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EPISODE 096 : 01/12/2023

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is the Co-Founder & Managing Partner at ThinkUncommon, a company that works with retailers and retail partners of all sizes to build crafted programs to support their innovation agendas. With a background in analysis, retail insights, business development, and more, Andrew is well-versed in creating business and creative strategies as well as predicting consumer trends. He is also an author, educator, on-air contributor, and keynote speaker.

Host: Ned Hayes and Kira Cleveland
Guest: Andrew Smith

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Topics discussed in this episode

  • Detailed small business insights from Olympia, Washington
  • Small business resiliency and adaptation during COVID
  • Doubling community outreach during the pandemic
  • Opportunities for small business loyalty programs

Watch Spark Loyalty’s Small Business Success Channel

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Audio Transcript

Ned Hayes [00:00:00] Welcome to Spark Plug, where we talk to smart people working at the intersection of business and technology brought to you by SnowShoe, Your smarter loyalty leader, Spark Plug is excited to welcome Andrew Smith to the podcast today. Andrew is the co-founder and managing partner at Think Uncommon, a company that works with retailers and retail partners of all sizes to build crafted programs to support innovation agendas. He has a background in analysis, retail insights and much more, and he’s well versed in creating business strategies and predicting consumer trends. So welcome, Andrew.

Andrew Smith [00:00:37] Hi guys. It’s so good to be here. I’m excited to be a guest on your podcast. Nate, I know we’ve spoken to you before and now I’m excited to go into some clichéd Andrew rants about innovation in retail. 

Kira Cleveland [00:00:49] Well, we’re certainly looking forward to it. So to dive in, you currently manage a business full time as the co-founder think uncommon. Can you tell us about Think Uncommon. 

Andrew Smith [00:00:59] Let’s look at a Journey has been a glorious and fun one. I like everyone I think I’ve ever met in retail. It’s an accidental career. I actually trying to be a pilot. I was a pilot for about 10 minutes before circumstances and now I know how to do that anymore, even to trying something else with a health condition that completely normal. It’s nothing but, you know, nothing serious. But of course, people want their pilots to be healthy, apparently. So I had to come up with a new career pathway and I fell into retail. Essentially. It’s just the need to pay bills and just fell in love with it. Like I was just addicted from the second I got on that shop floor and felt the rush and the sales carrying the tail. At the end of the day, all of the kind of, you know, managing the operation fell absolutely in love with it, ended up working in a bazillion different roles, showing my age now across retail and businesses in Australia. And what I realized is that as I was going through, I’m so incredibly lucky to have amazing teams surrounding me and we did some really incredible things. We were incredibly innovative. We moved at pace, we were able to get a lot done. We were able to be inventive and creative and really customer focused, and at the end we were kind of like, How did we actually manage to do that? And we realized in the bulk we just broke all of the rules. We didn’t do anything like retailers would normally do because I’m not a retailer. I grew up on the shop floor, but I’m a scientist, I’m an experimenter. You know, it’s kind of what I where I live. And my co-founder, Gareth Jude, who’s been in retail for longer than I’ve been alive, sorry, Gareth, we basically got together and realized we could help. And we both love retail. We’re obsessed. It’s been really good to us. It’s about time we did something that helped the sector as a whole, so we thought, well, you know, innovation is hard in retail. It’s common that you know what to do as a retailer. It’s pretty uncommon that you can do it and do it really easily and simply and apace. So we thought, let’s do it. Think Uncommon was born across two continents. 

Ned Hayes [00:02:50] Wow, that’s an amazing journey. And I understand that thinking uncommon. You have this six step reframed model that you use. Can you tell us about the six steps and how you apply those at retailers? 

Andrew Smith [00:03:02] Yeah, definitely. So when we first started the business, we actually thought we’re both data nerds, so we really we love to analyze and interview. Like I’m the qualitative guy, Garrus, the quantitative professor. His electric university is doing his page down supply chain. So it’s a really cool blend that that worked really well because we spent a year kind of just going, What, what are we what is it? How do we productize this? This support, this hypothesis is that innovation for retail hasn’t historically worked because of, you know, a plethora of reasons. So let’s go find out what they are. So we spent a whole year, you know, I was in the US unable to work because my visa hasn’t come through yet, so I might as well put that time to good use. So we spoke to 75 retailers across the world at varying levels of size and maturity and a whole bunch of academics who just, you know, who live and breathe innovation, whether they be from tech companies or universities or wherever, and came up with what, you know, all these best practices and how they could be applied to a retail context. So how do we take something that might work beautifully in a tech company or amazingly at a at a financial firm and kind of give it retailers need for pace day to day change, you know, mass scale, mass teams, etc., because it just traditional innovation models just don’t work in retail. They’re too slow in a retail business. So we needed to think of different ways to do it. So we threw that through all those interviews, through all that data, we came up with the process itself, which is split into two. We call it the Reframe method, because we were talking about obviously reframing innovation for retail. So I spent like, I don’t want to tell you how many hours staring at a whiteboard trying to make the word reframe work as an acronym. But we got there in the end. So the model itself, basically you always have to start with resetting the foundations. This is things like culture, your principles, your clarity of purpose, and but most importantly, leadership alignment. I work in businesses that have been around for 150 years and billions and billions of dollars of revenue who still don’t have alignment amongst. Leadership team about the definition of innovation and their respective roles in it. You just get people throwing different things up that there’s just no alignment around what innovation means for us. So how the how everyone will sit there and go, Oh, it’s about closing the gap between channels or it’s about blah blah, was like, No, no, no, there’s things. There are things you’re going to build that’s outputs. What’s the actual process? How are you doing it internally and what are your roles? So this foundations are a really important step and then you can move on to stuff like filtering the right ideas, getting actually looking at data, trying to find. Go and treasure hunts, filter it down. Is that what we call the Golden Rule? Does it add value to the customers or at least not detract from it? Does it add value to the business or at least not detract from it? And is it aligned with purpose? And if you just test on those three things, you’ll be amazed how many ideas that you know, the hippos of an organization, the highest paid person’s opinion. Suddenly all of their ideas aren’t the right ones anymore. Just from that simple test. Then it’s about getting innovation ready. Get the right sponsors, reframe what sponsorship means. Sponsors in most businesses, especially retail, is all about governance. Like I’m the boss, you know, project team come and present me a really big PowerPoint deck that you probably spent hundreds of hours building that to make me feel like you’ve done a good job. What a useless, pointless exercise as late as an organization, especially in retail, is you get to see a whole bunch of the world from a 50 foot platform and you should bring that experience into the conversation and provide advice and nudges. You are not there to prove you’re here to add value and then just set the team up for success. So that’s how you kind of set up innovation and what we call like the way. And then you’ve got to get into the work, which is the second half of the model. So analyze and design the solution. So this is when you start collecting data, you’re testing hypotheses, you’re building ridiculously low fi versions of whatever it is that you’re building and you’re testing to see if this thing actually will work in the real world. In the context of the real world, in a store with real units, with real customers who will actually tell you whether or not your idea is stupid or not. And then you’ve got to make it. You’re going to build the thing and there’s like a whole bunch of phases within that to make sure that you’re doing it right. And the hottest part about this process is the courage to stop. If you’re in the middle of making it and you’re building it out, and then the tests fail and the customers say, Nah, then guess what? You should parachute out of the plane if it’s going to crash into a cliff, get out of there. And then the last but not least, of course, is embedding. How do you embed it and make it the new normal in your business? This is creative communication campus. So you’re actually talking to the to the frontline teams from the build phase right through to the deployment place. So it’s not just this thing you send out with an email and a box of chocolates and hope that they pick it up and start you using it. And then when they don’t, you start performance managing them like it’s their fault. That’s the process. I went through that probably a bit too quickly. Can you tell them a Talmud? 

Kira Cleveland [00:07:48] We can tell. You’re very passionate about it. It’s fantastic. So playing off of the real people, real feedback, can you tell us how you use data, insights and trends that can comment to forecast retail innovations, the marketplace, and how does that process work for your clients? 

Andrew Smith [00:08:05] We used to a lot, but not in the way that most people think. So what the trends and stuff that are coming are essentially predictions of future human behavior in the current context. But of course context changes. See, all of us in 2019, we could predict what the customer trend would be, but the context of the world changed thanks to the COVID change event. And then therefore, you know, all of our predictions went out the window. And data is an incredibly important part of innovation. But for that reframe that we try and give people is it’s it’s evidence you’re collecting evidence. Evidence is as good as it is at the time. It is never a good predictor of the future. It’s a good nudge of the future, but it’s not a great predictor. What it will do, though, is help you understand whether or not your hypothesis is right. And, you know, we all know because we’ve all worked in organizations, we probably all still do. It is impossible biologically for humans to be objective. We’re terrible at it because we’re biologically programed to not be. We’re programed to be subjective and think and thinking about our survival and our growth and, you know, our hierarchy and all of those kinds of things. So what Donna does is try and remove as much of those biases as possible out of our thinking, get us out of our prefrontal cortex, which is full of prejudices and assumptions and into what, you know, a better picture of what the real world is. So for us, I prefer when people talk about data, I prefer to refer to evidence. And you know, when when you relate that to work and like what it is that you’re building or trying to build and innovate, that is essentially. Fall in love with the evidence, not the idea. So if you have an idea and you collect a heap of evidence. Fall in love with that. Never fall in love with the idea itself. The evidence is saying something really, really cool. Then you can start having some strong feelings for the idea, but never lose the love of the evidence. 

Ned Hayes [00:10:02] That is great advice. So I’m curious how this would apply to smaller retailers. The sponsoring company for this podcast knows she works with a number of smaller retailers. And so how would a smaller retailer like somebody who just owns one or two stores actually apply this advice and get into kind of the data and the innovation quest? If you don’t have a team of 400 behind you, how do you make use of those kinds of tools? 

Andrew Smith [00:10:28] I know that you ask that question because so many people conflate innovation with billion dollar projects and like these huge things. Innovation is change is is just a fancy word for change that is around creating something new and different. And you can apply it to a shop window. That is innovation. If you want to mix up the way that you’re merchandizing that front window or align with notion, of course you want to think differently about your loyalty and how that how you create loyalty with your customers. That is innovation. It’s not necessarily about, you know, that team of 400. In the book. So we actually turned all of this stuff that we learned and created into a book. You know, we talk about it. We have a whole section dedicated for small retail businesses, which which are the bulk of retailers around the country and talk about volume. It allows you to move faster being small and nimble. But you’ve got to be careful because impact of bias is accelerated dramatically, especially for owner operators. As an owner operator of a business, you’re an entrepreneur. You’re putting blood, sweat, tears, risk. You’re carrying all of that stuff into your work every day and you’re going to carry it into your innovation. And that can lead you down to dangerous pathways if you don’t collect evidence. One of them is you over believe in your idea and you just push forward no matter what. The second one is that you under believe in it and you hold risk aversion and you don’t push yourself further. And if you collect evidence, even though it’s little, just talk to you. Especially on small business, it’s just stand at the front. I was thinking about doing this thing. What do you reckon that is? Qualitative research. Record it. Know that you can use tools that are available everywhere on the internet, in books, In my book, you know, there are tools that allow you to kind of capture that stuff in a more effective way. Do that, still do that stuff, and you can then take the advantage of being nimble, smaller and remove the bias impact and you’ll be incredibly successful. 

Kira Cleveland [00:12:28] Absolutely. So you kind of touched on retail loyalty. How do you believe retailers should maintain and or increase customer loyalty? 

Andrew Smith [00:12:36] When I was at Shop Talk this year, actually someone gave one of those, you know, the cheat sessions, like at the end for all of the people who drank too much and didn’t pay attention or go to enough sessions, that wasn’t me. Just to be clear. 

Kira Cleveland [00:12:46] Sure, sure. 

Andrew Smith [00:12:47] But I don’t think it was me. I can’t remember one of the cheat sessions that I kind of put out the themes of the show, and I really loved one of them. I thought it was great, which was Loyalty is the pathway to personalization. We’ve always talked about personalization as being this incredibly important thing. How do we have, you know, as we see in consumers, this shift in the value calculation in some parts of the world, including here in the US, where people are willing to wait comparatively to normal, away from price and into social value, into things that I care about and the things that matter. We see it in sustainability, we see it in shop, local shop, small. You know, there’s an increase in shopper behavior going down that pathway and increasing the white social value and the value calculation as opposed to price value. As we you know, we all saw that. We’re all like, well, personalization is everything. How do I person I said it our business and essentially that this this Baker shop talk said we’re already doing it loyalty is personalization it is about understanding the customer how they shop with us, why they shop with us when they shop with us, and being able to reward them or nudge them into different pathways or the greatest side of docket. And so loyalty is just is incredibly important. But there’s a black coming, which is historically loyalty has always been about price. Like, we’ll give you a $5 reward or maybe whatever points to spend. You know, I can see in the future the pathways converging of this increase in social value and this desire for like ongoing loyalty and reward. But I think the reward element is going to shift. And I can certainly see already saying with things like Patagonia, where you can take your water points, give back, as opposed to keep them and spend them on yourself. Know there’s plenty of brands that do things like that. I think that trend is going to continue pretty strongly. But if you are not in a form of loyalty game at the moment, as a retailer, you’re not going to do well. People are becoming significantly more digitally savvy in terms of economy. People are going back to wanting experiences in stores. And if you’re not good at that either, you can potentially lose people. Loyalty is a beautiful thread that you can have going through every experience your customers have with your business, that if you don’t have it, there’s a risk that that those things can come apart. 

Kira Cleveland [00:15:10] Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great point. And you said loyalty is personalization, right? Loyalty comes from an emotional connection with the customer. So how would you advise retailers to generate a personalized emotional connection without leaning on price alone? Right. What kinds of social value will make loyalty programs successful in the future? 

Andrew Smith [00:15:31] So, I mean, the first piece of advice is ask. We’re always so nervous to pull the trigger on asking our customer a question, just like, Hey, quick one. Do you have 3 seconds to answer a question? What matters the most to you? Bang, bang, bang, bang. And you’ll get a data source. Those kind of pop quizzes and surveys and things like that can drive incredible levels of qualitative and quantitative data that will enable you to design a loyalty program that is actually for your customers. If you have a bunch of your team members in the room trying to come up with what customers want. Generally speaking, you’re going to find what those ten people in the room want. It’s not going to be what your customers want and you’re going to be bringing in bias and you’re already in love with the brand because they pay you. So there’s a whole bunch of different, you know, data that you’re going to collect when you actually speak to people. So if you want to design a great loyalty program, guessing, you need to talk to your customer and all your frontline teams. By the way, your front frontline teams know all of the things that your customers wish you would do because they have to overcome those objections in every sales conversation. Do you guys do this? No, I’m sorry. We don’t. Does your program do this? Sorry, it doesn’t. I hear that every single day and have to overcome it. And probably there’s probably a coaching sheet up on the Tea Room board that has had to overcome the objection of why our loyalty program sucks. Go read the cheat sheet and you’ll probably be able to design a much better loyalty program. 

Ned Hayes [00:17:00] Right. So what specific loyalty programs have you worked with clients to implement? Have you seen tools that actually move the needle in terms of customer loyalty? 

Andrew Smith [00:17:10] I have, but I’m biased myself, I should say, because most of the time they’re like, the loyalty program starts with an intent from the company. Like, what is the business method or business metric we want to shift? So I would say nine out of ten clients that want to talk to me about loyalty. If I say, Why do you want loyalty? They’ll say, Because I want higher levels of lifetime customer value and I want reduced cost of goods sold and I want blah, blah, blah. They’ll have this kind of business metric at its core and they’ll come up with kind of a bland but probably relatively effective, you know, frequent flier program. Basically the one out of ten, those who do incredibly well and you know, who’s getting better and better at this is telco. Telco companies, technology providers like those kind of subscription model, recurring bundle kind of product sets, whether it be in food and like delivery and those kinds of things or whether it be in telco. They’re getting much, much better at it, which is they’re collecting data, they’re asking and designing things that are specifically down to the individual. It’s like, what’s the best reward path for you? You choose. You know, Qantas, an Australian airline, just launched their new frequent flier status, which is green. And you can take five actions and you get elevated to this new status level. You don’t get a reward for it. You just get to brag that you care about the environment and your card says that you’re a better human than all of the others. I did that because it’s aligned with their values and it’s adding value to the customer, the costs, the money. And it’s not necessarily that intrinsically rewarding for the frequent flier, but it has gone bananas. People are obsessed with it. So there are different ways that you can create something that is aligned with the company’s values and purpose that adds value to a customer and adds value or maybe just doesn’t detract from value from your business overall is the best way to design it. 

Kira Cleveland [00:18:52] That’s fantastic. Going to, you know, kind of a related question, how does think Uncommon coach retail leaders into success in a retail endeavor of any size? What does your coaching process look like? 

Andrew Smith [00:19:05] It depends on the leader. So we generally speaking, we have two clients at the like the CEO leadership C-suite level. One is I’m new here and I need to make an impact because something’s gone wrong and that’s why I’m new here. Or it’s the person who’s gone. I’ve been here for a long time and not got anywhere and I’m pulling my. Error and losing. I’m just getting frustrated because we’re losing. So we coach those two incredibly differently because, you know, their context is what matters the most for the way that they rock up to it, the way that they turn up into a meeting and the way that they set that new leadership alone at pace. The new leader can set the standard immediately and kind of come in with a bit more of a bold vision of, you know, innovate or die. So we use analogies a lot with leadership because, you know, leaders coming out and telling stories is incredibly powerful and it enables them to bring organizations along. So if they’re on the island that’s thinking how do they and they can see the new island that’s over here where everyone already know, where all the new brands and the is and the big companies are thriving, etc.. How do we build our bridge? Once our bridge, what do they each step in that bridge look like? Whereas the existing one, it’s a bit different. It’s not only is the island sinking, the island’s on fire and we’re all on it and we need to pull together as a team and be different and think differently. So we always end up in the same spot, which is get that leadership alignment. That’s it. Your job as the leader is not to choose the right things to do. It is not to test them and build them. It is not to go, you know, collect the data and make assessments. Your job as leaders to get your senior leadership team aligned. What is everyone’s job in innovation? How do they contribute or not contribute? For example, one of the most incredible leadership moments I saw was when, after this really powerful kind of we must innovate conversation, the leadership team got together and talked about their role and the sales guy that’s the operating officer. The stores stood up and said, I just need to get out of your way. That’s my job. I don’t need to be in this room. I’ll check my ego at the door. You guys take care of the future. I’ll take you there today. And he even gave up a region. He said this region that was in. When I say Ohio, US geography is not going that great. Yeah. Give me another couple of years and I’ll get there. They just pulled the state out and gave it to their innovation team. Their strategy team said you run that region because you can test whatever you want. So they just checked egos at the door. They got their jobs. It was just a beautiful example of alignment, you know, And then the CEO can sit back and, I don’t know, play golf, whatever CEOs do. And the team went on and did all the work because they were aligned. That your soldier was a leader is not to go to the expo floor of the traffic show or shop talk and go, I’ll have one of those, please. And one of those plays, three of those thanks, because that’s that just means you to say go. You’re going to come back to the office, you’re going to just throw everything at everybody and leave a big mess and then fly away. You know, it is not the way to lead. So we need to pull a lot of people out because like leadership generally, we have this incredible pressure on ourselves that we’re the quote unquote alpha. That means we must be strong and we have to have all the answers. What a load of rubbish. What a poor design. If we were to design this again, we would never choose that system. Yet, especially in retail, where generally speaking, we do promote from within and we do promote from basis of success and successes. Generally speaking, sales. We just end up with salespeople who are ruthless and want to win, and that is not generally aligned with great leadership. So we just need to bring people back out of that frame of mind and realize what leadership actually is, especially in a retail business. You know, someone who genuinely respects their leadership style is Doug McMillon from Walmart globally, but he’s based here in the US. He if you follow him, he’s in stores every second day because he realizes the work that he will. He’s got a great team of people who are senior and capable and they’ll go do that. His job is PR and culture, so he will be out there in stores. He’ll be talking to people. You know, that’s his job. And and that’s the kind of leader we we hold up to say this is who you should be. 

Ned Hayes [00:23:05] Well, I’ll try my best not to be a seagull. Just throw everything in. That’s a great metaphor. I’m going to keep that in mind. So as I look forward, I’m going to try to be constructive with my teams. But I’m curious, as you look forward into the new Year, what do you see coming down the pike for your clients? I mean, we’re kind of moving out of the COVID era, even though it’s still around. We’re moving into new opportunities. So what opportunities do you see in 2023. 

Andrew Smith [00:23:33] 2023? I actually was asked this question the other day and I said, 2023 is the year we need to finally walk and chew gum at the same time. Like if you think about pre-COVID change event, we were incredible operators down to it. You know, we squeezed the lemon to the point where even the pith was juiced. You know, it was incredible operations. And then COVID hit. We were like, Holy moly, we have to be incredibly innovative and push things out and build things and be creative and try this kind of stuff. But what happened is we then forgot that we are ruthless operators. That squeezes lemons and we ended up with excess inventory and we’ve ended up with all of these other kind of poor operational decisions. It’s like we need to normalize. The best example of the fact that we can do it is the e-comm versus store. The dying rubbished all of that retail apocalypse conversations, all of that kind of stuff. Oh, we’ve got to we’ve got to sell more online because that’s. Cheaper. And then we were like, Hang on, it’s not. Our returns are costing us everything. Now we’ve got a store and now customers want stores back. This is so confusing. The whole time the answer was staring us blank in the face, which is stores were at the center. Everything else sits around it and we’ve got to create a seamless experience. We all knew we’ve known it for a decade. It just took us a while for those two journeys to come together. So in that space, on the whole, not everywhere, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. When it comes to physical and digital retailing, now we need to learn how to do it with innovation and operations. How do we be creative and energized and build and grow and just be just incredibly creative forces and experience built around the customer whilst delivering every day on the premises we made about having the orange juice. Don’t forget your oranges famous saying amongst anyone who’s worked in a grocery store, don’t forget your apples or your onions or oranges, because if you forget them, you’re screwed and it doesn’t matter. Well, what else are you doing? Right or wrong? If you forget those, you’d be done. So I think that’s my prediction for 2023 is that we’re going to learn how to walk and chew gum at the same time. We’re going to continue to be innovative and great, but also remind ourselves that execution matters. 

Kira Cleveland [00:25:34] So we’re mastering, walking and chewing gum at the same time, looking at what tools can kind of help with that. Well, major technological innovations in retail do you see happening in the first half of 2023? You know what will matter in terms of technology for helping retail success? 

Andrew Smith [00:25:50] Well, I could get clicks by saying metaverse or livestreaming or something like that because it’s super exciting, but it’s not the answer. It’s an answer. And it will do some things for some brands with some customers, but it’s not the answer. I actually think we’re still learning how to do social commerce properly. Whether we’ve gone through influencers. Influencers are losing their influence now because of the fact that we now realize that we’re all getting paid and therefore I shouldn’t trust their opinions. You know, there’s all of that stuff that’s happening and kind of circling around and then you throw in these new technologies like Metaverse, like cross-pollination of platforms, like in Game Air, all of that kind of cool stuff. I think we’re going to end up with this with something that’s in there that is going to be brands being more personal, more real, more themselves, more values led in the digital digital realms, the digital environments I’m really excited about. Like I was talking to a startup a couple of weeks ago who’s focusing on how to turn every store into this influencing style social channel. And it’s just it’s just very cool stuff and it’s real as we all realize that we want realness in the world. We’ve gone through a massive change event together and we kind of realized that being human is kind of important and we want our brands to be more human as well. I think those kinds of technologies is where it’s going to be at in my mind. And yes, there’ll be some sprinkling of metaverse and live streaming that go along the way, but that’s not the answer. I think there’ll be something very cool in the second digital personality space that I think will be fascinating, led by kind of the technologies of livestreaming, but not as we know it, not Home Shopping Network, live streaming. 

Ned Hayes [00:27:29] Different kind of live streaming. Yeah. I also understand that you care about sustainability, which is also a big trend and you have some product efforts in that critical area. So could you tell us what you’ve been doing there in terms of sustainability as a movement? 

Andrew Smith [00:27:44] Sustainability is incredibly important and it’s often collided with environmentalism. So the idea of being green when sustainability covers a whole gamut of things, including worker well-being, appropriate sourcing of materials, you know, there’s a range of elements that make up sustainability. 17 If you ask the UN and the problem that we have in retail is essentially we’re in a margin game. That’s what we do. We play, we play with margins. And unless you have just an insane margin where you can incorporate additional business cost, barely sustainable, it’s kind of been unattainable for most retail brands and product manufacturers until now. So, you know, we see there are two, two big things that need to change. The first one is this is a community game. This is something where retail needs to come together to shift the cost of doing sustainable business down. And we need to do that by working together on it and making that a global retail effort. There’s not enough of that right now sustained with every retailer doing their one little bit. Think about recycling at your house. Did we really do it until our community got together and said, hang on, we should have a recycling bin and we should do it all together, And then we start making an impact. Every house kind of coming up with their own methods to do recycling. We had very little impact when we got together and came up with an answer recycling bins and recycling trucks on Tuesdays or whatever process. And we got a better we got a better outcome. So we need this community led element of how sustainability and retail can be done together. And we know that we can pull together and do that. We’ve done it in different realms before. But the second one is consumer behavior. We, you, you and I, we’ve all read the same studies, right? We’ve seen 67% of shoppers will now not shop with you if you’re not sustainable or 90 bazillion percent of the customers are going to switch brands if they’re not a sustainable brand. And all of those numbers are right. That’s exactly what customers are thinking, but their behavior is not following them. We’ve seen very, very little shift in actual change in people’s shopping behaviors. So in my intent, we judge ourselves by our intent, but others by their actions. So we sit there always going to buy sustainably, but the tire blew on the car and that’s an extra bill I didn’t have. And now I can’t buy this. I’m going to buy the cheap home brand stuff. I’m not going to buy the free range in this way because the couple of dollars here and there will actually make a difference. Our behavior is changed because when humans try and predict the future behavior, they do it in their current context. And then I deal state blue sky. Nothing’s gone wrong. Everything’s perfect. But then real world happens. See, every New Year’s Eve, when we wake up and go, I will be the fittest person on the planet and I will not have a single glass of wine. Come January 2nd, I’ve got a chocolate bar and a glass of red wine in my hand because something happened. I got a distress call or the dog got sick or whatever, or my team lost the football World Cup and any or all of those things changed the way we are going to make a decision. So we’re terrible at predicting our future progress. So we need a better system of incentive and reminder and measurable intent. So how if I say if I do buy this product, how do I know exactly why I’m going with why the world is better for me buying this product versus this product? There’s a great brand that comes out of Australia, New Zealand called Thank You. It started off as a water brand. Now it does everything. Now you scan the QR code, you see every impact. You know exactly where the bottles come from, work recycled from, you know exactly which one is getting your $0.32, the dollar. You know, you can monitor the impact. And there is things like that where you can actually see it that makes a very, very, very big difference. But it shouldn’t be from fear. And I’m nervous that if we do push society to do it, we’ll end up with like, why you need to wear a seatbelt commercial? It’s like instead of it’s like because it’s smart and you could totally be safer and that’d be great. Instead we say, because otherwise this will happen and we show a massive, horrible car crash. Because fear, fear works very, very well. I’d love us to not go down that pathway. I’d love for it to be a really positive and inspiring reason why we should choose sustainably. And if both of those things happen, we reduce the cost of it because we’ve worked as a community. So therefore it’s equated to the cost of doing me buying product as a product anyway. Plus, I have a positive intrinsic motivation to do it. We’ll finally get progress. That was a very long winded rant. I’m sorry. 

Ned Hayes [00:32:20] No, no, that was a really good discussion of sustainability. And I’m curious why people really started to care about sustainability. From your point of view, do you feel like it was just fear or was there more to it in terms of people seeing a larger benefit to the world and to the human endeavor in general? 

Andrew Smith [00:32:39] I think it was know if we would if we would applaud it, if we were to collect the evidence and plot this on a graph, it would basically be my day hasn’t changed. I hear a whole bunch of people talking about why this is important, but my day hasn’t changed. So no impact. No impact, No impact. Then all of a sudden we start seeing unequivocal evidence of incredible environmental impacts and events of saying factories burned down and no one able to get out because, you know, they weren’t up to Bangladeshi standards. And and as a retailer who was manufacturing there, we didn’t do right. We didn’t do the right checks to make sure they were up to those standards. You know, all of these things have become incredibly visible now. And then all of a sudden, your your choice is questioned. You immediately start, you know, look at the shift of people and perception of brands that are linked with certain political parties, especially in this country, where that’s such a divisive issue. All of a sudden brands are just being boycotted because it’s visible to me Now, even though that brand’s values haven’t changed, they’ve probably been just as, you know, insert opposite to your own views here, their entire history, that you’ve still shop with them. But they became visible. And I think, you know, especially I can talk from experience of being over here and watching essentially my whole country burn. To the point where koalas are now endangered. And then follow that up with the worst flooding in history. And it just feeling like there is just constant natural disaster and being neighbors to Pacific nations who are legitimately planning how to evacuate their islands because their islands are sinking. It’s kind of hard to not not not caring more, so it’s just visible and. 

Ned Hayes [00:34:31] Become very visible and real. 

Andrew Smith [00:34:33] So I hope so anyway. But you can also see change too, that you look at. Brands themselves are talking about it more. We’d never talk about our impact like we do good, because it’s the right thing to do. And we, we use it as import employee propaganda, but we’re kind of a bit nervous to say we care about the environment now. It’s massively valuable. And you see brands like Patagonia have a growing because of it. People are switching to that brand for its purpose and its values led way of thinking and its visibility and transparency. So, you know, it’s as retailers, we’re now seeing the value of being a sustainable organization that cares about people and cares about the planet and cares about profits in a balanced way, and therefore we’re all kind of leaning into it now. So we’re seeing it everywhere. 

Ned Hayes [00:35:14] I’m curious, as we look into the future, where do you think will be both for retail and maybe for the sustainable world in the next 5 to 10 years? 

Andrew Smith [00:35:23] That’s a big question for Tuesday afternoon. I am an inherent optimist, so contrary to my rant agenda, I am an inherent optimist. I do believe that there is a blend across the planet about mixing between market forces, i.e. what consumers are doing and wanting, and legislative forces, which are a bit more hit with a stick and force change that that are all kind of nudging us into better places, being better retailers, being look at the US, they see laws now in Europe. That’s just going to completely change the tech sector. You know, there’s all of these things that are happening that I think when they happen en masse we can reduce the cost when the new way of doing business is everybody’s business, the cost goes down. So I see that the incentive will be to go there. It will be cheaper to procure sustainable cotton in 2025 than it will be to procure manmade rubbish. So why would you not, as a business, you just making the better decision? So I think between market forces and legislative action, it’s going to not just end the pathway where that’s going to happen. I also think you throw in the consumer lens now and go back to the more retail sector. Consumers are demanding more of that. They want to care. They care about who they giving their money to. Now, if you treat your people badly, they’re probably not going to spend money with you. So if you can do the same with your products, they probably look the same. So I think all of these things will converge and hopefully make us a little better off. But I also the thing that my big optimist, energized excitement thing is retail’s kind of got its cool again, right? Like it was it was this cookie cutter everything which we worried about cost it kind of got a bit boring. We forgot what merchandizing was, we forgot what experiential retailing was. Our front windows just became places to hang posters. We forgot we just completely started ignoring the art of retail. And the COVID change event has kicked our butts into gear because it’s consumers are like, I want to get out in the world and live again. I want to go to stores that have secret doors and, you know, problems to solve and have instagrammable moments. I want to I want to feel excited. I want to go to malls that have go kart tracks and mini golf courses. Like all of this stuff, I think is is really cool. Retail is playing an incredibly pivotal role in reminding people that fun is awesome and we should do it more and we should enjoy it more. And I love that we get to play that role. I think that’s really cool and I think we will play that role in the next couple of years. 

Kira Cleveland [00:37:50] Well, speaking of the roles we play in the world, one of our kind of last questions we like to toss out there and dive a little more into you. Andrew, As an individual, what do you hope your legacy will be and what do you want to be remembered for? 

Andrew Smith [00:38:04] I always have a love hate relationship with those questions because they force you to reflect, which is the love bit. Like I always love reflecting on that idea. One of my favorite books I ever read was Legacy A Must Read. It’s 12 Lessons of Leadership from the Old books, you know, and they talk about things like Clean your own sheds, the end of the game. Don’t leave it to the support staff to clean you, clean your own sheds, you wash your own shirt. It’s not about one that which is I will always I don’t fight to be the best. Number three, I fight to make the number three better for the next person. And, you know, so I think for me, like if I’m at my retirement party at, I don’t know, an Australian themed coffee shop down Main Street in New York where of a somewhere cool and someone was giving a speech. I would love for them to say that I brought fun because you don’t have to be serious to do serious work. And to that I handed the jersey down. I made retail just that little bit better. I pushed them just to be that little bit better. I don’t need books written about me. I don’t need a statue. I don’t want any of that rubbish. I just would like to know that the retail world is just that little bit better off because I was in. 

Kira Cleveland [00:39:06] Love and it sounds like with the work you’re doing, you’re on your way to that for sure. So. 

Andrew Smith [00:39:11] Well, thank you. Here’s hoping. I hope my clients agree. 

Kira Cleveland [00:39:16] We’ll send out a poll later. 

Ned Hayes [00:39:19] Well, thanks so much for your time today and you’re really a pleasure chatting with you. 

Andrew Smith [00:39:23] Great to be here. Thanks to both of you. I really appreciate the time. 

Ned Hayes [00:39:26] Spark Plug is a wholly owned property of snowshoe. Copyright 2022 2023 Sparkplug Media.