HubSpot’s INBOUND 2019 conference has come and gone, and the event has grown in size with over 26,000 marketers, salespeople, and customer success professionals flocking to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for a week of learning and inspiration. This year’s INBOUND featured spotlight sessions from industry leaders Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Redditt, Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, and of course HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah among several others. After sitting through hours of inspiring sessions, here are three of my most important takeaways from INBOUND 2019. 1. Embrace diversity. 2. Create a frictionless customer experience. 3. Be human. Embrace Diversity Diversity is an important topic of conversation across almost every industry, which was evident at this year’s INBOUND. In Dharmesh Shah’s presentation, he showed an image that displayed the lack of educational diversity at HubSpot in the early stage of the company, and further commented on how he was the only non-white team member. With so many similar people, he reflected that outsiders interested in joining HubSpot would have had a hard time fitting in. He expressed that one of HubSpot’s biggest early mistakes was how little they focused on diversity. When you lack diversity, you’re missing out on varying perspectives that can help lead your company to greater success and growth. To prove this, Shah told the story about when YouTube first launched their global app, they came across a peculiar phenomenon. They noticed that a notable amount of people were uploading videos upside down. Around 10% of videos were being uploaded upside down, and they couldn't figure out why. The answer, however, was very simple. Ten percent of the population is left-handed, and hold their phones differently than right-handed individuals, making the videos appear upside down. You may ask, why didn’t the YouTube team catch this? Again a simple answer: nobody on the team was left-handed, therefore they lacked that perspective. Shah went on to explain that companies hiring for diversity over “personality fit” are at an advantage. Hiring for personality fit breeds a sea of sameness. Instead, when differing yet complementary people intersect, we build better relationships and therefore better companies. We’re able to gain insight into perspectives different from our own and create something great from our differences. Create a Frictionless Customer Experience In such a crowded modern market place, it’s harder than ever before to stand out from your competition. This has led to a growing number of companies emerging as disruptors in their industry, including Doordash, Netflix, and Lyft. Unlike in the past, these companies aren’t your normal tech disruptors like Google, Apple, and Tesla. HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan refers to them instead as “Experience Disruptors”. What makes a company an experience disruptor you may ask? According to Halligan, the new breed of disruptors focus on experience-market fit rather than product-market fit. What that means is that these disruptors all have great products but an even better customer experience. Five year old Carvana set out to create a whole new way to buy a car and have already become one of the largest car dealers in the United States. What do they do differently from their competition? They take the hassle out of car shopping. Customers are able to go online, shop for the car they’re looking for and order it online. Carvana will even take care of the boring paperwork, registration, and taxes, while you wait at home for your new car that will arrive at the time and place of your choosing. Sounds risky buying a car online right? Not with Carvana. You have seven days of driving to see if the car is a fit for you and if not, you can simply return the car no questions asked. So to Halligan’s point, Carvana and other experience disruptors don’t always have the best product, but what they do have is a frictionless customer experience that makes the customer’s life easier and encourages them to come back for more. How they sell to the consumer is why they win and is why they’ll continue to grow until the competition catches up. Be Human There was one prominent theme throughout INBOUND that many of the spotlight speakers touched upon in one way or another. That theme is that being a humane person can go a long way. That should come as no surprise, but in the business world that isn’t always the case. Keep reading to find out what some of the industry leading speakers had to say about the topic. Fighting for Paid Family Leave Ohanian spent most of his spotlight session discussing paid family leave. He has made it his goal to fight for equal parental leave for both men and women in an effort to erase the negative stigma of taking time off after having a child. That is why Reddit offers four months of paid family leave for all of their employees including Ohanian himself who took four months of family leave when his wife, tennis legend Serena Williams, gave birth to their first child. Reddit’s policy allows all employees, no matter their position, to spend time with their family without having to choose between returning to work early or losing their job. Shifting Perspectives Through Advocacy Bryan Stevenson, a public interest lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. His story that stuck with me the most was about a prison guard who harassed Stevenson due to the color of his skin when he tried to visit a client he was representing at the prison. He made Stevenson’s typically friction-less lawyer check-in process intentionally long and degrading, including an unusual request for Stevenson’s bar card and a strip search. The next time he saw the guard was from across the courtroom, while he represented his client suffering from mental illness who had lived in 29 foster homes by the time he was nine years old. . When Stevenson returned to the prison to visit his client, the same guard was working, but this time something was different about him. To Stevenson’s surprise, the guard allowed Stevenson to enter the prison with no issues. With his hands shaking and face flushed, the guard told Stevenson that he had also been in a number of foster homes growing up. He said, “At the courthouse, I was listening to you. I think what you’re doing is a good thing. I hope you keep fighting for justice.” Stevenson’s message was clear. Although we have our differences, Stevenson urged the audience not to give up on the hope that people have the ability to change for the better and connect on a human level. Creating Access Founder and CEO of Khan Academy, Sal Khan shared some remarkable background about his company and how it has come to provide free online learning tools to more than 62 million users in 190 countries across the world. In what started as a fun project to help tutor his cousins, Khan quickly realized the full potential of Khan Academy, which led to him quitting his job at a hedge fund to work on building his nonprofit full time. His mission is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. He shared stories from across the world of how his platform is helping people of all ages and backgrounds.From a young girl in an orphanage in Mongolia to the children of Bill Gates --they all have the same tools to learn with Khan Academy. INBOUND 2019 already has us looking forward to INBOUND 2020. We’ll see you there.
The 21st century food shopping experience is all about efficiently streamlining tasks. This is evident not just through significant investments in eCommerce, but also through the rise in delivery service offerings. Online food delivery is booming in particular — the number of Americans who have ordered food online has grown from 17 to 24 percent in the past year. With so many options available, I grew curious about the details differentiating each app’s respective shopping experience. I decided to order from a different app each day for four days, journaling my thoughts while munching on salad one day and sipping soup the next. Convenience means comfort — especially for online food delivery It was a Wednesday night, and I had ordered a soup from my favorite restaurant, eager to maximize my comfiness after a tiring day. After two respective days of UberEats and Postmates, I had settled into a pleasant routine of online food ordering. When I saw that my “Dasher” (of the DoorDash app) had arrived, I summoned up the strength to pause my show, leave my couch, and walk to the door. After receiving my food, I collapsed back on the couch. Upon opening the bag, however, I was disappointed to find that there was no spoon for my soup. I sighed, paused Mad Men, turned on the lights, and made my way to the kitchen. I thought back. Did I forget to indicate that I wanted utensils? Was there a field that suggested including them? Perhaps an “add note” section? Pictured: my squash soup and the accompanying slices of bread. Peeking out in the top right is the infamous spoon from my kitchen. Brand takeaway: My primary reason for ordering food delivery wasn’t just about convenience - I had a vision of curling up in front of a show in my pajamas, and treating myself to minimal movement and maximal indulgence. While the spoon debacle wasn’t catastrophic, it interrupted that vision. If delivery services can identify the true need-states they fulfil, they can better cater to them — and ensure that shoppers have the most seamless ordering experience as possible. Trusting tech is hard. Inputting one’s preferences on an app — without any human interaction — leaves room for doubt. What if the kitchen messes up my order or the app glitches? What if the driver doesn’t get my note to come up to the 8th floor of my office building? I sat in my office’s lobby, this last question lingering in my mind. I saw on the Postmates tracking system that my driver was “here,” but I didn’t see him. Did my Postmate leave the food in the downstairs lobby? Was he in the elevator? Was he waiting for me to meet him outside? After a few minutes, I gave up, went down 8 floors, and saw my food waiting for me at the front desk. The receipt taped to my salad didn’t have the full address I wrote in the app, which included “AMP Agency, 8th floor.” Brand takeaway: Two-way communication is key. As technologically advanced as today’s shopping experience is, there’s always room for error when relaying information. Shoppers will naturally worry about an app acting as a middleman between them and their food. To lessen this worry delivery services can assure the shopper that their unique details have been “seen” by their driver, maybe even sending them a notification of a “read receipt.” It feels good to feel heard. Scrolling through DoorDash’s restaurant options, I hoped to see the bahn mi sandwich cafe just a couple miles away. I searched for “Vietnamese.” It appeared, alongside a button that said “request,” suggesting an option to add the restaurant to DoorDash’s offerings. Wow, I thought. They care about what I want! A screenshot of me single-handedly bettering Boston’s bahn mi delivery scene. Brand takeaway: No reasonable customer expects for a food delivery app to mirror their every preference. A small gesture that acknowledges a shopper’s wants (accompanied with the hope of fulfilling them), validates the shopper. This subtle approach to customer satisfaction allows the shopper to feel both that their opinion matters, and that the app genuinely wishes to improve its service. Superlatives Like many consumers, I honed my preferences by trying multiple services. I like to think that I’m now qualified enough to assign (subjective) superlatives to each app’s respective customer experience. Best delivery time predictor: UberEats Of all the apps, UberEats was the only one that didn’t adjust its delivery time, estimating the total cooking and delivery time very well. Would recommend for squeezing meals in between meetings. Best first-delivery perks: Doordash I still don’t understand whether I stumbled upon some month-of-July promotion or if the first delivery fee is always waived. Regardless, my frugal self was pleased at this opportunity to save some money. Best notification experience: Grubhub While some apps blasted my phone with notifications via app, email, and text, Grubhub let me manually input how I wished to be notified upon arrival of my food. I typed “please call when you’re outside” and my request was fulfilled. A blank canvas for notification preferences Best delivery flexibility: Postmates Free delivery if I join a “party?” By. All. Means. Postmates’s “party” option allows one’s delivery to be pooled with others in the area. The catch: delivery time could be as long as an hour. Without pressing appointments, party-ing is a lovely option to save on delivery costs. Extrovert, introvert, dancer – or not – Postmates has a “party” for all. Most likely to use again: UberEats A delivery fee cheaper than others, many restaurant options, and a familiar GPS format (I take the occasional Uber, so I’m biased), UberEats is my food delivery app of choice. Bonus perks: The UberRewards program. With every eligible meal and Uber ride, I get points that I can use for either.
Confession: I am a Fitting Roomer. I read this fashion industry term recently in a swirl of shame as the article identified my exact online shopping behavior: buying multiple sizes in an item with the intent to try them on at home, keep the one that fits, and return the others. My entire spring/summer wardrobe was purchased online, with at least 50% returned. I could hear the fashion execs whispering tsk tsk in my ear, admonishing me for what some have called the ticking time bomb of costly retail returns. Apparently we Fitting Roomers are terrible for the bottom line. We’re taking advantage of the system. Amazon has even banned the most extreme habitual returners, identifying us as bad for business. Except we’re not. E-commerce fashion is a $545 billion industry and growing. This growth is fueled by convenience including the ability to return: 88% of online shoppers appreciate shopping day or night and easily finding products. And free shipping and returns are the top factors making people more likely to shop online. Without a good shipping and return policy, retailers lose a huge chunk of sales. Because here’s the thing. Shopping for clothes online isn’t like shopping for other goods. It’s not just the quality that matters, or that items are true to their online representation. You may receive a beautiful blouse in the mail that every bit lives up to its description and photo, but when you put it on you happen to look more frumpy than sophisticated. Those amazingly edgy, high quality jeans might be the epitome of your personal style, but they also just might squeeze you in all the wrong places. The top two reasons for online returns are “size too small,” and “size too large.” In other words, a key part of what drives apparel purchase is how the clothes fit on your body. It’s why every brick-and-mortar retail location has dressing rooms. With clothes, you need to try before you buy. So when considering the state of online returns, retailers are making one fatal mistake. They’re thinking of online returns as a follow-up to the buying process, when in fact they’re part of the shopping process. We Fitting Roomers don’t think of paying for multiple sizes online as akin to buying and returning. We think of it as a sort of refundable deposit to try on clothes we haven’t committed to yet. Fitting Roomers aren’t taking advantage of the system. They’re showing brands what an online shopping process looks like when you need to try before you buy. Andrew Bowden, Sr. Manager of Product Marketing at TradeGecko, an inventory management software company, understands that for brands to avoid getting gouged by growing customer return habits, they need to think of it as part of the larger experience. “The most important question to ask when assessing your reverse logistics process,” he recently told Shopify, “is whether or not you’re designing and optimizing the experience for the customer or your business — ideally it’s a mix of both. When in doubt, default to the customer.” Instead of punishing or dissuading the shopping behavior of fitting rooming, why not embrace it? What would the online retail customer experience look like if we shift the way we think of fitting rooming from a “return” to a “try-on?” Some are already doing this. Digitally native direct-to-consumer brands like ThirdLove and MM La Fleur have redefined the experience to embrace how the need to try on shapes a shopping journey. ThirdLove is so focused on fit, they incorporate an in-depth fit quiz before purchase and let customers return bras even after they’ve already been worn and put through the laundry. While I was trying on my new bra at home, I texted with a ThirdLove “Fit Stylist” for a new size recommendation. When I needed a new style, she provided the most seamless repackaging/shipping logistics I’ve encountered. Knowing this, I’m guessing they have an air-tight reverse logistics process built for efficiency and minimal cost, too. Over the last six months I’ve returned two bras. But I’ve kept five - and become a serial repeat customer. That’s a big deal when repeat purchases are the aim of a whopping 83% of shopping journeys. Digitally native DTC brands like MM La Fleur and ThirdLove build their retail customer experience to accommodate the need to find the perfect fit. It’s the more traditional retail brands that haven’t quite figured this out yet. Their struggle with the cost of returns leaves you guessing on how an item looks on a real body, receiving multiple packages that can’t be re-used, being charged extra fees, and printing labels. These brands look at Fitting Roomers as a problem to be combatted, but brands and customers both win if we shift how we perceive the role of returns in the online shopping journey. Because at the end of the day, we Fitting Roomers are not serial returners. We’re just online shoppers. Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy AMP is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. This article is a part of AMP’s Customer Experience deep-dive series, where we take a first person approach to understanding the modern shopping experience.
Buying and preparing food is a huge part of most of our lives and routines. Almost everybody grocery shops – but not everyone shops the same. Strategists Jen Herbert and Greer Pearce recorded grocery diaries for a month and sat down to compare notes on the modern grocery experience. LIFE STAGES SHIFT FOOD ROUTINES Greer: Jen and I are in different life stages, and one of our big takeaways was not just that our shopping routines are different, but that changes in our lives have acted as triggers for a whole new food routine. Marketers have known for a long time that there are some brief periods in a person’s life when routines are disrupted and shopping patterns are open to change, and we saw that play out clearly in our own lives. When Jen moved in with her partner, Jason, grocery shopping became a team effort. She had to start coordinating weeknight schedules and planning differently. They shop together, so the actual shopping experience became more fun: they make funny faces at each other in the produce section and gamify splitting up the items in their cart at checkout to try and get as close to possible to a perfectly split bill. When I had a baby last year, I also got a new shopping partner – my son, Teddy. Pre-shopping trip, that meant planning more carefully so I could get in and out of the store faster, and new items on our list as he started to eat solid foods. In-store, it meant less time looking at labels or new products, and more time solving the puzzle of how to physically shop with him, a tiny human either taking up most of the cart in his car seat, strapped to my body, or trying to escape from the child seat. These new routines are markedly different from how both Jen and I shopped as single young professionals, when we made more, smaller trips to the store and only bought food for one. Brand Takeaway: Consumers need different things at different life stages, and there are multiple phases when they’re actively adjusting their routine. Meet them in the moment to offer them solutions specific to their needs. Life stage shapes how people shop. Jen and her partner shop together and gamify their routine to make it more fun. Greer looks for items that will distract her toddler. GROCERY SHOPPING STARTS BEFORE THE GROCERY STORE Jen: What Greer and I came to appreciate as we traded our grocery stories was just how much effort we both spend on “pre-work” before ever stepping foot in-store. Before a list can be constructed, we both meal plan our future dinners, but our sources for drawing meal inspiration are very different. Greer knows that her family will be home and in need of dinners every night of the week. She sits down and plans each of those seven meals, surrounded by her go-to resources: three favorite cookbooks, the New York Times, and Bon Appetit’s online recipes. Meanwhile, Jason and I start meal planning by assessing when we’ll both be home – these are nights when it feels “worth it” to invest time in a homemade dinner. Then, we’ll scan the fridge to see if anything is in need of repurposing, which will often spark a meal idea. In the warmer months, we’ll also check the weather – if there are sunny days ahead, we’ll grill. If we’re still stuck, I’ll head to my Saved posts on Instagram. (When I see an easy meal idea, I proactively flag it for times like these.) Finally, I’ll do a scan of the house for staples – everything from vitamins to eggs to Kleenex – that we are running low on and should also be added to the list. When we finally arrive in-store, our routines don’t stop. Greer follows the same pattern around her store each time, while I go so far as to “code” my list by the section of the store I’ll find each item in. Brand Takeaway: Going in-store with a clear plan of attack helps the shopping experience run on autopilot, guaranteeing the trip is relatively efficient and even free of in-the-moment decision-making. With that insight, we both agree that well over half of our “grocery experience” actually takes place within our own homes. Consider ways that your brand can build relationships with customers outside of the physical store, when they’re more likely to be in an open, “inspirational” mindset rather than cruising on autopilot. The grocery experience starts with inspiration and preparation. Jen and Jason make a detailed list before heading to the store. SURPRISES MAKE A SHOPPING TRIP BEAUTIFUL Jen: With all that prep-work, what’s in our basket is often dictated by what’s on our lists. But Greer and I also found we welcome pleasant surprises and unplanned ways to treat ourselves. Greer sometimes treats herself to a pretty bouquet of flowers if they catch her eye, or spontaneously grabs swordfish if it looks particularly good. She distinctly remembers being excited one spring when her store’s typically uninspiring produce section had fiddlehead ferns. Jason and I typically “allow” ourselves one or two surprises when we do our weekly shopping. This could be, like Greer, a spontaneous bouquet of flowers, a fancy candy bar or pastry, or a new flavor of protein bar or ice cream (usually one with eye-catching packaging!). Another welcome surprise is when large grocery chains begin carrying beloved brands from the Northeast. Just the other day, we happily discovered coffee from our favorite roastery in Maine, which we typically had to purchase on-vacation or online! It’s moments like this that infuse a trip that could feel like a chore with a sense of fun. Brand Takeaway: Basket-building moments center around beauty and reward. While the idea of grocery shopping is quite beautiful – fresh, colorful produce, nurturing loved ones, etc. – grocery shopping in practice is often anything but. Finding small opportunities to encourage customers to treat themselves to something beautiful is a reward for an accomplished store trip. PROXIMITY ISN’T THE ONLY FACTOR Greer: It seems obvious that where we grocery shop is dictated by where we live, and to some extent this is true. But within a person’s grocery options, several factors might trigger them to buy at one store over another: The List: Jen’s list dictates where she’ll shop that week, and she doesn’t decide where to shop until it’s complete. If the recipe’s she’s making calls for hard-to-find produce, or she’s craving the fancy yogurt she likes, she’ll drive a little farther to get to a store where she knows she can find what she needs. Physical size of items: Greer gets all her bulky items like diapers, paper towels, dog food, and toilet paper via Amazon so she can avoid carrying heavy items home from a physical store. Price: Both Jen and Greer have price compared the stores in their area, and make the less expensive store their go-to for staples. In-store experience: Both Jen and Greer sometimes go out of their way to find an experience that offers elements of fun, beauty, and excitement. “Type” of grocery visit: Different grocery occasions call for different stores. Greer does her weekly, well planned trips to one store, but goes to a smaller, closer store for an unplanned mid-week trip. Season: In the summer, both Jen and Greer completely switch up their routines to incorporate farmers markets and CSAs where they can get fresh local produce. This means less trips to the grocery store overall, and meal planning driven by in-season items. Brand Takeaway: The need for food drives a grocery visit, but many factors go into where and how you shop. While shoppers may have a default routine, they are open to deviating from it – or redefining it when it will make their lives easier or more enjoyable. Brands should consider how to meet the needs of multiple types of grocery occasions. AMP is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. This article is a part of AMP’s Customer Experience Deep Dive Blog Series, where we take a first person approach to understanding the modern shopping experience.
There’s a running joke at our agency about the famed industry “ecosystem slide.” You know what I’m talking about - that one presentation slide that attempts to visualize how every single consumer touchpoint plays a unique role, yet connects with every other touchpoint to form a cohesive customer experience. Maybe it’s a Venn diagram. Maybe it’s a table. Or, my personal nightmare, the “Beautiful Mind” approach– a bunch of floating platform icons with a web of lines connecting them all in one tangled ball of confusion. “Look!” we say. “This is your brand ecosystem! See how beautifully and simply it depicts the total customer experience?” “OK, John Nash,” our clients say, before dropping it into a desktop folder to gather digital dust. As marketers, it’s important to consider ecosystems, journeys, and the end-to-end customer experience. But these concepts can be hard to truly grasp when talking about them in the abstract, or out of the context of how an individual person experiences a brand and its products. The reality is that in the digital age, our avenues of information are so diverse, our digital and physical spaces so entwined, that a customer journey is no longer linear or simple. At any given stage in the marketing funnel, a person might bounce around from Instagram, to billboard, to blog post, to text exchange and back in mere minutes. Even when this journey is simplified and beautifully designed to look at in aggregate, there’s a lack of realness to it– and a lack of true comprehension. So how do we start to truly understand what the modern customer experience looks like without making our heads explode? Let’s get out of the abstract. The AMP Strategy team is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. Over the next several months, we’ll be doing first-person deep dives into the experience of shopping, purchasing, and returning across industries. We’ll map out real paths to purchase, identifying pain points and emotions along the way, to surface real industry insights and areas of opportunity– and share them right here on AMP’s blog. Because at the end of the day consumers are human, and we need to understand them as humans. The true customer experience cannot be captured on a slide. - Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy Meet Our Humans Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy Outdoorswoman, jazz singer, tween culture obsessive Ben Seldin, Strategy Director Nike addict, political junkie, wanna-be foodie. Elle Elderd, Associate Strategist Savory over sweet, mixer of drinks and vinyls, runs on espresso Jen Herbert, Senior Strategist Literary fiction addict, almond croissant enthusiast, frequently-disappointed Chicago Bears fan DJ Weidner, Strategy Director Backyard grilling fanatic, year-round iced latte connoisseur, occasional salmon and halibut fisherman James Herrera, Director, Experience Strategy Life-long LA Dodgers fan, believer in the beginner’s mind, finds reading science non-fiction oddly satisfying