How can brands stand out from the crowd and deliver the best customer experience? What does proper peak season planning look like? In a post-pandemic world, where does the retail channel come into play? What does the Ryder acquisition mean for the logistics marketplace at large? In the first episode of season 2, we’ll dive deep into these questions, recap season 1, and talk about what lies ahead for the next half of the year.
03:00: Revisiting all things parcel and peak planning.
08:52: The value of building a community around your brand.
11:30: Staying in pace with the evolving industry and selling channels.
14:16: Finding your audience’s niche products and values.
16:00: Choosing the right selling channels – is retail making a comeback?
17:42: The returns revolution: to create friction or not to create friction?
21:23: Exploring the Ryder/Whiplash acquisition – what does it mean?
Brian Weinstein: Welcome everybody to Sippin’ & 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. Grab your drink of choice, kick back, it’s Sippin’ & Shippin’ time. All right. Welcome, everybody to another episode of Sippin’ & Shippin’. I am your host, Brian Weinstein. And with me, as she always is, my co-host, Caitlin Postel.
Caitlin Postel: Hey, Brian.
Brian Weinstein: Hey, Caitlin. We’re rocking 2022.
Caitlin Postel: That’s right we are. 2022. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22.
Brian Weinstein: Yes, I’ll go with that. I’m about as far away from 22 as you can be, but that’s okay. That’s okay. Mentally, I’m 22. I never would’ve thunk it, but here we are, starting season two of Sippin’ & Shippin’.
Caitlin Postel: Very exciting. Season two.
Brian Weinstein: We actually had more listeners than my parents and your parents, which is exciting as well.
Caitlin Postel: That’s what they tell us. I’m hoping to gain some more this year with some interesting subject matter experts.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. Special thanks out to all of the subject matter experts that came on last year. I know, Caitlin, we’ve talked about this, but to me, the best part about doing this podcast is the stuff that we’re learning. Because obviously, these are areas that we might not be well versed in and I thought that was invaluable to me last year to learn this stuff.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, 100%. You took the words out of my mouth. I was thinking like even the topics that we weren’t so well versed on, just to be able to engage with these folks that are just operating on such a caliber, just really experts and thought leaders in our industry, it was great.
Brian Weinstein: I think it challenged us. We make it look so easy, but people don’t realize all of the research that we’re doing behind the scenes to at least get conversational on these things. So I think that helped a lot in the learning process.
Caitlin Postel: 100%. Yeah. So we kicked off last year with some contact around eCommerce brands, I think, right?
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Look, the whole concept here is, and I’m sure we can talk to Rich and Mary, for those of you that don’t know, really help us put this podcast together, they have been fantastic. I’m sure there’s areas that you could reach out and ask us questions if you have any follow-ups on any of the episodes from last year. But the subject matter experts and what they’re here for, is really to go out to the group of people that we’re targeting and saying, “Hey, look, here’s some information that’s not something readily available or readily known in the industry.” And I thought they did a great job of that last year.
Caitlin Postel: Definitely dropped some gems, even stuff that I wasn’t too sure on.
Brian Weinstein: Yes, yes. And some of it is extremely timely. When we did the Brexit, talking about UK and EU, you can’t get subject matter like that… The subject matter expert like that, that you can go… Was it two episodes?
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. We had a bonus episode just because I think everyone was just kind of… Their heads were spinning just how to wrap their minds around these changes, and who better than a subject matter expert just to really put everything in perspective and in line to educate us and the brands alike.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, for sure. Shaun King from Kings VAT, obviously they know their stuff. By the way, it’s still very relevant today because all those rules still apply. We’re over a year later in the UK. In the EU, I think we’re six months later. So a lot of it is still very topical information.
Caitlin Postel: I think that partial space is just going to continue to evolve. I know we’ve heard some changes coming down the pike with Canada and some other international locations, so that’ll be interesting to see how folks can stay on top of it because it really is essential to the business. I think Canada is always folks, especially that are domestically based here in the US, Canada is that low hanging fruit… Pun intended right there, our friends up north. So why not just take advantage of those 60 million consumers up in that market?
Brian Weinstein: Exactly right. And parcel’s such an important part of eCommerce that I know we had at least two episodes last year that touched on that. Some of it was just around what’s going on in the parcel market, which I’m sure we’re going to have more episodes this year touching on regional carriers and others that are really outside of the big major carriers. But it’s so impactful and there was so much going on there. We had an episode towards the end of the year, how is it going to hold up? And you know what? I think it held up. It wasn’t perfect. It’s far from perfect still, but we got through it.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, we sure did. It was great to have Sean Kim, [inaudible] Shady, shout out to him, our resident parcel expert here at Whiplash. But I think that was something that we saw at the end of 2021, that folks thought that we were going to see this crazy spike again, like we have in the past. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, how will the parcel carriers be able to handle it all? But I guess that’s not really what we saw, right Brian?
Brian Weinstein: No. No, we didn’t. And the parcel carriers overall, I think they were helped by really raising their hands and saying, “Hey, we’re going to struggle.” I think they were helped by the brands. I think the brands got smart and said, “Hey, look, we’re not going to run all of our sales that last week or so of November, and then drive that through mid-December.” And they pulled back and started earlier.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. Raising hands, raising rates all towards the initiative to just get those parcels out earlier than later.
Brian Weinstein: Exactly. Exactly. And we touched mid-season, we had some of our own resident experts on the Whiplash side, Andrew Bagwell and Mike Venditti to come in and talk about peak planning and hiring people, getting information out to the customers, so they can get it out to their end consumer. And I think that all started to play a role in shaping the peak holiday season.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, for sure. And we still see it. I know Mike talked about it a lot in the episode that we talked about labor planning for peak. Labor continues to be a constraint, even here in 2022.
Brian Weinstein: It does. And I think what it’s saying… Well, you’ve got one, the demand is still very high. Demand is high. So even though all the subsidy payments coming out from the government, all that was handled, which was really necessary through the COVID period, that’s all come to an end. The demand has remained so high, that labor continues to be a struggle. And it’s not in a particular region, it’s all throughout the country.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. And I think the pandemic put folks in a position where if they had the opportunity to work from home, they see those different options, different routes to go and still be able to support themselves and their family, which is fantastic. And I know in our space, especially with this younger generation, maybe they don’t want to be [inaudible] and Shippin’. They want to be in the comfort of their own home. So now, automation comes into play. And I know it’s a heavy topic and at the forefront of a lot of folks’ minds here in the fulfillment space, just how can we leverage automation? And I think that’s something that’s going to continue to just be very relevant.
Brian Weinstein: This sounds like an episode. This sounds like a future episode.
Caitlin Postel: Rich, Mary, who can we get? Let’s get it. Let’s get them, let’s tackle this subject.
Brian Weinstein: We’re going to book some subject matter experts here, for sure in that area. Because to your point, Caitlin, the only way we’re going to offset some of the labor… Look, it’s never going to be a labor less role. Right?
Caitlin Postel: Right.
Brian Weinstein: What we do, is very labor driven. However, there’s ways to offset it that will help alleviate some of the labor constraints that we’re facing right now and I think that’s going to be important to look at. But it wasn’t all about fulfillment. It wasn’t all about the actual operations. We talked a lot about importance of things like headless commerce, which I will tell you after a 60 minute episode, and it was great to have Todd Welling and Andrew Potkewitz on. I’m still not sure I fully understand it, but that’s okay. Because I think it was valuable to those that are out there and do understand it and it was very important to them. And then we had things with micro influencers and how they can play a role. All of this really brought the content and what’s important, I think to our target audience, to the surface.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. I think you can’t ship orders without a presence. You don’t get a presence without marketing. For Rich Reba, I know it’s all about marketing. For other folks, it’s about marketing… Getting the name out there, building the brand, building a community. I know that we had, what’s his name from Young Nails? And just this great success-
Brian Weinstein: Habib.
Caitlin Postel: Yes, yes. Just wow. Starting from a couple hundred followers up to a million plus and just continuing to build that community so important.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. I’m sorry. I think it’s Habib, Habib Salo. Yes. And he was great. The way he builds his content around his community, I just thought was fantastical. He’s really just catering to his audience and he understands exactly what they’re looking for, what’s going to be valuable to them. And he’s not afraid to take a shot on something for marketing, because he is like, “We’re putting it out all the time. If it doesn’t resonate, so what? We move on.”
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. And I think authenticity was just a huge part of it, too. Like, folks are calling it out. They know when you’re just looking for those likes, looking for those clicks versus putting out something that’s really important to you and building the brand. And just like what we try and do on all these episodes, just continue to bring value day in and day out.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. And from an authenticity perspective, we had Eric Gerard on from Brunt Workwear, who I’ve told you this many times, Caitlin is that episode was sort of near and dear to me because I sort of feel like I grew up in that sort of blue collar. Started out was a small 3PL company, it was a family company and we were very, very hands on. And so that resonated with me in how he, not only brought a brand to life, but he brought a brand to life in an underserved market and some of the obstacles that he was faced with and that he had to overcome.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah, absolutely. I love that story, too. And just to see them continue to succeed, Brunt Workwear for those of you who aren’t aware, check them out. A fantastic brand that just continues to be boots to the ground, literally, figuratively, just really resonating with the folks there doing their thing.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. So the year 2021 was just a fantastic year overall in the eCommerce space. I think the way people are selling is continuing to evolve and will continue to evolve. And we’ve got to stay in pace with it or get out in front of it. But overall, the year was obviously not without its struggles, again, parcel ports. The ports, the ports. This is still an ongoing saga that hopefully, will start to alleviate towards the end of this year. That’s going to be a big part of really how the supply chain goes, is really going to go back. How the port goes, the supply chain goes. But sales remained heavy and now, as we start to move towards 2022, what do you think?
Caitlin Postel: Oh, man. Put me on the spot, why don’t you? I don’t think this train is stopping. I think that retail is definitely redefining itself. I think that folks that were nimble that were in retail wholesale, we’re able to transition into e-com. But in that same breath, folks who are really living and breathing digitally native brands are now coming out with some concepts to bring people into the space and just do it different, which I love. Just what makes it different and make it personal and personable, I guess, to the end users, which I think is fantastic.
Brian Weinstein: That’s right. That’s right. And look, there’s challenges going on right now. You’ve got conflict in the world. You’ve got the threat of inflation in the US specifically. There are going to be challenges, but listen, the pandemic was a challenge. Life is full of challenges. And what I’m finding now, what I see, especially in this space, is we continue to embrace the entrepreneurs. The ones who are out there trying and bringing their brands and their verticals out into the forefront. And I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.
Caitlin Postel: No. No way. I think it’s just going to continue to grow bigger and bigger. Seeing just disruption in different markets where you otherwise, thought were kind of dead or weren’t going anywhere. But it’s going to be interesting this year, just to see how we continue to evolve in this space.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. And I see the consumers continuing to reward those who find that niche, who find that space in the market, who are out there doing something different. And that’s the difference. And this is no knock against brick and mortar. It is what it is. But when you have brick and mortar, you’ve got people that curate the collections of whatever it is, whether it’s electronics, whether it’s fashion. There is a select group of people that are curating that, as opposed to the population at large, who is making those decisions. And I really do believe that they will continue to reward entrepreneurs who find their niche, their gap in the market and go out there and produce a product that people like, that deliver it in a way that people appreciate, and that are delivering a trustworthy experience.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. And I think it also just has to resonate with the end users, what’s their values, what’s their core beliefs? Another buzzword, which I think is a few years back, but we heard a lot of last year, is sustainability, carbon offsetting. We had an episode on that. And then you talk about in that space, delivering that product, D2C. What does the packaging look like? Am I able to contribute, to make a donation, add on in the cart to continue to support those things that I believe in as an end user?
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. No, absolutely. Absolutely. And again, the world is evolving in that sense of the consumerism. I may have just made up a word there. But it is evolving and how you’re selling online versus retail. We had Brian Beck on for an episode last year, talking about channel conflict. And again, this is not a knock on retail, but it used to be that what they said was gospel. And as a brand, you did that. But you know what? You’re getting so much traction from your own websites, from each other’s websites. There has to be harmony. There has to be harmony and you have to have that ability to sell.
Caitlin Postel: Right. And then we also had Yohan Jacob up on talking about, “When is the right time? How do you make that transition going from D2C into retail, wholesale? Does it make sense? And then Brian Beck comes in with the next episode like, “Okay, well, let’s see about channel conflict.” So it’s definitely a balance, a tricky balance, but one that I think a lot of forward thinking merchants have been able to nail pretty effectively.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. And look, there are definitely going to be brands who stay holistic. And they are looking to find a way to just stay digitally native, but then there’s a whole bunch of others who are saying, “Look, at the very least, I can use retail as sort of another marketing avenue to get my products out there, expose some of my items, but then keep the rest.” So there’s a way to balance it.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. Right. Or have a brick and mortar location, so that you can have the people who bought online, go in and drop off their package if they want to return it or have an exchange. The returns revolution. We have third party providers that are just elevating making certain people want to go the friction list route. Some people want to create some friction. And I know it’s something that’s that you’ve seen the evolution of personally.
Brian Weinstein: Yes, yes. Because I do remember once upon a time, when e-commerce was very, very early on, it was like, “Let’s make it as difficult as we can for them to return the product.” And I’m twisting my mustache in the corner, by the way-
Caitlin Postel: Right. “Mwahahaha.”
Brian Weinstein: But now, it’s the exact opposite. It’s like, “How can we make this so easy because we want our customers to feel so comfortable buying from us, that everything from start to finish is just smooth as silk? Like, how do we do that?” The returns is a big platform. And we had Happy Returns on last year, and I think that was a great episode. And we’re looking to have some more conversations this year about returns, because it is an important part of the experience.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. And it’s definitely going to stay a part of the experience, if folks want to continue to capture and gain those brand loyalists. I know I’m apprehensive even, because I don’t want to order a ton of stuff and then have to send it back. It just sounds like so draining. But when they make it that easy for you… And even now, some merchants are even allowing you to try it before you buy it, which I think is cool. Especially in these economic times, people don’t want to tie up their funds. Of course, you’re going to give them a refund but, “Hey, let me try it on.”
Brian Weinstein: Exactly right. Exactly right. Well, so the nice part about when we had David Sobie from Happy Returns on, is we probably started in the industry at similar times. So he remembered that whole experience, too. And it was just nice to talk about how much that’s changed. But yeah, I think there’s going to be a lot more that’s going to continue to evolve there. And I do believe that that try it before you buy it model is going to sort of take off, especially with a bigger ticket item, where it might make a lot more sense. And that could be an episode later this year as well.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. We see it all the time, right? The higher the price point, the higher the average order value, the higher the return rate. So why not just grab a hold of those people that are filling the cart and hold on tight and hope maybe they keep some of that stuff?
Brian Weinstein: Exactly right. Exactly right. So some of my goals for 2022 really, are just to continue to find these subject matter experts that we can bring on that are adding value. We talk about it too, and this is not a shameless blog. But we talk as we’re selling into Whiplash. We’re always looking for entrepreneurs, people that you’re excited about the brand, there’s so much going on there. And there could be a multitude of different reasons, it could be the product itself, it could be the leadership team. There’s a whole bunch of different things that kind of give us the warm and fuzzies about a brand. Same thing here for the Sippin’ & Shippin’ podcast, it’s more about what we want to do. So listen, it gives you and I the opportunity to continue to learn.
Caitlin Postel: 100%. And I look forward to that as well. And then you talk about subject matter experts and we tapped into some of our resources within the Whiplash team. So now, with the… We can’t talk about 20, 21 without talking about the highlight of what happened to us as an organization back in December. And now, we have a whole new group of folks that maybe we could tap into as some thought leaders.
Brian Weinstein: Yes. So just to address the elephant in the room, as many of you probably read, Whiplash was acquired by Ryder Systems in December. Super excited after a long and very successful journey with our PE group, who was extremely supportive. It was just that time. And we were sold into Ryder in December. And aside from the tens of thousands of additional listeners that we get just by default, because it’s all about sippin’ and shippin’ as we know.
Caitlin Postel: I didn’t even think of that. Just with the employee base, no wonder why we got that spike, the demand for us to come back.
Brian Weinstein: Exactly. All joking aside, I’ve gotten emails from a bunch of people at Ryder who are like, “Hey, can you give me the link to the episodes? We really want to go and listen. I want to educate myself more in this e-commerce space.”
Caitlin Postel: Nice.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, we’re looking forward to it. We’re going to get a lot of resources. That as sometimes as you get to the end of your cycle with a PE group, don’t necessarily come along. We are in a really good position right now. I know Ryder wants us to take this whiplash eCommerce offering to a whole other level, but continue to stick to our knitting, which is nice, which is going after emerging to enterprise brands. And it’s really what’s made us successful, so we’re going to stick to that. But I’m excited about what the future holds with the resources and the additional funding that we’re going to get.
Caitlin Postel: Sponsor, sponsor.
Brian Weinstein: Rich, take notes.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. No, it is super exciting. I’m glad that they let us continue to do this, because I know it’s important to, not even our teams, but just folks out there that we engage with on a day to day basis. We’re having the conversations, we’re working the sales process, we’re hearing the pain points, we’re understanding new technologies, new solutions that are coming to the forefront. So why not share that with the greater audience, with our community that we’re hopefully building here, to just continue to educate not only ourselves, but some of our colleagues?
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. No, I can’t agree with you more. Again, and I just continue to stress that education part, that’s the purpose of this podcast. And it’s obviously not just to educate you and I. I’m probably a lost cause, maybe there’s still hope for you. But for the audience in general, I think the goal here is to just bring more information. Because information is knowledge, knowledge is power. And I’m going to end it on that note. So welcome back, everybody, to another season of Sippin & Shippin’, looking forward to it. Hope you tune in. We’ll have episodes sometime starting over the next couple of weeks. And yeah, we’ll keep you tuned into what’s coming up with our normal cadence of announcements, but set to begin soon. Caitlin, you want to take us out?
Caitlin Postel: Sure. Yeah. Super excited for this season. Maybe we’ll throw in some more sippin’, definitely going to be doing a ton of shippin’. So make sure you check us out at sippinandshippin.com, on Spotify, Anchor, or whatever platform that you like to listen to your podcast on, guys. Make sure you check us out, looking forward to the season. Thanks, Brian.
Brian Weinstein: All right. Thanks, Caitlin. Bye, everybody.