As the new year looms over the online retail landscape, brands need to identify (or maybe even need to recalibrate) what they deliver to consumers with ever-evolving shopping & usage habits. Join Scott & Ray as they chat with Rick West, CEO & Co-Founder of Field Agent, about shopper research, Field Agent’s Marketplace platform, and the changing landscape of consumer insights and research.
As the first app on the Apple App Store to pay cash to its users, Field Agent has seen its fair share of changes in the eCom brand landscape so listen in as Rick shares his findings as well as the necessities brand owners will need to deliver the best shopping experience for their customers through customer research, insighting, and data gathering.
This episode also delves deep into the significant importance of testing a product or brand concept before going to market as well as crafting the right questions to ask customers to fully understand their needs and desires from a product or a brand.
Listen to this episode to discover the many nuances & “a-ha” moments consumer research can provide for your brand to bridge the need-gaps and to build up & maintain consumer loyalty. Trust us, this is an insightful episode you won’t want to miss!
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Full episode transcript & chapter markers for this episode are available on the Growth & Greatness eCommerce Podcast Buzzsprout page!
0:00 – 0:27 – G&G eCommerce Podcast Theme
This is the Growth & Greatness eCommerce Podcast, powered by Right Hook Digital, with your hosts Scott Seward & Raymond Johnston. If you’re an eCommerce brand founder, entrepreneur, or marketer looking to accelerate profitable growth for your business, then listen in ‘cause this is the podcast for you.
0:27 – 8:04 – Introduction of guest Rick West
Scott (0:27 – 0:31) – Welcome back! Growth & Greatness eCommerce Podcast, Ray, how are you, my friend?
Ray (0:31 – 0:41) – I’m doing awesome! We’re coming down from the Black Friday high, but right time for the Christmas holidays so it’s a really short, brief moment of relief until the next round.
Scott (0:41 – 1:08) – It will be good for a little break, that is for sure. It’s been a crazy 6 weeks and a crazy year, one of the toughest we’ve had, but it’s been pretty good the last month. But enough of that! This week, we have a very interesting guest. We have Mr. Rick West from Field Agent with us. I’m really, really keen to deep dive here in the consumer data, insights, mystery shopping, out of a lot of other things you guys got going on. Rick, welcome to the show!
Rick (1:08 – 1:12) – Hey, listen, Scott, Ray, thank you so much for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this talk for a while.
Scott (1:12 – 1:26) – Great, we’re very, very excited to have you here. Let’s start! You’ve been in the game for a little while. Give us a quick intro, your background, and how did Field Agent come about and come to life?
Rick (1:26 – 4:32) – Yes, so as your listeners are tuning into this, it’s either good or bad news that I came from the corporate world. I was a 17-year corporate guy working for Proctor & Gamble. People are either gonna roll their eyes, or be like, ‘Okay, at least he’s somewhat competent,’ right? So I came from that world. As many entrepreneurs are listening to this, I just reached a point where I wanted to do something different. You want to go and gauge, and so I started on this entrepreneurial journey, you know, couple of decades ago. It’s crazy how long it’s been, but I started out on the shopper marketing research world, really wanted to understand what made the shopper tick as opposed to consumer. We all know that just because you consume something doesn’t mean that you actually shopped for it. It’s that shopping exercise. eCommerce, we know how important that is, that you might be one of the receivers of cosmetics, the receiver of deodorant, the receiver of x, but someone else did the shopping for you, or you may have been both the shopper and the consumer. That led us down this path of understanding insights as to how people were thinking, and I wanna take you back to the pre-selfie days, okay? Now, most people assume that there was always a front-facing camera on the phone. A, that’s not true. In 2009, pre-selfie, iPhone 3S had just started – 2 megapixel camera. I’m telling you, Scott, amazing technology, 2 megapixels, right? And so, we had our iPhone 3S and we were the cool kids, sitting around the boardroom table, all trying to determine if anyone was using the actual App Store, ‘cause the App Store had been out for a few months. Was anyone creating an app that would let us capture information in-store? It seems so novel today, right? Of course people take pictures all the time, but again, no video on the phone, you couldn’t jailbreak it yet, no front-facing camera, and the business model, at that time, was to get people to open the app and click on an ad, open an app and click on an ad. What we really thought was interesting is that the camera was pretty good, and in those days, it’s not that long ago, capturing data inside of stores was either sending a digital camera to someone, hoping you’d get it back, hiring a professional with a good camera that would upload a file & sent it to you digitally, or you fly all over the country or you fly all over the world to capture data. No one was doing that and we thought, literally, we were gonna be like those guys who invented Instagram, but we’re too busy with the real work to do it. We would be at a party some time and say, ‘Oh, I invented, started this company!’ We’d be like, ‘Well, we had the idea first.’ We’d just look like fools, right? So we started working nights and weekends again, after we’re running 5 LLCs, 5 entrepreneurial companies we’re running, worked nights and weekends for 6 months. In April 2010, we launched the first app on iTunes that paid cash; all other apps, you can have badges, you can get points, you can be the mayor of, you know, Sydney, but you couldn’t get cash. PayPal was just venturing into the App Store…
Scott (4:32 – 4:36) – Well, they’re charging you for in-app purchases, they’re taking money from you.
Rick (4:35 – 5:02) – There you go. In our case, free app, no in-app purchase charge. All we do is, bringing this in and I’m probably one of the few guests, if any, that are here today that can actually pay your users, or pay your listeners, real cash for using our app. A novel concept, people thought it was interesting, but we started to solve a solution for our current LLC shopper marketing, shopper research companies. We did not start out to create an app that would be a separate company.
Scott (5:02 – 5:09) – It sounds like it really allowed for scale for something that was quite difficult and slow-moving prior to the tech, right?
Rick (5:09 – 8:04) – Totally, totally! So we launched the very first day, we were in every zip code in the United States the very first day. I mean, just like that, we were in every location. We have pre-seated with jobs, made things happen, and it just, kind of, blew people’s minds that you can capture the data. Now, again, Ray, Scott, if you think about if I was pitching to you in April 2010, I walk in with a phone, and you would have been sitting there with a BlackBerry, right? Maybe you had a flip phone, slider phone in your pocket, but the cool people were sitting at the table with BlackBerrys. And then, I would take my iPhone out and say, ‘Here’s the iPhone, and we’re gonna have someone take a photo, we’re gonna send it.’ I’m not exaggerating or embellishing here, we had major Fortune 100 executives saying, ‘Well, but if they use their phone to take a picture, who’s gonna train them on how to take a picture?’ I explained it. ‘Well, how are they gonna upload the picture from their phone to the computer to send it to you via email?’ I’d have to explain that. ‘Well, how are you gonna know where they are?’ I explained metadata, GPS; they’re like, ‘I just don’t know how I could trust it.’ Those were the early, pioneering days of using metadata and technology to capture in-store insights. If you play that out, practically, take a photo, tell what’s in a store… once you’ve got scale, then you start asking people for insights. ‘Hey, tell me your opinion,’ because now we’ve got enough scale.’ We have over 2 million downloads now – any ethnicity, demographic you can imagine – tell us what you think and then we went into mystery shopping. And then, from there, we went into eCommerce and said, ‘Hey, why don’t we have 50 people around 7 countries around the world, 50 people in the United States, buy our product online. If they order on their phone, we can record every stroke they have, every movement they have. Let’s have them take a video when the package comes in, open it up, let’s get their expression. So, then, even if eCommerce folks are, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m getting,’ the moment of influence, I mean, I’m getting the real-time data, no recall, live data, when someone opens the product for the very first time, you’re getting their expressions. eCommerce guys are like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing!’ And then, from there, we went to marketing where people are buying products, trying them at home, doing ratings and reviews as well. We do, literally, tens of thousands of ratings and reviews where people buy products, try it, either upload information and kind of do the ratings and reviews, or they’d buy the product, try it, and they’re writing articles. We’re posting articles about it on social media. It’s a really fun experience using technology and it’s grown from quantitative to qualitative to marketing. It, literally, as your eCommerce guys are listening today, it’s one of the best decisions they can ever make as it relates to just capturing data.
8:05 – 14:55 – Marketplace subsegments & demographics for mystery shopping
Ray (8:05 – 8:25) – Rick, I have a question for you. So it sounds like you made your own Marketplace, which is a great decision. I love marketplaces. I’d love to hear, for an eCommerce brand, ‘cause all of our audiences are eCommerce brands, can they choose subsegments and the demographics in that Marketplace for people to mystery shop? Like, how does that work, technically?
Rick (8:25 – 8:31) – Yeah, so let’s play it out. Why don’t you try, give me a product. Let’s see how good I am. Give me your product.
Ray (8:31 – 8:35) – Oh, here we go! Okay, let’s do eyelashes.
Rick (8:35 – 10:45) – Here you go, eyelashes. Now, here’s the question for everyone listening today. If you wanted to do research today, you’d have to do a screener to find someone that uses eyelashes, right, whether it’s mascara, fake eyelashes, let’s pretend it’s mascara right now. How do you know, for sure, they actually use mascara? ‘Well, Rick, everyone uses mascara.’ What if I told you I could find Revlon or Maybelline mascara users? ‘Well, Rick, how would you know?’ What I would ask them to do is I would screen a 1,000 people and say, ‘Show me the mascara you use. Take the picture of the mascara by your sink,’ which is a picture you can’t upload. I mean, you can’t make that up, and then, I’d say, ‘Tell me the brand of it.’ Now, I can tell you, with a 100% certainty, that I have mascara – Maybelline mascara users – I can get to that finite level of ensuring someone is not just a mascara user, but it’s a Maybelline user. Then, the question is, ‘Yeah, but I wanna find people that purchased online versus in-store.’ I would say, ‘Hey, show me on your latest credit card transactions, hide your name & all the information, show me where the transaction came from.’ I can now validate, either by receipt or a credit card transaction, if they bought online, if they bought from Amazon, they can pull up the Amazon screen and show me. I now know, with a 100% certainty, it’s a Maybelline mascara user purchased at Amazon in 2 weeks. Any other survey company out there today can’t do that, and what’s beautiful about the Marketplace, and we’re gonna, I’m gonna push on this for the next 20 – 30 minutes, I can do 1 drink or 10,000 drinks. So if you’re eCommerce guys that have a little budget, and just getting started out, and said, ‘Rick, I don’t have 10 grand to spend.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but I’m only asking for $9.95.’ ‘What do you mean?’ Go to Marketplace, click, click, click, go to cart, spend $9.95, do ten of them and spend $99. And so, it really is ala carte, within the Marketplace, to get into demographics.
Ray (10:45 – 10:48) – It’s a self-serve platform, is what you made, for eCommerce.
Rick (10:48 – 11:41) – Well, it is a B2B eCommerce platform. Almost all of the B2B platforms is click, go to a demo, click, go to a salesperson. We have productized services, which is really hard to do. Now, you can click and go to a cart, and check out for any product that we would have that would, traditionally, be a service. Now, there’s always customize, I mean, Scott, Ray, you guys know this, there’s big projects that you’ll talk to someone, and we’ll give you a project manager. But, for the folks who are listening here that have a brand that they’re trying to drive, from an eCommerce standpoint, and they got an Etsy site over here, they’ve got something on Amazon, and they’re trying to get some core demographics or core research, we’re the best $9.95 a pop they’ve ever spent because they don’t have to sign up for $10,000 dollar programs, and they can launch it tonight at midnight and, by tomorrow morning, they’ll get data right on their dashboard.
Scott (11:42 – 11:50) – So for $9.95, what data is coming back? That sounds like a really good value.
Rick (11:50 – 13:37) – Really good value, right? It depends on the type of product you choose. There could be one product you’re saying, ‘I want to purchase these 5 questions, which is how people shop,’ or ‘I want to have these questions, which is how people purchase something online,’ or ‘I want these questions, which is associated with how people use the product.’ So, based on the product you’re purchasing, just like when you go to Amazon and you’re choosing a different flavor, different color, different size, we have products that could be consumer-driven – ‘how does it taste?’ It could be shopping-driven, it could be receipt-driven – ‘what do you think about the whole process?’ So, based on that product, you’re gonna get a handful of data points. Now, some would do an exhaustive study, where you’re trying to follow people over time. That’s more of a custom engagement we would have, and you’re probably gonna spend between $15 – 20 dollars a pop because you’re trying to follow some of them for 30 days, and it becomes extensive. I’m talking about, don’t make a phone call, for the same reason that none of you who is listening now is gonna go to Amazon or Target or to any other website, Best Buy, and they’re going to click and ask for someone to call them before they purchase a $1,000 TV… no one’s gonna do it. They’re gonna click, look at reviews, check the videos, they’re gonna purchase a $1,000 TV. For whatever reason, Scott, for whatever reason, Ray, yeah, I don’t wanna spend $9.95 on this product of research. I wanna talk to someone. I’m like, ‘You don’t wanna talk to anyone. You know what you want, but we’ve been doing this for 10 years.’ I’m telling you, this is how you do research from an eCommerce standpoint. We spoon-feed you the data back, it comes back, and either a CSV file or a simple report, and away you go! It’s all ala carte, pay by the drink.
Ray (13:37 – 13:59) – Rick, you mentioned earlier in the podcast, you mentioned that you can record the entire journey of them getting the product, or even shopping, getting the product, and getting their reactions. I’d love to hear one, let’s say I was an eCommerce brand, and I wanted to use the platform for that. Does it also include the rights to use that for promotional materials, or is it strictly just for research purposes?
Rick (13:59 – 14:55) – Everything is work for hire so, if you’re a user of Field Agent, and you download the app, when you take a photo or a video, in the participation agreement, ,you are signing off right, or work for hire, similar to if you were at a wedding and they do wedding photos, it’s not work for hire. You have to pay them every time you wanna use the photos. That’s not the case here – this is yours to use. Now, what we do require is that, if you’re gonna use somebody’s face in a promotional campaign, there are some requirements on your end that you can’t just take that. 99% of the time, you’re not really seeing the face, per se, and how they’re engaging, but if you want to, we can flip it, that camera turns around, and they can do testimonials. They’re signing off. We will have a separate box to check on it that says ‘I am releasing my image to do promotional information.’ But all of the photos, the video of unwrapping and the delivery, all of that is yours, it’s all work for hire.
14:58 – 24:46 – Consumer research use cases for early-stage businesses
Scott (14:58 – 15:41) – Rick, I’ve got a question. So, I think, for a lot of brands, especially for, I guess, let’s say first-time, earlier, entrepreneurs in their business journey, who don’t have that deep… you’ve come from that corporate background and I think what you said earlier is an interesting thing. There’s a clear gap between how small businesses operate and corporate. I think, from the corporate side, there are so many learnings that you guys can have just by scale of budgets and access to data and information. For earlier-stage businesses, what are the use cases where they can get this data and turn it into actionable decisions?
Rick (15:42 – 16:07) – Right. I’ll give the number one mistake that I think entrepreneurs make. Number one is they spend all their time talking to friends and family, asking them if their baby is cute or ugly, and every friend and family you have says that you have the most beautiful baby in the world. They leave that room, they say, ‘That baby looks like an alien. It’s ugly,’ but they’ll never tell it to your face. So then, you go and talk to a buyer…
Scott (16:07 – 16:09) – They said that about ours, we were wrong.
Rick (16:09 – 18:08) – Babies are ugly, they are, they just are. Some are cute, mine were all cute. What happens to that is, now, you’ve been fed this ‘Everything’s amazing! You’re great, that’s the best idea I’ve ever heard.’ And now, you’re going to, either talk to a buyer, you’re engaging someone online, or you’re trying to put together a sales pitch to upload to get somebody to buy something. You’re putting together your marketing campaign and all you’ve heard is, ‘It’s great, it’s great, it’s great.’ We’re coming in, saying, ‘Why don’t you skip a couple of lunches, skip a couple of dinners, and eat at home. Take that $200 – $300, go talk to complete strangers that are your core shoppers or core consumers. Let them tell you if your baby is pretty or not.’ What we found is, ‘Oh my goodness! I had no idea that that phrase meant this. I had no idea that when I sent them this packaging and I watched them open it, I had no idea they would use scissors to cut.’ There’s all these things you’re gonna learn. Most people that are entrepreneurs are saying, ‘But, yeah, I can’t spend $10 – 20 grand to get an agency to do that for me.’ We’re coming in and saying, ‘I know your mom and I know your neighbors think it’s great. Why don’t you go talk to 50 strangers? It’s the best $500 dollars you can, you have to spend it!’ Now, because you can do it by the drink, go talk to 10 people, iterate, do A/B testing. Talk to another 10 people. You think you’ve got it, talk to 50 to 100. Now you’re ready, drive that thing like crazy, or just wait ‘til you get 50 – 100 returns and they tell you why your product sucks and they give you 1 star. You can do it that way.’ You’re like, ‘But why don’t people like my product? My neighbor said it was great.’ It’s because they finally told you the truth. We come in and say, ‘Buy the drink, ala carte, let us help you be successful.’ Whether you’re brick and mortar or eCommerce, this is the way to go because you’re getting real-time data, it’s easier to iterate, you’re paying by the drink.
Scott (18:08 – 18:38) – Just so I’m clear on the process, right, so let’s just say it’s a start-up brand. They’re just doing some research before they decide to, you know, double their capital and launch. How does that work on the platform? I’m assuming you can put a call out on your platform and, if people already perhaps own that brand or have interacted with that brand, that data’s available. Otherwise, they’d have to go through the process of purchasing that product. Is that right?
Rick (18:38 – 19:38) – Let’s do it 3 ways. Let’s do concept – we work with a large CPG company that uses us for concept testing. An artist puts it together, they put together the concepts, and they give us 4 of those and we rotate them and we send them out. They get initial feedback on concept; those are early-on renderings. Then, we have a product that’s brand-new, not a lot of people have it in their hands. We tell them, either purchase it online or go to a brick and mortar and purchase it, or have it delivered to your home. Now, we’re getting sales directly from eCommerce, directly from brick and mortar, and we’re asking them to try the product. We reimburse them for that, it’s part of the deal, or you’ve been out long enough and you’re saying, ‘I only want you to answer this if you can show me a photo of the product in your home that’s opened. Now, answer these questions. So, we can take it from concept to, basically, early-on adopters getting started, all the way through, pretty standard product that’s been up and running for a while.
Scott (19:38 – 19:42) – Man, I love this. It’s something to plug in to the MVP process.
Rick (19:42 – 19:44) – Have to.
Scott (19:43 – 19:45) – It’s a great solution.
Rick (19:45 – 20:23) – You have to. And, in today’s world, things happen so fast. By the time you hire an agency, get it together, you’re already dead. If you’re a Top Gun guy, it’s that, they’re trying to get that catapult launched. He said, ‘It’s gonna take a minute.’ He said, ‘A minute? This thing’s over in 30 seconds.’ That’s, kind of, the world we live in today. So, an entrepreneur, A, can’t afford it, and what’s the most precious commodity that your listeners have? It’s time. And for them to spend 3 months or 2 months or 2 weeks waiting? It’s the death sentence for any young start-up. You’ve got to get things iterated pretty quickly and that’s how we can come alongside them.
Scott (20:23 – 21:11) – But it can also save them so much money. I’ll use our experience as an agency. We, typically, don’t like to work with brands that haven’t, aren’t doing at least, probably, 50K a month in sales because if you get less than that, one, there’s usually cash flow issues of that size so if you wanna bring in an agency and whatnot. There’s often not enough data and validation, especially in paid advertising, to say, ‘Okay, we’re 95% confident that we can take this and run.’ I think, for brands to be able to go through this process and get real feedback, as opposed to us sitting here and saying, ‘Look, at this stage, we don’t think your product or your brand is quite there yet or this or that.’ I think, this coming from actual customers, as opposed to us as an agency, is a really powerful add-in. Ray, how could you see, like this could be something…
Ray (21:11 – 21:35) – Yeah, totally. And just to speak from a very real example, we had a brand where they didn’t do testing. If they would’ve spent just a few hundred dollars to fully test the idea, like, on your platform, for example, before they went and spent 15 grand on a product run to buy in bulk for their first batch, right? They added advertising spend on top of that, so now they’re on 25 to 30 grand, plus their website, they’re at 30 – 50 grand out of pocket…
Rick (21:35 – 21:36) – And their time.
Ray (21:36 – 22:05) – It was untested, right? It was unproven. That’s where, we’re of the firm belief, like, listen, test it, micro-test it. Even before you have the product, try, what we do is we run traffic. If you can see people are willing to add-to-cart, willing to pay for it, just to validate that concept, this is even better. I wanted to ask you, Rick, how my mind goes, I wanna do, not only validation test on my product, have you ever seen people on your platform do testing on their competitors to see what people think of it?
Rick (22:05 – 23:04) – We, I always joke that, from a retailer’s perspective, or an end-user standpoint, you’re trying to understand what competition is doing. In most cases, you’ve got your top 2 or 3, right? It’s not like you have 50, you either have 2 or 3 – they’re either driving you crazy or you wanna be a fast follower in what’s happening. More importantly, you know that if you can convince just 1 or 2 of the really influential consumers of your core competitors to switch, they’re gonna switch their friends, you’re gonna start driving… So we’re coming in and saying, ‘Hey, let’s figure out what the competition is doing,’ and you really just want to understand it. The 2nd thing is, why don’t you go find some of the folks who’ll consider, ‘I never switch from Brand A to Brand B,’ and you can actually get them to try, taste, use your product, and they switch – do you know how expensive, how much time it would take to, a, to find them, convince them to switch, and now through a research exercise, they’re like, ‘Wow, that’s really good…’
Scott (23:05 – 23:36) – I think you’ll get this, coming from the corporate side, just from a brand positioning standpoint, if you’re trying to fill the gap, if we’re going back to the, you know, positioning book, if you’re looking at getting that competitor insights and research, okay, where are they weak, what’s our product able to do that’s a little bit different, how can we position our product against that, at least then you’ve got the position before you go and start piling capital into it and you know where you’ve got your strength.
Rick (23:36 – 24:46) – Yeah, and I think about how often you’re dealing with this narrative where you’re like, ‘Well, they’re telling me this, but I’m not really sure it’s true.’ And then you do some research and you realize, talk about smoke and mirrors. Their product doesn’t, at all, do that. It’s just this fluff thing over here. It helps your rep because you don’t want to spend all this time and money trying to go create x to go after a competitor when you realize it’s falling apart and it’s not really there. We see that, oftentimes, when you look at websites that create a certain thing, and then you look at what truth really is, you’re like, ‘I’m glad I didn’t chase that shiny object. I’ve got competitive insight because it wasn’t true.’ It’s little things like that. I think, from a competitive standpoint, as you look at pricing and how things play out, you guys know, you’re better than most, just because you pull up something on your current IP address and you’re checking pricing, but you’re trying to understand pricing across 4 other postal codes, 4 other zip codes, and you’re, pretty quickly, trying to understand, ‘Gosh, how is the pricing and what does it really look like?’ You know, we’ve got the machine that can figure that out for you. It’s little things like that, as you look at competition, that we can come alongside brands and help them figure it out.
24:46 – 34:28 – Crafting the right customer questions to get actionable data & insights
Ray (24:46 – 25:12) – Rick, I’ve used something, I’ve used something similar to try to do market research for a previous brand I used to work with. I wanna ask you a question ‘cause forming the questions, it’s a bit of an art. It’s a science and an art. I think, I feel like, that’s where the magic really happens. I’d love to get your insights. How would a brand go about, thinking about, even crafting the type of questions and narrative that they need to then get to that person in the Marketplace so it comes back not skewed?
Rick (25:14 – 26:34) – There’s a couple of things that my wife, who used to run our research agency, would always say, ‘Never let Rick go into a focus group or an interview because, I would say, You really like this don’t you? Isn’t it awesome?’ She’s like, ‘Oh, you’re the most leading question guy I know. I’d never leave you alone in a room.’ So our researchers would come alongside and make sure that you’re not doing leading questions, make sure it’s straightforward. Now, with that being said, when you go to the Marketplace, and you’re looking for the click to the product for the really cheap version of this, we’ve been doing this for 11 years, we know the right questions to ask – it’s really, really simple. If you’re an agency like Right Hook, you’re coming in and saying, ‘Yeah. but I’m doing a more exhaustive study, I don’t wanna spend $200 bucks, I wanna spend 2 grand or 3 grand, I wanna spend a little bit of money…’ We would have an actual researcher get on the phone with you, have the right kind of conversation, understanding your objectives, and then we would write the research that would be appropriate for an app usage environment to deliver what you’re looking for. There’s, probably, a more customized approach… again, not someone like Rick, who’s the CEO, having a conversation. It is an introverted, smart researcher that would program that for you, build it – we, very quickly, do a couple of examples, give you the data. You say, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m looking for.’ They then go live and kind of push it out.
Ray (26:34 – 26:57) – That’s awesome ‘cause you guys can also, I believe, you can also get a person to do almost like a feedback on the website, right, from buying from the site. Is that correct? Tell me about that experience ‘cause that’s phenomenal. We focus on conversion rate optimization for our brands. How can we get, like what are they thinking right now when they’re clicking on this, but actually, how the person online goes through that would be super valuable.
Rick (26:57 – 28:46) – There’s 2 things there. You can’t just click the ‘buy this one’ on the Marketplace, but again, if you were engaging, saying, ‘I’m trying to understand it,’ imagine that we’re all sitting here now, and I’m either smart enough or intuitive enough to figure how to hold a camera on my shoulder, I’ve got a friend holding it, and say, ‘Listen, I want you to go shop for this, I’m not gonna lead you at all,’ and I want a cam, someone’s holding a camera here, and you’re just watching and experiencing. As you’re clicking, I want you to talk. ‘Well, I’m gonna go here first. First thing is I Google it. I saw this, I’m not gonna pay for the ads. I click on this. I go to this site, I liked it, I liked that. I took it and copy pasted that into Amazon with the ratings.’ I mean, you can have an entire 5-, 10-minute conversation that, normally, would’ve been you bringing someone in, having them come into your office, paying them $200 – $300 dollars just to show up, and to train your facilitator. We’re saying, ‘Don’t do that. We’ll charge you $20 a pop to get you a video of somebody shopping.’ Not extensive research, but you might get 20, 30, 40, 50 people engaging and, listen, Ray, once you’ve looked at enough saying, ‘I see it.’ Most people do this first. Once they get to what we’re looking for, it’s interesting. I have this little call-out, not one person clicked the call-out. Now because we knew the people, now we’re gonna go back and say, ‘Why didn’t you click on the call-out?’ We can now send out, now imagine your concept testing. ‘Go back to the exact same website. I want you to open up this page. Tell me what you think.’ They can explain it. Now, you can even have the next question, ‘Why didn’t you click this?’ or ‘What do you think about this call-out?’ It could be, ‘Well, I’m afraid it was gonna have a funny link on it,’ or ‘I know you’re just trying to sell on me,’ I don’t know, but that type of engagement could happen, with real researchers planning this out for you.
Scott (28:46 – 29:14) – Thinking now, right there, it’s the why part… when I think about, you know, we’ve used HotJar and things like this over the years, and watched screen recordings and heatmaps, you can see what they’re doing, but you can’t ask them why. Actually understanding why they are or they’re not doing something is just massively useful in how you’re gonna improve what you’re doing.
Rick (29:14 – 30:47) – Now, imagine the year now that you’re here, you got Scott and Ray, you’re back in the boardroom and you guys are working with a large brand, it’s still eCommerce-driven. You say, Rick, I just, I need to be able to talk to this person while they’re there. I say, ‘Okay, what if we did a FaceTime live, across 50 locations, in 50 different postal codes over the next 3 days.’ You’re like, ‘How do we do that?’ I got that for you. I’ll find 50 people that are your core consumers, I’ll have them hold up the phone, have a conversation, you can ask them questions. We can have that type of engagement, or go hire a research agency, spend 10, 20 grand, bring people in, build up this fake facade, have them come into a place that sort of looks like a living room, but it’s not their living room… or Rick’s gonna say, ‘I got 50 people, at their coffee table, today that’s ready to talk to you. How quickly do you wanna talk to them?’ That’s the power of mobile technology and the platform that we’ve built. It’s near real-time engagement. Now, again, there are some brands and some projects that you wanna have a controlled environment, and you do need to fly people in and bring them in and go have that conversation, you should still do that. But for most cases, you need data now, you need it quick, and you need to understand exactly where you’re going, which is gonna drive an agency like Right Hook or a larger brand to say, ‘Gosh, I’m sure glad we didn’t go down this route,’ or ‘Gosh, it just reinforced what I wanted to do. Thank goodness I did this because, now, I’m really confident on where I’m going.’
Scott (30:47 – 31:00) – What would a typical turnaround time be? Let’s just take that hypothetical. We’re launching a shoe brand, we want to get 50 people going through the website, do that FaceTime. How quickly can you make that happen?
Rick (31:00 – 31:53) – If it was a, let’s say we have the first meeting today, I hate to get to meetings ‘cause in Marketplace, it’s driven by no meetings, but this is compliant so we’re gonna have a meeting. We have a meeting today at 3:00pm, everyone has the conversation. Once I have the screener in place, it would take me a day or so to get people to say, yes, I want to go do this. Once I say yes, then they’re just gonna go in- market, within a couple of days, you’ve got data coming back. Or if you want to talk to someone, it would be, ‘yeah, we schedule 10 people over the next 2 days.’ Probably a week, few days, it would take a few days because you have to recruit a certain person to say ‘Yes, I’m willing to make that happen.’ And, I would say, in most cases, the delay would be on your side ‘cause this is what I’m looking for. We do a couple of interviews the first time to get a feel for it. We iterate a little bit, but the technology, it’s such that it would happen pretty quick and recruiting would be pretty efficient.
Ray (31:53 – 32:15) – Rick, you mentioned reviews on another podcast. I’d love to get your insights on this, especially compliance. So, let’s say I’m an eCommerce brand. I’m on Amazon, Walmart, I have my own store as well. We want the full experience of their shopping experience recorded, but they also feel like leaving a review, we want that as well. Walk me through, like, how does that work logistically?
Rick (32:15 – 34:28) – Yeah, from the Amazon world, you guys know the third-party they use, we’re not gonna go down that. I mean, that’s a machine over here, right? We ignore that for a period of time. We work with Bazaarvoice from a syndication standpoint, so some of the larger brands say, ‘Listen, I’m paying a fortune over here with Bazaarvoice, but they syndicate everything.’ The problem is, other than the 1,000-person panel they use, I’m not getting the variety, the flavor that I’m looking for, nor do I get the speed. So we work to create the actual ratings and reviews and then they go through Bazaarvoice, they get syndicated. There are other brands that are coming to us, saying, ‘I don’t wanna go down that route. I either want them coming to my personal website, I’ll syndicate it, or have them go directly through Walmart(dot)com.’ What happens with that, and you guys know the, technically, I have to say I was reimbursed or I was incentivized, there’s a tagline associated with it. But here’s the beauty of it. Not only are you capturing that information – the way we’ve got this set up, now you’ve got photos and testimonials that you can use on your website. Now you’ve got social media, I’ve got 50 reviews, but look at this amazing piece of content, this amazing photo, I can spend that up and blast it on my website and use it for something else. So, it’s more than just ratings and reviews because I’ve got it captured, and I’m engaging. You may find, these 3 reviews, this Ray guy, this Scott guy are poster guys. The number 1 people, if they can come on every link, that way we re-engage you and say, ‘Now I’ve got you. Hey, will you answer these 18 questions. I put together, kind of, a mini blog post and you can now post this on social media, this mini-interview with Scott, talking about how we enjoyed using the product.’ That doesn’t require the same legal disclaimer because it’s a blog post, but when you look at ratings and reviews, how are you gonna find Scott and Ray? You’ll never find them. I know who Scott & Ray are, and I can find them and engage them. You’ll find that people use ratings and reviews, they’ll get the 50, they’ll love these 5, they’ll come back in again. We’ll re-engage them and get some really fun content and quotes from them.
34:28 – 39:38 – Brand success stories from consumer insighting & research
Ray (34:28 – 34:48) – Rick, over the years, you’ve probably seen hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of success stories or what we call cautionary tales. I’d love for you to pick, pick the top 2, just crazy success stories where you heard people that, through the process, they discovered something new that completely changed their business or discovered something that, man, they’re happy that they continued on that line.
Rick (34:48 – 34:55) – This is an 18 and over podcast, right? No one under 18…
Ray (34:55 – 34:59) – We’re gonna say yeah. We’re gonna say yes.
Rick (35:00 – 38:15) – I’m only taking down, the most difficult thing we’ve ever done happened, probably, 5 or 6 years ago with Procter & Gamble. We were doing this work and they came in and said, ‘Do you think that your users would take a picture of this and this during this process?’ We said, ‘Sure.’ And it was feminine protection. The current methodology was to have a woman use feminine protection after a period of time, put those in a Ziploc bag, put it in the freezer, then put dry ice in a box, ship it back to a technical facility. They would then open up and look at a survey. And they said, ‘Do you think that people would take a photo and transition as this thing’s going through?’ And we said, ‘Yes, they would.’ Here’s what they learned: it wasn’t necessarily about the absorp… but it’s about how it was used. Well, this happened, but the pad was located here. This happened, this is what I was wearing. What happened with the research is they knew exactly what they were wearing, and whether it was 2 inches here or 2 inches there, they launched 2 new patents by this research. They had been doing work over here for 30 years, the same way, antiquated and terrible. They did 2 patents, and then we did 2 other things for them. We started to do the same thing for diapers because diapers, so we sent people scales, they’d weigh the diaper. They’d take the photos, whereas before, they would have to put them in a Ziploc bag, put dirty diapers in their freezer, and then ship their dirty diapers – completely revolutionized that. So, understand that if people were able to share those intimate things from the largest consumer product company in the world, this is what we did. Second thing is, and we’re running this now, I think Ray, we’ve given away probably 30 – 40,000 Bud Light seltzers and Budweiser seltzers in the last couple of 3 months, 6 months. So what’s happening is that it’s hard to sample a new product, especially when it’s an adult beverage. And so, what they wanted to do is to be able to, a, understand what people thought about the product, classic consumer kind of thing, but they also want to understand where they were buying it. When they purchase it, are they purchasing one in six, where do they put it, and when they serve it in their homes, is it still on the can? That took us down on this path of, to work with Red Bull, and Red Bull was trying to figure out, they were paying a small fortune to restaurants and bars to make sure that when they have a drink with Red Bull on it, that the Red Bull logo was always turned to face the crowd, and we were getting live shots of that. Then Budweiser said, “Hey, what about Stella?’ You know the Stella, little gold-rimmed glass? They said, ‘We’re getting reports that people are serving Stella, but it’s not in the glasses. We’re trying to figure out why because we spent a fortune pushing glasses out.’ What do you think the answer is? They’re not using those glasses. People were stealing them, and they were breaking them. So they kept the glasses up on the marquee because it looks like really cool advertising and they were serving on the cheap glasses.
Scott (38:15 – 38:30) – Actually, I saw a meme yesterday of a guy, it was a photo of the typical glasses that you would see in someone’s home bar, and it’s like, everyone knows the man who’d steal glasses from the bar.
Rick (38:30 – 39:38) – He steals the glasses, right? What’s interesting of those 3 examples is that you could send a researcher in, you could engage, but we were getting live, real-time results of average people just answering 2 – 3 questions. Did they turn the Red Bull? Did they not? Ask the guy. Why didn’t you turn it? The guy’s like, I don’t know or I forgot. Well, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I forgot’ tells you whether they were trained or not. That’s really all, we didn’t need 10 questions. I just need to know why they didn’t turn it, why weren’t you serving the correct glass? Well, there’s not 50 reasons. There’s 2 or 3 reasons, right? And then, you get back to the diapers, the other aspect of it is, you’ve got to list the 50 questions, but I really need to know the 6, and I think the average person in their home can answer these questions, and be able to provide me what I need without having to transport hazardous materials halfway across the United States to get it back into a lab. Those are big brands, highly tech kind of things where people are trying to understand it, and you can imagine how that can apply to virtually anyone that has a new product.
39:38 – 41:54 – Field Agent’s plans for 2022 and beyond
Ray (39:38 – 39:56) – Rick, 2021 and 2020, two craziest years of eCom. Last year, we had the biggest year ever. This year, changes with Apple and one of the hardest years I’d say. Field Agent, you guys have changed so much. I’d love to hear, what are your big plans for 2022? What are some of the things you’re most excited about coming up?
Rick (39:56 – 41:54) – Obviously, it’s the Marketplace for us and what we’ve learned, if anything, is that the Amazon effect has happened in our industry, from an eCommerce standpoint, is bleeding into B2B. So, because of that, we wanna make sure that our products and services are as simple as possible, that people can self-learn, they can self-evaluate, and they can check out without having to talk to a salesperson, that’s number 1 for us. The 2nd thing is, what we found in the Marketplace is that taking services and turning them into products is not easy. What you’re gonna find is, as you’re growing into other categories, so surprise, surprise, we do audits, research, marketing. We’re also now bringing in third-parties to do merchandising, okay, so we’re gonna have a merchandising. What you’re gonna find in Q1 is you’re gonna see us going down the eCommerce route. You’re now gonna have tools for eCommerce that you’ll be able to click, click, go to cart, and find out keywords, inventory levels in Walmart(dot)com, et cetera. You’ll be able to find pricing across multiple eCommerce platforms. Any type of alert or report that you would expect to find by signing on to a subscription service or paying a big fee, we’re gonna create that same thing to click, click, go to cart for eCommerce solutions as well, which is why I’m excited I’m talking to you guys today because we think that’s the future. Not everyone that’s listening to this podcast can afford a subscription or be able to pay tens of thousands of dollars when I just need to know the right keywords for multiple platforms. Now, most people say, ‘Well, just whatever Amazon says, use that for everyone,’ that’s not the right answer. It really isn’t because you know there’s other platforms that are out there that different keywords or clicking in… what if you can get a keyword report for 5 different retail platforms? Those are the things that you’re gonna see that’s gonna be ala carte, pay by the drink, that’s coming in 2022.
41:55 – 45:44 – Understanding consumer behavior and improving the brand’s shopping experience
Ray (41:54 – 42:06) – That’s awesome. Rick, the last question I have on my side, to wrap it up, what advice would you give eCom brands coming into 2022? Like, how can they start? What advice would you give them?
Rick (42:06 – 44:04) – I think, if anything else in this world of clutter, there’s so much static and clutter, if we’ve learned anything in our journey, and I think it holds for eCommerce as well, is creating a frictionless shopping experience is the number 1 thing they can do. Sometimes, we say, ‘Yeah, but I want this piece of data. I wanna ask these 3 questions.’ before they can sign up, get rid of those sign-ups, and check in with the guest. ‘Yeah, but Rick, you don’t understand how valuable it is to capture this data.’ Listen, if your product’s great, they’re gonna sign up for an account. There’s friction that happens, I think that’s number 1. The second thing, which is similar to the friction piece, is that understanding the way people shop today, I think it’s important that you make it as easy as possible to find your brand and there’s been years that I would’ve argued… Facebook ads, Instagram – yeah, you’ve got to be able to be in those places, but what I find now is that maybe TikTok is relevant, maybe Quora is relevant. There’s all these tertiary places, when I looked at Reddit some years ago, I think you’re gonna find that there are these tertiary things and, based on who your core consumer is, understanding where they live and where they engage isn’t always Facebook and Instagram, okay? There are other places and if I got an outdoor brand, or if I got a certain tech, I think putting my money to where they live and engage might be a better as good as spend as it would be to go traditional measures. I’m not saying ignore traditional marketing and advertising, but there’s a group of people over here that wanna get really, really tight, and I think you can find a little bit better return on your investment if you’re finding them where they shop.
Ray (44:04 – 44:10) – Totally, I can see how Field Agent would help so much to do that research. Yeah, it’s a marketing principle, really.
Rick (44:09 – 44:11) – It really is. It really is.
Scott (44:12 – 44:55) – Couldn’t agree more, and I think, if anything else, you’re probably going into a space that’s going to be a lot less competitive. Facebook and Instagram, they’re certainly the most competitive places so if you can find other pockets of traffic that can drive a really good return on investment, then you should be digging in. I agree with Ray. I think Field Agent could be something that really helps you generate those insights for a lot of brands. Rick, thank you so much for coming on! It was really interesting, this is, I’ve never really gone deep into this side of this area so I think it’s some really interesting stuff. Where can people find you? How can they get in touch with you if they got some additional questions? Where should they go to take a look at Field Agent?
Rick (44:55 – 45:36) – Yes, I’m a LinkedIn guy so just, listen, Rick West, the Field Agent guy on LinkedIn. DM me, you’ll be surprised how quickly I actually respond and get back to you, would love to engage any of your listeners about how we can help, conceptually, where things are going. And then, it’s FieldAgent(dot)net. Once you go to the (dot)net, it takes you right to the Marketplace, engage a little bit. We’d love to have the feedback. I’m okay if you tell me my baby’s ugly, I’d like to hear that. So I would love for folks to engage and tell me, this is not the way I would shop. You might be surprised, maybe I’ll create a product just for you and put it on the Marketplace so you can buy it without talking to anyone. We’ll even call it the Scott, Ray Right Hook product, who knows? But we’d love to come alongside them as well.
Scott (45:36 – 45:41) – Amazing, thanks for coming on, Rick. Appreciate it, and we’ll be back with another episode very soon.
Rick (45:42 – 45:44) – My pleasure, it was great! Talk to you soon.
45:44 – 46:41 – Episode outro
Scott (45:44 – 46:41) – Thanks again for tuning to this episode of the Growth & Greatness eCommerce Podcast. I hope you got a ton of value out of this episode and if you did, we’d love for you to leave us a review on your platform of choice and help us reach as many people as we can. Now, if you’re a brand founder, an eCommerce entrepreneur, or an in-house marketing manager looking to accelerate your growth this year, reach out to us at Right Hook Digital. We’re a performance branding agency and we specialize in partnering with eCommerce brands to help them hit their growth goals with maximum ROI. Now, if this sounds like a solution that you need, then check us out at righthookdigital.com and schedule a call with our client partnerships team. They’d love to have a chat with you and see how we can help you grow in 2021.