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Episode 027 : 09/09/2021

Cate Trotter, Insider Trends (Part 2)

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Cate Trotter, of Insider Trends has launched two successful businesses and has been named a Future 100 and Startup 100 entrepreneur. Insider Trends delivers omnichannel strategy to large retailers based on data-driven insights. The team works with global brands and retailers, including Walmart, Converse, Facebook, Ikea, and many more. (Part 2)

Host: Ned Hayes and Ashley Coates
Guest: Cate Trotter

Topics discussed in this episode

  • Brands have to make it worth the customer’s time
  • There’s nothing like flipping through a series of books you’ve never seen before and really experiencing that in-person bookstore experience
  • There are a series of smart innovations that when you apply them in the right way, you really can make a difference to people’s bottom line

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Audio Transcript

Ned Hayes [00:00:01] Welcome to SparkPlug, where we talk to smart people working at the intersection of business and technology. Brought to you by SnowShoe making mobile location smarter. Welcome to part two of our two part interview with Cate Trotter of Insider Trends.

Ashley Coates [00:00:29] And so one of the big changes we’ve seen in the last few years is smaller retailers understanding the value of data from your perspective, how does data matter to retailers and do you think that retailers today are more conversant with data and better able to use data about their customers? 

Cate Trotter [00:00:49] Yes, that’s my answer. Yes. So I think it’s not easy, especially for small businesses, but I think we have to think about it where it’s going to become cheaper and more accessible. So if you think back like 30 years, 30 years ago, if you wanted to have a website, it would be a hugely expensive project. Your website wouldn’t do that much, whereas now there are all these plug and play tools where for free, you can build your own website without any technical knowledge and it can go like tomorrow. Obviously, data tools are not at that stage yet, but we are getting there so that I know of a number of companies that are making it easier for smaller businesses or any business actually to segment less AB tests certain messages and offers automatically apply the best performing message and basically continually well,  continue to optimize what they do, but make it a lot easier for non-technical people to interact with the data that they’ve got. And also systems that make it easier for the retailers to collect data, too. So it may not be there yet, but it’s definitely coming and that it has to come really because it’s how retailers are going to stand out and make money by offering that really sophisticated, personalized experience. 

Ned Hayes [00:02:34] Right. Well, in the world of Apple and Facebook, having different perspectives on what what data people should be gathering and how people should be using data, I’d be really interested in hearing your perspective, especially on the debate between first party data and zero party data and that whole world. 

Cate Trotter [00:02:50] For a long time, we’ve been saying that brands have to make it worth the customers while, so I think there’s been this huge backlash because for years brands have been collecting data on customers, but they’ve not been using it to benefit the customer, and which to me seems a little mad because when the customer wins, the brand wins so they can go together. But I think that essentially when the customer is clear on the value of sharing that data and as long as the experience they get in return genuinely is better, they should be happy to share their data, but also they it should be their choice. So I can imagine a point where you walk into a store and there’s a big sign or something that explains to the customer, you can shop the store like a normal store you can wander around and find all the products that you want or you can check in. You can see what’s in stock that you might like to try instantly. You can select a bunch of items that you want to try, and those can be sent to a fitting room for you. So we can speed up this whole experience. It can be made far more relaxing and enjoyable at the same time. Those might be two different experiences offered in the same space. 

Ashley Coates [00:04:30] And there are so many new, new innovations there just kind of exploding right now and have been recently. What are your thoughts on new and emerging retail technology innovations, such as augmented reality, shopping livestreams, any other ways that retail is starting to create that experience now? 

Cate Trotter [00:04:49] Well, I think AR has been the one that’s been tipped for years of course, and I think that will take off in certain categories, but maybe not in order. So I think the idea of same furniture in your house through air or trying on different glasses or hats in AR makes a lot of sense. But some of this has to be executed well, that might be the difference between success and failure, and it’s just all those little details. Livestreaming, I think we’re just going to see a lot more of that. Obviously, that was another thing that exploded during the pandemic, and I think we’ve seen a lot of retailers try that because they had to had to do something, see amazing results, and they’re not going to let that go now. I think we’re actually going to see more stores that are partly designed for livestreaming. And also, I think we’re going to see staff hired or some staff be hired with a slightly different profile. So staff who aren’t just hired to transact or be friendly and outgoing, but actually to be comfortable on camera and not to freak out in a livestream to a thousand or ten thousand people. 

Ned Hayes [00:06:14] So in the near future, if I’m a retailer, I’m going to be hiring an actor to work in my store, on an ongoing livestream. That’s kind of what I’m hearing. 

Cate Trotter [00:06:21] Yeah, I potentially want to be influences, people maybe can cut their teeth, get paid for building up the $10,000 or whatever it is on camera, that type of thing. So, yeah, I think some still staff are going to sit in this space between being this friendly member of staff and almost being an influencer of the brand. So that’s going to be interesting. 

Ned Hayes [00:06:47] There’s a coffee shop in Portland, Oregon, that is a throwback to the 1990s, they only take cash. They don’t do anything that is technology driven, and they have a huge following. And so I’m curious if the converse is true that as stores become more technology driven or data driven, that stores that are kind of reverting to an old customer service friendly model but a very old model will will be exciting because they are different or distinct from the crowd. 

Cate Trotter [00:07:18] For every trend there is a counter trend, so for every big development, there are companies and customers who want to stand out and do something different because MP3s and streaming have exploded, actually vinyl sales are not at an all time high, but the highest they’ve been for 20 years or something, as digital shopping and digital interactions carries on exploding and growing exponentially, we are also going to see a growth of these very specific analog businesses. That’s the counter trend. Yeah. 

Ned Hayes [00:07:56] Right. A small example of this is that during the age of Amazon Ascendant, we’ve also seen a huge surge in independent bookstores because they have a curated model. They have a stellar customer service. They’re about a physical goods, even if you can buy it online. There’s nothing like flipping through a series of books you’ve never seen before and really experiencing that in-person bookstore experience. And so we’ve seen the trend of buying books online is huge. But at the same time, this counter trend of smaller bookstores has also been growing. 

Cate Trotter [00:08:29] Yeah, totally. But yet that’s the smaller trend. 

Ned Hayes [00:08:34] So SnowShoe, our sponsor company, specializes in hands free check-in devices that are used, especially in customer loyalty scenarios. So in the world of e-commerce and omnichannel, how much does that loyalty still matter in a customer’s decision making process? Does loyalty still matter. 

Cate Trotter [00:08:51] It does. I can tell you it does. There are lots of surveys, surveys I’ve read, surveys we conducted ourselves that say that loyalty matters to customers. But I think there are more definitions of loyalty now, perhaps. So there’s the traditional form, which is obviously spend in, often in exchange for discounts. People still think that that’s relevant and interesting. That still motivates a lot of purchases and repeat visits. But at the same time, you can build loyalty through a great customer experience and more traditional methods just by focusing on what constitutes perhaps a simple but also a great experience, and a part of that is the omni channel experience. We know that omni channel brands are more likely to be recommended, omni channel brands have more customers overall in the whole ecosystem, so it’s not that if you open up a new channel, you steal customers from another channel. Actually, you just bring more customers into the overall ecosystem. And I think that’s because the brand is just able to be there wherever the customer thinks of them. It’s just a new form of convenience, I suppose. 

Ashley Coates [00:10:23] You mentioned there may be a new definition of loyalty, defined in a different way. What can you expand on that? 

Cate Trotter [00:10:29] Hmm. Sure. So I think at its core, it’s about moving from discounts in exchange for spends or rather building on that model to offer perks in exchange for action. And actually, Adidas have one of the best examples of this. So their latest schemes, I think, is the creatives club. They they do give people points for each pound of dollars that they spend, but also they awarded points for other things that they want to see customers doing. So these are things that may help the brand. So I think people get something like 10 points if they leave a review, for instance. Or points if they tagged the brands on social media. So of course, those are actions that essentially do some of Adidas marketing for it, which makes sense, but they also reward customers for actually, kind of spending time with the brand. So if they’re seen, if they track one of their runs through the Adidas app, they get points for each kilometer they run or each workout session that they do. So that’s just about actually living the brand values or connecting with the core of the brand, right? And then. And instead of utilizing using points for discounts, actually, customers can redeem those points for access to exclusive events or exclusive products. It just seems like a really elegant way of getting customers to feel closer to the brand and more involved. 

Ashley Coates [00:12:26] And so based on what you just described as a successful experience loyalty experience for customers to have if a retailer is putting together a loyalty program, are there are three top key characteristics that they should make sure to build into their program to make it successful? 

Cate Trotter [00:12:44] I’m not sure it’s a one size fits all thing. I think one of the key things to do is to ask your customers what’s important to them. So even a simple customer survey can go a long way in guiding what customers do and don’t want, always start with the customer, right? And you can do that as a survey. You can do that by asking people face-to-face when you see them in the store. You can ask people on social media like it doesn’t have to be that structured, but just finding out what people want, what your customers value is really, really important. 

Ashley Coates [00:13:23] Thank you for that. So looking forward, Cate, what are you most optimistic about in the world of retail? 

Cate Trotter [00:13:29] I’m really optimistic about how quickly we’ve seen the retail industry adapt over the past 15, 18 months or so. Like, it’s been so impressive to see all these different businesses adapt to what they’re doing, but also be generous to customers like in the U.K., a lot of grocery stores and supermarkets took on the role of actually helping the community when they didn’t have to. But if that was really quite inspirational to say, it has, from my personal perspective, been really quite encouraging to see how quickly retailers have adopted some of the things that we’ve been talking about. The downside for me is I now have to work out a bunch of new and different things to talk about, so I don’t get the same mileage out of what we are talking about and what we did before. I think we’re seeing a few new concepts, a few new business models that show an exciting new direction for retail take. 

Ashley Coates [00:14:36] Well, thank you so much for sharing your perspectives. Cate, it’s been such a pleasure to talk with you. We have one last question, which is what is your personal mission and what do you want to be remembered for? 

Cate Trotter [00:14:48] As having launched this business has spent some time thinking about what our mission is, and I think it’s really about showing that there’s a better way of doing things that retailers don’t have to struggle as much on my own personal mission in this is to show that innovation can be profitable. I think when people realize I’m trend scale or a futurist, to some degree, a lot of people think I’m just going to dazzle them and share ideas that won’t make them any money. But actually, there are a series of smart innovations that when you apply, those in the right way really can make a difference to people’s bottom line. So that’s why I like doing helping people take a step forward. But actually, it’s not just about making more money, it’s actually about enjoying your work life a bit more. So typically when you, your business is making more money, your life is less stressful. You know, you feel more of a sense of achievement. We know that a sense of achievement is actually the most motivating factor for employees. It’s more motivating than a pay rise. So obviously, I’m not going to change the world, you know, my mission isn’t that incredible, but it there is something about making the world a bit more interesting and making people’s lives a bit more enjoyable. I would say, is my mission. 

Ned Hayes [00:16:22] Well, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been such a pleasure to talk with you. 

Cate Trotter [00:16:27] Yeah, well, thank you. It’s always lovely to go over some of these ideas and spend some more time thinking about. So thanks for listening to me and giving me an audience. 

Ned Hayes [00:16:38] Absolutely. 

Ashley Coates [00:16:39] Thanks Cate. 

Ned Hayes [00:16:40] Okay. Take care. 

Cate Trotter [00:16:41] Okay, you too. Thanks. Bye. 

Ned Hayes [00:16:53] Thanks for listening today to the SparkPlug podcast and brought to you by SnowShoe Snow.sh For smarter mobile location, Spark Plug is a wholly owned property in SnowShoe all content copyright 2021 SparkPlug Media.