital presence, they've got a great approach to the marketplace, they they market exactly what they sell. But those rugs are of a price point and they are replaceable over time. That works really well in a digital atmosphere. But when you start to move past that, one of the challenges of textiles as an industry in general is that it's a tactile industry. And when you start to get to higher price points, if you don't understand the tactile nature of those products, you're much less open to making that kind of investment just digitally alone. That's where you really need a brick and mortar network to support it. People need to be able to put their hands onto the rug and understand the quality, the softness, the appeal of that before they're going to make that kind of investment. And it becomes much harder to do that just purely as an online play. So I think a lot of companies are rushing into space because they see the volume that can be done at, I'm going to call it the lower end of the market, but there is like a growth cap that can be done there from a price point and from a volume perspective, digital alone. If you can get multichannel, you can bring people across, you can get them to experience that product and get them to understand that investment. But pure digital, that's really your break point is how do you get that? Until you get really cool haptic technology, I don't really know if you understand how soft a chair is or how luxurious a rug is and you're willing to make that kind of investment.

Phillip: [00:41:44] It's such an interesting... {laughter} It makes such an interesting point. Also. Ruggable, for what it's worth, great best practices website.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:41:52] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:41:52] They really nail the best practices on that website. I got to say. I don't feel no friction when I go there...

Jesse Lazarus: [00:41:58] I shop Ruggable.

Phillip: [00:42:02] Yeah, it's funny. You don't notice the windshield until there's muck on it. I get it. I get it.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:42:09] You know, one of the things that... Sorry not to interupt, but one of the other things that is one of the unspoken ills of that whole scenario is from a sustainability perspective if you look at textiles, furniture, floor coverings, etc, as a percentage of category, it's one of the largest contributors to landfill. Because of that fast fashion function of, well, I buy it and it will last a couple of years, I'll toss it, etc. So from a sustainability perspective, it's a nightmare. And that's why you see in those areas, you're starting to see a lot of push into the upcycle recycle marketplace. The secondary marketplace and companies trying to offset that need. But that's another evil off throw of that market approach is just it's unsustainable or it's not sustainable in any particular way from an environmental perspective.

Phillip: [00:43:05] Resale will save us all. We'll just keep making more stuff. And somehow at the end of the day, we'll all just keep selling it to each other over and over. That's the future right now. {laughter} Jesse, we had you come by our Archetypes event. It was so nice of you to to drop by in New York there in Soho a few weeks ago. What was your Archetype?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:43:25] I was an Everyman.

Phillip: [00:43:27] You are a Everyman? You were an Everyman.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:43:29] I am an Everyman.

Phillip: [00:43:30] How do you feel about the Everyman?

Jesse Lazarus: [00:43:31] I didn't feel good about that, and I believe I was fairly vocal about that at the pop up, which I apologize for.

Brian: [00:43:39] {laughter}

Jesse Lazarus: [00:43:41] But upon reflection, I really came to peace with that because and I thought this was one of the amazing things about the Archetype concept was when I went through that and then in my business dealings the next couple of days, I kept that as a frame of reference as we were going through things. And I thought to myself, after a while, I am Everyman. This fit me perfectly because I was talking about things like the importance of best practices and designing to the, what we call internally I want to say, the lowest common denominator, meaning making sure that we design a practice that the most unexperienced person will be able to navigate through, will be able to benefit from. In all the conversations that I was having, it just it really just, I am the Everyman. You guys got it absolutely right. And I reacted to a semantic rather than an actual characterization.

Brian: [00:44:34] We really shouldn't have named it Everyman. We realize. Looking back, we're like, "Oh..."

Phillip: [00:44:39] Carl Jung shouldn't have named it Everyman. I mean, let's place blame where it's due. I do think there's a there is something we learned as well at the pop up and something that I think I dismissed and I made it my mission to try to talk people into their Archetype and instead of listening to what they were saying. But you said something now that I had walked away with and internalized after you and I had this conversation, it's that it's not necessarily that the content of the description of what Everyman is, is more actually more of a generalist. It's a jack of all trades. It's somebody who is intensely interested in lots of things and wants to figure out how the world works. And that is pretty awesome. It's when you call that ordinary is where the friction comes in. It's like no one wants to be ordinary. It's like, "Screw you. I'm extra ordinary," and I do think of you as like an extraordinary person.

Brian: [00:45:37] Actually, most of the Everyman that we that we know that got Everyman are like incredibly diverse people that are interested in so many things. I think of Kris Gösser was also an Everyman and Kris is so diverse. Yeah, he's amazing.

Phillip: [00:45:53] Yeah. He's a person I hold in very high esteem. In fact, I would say lots of people that we hold in very high regard in the Future Commerce audience are Everypeople. And I think that that actually speaks to the nature of who we are talking to is that the industry is run by not necessarily like a ton of heroes, although there's a lot of people that beat their chest on Twitter. But the industry is run by people who, like anyone in technology, has sort of over the last 35, 40 years, we have all had to we've adopted a trade of technology that has come into its own and come into fruition during our lifetime. So we didn't grow up with this stuff. We have adopted it along the way. And that by nature sort of makes us all generalists. There is a new generation of people who have grown up with technology that have no idea how computers work. They don't understand how anything works. They can't troubleshoot anything. They're helpless when something goes wrong. And it's funny to me to see that they don't even... They'll ask you, like on Slack, we'll be going back and forth and say, "Hey, this is for RICE." And they're like, "What's RICE?" You could literally Google it. The context is right there.

Brian: [00:47:06] Well RICE is pretty hard to Google. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:47:08] Well, whatever. You get what I'm saying. That's a terrible example. {laughter} That is a terrible example. The Retail Innovation Conference and Expo. But yeah, there are some things that are second nature to me as wanting to figure out how the world works and having to troubleshoot things, just having a command and a use of Google is not a skill that you necessarily acquire in 2023.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:47:32] Well, I wear the badge now with pride. As I said, after upon reflection, seeing that it really wasn't in application. It was true. It was a semantic reaction being in a room of signage that's like The Outlaw, The Hero, and you're like, "Well, I'm The Everyman."

Phillip: [00:47:51] To make it even worse it's like, "Well, where's my Archetype?" "I don't know. It wasn't important enough to include." {laughter}

Brian: [00:47:59] {laughter}

Jesse Lazarus: [00:48:00] That's right. It wasn't even a stand. But it was spot on. So kudos to you guys, because it was really well done. And as an unsolicited plug, if the listening base hasn't experienced the coffee table book that you guys did, it really is amazing material. It's thought provoking and I think it's highly accurate. I really can go through that book, read it and for every one of those Archetypes, I can picture somebody that I've dealt with that I know fills that role. And it's that. So well done to you guys.

Brian: [00:48:34] Thank you.

Phillip: [00:48:35] Thank you so much. When we're thinking about how you as a leader in a business and a generational one at that, how is something like Archetypes useful in your role? And does it inform or at least color the way that maybe you're approaching things like the adoption of technology or the people that it affects? Because this is something that's come up a few times is like, who is Archetypes for and how does it actually help us in a professional setting aside from the content of the articles therein? Is this purely just a brand exercise and sort of like a navel gazing way to talk about a customer, or is there something potentially deeper than that? I don't know if you have a thought or an opinion.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:49:19] I've always been, oh, I mean, if it doesn't come across yet in my constant talk of cynicism, I've always been highly cynical of things like Myers-Briggs and all those types of functions. But there is value always to understanding the figures in an equation and not only how a project will become a final deliverable product, but how that product will be accepted by that audience if it actually is a need by that audience. And I think, one of the things that's interesting about Archetypes is that you guys have taken the theory behind the Myers-Briggs type scenarios, you've created personas that are, as I said real life. And if you do look at the players that are involved in those different aspects, I think it gives you a different perspective on how you can navigate those waters and successfully deliver in different scenarios. So I don't know, having something like that that is specifically geared for digital commerce, I think was a really interesting twist and made that more valuable.

Phillip: [00:50:34] Amazing. Thank you for reading the script exactly as I wrote it. {laughter}

Jesse Lazarus: [00:50:40] {laughter} Unprompted.

Brian: [00:50:42] Jesse, one question we love to ask everyone that comes on the show before we leave is give us a couple of things you see coming in the next 12 to 18 months. You've got a lot on your plate. I'd love to know what's next.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:50:59] I am really excited about, everybody talks about omnichannel and you guys had a term, I'm going to say you guys because I can't remember if it was Phillip or Brian, but one of you had a term of phygital, that blending of the physical and the digital together. And while it's been talked about so much, I think [00:51:20] we're at a really exciting time because there is this push back into in-person in-store experience. But the push back now is completely informed by the eCommerce expectations of the pandemic. So there's this really exciting opportunity, I think, to really bring the online experience in an exceptional way into the store and really, truly merge those two functions together. And to us, we look at that as maybe it's a function of product discovery, maybe it's a function of persistent transactional experience, meaning that channel becomes completely agnostic. I think there's just so much that can be done there and this is the time to do it. [00:52:07]

Brian: [00:52:09] I would agree. All on board.

Phillip: [00:52:14] This is amazing. This is not my first podcast with you, but it might be my favorite one that we've done so far. And thank you for sharing your time on Future Commerce. Jesse, always a pleasure. And thank you all for listening. If you want more Kravet, where do people go and find Kravet these days? Don't buy it online. It's all that best practice stuff, I'm guessing.

Jesse Lazarus: [00:52:38] Well, our website's Kravet.com. We're everywhere on social media. But ultimately, if you want the best access to our products, it's hiring an interior designer and working with a creative individual who will help you understand how to achieve the lifestyle that you want using our products to do it.

Phillip: [00:52:56] Amazing. Well, if you want that Kravet.com. Also, if you want more of this podcast and other Future Commerce content, you can get it at FutureCommerce.fm. And we're also in your inbox, respectfully, three times a week with insights and contextualization of the things that are happening in the world and how they impact you and your relationship with brands and the technology that powers them. You can find that at FutureCommerce.fm/Subscribe and we'll keep you up to date. Speaking of keeping up to date, we have a summit coming up in June, the Visions Summit. We want to bring Visions live to you for the first time ever. We'd love to have you there. There are limited spots available. Find out more information about that by going to FutureCommerce.fm. Thank you so much for listening to Future Commerce.

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