DigitalFlash 028 - Internet Week NY 2014

Tell, Tell, Tell

As part of Internet Week New York, DigitalFlash hosted a panel, Capitalizing on the Consumer at Grind Park.

We thought the conversation would focus on emerging technology in e-commerce and the state of retail today. In actuality, the panelists’ discussion focused on the importance of storytelling and authenticity.

  

Our panel of experienced commerce experts included: Ben Lavely, COO of Best Made Co., Philip Krim, CEO/Founder of Casper, Carla Dunham, a marketing consultant previously at Amazon, and Maxine Bedat Co-Founder of Zady.

In-store Storytelling

As e-commerce continues to grow in popularity, we were curious to glean insights on consumer behaviour from the experts. Contrary to our initial presumption, the panelists expressed how brick-and-mortar is very much alive—not dead, but constantly changing.

 
Bedat discussed Zady’s, a company founded to as a response to fast and mass produced fashion, created a pop-up shop located in an airport. Zady used the pop-up to interact on an intimate level with customers and to effectively articulate their story. Whether customers purchased an item or not, Bedat and co-founder Soraya Dorabi were able to translate their brand storytelling to an in-store experience, and providing points of helpful “softer data.” 
 
Krim emphasized that brands dominating their sectors are the ones who are creating connections with their consumers. Dunham made the point that organic reach increases for brands when they tell their story authentically and have a clear idea of their target consumer.

  

Technology only part of the process

"Technology is not part of the storytelling, or part of the brand mission," explained Lavely of Best Made Co. "If you want to feel it you go to the store. If you want to buy something you go to the website." Best Made Co. is a company which creates beautifully designed quality tools like axes and saws, and has developed quite the cult following of urban outdoorsmen. 

Their showroom in Tribeca is the ideal venue for tangibly experiencing products, and a place to experiment outside of the e-commerce space. 

We Can Scale

 The question always on company’s minds no matter size nor sector is how to scale—a problem which still exists in the online marketplace. Caspar, Zady and Best Made Co. all focus on creating the best quality products possible, and have managed to scale effectively. “Sometimes when we’re talking about artisanal people assume small, but there can be very beautiful things created with great integrity at scale,” touted Bedat and Lavely explained Best Made Co. is scaling with people and systems. 

Key takeaway: 

Build amazing products, tell your story— the rest will work itself out. 

Our friends of KITE took a look at a group of eCommerce retailers that are transforming the online shopping experience and maintaining an authentic brand in the process. One standout was  Everlane; a “radically transparent” goods retailer, supplying well-made staples at reasonable prices.


Everlane’s clean, simple design and navigation trumpets its online-only business model that and their close supplier relationships. By cutting out big middlemen manufacturers, they offer authentic, high quality goods at low costs, in the same vein as Zady.

A differentiator for Everlane is their emphasis on suppliers.  They feature in-depth factory profiles that describe how they found each supplier and what each factory makes, highlighting the factory’s proximity to you.

Everlane takes pride in telling the stories behind their products, adding to the strength of their marketing content. Their customer service is incredibly approachable, one feels like they are talking to their college best friend.

Their latest pop-up showroom, which they are calling an “open house” in NYC highlights many of the themes covered in our panel—dangerous shopping territory.

To learn more about KITE, visit https://getkite.co/.

Finding Synergy at Collision Conference

We went straight from the Vegas-based Collision conference into Internet Week New York last week, so forgive us for being a little tardy with our recap.

As many know, we attend a lot of conferences and most of them do have a similar plug-and-play feel to them. Refreshingly, Collision had a more of curated feel; providing opportunities for prime networking and learning, in a natural manner. We found ourselves in super interesting and engaging, impromptu meetings, in all places: Downtown Las Vegas. Aside from the prerequisite main stage activities and start-up village; round tables allowed conference attendees to hear from and interact with the keynote speakers on a smaller scale.

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A few key tidbits we picked up:

Matt Gilligan of Circa touched on how to build apps smarter, and recommended using Helpshift as an assist. Also, to be realistic about what purpose your app serves.

We really enjoyed the roundtable from Nicole Glaros, managing director of Techstars. She gave some killer advice on how to seek out and secure VC funding, it involved a lot of networking. Her blog shares some other noteworthy start-up musings.

Another highlight was meeting the CEO of Evernote, Phil Libin; a personal hero, partly because our business would be lost without Evernote. We were impressed by his humble demeanor and insight on how to accept and react to criticism from customers. He also stressed the importance of focusing on your product and not industry accolades. 

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Technology-wise, Wemo from Belkin, a new app to control your home appliances, otherwise known as the ‘Internet Of Things’, blew us away. They also demoed their product with the cutest puppies, a total crowd pleaser.

A few other start-ups that caught our attention were;

Lendup a solution to payday loans
Carelulu - a site that vets childcare options for parents in their area
PhoneSurgeons - a franchise of expert smartphone repair stores and services
Wiser - a closed platform to share new articles with your team

Startup highlight: 3 Questions with Lobster

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We ran into Olga Egorsheva, Co-founder & CEO of lobster on the street and loved what the company was up to—creating a marketplace for people to legally gain access to Instagram and Flickr images. Users enter the marketplace by using the hashtag #ilobsterit and take a 75% cut when their image is purchased.

Here’s what she had to say:

1. What do you see as the main issues with copyright infringement in today’s social media landscape?
The lack of a simple method to acquire content legally. Our marketplace  let’s you search, discover, choose and buy photos from Instagram and Flickr. Secondly, the culture still needs evolving—like people have largely learned to use iTunes and Spotify instead of downloading pirate music, we are leading them to same recognition of intellectual property rights of content producers. We are building a culture around media’s legal use, by providing a tool to acquire content.

Take for example, Daniel Morel’s story, where the damages to Getty Images were upwards of $1.2 million. Many other less notable users suffer when their photos are illegally copied on most common social networks.  At the same time, digital agencies, from advertising giants to smaller boutique shops are not able to get a hold of lively, diverse, inexpensive content, while users produce everyday.

2. Have you gotten significant interest from everyday content creators looking to earn a few extra dollars?
Yes, we have—especially when content creators hear that there are interested potential buyers, e.g. when we are running a specific photo challenge for #fatherhood photos in collaboration with a brand. At the moment we connect these requests for content on a case-by-case basis, but are automating the process soon.

3. How have you seen people using content purchased from Lobster? We have so far seen demand mostly from digital agencies buying photos for their campaigns or from certain themes like travel and family, which lend well to everyday content from creators and appeals to their users more than that of professional stocks. 

Data Visualization

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We also created this cool real time data visualization page with our partners Nexalogy to capture the real time social media conversation. Click Here to see the page live. 

Laura Mignott and Sara Walker-Santana (DigitalFlash Co-Founders) had the pleasure of sharing their story and their insights on networking, creating events their way, and what Digital Flash does for it’s clients with Dann Berg on his podcast Novice No Longer. Take a listen to hear the full story.

http://novicenolonger.com/gotta-keep-hustling-with-laura-sarah-digitalflash/

DigitalFlash Radar 026

Big Brand on Campus (B.B.O.C.)

With the infinite amount of products out there, customers can be and are ruthless in their scrutiny of brands. Based on how word of mouth works today, customers with positive brand experiences can easily become advocates or super-fans. We’re not going to talk specifically about brand advocates this week, but rather the different ways brands are successfully appealing to and befriending customers. 
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In the book “Can’t Buy Me Like,” authors Bob Garfield and Doug Levy dubbed our current digital age: The Relationship Era. We think that’s a pretty accurate portrayal; looking at the customer and brand interaction as a reciprocal relationship helps to illustrate how easily brands can fall out of the good graces of their  customers. We view brands like we do our friends—meaning they need a personality we can tolerate and corporate manifesto we trust. That persona should extend beyond handling customer service needs in a timely fashion, to putting out genuinely good content, and interfacing with fans around that content. Since through social, the customer can show support, brands can potentially create the feeling customers are not just another data point—like your childhood best friend would.

So what makes a brand likeable?
 
Well-made, life-enhancing products? A snarky, yet relatable public persona? Charitable tie-in? Pointed marketing campaigns?

A Few Stand-outs:
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Dove
The much-debated Dove #wearebeautiful campaign highlights how brands can become more likeable by appealing to the emotional side of consumers. While there was some serious backlash around the campaign, a fair amount of positive buzz was generated and increased support rallied behind the brand.

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GoPro
A brand and product which lend itself naturally to support from the community is GoPro—to the extent they are moving in the direction of a content company. The brand has successfully positioned itself with the outdoor adventure crowd, who are the ideal GoPro content creators. Through a little strategic encouragement, GoPro empowered fans to share their extreme adventure videos, evangelizing the product and the brand. 

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Warby Parker
Instead of just showcasing their products, Warby Parker employs the friendly faces behind their brand on social (with the occasional celeb appearance). Customer service-wise their staff speaks to people in a way in which you feel as though you are talking to a friend. Following the Oreo-inspired trend of playing off current cultural events does not work well for all brands, but for Warby it comes through as smart rather than forced. Oh and don’t forget the “buy a pair, give a pair” aspect of their business— reasonably priced sunglasses for all!

Punch Cards Go Digital 

Our friends at KITE took a look into loyalty startups that are helping retail brands learn more about consumers and maintain loyalty. Pirq, based out of Seattle, has created a dynamic mobile loyalty solution that learns customer preferences and serves them customized deals when in-store.  

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Originally Pirq was a player in the daily deals space, but they’ve since pivoted to a more personalized retail loyalty platform that adapts to customer preferences. Customers can maintain punch cards, discover sales, and activate new perks or “pirqs” with each return
visit.  
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Each scan or purchase logs additional consumer behavioral data, allowing brands and retailers to better tailor offers to their most loyal customers. One of Pirq’s more popular platform features is its built-in charitable giving component; with every transaction, Pirq makes a donation to a hunger-focused charity. 

Pirq gained notoriety after it partnered with Apple in Cupertino, when Apple employees tested the platform as part of the app’s rollout into the Silicon Valley. The platform has since expanded nationwide and can be found in almost 20 metropolitan markets.    

To learn more about KITE, visit http://getKITE.co.

DigitalFlash’s NYTECHDAY 2014 Wrap-up

NY TECH-DAY, or as we like to call it, The “science fair” of startups, offered us the opportunity to check out hundreds of startups gathered in one, seemingly never-ending hall at Pier 92. The startups, all disparate in nature, vied for audiences attention in the hopes of proving that their product was the next big thing. Naturally, DigitalFlash was there, scoping and seeking out interesting and worthy startups.

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The feeling of being a bit overwhelmed when first entering the hall, was natural for many attendees, but once their eyes adjusted to the staggering number of startups showcasing their product, it became easy to move about the sea of companies and learn about their products.  We saw many noteworthy startups, too many in fact to mention below, but we highlighted a few that are worth checking out! Enjoy. 

Acustom Apparel: Apparel shop using 3D body scanner for custom fit orders

Hidden: Wireless user-friendly speakers that can be sync’d together

StreamWeb (MAZ): Mobile browser with unique user interface and convenient features for mobile use.

Tipsi: Wine curation app pairing and recommending off your favorites

Foodmento: Mobile platform for sharing and discovering your favorite meals with friends.