Episode 103
April 19, 2019

Data-Driven Storytelling

In the age of brands having veritable lakes of data how do you action and champion the story behind the data - how do you use it to bring real insight into who your customer is and what she wants? In this episode we sit down with Rachel Swanson, founder of Method + Mode, a market research firm, to take some of Future Commerce's own medicine - to listen to our audience and learn from the data that was generated from our first-ever audience survey.

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In the age of brands having veritable lakes of data, how do you action and champion the story behind the data - how do you use it to bring real insight into who your customer is and what she wants? In this episode we sit down with Rachel Swanson, founder of Method + Mode, a market research firm, to take some of Future Commerce's own medicine - to listen to our audience and learn from the data that was generated from our first-ever audience survey.

Show Notes:

Main Takeaways:

  • Future Commerce conducted an audience survey study at the beginning of this year, and Rachel Swanson of Method + Mode is here to talk results.
  • Future Commerce is working to create a community around the content we produce.
  • What can the FC team learn from our incredible audience?
  • Data is more than just numbers, and proper implementation may require a facilitator to connect the dots.

Before Method + Mode: Data-Based Storytelling Can Change Everything:

  • Rachel Swanson from Method + Mode is here, and she breaks down the results of Future Commerce's first-ever audience survey.
  • Rachel started her career working at digital agencies in the era of split-testing (also known as A/B testing.
  • Then, over ten years ago, Rachel got a job working at Condé Nast, working in-house with Glamour, and W for three plus years each, honing the brand messaging and positioning for ad sales with a data-driven method.
  • What drove Rachel while working in partnerships with brands, was the innovation and the drive to bring out the white space, which ultimately pushed her to strike out on her own.
  • "Helping innovators Innovate is kind of how I see what I do."

Success & Failures: What We Can Learn From Our Audience:

  • This survey taught the FC team so much about our audience, and their feedback was invaluable to the development of our show.
  • Phillip points out two main problems that Future Commerce faced before this survey and our rebrand. One issue being our content was much better than our logo suggested, and two being that even though retail voices were listening to Future Commerce, we didn't know who they were.
  • Rachel discusses some of the key points from the survey, including that our listeners are 60/40 B2B-B2C focused, and that listeners are looking for more diversity in guests and topic discussion.
  • Also, thankfully listeners do seem to like the back-and-forth that Phillip and Brian engage in, which is probably a good thing.

Does Our Future Audience Want to See Phillip and Brian in HD?

  • Brian asks Rachel what our audience cares slightly-less about?
  • Apparently, our current listeners have little desire to Phillip and Brian on video, which seems to devalue Phillip's Ulta Beauty makeup haul.
  • Brian wonders whether future listeners may be more interested in video, mainly depending on the context.
  • Our audience does seem to respond well to our growing Instagram game.
  • Also, since we learned that our audience favors consistency, Phillip wants everyone to know our new episodes come out on Friday's.

Storytelling VS. Lakes of Data: Find Someone to Connect The Dots:

  • Brian asks Rachel if she can explain what makes for proper research?
  • Rachel explains though many people equate data and research, they aren't the same. Data becomes unless it is married with human connection is what drives standout work.
  • And as Rachel points out machine learning cannot derive everything, because it lacks that human connection.
  • These are all reasons to work with someone who can decipher that data and connect the dots, be it in-house or otherwise.
  • It's more than just lakes of data; it's about storytelling, and connection with your customers.
  • Rachel: "If you're not an expert on your customers or your audience you're not doing your job as an executive."

Want to reach out to Rachel, and Method + Mode ? Go over to --> https://methodandmode.co/.

Go over to Futurecommerce.fm and give us your feedback! We love to hear from our listeners!

Retail tech is moving fast, and Future Commerce is moving faster!

Download MP3 (46.4 MB)


Brian: [00:00:01] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:21] And I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:01:23] Today, we have a very special guest on our show. We conducted a very detailed survey of our audience and with the help of Method + Mode. And so today we have Rachel Swanson, who led the charge for us to build out the survey and conduct it. And she's here to talk to us a little bit about that process and working with your audience. And I'm really excited that we have her here with us today. Welcome, Rachel.

Rachel: [00:01:59] Thanks, Brian. Hi, guys.

Phillip: [00:02:01] Hey. First of all, I think we've been hinting at this for months. I know that we've conducted the survey and we didn't really kind of come right out and say, "Well, we're doing a bunch of market research because we're trying to figure out..." What would you even do with that? And and so, first of all, like, I thought we would sort of open with, you know, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you find yourself in sort of the field of market research and how did you come to do that for podcasts? And then we'll kind of get into the meat of it.

Rachel: [00:02:38] Sure, sure. Well, I'm excited to be here and, you know, espouse how great market research is. I'm one of those rare career market researchers, which is a funny thing to say. But I discovered market research in school, in college through survey methods class and statistics. And once I realized that there was a business application for understanding human behavior, it just clicked for me. You know, I was that kid who couldn't miss Dateline. And so just understanding why people...

Phillip: [00:03:14] You always know one of those kids in your class that's just a big fan of Dateline.

Rachel: [00:03:19] Right? I mean, what would even be the same kind of example today? I don't even know.

Phillip: [00:03:24] That's like a 12 year old kid that's like a huge Gary Vaynerchuk fan...

Rachel: [00:03:30] Right?

Phillip: [00:03:31] You know, in middle school, like saying "crush it."

Rachel: [00:03:34] Exactly. So I kind of came through all the traditional ranks, worked out a new product development firm, worked at a couple of digital agencies in the apex of analytics and split testing era in the early 2000s. So like I kind of got all the foundational research moderating focus groups overnight in San Francisco, all that kind of boots on the ground research experience through being supplier side. And then ultimately ended up moving over to Condé Nast about a decade ago in their corporate division, working with editorial and publishing side business across this suite of brands, on everything from cover line testing to how to have magazines on the iPad, which in 2010 was a big deal. And then ultimately ended up moving on onto the brand specific side, working in-house at Glamour and W over, you know, three plus years each, to kind of really hone the brand messaging and positioning for ad sales with a data driven focus. So that's kind of, you know, how the ad revenue model works in publishing is everything is data driven. But you need to be able to kind of tell that story and understand what data matters when and why and how you can use it to your advantage in the market. So I spent a long time doing that across both from the business perspectives of the brands as well as in partnership with advertising partners. So worked with auto, and fashion and beauty, and wellness and every kind of, any brand you imagine advertises with media, those media. And you know what really drove me is the innovation piece.

Rachel: [00:05:41] So I always kind of had like a pet project or an idea on the side that I wanted to bring to the forefront. I wanted to try out working with different vendor partners. And what was most rewarding for me was always finding that white space and bringing that forward, whether that was for synergies with the client or just for how to evolve the brands I was working at. So, you know, it kind of was a natural next step for me when I was thinking about the next phase of my career to strike out on my own and really be able to work and help innovators innovate, is kind of how I see what I do. You know, a lot of companies starting out, or established executives who, we see every business model is changing right now, really just need that kind of outside opinion, but with the senior level experience of working in large organizations to kind of help guide the data from a business perspective, and that's I think what I really specialize in. I love research and there's definitely a place for the most perfect scientific research study known to man. However, what I think is more valuable and more usable is leveraging different data from different sources to really kind of triangulate against business goals and find that sweet spot of what makes sense to make your business grow or make it work better. And so that's how I got to where I am now.

Phillip: [00:07:20] And that's right where we kind of met you. Which was you had done some market research in the podcasting space for another podcast property, whose name escapes me at the moment.

Rachel: [00:07:34] Spirit of 608. They're amazing.

Phillip: [00:07:36] Yeah. Yeah. And I know that you're sort of an avid consumer of podcasts yourself and being a fan of the medium and understanding the medium and sort of the challenges that we have. We are the direct to consumer of retail reporting. And so we have all the challenges that direct to consumer brands have in the retail space and that we have to drive our audience to us. And the thing that I kept telling Brian was that this clip art rocket ship logo with pink, it was supposed to be a two week thing and it turned into a two year thing. And I felt like we were lacking in two vectors. And Brian, you feel free to jump in. We were lacking in two areas. One, I feel like our content has greater value than our outward brand, than you would perceive based on our outward facing brand, and then two, we are attracting retail thought leaders to our universe with this podcast. But we don't know who they are, and we don't even know how to begin to find out who they are. We can sit and beg them to talk to us, but I feel like there's a better way. And that's when we met you, Rachel. Brian, if there's anything you want to add...

Brian: [00:08:55] Yeah that's dead on. I think the thing I would add to that is, you know, we wanted to start to build more of a conversation between us and our audience. It was obvious that we were getting a lot of traction. And people are interested in what we had to say. But we wanted to hear... oftentimes when you listen to a podcast, you're like, "Oh, man, I wish you would cover this. I wish to talk about this thing that I really want to hear their thoughts on..."

Phillip: [00:09:22] "If I have to hear about body data one more time, I swear to God..."

Brian: [00:09:27] "I'm done this podcast. I'm done." So it's just opening up that channel of communication is such that we could address some of those things that people were itching to hear about. And and also we're looking for new ways to interact with our audience. So I think you've hit the nail on the head there, Phillip. But yeah, that's my addition to why we were looking to do this.

Phillip: [00:09:53] And I guess the reason that we wanted you to come on the show, Rachel, and share some of that is we ask our guests every single week to be open and transparent with their successes and failures and the things that they're learning right now so that we as a retail leadership community can benefit from it. Because when we hear other people's experiences, it resonates with us. You know, shared experience, leads to community building. And if there's anything that Brian and I understand and know, through decades of our leadership and other spaces, it's the community piece that sustains us. And I think that's really what our podcast is all about, is trying to create this community or foster this community that's growing around us. So I feel like we have to take our own medicine and share what we're learning. And so I'm really, I'm kind of psyched to jump into it a little bit here today. Maybe you could talk about the methodology that we used and sort of how we, for those who might be new to this show, how we kind of went to market with the research, like how did you how did we conduct it? Like kind of dig into it a little bit.

Rachel: [00:11:02] Yeah. So we did an online survey and we recruited through audio, through mentions on the podcast, as well as through the FC insiders email, across social, etc. and we did have an incentive to participate because we definitely want people to feel like their time is worthwhile. And yeah, you know, but other than that, it's really just a leap of faith. You know, like you said, is reaching out to the community, hoping that they have things to share. And I feel like, you know, as a researcher who's been doing this for almost two decades at this point, what I've seen is that key people have consumers have evolved and audiences have evolved. The idea of doing a focus group behind the mirror and being secret is is something I'm seeing less and less of. You know, people want to a conversation with the brand and they're OK with being transparent about that. So I think giving people opportunities engage is just really, really critical. So we did this in January, February, took some time to look at the results. We've got about 100 respondents, which is a fair showing. We didn't know how we were going to do. And I'll be, if you don't mind, I'll be a little candid in sharing. I recall when we were talking about this, you asked me, Phillip, what a failure would look like or what happens if we fail. And I said there is no failure, that if no one responds, we're so we're going to know that people are less engaged than we thought. So I think, you know, we took that leap of faith that any learning would be, you know, anything that came back would be a learning. But I think, you know, getting getting the response rate we did well was with a decent showing. And it was primarily North American business people and it was about 60 40 B2B versus B2C focused, which I think is just, you know, in the realm of the topics that you guys cover and the various technologies, certain platforms, et cetera, just a really good kind of nugget to keep in mind of who's really tuning in and how we can tailor the content to make sure that we're keeping everyone interested and engaged with content that's relevant to them. You know, at least some of the time. So that was a really you know, that was that was some of the top line kind of demographic stuff that came out.

Phillip: [00:13:36] Yeah. I was surprised by the engagement. I know we had we put it out in a lot of different avenues. And what were the? I forget. We did it through November or December into January of 2019, I believe was sort of the timeframe?

Rachel: [00:13:55] Yeah, pretty much mostly in January, I would say was the real timing,.

Phillip: [00:14:02] Which was interesting because we were sort of also... It was like the culmination of our engagement with a brand agency that we work with called All True who you know, they're about to put out a case study about the brand that we've now revitalized. What Future Commerce is beyond just a podcast, and so I'm excited to talk about that at some point. But a lot of the things that we learn coming out of this, the market research helped us to shape some of our you know, some of our some of the findings that came out, is helping us to shape the decisions that we're making around how we apply the brand and where to put our efforts and energy. So what do you think was, was there anything, were there any findings that came out of the research that you were surprised by or maybe something that you were expecting to see that showed itself true?

Rachel: [00:14:59] You know, I think... I think the most interesting thing to me, actually, one of the most interesting things and kind of positive things that we heard, was in asking why people listened. And I think... You know, you want people to feel obviously the content is relevant, but four out of five actually said that Future Commerce introduces them to new concepts and platforms that they wouldn't have discovered otherwise, which to me is like the ultimate badge of content, especially professional content. You don't want to waste your time doing something, reading something, listening to something that's like, "OK. We knew that." So that was a really... I was really encouraged to see that and thought that was positive. And overall, you guys are doing something right. I think your engagement rates were higher than I've seen in working on other podcast media with pretty much everyone. I think it was 94% saying that they listened through all or most of the episode. So they're even loving the banter. So we think...

Phillip: [00:16:15] Yeah. And I think I have this sense that people like the personality that we inject. I think there's plenty of retail reporting that you can get elsewhere that dive deep into earnings reports and do the scientific analysis. And I think what people are looking for is different ideas and and putting our...

Brian: [00:16:37] Crazy talk...

Phillip: [00:16:38] I think that it helped me understand that it's okay for us to inject our personality and nobody's expecting us to be true journalists, which is great because, you know, we're anything but. One of the things that I was really interested in understanding was sort of the relevancy of the content, which is great to hear that we're hitting on some of the marks. What are some of the things that we're that, you know, we were sort of missing on maybe from an audience perspective? Or what are some areas that we feel like there are improvements that we can make to our show and our community?

Rachel: [00:17:14] Yes. So that was one of the areas where it was open ended how we asked it. So it's a little more qualitative, but I think the sentiments were there loud and clear that Future Commerce needs a little more diversity and more diverse perspectives, whether that's female owned or operated businesses or more global perspectives. I think, you know, the concept of inclusivity and diversity is everywhere nowadays. So the more you can kind of be mindful of that expectation, I think is only a win. And I know that you guys already in recent weeks have been becoming more diverse in the different kind of perspectives and guests and even some of the brands that you've been covering, especially with, you know, the unicorn women lately, with Glossier and Rent the Runway. And the other thing was, was consistency, more of the technical of like when is the next episode coming out and how long is it going to be? Right? You know, and that kind of having that rigour about scheduling, so people know when things are dropping lends credibility to the show. Having that consistency is something people look forward to. It's just like that sheen of professionalism that as you guys grow is definitely something people are looking for.

Brian: [00:18:50] Yeah, that makes sense.

Phillip: [00:18:51] And that's something we sort of struggled with as anyone who's sort of bootstrapping understands, our hope is that over time we can not have to do it all ourselves. And that's kind of been an awesome evolution in 2018 to bring on other people to help us develop the content, other voices, to lend their perspective to the conversation. And by the way, if anyone hasn't figured it out yet, Friday morning. We drop on Friday morning, every single Friday morning...at least now we do. Anyway...

Brian: [00:19:26] We should do a little research if that's the best time to drop an episode.

Phillip: [00:19:31] Yeah, that's our next foray. Also, I think, yeah, from having sort of a North American slant and perspective... 62% of our downloads, our direct downloads from subscriber base, is in the United States. But that means that, you know what, 38% is happening elsewhere. And so if you just look at download numbers alone, and that's not even just respondents in the survey, we need to have a broader perspective, more global perspective and have new voices that can speak into what the global retail landscape looks like.

Rachel: [00:20:09] Right. And I think that actually dovetails nicely into some of the other findings, you know, about why people tune in and just kind of the mindset folks are in when they're listening is that they do see Future Commerce as an educator. And so even if there's technologies or platforms that are, you know, more evolved or more common in other parts of the globe, I think... And even if we can't use them in North America, just kind of hearing about those interesting things that are happening and figuring out, "Hey, how can I apply something like this to my work?" is something that I know the audience is really into. Right? And it's about having that currency, too. This is a little bit more like me reading into the data and into some of the open ends of, when I'm smart in my job and I know something other people don't know that's currency. Right? If I can bring that up in a meeting in the conference room or with my developers or when I'm talking to someone who, even if I don't touch some of the more technical commerce components, but I'm talking about that with people who do, having that currency is is really something people are looking forward to, and they know they're gonna get that from you guys. So, yeah, I think even if it's not totally usable here and now, everyone wants to be the person in the room who has that memorable story. Right? Or that memorable piece of information. So, yeah.

Brian: [00:23:30] We did some research around what's ahead for us. And so maybe you could shed a little bit of light on what our audience is looking for from us and what they're not looking for.

Rachel: [00:23:43] Yeah. So I think the thought leadership, obviously, you know, that's just another kind of... It's another kind of avenue or another kind of channels from the show. Right? So whether that's a webinar, whether that's a white paper, I think, you know, it's a natural evolution of what you guys deliver now and something that's able to be consumed on your own time. I think that was a theme that came out loud and clear as well, is that the attention continues to be... Time is elusive. So getting someone's attention is critical. And they want to use their time wisely. So, you know, being able to tap into things when they can, versus kind of like live right now, content, I think is is important. On the on the flip side,we asked a number of different kind of enhancements or future opportunities to engage with Future Commerce and something that probably I can wager to guess you guys aren't going to do anytime soon, as is video, which I was a little interested to see. It ranked pretty much last on our list of things that you guys were noodling on. Only one in ten said they'd be interested in video. So, you know, obviously we didn't give a ton of context around what those videos may be. So we don't want to close that door completely. But I think there's something nice about being able to tune out on your own time and kind of be multitasking with audio, that with the video you potentially may not be able to. And I think, yeah, like it's a little more heavy of a resource lift to do video. So from being totally transparent, not having an audience that's demanding seeing your guys beautiful faces is that I think that's a win.

Phillip: [00:25:49] I put all this money into buying makeup so that we could do HD, but that's ok.

Brian: [00:25:56] At Ulta, right?

Phillip: [00:25:57] Right. You know it.

Brian: [00:25:59] I think that it's interesting. It may be that our audience is an audio focused audience right now anyway. And so it might be that there's an additional audience out there that's sort of waiting for us to do video.

Rachel: [00:26:14] Yeah.

Brian: [00:26:17] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:26:17] Yeah. This is where we start drawing wild conclusions based on own biases. Right? Which is, you know... "That must mean that we're just not engaging the people that love video.".

Brian: [00:26:28] Exactly.

Phillip: [00:26:30] What I do take away is, we are engaging in Instagram two to one compared to all the other places that we are, like LinkedIn and Twitter. When we engage on Instagram, both in stories and in regular posts, we have the people that actually are on Instagram are the brands that would, you know, grab hold of our content. And we're making a lot of headway there. So I do think that there is probably a growth opportunity. One thing I was thinking was an interesting takeaway was, and something that we could easily put into place and change, is the selection of the type of guests and the selection of the type of brands that are represented on the show. And, you know, not wanting to admit it. But, yeah, I want to engage with brands that I care about. But it's nice to be reminded that not everybody thinks like me. Not everybody cares about the things I care about. That was a refresher. And I think we have responded to that pretty quickly. I'm interested just to kind of also take one other step towards the things that our sponsors care about, you know, having partners that help make the show possible. You know, reinforcing that the people that listen to the show actually know who they are and pay attention to them. And whether we're driving mutual value is also important. And I feel like we came away with some clear learnings from that, as well.

Rachel: [00:28:03] Definitely. I mean, everyone, there was high recall of knowing who the sponsors were and actually in driving favorable impressions, you know, both of the sponsors you're featuring as well as, you know, kind of that lending credibility to Future Commerce component. So I think there's a great two way relationship there. And, you know, I think we talked about this a little over our conversations about the data is because you have a broader potential audience tuning in than people who are necessarily always responsible for the platform decision making capabilities, sometimes it may or may not be relevant. Right? So I think remembering that as well, is that getting the recall and the recognition and kind of the perception of credibility from the sponsors is important, even when they might not be the ones who can pull the trigger. Although we did have it, we did have a handful of people say that they had actually, you know, considered or gone through with with contracting with some of the partners. So, you know, that's always a great thing to see.

Phillip: [00:29:21] Yeah. And that's a... It's interesting to, you know, especially in the realm of enterprise software, it's not my own original joke, but they say if you put up enough enterprise software billboards all in a concentrated an area, an airport spontaneously appears around it. It becomes sort of background noise or it becomes sort of something that, if it's not immediately relevant to you and your role in a company, my concern is that if you're not the decision maker it doesn't have an impression, but it's actually turns out it's probably not the case. Because today more than ever, especially in direct to consumer, the people... Accounting in an omni channel organization is making less decisions about the direct to consumer channel than, say, you know, the actual product or program manager that's over direct to consumer, someone who's like in a directory of e-commerce or the CMO. They're helping make channel appropriate decisions around things like tax platforms and payment providers. So they actually have more pool than you would think today, which is a super interesting evolution.

Brian: [00:30:31] It definitely is. And especially given that this study showed that four out of five were actually financial decision makers. I feel like, you know, that the relevance of the content... it makes sense that, you know, that they would be listening to it.

Phillip: [00:30:49] Yeah.

Brian: [00:30:50] And you know, that they would be interested in what we have to say because they're looking for things to make decisions on. Right? And so, I mean, I think you, I think you nailed it with that joke, Phillip. It's actually a real thing. And I feel like, you know, there were a few other stats in there that showed that the effect that our association with our brand was bringing to our sponsors, which I thought was interesting.

Phillip: [00:31:20] Yeah. I mean, you could probably spin the joke the other way that if you have an Audible.com and a Casper and Allbirds ad that you play into thin air, possibly two white dudes and a podcast mic appear around that. I'm really interested about the sort of the cohort of the other types of shows that people are listening to. I know we had some takeaway as sort of our, I don't want to call it competition, but there's some other shows that we think are pretty relevant in the retail podcasting space that I know other people were paying attention to. How do you think we compare to those types of shows like, Brick and Data or Jason and Scot? Or are people tuning into those as well?

Rachel: [00:32:11] Yeah, they are. But I do think that the format and the way you guys talk about what's coming is unique. And we saw that in the data where, you know, we asked amongst a slew of other retail focused shows, how valuable they were vs. Future Commerce. And pretty much everyone said that there was no other show that was perceived as having significantly more value to them in the podcast realm than Future Commerce. So I think, you know, you had a little bit of... The most tuned in in addition was Merchant to Merchant. But in terms of some of the other shows, there was no one who was really kind of perceived as nailing it versus what you guys are doing, and I think it's because of the transparency and kind of that authentic discussion, rather than just reporting news that makes it really, really unique. And and it's resonating. I mean, I probably should've taken a step back and said, like across the board everyone is super happy with the show, between the high engagement rates and actually high subscription rates, higher than I have seen on some podcasts research, which even if they don't get to listen means that they want to. That's really positive. All the open ends. We had a number of people, thank you very much, who said, "They could be doing nothing better. Nothing could be better. They're doing a great job." So I just want to give you guys the props for that that the audience, you know yeah, sure, it's a little self-selecting of who came into the survey. But we want to make sure to thank everyone who is tuning in and giving those kudos, because that's what's going to help you guys decide what you're doing more of and what you're doing less of.

Brian: [00:34:16] Sheesh. Now I'm blushing. I feel like I need to shift gears here really quickly because that's a little bit too much puffing up.

Phillip: [00:34:25] Heaping too much praise. I'll balance it out by saying it sounds a lot like what a spouse and a failed marriage might say it is like, "Well, you know, there's really nothing you can do. I mean, at this point, there's nothing more that you can do. Like, honestly, how much better could this possibly be, really?" No, I'm just kidding. But, I do think... That's kind of dark.

Brian: [00:34:45] Ok well, while we have Rachel here, I'd love to hear a little bit more about doing research in general and insight work. I feel like that's something that our audience would find really engaging. So maybe just give a little bit of a window into what you think what makes for good research. What makes research relevant? How do you provide deep insights to your customers? And have you done that in the past? And, you know our audience. You definitely know our audience. How could they do more research about their customers and their audiences?

Rachel: [00:35:24] Yes. So, I mean, it's a little bit... It's a loaded question because, you know, there's a little bit of the idea that data is research. And I think what I strongly believe is that data is really nothing unless you have a person who can help you decipher what it's really saying. So, it all boils down to data tells you what, but insights point to the why. And having access to data across every channel in so many myriad ways nowadays, that's table stakes. So you're not going to differentiate yourself by having data. Marrying it with true behavior and that human connection is really what drives stand out work, in my opinion. So I'm a little biased because this is what I do. But there's a human component in getting insights. And you can't always teach that. And it can't always be derived through, you know, the machine learning and the evolution of A.I. that that we're seeing now. Right. And at the most basic level, it boils down to quality in quality out. Right? So there's so many tools out now also to make doing research on your own easy. But I would challenge people to say that if you don't really know what you're trying to answer, then you're not going to get back feedback that's going to tell you what to do.

Rachel: [00:37:05] So whether this is like a methodology issue of, you know, "Hey, let's throw up a Google form and just like survey people." I mean, maybe you really need a user testing. You might need usability. And that survey is not going to get you that. Study design at getting what you want to answer. I recently got invited to a survey that someone hadn't put any skip logic in, which is the fancy word for saying, like, if you answer X, you get shown Y. So all my answers to what I was responding to were giving me irrelevant follow up questions. So that's just amateur hour, right? There's no reason for that. And I'll get to that in a minute. Not only is there no reason for that, because there's people like myself or others who can give you really solid feedback and support to make sure you're not making those mistakes, but also because, technology is advancing. Surveys are going to become smarter in the future. Doing the analysis itself, right, like reading Google Analytics or whatever your web or social analytics are, can be done. But, seeing that pie chart of where people are going and putting that in a deck for you or your board is not insightful.

Rachel: [00:38:25] That's just data. So, I mean, this may be a little 101. And I'm sure for a lot of your audience who are in more senior positions that this is 101. But I've seen this trend over the past few years at large organizations because, look, everyone's cutting. Everyone's got to do more with less. You know, the idea of having someone focused on deciphering numbers can seem superfluous when everyone can access the numbers. But there's more to insights than just the data. And my other big thing is accountability, right? What often gets lost in the mix is that the data can exist as a benchmark and holding yourself and your team accountable, whether that's conversion rates or just like survey awareness rates, and really going back and seeing what's happening. And on the qualitative side, too, doing some in-person interviews or just stakeholder interviews with a few key customers, getting that benchmark, following up... It's just... These are reasons that you want to work with someone, whether that's in your organization or externally, who has a skill set for being able to connect the dots, because there's a lot of data dots, but there's not a lot of connecting sometimes.

Phillip: [00:39:53] I mean, this sounds like the perfect time to say, "And how do people contact you so they can learn more?"

Rachel: [00:40:02] I can definitely be contacted. My web is methodandmode.co. I'm Rachel@methodandmode.co. And this is something that doesn't have to be hard. And that's part of my mission in striking out on my own and creating  this framework, Method + Mode, this framework for doing consulting work with organizations is to kind of make research more accessible when you need it more quickly or more targeted to make business decisions. So, you know, I think that's something I feel very strongly about, is making it easy and making it work for how you work instead of making it feel like an academic exercise that's going to result in a 200 page PowerPoint deck of slides.

Phillip: [00:41:04] I think what you touched on a second ago, too, is is so key. I happen to do a live podcast event for Merchant to Merchant last night in Palm Beach. And one of the panelists, a guy named Brian Schmidt, who has a CRO consultancy called Surefoot. He was saying that they're swimming in lakes of data. In fact, they literally call them data lakes now. And we have this data lake and everybody has access to it and everybody has their own, you know, their own biases that they bring to the table. The thing that's been most effective in teaching retailers how to champion using the data in their organization is that instead of just having data points and having Excel spreadsheets and, you know, dashboards and Google analytics, you have to tell a story. Right? Because people remember stories and you have to tell a story and you have to give people names and you have to develop personas and talk about the customer like they're, you know, human beings who are having real interactions and real emotional experiences with your brand. And when you're telling the story, that's when the intention behind the action becomes real to a person. It's not just... It's not just a number on the page. And if you don't have the storyteller, then you really don't have anything. And I think that's what Method + Mode has done for us, is given us...someone who has that... oh, my gosh, I understand why you're called that now. You have the method... You have both the method and the mode. You gave us the method to to get the qualitative insights, but you have the mode to deliver it to us in a way that we can understand and action the outcome. And that, I think, blows my mind.

Brian: [00:42:50] You actually you nailed something there and that is storytelling. It's so funny because we talk about storytelling all the time in context of when we are talking to our customers about our brands. But what if the reverse is actually more important?

Rachel: [00:43:08] Yup.

Brian: [00:43:09] Storytelling about our customers to ourselves. Like that's mind blowing right there. Having someone who can effectively market for our customers to us.

Rachel: [00:43:22] Yes.

Brian: [00:43:22] Like as merchants. And like be their champion and the person that has empathy for them. It really is powerful. I love that.

Rachel: [00:43:39] And that's kind of how I position myself in my 3 second elevator pitch. You know, I'm a data driven storyteller, and that's kind of core to my persona both personally and professionally. But the storytelling component and the human connection to me, it's really bringing things full circle from this kind of purgatory that we had been in for a number of years and in the last decade of like, "Oh, my God, the the customers are in the driver's seat now with social and with the interaction." But yeah, they're all that matters. And if you're not an expert, you know, you could be an expert on your product. You can be an expert on your business. You can be an expert on your technology. If you're not an expert on your customer or your audience. In my mind, you're not doing your job as as an executive, as a leader, as a business founder. And so what I find even more in that direction of the human component and the rise and importance of understanding the needs of the customers is this kind of rise in qualitative and focus groups and usability. And even using those words sounds kind of fuddy duddy and old school, because I think like the way I've been doing focus groups recently is not in that kind of old school gray facility that you think of from yester year, and it's much more two way, and let's get a cheese plate and a bottle of wine and talk about brands. But it's this dichotomy of the rise of automation, the rise of these lakes of data, the rise of experiential retail means context is so much more important than ever before. And how someone's thinking about their environment really impacts their actions. And where I see this the most, and where I'm sure a lot of the audience is going to see this or be interested in seeing this, is with the younger generations, with the GenZ or the high schoolers of today. I mean, they're not going to be consumers like how millennials are consumers. And, you know, even just thinking about things like how many hours a day does a 16 and 17 year old spend on YouTube? Like knowing the numbers is one thing. But, I guarantee you, half of those video hours are for helping them write a report or, you know, running their side business that they figured out how to do. They're not just watching, you know, quote unquote, watching videos and wasting time. And so I think that's back to this whole idea that like unless you're talking to people, the data can be really meaningless. And I think it's finding that harmony and the synergy. I'm anti the word "balance" these days. But that's what's so important. And that's why I love working especially with entrepreneurs and small business owners or executives who are really kind of needing that outside opinion because their business is in flux, because it's finding that intersection and bringing that human component to what can seem like an endless supply of data and directions and unknowns.

Brian: [00:47:00] One more comment to kind of close things out.

Phillip: [00:47:03] Sure.

Brian: [00:47:03] At Amazon, they say they leave an empty chair for the customer at every meeting. Right? Why don't you fill that chair with Rachel to tell that story? It's not about an empty customer. It's about someone that's really there. It's not just this vacant seat. It's actually, they're real. And you need someone to represent them. I love that.

Rachel: [00:47:27] Yeah. I was just going to add... For all my working with someone who knows, I do actually have on my site a little bit about how to do that yourself, because I am fully aware that sometimes you don't have the time or resources to work with someone. And, you know, there's definitely ways that you can just up level what you're doing internally when you have to. When you have to. So definitely... And even if you're interested in that, reach out, and I can help you and help direct you to some great tools and services.

Brian: [00:48:05] Great.

Phillip: [00:48:06] Awesome. Thank you so much. Wow. It's so good to spend some time with you. And I can't wait for us to be able to do this again soon so we can learn what's next and help determine our road map for what's next for Future Commerce. So thank you so much, Rachel, for joining us. Thank you for listening. We want you to give us your feedback, lend your voice to this conversation, and you can do that at any time at FutureCommerce.FM. We want you to also participate with us everywhere on social that you are... Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and all the rest. And like and subscribe on all the services these days. That's Spotify, Stitcher Premium, Apple podcast, Google podcasts or anywhere we're podcasts or found, including any smart speaker device with the phrase play Future Commerce podcast. Well, without any further ado, retail tech moves fast...

Brian: [00:48:56] But Future Commerce is moving faster.

Phillip: [00:48:58] Thank you so much. Thanks, Rachel.

Rachel: [00:48:59] Thanks, guys.

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