Category Archives: E-commerce

Happy Spouse, Happy House and Happy Employee

I’d dragged myself out of bed most mornings at 6am to go to the company gym. Now don’t worry, I always made sure I put deodorant on and brushed my teeth before I left. Fresh breath is a priority in my life. * The company gym offered classes, trainers, and a decent variety of equipment that rivaled most pricey outside gyms. Most importantly, the gym also offered a chance to get to know work colleagues at all levels of the organization.

Over time I built “gym buddy” relationships with executive staff including 2 who recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. Weight lifting and stationary bike conversations quickly transitioned away from weekend talk to “who do you know” questions to support remodeling projects or referrals to meet family needs. Given my real estate experience and deep roots to the Bay Area, I am always happy to share what I know about remodeling, landscaping, and local area information. I really enjoy helping others along their path and helping them avoid the challenges I’ve faced!

I was surprised by how hungry many relocating colleagues were for information. Don’t the company relocation teams help these executives with this sort of stuff? Don’t they get assigned a “relocation buddy” to help sort out the details to ensure everything is moving smoothly? It turns out no. “We were very disappointed with the relocation process here. The team helped sell my home and buy a home here. The buying process was a real grind because the assigned realtor had little local knowledge. After we moved in we were kinda left to fend for ourselves. My wife had to scramble to get the kids plugged in and we had no idea how to start on getting a remodel project done. Not a good experience,” one seasoned executive shared.

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I am passionate about employee relocation in response to what my executive colleague shared with me. This is a common story I’m hearing from several friends. Let’s face it, uprooting and moving the family to anywhere is a disruptive and scary process no matter how great the opportunity. Families must say goodbye to family, kids say farewell to friends and loved teachers, and the familiar rhythm of life (sounds like a Disney song) is broken.

Moving to the Bay Areas is double scary because of the high cost of housing, population density and pace of life. It’s triple scary if you are moving from another country and experience culture shock! It ain’t easy here. I know, all of my Los Angeles and NYC friends are snickering at this statement.

A successful relocation reaches beyond just moving the family and folding the employee into the company culture. A successful relocation program must go the extra mile by integrating the family into the right home in the right community, supporting any legal documentation requirements, providing guidance in how to plug the family into schools, clubs and organizations and more. Why? It’s simple. Happy spouse, happy house…which means happy, high-performing executive who does not need to worry about the home front. Knowing that the company is taking great care of the family will also build a strong loyalty and commitment from the employee to the company.

Many of the tech giants work with 3rd parties to provide these services, but I’m sensing that the ball can be dropped in finding the right home in the right local community and in providing the right support after the family has moved. I’ve also come across instances where the assigned realtor had no specific knowledge of the communities in and around where the company was located. Yikes. How will the employee be set up for success if that’s the case? Clearly one standard relocation program does not meet the needs of all. My goal is to provide services to help address these problems.

Please email me at eric@dunstanproperties.com if you, or someone you know, needs help in successfully relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area from within the US or Internationally. I can provide an area tour of the Bay Area, share area specific market analysis and insights into local schools or traffic patterns. I’d be happy to share my unique local perspective and market knowledge.

Thank you for your continued support in making the San Francisco Bay Area a great place to live and work.

* Is fresh breath a priority in your life? Reply on Twitter to @ericdunstan to this message with the movie and character reference and be entered to win a Starbucks gift card.

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Marketing Advice for Start-ups: Know your customer first

An e-commerce start-up asked for my thoughts on how the company should be thinking about marketing and what could be done with almost no marketing budget to drive acquisition and purchasing activity. I had to chuckle when I was asked for this input for yet again it demonstrates where in the priority list most business people perceive marketing to be….at the bottom. Most start-ups build a product, get it up and running and have a rough idea of how it will generate money. Unfortunately, most business leaders look to marketing as the tool to help grow the business…after the product is launched.

4PsGraphicI am using the term “marketing” very loosely here. Marketing is mostly understood as all the tangibles – online, website SEO, paid search, social media, etc. Little regard is given to the core marketing principals of the 4 Ps, for example. When most people hear the words “the 4Ps” they think about the OPP song from the mid 80s and NOT the critical marketing concepts of Product, Price, Place, Promotion. Clearly most people get stuck on the Promotion part….which is putting the cart before the horse.

I encourage all start-ups who approach me for marketing help to stop, take a deep breath and evaluate their business and product through the lens of the 4 Ps within the context of a few additional guiding principals; defining the target customer segment (s), understanding why the customer segment wants to buy the product and defining how the customer evaluates/buys the product.   Now to the start up leadership who feels time pressed, this sounds like a lot of work to do for marketing.

Working through this process and understanding the customer is CRITICAL to the success of the business. Leaders may find their product does not meet the right customer need or that a different customer segment should be targeted. This can be a tough nut to swallow for it means reworking the product that was just launched. Start up leadership must get these marketing concepts right before any marketing plans or programs can be developed and launched with a successful outcome.

One of my mentors and managers at eBay developed a structured document called a Unified Marketing Brief that helps guide business units and companies through this form of critical thinking. The document requires debate and thinkin around target audience (segmentation), marketing objectives, key success metrics, competitive industry analysis and market research. Once these elements are addressed, discussion is encouraged around brand and how to position and message the product and key benefits. I’ve guided business units in the e-commerce, identity protection and financial technology verticals through this process with very successful outcomes. Yes, it’s a lot of work and it takes time. However, once completed, business leaders now have a road map to guide marketing planning and tactical program development.

Buying Cycle GraphicI found another great example of a structured approach to startup marketing by April Dunford on Rocket Watcher . She provides a great approach to mapping marketing tactics to the buying process of each target segment.

April also takes the concept one step further by discussing the importance of testing, improving and understanding the root cause of the tactical failure. Too often companies don’t get the immediate tactical response rates desired and make the wrong assumptions as to why it happened. Unfortunately these wrong assumptions follow to the next tactical program…that has the same poor results. April makes a great point in encouraging marketers to understand the WHY to improve tactics. Check out April’s recent presentation to learn more at:

Now let’s assume that most of this strategic marketing work is in process and marketing tactics are launched. Is the marketer’s job done? Obviously no. The work has moved into a different phase of continuous improvement based on customer feedback. Start-ups must have a mechanism in place to capture and listen carefully to customer feedback. The mechanisms can be customer support teams accessible by email or online chat, twitter feeds or by call centers.

Listening to customer feedback is critical…but converting the feedback into actionable product improvements is another. This is a topic for another post! Does your start up have these mechanisms in place? I bet your competition does.

 

 


Grokker content could be key driver of Blue Apron subscriber growth

Like many of us, my wife and I struggle in keeping a good work/family life balance. We are parents of two young boys and our goal is to provide them with the best opportunities to grow and develop physically, intellectually and spiritually. We’ve learned that parenting is a lot of fun, a more than full time job AND is very rewarding. One of our biggest struggles is getting healthy, flavorful and “kid friendly” food on the table. We make frequent runs to Safeway, Trader Joe’s and to Whole Foods to buy as much fresh food as possible…and end up buying a lot of pre-made food too. Let’s face it, after a LONG day at work, it’s a lot easier to throw in the microwave a Trade Joe’s meat loaf than to whip one up from scratch.

The inspiration to prepare a complete meal does find us a few times a week, however. So we are not a complete “ready made meal” family…at least we’ve got that going for us.  We’ve found that the big challenges in home cooking are…

1. Finding inspiration for great meals

2. Finding recipes that are easy and quick to prepare

3. Shopping for the ingredients

4. Taking the time to prepare the meal (the fun part)

5. Cleaning up (the not fun part)

UGH….any of these challenges is enough to push a family to do ready made food or to buy take-out.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 11.54.28 AMWe have been finding home cooked meal inspiration from a great site called Grokker. Signing up for Grokker is free and they do a great job in how their content is organized. The site provides how-to videos on preparing some great meals taught by professional chefs. When I say “professional” I mean chefs from the higher end restaurants or expert food bloggers…so they know a trick or two. One of our favorites is Whitney Bond who just KILLS it on creative ways to prepare the standard meals. My wife LOVED her sweet potato skin recipe. Or Doc Ward’s smoked ribs are AMAZING.

Grokker clearly addresses the challenges of finding inspiration and finding recipes that are easy to prepare. They also provide the recipe in text form that can be emailed or printed out to then find its way on a shopping list. It would be GREAT if Grokker could make it easy for me to export the list of ingredients into a shopping list on my iPhone. Hint, hint.

Grokker, however, does not help consumers take the pain out of 3 of the biggest challenges of home cooking; shopping, preparation time and clean up. I think if Grokker helped consumers do the shopping they will address A HUGE pain point and the site will attract more consumers eager to be inspired and enabled to cook great food. Hmmm…but how is this done? Grocery delivery is a tough business. Remember WebVan?

Grokker may address the shopping challenge by establishing a strategic partnership with Blue Apron. The combined assets will deliver a powerful consumer experience for both companies and their consumer base. Blue Apron just announced a $50M C-round of funding and is boasting the delivery of 500K meals a month. Wow. Blue Apron positions itself as a better way to cook with fresh ingredients, great recipes delivered to the consumer’s home. For a monthly fee starting at $9.95, Blue Apron provides recipes, ingredients and a home delivery service. The consumers can do the fun part, taking the time to prepare the meal.Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.02.55 PM

I think Blue Apron is missing a key element…the inspiration around food and the community engagement with other foodies.   By partnering with Grokker, Blue Apron receives well-produced content that may help it differentiate itself from competitors such as Plated or PeachDish. Given Blue Apron’s momentum, we all know competitors will be HOT on their apron strings. Amazon is working out the kinks of Amazon Fresh and as we know, they are good at getting e-commerce right.

Clearly, Grokker will gain a great deal from a Blue Apron strategic partnership. They will benefit through the monetization of its well produced cooking content through licensing agreements. Grokker could provide a VALUABLE service to Blue Apron that will generate a handsome revenue stream to fuel expert content development across more categories. Grokker will also provide a key service to their consumer audience – shopping and delivery of recipe ingredients. As a Grokker user, I see this as a great service!

Some may ask why Blue Apron would not just create the content themselves given their large capitalization. Clearly they have the money.   Aah…creating the right, well-produced content is easier said than done, young Jedi. This is Grokker’s core competency. Another obvious question is why Blue Apron does not just buy Grokker…after all Grokker’s valuation at the moment is far less than Blue Apron’s at $500M. From what I can see the Grokker team is focused on building an expert video network including content beyond food, including yoga and health/fitness. In short, Grokker may not be open to Blue Apron’s marriage proposal…which is smart. Grokker will become a real hot number and potential suitors will be coming out of the woodwork.

The big key in making a Blue Apron/Grokker partnership work is ease of integration. The Blue Apron leadership team is under A LOT of pressure to grow subscribers and revenue. Grokker content can help grow subscribers by providing a lot of great content, recipes and chef personalities. If this content can be easily integrated on Blue Apron with minimal front-end engineering support, it’s not a stretch to envision this partnership.

I’m hungry.


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