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March 20, 2020

Uncharted Territory: Amazon and COVID-19

Phillip and Brian sit down with Kiri Masters to talk about how the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the world of DTC.

this episode sponsored by

Main Takeaways:

  • Kiri Masters, the Founder of Bobsled Marketing and author of Amazon for CMOs, joins Briand and Phillp in this week’s episode.
  • How is eCommerce being affected by Amazon restrictions on nonessential products?
  • The world has entered an unprecedented period of social distancing, and brands are dealing with this in different ways. 
  • Brands are stepping up in comforting and creative ways to protect their customers and boost morale during these trying times. 

Growth Amongst the Chaos: The Steadfast Power of Amazon:  

  • Phillip has some fascinating insights by watching booming categories amongst the brands that he manages through Something Digital.  
  • Seemingly every day, there are new records for brands in the Health & Wellness space. 
  • Kiri is seeing significant performance in Health & Personal Care, CPG and Grocery, Beauty, and specific areas of apparel. 
  • Aside from a decrease in non-critical purchases, Amazon is not going anywhere anytime soon, even amidst a pandemic. 

Guaranteeing the Essentials: Dealing with Emergency Prioritization: 

  • There’s an interesting dichotomy between the increase in online shopping and a wariness to spend money due to wavering job security.
  • There is a restriction on items in nonessential categories that is stopping companies centered in these categories from shipping their goods into Amazon. 
  • Essential categories include Pet, Baby, Food, Industrial & Scientific, and Health & Personal care. 
  • Some brands cannot get their product shipments out to carriers and are being entirely blocked by the Amazon restrictions. 
  • To keep up with demand, Amazon is reportedly adding 100,000 jobs to deal with a surge in online shopping. 

The Illusion of Choice: What’s Actually There?:

  • Brian has noticed that there has never been a period with fewer options on Amazon than right now. 
  • Amazon pain points traditionally felt by larger brands are proving themselves to be precisely what keeps the system working and full of inventory in times like this.
  • Would an Amazon version of Uber surge-pricing have prevented some of the hoarding that has happened around the world? 
  • As the supply chain has been massively impacted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, brands have had to choose between maintaining prices and selling out of product or raising prices to ensure supply over the next three months, 

The Truth of Price Gouging: Not All is Black or White:

  • When it’s in the consumer’s favor, everyone is on board with price discounts to move excess product, but should the opposite also be true? 
  • We need to hold brands and Amazon accountable if there is legitimate price gouging happening, still we can’t forget that businesses need to make adjustments to stay in business and keep employing their staff. 
  • In the not so distant future when price elasticity becomes widely available due to technology advances in brick and mortar locations, we will be able to meet the demand for products in times of emergency.
  • While price elasticity is present in some things (like gas), we are not used to seeing the influx of price when it comes to basic needs. 

The Next Few Days: Predictions for the Very Near Future:

  • Kiri predicts that if you are in a category that Amazon has deemed nonessential, then every minute of the Amazon restriction counts towards the longevity of your business.  
  • “If you are in an essential category, this is the time to evaluate each channel, think about where the demand is coming from, and analyze the supply chains that get your product into each of those channels.”
  • You also need to decide what course of action to take to keep the lights on for your business, and this choice might be a difficult one. 
  • What are some steps you can take right now to protect the longevity of your business?

A Call for Unity: The Rose Garden:

  • Recently, President Trump invited the CEOs of major retailers to showcase a plan on how the government was partnering with the private sector to combat the virus. 
  • Essentially, large retailers are guaranteeing not only essentials will be stocked within brick and mortar locations across the nation, but that these locations would also be locations for other virus-related services. 
  • Jeff Bezos was interestingly absent from this panel. 
  • There is a tremendous amount of power in brick and mortar in moments like this, and even Amazon cannot provide essentials at scale when compared to brick and mortar in times of crisis.

Looking Locally: The Effects on Communities:

  • Local establishments such as bars, salons, and restaurants, are shut down across the globe, not all of these businesses may survive this period of quarantine. 
  • How will our communities be affected by the virus once the initial panic and quarantine have passed? 
  • Brands need to consider how they will support their local communities post-pandemic 
  • Will new work-from-home policies and adjusted methods of social interactions prove to be beneficial for our society?
  • Brian published an article for Insiders this week that talks about the opportunity for DTC brands in small towns, and why it’s important to support local businesses now more than ever. 
  • We are at peak distraction levels currently regarding the abrupt changes to our lives, but things will calm down, and we will get into the grooves of this new way of life. 

Keeping It Positives: Brands That Are Doing Things Right:

  • Phillip asks Kiri if she has had any recent experiences with brands that have not been tapping into the zeitgeist of the virus and are doing notable things.
  • Kiri is currently in Colombia in South America and recently received an email from the CEO of Rappi (a grocery delivery service) that detailed the logistical changes that have occurred since the virus began its spread. 
  • This explanation of what the company is doing to ensure safety from the CEO of the company was comforting for Kiri. 
  • Something brands should consider is reaching out to their active customer base to show what you are doing to protect them and to manage expectations within the virus climate. 
  • To help people escape the self-quarantine madness: Sexual Wellness company Unbound Babes created an epic collaborative and self-regulating Google Sheet of references, activities, and content for people to reference during these times of social distancing. 

Brands Mentioned in this Episode:


As always: We want to hear what our listeners think! What are some actions you can take right now to protect your brand during these uncertain times?


Let us know in the content section on Futurecommerce.fm, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Linkedin.

 

Have any questions or comments about the show? You can reach out to us at info@futurecommerce.fm or any of our social channels; we love hearing from our listeners! 

Phillip: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Right Now Commerce, because there is no future. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:00:06] {laughter} I'm Brian.

Kiri: [00:00:07] I'm Kiri.

Phillip: [00:00:07] Kiri.

Kiri: [00:00:07] Thank you having me.

Phillip: [00:00:09] Thanks. Welcome back to the show.

Kiri: [00:00:10] Thank you.

Phillip: [00:00:12] Behind Ingrid Cordy, you are now our second most frequent guest on the show.

Kiri: [00:00:17] Oh, I'm honored.

Phillip: [00:00:18] You should be. It's a good thing. This might be the last show ever do so.

Kiri: [00:00:23] Oh gosh.

Phillip: [00:00:27] I'm just kidding.

Brian: [00:00:27] So dark.

Phillip: [00:00:28] I figure if we start out dark, it can only get brighter.

Brian: [00:00:31] I don't know about that. It's pretty dismal. It's pretty dark out there.

Phillip: [00:00:35] Yeah, we brought Kiri around because I think that there's a lot of interesting news in the realm of Amazon. And she's the expert. She actually wrote a book on Amazon, "Amazon for CMOs." You should go check it out on Amazon.com. Yeah, it's great to have you back on the show, Kiri.

Kiri: [00:00:55] Thank you. I'm toggling on mute and unmute because like a lot of people listen to this show I'm dealing with kids at home. And that's the reality that we're in right now. And I think that that's not that unusual. I think there's a lot of solidarity, actually, when I get on the phone with someone and they like, hang on just a second. Now we're talking about facts about chimpanzees, not habits. {laughter} There's people trying to homeschool, juggling...

Phillip: [00:01:25] You cannot make that up. That actually happened.

Kiri: [00:01:28] Yes. It did.

Phillip: [00:01:31] This is I feel like we need to start time stamping things, so that you have some sense of when we recorded this. This is being recorded at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020. If this is like our captain's log of as things go down the tubes. All right. I'm getting off the doomsday train. Some actual interesting news is coming out. I've had this interesting insight and I'm sure, Kiri, you see it because you manage brands performance. And so you get to see the behind the scenes. There are categories which are booming right now. Wellness, as a whole, seems to be going through the roof in the brands portfolios that I manage through Something Digital. And so I can see the data. ECommerce numbers are all time highs. Every single day is a brand new high for wellness brands. And that's kind of across the board. What are you seeing on your side, Kiri? Does that track with you?

Kiri: [00:02:31] Yeah, absolutely. So we're seeing health and personal care, CPG and grocery just up significantly.

Brian: [00:02:39] Toilet paper. {laughter}

Kiri: [00:02:39] Beauty also up. I mean, people still have to make themselves presentable for videoconferences, certain areas of apparel, not office wear and things like that. More on the athleisure side of things. So, yeah, I mean, people still need to entertain themselves at home, and they still need to keep working and educate their children and things like that. So Amazon has been... There are certainly areas that are down, that a noncritical purchases. But as a whole, Amazon is this cockroach of a channel that I think is going to survive and thrive in this environment.

Brian: [00:03:32] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:03:32] {laughter}

Kiri: [00:03:32] Can I say that? {laughter}

Phillip: [00:03:33] You can.

Brian: [00:03:34] You can definitely say that. I think that you said something pretty interesting there, which was like nonessential purchases, maybe certain categories are struggling right now. I mean, I feel like right now is when people might be shopping more even because.

Phillip: [00:03:57] More online for sure.

Brian: [00:03:58] Yeah more online. Exactly.

Kiri: [00:04:00] Yup.

Brian: [00:04:00] They've got the opportunity to to sit around and be at their house. And they're not spending money on gas. They're not spending as much money on eating out. There's just a lot of like things that are not being spent on that are typically spent on.

Kiri: [00:04:17] Yeah, but how do you foot that with uncertainty around jobs?

Phillip: [00:04:21] Yeah.

Kiri: [00:04:21] You're not going to keep spending if you think you job's at risk score. Your spouse's job is at risk. So I see that. And there was some, I'm trying to pull it up here, but there's some interesting data that came out of China and I'll credit it in a second once I pull it up, but people were spending more time on social media, shopping online, getting their finances in order as well. So there's some activities that have crept up in the Chinese market, which is a couple of months ahead of us right now, that I think in the US it's... I'm not sure to what degree it's different with job uncertainty and the broader economic uncertainty that we're facing.

Phillip: [00:05:07] There's been some talk recently about subscription fatigue and consumers kind of being subscribed out. I can definitely see where media subscription might take a hit where it was disposable income was being attributed to like five different news sources and newsletters and whatever mommy blogs and, you know, random subscriptions you have in digital media. But I think that entertainment media might stand to gain a bump right now.

Kiri: [00:05:38] Yes. Disney+

Phillip: [00:05:40] Yes. Which is a life saver in my house right now. Frozen 2 has been playing for the last 48 hours. And it's fitting because we're all Into the Unknown, if you will. So that's where we're heading. But what's really phenomenal is this idea of people looking at Amazon to backfill for things that they wouldn't want to go get from Target, CVS, grocery store, et cetera. And I know Amazon's prioritizing that in its fulfillment right now. What does that story look like, Kiri?

Kiri: [00:06:22] Yeah. So it was a restriction on any items being sent in for non-essential categories. And so what that looks like is pet, baby, food, industrial and scientific, health and personal care. Those are the priority categories. And if you don't have products in those categories, if you're in in apparel, let's say, or another non-essential category, you can't ship inventory to Amazon. And so what that means is if you don't have another way of getting products into the hands of customers, everything grinds to a halt. So there's some situations that we're learning of where cities like San Francisco are in lockdown and brands don't have the ability to ship inventory to Amazon because they're not in a priority category. And then they can't actually get these shipments out themselves to carriers. So everything is grinding to a halt for these non essential category brands. So this is obviously extremely disruptive to those companies. But at the same time, I do understand why Amazon is doing it. There is a massive volume of purchasing going through their system right now. And companies need to respond with shipping more inventory in... It's unclear what's the net net situation of Amazon's fulfillment centers is in terms of employees, because there are employees that need to go home, they're hiring a lot of people. But they do need to take protective measures to protect their warehouse staff. So it's messy, very, very messy.

Phillip: [00:08:22] At the same time, their messaging, 100,000 hires right?

Brian: [00:08:25] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:08:25] That was news that just came out. Was that to keep up with an increase demand? One hundred thousand jobs would be created inside of Amazon, in warehouse specifically.

Kiri: [00:08:38] I wonder if that's the net, though. I wonder if that's to backfill people that need to go home.

Phillip: [00:08:46] Oh. So, you know, according to about Amazon dot com, which it says Amazon day one blog, it says Amazon, and this is the headline, and I haven't read the whole thing, {laughter} but "Amazon ramping hiring opening one hundred thousand new roles to support people relying on Amazon service during this stressful time." And, you know, internal comms has never been known to shape a message ever. But I digress.

Brian: [00:09:13] It's interesting. Well, Amazon is pretty careful about their internal comms, actually. It's interesting to me that... I can see why. Have you tried to go buy a thermometer on Amazon right now? You can get a rectal one.

Kiri: [00:09:32] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:09:32] I mean, that's all I need. Really.

Kiri: [00:09:35] Good to know. Speaking of essentials.

Phillip: [00:09:38] Yeah, it's it's more accurate, Brian. OK. {laughter} Don't judge me.

Brian: [00:09:42] This is the least amount of choice that I have ever seen on Amazon. It is very difficult to buy even the thing that you would think would be the in most abundance right now. Like if you're only shipping in essentials, which would include thermometers and I'm assuming that like this is a really big category that seems pretty easy to produce. It is actually difficult to go and find like a thermometer on Amazon right now.

Kiri: [00:10:09] That's so interesting because it speaks to two huge pain points that brands, the established traditional brands, have with Amazon. One is manufacturers creating these made up brands and selling stuff on Amazon and creating bit of chaos in the system in terms of too much choice. That's been sort of cut cut off at the knees with Corona virus in China and a lot of factories shutting down. So a lot of that supply that we would have seen before is not available. And then the second piece is unauthorized sellers, which are retailers, resellers, some guy in his mom's basement selling extra inventory... That's been a major pain point for brands because it means it's more difficult to control pricing and availability and brand perception and things like that. So those two pain points that brands have had about Amazon are actually what keeps the system working and full of inventory in times like this. So it's a very interesting reckoning where those two sort of issues that we have with Amazon, both as brands and as consumers sometimes with the amount of junk that's sold on Amazon, it seems that really comes to the fall when you're looking for a thermometer and there's no supply.

Phillip: [00:11:39] Well, I have to ask the question. Not that I'm a proponent of pure capitalism. So don't get me wrong, and I would be the first one to jump on it to say that this is wrong and like it's morally wrong. But... An Amazon version of Uber surge pricing might have slowed down some of the hoarding and this like gut instinct and knee jerk reaction of hoarding things that are basic needs to slow the demand would have like there could have been fail safes in the same way we have fail safes and in the public markets to stop the panic buying. And let's all just take a chill pill for a minute and not buy all the toilet paper, so that Brian can not have to find some direct to consumer toilet paper bamboo thing.

Brian: [00:12:27] Which I did.

Phillip: [00:12:27] Which he did.

Brian: [00:12:29] Which is actually pretty awesome. Great customer experience. Blown away by the customer experience here.

Kiri: [00:12:36] {laughter} There you go.

Phillip: [00:12:36] We'll let you rave about it in a second. There feels like there should have been some sort of kill switch to prevent this from happening, because eventually somebody would be like, I'm not going to pay $13 a roll for toilet paper. Maybe I should just freakin chill.

Kiri: [00:12:53] Well, Amazon did clamp down on price gouging for specific items. The face masks, hand sanitizer and toilet paper being the biggest examples of that. If you're talking about a brand that's maybe not in as much of a hot spot category, maybe a snack brand... If their supply is slowing down, they've got big issues in their supply chain. Even if you produce items in the US like, you know, let's say nuts or something like that, they're grown in California. All the packaging comes from China and the little plastic toggles. There is so much intertwined in that supply chain, things are slowing down. So you've got a choice as a brand in that situation. You can just continue on at your current price, sell out immediately, and be out of stock for three months and not have any revenue coming in. Or you can try and slow things down a little bit and, you know, raise prices a little bit to ensure that you stay in business for the next three months when you don't have... When things start getting leaner and leaner. And that is the decision. I don't think there's that these companies are necessarily taking advantage of the situation. But you've got to remember that if you're that nut manufacturer, you're selling on Amazon, maybe DTC, but primarily to stores, and there's a lot of uncertainty around store. So you need to make sure that the channel that is actually selling and producing for you is sustainable. And so I think that we do need to hold platforms like Amazon and brands accountable if there's legitimate price gouging going on. But at the same time, a lot of these companies are just trying to stay in business and keep employing that staff.

Phillip: [00:14:52] I'm just asking a hard question. Again, I don't know that I agree with the premise. I love your example because I think your example is the sort of righteous version of what I'm talking about, which is and I'm sure that there are resellers who were taking advantage of the demand curve. But my sense is that a more pure capitalism version of what I'm talking about certainly works for when it's in the consumer favor. Everybody is super into the idea of price discounts to move inventory at excess. Right? So the opposite should also be true. But I feel like I've taken us way off base.

Brian: [00:15:37] No, no, no, it's interesting. It's an interesting bunny trail to go down. I think there's an interesting... Actually I think what you're saying is wouldn't it be smart to have some sort of surge price, so that when you have people coming on and buying in massive amounts of quantity and then turning back around and then selling that same stuff for twice the price on the same platform, like that's the kind of thing that I think you're looking to prevent. Right? Or not on Amazon, on eBay. I've noticed... I don't know if you were going and searching for toilet paper as I was because let me tell you Costco doesn't have it. Like Costco, Kroger, all of the above. Nobody has toilet paper right now in America, no in Seattle, actually, literally in Seattle. It's an interesting observation in my quest for toilet paper. Actually, people are going to stores. There's a lot of stuff sold out at stores. But people are perfectly fine going to stores as long as they're the right stores because they feel like they have to go to them. So I think that actually grocery stores and convenience stores, and drug stores like the CVS, Rite AID, and Krogers of the world, are seeing lots of purchasing.

Kiri: [00:17:00] Oh yeah.

Brian: [00:17:01] Like crazy purchasing.

Phillip: [00:17:03] Dollar stores, too, by the way.

Brian: [00:17:05] Dollar stores, as well. Exactly.

Phillip: [00:17:06] Off price is definitely in a competitive position.

Brian: [00:17:11] Not that we're not shopping in person. It's that we're only shopping in person at places we feel like we have to be at.

Phillip: [00:17:18] Let me say this in a little bit of a different way. And then I promise I won't belabor the point anymore because I'm sad that we even went here. But in a not too distant future, when more IRL brick and mortar retailers have electronic pricing. The e-ink pricing displays that can do dynamic pricing. There is the high likelihood that price elasticity becomes, you know, hourly and up to the minute and can curb consumer demand in times of crisis. In the times of a hurricane impending coming down to Florida and gas prices go up, it makes people think twice. I think we're used to having that kind of supply and demand curve on price be more dynamic in certain categories. And we're not used to it being applied to other things that are basic needs.

Kiri: [00:18:15] Yes. It's really interesting now that you mention gas, because gas is a basic need. People need that to get to work. But we are used to elasticity there. But if we start doubling or tripling the price of toilet paper, then that hits closer to home in some ways. Like what about... Yeah. It's a really interesting thing to think about.

Phillip: [00:18:39] Well, I'm sorry that I even started the thought experiment.

Kiri: [00:18:43] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:18:43] I'm curious what you believe, Kiri, if you had to think about what the next few days might hold, you know, for at least for your clients and the people who rely on you for Amazon's strategy. What are things that retailers can and should be doing to be helping themselves and their business get a little longevity in this time?

Kiri: [00:19:10] Well, it's going to depend on the category. If you're in a category that Amazon just deemed non-essential to ship inventory in until the first of April I believe it is, then every minute counts for the rest of the month in terms of how and what you're doing there. And I don't know what the answer is. If you're in that situation, I'm sorry, that's a really difficult situation to be in. I think for brands that are in consumable categories where people are purchasing and they have multiple ways of getting products to customers. This is the time to evaluate each channel and think about where is the demand coming from? And what does our supply chain look like to get inventory into each of those channels? So the biggest risk, I think, is if there's not enough demand for your products right now, that's a risk or if you don't have a handle on supply chain. So then the second thing you need to think about there is what approach are you going to take? Are you going to surge price, so that you can maximize profitability, not to take advantage of the situation, but literally to keep the lights on and make sure that you can stick around for the next three months to wait this out and retain your employees and things like that? Are you going to sort of ride through to a potential stock out situation? From a purely technical Amazon situation, when you're out of stock of inventory, your rankings suffer. That may or may not be top of mind for people. It certainly has in the past, but in a crisis situation might not be top of mind for people. But to me, it comes down to those things, assessing the sort of matrix, the two by two matrix of customer demand right now and inventory availability.

Phillip: [00:21:22] It's an interesting visual that we had a few days ago on the 14th. There was a Rose Garden address that President Donald Trump gave, and he was joined by the CEOs of Target, Walmart and Walgreens and a few others and how they would be allied and sort of brick and mortar retail being allied and helping fight this and becoming places where you can be tested for Covid 19, where, you know, supplies and demand would be met by a commitment to keeping basic needs in stock at those retailers. Interestingly absent is Jeff Bezos from that panel. And you would think being as large of a retailer as Amazon is in the United States, that that would've been a pretty strong statement. I think it just goes to show you the... Well, I don't know. If I had to read into it. I would say there's a tremendous amount of power in brick and mortar retail in moments like this and direct access to goods and services that even Amazon itself really can't accommodate. And Amazon thrives at scale on the long tail of non-essentials. Right? And so I don't know that there's anything really novel to say there other than to point it out.

Kiri: [00:22:55] Well yeah, I think the other thing that we're realizing is that so many behaviors are going to change when we pull through with this. So eCommerce in general. I agree with what you're saying, that in-store is going to be really essential for supply and even for something for people to do. In Italy where everything's under complete lockdown, going to the pharmacy or going to the supermarket to pick up some essential, that's the only break that people have. And the only reason they're allowed to be outside is to do those things. And, you know, work from home. I think that there's a lot of things that we're just going to permanently change our behaviors with. And it will be interesting to see where eCommerce fits with that.

Phillip: [00:23:48] Yeah.

Brian: [00:23:48] I think it be interesting to see how this affects our local communities as well, because there's definitely a hit in the restaurant and service industries, right? So gyms and salons and restaurants are on shutdown right now and some are not going to recover from that shutdown. I already know of some that are not.

Kiri: [00:24:16] Yeah.

Brian: [00:24:16] But this is the opportunity, I think, for us as communities to say, how are we going to act after after this, as we come out of this? As we come out, meaning it, maybe the world looks like a different place in terms of how we interact with each other. But people are still going to go out into their communities, and that's proven by people going out for essentials.

Kiri: [00:24:43] Yeah.

Brian: [00:24:43] So how are we going...? I think it's a good opportunity for brands to think about how they can support those local communities and also like what this is gonna do from work at home policies and like how those changes are also going to affect how we purchase things in our communities.

Phillip: [00:25:05] My sense from the work, like if I had to provide a little commentary on the work from home front. Every single meeting that I've had for the last three weeks, no matter how long or short the first ten minutes is talking about this stuff. And I have to believe productivity is taking a hit in one way or another.

Kiri: [00:25:22] Oh yeah.

Phillip: [00:25:23] People are concerned. And people... This is a topic of conversation in the same way that hurricanes are very distracting in the state of Florida. Or anyone on the east coast. I feel like this is just, I think culturally, even though we stand to have a real moment for a cultural shift to being more remote work focused... We have an opportunity here. I doubt that we're actually going to take advantage of that and prove our way through it, that it's a better way to live or a better way to be. Because just from the sheer nature of the stress of it all.

Kiri: [00:25:58] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:25:59] It doesn't really give us a moment to like show our resolve and prove ourselves.

Kiri: [00:26:05] That's true.

Brian: [00:26:06] We'll see.

Phillip: [00:26:07] Maybe I'm cynical.

Brian: [00:26:09] I think you might be a little bit cynical in that I do think that businesses are going to recognize like, oh, wait people can work from home and it does work. There's a lot of jobs right now that could be done remotely.

Kiri: [00:26:20] Yup.

Brian: [00:26:20] And there're not being done remotely. And so I think that there is an opportunity. This could be a bit of a learning moment, especially if we continue to see similar outbreaks in coming years. And that's another thing that I think that a lot of businesses are considering right now. This might not be the only season of Coronavirus. It probably won't. And so looking ahead years from now, I think that businesses are going to start to consider how they can be prepared for something like this happening again. And that might start with creating a work culture that is remote friendly, at least. I could see businesses planning around that.

Kiri: [00:27:04] Yeah. I think it's not really going to be representative of the full experience, if we take the last week as a snapshot into this is how it's going to be for a long period of time.

Phillip: [00:27:17] Right.

Kiri: [00:27:17] You know, anxiety extremely high. Borders clear. I've spent the last three days trying to get home to Australia. Flights are on. Borders close. Flights canceled. Oh, got a flight again. That gets canceled. I mean, so that's that's a very specific moment in time for me, for example. And all the other people that I work with who suddenly have three children at home that they need to educate and feed and stop them from fighting with each other. And maybe that's not going to go away immediately. But I think we're at peak distraction right now, and we will find a groove with this.

Brian: [00:28:01] Yes.

Phillip: [00:28:02] I like that. That's a great positive outlook. I appreciate that. I certainly know how to bring the doom and gloom.

Brian: [00:28:12] Well, you did start this episode with like this is never going to...

Phillip: [00:28:16] Objectively this has gotten better. Objectively, the episode's gotten better.

Brian: [00:28:20] It has. It has gotten better.

Phillip: [00:28:20] It was a strategy. It's a bold move, Cotton.

Kiri: [00:28:23] What about all the people that dropped off in the beginning? But everyone who stuck around we're leaving you better than...

Phillip: [00:28:30] {laughter} I'm very interested, Kiri. And I didn't prepare you for this, so we'll edit this together to make it sound like we had things right and ready to go. Chambered. Have you had any good brand experiences outside of Amazon in the last two weeks where you felt like they were not piling on or trying to take advantage of the social, you know, Zeit Geist at the moment, but they were honestly either stepping out of the way or pitching in, or trying to do something that was notable? Curious what you think about that.

Kiri: [00:29:12] Yeah, so I'm in Colombia, in South America right now, and there is a pretty large company here called Rappi, which does home delivery of groceries, kitchen deliveries. Any store of things that you can possibly pick up anywhere. Someone will come and deliver that to you. And that was a good message from their CEO yesterday that I got by email. It opened with thank you for being a Rappi customer and placing 552 orders, {laughter} which was a moment of reckoning for me. But it talked about, you know, please be patient without delivery people who are experiencing unprecedented demand. And here's all the measures that we're taking to make sure that when you order food, this is how things work. Like from the kitchen to the delivery guy, we can leave food outside. And it was a very comprehensive explanation of what they're doing as a company to ensure safety. What they want their customers... How people might need to realign their expectations and valuing the customer as well. And then also that message came from the very top of the company. So I think that that's a reactive message that worked for me. What has been disappointing to see is sort of like the privacy GDPR situation where you get emails from a bus company that you used once in New Zealand five years ago, and they're talking about their GDPR policy. This seems to be another situation where there's a lot of unnecessary messaging, but for customers, regular customers and people they currently have a relationship with, it seems, you know, where it's gonna be relevant and pertinent to be reaching out with those kind of communications. I think there's been some good examples there.

Phillip: [00:31:18] Yeah.

Kiri: [00:31:21] What about you?

Phillip: [00:31:23] I'm curious, Brian, if you have one. I have one, but I guess I do a lot of talking.

Brian: [00:31:29] You know who had one was Ian Leslie, a former guest on the show, friend a friend of Future Commerce. He posted on LinkedIn. He got one I think it was from NetSuite.

Phillip: [00:31:42] It's the Chief Marketing Officer at Industry West, by the way.

Brian: [00:31:44] Yes. Correct. Yeah, I think it was. He got one from NetSuite that was... He doesn't even use NetSuite. And it was like why are you reaching out to me about this? I'm not connected to you. I have no bearing on you. It was just like it just felt very like, well, kind of Covid-washy. {laughter}

Kiri: [00:32:14] Covid-washy. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:32:14] Yeah. Brian's new thing is he's Covid-washing.

Kiri: [00:32:19] Covid-wash. I like that.

Brian: [00:32:19] Yeah. So, I mean, it's really just trust washing.

Kiri: [00:32:22] Yeah.

Brian: [00:32:22] I feel like brands are...

Phillip: [00:32:24] Yeah, "We're here for you," kind of messages.

Kiri: [00:32:26] Yes.

Brian: [00:32:27] Yes. I'm not against brands, you know, making efforts. And I've seen some really cool stuff happen recently. Where was it? StockX was donating some certain amount of money to help families in need. I think that there's, you know, several examples of companies doing more. And I'm all for that. So I don't want to dismiss it too much, because I think that brands, some brands, are extending themselves in real ways to help. But, yeah, it definitely felt like there was a certain amount of like bandwagoning-ness or just like...

Kiri: [00:33:05] Yeah.

Brian: [00:33:06] Yeah.

Kiri: [00:33:06] Well, I think you've got to be early. Like Glossier closing their stores. They were one of the first sort of DTC, digitally native vertical brands to do that. That made sense to make a big announcement everywhere. At this point, especially, you know, once this episode airs, if youre making a big announcement about closing stores and protecting your employees, people are probably going to be like, "Well, yeah, you should be doing that. That's not news." So it depends where you are in the Covid-wash.

Brian: [00:33:38] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:33:38] Yeah, it's funny the things that I rely on, or kind of care about more. I really appreciate the outreach. And the ones that I forgot that I ever even bought from them 10 years ago, I super don't appreciate the outreach. And so I think that there's an interesting... My expectations are probably harder to meet than most. But I'm very turned off by that. Although Kiri gave us a positive example and Brian gave us a negative example. I figured I'd give one of each. I'm very happy with the messaging that's come from Equal Parts and Open Spaces from the parent company Pattern Brands. I know, and I say it to Brian all the time, and I kind of feel like we just have been bandwagoning for this company for way too long, but unfortunately, they're just doing things right all the time, so I can't help it.

Brian: [00:34:40] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:34:40] They, in their own unique way, have found a way to say like, here's ways you can take care of yourself during this time, that had nothing to do with their product, but still felt very on message because that's just who they are and that's what they've been doing. And they've been doing that despite the fact I've never bought anything from either brand. And I still appreciate their messaging. And it's infrequent, so they don't bother me about it all the freakin time. And it's just infrequent enough to pique my interest every time it hits my inbox. I kind of just love it. And so that... I very appreciate that. An interesting one that was super out of the box and will probably come up later in the context of what we would call Carly brands, like a Gen Z sort of countercultural anti design approach. I've been saying this for like some time. I want to find a brand that will take a risk and build a web site in like Google Docs. You don't need Shopify, you don't need anything. Just like put up a Google spreadsheet. And that's your frickin web site.

Brian: [00:35:45] It's a ledger.

Phillip: [00:35:47] Yeah. Exactly. And somehow a brand did it. Now, it's not for the faint of heart. And this is not in a category that we talk about a lot. It's in sexual wellness. There's a brand called Unbound Babes, which Kristin LaFrance, by the way, is the biggest fan of. And if you pay attention to the stuff that she does on Playing for Keeps and some of the content they make over at that podcast then you've probably heard of it. Unbound Babes kind of came up with this like sexual self-care spreadsheet that had seven tabs that were like open for randos to just come post whatever they want on. And it turned out to be actually really kind of amazing. Like all the positivity that came through there and just cruising around it. I wasn't in the market for, you know, a vibrator, but I just...

Kiri: [00:36:37] I bet they're doing really well right now. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:36:38] I bet they are, too. So their customers. But in that regard, they kind of took their own tone of voice. And it was sort of like how do you... Like instead of them owning the message and trying to communicate from the top down. It was, "Hey, community, how can you help each other during this time? And we have no other tool to make you do that, to talk to each other than just, here, edit this Google doc." I think that's freaking cool.

Kiri: [00:37:04] What were people saying?

Phillip: [00:37:06] Oh, I'll tell you. I mean, there were like incredibly positive messages and it was self regulating. Like the people that were coming in and trolling were getting ousted very quickly by other people that were like just managing it. And I thought that that was really pretty noble. The fact that, you know, they could kind of trust their own community to run with it. It's here... I can post the link into the zoom chat here. I take no responsibility for the content. If you go to the sign here tab, there are people that are like... Let's see... "Greetings from the middle west. Y'all are sweet, we'll get through this together." I mean, it's just like an old school message board, like people just kind of like signing and saying, you know, you all are amazing. Thank you for the support. And just kind of like a showing of love, which I think is super interesting. And then there's a list of content like what could you read or watch in this time when you have more free time, ostensibly? And it was like a listing of podcast episodes, which I did not spam in there, although I wanted to. And it kind of runs the gamut of entertainment content to stuff that's kind of maybe more on brand for Unbound Babes.

Kiri: [00:38:34] Wow.

Phillip: [00:38:34] And that's like it's just super interesting. Like here's a guided activities. Like, what could you do? You can listen to... "There's a web site that I just found out about through this called The Sounds of Disneyland." Well, you can go and listen to all the sounds of Disneyland, which I don't know why you would want to subject yourself to such torture, but if you wanted to, you could. I find this to be delightful.

Kiri: [00:38:59] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:39:00] And a super interesting use of a common medium used in an uncommon way to connect with customers and give them a community. Is there anything better than that? That's like, that's what we want.

Brian: [00:39:13] Yeah, building community...

Kiri: [00:39:13] We should end here on this high note.

Phillip: [00:39:16] Yeah.

Kiri: [00:39:16] This is amazing. This recipes. There's activities.

Phillip: [00:39:20] Yeah.

Kiri: [00:39:21] Find a pen pal.

Brian: [00:39:23] There's one more experience that I love that I want to bring up.

Phillip: [00:39:32] {laughter} What kind of a pen pal would you find? That's funny. Yeah. Anyway, yes, Brian, I'll let you...

Brian: [00:39:35] One more experience that I want to bring up, which is the experience that just worked. And when I went and bought direct to consumer toilet paper, it was amazing because it just worked.

Phillip: [00:39:48] And it was at your house in like a day.

Kiri: [00:39:49] Wow.

Brian: [00:39:50] It was within 48 hours, I had a case of toilet paper at my house and all of the transactional emails were right on point. Just led me right through the process. There was no messaging about the crisis, which is mindblowing because it's a toilet paper company. It was just all very straight forward and worked. And so if you are able to do that right now and you're in a category that's you know, I mean, I was joking recently with someone about there being a run on dumbbells. There are categories right now that are getting flooded. And if you can deliver and, you know, provide your customers with a good experience, that's also a really good response.

Kiri: [00:40:35] I need to find out who the 3PL is. That's my next to-do.

Brian: [00:40:42] Cloud Paper.

Kiri: [00:40:43] Cloud Paper.

Brian: [00:40:45] Yes.

Phillip: [00:40:47] I really appreciate you coming on the show and riffing with us, Kiri.

Brian: [00:40:50] Thanks, Kiri.

Kiri: [00:40:50] Thank you. Thank you guys.

Phillip: [00:40:51] And best of luck. I hope you get home safely and quickly.

Kiri: [00:40:54] We'll see.

Phillip: [00:40:59] {laughter} I was gonna do a traditional sign off. We usually do the whole shape your future bit, but stay safe. And yeah, we'll talk to you soon. We love you. Seriously.

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