In this episode Callum McKeefery, host and CEO of REVIEWS.io is in discussion with Adam Pearce and Peter Gardner, the CEO and CVO of Blend Commerce, and founders of the eCom Collab Club. They discuss the value of creating and building communities, brand loyalty, data acquisition, customer value optimisation and their favourite eCom apps right now.
eCom Collab Club
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Callum: So today I have two guests here. We have Pete Gardner and Adam Pearce. They both are the founders of, Blend Commerce and what's the other one? Flame flame, flame. That's their new, conferencing solution, that's taken the app ecosystem by storm. Guys thank you very much for coming on today. I appreciate it a lot.
It's it's thank you. Interesting to have your both on. Obviously I normally see you at your events and various different places, but it's nice to have you in the office
so tell us about what's been going on at Blend and what's been going on at Flame.
Adam: So, um, from a Blend point of view, we've been recruiting quite a lot at the moment. Really, because we needed more capacity in development and design there's been a lot more demand, I think, from initial clients. And I think, you know, that's kind of been the flavour for this year, is that whilst we haven't been bringing on lots of new clients. It's more of. doing more with existing clients has been the main thing for us.
Callum: [00:01:00] Yeah.
That's a trend, definitely that, that you do more with what you've got and you support those clients better. Definitely seeing that. And what about Flame?
Adam: Yeah, so Flame, we was it January started?
Peter: Yeah, I think it was the ideas came up in about December.
And then, uh, we tried to do one quickly in December and, but that fell through and then. We got one, got one plan, the eCom Collab Club. We ran the first one and ended on, so
Callum: tell our listeners what is the eCom Collab C lub?
Peter: So basically a place for our partners and agencies to come and just network. We have a fireside chat.
We've now also got something called the, the agency air fryer.We're trying to do that agency, air fryer part, like, sort of in the, in the style of between two firms, right?
Like you've ever seen that with. Yeah, yeah, yeah. With
Callum: make a little bit awkward for Zach. Nobody knows. Who's saying what it is, the guy from the hangover, that's it? Yeah. It's an interesting thing. What you've done with that and I, I love. how you've done it. [00:02:00] I love where you are doing it. So you do it Leicester Square at the cinema,
Adam: at eight o'clock in the morning, which is quite weird because obviously you don't really go to cinemas eight o'clock in the morning.
No, no, but I think the, the main thing for us has been that, you know, and you know what it's like, because you've done these events.
Adam: We're constantly kind of in sales pitch mode. And we just kind of said, look, actually, from this partnership's point of view, Agencies and tech partners are there for the same thing, we're all just trying to make money from servicing merchants.
Adam: So actually from a bit more of a level conversation where it's like, right, we want to talk about these things together. You want this, we want that you work this way, we work this way just so you can base understand people a bit more. And I think rather than it kind of being very stuffy, networking, you know, it's all, there's a lot of like tongue in cheek.
You know, we don't really give a shit about what we say.
Callum: Yeah. Definitely seen that
Adam: and just, you know, boost bit more of a relaxed environment. And it's funny actually, because you get some people coming to it who like shirts and ties and you see after about [00:03:00] half an hour, the tie slightly loosened and their putting away , taking their jacket half and like, all right.
Okay. I can just sort of being myself and have a normal, you know, person to person conversation
Callum: You guys have done great. And one of the things we spoke about, you know, before was that you guys have really you're building that community and community is so important. It is the buzzword of 2022. Um, and you guys have done a great job of building and bringing together the.
Agency app developers, you know, community together and it's difficult. So when when's your next one, when are you looking?
Adam: So we do it on the last Wednesday each month, pretty much. Isn't it? Yeah. Um, so dependent obviously when people are listening, we're now seeing may, so it'd be the 25th of May. Yeah.
Um, and then, yeah, we, we, we're basically booked now in London for the rest of the year.
Adam: Um, and then we've got one in New York in June and then one in Berlin, uh, in August.
Callum: Really good. Really good. And [00:04:00] do. Do people have to pay?
Peter: No, no, totally
free. Totally free model. Um, yeah. There's, we've got one lead sponsor.
Peter: And essentially, they're the ones that we bring up on the fire side. Yeah. But it's quite strict rule, no sales pitch. It's not about selling. It's about actually helping the community
Callum: On the brands on a brand side, what sort of trends are you seeing at the minute? Are you seeing any changes in the market, in the direct consumer market? The eCommerce market. What are you seeing happening, um, in the market over the last few months? Are you seeing any kind of changes?
Adam: I think definitely for me, like, cause obviously in terms of business, I'm more kind of focused on the marketing side.
Adam: I think brands are now tuned into the fact that acquisition is screwed. Um, you know, knowing that people are seeing okay. The cost of land's increasing. The reach they get is, is poor performance. And rather than kind of talking about things like zero party [00:05:00] data as like, okay, there's what I'm gonna do.
They're actually doing it. Right. Um, so that actual focus on properly looking at retention yeah. Is something that's definitely come. I think
Callum: so like lifetime value.
Peter: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Massively into customer lifetime value now, you know? Yes. There's some brands that don't need to focus on it. You know, they're selling one product.
There's no need to then focus on that, but there are certain brands that it is all about how many times you can get that customer back again. Yeah. Um, and slowly but surely there's less focus on conversion rate optimization and more around customer value optimization. Yeah. And getting that, getting that right.
Callum: You can definitely see that brands are really start for me. I'm seeing brands starting to, uh, invest in the community a little bit more. Invest in holding onto that customer. Like you're saying getting them to, to buy multiple times.
Adam: I mean, the thing is aswell, like it's not, I think the other factors driven is , yes okay acquisitions become harder and more [00:06:00] expensive on top of that supply chains screwed for everyone. It's more expensive.
So if you're paying more to acquire and then service those customers, it's also, I think, again, Forcing that hand to focus on the retention piece. Yeah. Because you, the margins are gonna be so, so on you, then the end he's telling you well, is it really worth it?
What, what's the point in acquiring customer if you're not making any money off them? Yeah. So you've good to be getting that profit.
Callum: Once you acquire the customer. You've gotta offer good service. Mm-hmm and then communicate mm-hmm . Yeah. And what tools are you kind of seeing people using on those sites.
Peter: Email marketing obviously is, is, is a major player there still. And it's always going to be, um, SMS. Yeah. We've spoken about quite a bit. Um, we we've, we've seen some new players in this market. Yeah. Um, and there's some interesting bits of innovation coming out. The guys at Penny Black new one coming up, You know, we, we know [00:07:00] the, the owner there pretty well, Doug, and this is gonna be a great channel.
Um, you know, but they're still very much in early days just testing and testing the water right now.
Adam: So have you come across Penny Black?
Callum: No. What is it?
Adam: So basically you can personalize your packaging using data. So if you are a brand, if you would have like a standard insert that you say, thank you for your purchase.
Yeah. You can include data on there, obviously personalization in terms of name. Yeah. But also reference the products that previously purchased.
Adam: And they're also working on things like being able to personalize the, the packaging inside itself. So you could essentially open your box and say, you know, thanks for you're purchase Callum. Um, hope you enjoy your, you know, fur bottle of Scotch from brand X
and they're printing it on the box. Mm-hmm, that's
neat thing. But they're looking into all sorts of things like print on tissue, paper stickers. So, you know, it's the thing with that is obviously from a, a retention point of view.
Adam: Yeah. I think that the thing I've been saying, look it's, [00:08:00] but they've got a hundred percent open rate,yeah, because you are always gonna the box. Yeah, for sure. But they've also then got a system that they've got a QR code. Yeah. That allows you to scan. So if let's say for example, you know, you were a beauty brand.
If you had say a skincare product that needed an education with it, you could open that up. Personalize that yeah. Scan the QR code. They watch a video. Wow. And I think like in the same vein, if you've got a reviews platform yeah. And then you could give them that points for watching that video. So there's lots, lots going on with that.
Callum: That's really interesting. How are they gonna do it? If someone has for next day delivery, what are the no, how quick are they gonna print that box and get that turnaround? Yeah.
Callum: That's, are they working on for fulfilment a s well? Are they gonna be like a three PL
Adam: so they, they work with fulfilment centres don't they.
Yeah. Basically it's like the technology plugs in. So the full films installed at the, the fulfilment centre. Got a new use printing machines on [00:09:00] that. Yeah. Um, but I think one of their biggest challenges was making sure it doesn't slow down the fulfilment.
Yeah. And it's something that they've actually managed to get. Right. And that's something they were working on before they even got to the sort of phase. Now they're testing things on.
Callum: That's really interesting. I, you know, I love innovation like that. I love that someone's taken that. A problem, um, of just having a, you know, with all open packages where it's, you know yeah.
That every, you know, every brand, every customer has got exactly the same flyer saying exactly the same thing. It's just straight business thrown away. I think the unboxing experience is a great, it's a great way to build brand loyalty. And I think, yeah, I love that that's under used and I think it's good that somebody's actually going out there and trying to build a solution around that.
Peter: Yeah. The, the problem you touched on is exactly what Doug, the reason he came up with this business. Awesome. Exactly. That when you say it's just boring, you opened a box, it was no experience. Yeah. Ended [00:10:00] up throwing up all, all the packaging and its just like, this has gotta be better.
Callum: I, that probably brings onto on, you know, another topic is the, down trend that we've seen in tech prices and tech shares over the last couple of weeks. It's, uh, it it's gone, gonna get interesting for a lot of, um, a lot of solutions. There's a lot of SaaS solutions that you guys use and a lot of Saas solutions that you recommend to your customers.
Yeah. Um, how do you affect think the downturn's gonna affect.
Peter: It it's interesting because you know, we we've seen, I think it's from where it's affecting an agency is that we’re competing for staff. Yeah. We, we essentially trying to get account managers, developers, designers, but so are the SaaS companies. Yeah. And when they so heavily back by VCs, you know, they can offer selling salaries.
Peter: And staff. You know, they can go there and, you know, they, why would you work for an [00:11:00] agency when you can work for a, for an app company and get paid X amount? Yeah. More than what you're getting at the agency. But so even truly what we seeing now is there's layoffs. Yeah. And those, those developers, those designers, those account managers are losing jobs with these big companies.
Because their funding's not there anymore, you know? So I think we've seen the end of the, sort of, uh, the market that's being driven by employees in terms of, you know, you can demand what you want for a salary. Yeah. Um, where it's been almost as an agency, it's always difficult to recruit because there is nobody in the market to recruit mm-hmm I, I see that changing now.
Yeah. I see that going back to sort of market where those salaries sort of go back to the stable level.
Callum: What's some of the stuff that you're seeing, like, what's your favourite recent brand that you've gone on, where you like the design and you think they're doing a great job on the marketing?
You know, what should our listeners, type in their browser right now? [00:12:00] Go and look at and look up to, you know, do
Adam: you wanna get that?
Peter: Yeah. Surreal. I think I'm answering that right. Surreal. S U R R E A L
basically a healthy serial brand. Yeah. Uh, loving what the guys are doing.
They're quite funny. Um, two side.
Callum: So where's their marketing. Where are they?
Peter: Uh, well the most I'm seeing most of it on LinkedIn. LinkedIn, we spend a lot time, but I know they're doing it elsewhere, you know? They'd be silly if that's the only place.
Yeah. I'm sure they're smashing it
They're probably on Tik Tok they're probably elsewhere as well. Yeah. But I like the, the sort of style that they're using in marketing. Yeah. And, uh, I saw someone yesterday post, like, Hey, I've been, I've been got by the marketing. I've just purchased, uh, purchased my first bikes. And I'm very tempted myself. I haven't bought it yet, but I, think I will
Callum: and are you getting smashed up with their retargeting ads or is it just you you're following the founders and you're following their story?
Peter: Just enjoying what they putting out.
Callum: Right. That's good. That's good. What about you?
Adam: But yeah, I think genuinely for me, there's two that I really like at the moment. I mentioned war paint earlier. Yeah. [00:13:00] The other one is Midday Squares. Yeah. So like on this chocolate brand, um, based in the states, so like a healthy chocolate brand, and again, for me, the thing is it.
the fact that all of their marketing is pretty low budget. Yeah. But it's all very real. They don't really give a shit about what they say and do.
Adam: I mean it's, they're like me really .
Callum: Yeah. And, and, you know, you know what, that, that they're branding definitely - I've seen some of their ads and they are on fire.
Whoever's doing all that branding for them is doing a great job because it's kind of, it cuts through the bullshit. It's kind of very real, you know, they're, they've got that Tik Tok sort of style. It's authentic. Yeah. Very, very authentic, like brutally authentic. Um, they're using a lot of. You know, almost sex almost sells, you know, like
Adam: you're seeing it reminds me a little bit of like the tongue in cheek style that James, Watt used to do when they, when they started BrewDog.
[00:14:00] Yeah. ,
Callum: I love BrewDog. I think they've produced some good drinks. Mm-hmm um, but they're marketing can you know, maybe has been. Overdone now. I mean,
Adam: it's, it's interesting because
Callum: it's hard when you're that billion dollar you brand that it, you know,
Peter: they were a small company. That's a massive company now.
Callum: Yeah. It was a small company now they're very, very corporate, but trying not to be very, very corporate,
Adam: yeah. I mean, it must be tricky, you know, to, and I think you we've, we've definitely seen, I mean, Shopify's a prime example, you know, when we started with Shopify, what seven years ago, you know, there are a handful of people.
Um, you know, everyone kind of knew each other, you, you to have conversations, people very high, open the chain, and obviously as companies get bigger. Yeah. You lose that. And yeah. You know, there is some look community in Shopify, but obviously the, among the lots know it near us, cuz it used to be. Yeah. Which is why the fact that we've started doing things we haven't done now because we wanna bring that side of things back.
Callum: Yeah. So you are people talk about, you know, [00:15:00] creating a community or borrowing a community. You're sort of almost borrowing that, community
Callum: and giving them a new place to hang out. Mm. Um, and you do that, you know, with Facebook group. Mm that's. Separate. Is that separate to, yeah.
Adam: So that's, that's separate, that's that kind that we've done with, um, obviously with Blend.
Um, but you know, with. That the event side of things that we are doing with the eCom Collab Club, we've got a slack channel in there where people can kind of have a chat, you know, agency, department, partner, agency, vice versa. Um, but like I said, it is, is purely borrowing the community. We're just trying to inject, you know, something, you know,
Peter: We miss something.
Yeah. We, we missed something that Shopify had. Yeah. We want, we want that thing to come back and we thought go, well, it's just gonna do it.
Yeah. You know, I mean, that's how thoughts, alright.
Callum: It's how great great brands get launched. Don't they, you know, the bigger, the bigger brand, you know, sort of forgets something.
And then somebody goes in and fills that gap and becomes, [00:16:00] becomes big. And I think what you guys are doing at Flame you know, is brilliant. Um, a really do think it's unique. You know - some of the speakers you've had and some of the people you've had, you've done a great job to get those people in room. Um, I've not been to one yet.
Uh, I it's too early you off. It's too early. I'm not gonna lie. It's too early in the morning for me. If you do it midday I'll but 8.30 no, I just one getting, I try and stay within my triangle. I have work. Well, the office, my house, and probably my mom's and that's my triangle. Yeah. And if it's outside of those three points, I'm on a plane.
you know, that's the only reason if I leave the triangle is because I'm leaving in the country, we'll let you off
Adam: your team, support us anyway. So it's, we always see
Callum: that. Yeah. Yeah. Giles went. Yeah. I mean, he'll go to the [00:17:00] opening with envelope. Um, the man loves anything. He really will. I get
Adam: a t-shirt over that.
Callum: Giles will go to the opening of an envelope. No, he's a great guy and he's done a great job. Giles respect. You're a brilliant partnerships manager. Um, he's gonna be looking for a new job. I know I know it.
Adam: It's probably LinkedIn Trust Pilot.
Callum: I can't believe you've mentioned that.
Adam: I mean, come on. I've got to mention it.
Callum: I can't, I can't believe you've mentioned, uh, I mean, you know what? I will, I will give them props. Right? Trust Pilot was the best thing that ever happened to me um,
Callum: true. They, they made the, the, the actions that their directors took against Reviews.io, when we started help, I wouldn't have been [00:18:00] able to get my team all United in a common goal.
I wouldn't have been able to, I couldn't afford to pay. to hustle that hard. Mm-hmm without that common, that common goal mm-hmm Trust Pilot drove me to that mm-hmm and it was awesome. So I, if you are out there and you're listening and you've got a competitor who's driving you mad, um, don't, don't get consumed by it actually use that fuel and use that fuel within your team to, to unite your team to create a stronger, better, faster product. Mm-hmm and that's what Trust Pilot did for us. Yeah. They really united what we did and they,
Adam: well, we, we're the same as an agency, we, you know, we, there's another, a competitive of ours that we just strive to do things better than the, what they do. Yeah. And that's both internally, externally the work that we do.
Yeah. And I think you need that. And [00:19:00] we, we, our favourite author is, might be Michalowitz 'We're at profit first' and 'The Pumpkin Plan' loads of the great books and there's his latest marketing book that he's done, which is called. Um, couldn't tell you, just sorry, Mike. Um, something different anyway, something different is something is, I think it is something different.
Yeah. But he talks about, about in, in marketing. You always need to have kind of a marketing enemy. Yeah. And it's not in the sense of, like you say it consumes you. But it is everything that, that other brand does you then just want to do better and serve your clients in a different way than they're. So, yeah,
I mean, it did concern me.
I mean, at times it does, like, I can't lie, you know, sometimes I catch up on like, this person does that blah, and he think actually, okay, but what the hell are you gonna do about it? Yeah. How are you gonna to be better?
Callum: Yeah. So before we finish. What's one app that you're mad for at the minute, what you're saying to all of your clients, [00:20:00] right? Install this it's a no brainer. Is it still the likes of Klaviyo, um, or Gorgias which I think most Shopify sites use, or is there any new apps on the market, uh, that you think, you know, this is what we're going for.
Adam: I'll let you go first.
Peter: Oh geez. Okay.
One app. You're only allow to keep one app. Um,
One right now. If you could do it right now, I would say go install VideoWise, VideoWise, VideoWise is it's great already, but I think it's only gonna be better. Yeah. Um, video is becoming more and more of a thing. We obviously will know what Tik Tok's been doing. Yeah. We've already spoken about the authenticity of, of advertising.
Peter: VideoWise can help bring that into your store as well.
Callum: So bring it onto your product pages, VideoWise, bring it onto your product pages.
Use the shopable videos. Yeah, I think this is the next big [00:21:00] move in. Definitely in the US and the UK. This is gonna be the next big thing.
Yeah. Video is crazy. It's the biggest thing we are seeing at REVIEWS.io,
you know, it's huge in China. Yeah. It's massive. You know, everybody shops via video. the Western world hasn't yet adopted that completely. Yeah. But TikTok is changing that I think used to that TikTok experience using that app, I would say is probably my biggest bit of advice is, is get that up to your store. No, that's a good bit of recommendation.
Adam: Yeah. I mean, I'm big fan of it as well by Blueprint is a good chat Blueprint. Um, so Blueprint are kind of SMS and WhatsApp based solution, but it's more about, um, allowing you to retarget people, particularly if you're using recharge on a subscription level, if you are not kind of using the all singing or dancing portal and you want to get people to quickly change a subscription via SMS. You can do that with Blueprint. Yeah. Um, and it's, it's just a much quicker, easy solution that speeds up that process and takes a [00:22:00] friction out of sending an SMS to a customer, get 'em to log into a portal, change it order you can literally two clicks change the cadence of your subscription for a product, or you can add another products and two clicks like it's, it's a really, really good solution.
Callum: Yeah. Blueprint's a good shout VideoWise good shout. So that's two apps that have been recommended today. We've got VideoWise Blueprint.
Honestly, guys, thank you for coming on. You've been brilliant. We have gone over our allotted time, but I suppose we could talk all day. I hope you've enjoyed this podcast.
um, I will do an intro later. Awesome. An intro. Yeah, that will. Hopefully have some links in it to what we've spoke about and wasn't it. Fantastic, mate. You very much really appreciate it.
Callum: Thank you for listening today. In Reviews We Trust is a bi-weekly podcast where I hope to be bringing you advice and insights from brands that are taking the [00:23:00] e-commerce world by storm.