Main Takeaways:

  • Phillip and Brian are joined today by research guru, Rachel Swanson, founder of Method + Mode which gives bespoke insights for brand growth.
  • First, Brain and Phillip give a COVID-19 update.
  • The trio review Rachel’s work on Future Commerce’s Vision 2020 Report and reflect on the process of the research and give their own insights to the findings.
  • Rachel makes data come alive and creates a story from the data she gathers.
  • The three discuss the cyclical nature of retail and how DTC brands are evolving and how they think brands will continue to evolve in the future.
  • And they throw in a few hot takes, just for the fun of it.

COVID-19 Update from Future Commerce

  • We were off message with our episode last week when we published our episode talking about Ingrid speaking at Shoptalk 2020 which then got canceled.
  • Brian lives in the Seattle area. There are no gatherings of more than 250 people allowed, even with religious gatherings.
  • Businesses in the Seattle areas are struggling with the lack of interaction.
  • An interesting statistic, a lot of DTC toilet paper companies are having a very high amount of traffic on their sites. Who Gives a Crap, Bippy, and No. 2 are all out of stock.
  • There’s an interesting development in how technology can aid in this environment.
  • We’ve seen a big step up in corporate responsibility in response to the virus.
  • We’re no longer a manufacturing-driven economy, we’re a services-driven economy and the service industry’s suffering will impact the entire global economy.
  • Storefronts selling services JUST overtook storefronts selling goods, which makes the impact of COVID-19 even more unfortunate.

What is Method + Mode?

  • Rachel is a market researcher & brand strategist, focusing on leveraging custom research to inform business executives and decisions.
  • Rachel has a heavy background in media, fashion, and beauty.
  • Method + Mode creates a custom research plan to help their clients get the research they need.
  • Bespoke insights for brand growth.

Making the Data Come Alive

  • Originally, Future Commerce worked with Method + Mode to do some audience research
  • Most recently, Rachel worked with Future Commerce on our Vision 2020 Report.
  • Rachel doesn’t do academic research.
  • She works with existing hypotheses, business objectives, and consumer reality. The key is to triangulate the three into succinct research that services the objectives of the business.
  • Rachel’s approach is to lay a foundation towards the hypotheses and then to validate or disprove those hypotheses.
  • Asking non-binary questions in a way that requires a response is a great way to get a sense of broader themes.
  • More people have a better understanding of why they won’t do something, rather than why the will do something, so Rachel often asks why people won’t do something in creating her surveys.
  • Writing a good survey is a skill that requires a lot of practice.

Gaining Insights from your Data

  • In your surveys, you always want to throw in some issues that will help disprove some of your biases.
  • Rachel includes multiple ways of exploring important objectives to create consistency in answers.
  • When understanding benchmarks, the Vision 2020 report wanted to go as broad as possible.

Hot Takes on Amazon

  • Amazon is not a retailer anymore, it’s a utility.
  • We’ve crossed into a threshold where the consumer isn’t fully cognizant of where they’re receiving their content from.
  • Phillip calls this “Primenesia”
  • This Amazon utility is enabling a lifestyle that is impossible to match by other retailers and content providers at the same level.
  • Apple is attempting to step into the content space now.
  • Rachel compares Amazon’s structure and function to almost being like a Verizon now.
  • Brian’s gut instinct was to check a knife set he found at Macy’s on Amazon. He bought the set from Amazon, even though it was the same price. Why? He knew what to expect, and could easily purchase it from Amazon.
  • Back to content, Amazon makes it so simple to stream content through the prime video app. At this point, they’re controlling the content.
  • On the Vision 2020 report, the number 3 cited reason for having Amazon Prime was for video content.
  • In 20 months, Prime added 35% to Prime Membership by going global with Prime.
  • Sustainability is coming to the forefront of consumer consciousness, and there might be a growing distaste for how Amazon operates.
  • Brian thinks that although Amazon is the Verizon of the world, there’s going to be a T-Mobile.
  • Brian would rather pick Amazon than Target, but someday, he might pick say, a Walmart.

Enough About Amazon… The Broader eCommerce Landscape

  • Retail is cyclical. We’re starting to see a swing back to brick & mortar shops.
  • Rachel thinks DTC as a mechanism is great branding, but there’s always been DTC.
  • Example, the Sears catalog.
  • Social media has helped DTC brands tremendously.
  • Globalization has helped the ability for DTC, fueled by social to grow
  • Showfields is basically a department store.
  • Could Barney’s have saved themselves if they had been more futuristic and partnered with emerging brands on social?
  • DTC is giving female founders a good opportunity. If you equate DTC with a local shop, a lot of them are actually owned by women. For example, florists, beauty shops, gift shops, boutiques, etc. Women do the majority of purchasing, therefore have more of the purchasing power.
  • There’s a connection and tactile component of retail that people said would go away but it never has, it’s just morphed.
  • Is DTC a misnomer? DTC is a way of starting but it’s doubtful the successful brands will stay purely digital forever.

How Accurate Was Our Survey?

  • Phillip asks Rachel if we were off the mark compared to Retail Dive’s research that says 40% of consumers have shopped DTC, whereas ours only said 30%.
  • Rachel responds that she was encouraged by their reportings. She doesn’t know their methodology, but their methods and definitions and sampling could be different than ours.
  • Ultimately, we were on target with another national poll that Rachel compared our insights to.
  • Phillip reiterates that we’re #MoreThanAPodcast.
  • We want to be more open and transparent about how we make predictions and give insights.

Hot Takes Lightning Round

  • Rachel: Sustainability is such a “catch-all” phrase. It sounds great in theory but there’s too many forms of sustainability. We need a clarification of what that actually means for the brand.
  • There’s still a big chasm between those who are thrifting for need and those who are thrifting for presentation.
  • Brian: Sustainability is not convenient.
  • Nordstrom is creating credibility by creating a resale market, called See You Tomorrow.

Find Rachel at

Brands Mentioned in this Episode:

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