Alright, sippers! We’ve got a special episode for you.The entire crew shows some love to our past guests, listeners and each other, while recapping 2022. It’s been an exciting podcast year, filled with expert guests, engaging topics and rich content to push the needle forward in this shared e-commerce space. The team reflects on it all and what’s to come in 2023, so tune-in for this year in review.
1:24 A whirlwind of a year
2:08 Changing of the tide: the organizational shift
4:17 The entrepreneurial mindset
7:04 “Community” – a common theme
8:59 The big shift to a returns focus
10:56 Scaling with technology
12:25 Don’t under-estimate inventory planning
13:22 A strategic approach to shipping
15.47 Pivoting focus to the post-purchase experience
17:21 How to set your business apart from the competition
19:18 The importance of customer success
21.11 Looking ahead to 2023
24:32 THANK YOU!
Brian Weinstein: Welcome everybody to Sippin’ and Shippin’. I’m your host, Brian Weinstein. We’ll be kicking it here every other Friday quenching your thirst for an insider’s take to enhance your customer experience. So grab your drink of choice, kick back, it’s sipping and shipping time. All right, welcome everybody to another episode of Sippin’ and Shippin’. I am your host Brian Weinstein, and as always, the very in the holiday spirit, Caitlin Postal.
Caitlin Postel: Hey Brian. Am I in the holiday spirit? Is that what you’ve heard?
Brian Weinstein: Well, because you’re wearing gray, so I figured that was no, you’re not in the holiday spirit at all.
Caitlin Postel: I’m actually prepared this year, so that feels good. Usually I’m a very last minute shopper, but I got ahead of it, so I’m happy to be here and happy to wrap up season two here. It’s been a fun one.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, it has. I don’t know, are we calling this an official wrap up or is this just the halfway point in season two? I don’t even know anymore.
Caitlin Postel: Oh, I don’t know. I would call on producer Tanya, but I think that she might be busy wrapping some of her gifts. But either way-
Brian Weinstein: Beijing producer Phipps.
Tanya Phipps: This is definitely a recap…
Caitlin Postel: There she is.
Tanya Phipps: … Of all of our episodes.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah.
Caitlin Postel: Okay, good. Good. See, you always keeping us on track. We appreciate that.
Brian Weinstein: First of all, a little special hand for Tanya who’s done a wonderful job this year producing.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: Fantastic. We’ve had a lot of fun. And she is right, the purpose of today’s episode is a little year end recap and well, here we are, 2022 coming to an end. I don’t know, Caitlin, it’s been kind of a whirlwind ride so far this year, huh?
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, it sure has been. I mean, 2022, I feel like they unleashed the people back out into the wild. Saw some brands that made it through, battled the pandemic, grew larger, were nimble, stayed alive. We saw some folks leave us. I think we had some fantastic guests and a few more to come here after this recap. But yeah, I don’t know, Brian, I think it was a good one, but a quick one.
Brian Weinstein: It was. I’m not really sure how we got here, for those of you in the know, Whiplash was acquired by Ryder and now we’re Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash and it seems like literally yesterday that we were not only announcing, but that we were like, “Okay, what’s happening from here?” And then here we are and an entire year’s gone by, which is kind of crazy.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, it’s super crazy. And to think now, we also acquired dot com distribution, so we’re no longer the new kids on the block. That’s pretty cool. And then I think the more domain at emails you’ve had as a e-commerce employee really shows your tenure. So like me, I have my Caitlin@getwhiplash, I have my CaitCPostel@portlogisticsgroup. So just sticking around. We’re doing this.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, and if any of our listeners know people that buy obsolete swag, we actually have an entire closet filled with Port Logistics Group. There’s Enlinx from our acquisition last year. There’s Whiplash and now dot com’s going to have some as well. So we’ve got plenty of obsolete swag if anybody’s in the market for it. Just let us know and we’ll be happy to get you out something.
Caitlin Postel: Totally. And speaking of that, the original Whiplash, which had that purple-pink interface. We had James Marks on, original founder of Whiplash. And I wonder if any of those original purple Ws, maybe they’ll become NFTs or something. I don’t know.
Brian Weinstein: So I still have an original purple Whiplash T-shirt that I break out to run in every once in a while.
Caitlin Postel: Nice.
Brian Weinstein: But I like it. It’s really OG and it sort of screams James Marks and gang.
Caitlin Postel: It sure does. And I bet Rich right now is like, “Oh, we went from purple-pink to blue-green and now Ryder red-gray.” Rich loves it red.
Brian Weinstein: [inaudible 00:04:10].
Caitlin Postel: Awesome. So I think about season two, a lot of consistency across the 11 episodes and guests that we had, Brian.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, I do as well. It’s always a lot of fun because we have so many entrepreneurial people on, and obviously when you’re in that mindset, certain things draw you into not only just being an entrepreneur, but just what it means and all the trials and tribulations. And I think we kicked off early this season with Nima who came on to talk about, I think it was his soccer apparel…
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, exactly.
Brian Weinstein: … That he was getting going with, right?
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, Nima was a fantastic guest. I think he really spoke to some challenges and things that people, even though maybe folks think that they really have a passion and, “I’m going to go make this sort of business,” and sometimes the heart just doesn’t follow the strategy or maybe it’s enough. I guess sometimes love ain’t enough, sometimes passionate enough if you don’t have some of that boring stuff behind it.
Brian Weinstein: Exactly, exactly. Or on the other hand, you’ve got this true passion for it like James did, right?
Caitlin Postel: Sure.
Brian Weinstein: And James talked about he had this passion, but he was never going to be told how to do anything, even though sometimes what he was being told was the right way to do things.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, right? And then Dr. Jason from ChannelApe, he had some medications sitting on a shelf. He said, “Let’s sell these bad boys,” and boom, ChannelApe is invented. And I think the quote, you say it best, I know that you said it on a few episodes, the quote about just go ahead, take it away.
Brian Weinstein: Oh yeah, yeah. So, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
Caitlin Postel: Ah, there it is.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. I mean, that really rings true in a lot of cases. And really entrepreneurs are the ones who see it. They don’t even necessarily know that it’s going to be a big thing. And I think James talked about it. I think Dr. Jason talked about it too. He just went out to set out to do something and it became something else. And I think the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones that realize that maybe what they set out to do, it went in a completely different direction and that’s the direction where they found success.
Caitlin Postel: Plot twist. You got to love it.
Brian Weinstein: Exactly. I think my favorite James Mark story though was about when he started the business and people were telling him that he should put together P&L. And he’s like, “Yeah, that’s what The Man would have me do. I’m not doing that.”
Caitlin Postel: Right, right.
Brian Weinstein: And then in the end, he said, “If only there was some way that I could track all of my profits and losses.” And he’s like, “Oh, that’s the P&L statement.”
Caitlin Postel: Exactly. Then he saluted The Man and got to work on his next business. Got to love it.
Brian Weinstein: Exactly right. Exactly right. So I mean, just thinking through, Caitlin, what are some of the other words or topics that resonated throughout the season?
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, I think another big one, Brian, was community. And I wish that producer Tanya had a way to capture the amount of times that the word community was used. I think a lot of communities were formed during the time when folks couldn’t go out and they just found a space and a home through brands that they were ordering from online from that to just… Also, another word I think that goes hand in hand with community is authenticity, which is another buzzword from season two, I think.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, no, I agree. And I know we had CC…
Caitlin Postel: CC!
Brian Weinstein: Caitlin T was on to talk about her experiences at Shopify and really building communities there. And we heard it a lot throughout the year and how brands really need to build that community. First of all, understand their community, resonate to their community, and create that because I think it keeps people engaged.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, absolutely. Couldn’t agree more. And I think CC, Canadian Caitlin, the better Caitlin, she used her favorite quote which was, “Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple and it’s that hard.” So while you may really aspire to create a community, if you’re not authentic in it, it becomes, I think, a lot more challenging to get and build that kind of mentality.
Brian Weinstein: Exactly. And I’ll tell you the value of a good producer, Tanya’s shooting me notes off to the side here, but she’s right. And she could have just stepped up to the mic and said something. But by creating that personalized experience, it drives loyalty and that’s the value that comes out of building your community.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, absolutely. And talking about experience, we had our friend Aaron Schwartz from Loop reverse logistics platform talking about… And Brian, you pointed back to back when you first started in the industry where folks would create as much friction as possible with returns. And now that’s taken such a pivot and become a big part for most brands that we work with, at least.
Brian Weinstein: I have to tell you that that’s something to me that has changed so much. And honestly, it really speaks to what’s changed in the e-commerce world. Now, I’ve been around for many a year…
Caitlin Postel: Tell us again.
Brian Weinstein: … I’m a lot longer in the tooth than most everybody else, but e-commerce, it was like, “Let’s not give them a label.” And at the time, they didn’t even have all the platforms, so they’d have to call customer service and they’d have to get a label sent, or there was a return service offered by UPS and FedEx where they’d send a call tag, it was called. And so everything you could do to prevent the consumer from sending back the return. But I mean, it kind of loops back, no pun intended, to what we were just talking about, about community. Because if you’re not trustworthy, if you’re not building, you’re never going to build that loyalty. And having platforms that simplify the process and actually make the experience feel like there’s no issues, it’s just as easy to purchase and return something, it’s all the same, the value that comes out of the returns platforms like Loop are just tremendous.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more when you said, “Pick up the phone and call customer service,” imagine a Millennial or a Gen Zer, forget it. They’d be like, “If I can’t text them, I’m keeping it. Forget about my money.”
Brian Weinstein: Exactly.
Caitlin Postel: “I’ll just order another one. I’m not even going to call. I can’t call.”
Brian Weinstein: Yes, yes. But you know what the difference is? You’d order from someplace else and that’s the importance of it.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. That’s where it is. Yeah, absolutely. So speaking of technology and the evolution, I think we’ve seen this a lot in our space, Brian; brands that took off reaching new levels, startup to emerging to enterprise in requiring tech stack, requiring technology to run the business and scale the business, which is another word that we heard a lot this season; scale and scalability.
Brian Weinstein: Right. For sure. And it’s one of those things that creeps up on you when you’re growing a business. And scale, that goes obviously for the fulfillment side, but the tech piece is incredible too, because if you don’t utilize the data to help you be better, you’re going to find yourself way behind. You need the ability to understand where your product is, when you need to order product, all the costs obviously that are associated to that and then being able to take all of that data and use it to enhance the experience. And it’s so many different facets, but if you fall behind and you’re scrambling to try to catch up, it could be detrimental to your business.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, for sure. And you think about the days of keeping your inventory on a spreadsheet, I think those are long gone. And having platforms that allow you to make decisions for your business easily and the data is accessible, just make things like inventory management that much easier. When we spoke to Jill Liliedahl when she spoke about small tweaks that you can make, adjustments that have a huge impact on bottom line, which I think is so important to brands big and small right now.
Brian Weinstein: Well, yes. And I’ve said this repeatedly, especially because of what we’ve seen happen over the last six months, inventory kills, right?
Caitlin Postel: It sure does. Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. And when you start to talk about inventory planning, you underestimate how important it can be just by turning your inventory a touch faster, how important it can be to your cash flow. And then that just means being able to reinvest into acquiring customers and retaining customers.
Caitlin Postel: Right. And then also avoiding inventory blow or stockouts, or making sure, again, back to community, you’re giving the people what they want. Why not, in 2022, let technology help you not hinder you?
Brian Weinstein: Yes, absolutely.
Caitlin Postel: Pivoting a little bit to maybe less fun topic, but more strategic strategy, I think, was another big theme in 2022. I know one strategy I hear folks talking about every day, brands that I’m interacting with, is capitalizing on international audiences, especially our folks up north in Canada and how they can expand the business. They’re set up, they’re good to go here in the U.S., but what does it look like? How do they enable communities overseas, and what does that strategy look like? I know that we had Alex from Passport Shipping, Nima, he’s from Shippo, but really Alex talking about what those international myths are and debunked a few for us.
Brian Weinstein: Right. And you really need to understand what you’re doing because you could harm your business, you could harm your margins with unexpected fees and surcharges and regulations are changing so fast throughout the globe. And I mean, obviously, we talked, I think, last year in season one a little bit about the EU and the UK and how much things have changed there. But that’s going on everywhere throughout the world. And you really need to have solid partners if you’re going to ship in an international market.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, right. We had two episodes actually, so we covered that quite a bit. It was such a big piece of last year. And I think folks, once they got their arms around it and were able to align on what those requirements were, were able to capitalize, which is always a great thing.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, I agree. Because there’s such a market. I mean, look, the U.S. obviously has extreme buying power, but when you start to factor in all the rest of the areas around the world, you need to be able to ship anywhere in the world seamlessly, or nearly anywhere seamlessly, and understand exactly what your costs look like and how to protect yourself and your customers at the end of the day.
Caitlin Postel: Right. And it’s always like, “Okay, you have the idea. I’m just going to go ahead and start shipping international.” Okay, what does that look like? What is the strategy? I know Sean Kim, who’s one of our in-house parcel experts, the parcel expert, he’ll say, “Do they have customer service in these areas? Do they have things to accommodate? Can they support international?” So I think it’s a great thing to do, but if done right, I guess.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. So from an international perspective, I mean, it’s all about the customer experience. And it’s like we talked about, look, it obviously starts with a purchase, but that post-purchase customer experience kicks off a lot. We talked about it with Noah from Malomo on Wizmo, right?
Caitlin Postel: “Where is my order? Where is it?”
Brian Weinstein: “I need it, I need it, I need to know where it is. Tell me where it is. I’ll be okay if I don’t have it tomorrow, but I still need to know where in the process it is.” Which by the way, I bought something off of TikTok that I don’t know where it is. We won’t mention the name of the company, but I asked you to look into it. I’m hoping it’s legit and that I just didn’t circulate my credit card throughout all of wherever in the universe. But yes.
Caitlin Postel: Oh man. Yeah, that is tricky. You took the plunge, Brian.
Brian Weinstein: I did. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. But it’s so important to find ways that resonate with your audience and sometimes it’s through things like, I don’t know, the loyalty program.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, absolutely. And I know we just came off of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and that was something that was covered. The loyalty programs as well as strategies for Black Friday, Cyber Monday that we covered with the ladies from Clearco, Alana and… Oh, no. Elana banana.
Brian Weinstein: Elana banana and Tori.
Caitlin Postel: And Tori, yeah. Yeah. Love that episode. Just really interesting ways that folks were getting creative to drive that experience and create that community. And then also maybe reward some loyalty there.
Brian Weinstein: There was a little bit of a, I don’t want to call it a gold rush of e-commerce companies, but there’s more competition every day. In your space, there’s more competition, and how do you break through that noise? How do you set yourself apart from the rest of your competitors? And then, again, then it becomes you got to prove yourself because your product’s got to be good and your service has to be impeccable.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, that’s for sure. And I know that we see it all the time. I feel like the verticals come in stages. We’re working on a ton of, I don’t know, apparel. Well, we’re always really much in apparel, but now there’s all electronics, now there’s all music, and then they come and go, but what differentiates the brands and what little things are they doing that go such a long way? And I loved when they talked about… I know one strategy was instead of offering discounts to everyone during the time of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, one of the Clearco folks that they worked with were rewarding folks that were supporting them the whole year. So it’s kind of like when you see the commercial for Fios and they’re offering a new customer this crazy entry point, and you’re like, “I’m paying quadruple that. Why aren’t you rewarding me?” And then you call them up and then you maybe haggle a little bit. But it’s like, “I’m here. I’m your customer. Why are you giving it out to everyone?”
Brian Weinstein: Oh, a hundred percent. And meanwhile, if you refer to me as a VIP, I’m like, “Oh, I’m in.”
Caitlin Postel: Now you’re speaking my language.
Brian Weinstein: Of course.
Caitlin Postel: Exclusive? Only for me? I’m in.
Brian Weinstein: “You must know me. I’m a VIP. Of course I am.”
Caitlin Postel: Exactly. I’m a loyalist.
Brian Weinstein: I’ll take two.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. I think it covers all of the buzzwords from the season, which is community, authenticity, because you don’t get there. You don’t get that wallet share from that person unless you’re hitting it on all cylinders and really delivering, I think…
Brian Weinstein: Yeah.
Caitlin Postel: … At least as a consumer. And maybe I [inaudible 00:19:13] too much.
Brian Weinstein: And it’s interesting because so much goes into building that, right? And it starts internally. So I know we had Leslie Karr come on to talk a little bit about the importance of customer success and customer success… And more in the B2B sense. This is all of your internal stakeholders, and if you have the right customer success teams that are communicating clearly of what they need and you’re openly and willingly sharing the good, the bad, the ugly, and then collaborating on how to improve, I think that is the part behind the scenes that really helps drive that excellent customer experience on the front end.
Caitlin Postel: Oh, yeah. I think Leslie would be very proud of that synopsis, Brian. I mean, I think that’s exactly what she said.
Brian Weinstein: I may have stole it from her. I’m not sure.
Caitlin Postel: It’s so important to set the stage and to let your partners know. I feel like in the past, brands working with extensions of their business are outsourcing, they were vendors. Now they’re partners. And if you’re not openly communicating and showing your cards to your partners, how can you expect them to execute? And how can you expect them to be proactive and be an extension of your business? And I think it’s so super important to meet each other at that middle ground to ensure success for both sides.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. I mean, I know we talk about it all the time. It’s a very consultative approach that what we do, and we’re experts in our own way and our own things, and others are experts in their own way and their own things. And being able to share that, or align you with the right experts, is what just creates the collaboration within the organizations and just makes everyone better. We’re kind of leaning on each other to make one another better with the right partners.
Caitlin Postel: Well said, Mr. Weinstein.
Brian Weinstein: Thank you. Wow.
Caitlin Postel: All right, all right. Okay.
Brian Weinstein: You know what? I can’t wait for Leslie to hear this.
Caitlin Postel: I know. That was good. All right, so 2022, 11 episodes.
Brian Weinstein: Yep. And now we have 2023 right coming over the… It’s coming up. It’s the sunrise in front of us, right? It’s just about to peak. We are just a little ways out from turning the corner into 2023. What do you think?
Caitlin Postel: Oh, man. Well, I would say nice comment from producer Tanya. “2022 was about acquiring customers. 2023 is about retaining customers.” Hit the nail on the head there, producer Tanya. I think folks are going to have to, again, show themselves and really be authentic and keep nailing it the way that they have to make sure that folks are spending their money with them and take advantage of the work that they did in 2022.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, I agree. We’ve talked about the headwinds, we know they’re coming, demand was down slightly. I think inventories are up, but I don’t know. Look, I’m not an economist, but I see jobs numbers are holding. I know there have been some layoffs, and with layoffs people are getting picked up pretty quick. And if we can continue to stay strong, I think the purchasing power of the public is still there. And obviously we’ve spent a lot of time, probably the last two years, acquiring customers. First and foremost is to retain. And then the customer acquisition spike will come again.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, right. The ebbs and flows are always going to be there. So it’s super important just to keep on what’s working, strategize what’s working, focus in on those points and maybe get rid of some things that weren’t so successful in 2022.
Brian Weinstein: No, a hundred percent. I’m looking forward to it.
Caitlin Postel: I am too. I’m excited for 2023. I like it. ’23, I’m into it. As it’s winding down it was, like I said in the beginning, it was a quick year, but always happy and excited for a fresh start.
Brian Weinstein: Right. Yeah. Listen, we all survived a pandemic…
Caitlin Postel: We’re all here, yes.
Brian Weinstein: … Now we’ve gone into this economic headwinds and we’re here. I think if we just continue to be entrepreneurial, be different, embrace the fact that we’ve got $1.29 trillion in online sales and I think there’s more to come.
Caitlin Postel: That’s a lot of money. That was a T trillion.
Brian Weinstein: Trillion.
Caitlin Postel: Wowses.
Brian Weinstein: Trillion.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, so-
Brian Weinstein: And I have to imagine that producer Tanya had that in her back pocket this whole time. Because I did not just whip that up. That came straight from her.
Caitlin Postel: She’s saving all these gems for December. It must be this is her month. She’s doing it.
Brian Weinstein: This is her month. She loves recap episodes. She told me that off-air.
Tanya Phipps: I just reviewed an article talking about retail returns. It was like a recap of 2022 of our returns. So that big number stood out to me. And as well as the overall return rates are stabilizing, so there was a decrease from last year. It was 16.6% and this year it’s 16.5%. So we’ll take. It’s slight, but it will take it, right?
Caitlin Postel: It’s an improvement for sure.
Tanya Phipps: Yeah. Reports indicate that that’s an indication of stabilization.
Brian Weinstein: Yep.
Caitlin Postel: Okay. Coming in with the good news. I love it.
Brian Weinstein: Absolutely amazing. All right, Caitlin, anything else that we didn’t say about 2022 or thoughts that we didn’t express about 2023?
Caitlin Postel: No, I mean, thank you to all of our guests from this year. It was super interesting and exciting and these people who are really subject-matter experts in their space, it shows. And we really appreciate it. I really appreciated the conversations from this year.
Brian Weinstein: I did too. When you get around a lot of smart people that are driven, that are seeing things in the market where there’s a need and then capitalizing on it, even sometimes unintentionally so, it’s really fun to get their perspectives. And sometimes it’s fun too to hear their war stories and horror stories of things they tried that didn’t work. Like opening up a vegan market in the middle of Detroit years ago. So before most people knew what vegans were.
But I think those are the types of stories and people that are so engaging. And I would also like to thank the listeners who are out there and want to learn from subject-matter experts. And Caitlin and I have a lot of fun doing this, but we are not the subject-matter experts. We are just there to make sure that we’re asking the right questions and giving them the right platform to talk about it.
Caitlin Postel: For sure. Thank you to the listeners, a hundred percent, Brian. Shout out to my mom, my partner. That’s about all I got coming in hot from my audience side, but I think we’ve expanded this year. Really appreciate folks tuning in and checking us out.
Brian Weinstein: So maybe we have more than the eight listeners that Mary told us we had?
Caitlin Postel: There it is. I knew the year would not come to an end without the eight listeners.
Brian Weinstein: Thanks, Berko, for believing in us.
Caitlin Postel: Okay, Mary. We forgive you.
Mary Berko: I’ll take one for the team. That’s for the humor.
Brian Weinstein: All right, very good. Everybody, peace. Have a great year, great holidays, and we look forward to coming back in 2023.
Caitlin Postel: Thank you to all of our guests. Thank you to all of our listeners. Thank you to our amazing production team Rich, producer Tanya, Mary. Everyone check us out every other week on your favorite podcast platform. Bye guys.
Brian Weinstein: Thank you.