Episode 288
February 10, 2023

"Shopify's Bait and Switch"

Ian Leslie returns to Industry West as the new Chief Marketing Officer after an eighteen-month sabbatical. During this time, he gained experience in the SaaS world, working with Bolt and #Paid. Previously, Ian had raised concerns about Shopify in favor of Magento, but in his absence, Industry West has made the switch…Do his concerns still stand? Can Shopify really do it all, or is its “one-stop shop” reputation embellished? Are we seeing a return to print due to inbox anxiety? Should the 5 day work week still be the norm? If you’re curious to know more including one of Ian’s biggest regrets, press play now!

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Ian Leslie returns to Industry West as the new Chief Marketing Officer after an eighteen-month sabbatical. During this time, he gained experience in the SaaS world, working with Bolt and #Paid. Previously, Ian had raised concerns about Shopify in favor of Magento, but in his absence, Industry West has made the switch…Do his concerns still stand? Can Shopify really do it all, or is its “one-stop shop” reputation embellished? Are we seeing a return to print due to inbox anxiety? Should the 5 day work week still be the norm? If you’re curious to know more including one of Ian’s biggest regrets, press play now!

Bite-Sized Moments of Brilliance

  • “We're in a post-platform world, and there are a number of platforms out there that will provide you with the underpinning you need. And it's kind of up to you to captain that ship now. It's up to you to make good decisions and leverage that platform the way that you best can leverage it.” -Brian
  • “Your email inbox is a place of anxiety and a place where you don't want to live and everybody has to do it for work. You don't want to do it for yourself personally, and open rates are going down.” -Phillip
  • Future Commerce has leaned into building print and giving the people physical, tangible objects to hold. If you’re intrigued, get your hands on your copy of the Archetypes Journal and see what all the hype is about
  • “Shopify is simply the platform and you still have to do the marketing. And I think Shopify sold a great bill of goods in that regard.” -Ian
  • “Do your work and I don't care when you're here. Be responsible.” -Ian
  • “Ultimately I want to create content that people want to digest regardless if they're looking for a kitchen counter stool or not.” -Ian

Associated Links:

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!

Phillip: [00:00:35] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the next generation of commerce. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:00:40] And I'm Brian. And today we have a very special returning guest, a repeat guest, and new CMO of Industry West. Ian Leslie. Welcome, Ian.

Ian: [00:00:52] Hey guys. Thanks. So good to catch up.

Phillip: [00:00:54] Yeah. The triumphal return. This is it.

Ian: [00:00:59] Yeah. New job/Old job.

Phillip: [00:01:02] Yeah. Long time/First time. Ian, you've returned to Industry West after what you're calling an eighteen-month sabbatical. Or at least that's how you've popularized it on the Internet. Tell us a little bit about your return and sort of give us a brief overview for those who aren't familiar with what you've been doing for the last couple of years.

Ian: [00:01:24] Yeah, Yeah. So, I mean, first and foremost, Industry West is an online furniture company based out of Florida with a showroom in Soho, 14 Crosby Street. Come say hi. And I've known the company really since its inception. Its founders, Jordan and Anne, and I have been friends for more than a decade. I have some amazing stories about them and just how our friendships grown. Joined the company the first time around 2015 as a marketing consultant and then ultimately became the full-time CMO. I was there for about six years and now have, as you guys are saying or as I'm saying on the Twitters and LinkedIns, an eighteen-month sabbatical or so and spent that time actually moving over to the SaaS side, which was interesting. So I spent some time at Bolt, and I spent some time at #paid, two very different Saas platforms, but I learned a lot at each. And then Jordan and I have, I mean, we've been in conversation ever since I left. We've been texting a lot. And as I've been telling people close to me and now all of the podcast world, probably about four months ago, Jordan and I started to kind of flirt over text and it became like one of those Brene Brown's, like the story you're telling yourself kind of things where it's like, "I wonder if he wants me back." And then Jordan it's like, "I wonder if he wants to come back." And then we just had a good long conversation right around Christmas, that Christmas break time. I say Christmas break for my kids and it happened really fast from there. It just felt right. And I was like, yeah. And it's been a really interesting social experiment because there were a few people I was a little nervous to tell because I was wondering how it would be received. And those people were like, "Oh, yeah, of course. That was the happiest you've ever been." And I was like, "Oh, well, thanks. Thanks for telling me that now."

Phillip: [00:03:23] {laughter} Yeah. Ian, your happiness is important too, it turns out.

Brian: [00:03:26] {laughter} That's awesome.

Ian: [00:03:27] Yeah. \Yeah, it's been good.

Phillip: [00:03:29] When you left Industry West sort of famously had a foothold in the Magento ecosystem, and won a bunch of awards. You piloted it to not modest growth online and sort of having a different perspective in the ecosystem. Last time we had you on you had a lot to say about sort of the DTC venture-backed sexy brand aesthetic. And then you left. And in that intervening 18 months, a lot happened Industry West. A rebrand. A shift to Shopify. And sort of following along some of the maybe taking a line that was counter-narrative to what you had been talking about the last time you were on the show. I'd love to hear your thoughts and your sort of distillation of that move and whether part of that might have fueled your return to come in and bring a new perspective or a renewed perspective.

Ian: [00:04:35] Yeah. Yeah. That's a great question and a big, big matzo ball to unpack. I mean, I think... I think a lot of what I said still holds true. And I think Jordan, our co-founder CEO, would cosign in that. I don't think anything's like, we're now on Shopify and that's fine. No reason to look backward, only forward. And I find myself a lot very much in the place I was in in 2015 when I came in and we were on Magento is just we were just on a very, I guess [00:05:10] generally an immature tech stack even on Shopify and I think a bit of the bait and switch maybe with Shopify is that idea of Shopify underpants, dot, dot, dot profit, right. For like a South Park reference. And I think what more vendors are learning and what Industry West is learning to an extent is that it's not that. Shopify out of the box search, not amazing. Shopify out of the box you know merchandising, not amazing. So you still need your partners and a lot of them may be the same partners that you use on Magento, whether it be a Nosto or a Klevu or whomever. So I don't think Shopify is incapable of doing what I want to achieve. I just think it's going to take time and effort and work and we'll get there. I mean, I don't think Shopify is necessarily... I was a Magento fanboy and maybe some of that was because like it was almost counterculture at the time. It was like, "Hey, I'm going to hold my stake in the ground for Magento." And I think it had its value for the complexity of the site we were running. But I don't think Shopify is bad by any means. My only issue is Shopify has always been 1% of the merchants Shopify are bringing in 90% of Shopify revenue. And so it's this bait and switch [00:06:34] and I have a really good story because I have a second is that my son, I have a 14 year old who kind of got the entrepreneurial bug and is trying to spin up a dropshipping site and it's like kind of connecting with some vendors in China and whatever. And so he built a Shopify site and then he's like, I'm like, "All right, now how are we going to market it?" And he's like, "Shopify." And I'm like, "No." I'm like, "No, Shopify is the platform." I was like, "How are you going to market?" He's like, "Well, what do you mean? People go to Shopify and search for soccer jerseys?" And I'm like, "No, no." So it's like this really interesting... And he's super smart, but people... I mean, even your Etsy vendors don't understand no, Shopify is an Amazon. Shopify is simply the platform and you still have to do the marketing. And I think Shopify sold a great bill of goods in that regard. But all that to say, Shopify is not the enemy by any means and I'm looking forward to being a great partner, and probably not for nothing. One of the biggest feathers in Shopify's furniture vertical, I think, ultimately. So, yeah, it'll be good.

Brian: [00:07:40] The takeaway that I have right now is that [00:07:43] we're in a post-platform world, and there are a number of platforms out there that will provide you with the underpinning you need. And it's kind of up to you to captain that ship now. It's up to you to make good decisions and leverage that platform the way that you best can leverage it. [00:08:05] Is that fair?

Ian: [00:08:07] I think so. I think so. And guys, we've had this conversation. I think it was just Phil and me that one time, but it's like CMO as CTO, right? And I think a lot of people think like, "Oh if I have Shopify, I only need the CMO. I don't need to see you." Well, you very much need the CMO if you're doing more than, honestly, if you're doing more than 5 million top line, you need someone who's piloting that tech stack and piloting that ship, to your point, Brian. So I mean, can Shopify do that? Of course it can. And probably frankly easier. I mean, we're looking at like Amazon integrations, looking at eBay integrations, looking at like all these feed integrations, and yeah, it's way easier to add. I'm not telling you anything anyone doesn't know. But adding apps and integrations to Shopify is ridiculously easier than it is with Magento. So I mean, so yeah, it's great and it's going to be great. But like I said, I think it's like this whole when you get to a certain top line number, it's deceiving that like, oh, it's going to be 2000 a month and you're not going to have to like, it's all out of the box. And it's like, no, [00:09:08] all the great sites you have on Shopify, none of that is out of the box. [00:09:12]

Phillip: [00:09:12] That's right.

Ian: [00:09:13] I like Mack Weldon a lot. Allbirds. Great Shopify sites.

Phillip: [00:09:19] Gymshark. Yeah, they're all incredibly custom experiences and you invest as such and accordingly. I'd come back to I always look at people's behavior as sort of a telltale sign of the things that they're trying to solve for. And I remember once upon a time, you had some really choice words to say about CMO/CTO and sort of having to pilot and navigate all these complexities around being a multichannel business. But your day one social media activity was I need to hire writers now. Whereas I don't think that would have been the narrative a couple of years ago. How are you thinking about the CMO role now with some of these tech decisions having been made in your absence and what your new charter is coming in here in the early days of your triumphal return?

Ian: [00:10:14] I think I've grown. I've taken a lot of time over the past 18 months and have been able to self-evaluate and have a lot of introspective thought. And I think there are a few things there. I think I was too beholden to paid in media in the past, and I need to diversify as a marketer. I also think I was too kind of the new shiny kind of tech I was, I was too ready to pile it. I think everyone knew I was always like, really happy to pilot something and give it a go and if it fail it failed. And maybe I needed to maybe not always be first to market with some of those things. And [00:10:53] I also think a lot's changed in terms of cost per acquisition and obviously iOS. I mean, I think the cookie apocalypse right now is a little overblown and even some of the iOS changes may be a little overblown. But I think, driving the top of the funnel through paid is more expensive and harder than it's ever been. Any way you slice it. So I do think as a marketer, I have to just diversify my tactics. And I think some of that has been things I've learned along the way. [00:11:24] So I think my previous of my two stops in my 18 months, just my most recent, was at Bank Notes, which was kind of a media arm of #paid. And a lot of that was just create content that is interesting to the vertical and create that people want to digest and then hopefully make that ancillary connection between the bank notes content and the ultimate brand of #paid. So I mean, that's what I'm starting to look to do. I mean, not to give too much away, but with Industry West, I'd like to do something very similar and tell agnostic stories about interior design and about furniture and create community around those segments and then ultimately engage them via email list or engage them via retargeting or whatever it may be and just find different ways. I also think in 2023 now people want to see each other again. So I mean, I think obviously you guys at Future Commerce understand that having just done a pop-up at Industry West showroom. I think being a little bit more of an event-based marketer is important. So yeah, I mean, I think it's not tech stack, it's nothing about Shopify or anything different in that regard. I just think paid is still very going to be very important and I'm still going to lean on a lot of paid partners and I've started actually rekindling some of those relationships. But I think I just need to be a more diverse marketer and I think that's something I took for granted as I was just trying to drive web. Web traffic, web traffic, sales, sales, sales, and optimizing for all that. And I think I just need to diversify my toolkit.

Phillip: [00:13:05] Brand. It's investing in brand. Is that a mischaracterization? How would you characterize that?

Ian: [00:13:14] I think it's finding low, the cheapest, most efficient ways to invest in brand. I think still being a company with fully bootstrapped, limited runway, which we've always been transparent about, I can't afford to do too much, allocate too much budget to something that may not bring sales for 6 to 12 months. Everything has to return 8 to $10 within 6 to 12 weeks. So that being said, being able to engage with writers who are interested and already have a stake in the vertical, will evangelize the content on their own. We could evangelize the content on our channels or whatever, and then all of a sudden you're building up this brand community for the cost of a blog post is obviously a more efficient way as opposed to like we're not obviously talking about large-scale brand digital brand campaigns where I don't care if people pay or check out rather. But yes, I mean, yeah, I guess the crux of it and I haven't really given it that thought because I still ultimately I'm a growth marketer and ultimately I think I'm thinking always toward the acquisition, something like, "Okay, if I create this brand content, then they're going to read it and then I could like bait and switch and hit them with a retargeting ad." And so I'm always, but to your point, yeah, totally investing in brand.

Brian: [00:16:13] There are a few things that I'm kind of tying together in my mind now about the strategy, which is you said agnostic content brand community, and in not so many words, arbitrage. Cheap opportunities to capture new customers. And I can only imagine part of that's going to be finding new ways of doing it. Obviously, what you just mentioned, the pop-up we did with you, that was a pretty, pretty fun way to do it. Easy collaboration. Are you going to be looking at finding other collaboration strategies or you're coming now from a publication banknotes print? Are we talking about print? Are we talking about content properties? Give us the details.

Phillip: [00:17:07] I think the collaboration strategy was key to a brand launch before. Maybe you've learned something and you can sort of balance that having come through the influence creator economy.

Ian: [00:17:17] Yeah, so I mean, I think, to distill that, definitely activating SOHO. Getting back to activating SOHO in the showroom and creating energy around there and bringing in partners in that regard. I've already started talking to a couple of publications about that and what we could be doing, particularly to serve the interior design community and a little bit more there. I don't want to go into too much detail, but that's one way. I think yeah,  actually just as I was leaving, I think in the few months before I was leaving, we were talking about starting our direct mail, doing the first direct mail piece. And we have since over these 18 months and it's performed very well from my understanding. It's my first week back, so I haven't really sat in on a call yet, but it's performed very well. We're looking to do print catalogs quarterly and direct mail quarterly. And we've also upped our exposure at trade shows, which we never have done before. So we'll be at ICFF. We'll be at the HD Expo. So, I mean, definitely more and again, this is me like in the past, just being so digitally focused and talking to the Condé Nasts’ of the world and talking to the Hearsts’ of the world and being like, "No, I'm not doing print, I'm not doing print, just show me digital." And I think maybe not seeing the forest for the trees to an extent, I think having to diversify. So yeah, in-person events, trade shows, catalog being printed, other properties. I don't know. I don't know if we've been that right now. I think like at the end of the day... I don't remember how many years ago we added a lot of accessories and our co-founder, Anne, connected with these amazing makers and creators to do like everything from aprons to candles to jewelry. And we were selling those on IndustryWest.com. And we saw they were selling so well that all the algorithms were optimizing for those low AOV items. So, we were like, "Hey, why don't we spin this off to its other site and just do that?" So we created Favor, and it's an amazing experience. It honestly probably tells the brand story better than Industry West does. And it's a great experience. But at the end of the day, it's another bootstrapped experience that's kind of being subsidized by Industry West. So it doesn't get all of our priority and all of our attention, but it's a great place to test and to pilot things with different creators and launch different kinds of products that might just be a little bit off the wall or just not typical for Industry West. So it's still hanging on there and still hanging out there. It's a great project and one we love to do and it was a ton of fun and selling it... We did masks. We did a lot of mask projects. First, we found some great mass makers in Europe just as 2020 was happening or COVID was happening. And then we actually worked with a vendor, a nonprofit vendor in Buffalo, to make masks. And she was using women who were just like kind of taking on their first vocation and being taught how to sew. They were making the masks, we were selling them and we donated money back to a Boston hospital to help with COVID. So these were all amazing projects that didn't necessarily make sense for Industry West, and I think there's so much opportunity, there's so much opportunity out there.

Phillip: [00:20:58] This return to print is something that feels, it's been a long, slow build for the sexy DTC digitally acquiring brands, especially the venture-backed set to come around to. Circa 2016, I had done a partnership with MailChimp and a speaker series, and I was invited to help them as they were kind of spinning up a partner program for the first time, and I was invited to come and meet with Ben Chestnut and speak to a bunch of their the folks that were building over there, John Beeler and some others who were on the show many, many years ago talking about how MailChimp business was going to grow. And of course, that turned into a great capital outcome for them. Another bootstrapped business. [00:21:46] They were talking in 2016 about how direct mail was going to change the game for a lot of small businesses and how the inbox, your inbox, and your email inbox is a place of anxiety and a place where you don't want to live and everybody has to do it for work. You don't want to do it for yourself personally, and open rates are going down. So what were other owned channels that MailChimp could potentially own? And they sort of forecast for the small group of people and that, hey, a return to print and physical media, especially those that arrive in your mailbox, the physical one outside your front door is a place where every single piece that comes in gets considered and looked at and held and briefly takes a little bit of your attention. Wouldn't that be a great place to build? And it's taken six, seven years, but it seems that a lot of people have found that that's a new way to engage. And as Future Commerce has been a digital property for that same period of time since 2016, we've found a way to differentiate ourselves in doing this hard work of building print and making physical, tangible objects that people can hold. [00:23:02] So I find it sort of reassuring that you are finding similar avenues and trying to create those spaces as well as a brand. You just went through this, too, at #paid. So you ran a digital media property. Let's talk a little bit about that journey for you over the last couple of years and maybe this playbook you've built, Ian, and what would you say you brought to your role at Bolt and #paid that the perspective of a marketer and the brand side perspective that was useful in that role. And then maybe we can touch a little later on what you learned while you were there that you're bringing back to Industry West.

Ian: [00:23:48] Yeah, man. I think for both it was, for a business our size, it was like, what is the consideration kind of path for the CMO? I was often asked a lot about, like let's go to Bolt, for instance. It was like, okay, well, if I'm a website of this level, what's the staff look like? And who actually does the implementation and do they have a systems integration team or are they doing it all in-house or whatever? So there was a lot within the SaaS space that maybe doesn't have a clear understanding of at what segment or what revenue band, who's actually doing the work. And so I was able to bring that perspective and just like what made sense, what is a [00:24:40] CMO/Marketing Lead at our company or size want to look at in terms of the data, like what's just extra data, which is fluff, what's useful, what's not? So that was more on the Bolt side. It was much more of the tech implementation and would we want to use this and does this make sense kind of perspective. At #paid it was more of the budgeting side. It was more if Industry West wanted to use this service, what portion of the marketing budget would it come out of? Would it supplant Google spends, Facebook spend, etc, and then how does it... What returns need to be seen immediately within six months, 12 months, etc? So it was much more in terms of the consideration, it was more of like a budget question. In terms of like where I was leaned  [00:25:35]on actually paid as a brand. Banknotes is a whole other animal in terms of me leading the media properties. So does that answer the question?

Phillip: [00:25:47] Yeah, I think it's also thinking through they saw a value in bringing in someone who has brand side perspective into these two SaaS companies. Bolt, in particular, had right after you joined gone through a period of intense public scrutiny due to a lot of things including the founder's Twitter threads. Did you ever do drugs with Ryan Breslow?

Ian: [00:26:14] I mean if I can't remember does that mean no? I've never met Ryan in person. Never met Ryan in person. Only over Zoom. So no, no, never. No Ayahuasca or anything like that.

Brian: [00:26:28] I mean, you can do drugs over Zoom.

Phillip: [00:26:30] I think famously he's also he's sort of straight edge..

Ian: [00:26:34] Yeah, completely straight edge. Yeah. Yeah. All good. Hey, man, he lives closer to you than me anyway, down in the Glades. Well, what am I saying about Ryan? Yeah, I mean, he's the Ryan king on Twitter. That tells you enough, but it was an experience. At the end of the day, it wasn't the experience I signed on for. And maybe that's a me thing. I came from a company in this band and I was not ready or prepared or willing to be part of a company that is what it was, what it is.

Phillip: [00:27:16] And dive into that like what it is being under intense public scrutiny or that you're there's a stigma that's associated with the name.

Brian: [00:27:25] Or a culture.

Phillip: [00:27:27] Or a culture. I mean, for day workweek sounds like a great culture. Sign me up.

Ian: [00:27:34] Yeah, sure.  [00:27:38]I've always been a proponent pre four day work pre Industry West back when I was, gosh guys, back when I was an editor of a small town newspaper I was a proponent of do the work when you need to get the work done and then go home. I don't care if that means you have to be here 12 to 6, be here 12 to 6. If it means you have to be here 7 to 12, be here 7 to 12. Do your work and I don't care when you're here. Be responsible. So I don't really care about the four day workweek. I think it's fine. I think it's more like be respectful to your direct reports and let them work when they need to work and leave them alone when you need to leave them alone. I mean, I think the short answer is yes. [00:28:22] It was just yes. I'm not going to go pro or con on the Twitter storm. I'm not going to go pro or con on any of the the criticism. I guess at the end of the day, it just wasn't what I signed up for and my role was advocate. I was hired as an advocate, and I wasn't doing them justice. Customer advocate. I can't do them justice or myself justice or all of the customers justice, if I don't feel in my gut it's what I signed up for. So, I mean, again, not saying yay or nay on any... It's Ryan's business, I mean, the dude has forgotten more, I'm sure, than I'll ever know and obviously is doing something right. Just wasn't what I signed up for. So, I mean, that's really the best way to distill it down.

Brian: [00:29:15] That spurred the move over to Banknotes. What was the experience like moving over to a publication versus... You weren't building the product of #paid...

Ian: [00:29:30] Yeah, right. I mean, I had enough visibility into it where they did lean on me a lot for that or toward middle, toward end. I say toward middle, toward end of my whopping eight months there. But yeah, I mean, they did lean on me for that and they did respect me. And ultimately I think that was a plan was to bring me more brand side as well and help with that. And there was a lot of respect there. Honestly the team at #paid lives their values as a staff more or as much as anyone I've seen. And I think that's saying a lot considering, I think Industry West does the same. They're a great team. Care for each other. It was a great experience there. They're super just prudent in their budgeting and spending and just I think it's just a breath of fresh air. And I think they're a great team and I think it's an interesting space and I wish them the best. And I think obviously you think you know creator, influencer, or micro influencer vertical economies is exploding and I think they have some great ideas there. And I think right now it's just a matter of like we're in a very difficult time to be living in a SaaS world, right? But I think, yeah, they're an amazing team there.

Phillip: [00:30:51] There's been a lot of thought leadership around every company is a media company in 2023. You have to create media and there's always a reasoning behind that. It's, "Oh well, CAC is on the rise, so we need more organic levers. And so one of those ways is to just produce media." I think the question here is what's valuable? If every company is a media company, it's like, "Oh, if everybody is a media company, then nobody is." What are your thoughts there, having run an editorial or reporting arm of a SaaS company and sort of the challenges therein and sort of maybe some of the things that you tried that worked that you feel like others may be able to learn from in your stint there.

Ian: [00:31:41] Yeah, I think we've talked about this before or I've talked about it on some podcast in terms like the whole every company is a media company issue. Is that like, sure, great, but not cheap, right? What are you taking away from to, to build that? There was a fair amount of budget at #paid for Banknotes. We had a full staff, in any given month, that was bringing in content from seven freelance writers. We were doing audio, we were doing audio editing, and we were doing podcast editing. I had just started, toward the end, to bring on some sponsorship to offset that. But I mean, it's not cheap. That's not cheap work. So it's like everyone who's like, "Oh, you just create a media arm." It's like, with what budget? As a bootstrapped company it's difficult. If you're willing to spend some of your raise toward media and have a good roadmap to how that ultimately becomes pipeline, which I think Banknotes does, and #paid does. I mean, I think it was a great vision from Roger and the team there. So I mean what have I learned? What works? I think our best articles were ones that were I mean, honestly, very much like me, were just pretty darn transparent. I think we did a great piece on Brex and a lot of the DTC influencer sponsorship stuff that's going on, and that got a ton of reads. I think we did something on a platform that was dealing with some Facebook API issues and just kind of lost a lot of customer base as a result of that. I mean, we were truly reporting news. We weren't just saying like "Top ten ways to grow your TikTok following," or whatever. Everyone's doing that. That was never... I wanted to make sure, when I moved... I always thought Banknotes was not for nothing. I thought Banknotes was always a great example of that. And so when I got there, I just wanted to extend that more and just be like, "Hey, I don't want to write about like product releases," for #paid specifically. I want to write about like what people are talking about on Twitter and then put some teeth behind it and just give it a lot of transparency. And I think that's what marketers, ultimately the goal... Banknotes was the vertical we were trying to go after. The same way we were trying to go after was marketers who ultimately were going to find out about #paid and then want to utilize it as part of their marketing stack. So I mean, what are marketers interested in? They're interested all these Twitter influencers who are kind of all of a sudden promoting the latest and the greatest and maybe not being transparent about saying they're being paid for it. That's super interesting stuff.

Phillip: [00:34:32] It's immortalizing the public discourse. It's taking it out of the stream of consciousness and putting it into a reporting framework that probably would never get covered by other journals. It's seeing sort of, it doesn't have to do with Amazon or Walmart, so why would we cover it? It's not broadly applicable to most folks, but putting yourself in the middle of that discourse and sort of doing true reporting on it, I always respected that as an angle and a sort of part of a missing piece of what the very online crowd in the eCommerce space cares about.

Brian: [00:35:11] And also really unique for SaaS companies. I can't really think of many other, if any SaaS companies running that playbook, providing that sort of value to the ecosystem. When you think about Industry West now, and we circle this back around does this mean that you're going to try and do the same thing for furniture? Do you see that as value? Are you ready to put that level of investment, as you said, towards this industry?

Ian: [00:35:50] No, definitely not. I think [00:35:54] I will say one of a huge regret of mine is that Jordan and I did have this conversation. I mean, gosh, it must have been nearly seven or eight years ago now where we were like, "Why don't we create a magazine? Why don't we create a lifestyle magazine and website platform or brand and just tangentially connect it to Industry West?" And we didn't. And a lot of that goes back to okay, where does the money kind of come from? Where are we going to get these resources? And I think now that that's something could we have been Morning Brew for interior designers? So I think that's I regret that. So are we going to build this right now from scratch for Industry West? No, I don't think so. I think it's all going to live... I don't right now see it being its own brand. I think it's just all content that will live on Industry West. I think it's just content. Ultimately I want to create content that people want to digest regardless if they're looking for a kitchen counter stool or not. And I'm not going to try and always sell them The Octane stool or the pivot stool or whatever. I think at the end of the day, I mentioned earlier and you said it again, Brian, like agnostic, right? I do want to create brand agnostic content. There are so many home profiles in Architectural Digest or whatever, why can't we do that? Why can't we take a few pictures of a home and have a writer go in and interview them and just create content that is inspiring to our reader, to our customers and just give them some ideas [00:37:28]? And we're not just going to hit them over the head with like a 50% code after that. We're just going to just let it sit there and let them be inspired and hopefully they come back.

Phillip: [00:37:40] There's a missing audience that maybe you could tap into with all this knowledge and now influence that you have in the ecosystem. Potentially doing profiles of the surplus elites that are being laid off from tech companies that have wonderful design sense in their homes. Those are the people that need more coverage, I think. I'm totally kidding, obviously.

Ian: [00:38:06] Yeah. Not for nothing. {laughter} So, yeah, I will say, though, I mean, you mentioned my tweet. I mean, the people coming out of the woodwork saying they do want to write, though. I mean, does talk to you the media layoffs, which has been super interesting.

Phillip: [00:38:24] Why wouldn't you just... Actually let's talk about that. Why wouldn't you just go to ChatGPT, Ian?

Ian: [00:38:33] Cost nows. No, I'm kidding.

Phillip: [00:38:37] {laughter} Yeah, $42 is going to break you. I sell $12,000 sofas. I'm sure you can afford a $42 subscription.

Brian: [00:38:41] {laughter} Arbitrage, Ian.

Ian: [00:38:43] Why not go to Chat GPT? Well, I mean, yeah. Well, there's a couple of reasons. So first of all, I mean, I don't want to dive too deep into my strategy, but i [00:38:56]f we write an article about someone's home and we ask three designers to chime in, all of a sudden you have four people in that article who are now willing to evangelize the article on your brand's behalf. So it becomes a multiplied factor of four there. So ChatGPT is not going to do that. It's is not going to go out and interview people and whatever. So I think ChatGPT definitely has value. I think it's super interesting and I think but yeah, for this this like I mean, I don't know, product marketing, potentially I think there's more there. Technical writing yeah, I think there's opportunity there. But for stuff like this where you have to tell stories, and especially if you have to go out, obviously make a call or talk to someone, it's just simply not going to work. And this again, this isn't like I'm not looking to create content that's Ten Ways to Make Your Living Room Look Like It's 5% Bigger. I want to tell stories and that requires thoughtful people. [00:39:58]

Phillip: [00:39:59] There's something that Brian and I have talked about incessantly, which is other validating signals about the way that the world's changed. And one for me a couple of years ago was I visited Epcot at Disney in here in Florida and the Experimental Project for the Community of Tomorrow, they got rid of all the futurism and they've replaced it with storytelling. It's like the Pixar village now, and stories are our future, and I find that to be a really interesting leading indicator of how we are thinking culturally about what futurism looks like. And futurism in the current context is, well, what's the most profoundly human thing that we can find that it's like that nobody else can do, not even ChatGPT? It's telling stories and authentic human connection and putting it into words and transmitting context between people in a way that is inherently relevant and maybe, I don't know, engaging. The ten best listicles approach has always been the bargain basement way of creating low effort content.

Brian: [00:41:11] That gets high engagement.

Phillip: [00:41:12] Nobody wants to do the hard thing anymore. It's inherently hard to try to tell a story that people care about.

Brian: [00:41:20] That takes creativity and thought. Empathy. Yeah. And in fact, to that end, Ian, you talked about in-person events, building community, telling stories. Now you're primarily kind of based in the Southeast, right? And you've got your showroom in SOHO, which we just did the pop up at, which was amazing. But I happen to know people who are connected to Future Commerce that are on the West Coast that absolutely adore Industry West. As you as you look at where your geographic strength lies, what are some indicators that a market would be good to go after that maybe you're not so strong in? How can you look at geographic expansion with a fresh set of eyes with your new experiences?

Ian: [00:42:22] Yeah. I mean, I think we've always known what our target GOs are, and that's something I've done in the past and I need to dive in now again to see if we're doing it still. But it definitely is like, Hey, these are the zips we should be targeting on digital. And of course these are the zips. I know I haven't like I said, I haven't been in on a print meeting yet, but knowing who they brought in, which is who I was talking to in the first place, I know that's how they do it, right. Obviously, we're targeting. I'm not from but I went to school in upstate New York and I always say like, "Yeah, obviously we should be targeting SOHO and Tribeca and Midtown and not Poughkeepsie. We shouldn't be hitting the... No offense to Poughkeepsie, but obviously we know where our bread is buttered in terms of the high AOV GOs and the high converting GOs. And I think we do a lot of the digital there. In terms of the in-person stuff, it's the thought I have. We need to figure out some sort of road show outside of trade shows. So I mean, it's something that I'm actively thinking about and will be working toward this year for sure. And I'm starting to write that playbook out of what taking an event in SOHO on the road looks like. And again, I think it just goes back to and then of course we would target LA, we would target Austin, we would target I mean, even Atlanta, we'll target maybe Chicago. Those are our bread and butter areas. Seattle. There you go.

Phillip: [00:43:54] It doesn't take much to get a smile out of Brian. You just mentioned Seattle. I didn't hear Palm Beach in there, Ian.

Ian: [00:44:01] Well, well, I mean, we're just up the road in Jacksonville.

Phillip: [00:44:06] Question for you actually, on the physical activation side. We mentioned the Archetypes pop up. What is your Archetype, by the way?

Ian: [00:44:14] I'm a Hero.

Phillip: [00:44:15] You're a hero. Did that resonate with you? Did it ring true at all?

Ian: [00:44:21] Oh, yeah, I think so. I think particularly I can't find the wording right off the top of my head, but there was to the effect of particularly, where the shortcomings and where I can kind of fall off a cliff. And I think maybe that's what burned me out to an extent the first time with Industry West and something I had to kind of learn and self-reflect on is the desire to fix everything. And so I think that was super interesting. So, yeah, I think that's fair. Yeah, I think the Hero was fair.

Phillip: [00:44:55] I think there was a, I know it was your first day back on the job when you when you showed up at the pop up. So some of that happened outside of your direct control. But as we look to activate some of the nearly 300 people, I think that came through and participated in the Archetypes pop up, what are some ways that you can, maybe take some of this consumer insight and learning and try to turn that back into opportunity for Industry West? For instance, one of the ways that we brought the Archetypes journal to life at Industry West was by creating little spaces and curated spaces with collections of furniture and furnishings that would speak to specific Archetypes. So the Magician was this transforming foot stool that is both an ottoman and also a coffee table, depending on how you choose to transform it. The Magician does that. The Magician archetype transforms and manipulates and manifests new things out of the existing world around them. What are some ways that you can sort of use that as a platform for other people that may have maybe connected with Archetypes.

Ian: [00:46:14]  [00:46:14]For fear of being very cliche in this answer is like understanding the goals and desires of each individual segment. And do they need to be wooed? Do they need to have an emotional attachment? If an overwhelming majority, and I don't know what archetype I'd be thinking of right now, but if an overwhelming majority of those who came through feel that they need to have an emotional attachment to the brand, that's not something we're offering. That's obviously important and somewhere where we're not fulfilling that. And that's something good for me to know as CMO as I've never been an emotionally attached consumer. I lamented this period where brands thought if their brand didn't come with like a side of saving the world, that people weren't going to want to shop there. I don't want your brand to kill the world. But I also don't need it to save the world. I'm happy just buying these sneakers. That being said, if 95% of our consumers do want that, then that's important for me to know. So I'm going to think obviously just better understanding the customer and the segment, etc. I have not gone as far as the Hero. And this chair comes with a cape yet, but I haven't gotten there. {laughter} [00:47:22]

Phillip: [00:47:22] A broadsword. There's a katana company that is all over Twitter these days that famously does nine figures of revenue in Swords. Maybe that's a collab for the heroes among us. I find what we did, to toot our own horn a little bit, what we did, I think, isn't done very often where you bring this experience of getting to know a customer from the first foot in the door on a deep and emotional level as opposed to what they're looking for. I think [00:47:56] a lot of this rhetoric around zero and first party data and sort of the cookieless future and this inability to understand the consumer through lookalike segments and retargeting, it's like, "Oh well, the solution to that is just have a conversation with them." And we somehow found with Archetypes a way to create an engaging way to have that conversation and then to deliver on the back side of that a really strong insight to a brand about who this customer really is, not who you think they are, but who they actually are in their interior life as opposed to their expressed need for a stool. [00:48:33] And I am fascinated with the idea of what can you do with this kind of information later on, whether it's something that you use to inform future strategy or whether you actually put it into practice on day 12 as to say, "Okay, well now these people rolled in. It's an Everyman, 25% of everybody that walked into the store is an Everyman, and let's treat them like Everyman. And that means we're going to tell them, we're going to give them basics, we're going to give them affordable basics. But for everybody else, maybe we have a different strategy." And I think that kind of segmentation is just lacking, especially in physical retail. So I'd love, at some point to have you back on to figure out how we could have activated that with you in the future.

Brian: [00:49:11] Yeah.

Ian: [00:49:12] For the record, my ten year old, she's an Explorer. And I thought that was pretty apt.

Brian: [00:49:17] Nice. Did you make all your kids take the quiz?

Phillip: [00:49:20] Yeah, let's dive in on that.

Ian: [00:49:21] Actually, just yesterday at the homework table slash dining room table, I showed her the photos from the event and she's like, "Why did you take this? Why did you take this?" I explained it to her. She's like, "Oh, I want to take it." So which is really fair for an outgoing, precocious... She's a dancer. Constant movement. She's definitely an Explorer.

Phillip: [00:49:41] Collecting is big in your household. I see a lot of your social media activities around trading cards.

Ian: [00:49:47] Yeah, we're big collectors. Yeah, my boys and I.

Brian: [00:49:50] Nice.

Phillip: [00:49:51] I'd love to dig in on that a little bit about the itch that that scratches and maybe how that here as we're kind of coming to a close... What do some of those pursuits outside of work help you to do and does that inform anything for you on how you're connecting with a customer or maybe delivering new experiences as a result?

Ian: [00:50:06] The pursuits outside of work are important. I know families are important to you guys as well. I mean, so I know like trading cards is just a place I've been able to connect with my sons. I mean, one of many places I'm able to connect with my boys. And I think for me, it all started with me getting the box out of the attic with some nostalgia. I think what's interesting is, I think what kind of flipped the switch for me was that as I started to do research on the trading cards I collected as a teen in the early nineties? What I quickly learned is these Michael Jordan cards and this I don't know if anyone's familiar with, but there's this iconic Bo Jackson card where he's wearing the shoulder pads, football shirt pads and then holding a bat over his shoulders as well.

Brian: [00:50:59] Oh, yeah.

Ian: [00:50:59] Iconic score card. And I have it in a hard case. And I remember as like a 13 year old. I was like, "Man, I'm going to be able to sell that for like $20,000 when I'm when I'm 40." What I didn't know was that I was in the junk card era where basically there were just thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands of these cards being manufactured, which just took me to, I guess makes me just very interested in just how that was marketed and the marketing piece now and how it's differed and just the explosion of marketing amongst trading cards and like obviously, as you guys know, Fanatics is like huge in the game now. Fanatics bought out Topps. Fanatics is taken over the licensing for NFL and NBA I believe. Those are going to be huge for them. And so I mean I think it's all even when I was at Bolt and they were wooing fanatics at the time, I was like, "Well, how does this product work for product drops for cards?" Which like if anyone knows, is into cards, like something will go online on a card website like Topps or Panini or whatever it will sell out and literally seconds. I mean, the drop culture is just as big there as it is in sneakers or anywhere else. So I think that's been super interesting. And then for my kids also just like the entrepreneurial side. So my boys are set up on eBay. They go on my eBay, they pull a good card, they put it up on eBay and they're trying to make money off of it. So I think it's just been a super interesting way to like the way my dad taught me DOS when I was 12.

Brian: [00:52:26] Yes.

Ian: [00:52:26] I'm teaching them how to use eBay and I'm teaching them how to market on Instagram and I'm teaching them all these different skills. And I think cards is just like an interesting... And plus, I mean, we primarily collect football and soccer, so football and futbal. So it's just those are two sports we're passionate about. So yeah, I think that's how it impacts it. I mean, for me, my other obviously after other outside of work is just as I'm always tweeting about also is just soccer and just I coach varsity soccer. I think what it brings that for me is just it keeps me humble and learning about relationships and it keeps me something I think I've liked in the past as a professional, is grace. And when you deal with a bunch of 15 to 18 year olds, if you're not overflowing in offering grace, good luck, I think being able to work with people and being able to understand the customer and like, gosh, why doesn't this customer just go down the path I want to go down? I think an abundance of grace is important in this world.

Phillip: [00:53:32] I love it. Ian Leslie, the once and future CMO of Industry West, welcome back to the helm.

Brian: [00:53:39] Thank you, Ian.

Phillip: [00:53:39] Thank you so much for spending this time with us. And thank you all for listening to Future Commerce. You can find more episodes of this podcast and all Future Commerce properties, there are like six of them now, you can get it almost every single day in your inbox at FutureCommerce.fm/Subscribe. We are turning up the heat on physical events. If you want to know when we'll be in your city, we are publishing... Speaking of drop culture, we're going to drop our next Salon event on you. Get on the email. Best way to do that. We'll let you know when we're going to be in your region. FutureCommerce.fm. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the podcast. Thanks, Ian.

Ian: [00:54:14] Thanks, guys.

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