Lean into the fact that buying things is often a contemplative process. Help your customers create artifacts that will make your products memorable as customers contemplate a purchase. For example, for video buying experiences, allow users to capture snapshots during that video.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robb Beal.
Robb Beal is VP of product management at Veriskope, a California-based leading provider of streaming media solutions. Robb is a veteran startups product leader with experience across 5 startups with tens of millions of dollars in funding.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I fell in love with the myriad possibilities that software/digital experiences represented. Additionally, the possibility to make digital experiences more social captured my imagination and continues to this day with our exploring social, video-based shopping.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting story about my career is its unpredictability. I haven’t often planned major aspects of my career and never would have predicted where it would take me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
As a young sales engineer, when we had long drives ahead of us to a customer, we’d often finish dressing when we arrived. After an hours long drive, I went to get my dress shoes from the suitcase only to find they weren’t there. I had left them at the hotel hours away. I think I ended up doing the customer meeting in dress pants, shirt, and… sneakers! I never again left the hotel in sneakers.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We’re constantly imagining what the future of video-enabled commerce looks like and creating prototypes that add clarity to what’s appropriate and feasible. We think this will help business stay relevant and viable and give innovators a new material to play with as they imagine the future of retail experiences.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I’d say find joy in the simplest things and the satisfaction of simply having a great day where you made your business, company, or customers better.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I was blessed that a more experienced and networked mentor in the software business in the early 2000s helped my startup’s product get featured in a major newspaper.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Primarily through mentoring of folks new to digital product/innovation work as well as public speaking for the necessary evangelism for new innovations to take hold.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
They are meeting their customers where they are: in their homes on devices with personalized video experiences like video shop with friends (via apps) and video chat now (via their main shopping site).
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
Sure, because aggregation is convenience and shopping is inherently emotional and social. Physical retail is still the most productive way to a) confirm a product meets your needs, b) compare multiple products across many dimensions and c) inherently social in ways online is not.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
Have passion for the passions of your customers.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
The relationship between retail brands and consumers continues to evolve. I think there are a few interesting areas where companies can explore.
- Shopping with friends online. Expands or enhances the “hauling “ trends. Allows friends to shop together online via a virtual video environment and then make it easy for friends to share videos of try-ons after they receive new fashion items. Makes the whole process fun and more deeply connected.
- Create video and picture tools that make it easier for retailers to see into a customers closets to understand designs, partners and types of items customers have already purchased. Utilize new tools like video and pictures to more easily communicate.
- Start to think about circular retail — the relationship with a customer should not end with the sale, but think about creating tools that help that consumer resell or consign items months or years after they originally purchased it. Resale of items is the fastest growing category in retail.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
Note: These are all digital retail experiences
- Create emotional connections between the products you sell and the passions of your customers.
- Lean into the fact that buying things is often a contemplative process. Help your customers create artifacts that will make your products memorable as customers contemplate a purchase. For example, for video buying experiences, allow users to capture snapshots during that video.
- Respect your customers attention through more targeted communications. For example, volume of emails/notifications sent is not a metric you are looking to maximize.
- Look for and invest heavily in authentic moments where you’re able to enhance your customers lives. Don’t inappropriately and inauthentically attempt to insert your brand into a customer moment.
- Think about extending the relationship beyond the initial sale, build a community around customers purchase similar products or even as outlined above, think about a circular relationship with the customer
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Changing the way we think and act about the life of products may be one of the largest impacts we can have on the world. Creating a viable secondary market to resale items changes not only the retail relationship, but also changes how manufacturers think about quality and the potential reuse or remanufacture of products. This is starting already in fashion with many of the resale websites, but I believe it can extend into many other product categories such as technology and computers, furniture and more. With the right movements we can minimize waste in landfills, minimize resource usage and build collaborative, long term sustainable relationships between brands and consumers.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Our company blog
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!