Episode 245
March 4, 2022

"The X-Factor": Live from eTail West Palm Springs

We're live from eTail West chatting with Tommy Lamb and Mary Grace Tift from WITHIN about the return to live conference experience, the customer journey, and analyzing the main areas of Etail West the X-Factor way. Tune in now!

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Everything is Better in Person

  • Everyone is still suffering through the turmoil of work from home life, job transitions, not knowing how to interact with customers, and so much more but Etail West was able to provide a way for everyone to relate and be in person again for the first time in a long time.
  • “The struggles that any company has to build out culture, whether it's in-person or even more challenging when it's remote, those challenges are no different than when you're trying to build a relationship with your customer.” -Tommy 
  • Culture transparency is important, from company culture all the way down to building relationships with your customers.
  • Mary Grace has a brilliant way of thinking called X-Factor, where she analyzes everything on three levels, execution, raw nerve or bravery, and the overall X-Factor (or wow factor) to the thing being analyzed.
  • Etail West provided the opportunity for everyone to connect again, it provided the safety net for life to feel free and for those attending to interact and share successes and helpful strategies of how they pushed through the times of COVID.

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Brian: [00:01:24] Hello [00:01:20] and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the next generation of commerce. I'm Brian, and today I am live on the floor of eTail West here in Palm Springs. I'm so excited and I am joined by Tommy Lamb, [00:01:40] Head of Lifecycle at WITHIN. And Mary Grace Tifft, Head of Partnerships at WITHIN. And I had a great event with both of you. We laughed, we cried, and I am very excited to hear your reactions about the show. So welcome to both of you.

Mary Grace: [00:01:59] Hello [00:02:00].

Tommy: [00:02:00] Thank you so much. Happy to be here.

Brian: [00:02:01] Awesome.

Mary Grace: [00:02:02] More laughs than tears, but definitely some tears.

Brian: [00:02:04] Yes. Yes.

Tommy: [00:02:06] A journey. A customer journey, if you will.

Brian: [00:02:07] A customer journey. I feel like I heard a lot about customer journeys at this show. {laughter} Tommy, I feel like you even talked about customer journeys at this show. Maybe a little bit.

Tommy: [00:02:17] I did. One hundred times in eight hours.

Brian: [00:02:19] One hundred [00:02:20] times in eight hours. How does that work?

Tommy: [00:02:24] It is a wonderful exercise in content switching.

Brian: [00:02:27] Amazing. Amazing. But you also hosted an official roundtable.

Tommy: [00:02:33] Yes.

Brian: [00:02:34] That's amazing.

Tommy: [00:02:35] Yes. And it was fascinating to see the brands, regardless [00:02:40] of their industry, often regardless of their problem, they all had the same constraint and it was bandwidth.

Brian: [00:02:48] Bandwidth. And that actually makes sense. [00:02:51] There's been a lot of growth, and there have been a lot of people leaving their companies. And so you've got a human capital issue on one side [00:03:00] and you have a lot of demands on the other. And that makes for a lot of dysfunctional businesses. [00:03:07] Actually, it's something I've been thinking about recently, and I'd love to get your thoughts on this, Mary Grace. In the last 18 months, most of the businesses I've interacted with are pretty dysfunctional. [00:03:20]

Mary Grace: [00:03:21] Yeah, I mean, no one has known right from left, up versus down. There's been so much turnover. I mean, even like I look at myself, and Tommy too, we both change our past careers and came to WITHIN during the pandemic. And it's been not difficult, but definitely, a new customer [00:03:40] journey when you're thinking about moving to a new company, remote still. Tommy's in LA, our headquarters are in New York. I'm in New York, but I was not really going into the office that much. And it's so hard to interact with your coworkers and kind of learn the way that your company works and taking my own experiences and talking to the retailers that I met at this conference, it's [00:04:00] like everyone's kind of in the same place. There's been so much turmoil, so much confusion.

Brian: [00:04:06] Yes. Yes.

Mary Grace: [00:04:06] But that's why this conference was so amazing, which is coming back and being able to relate one on one, and everyone's going through the same thing. And it's just great to kind of all be together and share the same experiences.

Tommy: [00:04:17] I mean, the struggles that [00:04:20] any company has to build out culture, whether it's in-person or even more challenging when it's remote, those challenges are no different than when you're trying to build a relationship with your customer. How can you take company culture, if you will, from an internal standpoint and still [00:04:40] deliver that culture to your customers on a digital basis every day with every touchpoint in a meaningful and helpful way?

Brian: [00:04:49] Yeah, that's almost like culture transparency. You want that to flow all the way to your customers. I think that's really important right now, given there's just I mean, it's just a [00:05:00] very difficult time. Yes, we are here in Palm Springs and it is beautiful out here. It's 75 degrees and we just spent a lot of time with people that we really care about, and yet...

Mary Grace: [00:05:14] And everyone was unmasked.

Brian: [00:05:15] And everyone was unmasked.

Tommy: [00:05:18] So we have to like smile right now [00:05:20].

Brian: [00:05:20] Right.

Tommy: [00:05:20] You can't be mouth breathers anymore.{laughter}

Mary Grace: [00:05:23] We can't pretend anymore. We can't hide behind our masks and have muffled garbled speech. We actually have to be talking.

Brian: [00:05:26] Exactly. You know, we have to be articulate, which hopefully...

Mary Grace: [00:05:31] Which I struggled with.

Brian: [00:05:31] Everyone struggled to be a little articulate this show, I feel like, but it is [00:05:40] so cool. And yet like, we're all doing this in a time of such turmoil in the world and that we've lived through for the past couple of years. And so I felt like it was so many mixed emotions for me coming back to this. In one sense, it was actually really cathartic because the last conference I went to before [00:06:00] the pandemic hit was this one.

Tommy: [00:06:02] I think that's probably true for many.

Brian: [00:06:05] Yeah, exactly. And so it was actually really good for the soul, if you will, to be here, but still, so many questions and so many things happening. It's just a lot of really [00:06:20] mixed emotions for me being here.

Mary Grace: [00:06:22] Yeah, it's so strange because it's like oh, you see all these people that you saw two and a half years ago, longer in some cases. It's like, "Oh, what's changed? Haven't seen you in a while." It's like everything's changed. But also nothing has changed.

Brian: [00:06:37] I think that's exactly right.

Tommy: [00:06:38] I think for me, [00:06:40] there was a colleague that I ran into two nights ago. I hadn't seen her in 15 years. We were in the same industry. We both worked in neighboring companies in Los Angeles for years and the fact that we could not speak to each other in a decade [00:07:00] just by accident because lives get busy and then see each other at a party and reunite and no time had passed because we have the same problems, we have the same challenges, the same... The business didn't change. The way we went about it did. We had to adjust [00:07:20] the culture. We had to adjust our expectations. We had to adjust how many hours in a day people were online versus offline and the line blurred between home and work. But at the end of the day, we are all sharing the same problems and all trying to overcome them together.

Brian: [00:07:39] Yeah. No doubt. [00:07:40] No doubt. And this was kind of an encouraging moment. I feel like, like you said, you saw someone you haven't seen in a long time, and that felt so good. And there were so many cool things about this conference. Actually getting spend time with the two of you was super fun.

Mary Grace: [00:07:55] We threw a rager of a party on Monday.

Brian: [00:07:58] Yeah, you had a house party, [00:08:00] which you did with...

Mary Grace: [00:08:02] Wunderkind

Brian: [00:08:03] Wunderkind. And it was a beautiful house with a full mini-golf course.

Mary Grace: [00:08:14] Yes. And a pool table.

Brian: [00:08:14] Fire pool?

Mary Grace: [00:08:14] Yes, some fire sitting on top of the pool. Don't really understand the logistics of that. Yeah, that was magic. Very cool. [00:08:20]

Tommy: [00:08:20] See, for me, my favorite thing about eTail West, and I've been coming here for a decade. My first eTail West was 2012, dating myself. It's now 2022. This is the one conference every year without fail that you can go [00:08:40] and talk to platforms or brands or competitors or partners. And no matter what, you will walk away with concepts and tests and ideas where the rubber will hit the road.

Brian: [00:08:50] Yes, totally.

Tommy: [00:08:52] It is one of the least salesy conferences that I have been to. And it, like even for [00:09:00] the roundtables that I hosted on Monday, it was just such a gift to sit down 10 people at a table, there were 10 tables. It went from 8 am to 4 pm, but I just got to talk about what I love. I got to talk about anything that fell into the umbrella of life cycle or retention. And no one was [00:09:20] out to get me. No one was out to screw me over, and no one was out to steal trade secrets or proprietary information. We were just trying to make all of our lives better.

Brian: [00:09:29] Ok. Go ahead. Yeah, keep going.

Mary Grace: [00:09:31] So I have to say something, and I've been to all the conferences under the sun, and I love them. I love Shoptalk. It's great. But this one was just so [00:09:40] amazing because it's big enough where you feel like you're actually at a conference, but it's small and intimate enough where you're getting to have those one on one kind of moments with the retailers. And the roundtables that Tommy and I hosted on Monday were just amazing. I mean, we opened up with a maybe somewhat generic question of "What keeps you up at night, and what stresses you out?" But we really were [00:10:00] getting such similar answers across the tables, but people were trialing and testing kind of different things. We talk about the stuff that hasn't changed but has changed. But really so much has. Ios is affecting everyone.

Brian: [00:10:12] Right. Oh yeah.

Mary Grace: [00:10:13] And no one has an answer, including the big channel platforms themselves. So people were just like, "What have you been doing to solve it?" [00:10:20]

Brian: [00:10:20] People are having to get really creative right now. That's a really good point.

Mary Grace: [00:10:24] Plug your Lifecycle. A lot of people are using zero and first-party data. So hit us up if you need lifecycle marketing help.

Tommy: [00:10:28] That's all they have left. So one of the most rewarding things in that kind of situation is you're looking at a bunch of deer in headlights. You're looking at scared [00:10:40] brands, scared partners. They don't know how much they can trust you. They don't know how much information they can deliver. And then about halfway through the conversation, they're like, "Oh, you're just another coworker that I'm going to get a beer with at the end of the workday and enjoy happy hour together. And we're going to bang our heads against the wall because we're steering the Titanic, and it's still not going to [00:11:00] miss that iceberg. And we don't know why. Let's figure out why."

Brian: [00:11:04] Yeah, yeah, the honesty and transparency and just the community being here, it felt very, very good.

Mary Grace: [00:11:11] People wanted to talk. People wanted to share their experiences. They wanted to dive in.

Brian: [00:11:17] Yes. Totally. So speaking of what those [00:11:20] questions and those concepts and those answers were, there's a ton of great content as well. I'd love to hear from each of you. What was your big "Ok, that's something important for this year? Looking ahead to 2022 [00:11:40] into 2023, I need to focus on this. My customers need to know about this."

Mary Grace: [00:11:49] I'll go first. And I come from kind of the tech partnerships landscape. So [00:11:54] I've been hearing this a lot from our clients and our account teams. It's again going back to iOS and all the privacy [00:12:00] changes. It's so, so, so important for brands to diversify away from where they've been spending all their money in previous years. It's harder to track measurement attribution or search problems, which is kind of the recurring theme that I kept hearing from every brand that I talked to. And just even walking the floor of the exhibit hall [00:12:20] and seeing like kind of new channels and new measurement partners and learning about brands that have been doing more on TikTok. That is something two years ago when we were at this conference no one is talking about. [00:12:32]

Tommy: [00:12:33] Who knew?

Mary Grace: [00:12:33] I had my own personal secret talk that I'll give you.

Brian: [00:12:37] You have a secret one? {laughter} You're doing better than me.

Mary Grace: [00:12:39] No brand was [00:12:40] seriously thinking about advertising on Tik Tok. And that's something that, you know, it's funny to look at it now.

Brian: [00:12:47] It's true. I feel like the arbitrage opportunity... Phillip and I have talked about this. We've struggled in the channels that we've done so well in the past that we're having to look out ahead. The challenge with that, of course, is you're [00:13:00] having to build out really bespoke strategies per channel, which requires people to go actually do it. And it's often really diverse skill sets that you need.

Tommy: [00:13:11] And scale.

Brian: [00:13:13] Yes, and scale. And scale. That's right. And so you might have had an incredible social team that was one hundred percent focused [00:13:20] on Facebook. And now you're like, "Hey, social team. It ain't working the way it worked." And so now everyone's got to like start to look at how do I specialize in more niche channels? How do I build out strategies for specific channels? Because what performs in TikTok isn't necessarily [00:13:40] going to perform on Instagram.

Mary Grace: [00:13:42] It looks and feels different.

Tommy: [00:13:43] I think, an interesting topic that came up numerous times during the roundtables... There are many brands that spend a ton of money on Facebook or Google and have these massive acquisition campaigns. How [00:14:00] many of them have tested those campaigns beforehand by asking their customers through email or whatever owned/free channel in order to say, "Ok, I don't know if Campaign A or B is going to be better. Will you tell me?" And then, oh my God, you just maximize your ROAS.

Brian: [00:14:18] Yeah. Yes.

Tommy: [00:14:19] No [00:14:20] one does this. And so for me, [00:14:22] the biggest takeaway was, are you letting owned channels help paid? Are you letting paid help owned? They're not two sides of a coin. It's far more of a sphere than any of us want to give credit for and spend our time thinking about. Because  [00:14:40]I know the LTV of every person that I email. I know their preferences. I know what they like. I know what they don't like. So when you go build a lookalike audience and you want to spend half a million dollars on a Facebook ad, why don't you run it by us first? And we'll be happy to tell you which one does better. So easy. [00:14:58]

Brian: [00:14:59] Interesting. I love that. [00:15:00] I love that as a strategy to help sort of counter some of the trends that we're seeing because it's getting more challenging.

Mary Grace: [00:15:08] You have to be smarter.

Brian: [00:15:09] Yeah, you have to be smarter, yet be more creative about how you do it. And I think leveraging the relationship you already have with your customer, your existing customers, is a fantastic [00:15:20] way to glean insight on how to go acquire new customers. That's great.

Tommy: [00:15:26] And I mean, for me, the second biggest takeaway of this conference has been, as it usually is, marketing stack consolidation.

Brian: [00:15:37] Oh yeah.

Mary Grace: [00:15:38] Tommy is big on that. [00:15:40]

Tommy: [00:15:40]  [00:15:40]Philosophically, I don't want to have to look at four different platforms in order to understand if a person prefers SMS or email. I don't want to have to to figure out what the actual attribution was of this touchpoint versus another one. I don't want you [00:16:00] to be able to say, "Hey guys, we launched text. It's driving eight million dollars more revenue this year." It's like, "Cool. Did you just pull it forward? Do you know where you're eating it?" Where is the channel cannibalization happening? And no company wants to measure that because they know the dirty secret is that while yes, there is some growth, they're [00:16:20] still hurting their other channels [00:16:21] because it's just...

Brian: [00:16:24] It's competing with yourself. Right.

Tommy: [00:16:25] So great. Mary Grace likes email, SMS, and push. But do we know the incremental value of that extra SMS or of that extra push? Would she have converted on email if you just gave her another day? But [00:16:40] instead, we hit her across three channels. We have no idea. All we know is that we got it.

Brian: [00:19:24] You're [00:19:20] absolutely right. Speaking my language here. For our Insiders articles, I wrote a short story about an experience kind of like what you're talking about, where I made real-life and analog for digital [00:19:40] touchpoints. And so it was the story of someone walking through a store and having all these random things happen to them. And in the end, of course, she abandoned the store. But yeah, it's super, super cool.

Mary Grace: [00:19:56] I have another takeaway, too.

Brian: [00:19:58] Oh, you have another takeaway. Before we [00:20:00] go to the next part of this show, which is something that you won one hundred percent like pulled me into your little game, which I love. We're going to play that game. Let me hear your other takeaway.

Mary Grace: [00:20:13] Yeah, I was just going to say I was at dinner the first night with I won't name the brand, but before [00:20:20] COVID, they had a small eCom presence and we're powered by three hundred plus stores. And, you know, just great to talk to him about like kind of what did you see? How are you even here today?

Tommy: [00:20:31] How are we living in the upside-down?

Brian: [00:20:33] Yeah.

Mary Grace: [00:20:34] What were the strategies that you used to pivot? And it was just, I mean, there are definitely some challenges [00:20:40] still there. And, you know, stores are reopening and people are going back and their customer service team reached out to their clients. But I don't know, it's just something I don't know what the point I'm trying to make here is, but brands had so many challenges. And we work with a lot of beauty brands...

Brian: [00:20:56] Oh, this is good. Ok. I feel like you're about to get into my very question, which is, [00:21:00] let me flip the coin on this. What do you feel like the biggest challenge that you heard, a specific challenge? You don't have to name the brand, but what is one challenge you heard from a customer or from a merchant where you're like, "That's tough. How do they or how did [00:21:20] they overcome that?"

Tommy: [00:21:21] So when COVID started, I was working for a global company. Massive. Always got like upper nineties on the personalization index of whatever publication would measure that stuff. We [00:21:40] had 25 percent of our revenue come from online. Seventy-five percent came from stores. COVID hits, and we have to shut down the source of 75 percent of our revenue. Data. The first thing we did was [00:22:00] go back to the data, and we analyzed not just what actions customers typically take, but what non-transactional behaviors they also take. Splitting them across a spectrum between transactional and non-transactional behaviors. Do you download the app? Do [00:22:20] you sign up for the loyalty program? Do you sign up for a private label credit card or even a regular credit card? Instead of shopping online, do you shop in-store or vice versa? Do you instead of always shopping skincare, do you shop beauty? Right. Then we worked with our data team and we assigned relative, not empirical. [00:22:40] It's like when you use your favorite scale at home because it always gives you the number you want.

Brian: [00:22:44] Yeah. There you go.

Tommy: [00:22:45] So [00:22:46] we assigned relative values to all of these actions, whether they were a conversion or not, and then prioritized all of our marketing messages based on the intended value of these actions. So [00:23:00] what we found and what blew our minds is we thought, oh my God, welcome email one needs to say, "Here's 15 percent off. Buy again." That actually wasn't the highest value action that we could ask our customers to take. The highest value action was to download the app and opt in to push notifications. [00:23:19]

Brian: [00:23:19]  [00:23:19]Oh yeah. [00:23:20] [00:23:20]

Tommy: [00:23:20]  [00:23:20]And so by assigning these relative values and living in the data, letting the data fight our battles for us, we were able to reprioritize our entire marketing hierarchy across welcome, across post-purchase, across the site, cartridges change, driving higher value actions, whether [00:23:40] or not they were directly tied to purchase or not because it ultimately led to a higher value customer. [00:23:46]

Brian: [00:23:47] I love that. You're focused on not just making a sale, converting whatever. You were focused on the things that you knew were going to impact the customer's ongoing engagement with your brand and ultimately [00:24:00] result in an actual relationship with an actual customer who cared about your product.

Tommy: [00:24:06] The hardest part is letting leadership know that they got to just take a minute for you to do this analysis and then you are so much more surgical. It's not this blunt instrument. It's not Fred Flintstone. Now it's [00:24:20] like laser surgery, and you know exactly who to go for, who not to go for. You're saving margin, you're saving hours, you're saving effort across the board.

Brian: [00:24:32] Amazing.

Mary Grace: [00:24:34] Yeah, you done? {laughter} I [00:24:40] love hearing Tommy speak. I work or I worked with a home and a farm home goods store, and they were again back to completely no eCommerce presence fully in-store. When COVID hit it was a complete pivot from just putting the bare bones in place. They needed a site that was not only [00:25:00] properly merched and spoke to the customer when they landed on it, but actually like the site itself. So we help them with that. And back to Tommy's point of the data, once we had the site up and running, it's like, how do we actually get people to use it? Your customers that are 40, 50-year customers that have been going to these stores in these localities [00:25:20] for again, for a long time, and it was awesome. We helped them implement BOPIS strategies where they buy online, pick up in-store, and gave them everything that they needed. And it's an older demographic. So they were kind of afraid of SMS and email, but we started testing into that. And we realized there is like a high-value segment of customers in there that are so [00:25:40] loyal to you that they want to be reached out to. They want to know that they have this option. They can shop online, they can pick it up in-store, they'll be greeted by the same customer service rep. And by pick up in-store I mean it was like you drove up in the side and then someone would come out and N95 and give it to them. But it was awesome to see them make that pivot and it [00:26:00] separated the transitioning brands from the ones that didn't.

Tommy: [00:26:04] All the tables that we were talking to on Monday, at the end of the day, they just needed to take a minute to make friends with their customers. They [00:26:20] needed to take a minute to bravely develop rigorous testing routines and schedules. Leadership doesn't want to... If you go to the CEO and are like, "Yo, I don't want to send any marketing emails or any marketing touchpoints at all to five percent of our entire customer base." He's going to lose his shit.

Brian: [00:26:38] Yeah.  [00:26:40]

Tommy: [00:26:40] But there is no way you're going to prove the efficacy of what you're doing unless you do this. And so you have a global holdout, you have a channel holdout, you have a campaign level holdout. And from there you can identify what level of promotion is necessary for you versus Mary Grace. What channel do you prefer? Maybe you prefer SMS or [00:27:00] she prefers email? But unless you are testing this stuff day in, day out and you view [00:27:07]... Everyone needs to view testing as the doorway to that room of revenue. You can't go into that room of revenue unless you have a test because otherwise, you won't have a leg to stand on. [00:27:19]  [00:27:20]We developed automated promotion series that were targeted at people who had never taken an action or who had lapsed from an action for the past year. And we again used our data team to identify the highest value categories to start with. And so we incentivize those [00:27:40] people like, let's say, it's 10 versus 15 percent off skincare. Great. Did you do it? Yes or no? If not, ok, now we're going to move you to the second most valuable category of beauty. If you don't do that, we're going to move you to the third. What we found is that we were able to drive 85 percent incremental revenue with that program versus [00:28:00] the tried and true tentpole moments of spring and holiday, which drive 50 - 55 percent incremental.

Brian: [00:28:07] Is seasonality dead?

Tommy: [00:28:09] Is it fun? Is it sexy? No. Is it tedious? Yes. But the fact that you can do this and then you let the data make the argument for you, that's [00:28:20] a gift.

Brian: [00:28:21] Amazing.

Mary Grace: [00:28:22] And I have to say all these anecdotes that we're sharing now, the best part of this conference to me was sitting down, meeting retailers, talking about our shared experiences.

Tommy: [00:28:34] My favorite thing is that I don't have to filter anything and I can just share everything that I [00:28:40] love.

Mary Grace: [00:28:40] Like on this podcast.

Brian: [00:28:42] I love that. Before we go, because I know we're getting close to on time here. I know that both of you have an event that I've already kept you from which I apologize for.

Tommy: [00:28:50] This is far more fun.

Brian: [00:28:51] Excellent. So, Mary Grace, you had a game that you taught me. You analyze the whole [00:29:00] world through three lenses.

Mary Grace: [00:29:02] Yes.

Brian: [00:29:02] The entire word.

Mary Grace: [00:29:03] It's one lens with three pillars.

Brian: [00:29:06] Three pillars. Yes, tentpoles. So tell us about your analysis of things.

Mary Grace: [00:29:14] Yes. So it depends on the specific category I'm analyzing, but the kind of three [00:29:20] major themes are raw execution. I'm sorry. I'm messing it all up. The three themes are execution, raw nerve or bravery, and then the overall theme of X-Factor.

Tommy: [00:29:36] Is this RuPaul's Drag Race?

Mary Grace: [00:29:36] It is loosely [00:29:40] derived from my...

Tommy: [00:29:42] Uniqueness, nerve, and talent. {laughter}

Mary Grace: [00:29:43] All right. Could be. X Factor is don't have to explain it. You know it when you see it.

Brian: [00:29:51] I feel like you play this game like with everything you interact with, like you're doing it right now, like on this podcast.

Mary Grace: [00:29:58] I'm self-analyzing myself. [00:30:00]

Brian: [00:30:00] You're self-analyzing.

Mary Grace: [00:30:01] Raw nerve - a 10. Execution, you guys can tell me. Maybe you 4.

Brian: [00:30:05] Oh, you're doing better than that.

Mary Grace: [00:30:05] X-Factor. I think, a nine.

Brian: [00:30:07] Yeah, I give you nine. You guys are both nines on the X-Factor. You're doing great.

Tommy: [00:30:13] Aw, thank you.

Brian: [00:30:13] So it's so fun to do these in person. I usually do podcasts over Zoom.  [00:30:20]

Tommy: [00:30:21] Honestly, everything's better in person.

Mary Grace: [00:30:21] Yeah.

Brian: [00:30:22] Everything's better in person. That is the takeaway.

Mary Grace: [00:30:23] You can cheers with your wine.

Brian: [00:30:26] Exactly. So, couple of things I'm going to have you analyze. Both of you really quickly before we get off, using Mary Grace's system. So let's start with parties at [00:30:40] this event. How did they go? I mean, you could even take a night by night if you want. Obviously, you're going to create your own very highly. And actually, I would as well.

Mary Grace: [00:30:49] I'll give it a frank appraisal.

Brian: [00:30:50] Ok. Ok. All right. Start. Start with yourself.

Mary Grace: [00:30:53] So I'll give you some background at the party that we're referencing, but we threw a private dinner [00:31:00] and a welcome party afterward at a villa,  Villa de Vin Mar, if you want to look it up, in Palm Desert with a DJ. Again, we talked about the fire that was over the pool. We had games. We had boose. We had champagne.

Tommy: [00:31:14] House goals. For anyone.

Mary Grace: [00:31:15] Yeah, it was definitely like for sure. And I got to say, you know, raw [00:31:20] nerve. I'd give that an 11.

Brian: [00:31:23] An 11.

Mary Grace: [00:31:24] You don't know going into it if people are even going to be interested.

Brian: [00:31:27] It's true. I'm in a house like that, though.

Mary Grace: [00:31:30] Yeah, but it's like, you know, two years coming out of COVID...

Brian: [00:31:34] That's true.

Mary Grace: [00:31:35] Are other people as liberal as I am with COVID regulations? Not that I'm liberal. I mean, Obama... [00:31:40] Biden on Tuesday enjoying the State of the Union speech, mask relaxation.

Tommy: [00:31:48] Can I add a metaphor to that one point without derailing the other two? To me, an event like we had was these brands and just people [00:32:00] walking a tightrope for two years.

Mary Grace: [00:32:02] Yes.

Tommy: [00:32:03] Trying not to fall. Given the situation that we're in and whether things are peaking or troughing or whatever, it was that safety net that the acrobatics fall into knowing that they're going to be ok. It wasn't a sales dinner. It [00:32:20] wasn't pressured. It was, "Can we just connect again?"

Mary Grace: [00:32:25] Yup.

Tommy: [00:32:25] "We got you. Can I just understand what's been keeping you up at night? What you've found to be a great success for you? I just want to get to know you for Christ's sake, because I haven't been able to talk to somebody in two years." I feel like it was literally [00:32:40] a safety net.

Mary Grace: [00:32:41] Yeah. Which is why X-Factor was a 10. People brought it.

Brian: [00:32:48] Yeah, people brought it. It was a good event. Good energy.

Mary Grace: [00:32:51] It was the energy people showed up with.

Tommy: [00:32:53] People were playing ping pong.

Mary Grace: [00:32:54] Sharing mentality testing.

Tommy: [00:32:58] To come full circle, [00:33:00] this is where I encountered my friend from 15 years ago. She came to that event. My cup is full. So if anybody understands the metaphor...

Brian: [00:33:09] That counts as X-Factor.

Tommy: [00:33:12] She's just fierce and fabulous. She has four children, and she is an executive and just killing it. And I remember when [00:33:20] we would go to Coachella together, and we would kill it there too. But the fact that you see the success and its shared success and you're just so happy to see it, people thriving despite everything and perhaps because of everything, it's just a gift.

Mary Grace: [00:33:38] I do have to say execution [00:33:40] might be a little bit lower than the other pillars, just because no one got in the pool.

Brian: [00:33:46] Nobody got in the pool.

Mary Grace: [00:33:48] Nobody got in the pool.

Tommy: [00:33:48] Why didn't you tell me? I would have just fallen in.

Mary Grace: [00:33:51] That's exactly why I didn't tell you.

Tommy: [00:33:53] I'm totally the guy that's going to be like, "Peace."

Mary Grace: [00:33:56] "I said my piece, now I'm opting out." And [00:34:00] maybe like speaking to the events as a whole. I'm biased because I haven't been to any and so, so long.

Brian: [00:34:09] You'd rate all of them basically the same, right?

Tommy: [00:34:12] Yeah, I'm so confused. I was like, we had an event. It's a 20 because it was an event.

Brian: [00:34:17] It was an event.

Tommy: [00:34:18] We haven't had events.  [00:34:20]

Brian: [00:34:20] Everything was a 20.

Tommy: [00:34:21] The bar is so far from where...

Brian: [00:34:24] I would agree. The dinners and everything. It was just amazing. It was super fun. Good times. It's so good to be back. Literally, we could have just sat outside and not done anything else, and it would have been a 10 on every category.

Mary Grace: [00:34:37] Yeah.

Tommy: [00:34:37] And I know that this is controversial, [00:34:40] and I know that not everybody is fortunate enough to have the same kind of experience and perception. But I am grateful for the two years that we've gone through because it helped me, as well as many other people and companies, prioritize the personal relationship [00:35:00] with their customer. It helped me prioritize relationships with my coworkers, with my friends. I feel like it made the world slow down enough to identify what's truly important, and I do hope that we don't forget that.

Brian: [00:35:17] Yeah, no doubt. No doubt. [00:35:20] Ok, next category. Are you ready?

Mary Grace: [00:35:21] I got one more comment on the events.

Brian: [00:35:23] Oh, shoot, all right.

Mary Grace: [00:35:25] Now that we're talking about the scale, again, I'm applying it to everything.

Brian: [00:35:28] No, it's good.

Mary Grace: [00:35:29] No, I'll end with a little closer, but shout out to our partners Attentive, Simon Data, and Gorgias for hosting an event on the San Andreas fault line. Literally a [00:35:40] DJ deck on the fault line blaring out music. I'm like, "That's raw nerve. Fifteen."

Brian: [00:35:46] That's true. That is absolutely true.

Tommy: [00:35:47] I mean, that is half California.

Mary Grace: [00:35:50] Yeah, but this was this. These were the tectonic plates. We like drove over it, and our tour guide was like, "You are driving over the tectonic plates right now."

Brian: [00:35:58] There's raw nerve. There we go.

Tommy: [00:36:01] I [00:36:00] want to extend that, too. So I've always been brand side. My entire career has been working for brands, and I joined WITHIN in an effort to share and build what I know and love with multiple brands faster [00:36:20] and more broadly. And I have to say that among the brands that Mary Grace mentioned, we have so many wonderful partners across the board, whether it's an ESP, whether it's a CDP, whether it's you down with OPP, like any acronym you choose. And they are fabulous [00:36:40] and they are wonderful. And the fact that there is just this earnestness in trying to do better for the customer, makes my job so easy because I never have to lie. There's no day when I hop on a call, and I don't have to fake it because these people are fabulous. The products that they're working on building [00:37:00] and sharing with people are fabulous. And all I have to do is connect them enrich their experience and ultimately the customer.

Brian: [00:37:09] You just stand a couple of our partners here at Future Commerce. So yeah, I'm on board with that. It's amazing. Ok, we'll do two [00:37:20] more. And I actually have to run soon, too. So we're going to make these ones a little faster. You ready? All right. So the next one is content. How was the content? I want to know how, [00:37:40] how bold you felt the content was and was the X-Factor there? How were the speakers?

Tommy: [00:37:45] You want me to go?

Mary Grace: [00:37:46] Yeah, you take this one.

Tommy: [00:37:46] The content was not bold, for the most part. There were some really brilliant presenters that had...

Brian: [00:37:56] X-Factor?

Tommy: [00:37:57] Yeah, like crazy X-Factor score in [00:38:00] terms of content. In presence, not so much, but like they were speaking the truth. I was eating it up. I was like, "Yes." I try to scream this at brands all the time. I talk about interactive email where you don't have to leave the email itself to fill [00:38:20] out a survey or fill out your profile. And it's amazing. And it's this new technology that people are not jumping on as quickly as I expected. Micro-content. Because all of us have the attention span of a goldfish thanks to the proliferation of data and social media. And that's fine. But we have to pivot into that. And so a [00:38:40] lot of my conversations with people were around like, "Do you realize that people look at your thing for three to five seconds? It's not a precious baby. Just crank it out. But in terms of content which is becoming ever more important and like UGC and all of that stuff, [00:39:00] it has to be consumable in a little like snippet. You can't read a blog article anymore. It has to be a headline. And there was a lot of talk around new technology and the efficiency of content in various channels. [00:39:20] And I just thought it was brilliant. And I just want to make sure that it has its time in the sun because I feel like it didn't when I was watching it. I loved the presentation. Was really good stuff.

Brian: [00:39:34] Yeah. Amazing. Amazing. What about you?

Mary Grace: [00:39:37] I really enjoy when people [00:39:40] or brands talk about the failures and not necessarily just like the abysmal deep dark depression that no one ever climbed out of. But you test something it doesn't work, especially during COVID. Everyone was trying everything under the sun.

Brian: [00:39:53] Everything.

Tommy: [00:39:54] Every test is a learning.

Mary Grace: [00:39:56] And I feel like, and it's no knock on eTail West or any conference, [00:40:00] but any large format conference where there are so many brands and the competitors are there. Or at least like you think the competitors are there listening...

Brian: [00:40:06] It's tough to talk about failure.

Mary Grace: [00:40:07] You can't talk about failure, so you can't talk about learnings, or if you do, you talk about them in such broad strokes that it's hard for anyone listening to really kind of understand.

Brian: [00:40:17] So raw nerve, low.

Mary Grace: [00:40:19] Raw nerve, [00:40:20] low. Execution, given the parameters that I'm sure these brands are putting and the guidelines they have to stick to, you can't talk about, you know, what didn't go well, right? I'd say execution was still high. And X-Factor was high. People coming out here.

Tommy: [00:40:36] I might have missed the assignment because I was like [00:40:40] dropping real truth. There were no broad strokes at any of our roundtables. "Did you do this one thing? No? That was a bad idea."

Mary Grace: [00:40:48] Roundtable is different.

Brian: [00:40:50] I feel like you have you've got raw nerve.

Mary Grace: [00:40:53] Yeah. And I will say at the roundtables, there were a lot like... The speakers there were everything. X-Factor, 10. Raw nerve [00:41:00], 10. Execution, 10. It's like the smaller format it is, the more likely you're going to get to the truth of what actually happened these past two years and the learnings that come from it. When you're up on a stage in front of a few hundred people, you're much more reticent to bring up all the things...

Tommy: [00:41:17] The theme of this conference is always [00:41:20] been all boats rise, right?

Mary Grace: [00:41:25] Which is a beautiful theme in life.

Tommy: [00:41:26] Right? And it pays off. It comes back to you. And my favorite thing about the roundtable day, which is my first time doing roundtables. I've done the keynote, I've done panels, I've done all of this thing. But [00:41:40] the beautiful thing about this kind of series of speed dating with eCommerce and retention is that there was an earnestness and an honesty and an authenticity about every single person at the table and we were just trying to make [00:42:00] our lives easier and better and in turn easier and better for the customer. And it was just a beautiful thing.

Brian: [00:42:07] I love that about it. I think you talked about the long format versus sort of the short format. I think conversation is is one of the best forms of content. Obviously, I'm running a podcast, so I have to say [00:42:20] that. No, I don't. I don't have to say that. I think the conversation usually gets to things that maybe it does take a little bit longer, actually. It is a headline, but conversation is a series of like interactions and back and forth that result, in my view, and a deeper and deeper understanding of something so agree. [00:42:40] I love the roundtables. Good pick. All right. Last one. Ready? Community and people.

Mary Grace: [00:42:47] Oh, 10s across the board.

Tommy: [00:42:52] 10, 10, 10 10

Brian: [00:42:55] Location. Oh, wait, another easy one. Palm Springs. [00:43:00]

Tommy: [00:43:00] Now that this hotel has been renovated, total 10. Because I've been here before, and this is much better. Again, it's I think maybe it's because it's post-COVID. Maybe it's because I'm oblivious to any sort of negative energy that [00:43:20] ever encounters my life.

Mary Grace: [00:43:21] Because we're avoiding the war.

Tommy: [00:43:25] I really do believe that everyone here assumes that if they help someone else, it's going to come back to them too, whether you are a brand, whether you are a customer, I [00:43:40] really do walk through the halls every day or I walk into the seminars or I'm at the roundtables, and at the end of the day, people want to do better. They want to be better for themselves. They want to be better for the customers because they have a passion for it. And this is a wonderful venue [00:44:00] to give that permission. And space.

Brian: [00:44:04] I think you're absolutely right about good vibes all around here. A lot of good vibes going on. A lot of people who were ready to come together and chat and like that. That's not always true at every conference. I've criticized conferences for not having that.

Tommy: [00:44:17] No, you can get shady and secretive and difficult.

Brian: [00:44:19] Or [00:44:20] too corporate in like just like cold. This was not a cold conference, which was really, really great.

Tommy: [00:44:26] Which is exactly what we need with COVID and everything.

Mary Grace: [00:44:27] Temperature-wise and...

Brian: [00:44:29] Yes, yes.

Tommy: [00:44:30] We need warmth. We need authenticity, and we need connection.

Brian: [00:44:34] Well, thank you so much for coming on and giving your thoughts and recap of the show. It was really, [00:44:40] really fun being here with you. I feel like, I mean, in many ways, we just told everyone to come to eTail.

Mary Grace: [00:44:47] Yeah. Where's our kickback, eTail?

Tommy: [00:44:50] I'm telling everybody to connect.

Brian: [00:44:52] That's great. I love it. I love it. Well, and thank you so much for listening. And what a great note [00:45:00] to leave things on. Let's all connect. We want to build this world of commerce together with you. So reach out. Talk to us about today's show, and we will see you next week.

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