BLURRING LINES: CONTENT AND COMMERCE CONVERGE – podcast transcript

Jessica Kingman
Hello, everyone, and welcome to The Richards Group Digital Trends podcast. I’m your host and Digital Strategy Group head, Jessica Kingman, and in every episode, I’ll be diving into one of our 10 Digital Trends for 2020. Today I’m talking with digital strategist, Laken Faccio, about her trend, Blurring Lines: When Content and Commerce Converge. Hi, Laken.

Laken Faccio
Hey, so excited to be here.

Jessica Kingman
So excited to have you. So talk to me a little bit about your trend and why advertisers, clients, and brands should care?

Laken Faccio
So my trend focuses on a really unique change that we’re starting to see in e-commerce but also with digital content as a whole. It’s not necessarily new to hear that we’ve reached this point of saturation with digital adoption, right? A large majority of people have smartphones. We’re very accustomed to a mobile-first approach as marketers, but most people aren’t really talking about what’s next. So my trend takes the specific lens of e-commerce. And it looks at how it’s changing in numerous areas, whether that’s apps among publishers, and then also what brands are starting to experiment with. So it’s important to us as marketers, because those who are experimenting with it today are starting to see a lot of success. And I think it’s a direction that we’re going to see a lot more brands prioritizing.

Jessica Kingman
I’m always interested, especially as we think about things that have existed for a long time and are beginning to either change or adapt or grow, why you think that these things are happening? So I’m interested in your perspective on why you think that we’re going to see e-commerce change in the next year, what’s really driving that change in e-commerce, perhaps?

Laken Faccio
Yeah, so it’s a good question because it’s – e-commerce is fairly straightforward right now. But one of the things we’re starting to see is different, like, technology services that are totally changing the game so, you know, your Cash App and your Venmo and the ease of what you can transfer money and change and surround, right? So because that all exists now, people are more comfortable spending on mobile and online. There’s just a wide opportunity for brands and apps and publishers, like I said, to take advantage of that and experiment. And so it’s kind of this transition, experimental period for e-commerce.

Jessica Kingman
So you mentioned it in your last answer, but e-commerce has always been something that strikes me as very straightforward because I think there’s always been this true transactional element to it. Right? So I’m interested, do you think that the changes in the landscape that we’re going to see in the next year, five years, are making e-commerce just perhaps a little bit more fun?

Laken Faccio
I think it’s fun. I don’t know if that’s just like a marketer bias, right? Like, oh, this is cool. But I do think for most consumers, it probably will just feel more natural or easy for them. But I think for us as brands, it’s, like, super cool, because we get this opportunity to relate to customers in a way that we haven’t before. And so, what I mean by that is, you know, one of the examples that I have in my article, you know, you order by texting through SMS. And so, you know, it’s way more conversational, and who, like, who would have thought that you’d have your favorite brand as a contact in your phone, right? Like, that’s kind of cool. So it’s just this new opportunity that is fun for us as brands, I would say.

Jessica Kingman
One of the things that you mentioned is the idea of being able to take a picture of a friend’s sweatshirt or something else that you kind of see on the street that catches your eye and immediately appeals to you. And your phone not only being able to serve up, you know, the options that we’re used to today, such as being able to share that picture with friends and family, perhaps, or post it to social media – the idea that you would be able to shop directly off of the image that you captured. And the thing that it triggered for me was the idea of what Pinterest has done with their lens capability in which you’re able to, you know, take a picture of a refrigerator and it would then return you back with results. So you could actually purchase that refrigerator. And it’s not something that you know, or it’s not a platform that is brought up in your trend. So interested, do you think that Pinterest is going to be a bigger e-commerce player than what we’ve seen in the past?

Laken Faccio
Yes, I think so – their lens capabilities are really cool. I think if they gain more daily active users, I think they could definitely have something there. I just worry because I feel like someone’s going to take their idea and steal it. But I will say they own this space that, like, no one else has, right? So if you’re, you know, searching for something with words, text, you go to Google or Bing – and I don’t really know, do you go to Bing? But so that, you know, that’s taken there. When you want to communicate via text, you go to Facebook Messenger or you might, you know, post something to Twitter. Or if you’re trying to communicate with images, you share that through Instagram or maybe Snapchat, but no one’s really found this, like, image search, you know, field yet, and so if Pinterest could really own that idea, I definitely think they have something going for them. I just don’t know that the world’s ready for it yet.

Jessica Kingman
So one of the things that you brought up in your trend that I personally am fascinated by is how publishers are diversifying their revenue streams, you know, not only from just selling ad space on their sites, but also getting a little bit into creating tangible products. So just talk to me a little bit more about what you saw in that space?

Laken Faccio
Yeah, so this is actually what got me interested in this whole topic in the first place. I was totally into how publishers are actually gaining revenue today because it’s not necessarily through subscriptions, or eyeballs, necessarily, so, or ad revenue. So I’ve been working on some projects for one of my clients, and one of the things that we were trying to do is really capture the attention of the cultural publishers of today. And so in doing that, we had to do a lot of research on, you know, what kind of stories are they covering? What kind of content are they sharing? And in that process I found within, like, streetwear culture, there’s these big players, Hypebeast and the Complexes of the world, who are not only capturing and telling stories about what’s happening from a cultural perspective, but they’re contributing to it. And so they’re hosting events. And they’re even opening their own brick-and-mortar stores where they’re having, you know, drops and releases and really cool experiences. And so that’s kind of what got me, you know, interested in all this. And it kind of begs the question of, like, “Who’s the new MTV of 2020?” Like, that was kind of what we sought out to look for. And we found it’s that these publishers, but they’re, you know, they’re not getting revenue from ads, like we traditionally would expect from publishers, and they’re getting it from all those other new revenue streams, which is really, really fascinating, I agree.

Jessica Kingman
One of the things that sparked for me is the kind of future state for brands. Do you think that we’re going to start seeing brands like, for instance, I think the easiest one to come to mind is Nike, right? Do you think we’re going to start to see a future where Nike partners with Complex to actually sell their merchandise and create another revenue stream for brands?

Laken Faccio
Yeah, 100 percent actually, so I think that, you know, those publishers, they’re going to start looking for ways and offering things, you know, for brand partnerships, where, yeah, they’ll have great, you know, verticals of stories that they can tell where the brands will fit in seamlessly. I would say one of the biggest points of differentiation would be that the publishers themselves will probably have like, very, you know, niche audiences. So they’re going to have, you know, specific offerings only for a limited amount of brands, right? So it, like, it makes sense for, you know, sneakers to be on, you know, like a sneaker series, and hot sauce to be on, you know, First We Feast, like Hot Ones. So I think that makes a lot of sense. And I don’t know that there’s a publisher for every brand right now, but we might actually see more stuff pop up like that.

Jessica Kingman
Having commerce be executed via SMS is really interesting to me, and having your favorite brand as a contact in your phone is obviously something and it gets brands very alluring. But, you know, I tend to think about those experiences as being more appropriate for perhaps a start-up brand, right? And so I’m interested in your perspective, do you think that this trend is more appropriate for some of those more start-up direct-to-consumer brands? Or do you think that it can also play a role for some of those stagnating legacy organizations?

Laken Faccio
So my article does talk about it from a start-up perspective because there is a lot of opportunity when you’re, when you don’t, when you don’t have that core consumer already. E-commerce now allows you to go directly to that customer. And so it is a really, really good opportunity if you’re just starting out, that totally makes sense. But from one more of those, like, legacy brands, I think the opportunity is totally there for them as well. They just need to think about it from a completely different perspective than what they’re used to. And I feel like a lot of legacy brands are good at appealing to the masses and like a really big volume of people are fans. And I think what we’ll start to see is them leaning into more niche culture, and relating on a commerce level that’s unique for that particular group. And so you might see them, you know, talking to gamers in a different way than you would, you know, somebody who’s out hiking, you know what I mean? There’s just different levels and different ways that we can, you know, pull the level to reach those people.

Jessica Kingman
So I’m interested, do you think that there’s, you know, a benefit to being a first mover and beginning to innovate any commerce or, you know, what are the potential drawbacks, you know, in addition to that?

Laken Faccio
In the CPG category, especially, I think it’s really difficult for them from a distribution level. I know that’s super challenging. But if there’s a way for them to flip the script and really start thinking about not having to go through those big mass retailers for that distribution or that literal point of sale in the store, and being able to provide their brand experience, you know, online and being able to arrive in different ways through just through the technology that we have, whether it’s, you know, you’re taking a picture, SMS – I think that’s really going to give them the leg up. Because in the category right now, that’s a huge differentiator. And you’re seeing scrappy brands get ahold of it and do things that, you know, ultimately, they establish that really close relationship with their customer on that level. And then they scale. So you’ll see the scrappy brands actually have both because that big retail distribution is important. But they also have that one-to-one relationship. So I think becoming a fast follower is actually super important for those big brands. And, you know, it’s just a matter of time before they start doing it. And the first ones there typically get, you know, a lot of the credit and the headlines for it. So yeah.

Jessica Kingman
I’m interested if there’s been a particularly rewarding or perhaps even a, like, the most uniquely branded e-commerce experience that you’ve seen.

Laken Faccio
Yeah. So, right off the bat, there’s, you know, two that come to mind; I bring them up in my article a little bit. But one of the things, one of the reasons that they come to mind so quickly is because they’re totally changing the game of what we know as e-commerce right now. So, like I mentioned earlier, you know, you have that old traditional catalog, that’s basically then copy and paste it online. But the two I’m thinking of don’t do that at all. And so the first one is Dirty Lemon, and they’re a beverage brand that you purchase through SMS and texting them, and you have them as a contact in your phone. And it’s really cool because they’re creating this awesome relationship with their customer. And it also is building this level of trust that I don’t think we typically have with a lot of brands. So that’s really cool. And in addition to that, they have one brick-and-mortar location. It’s in New York. And the way it’s set up is it’s kind of like a giant refrigerator, and you just go up and you pick your beverage out. And then there’s nobody there to take your purchase or your payment. So you literally text them, and you walk out the door. So it’s just building on that experience that they’re starting with their online and, yeah, e-commerce sales through text. And then the other brand that I think is doing something really cool. The reason it’s cool is because of the platform they’re leveraging. So Instagram now has shoppable ads for influencers. And so Outdoor Voices is totally taking advantage of that. And it’s really cool because you see the clothing not on the super skinny model with a white background and the perfect, you know, lighting, but you can literally see, like, this big, like, advocate that you have a lot of affinity toward wearing the outfit out on their bike, maybe they’re sweating a little bit, and you can tap it and purchase it right there. And so I think that’s super, super cool. Again, totally different from the traditional e-commerce sense of what we know. But I can see that growing in the future with a lot of other, you know, brands tapping into that influencer possibility, just because it’s way more valuable than what we have now. I kind of laugh sometimes, because I’ve gotten a little cynical about influencers. But I think now being able to prove an ROI on what they’re doing can be really, really good for that industry.

Jessica Kingman
So I’m interested holistically, how do you think that we’re going to start to see brands shift their e-commerce strategy in the future?

Laken Faccio
So I think when it comes to e-commerce as we know it right now, I think brands are really going to start to lean into when their, like, customer is thinking about them. And so what I mean by that is, you know, with Dirty Lemon, the Gen Z is, you know, texting always on their phone. So that’s where they went, right? They’re going to be that added contact in their contact list. Whereas I think another example is Walmart’s voice skill that they’re building out right now. And you know, that’s something that you would use naturally like in the home when you’re busy and you need to add eggs to your cart but your hands are full. And so I think what’s really cool is we’re starting to see e-commerce be something that brands can leverage to, like, actually differentiate themselves in the category and maybe, you know, get a leg up on, you know, their competitors by being there before that person even has a chance to, like, go to the store and see everything else on the shelf, you know – they could be the one that’s there, right away.

Jessica Kingman
I’m interested in how brands begin to identify and leverage the new ways of commerce that you’ve been speaking about to meet their customers where they currently are?

Laken Faccio
Yeah, absolutely. So that idea of identifying – the way I think about it is, you know, if your core audience is really savvy and they’re these young Gen-Zennials who are always on their phones, you know, maybe there’s something that you could reach them like right then and there, maybe it is SMS and ordering through, you know, text. But on the flip side of that, you know, being able to leverage e-commerce in that way isn’t going to be like a one-stop shop for everybody. So I totally recognize that it’s not like all these small, different ways that we’re seeing people innovate in e-commerce, that’s not going to be the only solution that they offer – it’s just going to be a piece in a bigger ecosystem that they have. And so I think you’ll start to see, you know, a different diversification, if you will, of e-commerce in a brand’s portfolio.

Jessica Kingman
To read more about Laken’s trend Blurring Lines: When Content and Commerce Converge, as well as other trends we predict will make an impact in the advertising landscape in 2020, please go to trends.richards.com. Laken, thank you very much.

Laken Faccio
Thank you. It was awesome being here.

 

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