What you’ll learn:
ZLINE Kitchen and Bath is an industry leader competing against other high-end, luxury brands. Team members Galen, Mason, and Drew talk about how ZLINE competes on its own terms, especially when it comes to controlling MAP violations, passing tariff price increases on consumers, and owning page 1 of search results.
About our guest:
In 2009, Galen Bradford co-founded a mobile software company, Tiger Stripes LLC. Under his leadership, Tiger Stripes sold over 3 million apps to a worldwide audience across multiple platforms. After Tiger Stripes, Galen consulted a number of startups and established himself as a dynamic project manager. He had extensive experience in many fields including product design, sales, marketing, branding, SEO, web development, strategic operations, social media strategies and graphic design. Currently, as the CMO for ZLINE Kitchen and Bath, Galen drives ZLINE’s vision to become a household name in kitchen appliances and bath fixtures. ZLINE Kitchen is the industry leader in designer kitchen appliances – with a passion for innovative styles and high performance, more homeowners can experience luxury in the spaces that mean the most.
Key takeaways from this episode:
- Company stats (product fulfillment, warehouse sizes, etc.) and ZLINE backstory — 3:53
- ZLINE Bender: how to transition from ecomm only sales to in-store retailer channels — 3:25
- Driving D2C online sales by 40% — 7:24
- How ZLINE maintains MAP across retailers — 8:07
- Using Dropship to own your product — 11:01
- Professional Consumers, Builders, & Contractors as solid growth channels and partners — 13:56
- Innovative new product lines, style & color customization, and comprehensive kitchen remodels — 15:48
- Brand marketing strategies and tactics that make ZLINE standout — 20:16
- Engaging with customers on social media & driving traffic to retailer product listings — 23:40
- Win page 1 and make your product stand out on retailer search results — 26:43
- Taking advantage of New Product Placements when you launch a product — 29:54
- MAP strategies across multiple retailers — 33:24
- Perceived value and passing tariff price increases to consumers — 36:44
- Biggest ZLINE win in 2019 — 42:50
Narrator: Welcome to the Page One Podcast, a twice-weekly podcast featuring a variety of guests and thought leaders on topics ranging from channel strategies, to tariffs, influence or marketing, best in class product launches, and all the details about how to accelerate your e-commerce sales with the big-box retailers. Or what we call, R-commerce. Now here’s your host, Luke Peters.
Luke Peters: Thanks for joining me on the Page One Podcast. I am your host, Luke Peters. This is the podcast where I bring you the best and brightest leaders to share consumer, products, sales, and marketing strategies that will help you grow your business. I’m the CEO and founder of NewAir Appliances where I cut my teeth selling products online and have now started Retail Band to help other brands succeed with product launches and influencer marketing and B to B online sales strategy. And before we get into the podcast, I just wanted to quickly offer a free evaluation of your online sales strategy.
Luke Peters: So, if you are looking to improve your sales on Home Depot or Walmart.com or Lowes.com, Wayfair.com, these are areas that we can help you. And if you’re interested, find me on LinkedIn or email me at Luke@retailband.com. And in this episode, you’re going to learn from Galen Bradford along with a few other folks on his marketing team, and Galen is the CMO of ZLINE Kitchen and Bath. They have a really innovative brand. They built out a luxury appliance brand and really excited to dive in and see how they position themselves in a way that they compete on their own terms. Welcome to the show, guys.
Galen Bradford: Hey, thanks a lot, Luke. Yeah, we’re excited to be a part of this.
Luke Peters: Okay, great. And so quick bio on Galen. Graduated UC Davis. Student athlete, and he’s been a current CMO, he’s been a business owner. In 2009 Galen co-founded a mobile software company, Tiger Stripes LLC, and under his leadership, Tiger Stripes sold over three million apps to a world-wide audience across multiple platforms. And Galen has deep experience in branding, SCO, product design, social media strategies, and some of the questions I have tailored to those. So I hope to dive into those and see how Galen and the team have used those in a consumer products appliance brand. Currently the CMO for ZLINE Kitchen and Bath, and ZLINE’s vision is to become a household name in kitchen appliances and bath fixtures. So, welcome again, and Galen, before we get started, what… As an athlete, what sport were you playing?
Galen Bradford: I was a baseball player. Yeah, it seems like an age ago, but yeah I was a pitcher. I was a baseball player.
Luke Peters: Oh, that’s awesome. So we have a softball team here, and the joke was always… Well, when we interviewed, the joke was always that we had to find out what sport… Because we do basketball, here, too, so it’s like okay.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, yeah. Killer. Yeah. Yeah, we’re actually competitive ping-pong players. Mason, he’s also in the room, he actually just took the crown from me. So that’s a big moment at ZLINE sports.
Luke Peters: That’s awesome, yeah. Stuff like that, we have ping-pong here, too. That’s a ton of fun. Cool, great to have you guys here. The funny thing about… Not to labor the point, but the funny thing about company softballs teams is if somebody literally even played at the high school level, then they’re going to be really good, you know? Because most of us are just weekend warriors and never went that far.
Galen Bradford: Oh, yeah. And then there’s the co-ed situation where if your girls haven’t played softball, forget it. You’re not competitive.
Luke Peters: Yeah. And the fortunate thing on our team is we actually have girls on the guys’ team.
Galen Bradford: That’s awesome.
Luke Peters: Because we have one here, you know, she played in college, so she’s scooping the ball up and getting it out of the glove a lot quicker than we are.
Galen Bradford: No, that’s the dream. That’s awesome.
Luke Peters: Yeah, it’s cool. Okay, great, so let’s dive in to ZLINE. A little bit about the company, so the audience has kind of a good feeling for the company.
Galen Bradford: Yeah.
Luke Peters: So why don’t we start with total number of employees, warehouse size, do you guys do your own fulfillment? How about a little bit around that?
Galen Bradford: Yeah, sure. So we do everything end-to-end. We do everything from the product development, marketing, to the design of the product, every single part of the business. We do direct fulfillment, we do direct consumer, we do B-to-B, we really do everything. What makes ZLINE special is our tag line is attainable luxury. We’re really trying to create a feeling. We’re trying to create a feeling where someone could feel like a king in their own house. It’s affordable and it’s accessible, you know. And this is one of the big dents we’ve made on the marketplace and we’re really excited about the story we’re telling.
Luke Peters: Great, and how about just a scale? Is there a number of team members, or how big is the building you guys are in?
Galen Bradford: Yeah, so, we have four locations across the country. We’re here in Reno. Our headquarters is in Reno now, and we have a small distribution center here. About 55,000 square feet. And then in Tennessee is our main distribution center. We have an amazing customer service team there. That’s about 200,000 square feet. And then we have two locations in Ohio, combined about 140,000 square feet. Team-wide, we’re about 80 members, and then we have two, 3000 people manufacturing for us overseas. I want to include them because they’re definitely a part of the ZLINE brand.
Luke Peters: Wow. So you guys got a big footprint. You’ve got about 400 square feet of warehousing?
Galen Bradford: Yep, that’s correct.
Luke Peters: But you’re pretty lean with 80 people to cover that 400 square feet.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, we’re lean and mean. Yeah, that’s how we roll. That’s how we do everything.
Luke Peters: Great, and a sales mix. So, are you guys in-store, and what’s the percent of in-store and in-line, or online? And then maybe talk about some of the key clients.
Galen Bradford: So historically, we’ve cut our teeth with e-com. This is what I really know, this is what our team really knows. Andy Zuro, the founder and owner of the company, this is how he got started. He got started originally with eBay. And then we were really selling on a couple of direct consumer channels online that have done really well. And he brought me on board, and this has been my main mission is to really build the brand and to expand that. So now four years later, where we’re at is we’re making a transition from selling strictly e-commerce, to moving in the store. So now we have conversations going on with the big boxes. You know, we have conversations going on with Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Galen Bradford: There’s some things I can’t speak about yet until the papers have been signed, but we have an opportunity to be in 1000s of big box stores, hopefully by the end of next year. We have things working on there with Lowe’s and Home Depot and Best Buy are three biggest partners, and we’re really excited about the potential there. So we’re making a transition to getting in-store. So on the other side, we have a team that we’re building out extremely quickly. It’s called ZLINE Bender. So this is our Bender team. We’re really excited about this, and what we’re doing here is working with BrandSource, Nationwide, I don’t know if you’re familiar with those two companies, but they’re essentially distribution platforms. And we’ll have access to over 4000 independent appliance store owners and work with them. So we’re really excited about the opportunity there in the next year.
Luke Peters: And, actually, I think we do have some experience with them, not recently. So it was BrandSource and who was the other one?
Galen Bradford: And Nationwide. Yeah, they’re our two competitors, but we’re trying to be everywhere.
Luke Peters: Yep, yep. So, awesome. And I actually remember that. Yeah, because I think they have a trade show. I can’t remember if there’s a trade show in Florida, and it’s smaller business, like pallet business, but to all of these independents, I think is the idea there.
Galen Bradford: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, I think that’s going to be huge for us.
Luke Peters: That’s great. So back to the channels, how much of your business is direct to consumer? We’re not talking HD.com, we’re talking website direct to consumer.com. Is that a smaller portion or is that a pretty big portion of the company?
Galen Bradford: Well it used to be an extremely large portion of the company, and that’s now spread out to… It’s now one of many channels. So this is actually the channel that Mason runs, and that’s driven mainly by online marketing. And we have several platforms that we drive topics at, and a couple point of sale pikes there that have done well, historically, and are continuing to grow about 40 to 50% year over year in that channel.
Luke Peters: That’s amazing. And so, historically, that was the majority of it but now I’m guessing have accounts like Amazon.com, HD.com, Wayfair, and Lowe’s. So those kind of eclipsed your direct to consumer?
Galen Bradford: Yeah, I would say so. Amazon’s really interesting for us. There’s been some challenges there working with Amazon as I’m sure you and your listeners know. There’s really two tenants to Amazon. There’s Amazon Seller and there’s Amazon Vendor. We’re making a transition in terms of how we approach that. Mainly because of MAP pricing violations. And I’m sure your listeners know, I mean if you can’t maintain MAP, you can’t maintain a brand online. And so that’s one of our biggest challenges. And Amazon can be challenging to work with in that regard. But Amazon Seller, we run entirely, and it’s actually one of our most profitable channels. And then we control the pricing and we can make sure that we adhere to MAP.
Luke Peters: Wow, so good for you. So you guys are able to actually control your MAP online, because that’s… Man, that’s a challenge. Because, well, look who you’re selling… You’re selling to a lot of people, that’s not easy.
Galen Bradford: Our business is founded on that, and so we’re… I’m sure a couple more managers would look at me if I said that yeah, we’re 100% there, but we do think we’re 95% there and we’re striving to be 100. And I think we do the best job in the industry of that.
Luke Peters: Oh, no, that’s, yeah. Even if you’re close, that’s really impressive. I mean we’re not there. None of our competitors, our direct competitors are there because it’s such a challenge. Is there a tool? Obviously you guys have to work with buyers and make sure they hold MAP.
Galen Bradford: Yep.
Luke Peters: Can you call out any special tool that you’re using to make sure you’re keeping people in line?
Galen Bradford: So there actually are a few scrubbers. Do you guys remember what those scrubbers are that we were looking into that we haven’t purchased yet? So there’s some scrubbers that basically scrub online, but Home Depot and Lowe’s and Wayfair are actually really great partners of ours. We’ve got tremendous relationships with them. So they’ll actually send us reports. We made the agreement with them that we wouldn’t allow any of our prices to violate MAP. And so they’ll send us a report every week of when there’s a violation, and hopefully they never have to send it. But they do send it when we violate, and we often decide to do us and do make adjustments that are needed.
Galen Bradford: And it comes down to taking product off channels that break MAP. And we’ve run into a lot of issues over the years, and know the reason why we’re able, you asked how we’re able to do that. Well it just comes from having brass balls. I mean you have to be able to look them in the face and say hey, we’re going to stop doing business with you and we’re going to lose $500,000 a month or whatever it is on that channel because it’s that important for us to maintain brand recognition and adhere to MAP.
Luke Peters: There you go. Home and housewares brands, got to have brass balls. I think that’s what we’re going to have to title this episode. That’s a first on the Page One Podcast, I like it.
Galen Bradford: And that’s really a testament to our founder and owner and chief designer of products and that’s Andy Zuro. This just comes directly from him, and he definitely puts his money where his mouth is.
Luke Peters: Okay, I’m going to go deeper on that because man, I’m interested. I’m learning, so I know if I’m learning stuff here then the audience is, for sure. So you’ve got to pull product, but I know a lot of these customers you’re talking with, they have their own DCs or DFCs and they’re taking inventory.
Galen Bradford: Oh yes, yes.
Luke Peters: So then you’ve got a big problem if they’ve got inventory and you’re violating MAP.
Galen Bradford: Exactly.
Luke Peters: So how do you guys handle that?
Galen Bradford: Yes. So this is where we’re really unique, and this is a thing that ZLINE does that’s really unique in the industry is we stock all of our products ourselves and then we drop-ship. And so everything actually is getting shipped on our own account. So when we ran into issues, we ran into issues with Amazon Vendor, and that is because they owned our product and so they effectively can sell it for whatever they want.
Galen Bradford: So when we own our product and we ship directly to consumer next business day, and we were born on the Amazon model, and the good part about the Amazon model and what we’re grateful for is every single product that ZLINE sells, I mean over 3000 skus when we were selling large ranges, we’re selling ranges, we’re selling all kitchen suite except refrigeration, which we’ll have next year, hopefully. And every single product that we have we stock it and we ship next business day. And actually any orders that come in before noon, we’re actually shipping the current day. So our customers are getting product within three days and that’s insane when you’re talking about a 48 inch range.
Luke Peters: Yeah, that is. So 3000 skus?
Galen Bradford: Yeah, yeah. We have an incredible market and design, you know. So obviously we have models that sell much quicker than other models, but we stock everything.
Luke Peters: And you don’t let others stock it, it sounds like. Like if one of your clients wanted to put it into their DCs you’re saying no? You’re saying hey, we’re going to ship that for you?
Galen Bradford: Well it really depends. And this is where the meat of your question is, is it comes down to trust and adherence to MAP. So if someone wants to stock our product, it’s something that we’ll absolutely consider, but we’re not going to consider that if the terms rely on them needing to move that product by discounting.
Luke Peters: Got you. But you do still have a promo schedule, you just kind of align it with everybody?
Galen Bradford: We do, exactly right. And that’s something that we’ve run into some issues with in the past couple of weeks, which is new for us because we always do November sales, these November Black Friday specials. November’s our biggest month of the year. And so we have about 100 skus on sale, and it’s different for in-store… our vendor partners, you know, and we realize that we’ve kind of made some mistakes by allowing online sales, where normally we give it to Wayfair, we give it to Depot, we give it to Best Buy, we give it to Lowe’s. Everyone’s usually on the same exact playing field, and that’s really what our theory is. As long as everyone’s on the same playing field, everyone has the same opportunities and may the best win. And we just don’t want anyone to have kind of a unique advantage. But our vendors have had issues with that, and we’ve made some adjustments there and we’ll definitely have to, as we grow as a brand and have more in-store presence, we’re going to have to make some adjustments and probably limit our sales.
Luke Peters: Yeah, I mean these are really super interesting insights, Galen, so thanks for this. And kind of on this same line, so we talked about how you guys are handling MAP. That whole section is worth a play-back right there. What is your best growth channel right now? You mentioned D-to-C is growing 40% plus a year. How are the rest of the channels? What do you guys see as the future and the growth?
Galen Bradford: Well, I think that our biggest opportunity and my favorite opportunity is with builders and what I like about that business model is being able to do bulkage and sweeps. So we’re here in Reno and there’s a lot of building going on in Reno, and so now we’re part of the local building community which we’re really appreciate of. And, for instance, let’s say we have one builder that does 25 homes a month. Well, we can get those 25 homes a month to do the full kitchen suite, and then we can do that in 100 different markets. This turns into a subscription-based model where we have 100+ day lead times that makes it really easy on our GTs and it’s almost guaranteed income ahead of time. So we’re pre-selling a product. We’ve never done that before until the past couple of years, and it is sweet. We are working with Ryan Homes, who is owned by NDR and we do some of their high-end homes for our range hood and it’s been just a really great partnership for us and we’re thinking there’s a huge opportunity with builders.
Luke Peters: Wow, that’s great. That’s unique. That’s something that I didn’t expect to hear, and so I love getting answers like that. Working with the builders, it makes a lot of sense. You’re going to have your ups and downs with the economy, but so will the business itself, anyways, you know, as the housing build-outs go up and down. But like you said, it’s like a subscription business and that resonates. And that’s hard to get in this type of an industry, so it is a different business model. I like it. It’s cool.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, and it’s better because you don’t have return issues, either, because we find the majority of our returns are from damages in shipping because we’re drop-shipping everywhere across the country. We can palletize our product and ship it bulk and our returns are zero, or less than 1%.
Luke Peters: Now, but a lot of your products are large. So just how about, just for the audience really quick, so we’re talking about ZLINE Kitchen and Bath but you guys are doing full ranges. Do you want to kind of, I mean those got to go on pallets, I’m assuming, right?
Galen Bradford: For sure, for sure.
Luke Peters: Yeah. So why don’t you give the audience a quick run-down of, say, your top five product categories?
Galen Bradford: Yeah, so we got started with range hoods. So Andy got involved with range hoods. We’re probably, by far, the largest range hood seller online, really probably ever, you know? In terms of design, we definitely lead the industry there. Even invented some things like crown molding for a range hood. And what that allows us to do, is it allows you to gut the chimney at any point without having a telescoping chimney. So it’s like this beautiful thing and it really finishes that cut at the top of the ceiling, it looks beautiful. We’ve developed some different finishes. So we do copper finishes, we do a stainless finish, non-directional snow finish, a fingerprint-resistant. Wooden range hoods, we’re the first manufacturer of wooden range hoods that the motor is included, and we offer a lifetime warranty on the motor, which no other range manufacturer offers and so this is a lot of really creative story online where we have professional quality products and 1000s of variations and sizes that looks like a designer product that someone would purchase for four, $5000 in a high-end home.
Galen Bradford: It is now available and can be shipped to your door for $500. And that changes the game and so that’s why we’ve been really successful with range hoods. With that success, we’ve gotten into other categories like ranges. We’re really excited about our ranges. Our ranges have been killing it, and it’s been really fun there. So we do a 30 inch range, a 36 inch range, a 40 inch range. We do duel fuel, gas on gas. And what am I forgetting here, guys? There’s a whole bunch of other products that we kick ass on.
Mason: Yeah, this is Mason here. We also specialize in our newest line, which is black stainless. So we offer a black stainless variation of all those sizes, as well as colored doors and panel doors. So really just speaking more to the customization and really complimenting the customer’s experience, really, to enhance their kitchen design, all in all.
Drew: Yeah, and this is Drew here, and the one thing I’ll add, too, as Galen kind of mentioned before this idea of the complete kitchen suite is really expanding from the range hoods and the range into a really exciting microwave drawer and our two-sided dishwasher. Which, from there we even innovate the finishes that Mason mentioned. The black stainless, and a lot of the different finishes you’ll see in our range hoods so we can really bring pretty comprehensive aesthetics to the kitchen across the whole suite of appliances.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, we want to be a one-stop-shop for kitchen remodel and that’s where ZLINE Kitchen and Bath… We’re also moving the bath feature, as well, but that’s kind of the quick and dirty.
Luke Peters: Yeah, and I saw a bunch of faucets, as well on your-
Galen Bradford: Yes, yes.
Luke Peters: So is that a newer category?
Galen Bradford: It is a new category. Yeah, it is a new category. We actually manufacture our faucets from the same manufacturer as Rohls. We’re super high-quality, so we have… It’s all a brass construction in our faucets. We have a couple of patented spray systems that are anti-splash, which we’re excited to introduce. And what we’re really, really excited and passionate about is this new stainless steel. It’s called dura-snow stainless steel and Andy’s invented this and it’s a non-directional stainless steel. And we’re doing this in the whole family, so it’ll be in the sink, it’ll be in a dishwasher, it’ll be in a range hood, it’ll be in a range. What’s really innovative about it is if you scratch it, and it’s just huge for sinks, if you scratch it… You know, those stainless steel sinks, they get terrible looking after a few knives have been in them over months.
Luke Peters: Yep.
Galen Bradford: Yep, and you can actually take those scratches out and buff them out, and we have a tool for that and it’s designed to make your sink look brand new after it’s three years old. And that’s going to apply to every appliance. That kind of thing fires us up, and that’s what we’re here to do is we’re here to innovate in the industry and do something that no one’s done before.
Luke Peters: Great, and just from you guys talking, I’m guessing it sounds like the company started with range hoods and that’s probably 50% plus of the business sales. It seems like that’s where the company started and where the innovation started.
Galen Bradford: Yep, that’s fair. It’s starting to change as we’re getting to these new products. We’re finding that our ranges are becoming our new marque product. The range hoods, we’re seeing huge growth there but the ranges are… We’re becoming more and more excited about the opportunities in cooking.
Luke Peters: And you guys are really innovative. The marketing is great, the website’s amazing, I can tell. We’re going to get into some marketing questions here. But kind of before we do, what do you guys feel is, or maybe one to two things that consumer brands should be doing that you guys are really good at and you notice that a lot of… You got to give away some of your secrets, here, but a lot of the competitors are missing out on? Is it something special you’re doing with the product launches, or the D-to-C side, or what do you feel kind of makes the magic of ZLINE online?
Galen Bradford: Well, there’s a lot. That’s a great question, Luke. There’s a lot and I can let the guys answer this a little bit more in-depth, but what I think in terms of marketing in general, is it’s kind of a broad suggestion, but it’s like the key suggestion if you really understand what it is. And that’s the brand, right? So what does the brand mean, you know? It comes down to a feeling. And what kind of feeling are you getting from your customer? And then is that part of your brand’s DNA in everything that you do? And if you can really get that dialed in, then you have something really special.
Galen Bradford: So, for instance, for ZLINE, our tag line is attainable luxury. We want something where someone can feel like they can have this beautiful space in their home and what that feels like. And so that relates to everything that we do. So if it’s marketing online, what does our content look like? If it’s writing, what does that feel like? And that’s kind of like a broad brush stroke, and that’s what all my managers are focusing on. And also how to innovate in our industry. There’s a great book… I’m sure your readers have read it or have heard of it. It’s called Blue Ocean Marketing Strategy.
Luke Peters: Yep.
Galen Bradford: And this is, yeah, so this is fundamentally how we roll on every single part of our business. We’re not really competing against people, we’re doing things completely differently and, you know, this starts to pop with Andy’s vision in development and in product creation, and it goes into every part of our business in terms of operations, in terms of marketing, and how we think about things. How else would you guys describe the more concrete marketing tactics?
Mason: Yeah, Mason here. I would, to compliment what Galen’s saying, I think it all starts with what kind of story do we want to convey to our audience? And utilizing every single avenue to make that happen and to really integrate that into not only the service we provide, but what we’re thinking of in terms of the end user experience. And really tying in that feeling and making our team buy into that allows it to resonate with everything we do, I think is the essence.
Drew: Yeah, this is Drew, and to piggyback on what Galen and Mason are saying, we have a vision of how can we have the perspective of what our customer is going to experience from shopping all the way to bringing the product in their home? And that vision, too, is, you know, you’re buying kitchen appliances but we’re really helping someone purchase the lifestyle they want to have and enjoy that. And we can fulfill that role with our marketing, our shopping experience, our customer service. That’s where we’re innovating and we’re continuing to deliver a premium experience to our customers from every interaction with us. And that’s really what we’re bringing to the market.
Luke Peters: Now, guys, I like all of that, but I’ll challenge you a little bit because-
Galen Bradford: Perfect.
Luke Peters: We want to get something really tangible, so I…
Galen Bradford: Yep.
Luke Peters: Everything you’re saying is textbook 101 branding, and you guys are obviously doing a good job, so you know what you’re doing.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, great.
Luke Peters: But, you know, when HD’s got your product online, HD.com. Now, again, these are high consideration products so maybe the consumer’s kind of looking around a few different times. Could be a couple weeks before they buy it. But I guess what I would say is do you guys have maybe… Because this one, I didn’t have a chance to look at. Do you have like a huge social following?
Galen Bradford: We do.
Luke Peters: In other words, is there a special way that you’re engaging with your customers? Because HD’s not going to do it for you.
Galen Bradford: Yes, yeah. So we can go pretty deep on this. So I guess at a social media marketing level, we do a phenomenal job in terms of telling our story directly. But Home Depot, specifically… We take each channel, kind of hold it sickly. So Home Depot, you ask yourself well what really drives traffic on Home Depot? Now, if I’m going to get into the nitty-gritty of what we do that’s unique is we focus on two different things here. So you’ve got to start with content, right? If you don’t have good content, then you’re not going to sell anything. So we start with having the best content, all right? So we’ve got content, we have the best videos, and then we also have the best background.
Galen Bradford: So what is the customer’s flow going to look like? They’re going to go to Home Depot, they’re going to find something that they like. They’re not probably going to purchase the first time they look at it, especially a few thousand to a $5000 product. So what are they going to do? They’re going to look for reviews online. You know, outside Home Depot, what else have they found? They’re going to look for problems on ZLINE. They’re going to look for when customers had issues. And so I challenge you to actually look into that and find what we look like online saying hey, type in… Try to find issues on ZLINE products and see how we’ve handled it.
Galen Bradford: When we find that when you have customers that have had a bad experience with us, we go above and beyond to make sure that they have an incredible experience with us. So, you know, customers that have had something fail, we make sure that they’re still well taken care of. They become a raving fan. So when you have a raving fan, now they’re going to be leaving a raving review and they’re going to speak about their problem and how ZLINE handled it and how that’s crazy what they did for them. And that comes down to our psychological… Or just making sure that our customer’s taken care of. Attainable luxury, but you’re going to be treated like a king when you have a problem. So this is something that really separates us because we have raving reviews and raving fans.
Luke Peters: That’s awesome, that’s a great answer and I love that specific one of actually driving traffic from your website to one of your retail partners. Super unique, but you know I’ve talked to guests in the past, and they’re… For example, on Amazon instead of using Amazon AMS advertising, they’re using Facebook advertising because they’re getting a better bang for the buck right to their seller or vendor listening. So you’re kind of doing the same thing. You’re saying hey, you want to sell it on your website but you know what? HD or Amazon or Lowe’s or Wayfair are probably going to convert higher than your website. Probably, you know, if someone’s like already registered and has their information on those sites. So, yeah, that’s a great specific item right there. Super interesting.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, another thing to add that is kind of unique that I’m not sure people think about a whole lot, and I haven’t even talked with this about the guys. So my history, I used to do apps and make apps. I was in the app business for nine years and we used a lot of apps, and some of the apps really sold a lot. And what really was interesting is how the app store worked, right? And so the app store, their algorithm’s based on searchability and ranking, and where your product comes up in these rankings. And so if you… I mean, I don’t want to go into too much detail of our secret sauce and also the ways to make your product stand out, but there are ways. And so if you are able to look at that, for instance in the app store, what really drove apps?
Galen Bradford: And so there was a long period of time where you could, you know, essentially, not necessarily game in the system but you can make sure that your apps are extremely discoverable and if you’re on the front page, everyone knows this with any FDL. So on the front page, then it’s a multitude of clicks. It’s not just like hey, it’s not just two or three clicks more than the next page. It’s like 100s more. And it was the same thing for the app store. And it’s the same thing featuring your product on any channel that has search algorithms, including Home Depot or any store. So I thought I’d touch on that a little bit.
Luke Peters: I mean so, I’m going to try to pull it out of you. Are you saying using, say, PPC traffic, driving it to listings, that type of an idea?
Galen Bradford: Well there’s obviously a lot to look into in that sense, but I’m talking more… So what makes something popular in algorithm, and that’s having good reviews, having good content, and having conversion on the clicks, right? So if people are going to our product on Home Depot, let’s say it’s an RA30, which is a best selling product for us. It’s a 30 inch range, full fuel. It competes with Viking, so a Viking or a Wolf. It could be any brand, you know, that does a good job that is a household name. We’re competing with those brands. You go to that product page, and how many thousand people have clicked on that product versus converted? So that’s going to be something that any algorithm is going to take into mind.
Galen Bradford: They’re going to look at the reviews, they’re going to look at that, and then also how long it’s been on site and how many sales it’s had. So it’s just like anything, whether you’re PPCing on AdWords, whether you’re selling something on Amazon, each one of these sites has their own algorithm and it’s important to make sure that you set your product in the best possible way.
Luke Peters: I got you. I got you. So you’re really kind of backing up to what you were talking about before, making sure you have really good reviews and the best content so that you’re going to have the best conversion rates and maximizing those types of things.
Galen Bradford: And then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. So then the next step there is… Once you’re on the page one, you stay there.
Luke Peters: Yep, I totally get it. Well love it, I love it. I love where this is going. So this is so interesting to me. So why don’t we just keep going on this, kind of down this road and talk about how you guys launch products? The reason I ask for you guys, so you have kind of back to the beginning, 100,000 square feet, 300,000 skus. That’s a lot of products you’re bringing into the market. We’re launching new products all the time, I’m sure a lot of people are, especially in this world of tariffs. But it’s tough when you launch a brand new sku. Kind of what we… Because this goes against what we just talked about. So we just talked about winning page one, and that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, now those skus are going to kind of hopefully locked in on page one, but now you’ve got a new sku that’s nowhere to be found and you’ve got to launch that sku and kind of get some traction and volume. Are you able to walk us through kind of your thought process there?
Galen Bradford: Yeah, so, I mean, similar to apps, I think about in terms of that of what would happen with an app release, right? When you first release the product, you have an opportunity, and it’s really just big box but they’re pretty much everywhere, but you have an opportunity where it’s a new product so you have preferential ranking as new. Some channels, it’ll actually put you in the very back which stinks. But if you can make sure that you have high conversions at the beginning, then you’ll stay there. So when we do product launches, we want to make sure that we’re blasting it on our social media channels. We’re telling stories about it, we do product launches, right? And we do announcements. We try to drive as much traffic as we can to those skus when they launch so that they’ll stay highly ranked.
Luke Peters: Got it. And how does that look, specifically? Is that social media from Instagram channels or is that paid or is it organic or how are you guys driving it to those listings?
Galen Bradford: Sure. Yeah, there’s a lot. I don’t want to totally give away our secret sauce because it’s working really well for us.
Luke Peters: I’ll call you after the podcast. I’m just kidding.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But in short, we do a lot of branding and traffic driving.
Luke Peters: That’s good, I get it.
Galen Bradford: And we do the research beforehand, too. I think this is really critical for your listeners, is there’s a lot of things that you can do before you launch a product and I’ve learned this from not only at ZLINE, where we’ve had extremely successful product launches and some… We’ve actually, every product we release actually sells pretty well. But some products not as much as we were expecting. For instance, an example would be we have these amazing butcher block wooden range hoods, and these are the most beautiful product. They’re still my favorite ZLINE product. And for some reason, maybe it’s we’re not doing good enough telling the story or it’s so radical for the consumer in our space, they don’t sell as well as we thought they would compared to other products that we’ve released. And so the staff points me at price points they’re at and then the looks they have. The people just aren’t… they’ve never seen anything like it before. Andy’s developed this product that is just game-changing and an amazing price point. And if they don’t see it, they can’t buy it whether…
Galen Bradford: So what I mean by that is people aren’t searching for wooden butcher block range hoods. So how do we market for something where people aren’t searching for it? Because what we’re really good at is we’re really good at marketing things where there’s high traffic for, right? So if someone’s range hood… And, you know, type in range hood online. Just search range hood. You’re going to see ZLINE all over the place. That’s testament to what Mason does and what Drew does. And so we’re really good at that. But people aren’t searching for butcher block range hood. So this is more of a long tale sell of our wood hoods and the story behind those where people need to really see them to believe how amazing it looks in person. And so I think that having displays in stores is going to change the game for those. But that’s a challenge, so I don’t really know how it’s going with that.
Luke Peters: No, it’s a great example. We run into that, too, with product launches where… I mean it’s the same product, but it’s a different version or a raft product or something new that we’re developing. And so in your case, you got to educate the customer or you got to, you know, maybe you could tie it to another sku so you’re getting eyeballs on it. And then maybe it’ll pick up volume, or maybe it won’t.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, yeah.
Luke Peters: That’s interesting. What are… So now, thanks a lot for all the product details, by the way. Find that stuff fascinating.
Galen Bradford: For sure.
Luke Peters: And you talked in really detail about some specific wins and I think there’s some good stuff there for the listeners to dive deeper and win with their own brands. Kind of talking about… So talking about offering products on competing channels, and we’ve talked about this at the beginning but I figured we’d go one more round because I want to make sure we understand it all because you guys are successfully implementing MAP. Is there anything else to your channel strategy? Did we kind of already cover it or is there any other nuance? Because it looks like you guys are selling to most of all the big box retailers online, and that’s hard. And so you guys just have MAP agreements with everybody, or is there more to it on your channel strategy? Does everybody get every sku pretty much, or do you guys kind of have to have silos and segment that out?
Drew: Hey, this is Drew. I’ll kind of jump in here. You know, it’s kind of unique. We kind of… A big thing, like, we’re saying with the product launches to working with the channels is very much listening. How do we create an opportunity to really win with them, win on their platforms, especially on a bigger channel? They have the platform there. What is there audience looking for? So one thing that’s unique there, too, is really bringing the products to their audience that they want to find. And then that idea, too, is that once you’re satisfying what I need, the competitor’s audience needs to be satisfied, as well. And so that’s part of what works well for us. And the other thing, too, is really we are able to iterate very quickly. We’re able to see what’s working, what’s not. Take that information back and arrange ourselves so that we can really bring a comprehensive, very palatable thing to different audiences successfully. And that’s what’s really unique in our ability to have the direct to consumer option but also work with our channels.
Drew: MAP is unique in that it does take a lot of work, but again that kind of goes back to our feedback element, as well. We’re willing to have our partners let us know when they see hey, someone else is trying to break MAP. Our job is to take that information and act on it as quickly as we can, and that also reinforces that relationship that we have with those partners. So from there, I mean, it really is unique per platform, but we’re always trying to present ourself in the best way possible to any platform’s audience to have them say oh, ZLINE’s fantastic, that’s what I want, that’s what I’m looking for.
Galen Bradford: I think, just adding to what Drew’s saying, it’s really interesting in the appliance industry. The state of content on channels. And there’s just so much opportunity. There’s so much opportunity within our own brand that we’re just so excited to improve upon, and there’s just so much opportunity there. Mason, is there anything that you’d add to this?
Mason: No, absolutely. I think that, you know, just maintain the harmony with each channel is essential in building that brand and leveraging it, and also just maintaining and fostering those relationships with all the retailers and trying to keep that as aligned as possible.
Galen Bradford: The relationship with our partners has been huge, and without a solid relationship then we can’t adhere to MAP. And sometimes that I mentioned earlier, you have to call people out. You have to call people out on their shit.
Luke Peters: Yeah, yep.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, we’ve been in a couple situations where we were forced for more margin and, you know, you need to just really stand up. And so this is where the big brass balls comes into play. You have to really stand up for your brand because if you start to move, even with a ton of pressure, with those threats, you start to move with those threats then you lose what it is that made you great.
Luke Peters: Wow, I love it. I think all of us can learn from that. Well said, let’s move on to another favorite subject, tariffs. I’m assuming-
Galen Bradford: Oh, gosh. Yeah.
Luke Peters: Yeah. I could tell, specifically, I mean you guys are bringing some stuff in from Europe, but is it correct to assume that most of your stuff is coming from China?
Galen Bradford: That’s correct, yeah. I mean we do have a lot of Italian manufacturers. We have some work we’re doing in Germany. But it is… We are predominately shipping from east Asia and China.
Luke Peters: And how has that worked? Have you guys been able to pass those price increases on? With MAP, you have more margin in there, I’m assuming, on both sides, so that probably helped you.
Galen Bradford: Yeah. So we have some decent margins on our products, but again, the tariffs are a nightmare. There’s no way to talk about it and stress how much of a nightmare it is, particularly for a US-based company. And a lot of our competitors are actually China-based companies. So we consider ourselves the industry leader in kitchen design. And I know that that’s like a huge freaking claim, but there is a lot of things that we can do to back that up in innovations that we’ve made in the range hood business, and also the innovations that we’ve made in the range business. And I can get into product details, but for the scope of the tariff question, it’s a really big challenge for us because we’re getting copied constantly by all these Chinese brands and brands even in Europe that are literally just copying us, much like how Apple invented iOS and everything you look at’s iOS, even everything… Android is 100% an iOS rip off. And every phone you see has the same cameras that Apple came up with and even like the notch.
Galen Bradford: Huge Apple fan boy, of course, but I wasn’t a big fan of the notch and face ID. And before you know it, you know, six months later every single phone has face ID and the notch. And so they’re just getting copied, and that’s kind of happening with ZLINE. And so where it’s frustrating is we’re getting tariff, whereas we would love to be manufacturing in the United States. We would love to be hiring more people, and the money that we’re getting tariffed is actually preventing us from competing at a level that we want to compete at in the reinvestment that we’d be putting back into our business. So we’re literally now putting 20% of our profit into someone else who gets to decide how to spend it and I guarantee they’re not building the jobs that we would build, right? So unless they’re government jobs, but we can’t afford that anyway. So I have a lot of feelings about this.
Luke Peters: Yeah, well, listen, we’re in the same boat. So it’s a total nightmare, but I guess the question is have you guys been able to at least recoup some of that from… Not from your suppliers, I’m saying literally from the customers because that’s a tough conversation. We haven’t been successful with every one, so that’s why I’ve asked it.
Galen Bradford: Good question. So what we’ve done, and we did this about two months ago is we raised prices. We raised prices and so the consumer is now paying for it. And what’s really interesting with this, Luke, is we’ve raised our prices, depending on the product, but we’ve raised our prices from 5% to 20%, depending on the sku. And across the board, pretty much. And what’s really interesting is our sales have actually increased. And so we find that fascinating. We’ve done a good job telling our story and our brand online, so I think that’s been a part of it.
Luke Peters: That’s awesome.
Galen Bradford: But I also think that the customer actually… We’ve pricing ourselves a little bit too low for the quality of our product. I ran into this in apps, and this is actually some food for thought for anyone in this industry. When you’re selling something that’s inexpensive, but has amazing quality. It’s very rare to find, but when you have it, it’s interesting. So I used to sell apps for 99 cents, and I’d sell a certain amount. And then we said hey we’ll raise our apps to $1.99, 2.99, and the sales actually doubled.
Luke Peters: Wow, yeah.
Galen Bradford: It was perceived value that is interesting. It’s hard to understand. We kind of think about selling things in terms of well how cheap can we go and still making our margin? That’s kind of in our psychology. But actually there’s another thing that you’re doing there if you have a really good brand, and you have really good materials, that if you actually raise your prices you end up selling more, too.
Luke Peters: Good for you guys. That’s a rare story. You guys are just… You’re winning on all fronts. So you’ve got your price increase in. Now I’m assuming you got it in because you’re running a MAP policy and there’s enough margin on both ends, and so it sounds like all of your customers just took it, right? I mean that’s great.
Galen Bradford: Yep. It’s pretty nightmarish on how we were able… It had to be coordinated, right? So implementing this, and we have our director of our channels and accounts, her name’s Brit Johnson, and she did just a hell of a job corralling all of our partners to change our pricing at once, because it was a date. We set a firm date. And we actually had to keep pushing that date back and send it to our great partnerships that we have with Home Depot and our partnerships with Lowe’s and these big box stores that not only, they not only changed the pricing for us, they kept their pricing higher for us when a couple of our smaller partners didn’t change.
Luke Peters: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Galen Bradford: And that’s because of great relationships that we had with our buyers. And they believed in our brand and so without them holding MAP for us, we wouldn’t have been able to do it. The relationship factor is huge and so we really appreciate that. And that’s going to go a long way in future negotiations with them.
Luke Peters: Congratulations. I mean that’s something a lot of listeners can learn from. So you’ve got… You had to coordinate it. It’s sounds like, you know, you actually had to push it back a couple times, I guess.
Galen Bradford: We did.
Luke Peters: Maybe it wasn’t ready to go live, but then it went live and not everybody was there. But your big guys held until everybody got up, and you successfully pushed it out. That’s good for you guys.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, we got away with one there.
Luke Peters: Yeah. Well, I mean that’s… I mean, listen, that’s how we’ve seen it in all of those cases where you’re pushing something through and you’ve got to rely on that partnership.
Galen Bradford: Exactly, exactly.
Luke Peters: Wow, this has been really a fascinating interview. I want to thank, Galen, you, and Drew, and Mason, and I guess this last question, or one of the last questions here is that you guys have shared a lot about the business. What’s your biggest win in this past year? I guess I can’t… You’ve got to pull the price increase out of there, because we already talked about that. That’s probably your biggest win if you look at profit dollars. So excluding the price increase, what would you guys say is your biggest win in the past year?
Mason: Yeah, Mason here. You know, just kind of tying back to what we’ve focused on moving from e-commerce now to working with builders and growing our vendors side of the business. One of the things that we’ve taken advantage of is making partnerships with brand stores and attending their trade show. That’s been a huge win for us and that’s allowed us to make some awesome connections that we’re really excited to pursue moving forward and continuing to expand that by some things.
Luke Peters: Great, so working with the builders. Cool.
Drew: Yeah, and this is Drew. I’d say the biggest win is seeing what we were able to accomplish and knowing where we’re going. Just as far as the initiatives we’re claiming and the ability to say we can look the industry differently. We can target things and do them differently and succeed, and that’s on a small level, but on a really big level that’s really the vision that’s guiding what we’re doing going forward. And so to me, the big win is just knowing we can do it. We can take these chances and win and it’s awesome. Everything from building new relationships to completely changing how we represent ourselves and interact is so awesome. It just fuels me up every day.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, we’ve had a really great year and a lot of wins. I think, for me, the biggest win that we’ve had is the team that we’ve been building, and the leaders that we’ve been developing. And, you know, you really can only grow as fast as your people grow, and scale as fast as your people can scale. So that’s been the biggest part. We have this team in Tennessee that has been built in the past year, and we didn’t have this team a year ago. And it’s a 200,000 square foot facility. We have over 30 people there, we’re trying to find people there now. And we’re hiring as fast as we can there so we have this just lights-out warehouse team that are just moving mountains for us.
Galen Bradford: We ship now 40% of ZLINE product out of this facility, and then we also have our customer service team there. There’s 15 customer service reps there that are just killing it for us. I mean these are some of the best people you’ve ever met in your life. Just like real Americans that really care about appliances and doing the right thing. And also we have this amazing management team here in Reno that have been such a tremendous job in pushing the envelope and challenging themselves. And that’s what I’m the most proud of, and we don’t do what we do without them.
Luke Peters: And I can hear the passion in your voice, so congratulations. Galen, you’ve built a great team, obviously, with Drew and Mason. And I can tell that you guys are knowledgeable and understand your domain. So really thought-provoking interview and the details you guys put out there. And I’m taking notes and I’m going to go re-engage with BrandSource and see where we can go with those guys.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, they’re great guys.
Luke Peters: Yeah, for whatever reason we missed the mark a couple years ago but, you know, things are a lot different at my company now. So I’m taking notes.
Galen Bradford: You guys are killing it.
Luke Peters: And looking at that, so I’ve got a bunch of other stuff highlighted, too. So listen, I just want to thank you guys for being so open. It’s really been a learning experience on the marketing side and then even through the tariffs and the MAP side. How can listeners find you guys, connect with you, and/or learn more about you or the business?
Mason: Yeah, absolutely, this is Mason. You know, I would just say come check us out on our website www.zlinekitchen.com and then from there, we have a number of awesome pages. A lot of the content that we’ve referenced earlier you’ll see there. I mean we have everything from product launch videos to, you know, utilizing our ranges and cooking. And actually, we’ve created a lot of captivating content with the local chefs most recently. So if you’re big into food, definitely check that out. There’s a lot of instructional videos. And then we also have a really great Instagram page. Pinterest, as well. A lot of pin boards up there. So there’s a number of great avenues to explore via zlinekitchen.com.
Luke Peters: Great, and the rest of you guys? People can find you on LinkedIn, maybe, or is there a preferred way to contact you?
Drew: Yeah, this is Drew, but you know, take a look at us on LinkedIn. You’re going to find us on YouTube. You’re going to find us on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, like Mason mentioned. Pretty much if you’ve got a favorite online retailer that’s in the appliance industry, you’ll find us there, too. So we’ve got great content out all over the place and just building new partnerships every day. So ZLINE’s going to be a brand you just start seeing more and more of when you’re online looking at content in that space.
Galen Bradford: ZLINE, your favorite appliance retailer.
Luke Peters: You’ve got to get your own podcast going. I like that.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, yeah.
Luke Peters: Hey, guys, how is that Pinterest channel for you? I know we’ve had some success. It’s hard to kind of… We haven’t been able to actually evaluate traffic conversion on it yet, but it seems like there’s a lot of engagement. Are you guys finding Pinterest to be a good channel for you?
Mason: Yeah, most definitely. You know, it’s like the top of the funnel, really, when it comes to marketing. And if you think about, it’s like if you know what you want then you’ll usually Google it, but if you need the inspiration for it then that’s when you turn to Pinterest and you look for ideas and inspiration in all sorts of corners in that platform. And so what we’ve really done is kind of focus on the niches of this world, catered to people’s taste and how do we tell the story to cater to that desire or the feeling that they want to get out of their kitchen? And the inspiration that we can provide via our content. So, yeah, we utilize Pinterest heavily and we’ve seen a lot of great traffic conversions from that. And, you know, making sure that that strategy is also integrated with YouTube and Instagram, but yeah. I would say in short Pinterest has been nothing but beneficial for us.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, that’s a huge opportunity for marketing, for sure.
Luke Peters: Awesome, guys. Okay, listen, I want to thank you guys. Thank you Drew, Mason, and Galen for an awesome episode. And I want to thank all the listeners for listening to this episode of the Page One Podcast, sponsored by Retail Band and quick reminder that I’m offering a free evaluation of your online sales strategy in a lot of the channels we’ve talked about in this episode today. We can review your Amazon, Home Depot, Wayfair strategy. Take a look at your products using our selling tools. I can present the findings directly to you, and if you’re interested for this free evaluation just contact me on LinkedIn or Luke@retailband.com. Thanks again for joining us on the Page One Podcast sponsored by Retail Band. Leave us a review if you enjoyed the content. Take care, and we’ll see you next time.
Galen Bradford: Yeah, hey, thanks, Luke.
Mason: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Drew: Yeah, thank you.
Narrator: Thanks for listening to the Page One Podcast with Luke Peters. If you like our show and want to know more, check out our other segments. Also, please help us out by leaving us a rating on iTunes. Want to learn more about r-commerce? Check out www.retailband.com to get more great tips and tricks on how to accelerate your e-commerce sales with the big box retailers.
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