In 2022, the key to a successful business revolves around the customer experience – and more importantly, the community-driven approach. But, building a community that feels authentic isn’t always easy. Customers are increasingly sensitive to whether retailers are simply selling to them or making an effort to strengthen relationships. The real question becomes: how can brands create genuine communities? Fun fact: it doesn’t always start with the customers. We took a deep dive into all things community with Caitlin Teed from Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash. One of her favorite quotes? “Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.” – Danny Meyer
01:25 Guest intro and background: Caitlin Teed (CC)
03:20 The Shopify ecosystem and what makes it a community
07:27 Community vs. audience – what’s the difference?
08:51 The power of authenticity and leveling up to your mission statement
12:41 What brands are harnessing a community?
14:45 Passionate people: if you believe it, your customers will believe it
16:19 A post-pandemic market: the experience-driven, genuine approach
19:50 What makes big brands feel small? And, how can they build a thriving community?
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 Sippin’ and Shippin’ time.
Welcome everybody, to another episode of Sippin’ and Shippin’. I am your host, Brian Weinstein. And this week, co-hosting with me, is not Caitlin Postel. She’s going by C-Post this week. Caitlin, how you doing?
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: I’m doing well today. Happy to be part of the Caitlin-Caitlin, episode C squared, Cs up. Let’s get it.
Brian Weinstein: Nice, nice. And our special guest today, and now you’ll understand the confusion, and why Caitlin has become C-Post for the week. We have Caitlin Teed from our Whiplash Partnerships Group, who is going to be known today as CC. What’s up CC?
Caitlin Teed aka CC: ‘Sup, Bri guy. [inaudible 00:01:00].
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Hey, CC.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Love the acronyms.
Brian Weinstein: Nice.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah. Bri, do you want to explain why I’m CC?
Brian Weinstein: Yes. I’m sorry. So she is our neighbor from the north, and so I refer to her as Canadian Caitlin, it was just easier. And then that became CC because Canadian Caitlyn’s mouthful.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah, yeah. And Canadian Club whiskey. Great big brand.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, exactly right.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: It has multiple meanings. Yeah. I like when we finally established that, but yeah. Hey everyone, I’m so excited to be here, and talk with some of my favorite folks on the team.
Brian Weinstein: So just for everybody out there who is not familiar with CC. CC is part of the writer eCommerce by Whiplash Partnerships Group. And honestly, she’s been a tremendous asset, building relationships. So we wanted to have her come on today to talk a little bit about community, and Caitlin, CC, why don’t you tee it up and give us a little bit of your background.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah. Oh gosh. I’ve got a crazy background. Starting at the beginning, I thought I was going to get into journalism. I loved the idea of being a voice of the people, and talking to people face to face. And I hated the idea of being stuck in a cubicle. I was like, anything but a cubicle, take me out of the field. That’s where I want to be. And then that translated to finishing my degree and realizing there were not a lot of great paying jobs in journalism, and a lot of unpaid internships. And that just didn’t vibe with my style, as much as I loved the craft. And I found my way to working for a couple entrepreneurs. And then I eventually started working at Apple as well, as a specialist. And then I found my way to Shopify, in the early days, I started the day that Shopify IPO’d, which was a pretty…
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Wow.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: And it was very unfortunate as a contract worker, not getting some of those good looking share options. But that’s not to say that it did not still skyrocket as a stock, and being a part of that rocket ship was such a cool experience for seven years, five different roles. I wore a lot of hats. When I got bored of something I just tried something new on, but everything always centered around partnerships and relationships for me in every role I did. Because that, for me, I was the biggest advocate of our partners internally, because they weren’t necessarily our primary audience, but they were definitely a key and essential part of making Shopify the company it is today.
Brian Weinstein: And it’s interesting because Shopify, I’m not calling it the center of the universe, but in eCommerce it has a very important role, and it touches a lot of the brands. There’s just so much that has spawned from out of that ecosystem. So you’ve got all of that, the community pointing back that way.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: So I’m sure you had a lot of exposure to, not only great brands, but great products in all different types of software space.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Oh yeah. And it’s been such a journey, and I think it was cool also seeing folks hop on the Shopify bandwagon, like hosting an unofficial Shopify podcast, Kurt Easter hosts that, and has had over millions of downloads of that. It’s cool seeing how people kind of latch themselves onto it, no matter what industry they were in. I remember one time I started and supported Shopify and I got a ticket in and they’re like, “Oh, I’d like to speak to Harley Finkelstein”. And I was like, “Sure, no problem. Let me just message him on Slack and just see if I can get him teed up for you”. And my boss was like “Caitlin, that’s the president of Shopify, you can’t just…”
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: I was just going to say. You mean you didn’t have a transfer direct to him button? No, that wasn’t on there?
Caitlin Teed aka CC: It was just such a random… it was a VR guy and I was like, I don’t know what’s happening. It’s like, if you don’t have Harley’s number, you’re not getting to him through me.
Brian Weinstein: Right, right.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Don’t be that girl.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah. No, no, no.
Brian Weinstein: So you get into, and I did not mean to use this as a segue, but I guess I will. You get into Shopify being… obviously it’s huge. And then just like if you’re moving into a big city, what you want to do is find a community that works for you, and maybe it’s communities. And so talk a little bit about, in your experience, with building those communities.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Community is such an interesting word and concept in general, and Brian, I love how you stated it as finding your community. So I think that’s so many people, no matter how you’re associated to Shopify, like an internal person, someone who just started at Shopify. Going from onboarding and meeting new people, to someone who is a small business, trying to get set up, to someone who is an agency or tech business, trying to integrate or become a part of that big ecosystem. And it really boils down to finding the people you vibe with the most, and also finding the helpfulness. There are people out there in this ecosystem of eCommerce, I feel like an entrepreneurialism is entrepreneurial endeavors, that just genuinely… they’re very proud of their own success. And they care about others in this space. And that trickled down even to when I was starting at Shopify, and people would take me under their wing.
My boss at the time was like, “I know you’re not going to be in this role for long. I’m excited to see you grow. I’m excited to see you try on new roles, and wear new hats”. And it was never a resentment thing for someone to move on from something. And if anything, you then just found your next community of people, and your new team and people that you chose to be on that team. We were using the word “shopifam” in a lot of ways, and they actually asked to kind of push away from that, because the concept of family is that you’re born into it, but teams are chosen, and you get to pick the people on your team and the people you want to connect yourself with, that resonate the most with you.
Yeah. So community is such an important part of that. Because with community, you find identity and you find belonging. You feel that support. And yet you feel that internally, with the team summits they would do, or in virtual hangouts or get togethers, or Shopify Unite. And you get it externally through having people feel like they can give you real and solid feedback about the product. And I think that’s also where it’s become such a pivotal product because of that, hearing that feedback and taking it in.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. That’s a great point. I think when you’re talking about, obviously Shopify being such a huge organization, but even for an eCommerce brand, who might be an emerging brand, that’s just coming up. It’s important for them to build a community around their brand. Right.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yes.
Brian Weinstein: And build, I guess, call them fans.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Fan followings. Yeah. And it’s not just the followers you have on your… I think people think that it’s like, oh my community is… People often disassociate or associate community and audience. And I think they’re two completely different things. You have an audience that you market to, and those are the branches that you’re branching out to, and trying to find new people to come to you.
But what really makes people feel connected to you is in your roots. It is in how you get those people to come to feel that support together, and not just rely on you, but rely on each other, and be able to feel comfortable saying… fans of Glossier, for example, I’m a huge Glossier fan. And I found out about that business because of a friend who was obsessed with their products. And now I’m one of their biggest fans because they make me feel special. But I also feel special because I can share that with experience with other people, and give that referral, share that I’m having a great experience with a great product, and not feel like it’s inauthentic. Because I know that it came from an initial, authentic place of this community that they were building, of people that genuinely believe and love their products.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: And how do you carry that genuine… when you say genuine, it just strikes the chord because we talk about that a lot on the show, just needing that authenticity and people just calling bullshit. How do you bring that to the table and just keep that consistent? What has been your experience in seeing brands and partners just be able to maintain that authenticity?
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah. It’s a tough one because… Yeah, it’s a great question, CP. I think it can come from so many different factors. It’s not like a one solve, but I think one thing that we’ve talked about is also feeling that connective tissue as a company. So I can’t speak to every brand’s… the way they treat their employees, but having your employees feel a part of a community, and again, that chosen team, not a family, we’re here for a similar goal and a similar reason. And making sure that your team, that you employ or that you contract, or however you were working with them, feel connected to your mission and why you’re there. They’re going to push that out to everyone else. Every interaction they have with your customers. Or as well, their friends and family.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: So, yeah.
Brian Weinstein: I agree with that. It’s interesting because your organization, if you’re a brand or service or whatever, your organization needs to permeate that feeling. It just has to be out there. And it does start internally, because if you’ve got people in your org that don’t truly believe in your product or your service, it’s hard for them to convey that message.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: Not to get all mystic and stuff, but there is an aura that comes out of people.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Get mystic, get mystic.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Getting full moon energy, Bri guys.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: A hundred percent. So there is that feeling, that the organization, that the people, and when you meet somebody and you’re like, “Hey, I work for this brand and we love it there. We have a great time at someplace”, it sort of excites people to go on to your site and buy whatever your wares or services are.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more with that. And I think it’s interesting because you helped… brands are a label of that feeling and it’s like, you can’t necessarily… It’s an easy way of a saying, like Apple, oh, I know that feeling. I know the feeling they give when you’re there, in experience, and you have a broken phone and they’re consoling you, and they’re making sure you know it’s going to be okay. That feeling can be labeled by brands, and certain brands invoke certain feelings. And it boils down to the people, and how they make you feel. And one of my favorite quotes is from Danny Myers and it’s like, “Business, like life, it’s all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple. And it’s also that hard”. And he founded Shake Shack and a variety of other restaurants in New York, and his book “Setting the Table” is such a great example of how that hospitality industry can really tie into everything you do in your business. Because it is about that feeling you invoke for your employees, for your customers, for any associates or referral partners with you. And making that consistent and making sure everyone aligns the same goal. Like, at Shopify, we had our mission statement “Make commerce better for everyone”. And as soon as that was announced internally to the team, I can’t tell you a project brief I didn’t see with that at the top of it, or if everything was leveling up to that…
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Made it easier?
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah, made it easy to do work. So I think that could be, and I’m just thinking about this now, but as a brand, think about what your mission statement is. And make sure it aligns to everything you do, and your employees are working towards together. And then that can be felt by your customers.
Brian Weinstein: And I’m going to ask this question… Actually, the two of you. So what are some of your examples of the way brands or services that are out there in the universe are harnessing that, and the kind of messages they’re putting out and helping to build that community.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Putting us on the spot.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: I’m trying to think of things I buy most frequently. Sorry, CP, if you have one, go for it.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: I’m trying to think of an instance where… I don’t know if it was community or more just closeness of a Stitch Fix. It’s like, you’re excited to get this Stitch Fix, it arrives. Maybe you’re a little disappointed, something doesn’t fit, or something came in the wrong way than it was supposed to, but they are on it. Anytime I’ve communicated with their customer service, it’s like as if I’m texting my friend. They’re getting back to me, they’re getting it back on track. They’re making sure that I’m getting the product I want. And most importantly, I think it’s coming back. They want to make sure that next month or in the next three months, I’m saying, “Yeah, I’m excited to get my next box”. Right?
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: So just keeping it coming back, and just having that constant communication. What didn’t work this time? What will work next time, to just keep it coming back. I think that’s just the first thing that came to my mind, maybe because I’m constantly looking for the next fit, but I don’t know. I think they do a great job.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: I love that. And I think subscriptions and membership based businesses can be really great at creating community, because there’s the consistency there. Which is what I think keeps to your point, be consistent. As long as you’re experiencing, you’re getting those things that you keep wanting and if something doesn’t work, you’re getting an answer right away, and you’re not waiting. I think that’s something we, and the 3PL and the shipment space can totally relate to is the least…
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: A hundred percent. Yeah.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: The worst experience is if you don’t receive something, or it’s late, or you experience poor customer service. And that’s just no fun at all.
Brian Weinstein: No. And the shame of it is, sometimes, I think, is how to get… I wish you could meet the people behind the scenes even more. So now, obviously, with what we do, we get to meet sometimes the founders or some of the leads within the organization. And there was a company I met with the other day, and they were talking about their clean air and water initiatives that they were going in. And they don’t have to bullshit me. We’re just talking, we’re sitting in a conference room in a warehouse talking about potentially fulfillment opportunities down the road. But they genuinely are a part of this. And then it makes me say, what do I need to do better? How can I be better? How can we be better as an organization and challenge ourselves? And then now, all of a sudden I’m like, “Damn, I have to buy from these guys now because I really like them”.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: The trickle effect and the authenticity. You didn’t feel like they believed it, and you believed that they believed it.
Brian Weinstein: Yes. Yes. Because I feel like making those fans, making fans of the community that you’re targeting and then…
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yes, yes.
Brian Weinstein: Like you were saying, CC, about Glossier. So now all of a sudden you’re like, I want to order from them. And because when you’re buying, you might go to Amazon when you’re shopping, you go to brands and that experience is just, that’s what you’re looking for.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. It’s like that boutique versus the just big box kind of experience. And when you get that boutique experience, you feel a part of something. And I love what you’re saying about feeling passion, because when people are passionate about something and that’s also about making sure you’re hiring the right people too, and making sure that you’re attracting the right customers. And it’s just a big puzzle we’re all trying to put together. And a lot of people are figuring it out. But I think it’s also about keeping it going and continuing to ask those questions.
Brian Weinstein: And it’s interesting too, because, and not to poo poo on brick and mortar, especially the bigger department stores. But if you go back, I’m big fan of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I don’t know if you remember the beginning?
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Oh my God, I do.
Brian Weinstein: Right? So she worked for… was it, who was it? Was it Gimbles? I don’t remember which department you worked for.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah. Yeah. It was a big department store. Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: When you’re in there, people go there for the experience. It was something, you walked in there and you felt kind of glamorous and you don’t get that now so much in the bigger retailers. But you can get that from the online stores, and then you can make that personal connection, or you feel different or special because they’re bringing you in. Right?
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Yeah.
Brian Weinstein: It’s so funny you say that, Brian, just because I was recently in an Aritzia, and I was thinking to myself, because they’re notoriously bad for just constantly being on you. Like, “Oh you have something in your hand, let me get you a fitting room”, blah, blah, blah. But it doesn’t feel authentic to me. It’s never felt authentic and they’re still very successful because they have very great high fashionable clothing. But I actually was thinking, I was like, I wish I had a button that I could put on my chest when I walk in the store that says, please do not talk to me. I’m here just to do my own thing. But that’s because we’ve come to that place now, where you either have someone constantly on you, you can tell they’re just looking for their sale. It’s not about the experience, necessarily. And I mean, that could be different for other people, but I agree with you, Brian. I think we need more of that.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: The efforts seem like self-serving, not really authentic or community building. And I feel like the digitally native brands get it, because they have to. If I go into a store, if I have this Nike shirt on, Nike, I don’t get that from them. But if I order my bathing suit from TomboyX, and then I get the text message, and I’m getting those communications, they want to know how I feel in that bathing suit. It’s different. And they have to do that. They have to create that community, because if they don’t, they’re not going to make those sales, right?
Caitlin Teed aka CC: No, no.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: No one’s walking into the internet and just putting it in. It has to exude, it has to be real and resonate, I think.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more with that. Yeah, no. I think especially now that we’re living in this pandemic, post pandemic, whatever world it is we’re living in now. It’s like people crave authenticity, more now than ever. Maybe we weren’t thinking about it as much back then, but we’re just living on this repetitive cycle of here’s what we do, and here’s where we go, and here’s where we work. But now I think people are really starting to question what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. And it’s good, and people want to feel good about the things that they’re doing and buying.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Bring on the disruption, bring the disruption.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Yeah.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: But don’t do it all because that’s the way we’ve always done it. Folks. Come on. We know that.
Brian Weinstein: Exactly, exactly. I recently said my two least favorite expressions is it “Is what it is”, and Caitlin, what you just said. Don’t just do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it. And you have to look for ways to change. But, and I’ll circle back to this, and you guys really teed this up well. There you go. There you go.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: My god, that’s a good pun.
Brian Weinstein: But it has to be authentic, because it’s just not the same. It’s not the same.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Yeah. The authenticity is what makes those big companies, big brands feel small, and make you feel like you’re part of something, because all the feels, go for the feels.
Brian Weinstein: All the feels, all the feels. Well, so is there anything that we didn’t cover here about building? I’d love to know more about how brands can do that successfully, but that could be a whole other episode I think, right?
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Oh, it could be. And I think walking away from it, maybe we pointed into a couple points, how brands can do it successfully. Make sure… Brian, I loved how you touched on talking to that brand. And they were so passionate about what they did and whether… I think it needs to trickle from founder down. So no matter how big your business is, no matter how big your brand is, it has to be a trickle down effect, and leadership has to feel, they need to be accessible and also feel authentic with their teams. And again, when you think about how you’re going to make your employees feel, because they’re the ones that are going to be speaking to your customers the most, they’re going to be having those authentic touch points beyond even what LinkedIn or Twitter or Instagram ads are pulling in for you. Because that’s your big branches out there, putting those feelers out.
But what your community is really about building, is getting into the roots of it and how people are going to feel connected to you. And that’s through your employees, that’s through authentic opportunities like hosting meetups or parties, or things for your top customers. Making them feel special, running awards. There’s so many interesting and cool touch points you can do as a brand to make your customers feel a part of something, and feel like just as much as you’ve built your team and your brand, you’ve selected them to be a part of that experience as well. Because you wouldn’t be anywhere without them.
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Ding, ding, ding. That’s it.
Brian Weinstein: Exactly right. Exactly. And you know what? That is important to start early on, because you never know how quickly you catch fire as a brand, as a service and you continue to grow. And if it’s in place from day one, it will carry along and grow and scale with you.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: 110% couldn’t have said it better. It’s something you have to be thinking about as much as you are your revenue goals. Because you’re not going to hit those goals unless you’re thinking about the way you show up. Not just how you show up, but how you stay connected and committed to your community. That means listening to them too. That’s why round tables, or meetups, or in person activities, now that we can a bit more safely do that, is so important. And having founders accessible as well, encouraging founders to feel a part of that experience. I know Toby at Shopify would always be around at the Unites and people would be so excited to get even a selfie with him, because you just had that feeling of, he was building something that he believed in because it was something that solved his initial problem. So you know there’s more people out there that are going to need the services that were being offered. So yeah, I think keeping it rolling from day one, Bri Guy, I like that one.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, exactly right. Exactly right. All right, well this was a great, great episode. I think it was super informative and CC, thank you for coming on.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Thank you guys for having me.
Brian Weinstein: This has been great. Caitlin, you want to walk us out?
Caitlin Postel aka C-Post: Sure. For sure. Thank you so much, CC. C squared. My other Caitlin. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you everyone for listening. Tune in next time, you can catch us on your favorite podcast platform. Thank you everybody.
Caitlin Teed aka CC: Thank you.
Brian Weinstein: All right. Peace. Thank you.