Turn customers into influencer marketers with Neel Grover, Founder of Indi.com and past CEO of Buy.com – EP12

What you’ll learn:

A seasoned eCommerce leader and startup founder tells owners of consumer brands how they can take more ownership of their brand image and connect to their audiences on a deeper level. Plus, you’ll get insights into how to turn customers into a powerful sales channel for your business.

About our guest:

Neel Grover is a seasoned eCommerce leader who has led great teams at multiple fast-growing companies. He ran the 3rd largest marketplace in the U.S. with over $5 Billion online sales and over 20 million products from 7,000 retailers. He also ran a top fashion marketplace with over 1,000 brands integrated. Upon becoming CEO, Grover turned Buy.com into a company that was losing almost $100 million per year into a company with 13 consecutive profitable quarters, competing with Amazon on every product. He has now founded Indi, a SaaS Engagement Cloud that helps brands initiate their customer engagement directly in their digital properties rather than in social media as social media platforms are seizing control of customer engagement and data.

Key takeaways from this episode:

  • Lessons from a lawyer: how Neel’s law background influenced his business decisions – 3:18
  • The journey towards becoming a CEO of a $600 million-dollar revenue company – 4:52
  • The shift from a large company to startup: what you need to know as CEO – 6:04
  • How to turn a business around: from major loss to major gains – 7:31
  • Innovative ways for competing against the giant: Amazon – 9:50
  • Is it a good idea to help your competitors by sharing your business model? – 12:07
  • A new perspective on Social Media is and how to utilize it as a business – 13:11
  • How to use Indie to approach Social Media and Affiliate Marketing differently to drive sales for your business – 15:54
  • How to integrate video testimonials into your D2C site and why it matters – 19:17
  • The importance of investing in your D2C Channel for long-term rewards – 20:37
  • The day-to-day sales process for acquiring new customers as a startup – 24:34
  • One of the biggest challenges for acquiring new customers as a startup – 25:53
  • The most important factor to focus on when growing a D2C business – 28:06
  • Neel’s biggest business win in the past year – 29:53
  • One actionable business step to take to help your company – 31:05

Podcast Transcription

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Page One 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 our commerce. Now here’s your host, Luke Peters.

Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page One podcast. I’m your host, Luke Peters, and this is the podcast where I bring you the best and brightest leaders to share the consumer product sales and marketing strategies that will help you grow your business.

Luke Peters: 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, B2B online sales, and generally selling into Home Depot, Wayfair and all those channels like that.

Luke Peters: And I’m really thrilled today to have an experienced guest who’s been in all different retail channels, from running large direct to consumer websites, to creating a new startup that’s kind of challenging some of the traditional influencer marketing and social media websites that are out there right now, so I’m pleased to announce Neel Grover. Thanks for joining us today, Neel.

Neel Grover: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Luke Peters: Cool. And I’ve known Neel now for a couple of years. He’s in a CEO group that I’m a part of, and has a really amazing story. We’re going to kind of dive into your story, Neel. And it’s funny, we’re actually on the… And just a little bit more of an introduction for Neel.

Luke Peters: Neel is the founder of Indi.com, the past CEO of Bluefly.com and Buy.com, has a JD from University of San Diego. And that last part was impressive. My daughter actually is graduating from USD, so I was on your LinkedIn and it’s funny, I’ve known you a while, but I didn’t realize that you have a law degree, a doctorate, right? That’s what a JD is, right?

Neel Grover: It is. Correct. Yep. I actually practiced for about three and a half years.

Luke Peters: Cool. I actually have a question later on that we’ll kind of dive into that. Thanks for joining and specifically, hopefully the value that I want to bring the listeners today is, Neel’s got so many different insights from the different companies that he’s been a part of. Specifically what we want to learn here is how brands can kind of take control over their brand image, protect their brand image, and how brands can kind of work with their own customers to become and create brand advocates and influencers out of their own customers.

Luke Peters: And also we can kind of talk about the dangers and challenges of Facebook and Instagram, and while they’re great and obviously everybody definitely needs to take advantage of them, it’s good to hear a different opinion in how brands can kind of take more ownership over their content and kind of their connection with their customers.

Luke Peters: So that’s what we’ll focus on. And I guess to kick it off, well, why don’t we go back to that JD? It sounds like you practiced for three and a half years, but specifically curious, how’s that helped you along your career?

Neel Grover: Yeah, I think it’s been really helpful. One of the things that I did, when I was practicing, when I was a corporate securities lawyer, and the great thing about when you practice corporate law is at the end of transactions or deals, you kind of all get together and celebrate over a closing dinner because at the end of the day, you’re working together to a common goal. And that’s what our approach really has been. And I think utilizing that background has been really helpful in trying to find great partnerships and ways to advance our business, by seeing who else’s business we can work with, to partner, to grow both sides of it.

Luke Peters: Yep. And then, looking through your history, you’ve had a lot of opportunities in different jobs and sit on a ton of boards. But specifically what I thought would be interesting is kind of quickly going through your experience at Buy.com, which I think is Rakuten right now. Right? They got purchased by Rakuten?

Neel Grover: Correct.

Luke Peters: And at the time, how many total employees when you were CEO? Kind of give us a scale for how big the company was.

Neel Grover: Sure. When we sold the company, we were north of 600 million in revenue and we had about 130, 135 employees. At different times, the company had different revenue and different employee head counts, but also different bottom line numbers. When we sold the company, we were at a pretty lean 134, 135 employees that had been profitable for several years consecutively, and the third largest marketplace in the US, behind Amazon and eBay.

Luke Peters: Awesome. And then how did you become CEO, if you want to quickly take us through that journey? I just think it’s interesting just because what is that, a couple of million dollars per employee? So it’s a significant company, and I definitely remember the company. And so just understanding how you got to that position I thought would be interesting to listeners.

Neel Grover: When I was a corporate securities lawyer, we were representing the company when it was going public. The founder had left the company, started a private equity group and I had approached him about joining it. So I worked with him at his private equity company first for a couple of years and then I had gone public, and I had about a $6 billion market cap right when it went public. Ten with the dot com crash it was crashing pretty heavily. And ultimately we took the company private, and there was an opportunity in which they were going to make a change in executive management and I kind of asked to step into the president role at that time, and with a great team we just changed the business pretty dramatically and turned it around, and then ultimately took over CEO.

Luke Peters: Great. And actually I have a question about that, what you learned in the turnaround, but how would you compare being a CEO from a pretty large company to the startup? I know there’s some obvious differences, but has anything surprised you, or what did you like and dislike about the different CEO roles at the different level companies?

Neel Grover: I think they both have their own unique challenges and some are bigger. It is usually the more personnel, cultural issue you’ve got to work with but also growth at both sides can different in what you’re pushing towards, but again, both have their own unique challenges. And I think ultimately, if you think that you’re a big company, no matter what your size, there’s always bigger companies. And so that was one of the things that we didn’t look at it like we were a big company because as compared to Amazon, we weren’t a big company. So the great thing about the team and the culture was everybody realized that we were competing against, probably the best company in the world in retail and at least in online retail, and we had to constantly be shifting and adjusting. And I think that’s one of the things you learn at a startup. So although different challenges, and in some ways similar as well.

Luke Peters: Right. And then further on about the story, it looks like Buy.com was losing a lot of money and then you became CEO and turned things around. And I guess the obvious thing might be cost cuts and just ensuring that you’re profitable, but I thought it’d be useful, interesting to understand if there’s any specific things that you learned or did to turn it from what looks like a hundred million dollar a year loss into a profitable company, beyond the obvious cost cuts. Was there anything else that on the margins or any other way that you attacked that problem?

Neel Grover: Yeah, I mean, we had to look at every single facet of the business. There was only so much costs you could take out of the business. And so early on the model was to sell products at a very low margin and try to make it up in advertising revenue. And it just wasn’t working at scale. And so ultimately, we turned the business from being more of a pure retailer, although we didn’t really own inventory we partnered with some of the largest distributors in the world, to really building a marketplace. So we created a marketplace where we had third party retailers selling on our sites, similar to Amazon or eBay or net Walmart and a couple others. But at the time we were really the second retailer to do that, and Amazon. And starting with a strong kind of first party business, so to speak, but heavily pushing the third party business, that made a big difference, I think.

Neel Grover: One of the other big things was really just talking to our employees and our customers and trying to figure out what things we did well and why people wanted to shop with us, and then trying to take advantage of that. And then looking at some of where really Amazon wasn’t able to excel. Amazon obviously is an amazing company, but at the same time Amazon was selling product directly kind of competing with their marketplace.

Neel Grover: And so one of our commitments and one of the great values that we brought it to our merchants was that we were not going to actually buy that product or compete with them. And so we ended up building a marketplace of 7,000 retailers and having those retailers really want us to win. So we created more of a partnership with these retailers and overall really looked at every facet of the business. I had a great team, took a non retail approach so to speak, and we’re just, because we did that last year and grew this much, let’s look at how we could do some things differently. And start with the customer, but we got to figure out a way to do it in a profitable manner. And thankfully a lot of things came together and worked out well.

Luke Peters: Yeah, I mean, distilling it down, it sounds like you essentially created a new business unit that was a service model, the third party models. And you’re not having to hold inventory so it wasn’t capital intensive and it was probably very cashflow positive. Does that kind of sum up that part of it?

Neel Grover: It does. I mean that was a big part of it. But our core business, the way Buy.com started very different than Amazon was Buy never held inventory in the first place. And so it was more of a virtual drop shipper for the largest distributors. Like we were Ingram, Microsoft’s largest partner for many years. Or largest customer for many years. That’s an example, but not just Ingram. We had several partners like that, but taking it where we were the single retailer of these different collections of products, let’s call it 2 million products, to say, expanding up from 2 million products to 20 million products where we had 7,000 merchants from Toys R Us to little mom and pops. But those merchants really, we partnered together so they really, they’d give us extra promotions. They would want us to do well. We were their home away from home, and we really partnered together with them.

Luke Peters: Awesome. Well, thanks for that deep dive. I just thought it was super interesting and I always like to try to learn new things, so, you’ve got a cool background.

Neel Grover: Well, thanks. One other thing I’ll mention is, kind of along the services line was, one of the other things that we developed was really given the fact that we had this great marketplace, we thought other retailers needed that marketplace experience as well. And so for some time we were pitching some of the largest retailers in the world to, “Hey, well, you know what, we’ll provide you a marketplace as a service business.” And after a couple of years of persistence, we ended up powering Best Buy’s marketplace and ran that for a few years, which as a service business definitely helped our business overall profit, in our profitability towards our business.

Luke Peters: Yeah, I mean, I guess the company’s investing in making these, investing in software and then so you’re selling it to other brands or are utilizing it more than just yourself. So yeah, smart. Similar to what Amazon’s doing, I guess, right, with all, with AWS and a few other things that they’ve done.

Neel Grover: It is, and it was a little bit more of a risk for us I think than Amazon in the sense that Amazon is the 800 pound gorilla. They know that they’re going to be fine. The question is, do they want to help their competitors by also bringing down some of their cost structure and ultimately, they’ve created an amazing business around that with AWS and some of their other pieces.

Neel Grover: With us it was a little bit more of a risk in the sense of do we want to help much larger competitors to us, be able to have a business model that is similar to us that they didn’t have, but ultimately we thought someone like a Best Buy as an example who has tremendous brand equity and brand value. The customers that were shopping at Best Buy were not necessarily leaving Best Buy to come to Buy.com and so if we were able to ultimately support them and drive profit and ultimately sales over all together, that that was going to help us in our overall quest to A, being profitable, and B, not necessarily having everyone shop at Amazon.

Luke Peters: Yep. Okay, cool. Now with that background, why don’t we dive into your new venture? But what I’d like to start with is you have a different perspective on social media, so kind of quickly if you can share that with the audience on how you view social media, and then we can get into talk about Indi and what it does and how brands can utilize that, and then a few other things around that subject.

Neel Grover: Sure. Social media is a great place I think for what it is, and I think brands just need to realize what it is. For the last seven to ten years, pretty much every brand has said, “Thank you for shopping with me. Thank you for coming into my store. Thank you for having this direct experience with me. Now go engage with me on my Facebook page, my Instagram page, et cetera, et cetera.” And that made sense over the last, like I said, seven to ten years when there was a free flow of information going on. You had your email list that you could talk to your customers and then you had your list over on social media that you could, or you had your followers on social media that when you posted they were seeing it. Everyone was there. It was great. In fact, every brand, we’re pretty much giving out discounts to go build up their followers list.

Neel Grover: The problem with that happens, really, when Facebook and Instagram changed their algorithm, started changing them a couple of years ago and much more dramatically of late, where now a brand reaches really less than 1% of their followers organically. Meaning if you have a hundred followers and you post something on your Facebook page or your Instagram page as a brand, only one is really seeing that. Back on Facebook, it’s less than about a half a percent, maybe even a quarter percent. And the reason being is, ultimately the reason being is that those platforms want you to advertise on there, and that has in turn driven advertising revenue significantly higher and made it more competitive and more expensive to advertise. But as people have gotten used to getting that traffic from social and they’ve lost that free traffic, they’re now paying more and more for that traffic. And so social is important. It’s just one aspect.

Neel Grover: I don’t feel that it’s important for brands to chase how many followers you have. I think that’s a vanity metric that end of a day does not drive any sales. And one of the things that we always did at Buy, because we were working on razor thin margin and competing with the largest and best company in the world, was making sure everything we did was profitable and that had a positive ROI. And it’s very tough now, on pure Facebook ads or Instagram ads to make sure you’re making up early profitability. So then you have to look at lifetime value of the customer and are you driving that? And so it has its place. It’s still, I think the best place for targeted advertising. I do think they are amazing platforms for that. You just have to know that it’s a pay to play platform and it’s not this organic reach that you used to be able to get in the traditional sense. And that’s where we come in and really try to do things differently to help enable that organic traffic from social and organic discovery in social.

Luke Peters: Cool. And that makes a lot of sense and hopefully everybody knows what you’re talking about. But if not, then now they do, because it’s a key concept on how Facebook and Instagram and everybody else has kind of changed the algorithm and what you post is not seen by everybody.

Luke Peters: And then I guess how about just quickly explaining what Indi does, how a brand can utilize it? I mean, just in fact, this week we’re implementing it on our, well we’re implementing your app on our newer dot com sites. I just talked to Scott about that, just kind of ahead of our interview right now. So just it’d be interesting for the audience to hear what this app can do for them.

Neel Grover: Sure. So we, Indi basically helps brands engage their customers, employees and influencers directly on their website or in their own app, their mobile app, to get video and photo testimonials directly on your product pages to help drive and influence additional sales. And also to get those individuals, whether they’re your employees, your customers, your influencers, to share their content and a personalized tracking link that they get through our system to share that into their social media. So as I said, a brand is limited and blocked to really less than 1% of their followers seeing it. Well, when you get your customers and employees and even influencers sharing that content, they’re really not blocked and they can drive much more organic awareness. And it’s really driving word of mouth awareness, but we put a performance metric around it.

Neel Grover: So there’s really two main things. There’s a couple of other ones as well with some social context and community, but really focusing on the two main ones for brands. It’s first and foremost getting video testimonials so you can get great reviews, in essence, video reviews that sit on top of your current text review platform. We get customers actually show how they’re wearing their products, using their products, how they unbox it, how much they love it. And that real life UGC video content, those photos that come in from real customers are driving significant increase in conversion.

Neel Grover: And then secondly, asking those same customers, employees, influencers to share into their own social and driving word of mouth awareness. But more importantly, when any of their friends or followers click on their link and drive traffic and ultimately sales from your website, they earn commission based sales. So, it’s performance based commission, and that can be a couple of percent to double digit or percent of sales, or you can give away free products or credits back to your store.

Luke Peters: Cool. So it’s affiliate marketing and user generated content but on a different scale than what’s been done in the past, and also utilizing your own customers. And I guess part of the reason I thought you’d be a great guest for the podcast is because what I have noticed in talking to a lot of brands, just with the retail side, Retail Band side of the business is a lot of brands, they don’t even, they’re not even selling on their website. If they are selling, they’re doing a really poor job of it and they’re not really even gathering reviews. So I guess they need to, brands kind of have to first get that part figured out first, right? And then they can plug into Indi. Yeah, it seems like a huge gap.

Neel Grover: Part of our platform is it’ll provide you these video testimonial video, photo testimonials, and so even if you don’t have review capabilities today, you can utilize us to drive that. It’s a really easy snippet of code that comes on. If you’re on Shopify, we do have the Shopify app. Otherwise, it’s literally a 30 minute copy and paste to get the code on your site once it’s configured. And yeah, I mean, selling on marketplaces as an example, it’s a great, great way to get instant sales and to drive awareness and brand, drive your brand. But again, if you’re selling somewhere else, you don’t own that customer ultimately. And if you can get your customer instead of necessarily asking every one of those customers to follow you and like you, ask them to engage with you and drive them back to your site to drive these reviews.

Neel Grover: Well, the other great thing with everyone that engages with you on your site, you can get their email address, you can get explicit remarketing rights term, you can get ownership of all the content they submit and you can get them to drive sales for you. And now it’s totally up to you. You own that content. You can go provide it back to the marketplaces, whether it’s Amazon, Walmart, wherever it may be, to continue to drive higher conversions in sales on those pages as well. But it also gives you that relationship with your ultimate end customer.

Luke Peters: And interestingly, that ties in. So earlier I did a couple of podcast episodes or a couple, maybe three or four ago, interviewed Mark Dufilho, he’s the managing director at Houlihan Lokey and he’s in charge of the consumer division. And they’re an investment banking firm. And I know this is, it’s common knowledge, but one of the interesting things was how important the direct to consumer sales channel is for any business. In other words, the multiples are so much higher, for future investors that might be interested in one’s business. So I mean that indirectly ties into this, but it’s like I said, it’s a wonder how many companies are not investing in their own site because it is hard now, and instead just kind of leaving it up to the sales, all the internet channels like Amazon and so on and so forth. But it’s key to grow that channel.

Neel Grover: It absolutely is. I mean, it depends on what you’re doing with your business. If you just want to generate cashflow in a short term, being on a marketplace or somewhere else’s can be great. If you want to build a longterm business and own that relationship with your customer and ultimately sell that business or do something bigger with the business, owning that customer list is really important. Just because, again, the algorithms on these marketplaces can change or through social media can’t change, rules can change, margins can change.

Neel Grover: And I’m not saying they’re not important aspects to have as a part of your business. Obviously I ran a marketplace and I wanted, I needed people to participate on our marketplace and I think it’s a great way to drive sales and an incremental brand awareness. But generally speaking, you should not, again, unless you’re just looking for short term cashflow, have that be your only outlet. And trying to own that customer, the multiples are so much higher if you can own that customer, own that relationship, and we try to help you do that or we do help you do that in a few different ways.

Luke Peters: All right, cool. And then I just thought it would be this, I’m selfishly asking interesting questions for myself here. Hopefully they’re interesting for everybody else. But I wanted to kind of get into your startup a little bit here. So on the business process, just a couple of quick questions on sales and marketing because it’d be interesting to see how you’re approaching it since you’ve come from these larger companies in the past. First, how many total people are on the team?

Neel Grover: We have 15 people.

Luke Peters: And then on the sales process, can you kind of give us a basic idea? And there’s a reason I’m asking about sales and namely that you’ve really pitched some large companies. So I’m just curious how your sale, like how many people are running it, are you having to do a lot of that and just quickly, how does that look?

Neel Grover: Yeah, I mean I handle the enterprise sales and that’s really because some of these folks I know from my prior experience of running the different retailers. And so I handle that and I’m very passionate about that. And it is like you mentioned the very beginning, it’s a little bit different way to think about as most people are looking just to drive that next new customer, I think your best influencer is always your existing customer and employee who already love you, and so it’s really incentivize them to do that. So I work mainly with the enterprise clients and then we’ve got a team that works with kind of the mid market retailers. We work with agencies, different marketing agencies to help them now drive new customer acquisition and even further engagement in CRM.

Neel Grover: And then on the mid to smaller size, we have a Shopify app now live as well. So we work with all the different platforms. We work with the agencies, we’re creating different strategic partnerships. Again, going back to the early days as being a lawyer and I bought accommodated and then we worked with our competitors at Buy, made great partnerships with Best Buy and eBay. Here in the same vein, we’re looking at who else can we work with and partner with to bring extra value to drive sales for us and for our clients.

Luke Peters: But what is happening just on a day to day basis? I just really want to understand what’s the day to day, who’s pounding the pavement, or you guys have just like a massive leads list of all the brands out there and so you know who to contact? And you guys were running different drip campaigns or making phone calls or like how’s the actual acquisition occurring? I’m just curious if you’re able to describe any of that back end because I know that’ll be valuable for anybody selling and just curious to understand how you look at it.

Neel Grover: Yeah, I mean it’s a combination of those things. We do have a leap list. We do get a fair amount of inbound now, which is great. We do drive word of mouth. As I said, we do have a drip campaign, and frankly we also speak at a lot of different events that drive a lot of the leads, speaking at events and in working with several partners in the industry that are driving folks to us. And then we do… Generally, I mean nothing ever gets anything was generally a pretty good sales flow once we get people to understand what we do.

Luke Peters: And I was going to ask this question. I think you kind of answered, I was going to ask, I mean you’ve pitched some really big brands, like impressive names out there, some of the biggest companies and some names everybody would know. And I was going to ask how you’re getting in front of those brands because I thought that would, your insight there would be helpful. But it sounds like it’s mainly some past connections that you’ve had already from previous business life. Is that most of it or is anything else you can share?

Neel Grover: That is a good amount. I mean, the one thing that I’d say is tough for startups across the board is that a lot of times bigger companies, companies in general will want to see, okay well who else is using your technology or your product? And so it really depends on who you’re talking to. When I deal with an executive for the most part across the board, executives understand it very quickly and don’t really care. Although we’ve got some great brands now, some very large sheet of brick and mortars and others using our platform, they understand the value proposition very quickly. Sometimes when you work further down the organization, they’re just looking at their peer set and think, who else my peer set is using your service? And that’s where it gets tougher for folks. When you’re starting out and doing something very different, I think you got to just be persistent. You’ve got to try to get to the right people and you always have to get referenceable clients. And those are some of the most important things you can do.

Luke Peters: Yeah, I’m finding that out by the way, Neel, with my new business, Retail Band, because it’s totally, it’s a completely different business than selling branded, creating a brand and selling products and just focusing on the product. And like you said, it’s all about, I mean every, the sales process is longer and you have to have just kind of prior work and show what you can do for clients. It’s just completely different.

Neel Grover: Well, and like what you’re doing with your business, it’s a great novel business but nobody else is really doing it. And that’s a good and bad thing. Ultimately it’s a really good thing and you’re going to basically make a platform out of what you’ve had to do over the last decade and all your learnings, and that’s going to save brands significant amount of time and money. And it’s just once they realize that it is a very hard type of thing to do what you’ve done and then utilize your services, I think everyone’s going to realize that that’s a great, in your industry at least, in those categories they’re going to want to utilize your services.

Luke Peters: That’s the plan. So yeah, it’s coming along really good, actually. Do you think so in today’s day and age, it’s different, and I know there’s a lot of good DTC companies out there. It just seems, my impression, I guess you can totally agree or disagree, but my impression is it’s harder now to have a straight D to C company than it was say ten years ago, right, because more people just are buying from Amazon. Is that kind of fair to say in your eyes?

Neel Grover: It is harder. But at the same time, I think more niche brands are, like you said, there’s certain things that Amazon does very, very well and there are a lot of things they have done very well, but creating that experience and creating that relationship with your customer is more important now than ever. And it is harder but it’s more important to do it because ultimately, we can’t be left with a world that has three retailers or five retailers, one dominant one and others that are very significant.

Neel Grover: Still, until, I think at the end of the day, because brands need to keep really trying different things. Building that relationship, utilizing our services, building that direct relationship with your customer. DTC is so important, and it’s easy to sit there and say, “Well, I’m just going to be part of Amazon or part of these other places.” And they definitely are a great added piece. But I think you have to work even harder, again, realizing that social media is there to help, but they’re not the savior completely by any means. The same thing with Amazon or other marketplaces. And ultimately you’ve got to drive that direct relationship back with your customer where you own that relationship.

Luke Peters: Yep. I agree 100%. I mean, we’re doing that as well. So that’s why we’re implementing the app, and I’ll give you some feedback on that shortly as we come along with it. So you shared a lot about business and we talked a lot about your career and the different companies you’ve been with, but just in the past year, just with Indi or it could be with any other projects you’re working on, but if you can share what your biggest win has been in the past year?

Neel Grover: I think without mentioning a specific brand, I think it’s really just proving out that everyone has great ambassadors, great influencers for their product today. That you don’t need to go pay somebody that doesn’t know about your product and that your customers really are your best ambassadors. You should always be creating a deeper relationship with them and now giving them the ability to kind of, the incentive to talk about you. Seeing that drive, with these micro influencers where they’re very authentic, organic, that’s been our feeling all along. They are your best influencers in seeing ambassadors and employees being really successful. We’ve got certain individuals for brands that have driven over $25,000 of sales within a couple of months that don’t have big followings, but just really love the products. We’ve got programs doing really, really well from that. And so it’s great seeing that that resonates so well with the consumer. It’s very just authentic and organic content.

Luke Peters: Cool. And then, with your experience at Buy and everything along the way, what’s something actionable, if you could maybe package up one big life learning and business or something like that, that the listeners should think about implementing in their own companies?

Neel Grover: I think just always trying to reinvent yourself for the positive. If you’re doing something really, really well, that’s great, but always think that you need to keep improving and maybe even modifying significantly over time. I mean, I think one of the things that, because we competed with Amazon for so many years, it had kept us on our toes every single day and we could never get complacent. I remember in the first quarter we had that was profitable, it was like you had to work even harder now to stay profitable. And we had other challenges come up, but thankfully we had three plus, more than three years of continued consecutive profitability. But we kept on changing, revising, adding, doing things differently. And don’t be afraid to do things differently. Just because others in the industry are not doing it, don’t feel like you can’t do something or try something. Try things, and try to do and try new things as efficiently as possible, but always try to reinvent yourself as you go, no matter how big you are.

Luke Peters: 100% agree. Try things. And I’ll jokingly say try things even though all of your team and employees will complain about you, because-

Neel Grover: Absolutely, especially then. I mean, I used to say it some more times, the best thing about our company is our tenure and the worst about it is our tenure. You’ve got to keep pushing the envelope. And you’ve got to keep pushing even though you’ve got a super smart team and they say no and that’s great, but there’s a reason why startups and other companies come along and are ultimately able to sometimes knock off or take a piece of the market from very well established companies is because they are trying to do things very differently.

Neel Grover: The other thing I’d say is partner, partner a lot. I’ve never felt like we have to build everything ourselves. And when we were a technology company, bought a company, if we found a company that did things better than us or more unique than us or had a value proposition, I would never be afraid to partner. Actually, my cofounders now in India are from a company that we partnered with and we ultimately bought thereafter. But it was because they had something that I wanted us to build, and they had built it and they were very novel in how they did it. It was because we were willing to partner and look to others to help us get there or further.

Luke Peters: Cool. Great advice, and thanks for just being a great interview. I mean this is, we kind of talked about so many different things today and I think hopefully we hit a lot of valuable points not just on influencer marketing and how brands can take control over their brand image, but so many other things. So thanks for that, Neel. How can listeners find you? How can they reach out to you and how can they learn more about Indi?

Neel Grover: Great, thanks Luke, I appreciate it as well. You can come to indi.com, that’s I-N-D-I dot com. You can email us at sales@indi.com and we’ll make sure to get back to you. If you’re on Shopify you can download our app as well. And so several different ways you can get in touch with us and learn about what we’re doing, and hopefully we can help you very quickly.

Luke Peters: Great. Thanks again, and thanks everybody for joining us on the Page One podcast sponsored by Retail Band. And if you’re looking at launching new products and you need to gain sales quickly and move that inventory, or if you need help running your home depot or Wayfair or Walmart or Lowes.com online channels, we can help you. What I’ve noticed in talking to people is that they… Usually those channels are kind of the back burner at Amazon and they’re not getting the attention, the love that they need, and that’s exactly what we do at Retail Band. We essentially can become your sales and marketing arm. And you can find me on LinkedIn or email me directly at luke@retailband.com for more information there. Thanks everybody for joining us on the Page One Podcast, and we’ll see you next time.

Speaker 1: 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 our commerce? Check out www.retailband.com to get more great tips and tricks on how to accelerate your eCommerce sales with the big box retailers.

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