What you’ll learn:
How do you unify your online and offline presence? How do you merchandise your products online? How do you manage your sales assets across all retailers and synchronize your entire eCommerce activity? Today we learn about Salsify, a company that not only simplifies the digital product launch process, but measures the sales success of your creative content and product assets. Today, you learn how to manage your company’s digital shelf.
About our guest:
Jason Purcell is the Co-Founder and CEO of Salsify. Before Salsify, Jason ran Endeca’s e-commerce business. He was with Endeca almost from the beginning as employee #24 and helped grow the business to its $1B+ exit.
Key takeaways from this episode:
- What is a PIM?
- What is the digital shelf?
- What makes Salsify different?
- Salsify stats (employee count, international locations, customers, etc.)
- Salsify’s Annual Event: Digital Transformers Summit
- Scaling Salsify with self-funding before taking on VC Funds
- Key challenges brands face when building their digital shelf
- Aggregated data to create a brand’s full digital story
- Gaining competitor comparative data
- Salsify onboarding and channel integration
- Type of companies that need a PXM
- Uploading a new product image on retailers in less than a minute
- Best advice and strategies to improve your digital shelf
Announcer: Welcome to the Page 1 Podcast, a weekly podcast featuring a variety of guests and thought leaders on topics ranging from channel strategies, to tariffs, influencer marketing, best-in-class product launches, and all the details about how to accelerate your eCommerce sales with the big-box retailers, or what we call rCommerce. Now here’s your host, Luke Peters.
Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page 1 Podcast. I am your host, Luke Peters. This is the podcast where we bring you the best and brightest leaders to share consumer product 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, where I help other brands succeed in product launches, influencer marketing, and B2B online sales strategy. Before we jump into this podcast I just want to let everybody know that I’m offering a free business evaluation of your sales strategy online. So, if you’re interested, find me on LinkedIn or firstname.lastname@example.org. Great.
Luke Peters: In this episode you’re going to learn from Jason Purcell how he co-founded Salsify, learn what a PIM is, and if this is something that you should implement with your company and, specifically, how a PIM can help brand manufacturers win the digital shelf. Also learn at what point, or what size, in your growth should you be looking to move over to a PIM. Just for clarification, and I know Jason will get into this, PIM standing for Product Information Management System. So, thanks for joining me, Jason, on the Page 1 Podcast.
Jason Purcell: Absolutely, Luke, thanks for having me.
Luke Peters: Cool. And then, just a little bit more about Jason for the audience. As mentioned, co-founder and CEO of Salsify, and before Salsify Jason ran Endeca’s eCommerce business. He was with Endeca almost from the beginning, employee number 24, and helped grow the business to a one billion plus exit. That must have been awesome to be a part of that, Jason.
Jason Purcell: It was a good ride. Learned a lot. It was a good chance to be right at the forefront of what some of the big eCommerce retailers were doing back in the early 2000s.
Luke Peters: Cool. I guess before we get started, because we were kind of talking about this pre record, do you want to give a quick explanation about PIM, what a PIM is, and then also just a little bit about how Salsify is different.
Jason Purcell: PIMs have been around… Really, there’s a whole category of these different fragmented tools, Product Information Management, Digital Asset Management, DAM systems, syndication tools, that are all kind of in the same general space. I think back to the early days when we were helping at Endeca with the retailers. You think about the problem that a retailer has, they’ve got thousands of suppliers, they’re onboarding millions of products from those suppliers, they’re trying to combine data feeds coming from all these different sources, and get it all into kind of a place that they can make it searchable on the eCommerce site. PIM’s, I think, were really, really helpful tools for the retailers to do that.
Jason Purcell: We kind of saw the space and said that I think that there’s an opportunity here to rethink, though, what a PIM is for a brand manufacturer, because they’ve got a very different set of problems. The retailers are trying to bring in all this content together. The brands have kind of the inverse, they’re trying to deliver experiences across a pretty broad range of places where the consumer’s engaging. How can we support that? What are the capabilities, and the outcomes, you’re trying to deliver there? That’s what led to starting Salsify. We thought there was a chance to really rethink that whole category. PIM is a big piece of it, but more broadly speaking what are the capabilities that brands need to win on the digital shelf, that whole portfolio of experiences across 1P, and 3P, and direct-to-consumer, and social, and even brick and mortar?
Luke Peters: Perfect. Cool. I was going to ask what drove you to start Salsify, but you kind of answered. You found kind of a market gap and you’re filling that gap. Is it fair to say … I know there’s more to it, but the funny thing is I’m still learning about this, too, so I hope to, myself, even gain a lot on this podcast. Is it fair to say … So, the PIM is going to be your central repository of all of your information, and then, at the same time, it’s going to connect you with all of these retailers that may not have direct APIs. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but it’s going to allow you to push your data out to all of these different retailers and channels and then also hold the data all in one place so that you’re more uniform. Is that the basic principle, so myself and everybody can kind of get that?
Jason Purcell: I think a basic principle of a PIM the way that … This is a category that’s been around for decades, is that having your big central database of all your product content, all your product data. That’s kinda where PIMs historically stop. This was the place where people could collaborate on new product introduction, on making sure that the sales team was looking at the same data as the marketing team, and using it to feed downstream systems. I think that narrowly defined it was unclear to us when we started Salsify how valuable that was to a brand manufacturer. Certainly there’s big brands and manufacturers that have hundreds of thousands, or millions, of products that that’s the main thing that they’re trying to focus on. But, when we look at the market we thought the problem was probably bigger than just centralizing the content. We started to think that it included things like what you’re describing. We got to take the concept of a PIM and you got to add onto it all these capabilities around connecting to the retailers, and the marketplaces, and the social experiences, and the direct-to-consumer sites.
Jason Purcell: You’re got to close the loop and measure whether that content’s actually there and how is it performing? How does it compare to what your competitors are doing? We saw that broadly speaking we felt like PIM was really too narrow of a set of capabilities that a brand would need and that’s what led to building out a much broader product portfolio than just … We think by and large brands probably need more of that unified suite than just a pure PIM system.
Luke Peters: Okay, perfect. That’s a great explanation. What my aim is, and it always is in every podcast, is to really deliver really tangible, clear, useful information to brands. So, this is a perfect subject, just because … I’ve got, obviously, a bunch of … When you’re in this business you’re going to have a lot of friends that are also running similar businesses, so I’m going to ask a lot of questions around what stage companies should look at, and when they make this jump because how most brands start, I guess, is they’re going to be doing this themselves. They might start like how we started was more direct to consumer then you … These channels kind of have evolved over the years, like the Amazon, and eBay, and all of those channels, and now the retailers. Those are another channel. We kind of term that rCommerce, but the Home Depots, and Wayfarers, and everybody of the world.
Luke Peters: Then, at some point … I guess we can just jump right into this question before I ask more about Salsify, because this is … It is probably key to me and a lot of folks is … At some point they’re doing it themselves and then there’s maybe a hiccup, or an issue, because there’s too much data and too many SKUs and then they decide, hey we need a platform to kind of get our data into that platform and get it out to these retailers because there’s too many one offs happening. Does that kind of explain the customer journey. If not, it would be useful to hear kind of your perspective on that.
Jason Purcell: I think there’s a few. There’s a few things that sort of catalyze the manufacturers out there to say maybe we need to do something different than just rolling it all ourselves. I mean, one of them is exactly what you described. The complexity of trying to sell across direct-to-consumer and rCommerce or eRetailing, you know Brick and Mortar setups. That tends to become something that even if you’re doing a Brick and Mortar item setup they’re looking for some pretty rich content to power some of the in-store experiences.
Jason Purcell: At some point that complexity gets … It’s hard, right? You know if you’re doing rCommerce that what Lowe’s wants, and what Home Depot needs, and what Amazon wants, it’s all about the same product but the way that they describe that product to the end consumer, the way it’s categorized, the attributes they want to collect, the opportunities you have to merchandise on those sites they’re all different. You have to kind of … You kind of have a strategy that says, we’re going to maintain kind of our golden record of all of our content but we’re going to make sure that it’s very easy for us to tailor that to the unique requirements and opportunities that each retailer has. Certainly, one of the big things is that you just get this explosion of products, times channels, times experiences. That’s probably the one that we see most commonly. Somebody might have an initiative to expand their assortment on Walmart, or they’re trying to accelerate how quickly they can launch a new product into the market across a number of different experiences.
Jason Purcell: The other one, Luke, that we’ll sometimes see is more internally, or operationally, focused. Think about all the work that’s required to bring a product into existence. It probably starts with ideation in the sales team and it starts to get into the whole product lifecycle management space. But, how do you let all of the internal teams collaborate on making one of those products ready? How do you ensure that the agencies, and the creative teams, and the product, and the brand teams, are working towards a shared goal so that you can condense how quickly one of those products comes to market. That’s where things like workflow and visibility and permissions and all that comes into play. That’s another catalyst sometimes for brands like a SharkNinja, for example, that are trying to accelerate how quickly they can get a new product into the hands of the consumer.
Luke Peters: Oh great. Okay, so it fits into the product launch like on the process and the planning on the backend. Okay, great. We’ll dive into that a little bit. Before we do, why don’t we talk a little bit more about Salsify and your company. If you’re able to share some basic stats that might be kind of useful and tangible and give some context for the listeners. Maybe … Are you able to share total number of employees, and maybe just some of the key departments at the company?
Jason Purcell: Absolutely. We’re based in Boston. We’re about 400 people overall. We’ve got offices in the U.S. and Europe. Our European headquarters is out of Lisbon. We have a number of our larger brand manufacturers, like a L’Oréal, or a Mars, or a GSK, are based out of Europe. We support and service them locally. We’re about 700 customers, and it’s primarily all brand manufacturers, Luke, so it’s across verticals but it’s everything from the Canada Gooses, to the Escalade Sports, to the Libby glassware, to the 3Ms. This problem of trying to deliver a great experience across all these channels is actually pretty consistent across verticals. We’re even starting to see it happen in places where verticals like B2B and industrial where you normally think about kind of a sales team that’s distributing the products, but increasingly consumers, even in those verticals, really want to get great experiences. Our customers kind of span across all those verticals.
Jason Purcell: We started the company about seven years ago and, I think, probably the newest entrant into this space, in the space in general, at least the PIM portion of it has been around for quite awhile. Hopefully that gives kind of a good overview for the listeners. We really started out in the mid market. That was where our early customers came from, and we tended to really do a good job servicing kind of the mid-market customers on up to the enterprise.
Luke Peters: I think that’s perfect. So, about 400 team members, about 700 customers, serving the brand manufacturers, seven years old, international. I know you know this, but I just wanted to share with the audience that I ran into Salsify, well besides the ubiquitous business development that you guys have, which is … So, you guys were already like on my radar, but I ran into you guys at a show you guys host in Copley Center, because I was at a Wayfarer visit. Yeah, it looks like you guys handle, host a great trade show. I ran into, believe it or not, I think I ran into your L’Oréal team in the elevator, because I was like, “What is this conference about?” They say, “It’s about PIMs,” and I’m like, “What’s a PIM?” They’re like, they go, “One day you’ll need one.” It was kind of funny. Anyways, that’s where-
Jason Purcell: That conference has been great. We do it annually and it started out really as a user group meeting when we were small and had 15 customers. We’d bring them up to Boston. It was a great chance to pick their brains on what they needed and where they wanted us to go. It’s grown into this thing which has really transcended Salsify. It’s become this digital shelf summit where we get people that are using competitive products, people that are just, in general, focused on what strategies should I put in place? How do I organizationally structure my teams? What are the technologies I need? What are the opportunities I should be looking at?
Jason Purcell: It’s become a really cool venue for gathering people that are all struggling with the same problems. So many of the shows out there are really kind of mixing retailers and brands, or they’re more about retail generically. I think that it’s kind of been lacking to have a place where brand manufacturers come together. So, it was really cool. We were seeing people there that weren’t even Salsify customers, still aren’t Salsify customers but they still got a lot of value out of it.
Luke Peters: What is the date of that conference?
Jason Purcell: I think … We generally do it in a May time frame. I should know it off the top of my head, but I think we’re doing it in May. This year we had over, I guess, right around 500 people. This year, Luke, we’re expecting 800 plus people. It should be a good gathering.
Luke Peters: It’s amazing. We’ll put it in the show notes for the listeners. Yeah, it looked like an amazing event so congrats on doing that. Just kind of before we move on from this, Jason, are you guys self-funded or do you guys have investor funding, or how does that look for the organization?
Jason Purcell: We bootstrapped the company initially, so we started out there were three co-founders, myself, and Rob and Jeremy, and we started the company initially just with our own capital. Since, as we’ve started to scale up we’ve taken on some venture capital investment that’s been really helpful in accelerating how quickly we can invest in R&D. That’s probably our single biggest experience, as well as making sure that we’re doing a good job getting the message out there to customers and our customer success team.
Luke Peters: Great. Well, that’s tough to bootstrap and get some of those initial customers, so good on you for doing that. Thinking about your product and how you’re helping brands, what are some of the key challenges in front of brands trying to win the digital shelf? Then, how is Salsify helping there?
Jason Purcell: You can empathize, right, because you’re trying to do this with NewAir?
Luke Peters: Yep.
Jason Purcell: Think about … First of all, if you take any one of these eRetailers, or any one of these marketplaces, you’ve got to be able to set up the items. The faster, more accurately you do that the better and faster you’re going to start to sell. So, certainly getting assortments on line, making sure that they’re accurate, getting those things published out is one of the big challenges.
Jason Purcell: Another one is measuring whether it’s working. How do I know if the content that’s up there is what I want it to be? How do I know if I’m going in and out of stock? I want to be notified if I lose the buy box so I can do something about it instead of finding out three days later. How do I know whether the quality of the content is comparable to what others in my category are doing? So, you want visibility, actionable visibility, so that you can see how you’re performing.
Jason Purcell: Another one is … I don’t know, Luke, are you doing anything with like A+ Content on Amazon where you can really tell the story about a product]?
Luke Peters: Absolutely.
Jason Purcell: You can do that, right? If you’re selling on Amazon, if you’re selling on Walmart, on Target. A lot of them provide these rich opportunities for you to merchandise beyond just, “Here’s what the item is and the feature bullets.” How do you compose that? How do you manage that? How do you publish them? How do you make sure that they’re synchronized with the rest of your assortment? That’s a big thing, this whole idea of enhanced content,
Jason Purcell: Another one is, and this sort of varies depending on the size of the brand loop, but in-store set up. If you’re selling at a Walmart you got to work through Supplier Center. You may also have to publish through networks like GDSN, or Global Data Synchronization Network, to transmit things like cases and pallets and all that sort of information, supply chain data. How do you unify your online and your offline item setup? That’s another challenge that a lot of these brands have.
Jason Purcell: Another one that we’ve seeing a lot of is they shift from being just a one-key seller to being a hybrid seller where you are now starting to think about fulfilling those items. So, how do you synchronize orders across those different marketplace platforms and networks like Instagram where you can start to transact directly. It’s amazing, people are buying $500 baby strollers off the photo of an influencer and you want to be able to make sure that you capture that and synchronize inventory. You see a lot of those sorts of challenges that all sort of fundamentally revolve around, “I need a command center. I need a hub that lets me drive all these commerce activities.”
Jason Purcell: Those are the ones that we typically see with most brands. Of course, there’s also just the basic one of the content that describes my products is all over my organization. It’s in spreadsheets, it’s in email. I got to make sure that my distributors have access to up-to-date content, too, because they’re probably trying to drive their experiences. I want to make sure my sales team isn’t just picking up the phone and calling marketing anytime they need a new image. So, that’s sort of what we typically see out there that’s driving it. These problems, obviously, get a lot worse as you grow, especially if you start to go global.
Luke Peters: I’m taking some notes here, so let me ask a couple questions about your answer. It was a really descriptive answer, by the way, so you paint a really nice picture of all the different ways that you can plug in and act as that command center. When you’re talking about measurement, so putting content up there, comparing content and measuring if it works. What does that mean? Are you guys able to actually kind of tie into product conversation rates, or are you able to kind of share more about how you’re able to measure what type of either AB improvement or before/after improvement you’re seeing?
Jason Purcell: This is a whole category. Kind of like PIM, there’s a whole another category of software out there that generally is called Digital Shelf Analytics. You see really good companies like Clavis and Profitero in this space. Salsify has an offering in this space, kind of integrated with the rest of our platform. It’s really around … When you think about what you’ve got to do to provide that, you’re out there crawling these hundreds of retailer sites so that you can detect what content is up there, when does content change? It’s not the content but availability, other sellers, search rankings, and you’re crawling all that content and synthesizing it into a set of dashboards and workflow tasks, in our case, that give the brand owner the opportunity to react to those changes. Part of that crawling and visibility into all that content across a really broad portfolio of brands will give us the ability to start to synthesize things like share of search, right?
Jason Purcell: How often am I winning on certain search terms? What should I be doing in terms of optimizing my listings to make sure that I’m appearing on the first page of organic search results? When do I have advertising on a product that I might, or when do I not have advertising and a search term that might be really valuable? Those are the insights that this general category of digital shelf analytics does a really good job of providing the brand. It’s historically been really targeted at the very large brands, the Unilevers and the PNGs of the world, but one of the things with the rise of software as a service, and some newer players in the market like us, has led to that being a little more democratized and available to the mid market.
Jason Purcell: I think that’s going to be an important tool in the hands of brands as they’re trying to keep track of all these presences. That’s typically what we see out of that category. This is a trend you’ll see. If you’re a brand and you want to deliver a solution you end up usually having to buy four or five different categories of things. I think this shift to consolidated suites is going to be a really big benefit over time for the brands.
Luke Peters: That sounds amazing. These are all the things that most of us are doing manually because we understand each of these channels, say a Home Depot, and a Wayfarer, and then you have your direct to consumer so you can have your own analytics that are kind of a lot easier, because you own that 100%. With Amazon you’re going to get some stuff but not all of it depending on if you want to pay for ARA data or not.
Luke Peters: How are you guys, just kind of going deeper on that, so you’re measuring what works. Is that … Are you able to measure what works based on some sort of other aggregate knowledge in your systems, or are you literally able to kind of tie into the Home Depots, and the Wayfarers, to kind of understand this competitive data, or at least your own brand data to see, “Hey, I updated this listing and now my conversion rates increased,” or it’s tracking the rankings of your product. How much of it is information you’re able to get out of the platforms, or information that you’re able to, that you’re kind of having to address without knowing the backend data?
Jason Purcell: It sort of depends on the retailer. Amazon, for example, doesn’t share anything with anybody. So, a lot of times what we’ll do is as part of an implementation, bring in some of the ARA data. ARA basic data is valuable because you can start to track history of that in our platform over time, and you tie that into some of the stuff that we can infer as we’re crawling. I think that … You can tell a pretty good story.
Jason Purcell: In other cases, some retailers … They all generally are very uncomfortable sharing data for very understandable reasons, but as we start to have a number of customers that span a number of verticals we can start to aggregate and anonymize the data that we do have and use that to provide benchmarking and guess at things like share of category, conversion rates, et cetera. So, do those silver bullet? In the end you’re never going to have data when you’re selling through a 1P or third-party site that’s as good as what you have on your own direct-to-consumer efforts. I think directionally you can get really good guidance. That’s not restrict to Salsify, just in general that whole space of digital self-analytics. Those solutions, I think, are really good tools to have in the box of a brand marketer.
Luke Peters: Perfect. Thanks for that because that helps me, and I think that kind of clears it up. So, it’s directional but at the same time like when brand owners, we always are comparing to our competitors, so directional information is perfect. We want to know are we doing better, are we doing worse? Where do we rank? Those types of things are always in our mind, or knowing share of total business like you talked about. So, that is really interesting. I think …
Luke Peters: Moving on, another concern, maybe not concern, but probably like a frictional point of most potential brands who are looking at these types of products is going to be integration and how much time integration is required. Is there anything you can say to that? Also, who usually leads on integration? Is it usually a marketing driven process or a sales-driven process? It would be great to understand that.
Jason Purcell: So, Luke, integration, just to clarify, integration with what? With the retailers, or with their existing systems, or kind of what do you see as the friction point?
Luke Peters: Got you. Okay, so integration, so meaning someone’s doing this on their own and now they’re going and looking at Salsify, and other competitors, and they’re saying, “Okay, I need one of these systems to manage my products and manage all the channels.” It’s kind of like if somebody’s moving to a new ERP and they are looking at it, okay, what integration is going to be involved? Then, I got to do EDI integration, and then I may have to do warehouse management system. So, it seems like for this product to work there would be, let’s call it an onboarding, a brand would have to get all of its data into the system, so I guess that’s kind of what I’m terming the integration.
Jason Purcell: I think, kind of look at the landscape of … I’ll speak for Salsify customers but I suspect this is very similar as you look across the landscape more broadly. The system that you almost always integrate with is ERP. That tends to be where baseline information about a product lives. It may be pretty unsophisticated, it might not be anything more than the UPC or the G10, and weights and measures, but that tends to be where it often starts. Nearly always Salsify customers have a very simple integration. We packaged a handful of the common ones. We also integrate with everything from the green screens on back with simple flat file FTP-type integrations. That’s pretty common. One of the nice things is once you start to implement a system like a Salsify it is your system of record for that content, so this is where your workflows happen. This is where the digital assets live. This is where I transform them, so the integration isn’t as complicated as it might be if I was trying to piece together eight different systems.
Jason Purcell: That’s typically what we see there. Of course, on the other side when it comes to the retailers, I mean that’s where we’ve invested millions and millions of dollars, and god knows how many hours and hours of people’s time in building out the relationships with those retailers, understanding what the requirements are, building the connectivity out so we can … In many cases, like take an Amazon or a Walmart, you know Coca Cola can change a package image and press a button and see that reflected on walmart.com in 30 seconds. It’s awesome. The large retailers by and large are moving more towards those sorts of opportunities. In smaller long-tail retailers will automate the process of generating and emailing or FTP-ing spreadsheets that the experienced, or you as a brand marketer, is really the same. So, we’ve taken a lot of that integration effort to the marketplaces, to the Pinterests and the YouTubes of the world on our shoulders to make sure that the brands don’t have to do it themselves.
Luke Peters: Cool. That’s really helpful. In thinking about brands and what size in their growth journey that they want to be looking at a product like this, is there a way to kind of … Is there like a stepping off point where it’s like, well, you have this many SKUs it’s really going to make a big difference? I’m sure there’s kind of a gray area. Let’s say a retailer … A lot of the friends I work with and meet with are, a lot of them are going to be Amazon intensive, and then after that they may or may not have a lot of other channels, and then they’re going to probably have their own website, and then they might be doing some social. So, let’s say typical customer is Amazon. They’re doing, like I said, their own channel, their own website, some social, and then maybe Home Depot and Wayfarer, so just a couple of other channels and if they have a couple of hundred products to maybe 500 products, is that still … Are they going to get a lot of value from moving over to a product like this versus doing everything themselves internally?
Jason Purcell: What you just described actually fits a profile that probably characterizes the majority of our customers, and I suspect most of the customers of solutions in this space overall. Even managing that is complex, and a lot of it depends on the velocity of how often you’re introducing new products. It is a gray area. Look, if we happen to have somebody who comes in … This happens all the time. We’ll have a small manufacturer come in who’s just trying to research and understand the space, and they’ve got five products, and they’re only selling on Amazon Marketplace, or Vendor Central, and they’re managing all on a spreadsheet, honestly that’s probably the right place to stay right now. You don’t have enough complexity to justify investing in a software solution to help you there.
Jason Purcell: But, the complexity shoots up pretty quick. You mentioned adding a direct-to-consumer site. Well, now I want to make sure that I’m not having to manage two versions of the product. Then, you add a couple more eRetailers. Well, now I’ve got to manage different variations of the product for each of them because they’ve each got a unique SCHEMA. The complexity shoots up pretty quick. I, frankly, have customers that have 20, 30 products with three or four eRetailers that are trying to build great experiences where they’re using below the fold content to tell a story that rave about how much time Salsify is saving them.
Jason Purcell: I think a lot of it depends on look internally as a brand. Ask yourself, how much time are you spending and what opportunities are you sacrificing because you’re not focused on the end result? Which is, okay, wait a second this could be a better listing. This could be selling more. This could be … You want your time spent there not on, wait a second I think I had a version of this product in the spreadsheet from a week ago. I don’t know where it is anymore.
Luke Peters: That’s perfect. You’re right. Most companies, at least most of the friends I know … Like you said, you guys are kind in the, you started out in that mid category, but so many brands are in that space and so many brands fit that profile. I guess that would make sense that the product is kind of developed around them to help them and make things easier with less hands having to touch all the different retailers.
Luke Peters: Kind of with that in mind, what are things … Often if one is uploading products directly to a retailer a buyer is still going to have to initially approve that product to be sold on that retailer. Now, does Salsify, and other products like this, are you automatically able to get approvals? What things are still going to be approval-based by a buyer, or what things, and what’s going to be automated that in the past still may have been manual by a brand?
Jason Purcell: I think there’s still very much, especially on 1P when the retailer’s buying the inventory, there’s very much an approval process. I’ll tell you, we’ve seen a really interesting shift, though … It started with Walmart probably five years ago where … Walmart’s not going to just, you’re not just going to submit a pallet of items to Walmart and they’re magically going to buy it, right? It doesn’t work that way, but what Walmart’s wanted to do is make it easier for the buyers across all their various categories to know what’s available, to know what their options are as they’re doing research within a category. So, we’ve seen this interesting trend where at a minimum, particularly the larger retailers would like to see your entire catalog. You’re not going to share your entire catalog. You have private-label items, you have exclusives so, of course, you’re not going to share it all, but in general they make it easy for you to publish everything. Then, we often see a multi-stage process where a buyer may then decide that they want to carry a particular item and that leads to a request for additional information.
Jason Purcell: In a platform like ours that request gets automatically handled because you already have all the information and it just goes through. Retailers like Home Depot that have a very multi-stage process where the buyer and the merchandising team is very heavily involved in not just deciding whether to accept the item but even in approving whether the description, and the content, is consistent with the brand. We still have to support those kinds of workloads. It’s interesting. I’ve seen this trend where the large retails really would like to see the entire catalog just because it opens up opportunities for them to carry products they didn’t even know existed. Of course, in marketplaces it’s always kind of been that way, right?
Luke Peters: Yeah, but you touched on it right there. So, that was a good example of Home Depot. They’re trying to get to one platform. In the meantime there’s a lot of checks and balances, but it sounds like when people are doing it manually it’s a lot slower, and then with a product like yours then once that approval happens, boom your data’s right there for them so the decisions can happen quicker, product launches can happen quicker. That sounds like that’s a major benefit, right?
Jason Purcell: One of the trends you’ll see is … Take Home Depot as a specific example. They are one of the more onerous item set up processes out there, as anybody who’s tried to set up items knows that they have very high bar for the amount of information they want to collect, and it’s very category specific. You cut any corner that you possibly can cut, so you’ll see over and over these brands will do the minimum required to get an item set up. It’s laborious, and it’s time consuming. Because it’s multistage you end up injecting days into the process. Then, even when it’s done … It’s funny, we’ll often see Salsify customers that before Salsify would have one or two images on Home Depot and they didn’t submit the optional information like a manual. Those are the things that, those are those lost opportunities to deliver a great experience that if the technology is really helping there it’s an autopilot for you as a brand marketer. All of a sudden you’ll see, okay, great now I’ve really got a fleshed-out experience.
Jason Purcell: Enhanced content’s another great example. I mean, for years this was a space where there were some very parasitic vendors that were changing per SKU to publish an item on a site like Target. It was really counterproductive for both Target and the brand. I would love to be able to merchandise with very rich stories my entire assortment, but to do that it’s very time consuming for me as a brand. How am I going to lay out each of these products individually, and then I’m going to have to pay a tax on every item I set up? It’s ridiculous, right?
Jason Purcell: Nowadays what your seeing is this trend, certainly I think this is one that we’ve spearheaded, where I should be able to merchandise my entire catalog with enhanced content below the fold with the press of a button. I should be able to auto populate templates, and comparison charts, and above the fold product tours based on the data that’s stored in my content management platform. I think that there is a lot of opportunity to accelerate both the speed at which these products get there but then the quality they experience that results.
Luke Peters: Perfect. That paints a picture and that’s a common theme so super helpful. What are three pieces of advice for an executive out there trying to think about how they should organize teams and processes to get agile enough to take advantage of the digital shelf? Obviously, using products like Salsify, but curious any other strategies or pieces of advice for those executives?
Jason Purcell: Let’s put the technology aside because I think there’s some really basic fundamental approaches that whether or not you invest in any technology at all I think are very valuable. The first is, even that concept, how can they be agile is a little bit of a shift in mindset for most of these brands. There’s often a desire, or a natural tendency, to boil the ocean. This is a space that lends itself to being really incremental. Get those quick wins. Scope the progress in small victories. Identify … Don’t try to fix your entire Amazon assortment at once. Go identify the top 10 products. Fix those first. Measure whether it works. It’s obvious if you’re entrepreneurial … Luke, I’m sure this is how you and many of the mid-market brands our already operating but it’s surprising as you get bigger and bigger sort of that mindset towards being incremental tends to go away.
Jason Purcell: The next one I would say is there is this interesting just organizationally content, or marketing, and the trade teams, and eCommerce, especially eCommerce if they’re running their direct-to-consumer site, are often pretty siloed. There’s often not a lot of communication between them and it creates a lot of repeat work and a lot of inconsistency in terms of how the brand is perceived by the consumer that I think it can be ameliorated by just thinking about where are there opportunities to combine some of those functions? There is a great … We do our own podcast, Luke, that Unpacking the Digital Shelf, which is sort of, and get a similar audience. We just had, I don’t know a few weeks ago, Sonesh from Bosch was on and he’s a great example of where you start to see the marketing, and the digital, and the trade, teams start to come together. He talked a lot about how they organized and what their evolution was like. I would say that’s one where …
Jason Purcell: The way that you organized as a brand manufacturer in the day when you were primarily shipping through Brick and Mortar and you have circulars and such is probably due. That’s the other one I would say is that there are huge opportunities. Again, you can get benefits from that without making any investments in tech.
Luke Peters: Yep, yep. So, work to get less silos. There’s too many of them and too much duplicate work. I’m there with you on that one. Still work to get those quick wins, even if you have that longer-term strategy, and measure, measure what’s working. That’s great advice. Beyond that, companies are always looking … I think you really did explain a lot of these things but I kind of want to pull it out one more time because I think for myself, and a lot of other CEOs or founders listening to the podcast, they always are thinking about, how am I making more money? So, breaking it down to that basic level, if they are implementing a software that’s automating, obviously brands are going to make, can become more profitable because they’re being more efficient. It’s taking less hands to get products up, and the content’s going to be richer, as we’ve spoken about here, and they can get wins on better content.
Luke Peters: Then, there’s beyond that there’s tools that are measuring what works, so it sounds like you can get kind of like KPIs or a dashboard so you can quickly measure and manage a lot of products at a glance instead of individually having that data all over the place. Anything else that I might miss there, just kind of finishing off the conversation and really understanding how really breaking it down to profit, anything else that I might have missed there?
Jason Purcell: I think it’s also the behavior changes that it supports. This is probably true of larger brands more than some of the more entrepreneurial ones. I think it’s so painful to get some of these items set up that you often treat it as a one-time set it and forget it. It’s really a missed opportunity. If you treat it instead, treat that product detail page like it’s a living, breathing thing where you can … It’s so awesome. You have the ability to be evolving the message that that product is telling based on the season, based on what your competitors are doing, based on what you’re learning from the activity that consumers are engaging on, based on what’s happening in the outside world. There’s a great …
Jason Purcell: This isn’t even a Salsify customer, but I remember hearing a really cool story about Elmer’s glue. They had some great product listings on Amazon that were for Elmer’s glue. If you searched for glue you’d find it. They realized that … This is kind of how much money they missed out on as a result of this, they finally realized that what people were really searching for was slime. That was one of the big ingredients used to make slime. They recognized that if they changed the way that they described the product to capture those sorts of search terms that would lead to a much higher sales and conversion rates.
Jason Purcell: If you treat that as a living, breathing thing I think that creates these behavior changes, which is really cool. Starting to think of it as and ongoing opportunity to evolve the message that you’re trying to present to the consumer. That behavior change, I think, is a mindset shift that not every brand has embraced yet. In many cases it’s because of simply the people cost of just getting a stupid image up is … You don’t even want to go into work to do it because it’s going to be so much of an effort. That’s the sort of stuff that technology should be taking off of your plate and letting you focus on the outcome, which is the great experience for the consumer.
Luke Peters: That makes a lot of sense to me, actually, because I do see … Hopefully we’re not too guilty of this that often, but everybody is because it is so much work. Sometimes it can be a set it and forget it type of attitude. Like you said, you want that page to be living, breathing, changing, evolving, improving. That’s great. I love that answer. It’s a mindset type of answer.
Luke Peters: Listen, Jason, I really enjoyed this conversation today. I appreciate all the insights and you, obviously, a busy guy taking time out to join me on the Page 1 Podcast. How can listeners find you if they’re interested in learning more and then, also, if you can just let us know a little more about your podcast and where they can find that.
Jason Purcell: So, certainly Salsify, the company, we’re easy to find, salsify.com. There’s a lot of information on the site that I think is just generally beneficial to folks that are trying to educate themselves about the space. Certainly, if they’re interested in our product to learn more. The other thing that is an investment we made for the community as a whole is around trying to up-level the discussion from just talking about the tech and starting to think about the process, and the organization structures, and the trends. One of the things we’ve invested in is this whole idea of the Digital Shelf Institute, which is a great collection of information, and it’s available at digitalshelfinstitute.org, that really tries to be product agnostic but is a great educational tool for folks. They can also find information about our podcast there, and that I think should be pretty easy to find.
Luke Peters: That’s awesome. Again, thanks for joining. I can tell there’s a lot of passion in your voice so as a founder of a growing company I’m sure you guys have a long way to go. So, super appreciative for you being here. Also, just want to thank all of our listeners for joining us today on the Page 1 Podcast. Hopefully you guys learned some valuable information here and something new to dig into if you haven’t already. Quick reminder, offering that free evaluation of your online business strategy. If you’re interested find me on LinkedIn or email@example.com. Thanks so much for listening and appreciate any reviews if you found this information helpful.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to the Page 1 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 rCommerce check out www.retailband.com to get more great tips and tricks on how to accelerate your eCommerce sales with the big-box retailers.