Envoy B2B is a wholesale content and eCommerce platform for your entire team. Their tools and services are designed to help you create dynamic content, increase your speed of sale, and bring you closer to your retailers. The technology you need to empower your sales reps and support your retail channel. Locally helps thousands of stores present their selection to nearby shoppers using eCommerce tactics and we provide users with novel last-mile fulfillment options like in-store pickup and same-day delivery.
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Episode 264 part 1 of our conversation
So let’s go back to January 2020. What was going on in your world back then? I’m sure we were all ready for a kick-ass year and had big plans, right?
Jon: Yeah, let’s see I think in terms of Envoy and myself, we had a team including myself, at OR. I think it was right in January. And I remember that being quite a good show for us, actually. I think we came back with a ton of opportunities in terms of new brands we were talking to. One of the things that’s kind of interesting is I think there was a prevalence around this conversation of what is this show good at anymore? What should this show be? What is its purpose? Is this a marketing event? Is it replaceable? Is anybody writing business here? Those kinds of things. I remember being in a lot of those kinds of conversations and I think there was even a bunch of op-eds like almost immediately after it, that was one of the big industry conversations going on. And along with that, I think there were a lot of climate action initiatives at that OR as well. We were in a very positive place for 2020 for sure.
Mike: Same thing. We had just come back from the ISPO. We had a ton of meetings. Like Jon, we walked out of the show optimistic that we were gonna crush our budget, even though it was the first of the year.
I was thinking, Oh man, this is great, we got so many people who are talking about our mission and it was very exciting and the team was excited. Then I remember by the end of the month I remember spending time at home. My wife works from home and she’s in the medical field and by the end of January, I remember being in her office, jumping up and down and going, this is really bad. This is really bad. And her trying to talk me off the walls and she was like, you don’t know anything about medicine, just shut up. And I’m like, you watch, this is the bad one. And while I did think it was gonna be a lot worse than it is. I mean, in hindsight it was bad. It was terrible, but my sense at the end of January was that this was going to be a run and cover event, it was going to be bad.
Jon: It was until probably Aprilish or around there where it became pretty understood that the market was going to change. Everything was going to change. We started thinking again about, okay, well, what are the things that we need to do to Envoy to become more helpful to our clients? I think fortunately in the B2B space and I would imagine you too Mike, a lot of what we had just became more relevant and more useful. We didn’t really have to invent a lot of new things. It was more, okay, well now there’s this gap, right? In terms of, we’re not going to be meeting in person. So how do we connect? And a lot of brands woke up to the idea. And the messaging that we have been throwing out for years now, which is, well, there’s this destination for that. It doesn’t replace it, but it is a useful tool to rally connections with your retailers around. So there wasn’t this, okay we’ve got to build a bunch of stuff real quick to be helpful to our brands and retailers. It was more shining a light on here are some ways to use what we’ve got that will really help you guys out.
Mike: we had been working on solutions that, fortunately, applied to the situation, rather nicely. Between sorting out opportunities with potential partners, onboarding retailers, and brands. And things like that, we were excited to be able to bridge the gap between COVID shopping behavior. And what’s really curious now is that we’re a year, almost a year past this thing getting started. And a lot of those shopping behaviors have kind of stuck and a lot of the optimizations that Jon’s worked on, that we worked on at Locally, other ones that our partners have worked on, those would become kind of the norm for consumers.
Jon: I think the other thing that I think around what’s kind of happened. There was this kind of question, these questions circulating around the show in January about what is it good for? And what’s the purpose of this? And I think come March. I guess the next OR, when it just got canceled, I guess it was April we all got an opportunity to try that out and answer that question and be like, well, what is it good for? And I think that’s where we’re at, which is okay, well, it certainly has its place, and I can get into some of the things we’re hearing from retailers that suggest that.
But I think we’re at this point of well, what do we bring back that we’ve learned from our time away from trade shows and what do we want them to be and what are they not going to be good at? And what are we going to do with these relationships that have actually gotten stronger upon being more direct and more personal? Between brands and retailers rather than rallying around something that is fun and very community-driven, but maybe actually isn’t the most personal experience. I think we’ve got retailers through surveying is they want personal experiences and that’s very easily confused with, well, then we need to go to a trade show. But that’s not what it is really. Those aren’t personal experiences, the personal experiences they’re talking about are the ones that the rep offers by walking in the front door you don’t get that at a trade show.
So a lot of the travel is not coming back. And I think this is kind of one of those really interesting nexuses of like things happening right now. And I think as a digital B2B company and Mike, I honestly don’t know where you sit on this. I expect that we’re in a similar spot, but people expect us to embrace this idea of everything’s going digital. We all have to go digital right now. And that really isn’t what the research is showing us. They’re saying, what I want is personal contact from sales reps. You look at a word cloud of what they want or what they miss right now, based on the market changes and things going virtual, they want. It looks like touch, It looks like see, it looks like feel, it looks like rep. Those are the things that they’re interested in. What didn’t come up was virtual.
An interesting thing that I heard from a retailer recently was basically brands are over-correcting, they’re over-correcting and putting all of this emphasis into, ‘well, we have to make our entire sell in digital. And part of that is bringing our buyers into this immersive digital experience. And some are going really much further into this augmented space. Essentially this retailer was saying, well, you’re putting me inside of a video game. So this person actually got kind of disenfranchised for the brand, it’s actually working against the brand. So I think the premise of our research and what we’re saying is actually the brands that are going to do well in this next phase of wholesale are the ones that double down on their rep relationships and personalization. To use that as the bridge to continue, what I think has been reinforced through COVID, is retailers want personal contact. And that’s the secret ingredient. And then you look into what ongoing Locally are doing in terms of the level of personalization that we can help a rep provide and that’s the angle. It’s not a replacement. It’s an augmentation and really staying tuned to what retailers want, not what you think you need to do as a brand to connect with them in terms of digital investments.
Mike: we didn’t have to take any dramatic steps, but, we were also dealing with lots of existing clients and potentially, incoming new clients that that had a lot of needs coming out of the gate. And it was really cool to watch. And along the lines of, what John was saying, it’s really cool to watch the brands that saw the opportunity or the retailers saw the opportunity as being every man for themselves. Versus the ones that reached out and said, okay, well we’re all in this together. Brands and retailers have to work together more than ever to ensure that everybody remains healthy or this won’t really work. The ones who really just grasped this as an opportunity for me, and I’m gonna do all these things actually, it was counterintuitive. They were the ones that had the hardest time gaining traction. Whereas a lot of the brands, especially the ones that John and I collaborate with those brands were really reaching out and making sure that they weren’t siloing the opportunity and keeping it all to themselves. They were making sure that handoffs were occurring to local stores and keeping those healthy. And suddenly we looked up at the end of six months and we’re like, Oh, my God, we were expecting half of the retail base to go away. And it was exactly that there was like no one went away. So I think that was really great. And relationships were strengthened and I think that’s something we hit on in the last podcast was those that doubled down on their existing partnerships and specifically talking about brand retail or retail and a partner. That’s what got everybody through. And now we have a decision to make, what parts of that are we going to augment and keep, or rather cause the converse, what parts of what wasn’t working and what we weren’t doing do we actually just want to let die on the vine, and what parts of it do we want to reincorporate back into our new model, which is working. And those are tough questions. And inside of all of that, there’s this thing happening out there with trade shows, which is, 80% of their revenue of that evaporated and they’re looking for ways to exist still. And are they the ones that are going to invent the future? Those that didn’t have the model to get through what occurred? I just don’t think so. I think they’ve got a great product and offering, but I don’t count on them to make the next big step for us all.
Let’s dig a little deeper into that, the current state of trade shows. It’s definitely in flux. Everybody seems to think that there are some timing issues and, travel issues and all kinds of things. What are your guys’ thoughts on those?
Mike: I still think that the larger format trade shows will add value in the sense of bringing the community together of an industry. The broader community. I don’t know that the big format trade shows are going to be able to put themselves back into the box of actually taking orders on the floor of trade shows. I just don’t see that being a thing anymore. But I do think that there’s a reason for community. And then the other thing that is occurring that I think is really powerful is this micro trade show format, whether it’s the Grassroots show or whether it’s Trek holding like a Trek only trade show or regional rep shows. Or The Big Gear Show like Kenji’s offering. I think all of those will gain relevance because they’re better curated. They’re going to be kind of like microbrewery of trade shows. Whereas very large format, you just get lost in those. And it’s very difficult to make personal connections.
Jon: What I hear you saying is a continuation of what we were talking about a little bit earlier. Which is the larger format trade shows, and I think everyone was arriving at the point in January. What’s important about this as a community is getting together and doing something as a community. But I don’t think that is personal. Those aren’t personal experiences. And if what we’re saying is what retailers want moving forward is largely personal experiences to help them do their buying, what I love about what you said, Mike is, basically that’s happening at these smaller shows. That’s the personal experience. That’s where that personal buying experience is happening.
Mike: What I spend my day talking about is really simple. About a year ago throughout this whole process, it really dawned on me. What we do as a company, we operate in this B to B to C space, where you’ve got business to business to consumer, but where really the only thing that matters in this space is the consumer. We can all talk about how we do things and how we love the consumer and if the consumer walked away from that . . . it’s over. What matters and what’s coming from Locally and what’s coming with Envoy is, how do we keep the consumer engaged in a way that delights them? And how do we do that in an environment where it’s hard to get to us. How do we get people in the store? How do we make sure that when that person walks in the store, they walk out with a product? That they walk out with the product that they happen to be looking at live. What we’re looking at is how do we deliver, personalized marketing that drives the consumer to the local retail store. And why is that a win to the brand and the retailer instead of just a win to the brand or the retailer. It’s only a win if the consumer is delighted by the overall experience.
And when you look out there and you look at the most admired brands and retailers in the world today, you think of Apple or maybe a Lulu lemon or something like that. They have completely hybridized the notion of what a brand and retailer want in return. Both brands and retailers need to look at that and say, consumers, are delighted by this experience.
There are opportunities here, that having the right thing in stock, just in time inventory, auto-replenishment all these kinds of things are going to bring in the next decade to retailers. And I think it’s going to be a paradigm shift from, the big model e-commerce merchants that basically have unlimited investor money.
Jon: Yeah, I think you’re right. I mean, every boardroom, every entrepreneur that started a brand, every CEO at a mid-market brand, every boardroom at the enterprise brand needs to hear that last minute of Mike right there. And now post COVID, retailers even get it more than they did before. They’re like, Oh man. Yes. This idea of shop-online, pickup in-store, same day pickup, or any of that? Yes. I’m open to it. Everybody’s open to it. Brands just need to step into this place and say, we’re going to be your partner on it.
30:28 – 30:59 Mike Massey- Delight the consumer
14:43 – 15:38 Mike Massey- The current state of trade shows
16:16 – 16:56 Jon Faber- The current state of trade shows