Episode 134
November 15, 2019

Local is Power

Any retail business can become a Hero to its customers. PLUS: Shoptalk's own Zia Wigder joins us to talk about their decision to program only female speakers in their 2020 event.

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this episode sponsored by

We all need Heroes - and Alistair Crane and recurring guest Ingrid Milman Cordy join us today to talk about how any retail business can become a Hero to their customers. PLUS: Shoptalk's own Zia Wigder joins us to talk about their decision to program only female speakers in their 2020 event. Listen now!

Join FC INSIDERS, a newsletter essay with deep insight you need to guide the future of your retail business, technology, or agency. Subscribe today.

Main Takeaways:

  • Ingrid Milman Cordy from e.l.f. and the CEO of Hero, Alistair Crain join Brian on today's episode to talk about Hero.
  • Bridging the gap between in-store associate interactions and online shopping behaviors is an extremely powerful tool.
  • There is massive untapped potential in local and smart brands are starting to make moves.
  • Zia Wigder from Shoptalk joins Brian and Phillip to discuss an enormous announcement about Shoptalk 2020.

A Brief History: Alistair Crain and Hero:

  • Alistair has always been in technology and he was previously the CEO of a company called Grapple that was acquired by a Visa subsidiary.
  • He came over to retail about five years ago when an old friend of his had an idea of connecting associates that are in-store with customers that are browsing on the website.
  • With a standard retail cycle, there are periods when associates in-store have availability to be helping customers but there are no customers in-store.
  • Hero gives associates and store teams the power to connect live with customers who are shopping on the store's website and gives customers guidance through video and live streaming that gives them a better shopping experience.

The Decline of Footfall: Combining Physical and Digital:

  • Why is it important to engage both the physical and digital in one place?
  • Over the past 5-10 years, messaging has become the single biggest use of mobile phones and even before the start of Hero, customers and associates were connecting through means of social media.
  • In tech, technology usually tries to "create the wave" but Hero filled a need for a trend of communication that was already happening.
  • Sales that happened from these online interactions were not being attributed to store targets, so Hero provides stores a professional, secure, and trackable method of associate to customer interactions and sales.

Traditionally Luxury: Unlocking High-End Interactions for Smaller Businesses:

  • Associates connecting on a one to one basis with an online customer is a high-end experience that naturally lends itself to the luxury market.
  • Traditionally, only bigger brands (usually in the luxury space) would have an eCommerce and online footprint large enough to accommodate direct communication with online customers, but Hero unlocks that potential for smaller brands.
  • Younger, technology competent people just want to shop and just want the ability to find out quickly if an item is in stock and where they can get it.
  • Sneaker companies have been adopting this communication trend and have been using it in more and more innovative ways.

The Importance of Local: The Future of Commerce:

  • There has been a trend on the show highlighting the importance of local when it comes to commerce.
  • Doesn't it make the most sense to connect with local representatives when customers are interacting online?
  • You should also put stores where you already have business, and this can be discovered through communication tools like Hero.
  • How can you make the most of existing online customer interactions?

The Shift of Messaging: The Death of Omnichannel?:

  • A few years ago, omnichannel was omnipresent at conferences and events, but today, it is a word that is barely mentioned.
  • Omnichannel communication is now a part of everyday business and not just a sideshow.
  • Brands with heritage and locations around the world have a big advantage with their physical footprint against online exclusive giants like Amazon because they can provide an actual experience to their customers.
  • Smart retailers are making local pay with authentic local experiences by making their online customers come into stores.

The Power of Knowledge: Expertise Seals the Deal:

  • Alistair brings up Ace Hardware as an example of an extremely authentic brand that demonstrates the power of associate expertise when it comes to assisting customers.
  • Online DIY stores are overwhelming and it is so much more reassuring when an associate with expertise helps you with your questions.
  • Store influences have the power to serve as local influencers for your brand.
  • How are you capitalizing on your store associate's expertise?

Lingering Connections: Extending The In-Store Experience:

  • Customers remember positive in-store interactions long after their time spent physically in the store.
  • Ingrid mentions how powerful it is when she receives a text from her trusted Lululemon associate that there are new items in store (which she usually ends up buying.)
  • Brian brings up how impressive the knowledge was of the associates was on a recent trip to Everlane.
  • Smart brands are brands that are encouraging and rewarding their associates for creating unique and personalized content.

Bringing Local Back: Massive Untapped Potential:

  • Brands are ignoring the fact that local retail space is reasonably priced and there is so much opportunity in local that is not being tapped.
  • Brian harkens back to the recent episode with Ishani Gujral in which he came up with the idea of a bidding system for large retailers to bid on local retail space.
  • Alistair brings up Appear Here that serves as an Airbnb for retail space.
  • There is a lot of macroeconomic pressure to make your business successful before you even open the doors to your first location.
  • Bigger brands like Etsy are starting to take advantage of the untapped potential of local.

Your Biggest Assets: Your People and Places:

  • The people that work for you and the locations where your brand reside are the most important assets you have.
  • Invest in your employees: give them a living wage, encourage their growth, and empower them to make them the best representations of your brand.
  • There is a lack of willingness in big retail to take any risk.
  • Tech players take multiple year strategies, and retailers need to find a way to make some riskier decisions that will pay dividends in the future.

Unselfish Experimentation: Non-Traditional Returns:

  • Everything you do does not have to have a direct influence on your P&L and there is a reason to do some unselfish experimentation.
  • You have to try some things that are not going to work because the knowledge of things that don't work is just as important as knowing what is lucrative.
  • Experimentation is part of Amazon's makeup and they fail quickly and hard, which allows them to constantly be on the cusp of innovation.  
  • How can you unselfishly experiment with something this quarter that you wouldn't normally try to pursue?

Predictions and Inklings: A Postive Recession?:

  • Alistair has been wondering if we've been heading into a recession and thinks that Q1 and Q2 of 2020 are going to be very interesting.
  • A recession would flush out the brands that aren't even living up to their own core values and Alistair believes there is too much funding floating around and not being used efficiently.
  • Alistair wants to turn website traffic into actual footfall in-store and he is going to invest in companies that makes this happen.
  • There has never been such a good time for product innovation on both the tech side and the retail side so take some risks.

Shoptalk 2020: Women in the Spotlight:

  • Zia Wigder from Shoptalk joins Brian and Phillip to talk about the big news that Shop Talk 2020 will be 100% female speakers.
  • There needs to be change in this industry, change is happening too slowly, and Shoptalk is making a stand with this decision to expedite this change.
  • Zia goes into some of the criticism and opposition that has arisen with this decision but has been surprised that the vast majority of feedback has been positive.
  • You need a transformational step to drive change because incremental steps are not effective.

A Big Change: Piloting a Shift in the Industry:

  • In 2021, men will be included again the lineup, but the ration will forever be 50/50 from now on.
  • This change resonates with the social conscious dynamic in the industry and Phillip predicts it will be massively successful.
  • Zia is not worried in the slightest about finding the talent for the talks, but the challenge will be to find a list of speakers in the right topics.
  • You can apply to speak on the Shoptalk website along with many more ways to get involved with the event.

Brands Mentioned In This Episode:

As always: We want to hear what our listeners think! What are some ways that you could unselfishly experiment with your brand? How can you empower your employees to become the best representatives for your brand?

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

Retail Tech is moving fast, but Future Commerce is moving faster.

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Phillip: [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Phillip, and this is episode 134. Huge lineup for you today. A Crazy, Amazing, Cryin... Awesome. What's another Aerosmith song title? It's just such a really good episode that we have ahead for you today. If you haven't heard, there's some huge news in our industry. Shoptalk, which is the preeminent and sort of crown jewel of all retail events that takes place here in the United States in the spring, is making a big announcement. Big change happening in Shoptalk. Yesterday they announced that they will be going to an all female speaker lineup for the year 2020. And yeah, lot of industry conversation about that. And guess what, we were able to get Zia Wigder from Shoptalk to come and talk about it here on the show. So stick around to the end of the episode, so you can hear our little 10 to 15 minute segment with her, and that'll be really awesome. But before we get there, we have an amazing set of guests. We are welcoming back Ingrid Milman Cordy from e.l.f. Cosmetics, who is coming to talk about one of her favorite tech platforms that helps her and assists her in all the work that she's done in the areas of e-commerce. A platform called Hero. And Alister Crane from Hero is also joining us on the show. So Brian is joined by Alastair Crane and Ingrid Milman Cordy for an interview here after the sponsor bump. Stick around for that. That's really, really cool. And I was kind of impressed, very blown away, by the content that came out of that. So I want to hear what you think, because I was genuinely surprised and very impressed. Not that I should be. This is a great show. But I wasn't part of that interview. So it's nice to listen back. And also just to give a little bit of love to our sponsors, make sure that you hit him up. And when you do, tell them that you heard about them here on Future Commerce. Lastly, before we get to the interviews, I want to give a shout out to our Future Commerce Insider's newsletter and to the hundreds and hundreds of you that read it every single week. Thank you so much for all your support. If you haven't signed up for Insiders yet, you're missing a vital piece about what is shaping the content on the show. We are more than just a podcast. We are a media research startup, and we are taking the things that we're learning in research and applying that in many forms. One of those is a newsletter that comes out every Wednesday at 2 p.m. So we don't miss that. You can find that and subscribe to it over on FutureCommerce.fm and please subscribe to it. Let us know what you think about it, and share it with a co-worker who can use it. This past week we just had a really insightful, if I may say so for myself because I wrote it, really insightful unpacking of what it's like to build trust with the customer and how you can easily lose that trust. And trust builders today aren't just having good products anymore. It's you know, you're trying to sell candles online to people who can't smell it. How do you do that? Well, some people offer free shipping and free returns and they offer 10% off your first order. And, yeah, they're buying your trust when really we should be trying to focus on building a relationship that leads to long term loyalty. So all of that is found every single week, Wednesday at 2 p.m. And you should subscribe over FutureCommerce.fm to get on the Insiders newsletter. All right. That's it. Let's get into the interview with Alistair Crane. And welcome back to the show. Ingrid Milman Cordy.

Brian: [00:03:44] Welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Brian Lange.

Ingrid: [00:03:49] And I'm Ingrid Milman. And we're here with Alistair Crane, CEO of Hero. Hi Alistair.

Alistair: [00:03:56] Hey, Ingrid. Hey, Brian, how you doing?

Brian: [00:03:58] Hey, welcome. Excited to have you on the show. Big fan of Hero. Super cool products. For our listeners, why don't you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your history and then tell us a little bit about Hero, as well.

Alistair: [00:04:16] Of course, total pleasure. Delighted to be here. Actually, this thing's kind of unnerving for me, Brian, because I think they say it takes like 10,000 hours to be an expert at anything, and math's never been my strong point. I was running... I reckon I'm only up to 9,000, so far. I'm definitely still... I'm in my learning curve on this whole retail cycle, which has been fascinating. My background's always been in technology. I had a company prior to Hero called Grapple, which was acquired by a Visa subsidiary, [00:04:44] Seitan FinTech, [00:04:45] and actually came over to retail about about five years ago when an old friend of mine...we've brought a lot of businesses together, Adam Levine, filled me up with this idea of connecting our associates that are in the store with customers shopping on the web site. So my background's we've been in technology. My past half decade in retail, we'll call the learning curve vertical. But I'm looking forward to talking more and sharing more today.

Brian: [00:05:15] It's amazing. It's amazing, It's also really amazing that the the front man for Maroon 5 had such a cool idea. {laughter}

Alistair: [00:05:23] Yeah, we never struggle for table booking when he's in town. {laughter}

Brian: [00:05:30] Well, that's super cool. Tell us a little bit about Hero and what Hero is and does.

Alistair: [00:05:36] Yeah, of course. So actually, really simply, if you think about it, you've got quite significant periods of the day, week, month across the retailer's business where not all of their stores are at full capacity in terms of customers coming in and out. I call it the Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. challenge. And it means that the people on the shop floor, the associates, from time to time have some availability to be helping customers, but actually don't have anyone physically in front of them. And so what we did was we saw that trend of declining footfall, and we saw the opportunity in terms of the rise of E and M commerce, more and more traffic going digital. And we basically connected the to using Hero. [00:06:16] So in a nutshell, what we do is give associates and store teams the power to connect live with customers shopping on the brand's web sites and help give the customers the guidance through picture, through video, through live streaming, so they can have a better purchase journey, better customer experience, and then go on to come into their local stores, meet up with those teams and associates and shop both physically and online just the way that everybody's always talked about how it should work. [00:06:39]

Brian: [00:06:40] That is amazing. I love recognizing this sort of declining footfall and seeing an opportunity there. There's time there, there're opportunities to do other things. And also connecting physical and digital is... It's like all the problems of commerce wrapped up into one solution. That's amazing. Well, I think that this is a really interesting time to be launching on something like this, as well, because as we've been talking about on the show a lot, there's a need for more engagement of store associates. And we've talked about clienteling quite a bit, and we've written a lot of it at length. So maybe tell us a little bit about the connection between the store associates and the digital data. Why is it important to engage both your physical and your digital together in one stream like this? And what do you see the future for this connection?

Alistair: [00:07:46] Yeah. Great place to start. Brian, it's interesting. I'll come on to the kind of big business corporate reasons and answer that question in full. But before I do just set the scene, if we think about it like the past five, ten years... The way that people just human beings, consumers, shoppers, employees, how they use mobile and how they're using technology. [00:08:08] Messaging is the single, number one, biggest use of the mobile phone. Used to be the alarm clock back in the day with Nokia. But since iPhone, it's just been messaging. iMessage, for sure. And then you look in Europe, the huge rise of WhatsApp, and over to Asia how WeChat has become more and more prevalent. The interesting thing is, even before Hero existed, associates and customers were connecting digitally through messaging because they were adding each other on Facebook, following an Instagram, and you build up a rapport with an associate with a brand that you shop regularly with. You might start using Snapchat to communicate, and this stuff's been going back and forth for some time, actually, even before our business existed. And so we've really had... In fact, if you look at the in tech, a lot of the time you're trying to make the wave, whereas for us we started the business to ride this trend that was already happening and being driven by customers, being driven by consumers. Actually, the thing that never existed was there was just never a professional way for associates to have tools in their pocket. [00:09:06] You know, on the phone or on a tablet that were provided by the head office, by the brand they worked for in order to be able to connect these customers. And so it was kind of janky. They were using their own phone. They're using their own contact book. Huge problem in terms of data leakage. Like if Ingrid's my customer, and I'm the associate in the store, and I'm messaging her, and then I leave the brand, I take all of that information with me. Actually the big business driver in the whole thing that kind of galvanized Hero and really made us a big hit from day one was that all sales associates on the shop floor wanted you to do was come back in-store. They didn't really when you buy from the web site, and you think about that... So why? It's because those sales that are taking place online weren't contributing to what their store targets are, and store manager didn't really want it. It didn't help them. They went against it, but they weren't for it. They were just agnostic. And then you think a little more personally, for the sales associate, still in the US in particular, a lot of store staff are on comp models. It doesn't have to be direct commission. It could be bonus, but some form of payment for success. And so there was no way to recognize and attribute any of those customer sales happening on the website, even though it was good for the business as a whole. And actually, digital as a channel is often an efficient, creative way of selling. There's no way to link back all of that associate guidance and involvement and relationship with the customer, and so associates didn't get paid. That was the blunt thing. And so I was like, how do you bring all that together in a product proposition that's good for head office, good for the associate on the shop floor and good for the customer?

Ingrid: [00:10:33] Yeah, there's so much to unpack in what you just shared, Al. One of the things that you sort of brought up in the context of the one to one relationships and sort of that the journey of the natural usage of messaging is, I think very, very specific to the luxury sector. And so when we're talking about customers and associates developing this relationship through messaging, through sending picture messages, that's a very, very high end one to one relationship. And what I'm interested in is understanding how the level of technology that Hero offers actually opens up that one to one relationship that really was only possible in luxury to small and medium businesses, businesses that are a little bit more mass. As long as you have a retail footprint and an e-commerce footprint you're sort of good to go and really are almost opening up this dialogue that's never even really existed outside of the luxury space.

Alistair: [00:11:38] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear you, Ingrid. It's an interesting point, and it's one we actually wrestled with in the early days of Hero. So we launched some of our early adopter brands and clients like the luxury department store in London. Harvey Nichols had been really pioneering, actually as a phenomenal partner for us, and they definitely led the way with a lot of that relationship building, showing how it should be done. We would say, "Well, a bunch of the LVMH brands, say Richemont, also the likes of Chloé, but more recently Panerai, the watch brand... It has been fascinating. I'm seeing what they're doing with this kind of technology, but [00:12:10] actually where I've got most excited and probably been on my biggest personal learning curve has been that actually this is no longer just a luxury thing. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say it's not even a luxury thing anymore. [00:12:22]

Ingrid: [00:12:23]  [00:12:23]A time table sticks [00:12:24]

Alistair: [00:12:24] Hundred percent. [00:12:26] We talk about luxury, for a second, it's like Old-School luxury in terms of like super expensive, inaccessible, stuffy boutiques you don't want to go into with a security guard on the door have been replaced by...you think about the trend of like streetwear, sneakers. Sneakers are the new luxury, right? [00:12:43]

Brian: [00:12:43] Right.

Ingrid: [00:12:44] It's a favorite topic here on Future Commerce.

Brian: [00:12:48] It is. {laughter} Phillip's a huge sneakerhead.

Ingrid: [00:12:48]  [00:12:50]...today.

Alistair: [00:12:51] What you can't see, Brian, is I'm wearing some rather vibrant yellow trousers with exactly color matched Air Maxes.

Brian: [00:12:59] Oh, my goodness.

Alistair: [00:12:59] I thought I'd get away with it.

Ingrid: [00:13:00] It's perfectly done.

Alistair: [00:13:00] Yeah, I thought you wouldn't comment on it. But here we are. Anyway.

Brian: [00:13:02] Wow. Wow.

Alistair: [00:13:04] Yeah.

Brian: [00:13:05] I need to see this, actually. Good thing you're getting some some photos and video over there. I'm looking forward to this.

Alistair: [00:13:10] Exactly.  But at this [00:13:13] point, it's moved so far away from this whole luxury one on one relationship building to just the way actually that, I don't want to say millennials, I just want to say like smart, young, connected people in cities want to shop. It's not like they need, you know, 20 minutes of introduction to each product in five hundred different photos. They just want to know, hey, have you got the stock in store? Do you got it in my size? And by the way, is it cool? And if I like this, what else should I buy? I want an algorithm to tell me at the bottom of the web page people who bought this also bought that. I once saw an in-store who was like, "Yo, I tried them on, and they're sick. You should definitely come on. If you like that you're going to love this, and I'll hold a pair for you." And it's that actually is just what they expect. [00:13:56]

Brian: [00:13:56] Yes.

Alistair: [00:13:58] And we've seen it from like the Adidas and Nike of the world, Levi's as well. They're all using this technology to phenomenal gain and actually very differently to how the luxury guys first pioneered it.

Brian: [00:14:09] Interesting. [00:14:10] Another trend that we've talked about on the show, or we're starting to explore more and more, and our audience can expect more thought around this, is the importance of local right now. I think local business is maybe the way that people will start launching new brands. Local is sort of the future. Right? And so as we, you know, think about how to use the Internet. Use the Web. Use our digital channels to connect with local, doesn't it make the most sense to connect with local representatives about customer service representatives that you already have in store? [00:14:52] And then, of course, then we talk about expanding footprint. And, you know, as you expand footprint, maybe it makes more sense to put stores where you already have strength as a business because they're just as much a customer service play as they are an expansion of product line or expansion of territory play. I think that there could be some something there. And what an exciting concept. This is sort of like in contrast that are almost like the opposite, maybe not the opposite, but very different than the sort of monolithic omnichannel sort of thing that we saw in the past.

Alistair: [00:15:33] Yeah.

Brian: [00:15:34] What do you think about the omnichannel? What a terrible word.

Alistair: [00:15:38] Not a first date word. "Hey, I work in omnichannel."  No. {laughter}

Brian: [00:15:47] Out. We actually had a whole episode, I think called "The Death of Omnichannel." And we went to the NRF Big Show a couple of years ago and well, probably three or four years ago, that was the only word that was on everyone's lips and on every banner and sign at The Big Show. And then we went like, you know, two years later and there were like two mentions. We said zero mentions of omnichannel. There were like one or two mentions of omnichannel. You know, they still existed. But I think everyone sort of realized that that like very expansive strategy is almost impossible. Not impossible, but it's just... It doesn't actually make sense the way we thought it would. What do you see as the future here, like of connection of digital and physical in terms of, you know, actually addressing those needs?

Alistair: [00:16:38] Yeah. Well, Brian, you said I covered a lot of ground in my earlier statement, but this is an even bigger one. So where do we start? {laughter} I have to give a shout out and a big apology to all my omnichannel homies out there... It wasn't meant as negative.

Ingrid: [00:16:52]  [00:16:52]Referring out with the forty three.  [00:16:55]

Brian: [00:16:58] {laughter}

Alistair: [00:16:58] Actually here's the real on it, which is like [00:17:00] it shouldn't even be carved out as a separate job title, and moreover, now it's not. It's actually a part of fundamental everyday business, not a sideshow. And so actually those who have been in omni are more important, more powerful in the business than ever before. [00:17:15] It reminds me a little bit of what I saw a while back. Not gonna give away my age... I probably will by saying this. But you used to have like a Head of Mobile, right? And then a Head of Mobile became the Head of Digital or Chief Digital Officer. And now they just quit the CIO and they're on the board. Right? And [00:17:29] so it became that important that quickly from one person sat in a dusty office where you went, oh, yeah, we've got a guy or a gal that does mobile to being like, actually, we're all about it. We're mobile first. It's intrinsic in what we do. And omni's the same thing. [00:17:42] And so come back to your point a second ago on local and thinking about how actually customers want it local is power, right? If you've got a store in every town or city, you're in such a phenomenal position. Don't get me wrong, I feel it. We call them brands with Heritage, the slightly more Old-School retailers, perhaps carrying more stores and they necessarily want right now. [00:18:04] But there's actually a big advantage as well as a big cost challenge. And the advantage is this... It's the sword in the fight against the likes of Amazon. It's the one thing that Amazon are really struggling to do, which is provide a genuine and physical experience in the town where the customers live. They can get a truck there in two days. Actually, there's a bunch of stuff I want to buy, not just because I need it doesn't have to just be for medicine. It could because I'm impulsive. I want it. I want to go and feel and touch and look and get into a brand. And for that, I want a local presence. I want a local store. It can be a pop up. It could be it capsule. It could be any one of these small things commercially that make local more affordable these days. But honestly, I think that the whole trend and thought, you know, I used to get lost in the early days about like what's going to happen to the high street? Is it going to disappear? What about town centers? Are we going to have less stores? It's just the opposite. It's actually small retailers making local pay. And the way that they do that is by connecting up the local customers, by the way that are shopping across all of their properties, predominately online, and giving them reasons to come in-store and experience the brand. Experience is a big thing. It's all about creating local authentic experiences. [00:19:15] Anyway, you can hear me riffing on that. I'll pause for a second.

Ingrid: [00:19:19] It sort of brings to mind one of the things that I struggle with as a consumer, which is expertise. [00:19:26] So there's so much content. Every single thing has a top 10 list, but there's truly not been one replacement of the expertise that a store associate or a brand associate can offer. And that could be in fashion. And they're telling me what the latest styles are and whatever the case may be. But also in technology. So I go and I buy an iPhone or a microphone or just anything that I need expertise in something that doesn't exist for me. It could take me three hours of research online and, you know, filtering through what are actually editorial vs. advertorial messaging, which is getting more and more complicated. That's a whole other episode topic. But ultimately, there's just no replacement for that. And so the brands that are understanding their consumers as well as their product offering and their value proposition are the ones that are winning. So it's not replacing ordinary just transactional retail experiences. It's the retailers that understand that providing that level of service, whether it's on your mobile phone with an iMessage or in-store or and then continuing that relationship because it's maybe it's a bigger, longer tail decision making purchase. [00:20:46]

Alistair: [00:20:46] Yeah.

Ingrid: [00:20:47] It's one of those things that just really is the only thing that's going to keep everyone relevant.

Alistair: [00:20:52] Yeah. Let's talk about that for a minute, Ingrid, because I feel like you kind of threw it down real early on with me where you're like, it's just luxury only it feels real luxury. Let's get the other end of the spectrum. There's a partner of ours, a client of ours, I've just loved getting to know and really enjoy working with because A) they're just good people and B) they have the most authentic, genuine brand, and it's Ace Hardware.

Brian: [00:21:15] Yes.

Alistair: [00:21:15] And so you didn't see that one coming. Didn't see that one coming. And so here's the thing. You can you can read up on fit in your bathroom. I mean, I don't because I'm useless at DIY. I definitely don't go and admit that when I'm in Ace Hardware. Nah, I'm down with that. It's cool. I can just about mow the lawn. But you know what? A) No one walks into that store knowing everything they need to get the job done. Actually, you almost always have to ask someone. [00:21:40] And more to the point, particularly in the larger format stores, even if you know the exact products you're after, you don't know where they're at, right? And so if you want a quick, easy, effortless shopping experience, you got to find somebody, and they're going to walk the aisle with you and help you find one at the nine types of wood glue that you're after. So I kind of joke about that, but it's serious. I'm actually going on a web site for any of these big guys. You think about the big DIY stores in the US. The Home Depot's, the Lowe's, the Ace's of the world. It's overwhelming. It's overwhelming. And it doesn't matter how many concept guides and how to videos. When your sink is leaking or your bathroom is blocked or any of these one genuine real world examples we see coming across Hero every day, you just want to talk to someone who goes, "A) I feel your pain and I know how to help you." And then B) it's so much more reassuring when they say, "By the way, the store's 1.2 miles away from you, you can come in and see me, and I'm gonna make sure that you're covered." Genuine... [00:22:31] We will publish a book one day on the hilarious real time challenges that the Ace customers fire over. {laughter} "Oh my God, I just broke my whatever it is." "Oh, my God. I can't stop the water running." Whatever it is, it's hilarious.

Ingrid: [00:22:47] That's so good.

Alistair: [00:22:47] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian: [00:22:48] I love that. I love that. It's almost like you need local influencers to be your store associates. Why not highlight them or give them more freedom? Give them the ability to publish and connect and sort of champion them as opposed to... I don't know... What we have right now in many cases, which is just, you know, they're a store associate. Why not give them names? And show off their expertise.

Ingrid: [00:23:16] I love that.

Brian: [00:23:18] Yeah. Oh, my gosh.

Ingrid: [00:23:19] It's content. That is the treasure trove content, like actual content that people really want to hear. And then it's sort of serving both purposes of educating and getting your brand synonymous with information. But then also it's real credibility.

Alistair: [00:23:37] You know what, guys? Imagine we flip that one 180 just for a second. And instead of local influences taking the place of associates, what if I turn around and said, "All right. You know what? Your associates your local influencers.".

Brian: [00:23:50] Yes.

Alistair: [00:23:51] One of the biggest challenges that I get given... You know a first meeting,  you're explaining your business and how you comport with the brand they like, "I don't know if my people can do this." "Oh, what do you mean? Like they don't own cellphones?" "No, no, no, they do. But, you know, I don't know if they can talk to customers." I'm like, "Okay, because you have hired them literally to talk to customers?" {laughter} [00:24:14] "I don't know if they'll have the brand tone of voice and all this stuff..." And actually do what customers value more than punctuation and grammar and all that stuff that, of course, we cared about when we sat in our corner offices? They value authenticity. [00:24:28]

Ingrid: [00:24:28] Yup.

Alistair: [00:24:28]  [00:24:28]Number one. And they value immediacy. Number two. So if you the write back to them be genuine and you're going to do it fast. It's okay. You can miss a comma. It's not a big deal. [00:24:37]

Ingrid: [00:24:37] Yeah.

Ingrid: [00:24:37] You used the wrong "You're."

Alistair: [00:24:38] Yeah. Yeah. [00:24:40] No one minds. It makes it real. It makes it that you're not shopping with a bot, which, by the way, absolutely zero percent of customers ever actually said they wanted. So [00:24:49] I think you would thing, Brian, and like how can you have these local ambassadors, these local brand champions? For me, one of the biggest learns is that businesses are already there. You've got thousands in your store network. There are two things that were missing. They didn't have a way to empower themselves beyond the four walls. They never had a way to get their voice heard and their opinions and their taste out to your wider customer base. And also they didn't have a reason. Right? Okay. I could do this stuff. What do I get out of it? Right?

Ingrid: [00:25:20] Yeah, it's similar to like a Lululemon. So I'll walk into a Lululemon stores, and they always have new apparel and new solutions for all of my yoga needs. But then I love coming in and talking to the associate. Like I genuinely do. And I'm a busy person. I'm traveling, and I have a lot... I have a podcast... All these things. But ultimately I'm fulfilled when I walk into a Lululemon store, and I have that connection and I would absolutely want that longer term.

Brian: [00:25:50] Yes.

Ingrid: [00:25:51]  [00:25:51]So, there are probably months and months that go by that I don't walk until the Lululemon store. Again, I'm busy. But if I get a text message from that associate that I've chatted up with for 30 minutes, I'm gonna come in and check out their new line and almost certainly buy something because I'm a sucker. [00:26:04]

Brian: [00:26:04] I just had this exact experience. I was in L.A. last week, and I went in to an Everlane, and the store associates there were so knowledgeable. They knew the brand. They asked us questions. They were genuinely interested in us. They knew their product. They knew what sizes were available in store. And they knew what wasn't and like made recommendations. If you'd already made a purchase there, you could actually have the store associate ship stuff to your house right there from their store. And this is the part that I think was even most interesting of all. They talked about how they were engaged in a local community. One of the store associates had a local podcast that he started and was talking about things that were happening in the area. And I'm thinking like, you know, like you said, Alister, having the store associates become local influencers, empowering them... What if you had like an editor that serviced a certain amount of stories in a specific area that helped your store associates create content that you could pass around in your local town? I live in a town of less than twenty thousand people. And I can tell you right now there's plenty of room to publish articles in our local newspaper.

Alistair: [00:27:22] Yeah.

Brian: [00:27:23] Why not have them and encourage them and empower them to be part of the community in an even bigger way and get make that part of their job duty? I guarantee you it would bring you sales.

Alistair: [00:27:37] One hundred percent. One hundred percent. And you touched on something. I'm going to give it away in the public domain now... Something I've been sitting on. I should have done something about a little while ago. So if I was gonna start another business, on top of my business, I tell you where I go with this. There is so much market opportunity to set up a modern day school of excellence in retail for associates. You know how Salesforce has Dreamforce, and they bring with a users there?

Brian: [00:28:03] Yes.

Alistair: [00:28:04] Where is that in retail? I want the traveling circus. All the major cities where actually all of the big tech players and partners invest in costs, get all of the associates in and teach you how to Instagram, teach you how to use Snapchat, and teach you how to manage profiles and build relationships. Because you got a cohort of associates, you got a portion of the mix. It's like the top 10% of stores already do it. In fact, little segue, and then we come back on this. Hilarious. I'm not going to name the brand because it would be bad, but [00:28:33] a partner of ours, we were talking about all this stuff, and how they're excited about the content that's gonna come through Hero. And they really want to use it to send out another channel these videos their associates created. They want to get them out on Instagram. And so I went and did a store walk, and I was chatting with one of the associates, really nice guy. He told me he used to be a designer. And I said, "Oh, why aren't you videoing stuff already and sending it to your marketing team and have them post on Instagram?" He's like, "Well, we're banned. It's against policy." And I was like, "Oh, okay, that will probably change." And he went, "You know what? You know, the funny thing is, dude?" And I was like, "What?" He's like, "My brand got forty thousand followers on Instagram. They're just starting out. I've got forty four thousand, personally. I could be doing a better job than they could.". [00:29:10]

Brian: [00:29:10] {laughter}

Ingrid: [00:29:12] He's right.

Alistair: [00:29:12] Yeah, yeah yeah.

Brian: [00:29:13] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Alistair: [00:29:15]  [00:29:15]And it's like old school paperwork getting in the way of doing new school business. It's kind of interesting. So back to your point, like how can how can you empower these people and actually encouraging them to be even more than a sales associate, be creating content and publishing it? One hundred percent. And the smart brands now are the ones who are actively encouraging and rewarding their people for doing it. And I think we're probably just at the very start of that. Genuinely, if someone came and sat in my office today and said, "Hey, I'm going to launch a business. It's gonna go around the US and train retail store associates to be connected and to be digital and to be omni, would you invest in my seed round up?" I'd be like, "I'm all in. That's a a wicked idea. Why are we not doing that?" [00:29:55]

Brian: [00:29:56] Man, that's such a good idea.

Alistair: [00:30:00] I reckon someone's going to be like, "Yup. Doing that. See you later."

Brian: [00:30:00] Yup. Sold. That's so good. Actually, I don't know if this podcast will air before... Oh it will probably air after a podcast we just did with Madrona Venture Labs, and we had some really interesting ideas. One of my ideas, which was very poorly named, if I do say so myself, was to have...getting back to the local idea.... I think that brands are ignoring the fact that retail, local retail, space is also really, really reasonably priced. So like I'm thinking about my town, and there are still available storefronts. You know. I think there is so much opportunity in local right now that's not being tapped. It's almost mind boggling. And so my idea, talking about another free idea, is to have sort of a bidding process, sort of like Amazon did for their HQ2. But for little towns to attract business. I think that there's another opportunity to connect retailers, larger retailers, with local space that needs revitalization. And there's another opportunity for for bringing local back.

Alistair: [00:31:24] Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. I'm sure you probably know these guys already... This is awesome company called Appear Here and run by their CEO, Ross, a fellow Brit. Really inspiring young guy. Love following their journey. And they basically created the AirBnb for retail space. So landlords come on, and you can take it for a pop up and short term and all that stuff. I'm with you. I'm with you. I think there's so much macro economic pressure to make retail more affordable from a startup perspective, just to get your first location and provide your first customer experience. It has to change. And even particularly, I think back to the UK, like the whole, even just business rates, even before you pay for rent, like the electricity, the plumbing, the trash is so prohibitably expensive. It's like, why would you even bother to start a local retailer? It's so hard. But but to your point, it's like the authenticity of not... It's like the anti Times Square. How can you get out to local towns, build your core nucleus of the customer base and then scale? I find that really exciting.

Brian: [00:32:27] Yes.

Alistair: [00:32:28] I think it just has to happen because otherwise you're gonna have all these empty storefronts.

Brian: [00:32:32] Yes. Now, I absolutely can see Amazon moving into this space as well. This is another opportunity for Amazon in Walmarts of the world. I don't think it'll be all that long before we see your local Walmart return and service center where you pick up and return packages and you can buy returned goods or refurbished goods in that store that have been brought in. You know it's not too long before we see the big players moving this space, as well. So this is an opportunity for a lot of mid-market players to get out there in front of this and sort of take advantage of it before it happens.

Ingrid: [00:33:17]  [00:33:17]One of my favorite sort of retail trends that I'm seeing as a consumer also is just sort of these collective spaces where you have like minded brands and services and products that aren't all the same. So you sort of pull your resources, you share face, share the costs, and then ultimately you're attracting the same customers. Like we have the young designers market here in the city. It's one of my favorite places to shop. Everything's unique. Everything's, you know, small artisan. These people would never be able to have a retail storefront if it wasn't for these sort of collective spaces. And, you know, if we are thinking about then the larger opposite end of the spectrum with Amazon, because Amazon is this multi product multi-brand retailer, there is an opportunity for them to come in and own that space that create these collectives with smaller SMBs that ultimately would never be able to do retail without that. [00:34:12]

Alistair: [00:34:12] Yeah. Sorry, Brian, go ahead.

Brian: [00:34:14] Oh, no, no. I was just gonna say like Neighborhood Goods. Is that a good example of this?

Alistair: [00:34:19] Right.

Brian: [00:34:19] It's sort of similar to what you're talking about, Ingrid.

Ingrid: [00:34:22] Yeah.

Brian: [00:34:22] That's awesome. Go ahead, Alistair.

Alistair: [00:34:24] Well as you say the word Amazon, everybody has an opinion. One minute I got this thing. No. And I don't Amazon bash or Amazon hate. I think they're really awesome from a bit literally billions of different angles. But the interesting thing is, I just think from a brand perspective, when you say Amazon, I don't think authentic and credible. I think like fast, cheap and like a bullet proof on returns. Like, if it's broken, I send it back, I get refunded. It's not really a question of if, but when. And so then I think about like, what about like someone like Etsy? You know, I think they've got good credit and kudos in that kind of local artisan space. I'm actually just across the bridge, Ingrid and I are set up here down in Sea Port, and we're looking out over Brooklyn. In fact, we could probably see their office from this window, but I think is really interesting, to kind of come back to that trend of these guys were online, pure play. We talk about Amazon, we talk about Etsy, we're talking about online pure play. And they're all either actively coming into physical retail or starting to look at strategies to get themselves there. And so I think that point of like, "Oh online is going to be off-line and it's all about one channel versus another..." Totally, totally different. It's not that. So how can they complement and how can they enhance each other?

Brian: [00:35:34] Or even like social media platforms.

Alistair: [00:35:36] Right.

Brian: [00:35:38] This is going to sound kind of crazy, as well. But like we had Jeremy King on the show, who is the Head of Engineering over at Pinterest now. And he was talking about how Pinterest's whole thing is sort of the anti social media platform. They want to get people engaged. They want people to be inspired and actually go do things. But, you know, you think about what social media was intended to do in the first place. And I could see opportunities for them to facilitate spaces. And an opportunity is in the local scene, as well, where you've got Pinterest workshops and Facebook meeting places. And there's so much opportunity right now in local that that's just being untapped by all tech companies because they're all tech, tech, tech, internet, internet, internet... And I'm not saying that we shouldn't be that. But also like there's just a lot of missed opportunities right now in physical because we've been so hyper focused on connecting everyone.

Ingrid: [00:36:37] And I think it's a reflection of the way that humans sort of perceive technology and the time at which it has come up, and so for so long it's been all about, to your point, Brian, the tech. The tech, the tech, the tech... In that we've completely lost sight of the customer and the product that we're marketing and the solution that we are trying to offer to consumers. Tech is an enabler.

Brian: [00:37:05] Yes.

Ingrid: [00:37:05] It's not [00:37:06] the thing. The tech is the means to the end. It's not by any means the goal or the strategy. And so fine, now, we've had to have some periods where we're investing in technology and we're investing in the people behind technology. Sure. But like, let's get back to basics now. Like let's get back to serving consumers. Let's get back to developing products that people actually want and need. And then let's re-establish that one to one connection that you used to have when you'd walk into a store, and the store associate was really, really knowledgeable. Let's get back to that and use tech to sort of amplify all of it.  [00:37:41]

Brian: [00:37:41] And like 20 years, your friend. This is the other thing that I think is missing. And I have a whole thing about, you know, how my dad had this long, amazing relationship with the wine buyer at Costco.

Ingrid: [00:37:55] Oh yes, is this the Costco story?

Brian: [00:37:56] Exactly. I think that we've lost track of relationships. I mean, I don't need to go into details here, but like, we're one of the most fragmented, disconnected societies that history has ever seen. And so I think the more that you can do as a brand right now to sort of build these long term connections and also investing in your people. So as merchants, as businesses, investing in your people. So they want to stick around. They want to be a part of what you're doing. They want to be a part of their local communities. And you're paying them a living wage, and you're giving them the chance to be creative and have and use their talents and skills where they are in places that they want to be instead of having to move somewhere. I just think back to the IBM's decision a couple of years back to force everyone back into offices off of remote. I've just... I, you know, my head against the table. It was just like, oh, this is so backwards. And we're seeing this in or in retail. And I'm like, let's move for us. Let's move on. Let's move on to what we actually want, which is real connections, real life.

Alistair: [00:39:08] Brian, one hundred percent. [00:39:10] And this is the real talk that I think should be going down in a lot of retailers boardrooms, because your people in your places, your people in your stores, it's your biggest assets. It's your power. [00:39:18] But I tell you what, when it comes to like tech plus retail and why there isn't more happening... My learning has been this... I have been a little bit surprised at actually the lack of appetite for progression in a lot of traditional retail. It's easy for me to say, I'm a multi time startup CEO. And so my whole thing, my whole profile, is geared toward taking maximum risk for maximum return. That's how I do business. And I've been attacking it for fifteen years that way. It's not easy. You don't win all the time. But when you do win, it pays it back in droves. And that's all of tech. And [00:39:53] I've actually been really surprised by A) the lack of willingness to take any risk whatsoever from a big retail perspective, a very, very, very risk averse. And the other things you say in terms of like a time line horizon, retailers a lot of the time are trading within a fiscal year window. And so if you can't contribute meaningful, meaningful uplift toward the top line or bottom line, the PNL, in that fiscal, then they don't want to talk to you about it. And that's not how you build a big strategic approach. [00:40:31]

Ingrid: [00:40:32] Yeah that's very short-sighted.

Alistair: [00:40:33] Right. And so I actually think that the tech players take 3, 5, 10 year bets building out platforms and speculating on what new technology will drive the best experiences. I just feel like there needs to be a way. I feel like somebody says need to find a way even in a cash strapped like crunchy time like it is now, even if it's just a small amount to take some bets. I just think it will put them in a position where they can get returns in the future in a big way rather than what it is now, which is just managing some decline.

Ingrid: [00:40:59] Yeah. Yeah.

Brian: [00:40:59] Right.

Ingrid: [00:41:00] I love that. And one of the things that we're sort of doing at e.l.f. is, I actually actively have a line in my PNL for experimentation.

Brian: [00:41:10] That's great.

Ingrid: [00:41:10] And so we report on the percentage of my budget that is open for experimentation and just thinking through things. And sometimes your experimentation budget is 10% and sometimes it's five and sometimes it's twenty five because there's all these new things that are available. And so it's up to the executives to understand what the climate is and what they're trying to achieve. Ultimately, like having just an actual understanding of the percentage of your spend that is being allocated to a longer term big bets is key.

Alistair: [00:41:41] Yeah. Ingrid, totally. And not to put you under the spotlight. I think it's really good you shared that. I think there'll be some people listening to this who will be like, "It's all right for you. It's alright for you that you have an allocation, a line in your budget. But, what about me and innovation or experimentation budget? Don't have to provide a return on that?" I can tell you for free. And we've never spoken about this kind of off-line, but I can tell you for free that if you're not able to show your business tangible gains in this fiscal year, they won't fund you next year. They'll be the first thing that gets cut. And so you're acutely aware that you have to drive for time and you have to provide value and actually, knowing you like I do, you're a highly convincing individual. Actually, you were just smart enough to put your bosses in a room and tell them that you're going to provide a return on some of the stuff. They just have to trust you. By the way, to people listen to this, everybody can do it. You can 100 percent. Walk into your boss's office today and go and say, "I've got this great idea for an experimentation budget. I'll pay you back next year."

Ingrid: [00:42:37] Yeah.

Brian: [00:42:37] I love this. We talked about this a ton on the show, but Gary V has talked about this idea of unselfish content. But what about unselfish experimentation?

Alistair: [00:42:49] Right.

Brian: [00:42:51] Getting out there and understanding that, you know, some things don't have a direct line back to your PNL. It doesn't always have to have a direct line back to your PNL. As long as you're seeing a success as a business, there is reason to get out there and do a little bit of unselfish experimentation, even if it doesn't directly benefit you in ways that you can see on paper with a line and attribution all the way back.

Ingrid: [00:43:17] Or at least immediately, right?

Brian: [00:43:19] Yes.

Ingrid: [00:43:21] Eventually, you know, we're all capitalists here in this room.

Brian: [00:43:23] Sure.

Ingrid: [00:43:23] And we do care about the bottom line. But just some of the things that you do are short term, just lay ups. And then some of the things that you do is you have to build a foundation and you have to eventually, you know, you set up guardrails around how quickly or how long it will take to actually turn that E into a P. But ultimately, you have to set forth that strategy and then optimize.

Brian: [00:43:48] Well, I think you have to understand that not all of your Es are going to end up as Ps, because when you experiment, that comes with a definition of experimentation. You have to try some things that are not going to work because you need to know what does work and what doesn't work.

Ingrid: [00:44:08]  [00:44:08]Let's bring up Amazon one more time because I feel like we haven't enough in this episode. But, you know, let's talk about how many experiments they launch in a month. Not even a year, like, you know, thousands. And then how many of them actually pay off? It's like it's part of their culture to experiment. And that's how they've been able to keep leading. They fail so quickly and so fast. And they are aware of their failures and then they move on. [00:44:37]

Alistair: [00:44:37] Yeah.

Brian: [00:44:37] Exactly.

Alistair: [00:44:38] Hundred percent. Hundred percent.

Brian: [00:44:40] So Alistair, as we're coming up to the close of this. I would love for you to give our listeners... Well, actually, two things. First of all, what's just been on your mind lately about the industry? What's a cool thought that you've been just, you know, meditating on, ruminating on, thinking about and can't get out of your head? And then second, where do you think things are headed in the next five years? What should brands be investing in?

Alistair: [00:45:07] Oh, okay. Right. Wicked questions. And I'm going to link the two together, which is what's on my mind right now... And it might sound like I'm going to start with doom and gloom. And I'm not that kind of guy. [00:45:18] What's on my mind right now is, are we heading into a recession? I don't know that's boring talk, and we read it in The Wall Street Journal every day with this kind of stuff. I'm like, watch Q1, Q2 next year, 2020... Interesting times. And the reason why actually I get pumped for a recession, my dad used to tell me recessions are good. I'd ask him about his business. I'd be a kid, he'd be driving me to school. "Recessions are good." I'd say, "Why, Dad? That's like a crazy thing to say." "Yeah it kills off the weaklings," he used to say. Right now for real there's way too much funding sloshing around. There are way too many brands and businesses that actually don't even live up to their own core values. And they're diluting the whole thing for everybody, actually, they're confusing consumers, and it's not good for anybody. [00:45:57]

Ingrid: [00:45:57] I'm going to nerd out real quick on this topic.

Alistair: [00:45:58] Go. Go. Yeah.

Ingrid: [00:45:59]  [00:45:59]So, you know, I have an economics degree, and we don't call them recessions. We call them a corrections. [00:46:04]

Alistair: [00:46:04] Right.

Ingrid: [00:46:05]  [00:46:05]And so that's so specific to what you're saying is that it's ultimately a correction of the economy. [00:46:11]

Alistair: [00:46:12] I'm always impressed and always intimidated by Ingrid in equal measures. I had no idea you had that degree. But of course she does.

Brian: [00:46:19] Yes. Yes. That's true.

Alistair: [00:46:19] Yeah. And so I sound like such an uninformed jerk being like, it's a recession. No it's not. It's a correction. It's exactly that, Ingrid, and actually, here's the thing... This is why actually where my focus comes, a lot of my energy on what we are preparing for as a team at Hero and what we're looking at for next year and beyond is this... [00:46:36] It's all cyclical, right? So whether you like it or not you're going to have good years and bad years. The whole thing, is what you're gonna do in them. And so we know that will be crunchy next year. It will be crunchy in retail. It will be crunchy in tech. It means it can be challenging for us. But I'm going to double down on the bets that we have been making already in terms of actually I've seen the market start to move. [00:46:56] Three years ago when we first launched Hero and brought on our first brands, people were like, "Oh, is this a thing? We'll try it. It sounds interesting." Some people were like, "We'll wait and watch." Some people would say, "Okay. We'll take it on board." And actually, we're getting to a point now where you have to do something new because we're running into more challenging times. [00:47:11] What are you gonna do that's gonna differentiate you as a retailer or as a brand, as an experience? And so actually, I feel like it's a good thing, not a bad thing. And in terms of the bets that we're making, Brian, you touched on it in terms of local. [00:47:21] Yes, we're really good for driving online sales. Yes, it's great for e-com conversion when you connect top knowledgeable associates and customers online. [00:47:28] But most of the point when you take that, you start to stretch out the initiative. And we've got all of this hyper local traffic on our partners web sites that are also near to our partner brand stores. We're now sending web site traffic into actual footfall into the stores all around the country. And by the way, in times when it's a little hard, yes, you want the web sale, but you definitely want the customer come into the store. Higher order values, higher conversion rates, better relationships. [00:47:54]

Ingrid: [00:47:53] Those are your most valuable customers.

Alistair: [00:47:55] Right. Right. And so my whole thing is, how can we do that? I actually want to invest in companies and even make acquisitions that help us, A) drive footfall from web sites into store. And then B) help us track and attribute all the good commercial stuff that happens when you take a digital customer and turn them into a physical visitor. So I'm pumped for it. [00:48:14] I think that there was never such a good time for product innovation, actually on the tech side and on the retail side. And you probably heard my voice a little earlier. My big thing and I guess my shout out, my encouragement, is for as many brands as possible and as many people within the brands making these budget decisions, planning decisions, just to set aside a small amount, take some risks, try something new, because it's going to be the only way that we get into a better place, a better shape for the whole market. [00:48:41]

Brian: [00:48:42] I love it. Love it. That's a great way to wrap it up. Thank you so much, Alistair, for coming on the show and for introducing this conversation into our content and to our listeners. We want you to lend your voice to this conversation, as well. So come leave a comment on our site. FutureCommerce.fm or shoot us an email. That would be Brian@FutureCommerce.fm. Hello@FutureCommerce.fm. Phillip@FutureCommerce.fm. Anywhere you can find us. Leave us a comment. LinkedIn. Instagram. Facebook. Wherever you want to go, wherever you hang out. Because we want to hear what you have to say about the local movement that we're seeing ahead and maybe even your thoughts on the recession ahead. But thank you for listening and we'll see you next week.

Phillip: [00:49:39] All right, thank you so much to Alistair Crane from Hero. And to our recurring guest, Ingrid Milman Cordy, who is always a pleasure to have on the show. And if you've stuck around here to the end of the show, there's probably a reason why. Brian and I are pleased to introduce to you for the first time. And I don't know why it's taking us so many years... Zia Wigder from Shoptalk, who is here to talk about some news that I think you might have heard of. Welcome to the show, Zia.

Zia: [00:50:06] Thanks so much. Excited to be here.

Phillip: [00:50:08] I got a bunch of e-mails and tweets yesterday about something like sort of monumental that you guys announced. Maybe you could lay it on us and tell us what you're planning at Shoptalk 2020.

Zia: [00:50:19] Sure. Absolutely. So yeah. [00:50:22] So yesterday we announced that for 2020 we are going to 100% female speakers. So in the past, we had just over a third of our speakers who are typically women at Shoptalk. But we decided that in 2020 we were going to have every single person on stage, so every track speaker, every keynote, every moderator, every interviewer, be a woman. And we decided that we didn't just want to go to 50/50. We wanted to go fully to 100% just to take a stand and to say that there needs to be change in this industry. It's happening too slowly and now is the time to really start taking action in this area. [00:50:58]

Brian: [00:51:00] Wow, this is an amazing and bold and honestly for a show at the scale of Shoptalk, I feel like this is one of the boldest, biggest statements I've seen in all of business.

Phillip: [00:51:14] Yeah.

Brian: [00:51:15] I mean, that's a pretty wild statement of my own there. It's a pretty bold statement.

Zia: [00:51:20] Wow. {laughter}

Brian: [00:51:20] But honestly, for an industry. Shoptalk is effectively the leading industry conference for retail. Right? And...

Zia: [00:51:29] Thank you.

Brian: [00:51:31] And to have a conference that's, you know, the leading industry conference, make a statement like this... It's such a big scale.

Phillip: [00:51:41] It has to be polarizing, right? I guess that's what I kind of want to dig into. I'm trying to be objective about this. I'm a fan, just off on the record, I guess. I'm a fan. I like the idea.

Zia: [00:51:54] Yup.

Phillip: [00:51:54] But I know that there might be people out there who think otherwise. I'm curious what some of the questions or what some of the criticisms that you might have heard in the past 24 hours might be and sort of how you thought about going about making this decision. I'm sure that you went in with a clear head that, you know, you're going to face a little bit of opposition.

Zia: [00:52:12] Yeah, absolutely. [00:52:13] We knew it would be controversial, although I think what we've been blown away by is just how positive the response has been. I think we expected that there would be almost more negative feedback than there has been. It's been pretty isolated and it's been kind of, you know, the ways you might anticipate. So you get the occasional "oh, well, it doesn't matter to me if I hear from a man or woman. I just want to hear the best speaker." And you say, well, of course. So do we. And you're going to hear from the absolute best speakers. It may be a different angle from one you've heard before. It may be a different person on stage than you've heard before, but you're going to get no fewer insights. You're not going to be hearing from people who are not incredibly senior. So we're going to provide you with that incredible perspective on all the ways that retail is changing. [00:52:56] And then, as I mentioned before, you know, you'll get the comments around. Well, I would believe in 50/50, but I don't believe in 100 percent. And [00:53:04] the point is that you do you need to take this sort of a step in order to drive change. Incremental steps just aren't going to do it. You need something that's really transformational. [00:53:14] And we realized we were in a position to be able to do that and we were in kind of a unique position. And [00:53:19] so we wanted to take a stand to say, you know, it is possible to create an absolutely phenomenal retail experience with entirely female speakers. You don't have to go 50/50 in order to keep the quality incredibly high. [00:53:33]

Phillip: [00:53:33] There's a sort of logistical question I think has been answered in the media, and I've seen some tweets around it. I'm sure some might be plugged into the zeitgeist like Brian and I might be. But did you have male speakers planned already or announced and how are you making accommodations to adjust that?

Zia: [00:53:53] Sure. So the answer is yes. We actually had over 60 men confirmed for Shoptalk, and we reached out to them before we made the news public saying, hey, we would love to feature your company. We've made the decision that for 2020 alone, we are going to have exclusively female speakers on stage. So we would like you to nominate the most senior woman in your place to address the audience at Shoptalk. Now, in many cases, the person would address the same topic. If it were a peer in the same group with the organization, for example, if they don't have someone who's a direct peer covering that same topic, we've said we can, you know, help slot her into another topic on the agenda. You know, we very much want to commit to your brand being present. And for that perspective to be heard, and we would love to feature you in 2021, but for this year, we really want to promote the senior women at your company.

Brian: [00:54:49] Yeah, actually, you just answered my next question, which was is this just for 2020? Sounds like 2021 you're going to see going back to and including men on stage.

Zia: [00:55:02] We'll be at parity. We'll do 50/50 in 2021.

Brian: [00:55:05] 50/50

Zia: [00:55:05] Yep.

Brian: [00:55:06] Phenomenal.

Phillip: [00:55:06] I'm going to make the assumption that this is going to be wildly successful based only on the fact that it resonates with a lot of the sort of social conscious dynamic that is in our industry right now. I think a lot of peoples already see this as a problem and somebody has to try to come solve it. What is your take on...? It sounds to me like you stand to be the number one creator of new female speaker voices in 2020 in the retail channel. I think that that's a huge responsibility for you to create and develop new voices that have ostensibly probably never been heard before. How do you logistically take that on? I know you're a large organization. You're not doing small things, but that has to be a huge undertaking to make sure it's qualified and coached. Tell me a little bit about that. Because I think that's an interesting challenge.

Zia: [00:56:02] Absolutely. And we actually are not a particularly large organization. We are small and lean, but we have absolutely amazing people here who help make it all come together. [00:56:13] But I think in terms of identifying that speaker lineup of over 200 women who will be addressing the audience, you know, a lot of people are like, well, aren't you worried about finding these people? And to be honest, we're not. We think there are so many women out there. And in fact, our inboxes have been flooded over the past day with speaker applications and people reaching out with ideas for sessions and speakers they want to pitch to us. I don't think that will be the issue. The issue will be the same as it is every year, which is identifying the right speakers for the right topics. [00:56:43] And we've already been coming up with a list of women doing really amazing things in the retail industry that we want to reach out to for all the organizations where we had men speaking before. We went through and looked at who some of the women might be who could be potential replacements, so that if anyone came back to us and said, well, I just don't know who to nominate we could get suggestions of people that could be particularly relevant for this event. So, you know, it's a lot of just working through a lot of lists, a lot of, as I said, identifying candidates who might not be on the regular speaker circuit. [00:57:19] And I think that's the beauty of this, too, is the fact that you are going to be hearing these different voices. And, you know, a lot of times we'll hear from people both male and female, certainly female, that they might not cherish being in the spotlight. They may not love public speaking. They'd rather be behind the scenes. But one of things we want to do is to have some of these people who are doing such incredible things behind the scenes also take more of a public role and talk about some of the things that they're doing, because we think that there are so many stories that haven't been presented to people that really would add a lot of value. [00:57:52]

Phillip: [00:57:52] I was trying to find the joke about the relief that I felt of not having to hear Scott Galloway speak at an event again, but I couldn't find the joke. So it won't be made here. {laughter}

Brian: [00:58:05] But you know what I am really excited about? It's so funny. Just a week and a half before before this announcement was made, I was talking with Ingrid Cordy, who was just on the show before we started talking to you, Zia. And she's one of our regularly featured content creators on Future Commerce. And she was talking about submitting to Shoptalk. And I'm just like, wow, this is so great because now, I mean she's a phenomenal speaker. She's had some speaking experience in the past already and obviously doing a lot here on Future Commerce. But I'm just thinking ahead and there're so many other women out there like Ingrid who have so much insight and so much to bring through to people that I think that going 100% will allow those women to really step up and step forward and be in the spotlight.

Phillip: [00:59:04] It's something I've heard, too, from our own audience, that our audience actually grows and becomes more complete when we have a female voice and more diversity of thought and opinion and expanded life experience. And I think, you know, we sort of played out the two white dudes on a podcast trope as long as we possibly could. I, for one, am happy to see it happen. I think it's pretty exciting. And I'd love to hear... I'd love to get you back at some point to hear about how wild of a success it was. We do wish you all the best, and we thank you so much for coming and sharing about it on the show. Where can people go sign up and, you know, submit to speak and possibly sign up to attend the event?

Zia: [00:59:43] It's all on Shoptalk.com. So we've got a speaker application. We have different types of roles or speakers. We have a track called the Emerging Tech Spotlight that will be largely startup tech companies. We have the standard track speaking roles. We have new classroom sessions where we'll have people teaching 20 minute classes on very tactical topics. So there are different ways that they can contribute onstage. And we would love to have, you know, all these great women out there represented in all of these different areas. So go there. You can also get tickets. You can sign up for our hosted programming for your brand or retailer where you get a free ticket and $750 in travel. And of course, all of the attendee programs are open to men and women. It's only the speakers that will be all female.

Phillip: [01:00:29] Well, that's brilliant. Well, thank you so much, Zia, and I thank you for listening to Future Commerce and you know what to do. You're here in the music under me talking right now. That means I got to get off the air. But go leave us a 5 Star anywhere podcasts are found and all that jazz. Thank you for listening and thanks, Zia.

Brian: [01:00:47] Thank you, Zia.

Zia: [01:00:47] Thank you. Bye bye.

Phillip: [01:00:48] Thanks.

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